Thursday, June 23, 2005

Are We There Yet? Creating a Roadmap to Victory in Iraq

When can we leave?

Recently, in a highly visible move, several politicians have called for the immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq or tried to force the Bush administration to set criteria for withdrawal:

A conservative, a moderate, a liberal and a libertarian teamed up in the House yesterday to prod President Bush to set a timetable to withdraw from Iraq, striking a rare tone of unity on a day when tensions about national security provoked marathon brawling on the floor.

The resolution was sponsored by Reps. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.), Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Ron Paul (R-Tex.). It calls for Bush to begin drawing down troops in Iraq by Oct. 1, 2006, but does not set a date for complete withdrawal.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) tried to introduce an amendment to a military spending bill that would have given the president 30 days to show Congress criteria for determining when U.S. forces could withdraw from Iraq -- but GOP leaders blocked it, saying such additions are not allowed to appropriations bills.

Read more here. The resolution is here.

And Senator Biden has been in the news recently with his proclamations on Iraq:

Biden, a Delaware senator who announced on Sunday that he expects to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, rejected proposals by some of his colleagues to pull troops out of Iraq immediately or on a specific timetable, saying such moves would embolden insurgents and ultimately lead to a civil war. Instead, he said the United States needs to enlist the support of allied nations to train Iraqi troops and police, speed up reconstruction work, and help the nascent Iraqi government fight corruption.

Biden also called on President Bush to explain his plans for Iraq to the American people. The administration should report on the situation in Iraq to Congress monthly and in public testimony, the senator said in remarks at the Brookings Institution.

Rumsfeld fired back:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected calls by some congressional Democrats on Thursday that the Bush administration set a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. “That would be a mistake,” he told a Senate panel.

“Timing in war is never predictable. There are never guarantees,” Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Those who say we are losing this war are wrong. We are not.”

The Vice President thinks we’re on the track to victory:

“The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.”

But, in recent Senate testimony GEN John Abizaid said:

“I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago.”

That clearly isn’t good news, and our own government doesn’t seem “common operating picture” of what’s going on in Iraq much less the media. Plus, none of the talk about defeating the insurgency sheds any light on the other challenges that face victory in Iraq.

So who is right?

Regardless of whether or not you support the war, I agree with Senator Biden’s assessment. It is clear that immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be reckless policy and result in a disaster that might suck the entire region down with it—the Afghanistan failed state model on a grand scale with global repercussions. Remember the “pottery barn rule”. We broke it, we bought it. And I’m going to side with GEN Abizaid. I don’t think the insurgency is in its death throes.

So what they hell is going to happen? As a person with a very personal interest in the apparent open-ended nature of the Iraq conflict, I agree that we need to start setting criteria for “victory” and subsequent withdrawal from Iraq. I respect the members of congress who are force the administration to establish some kind of framework for ending the conflict.

But, this is where things get hard. What does right look like for leaving Iraq? What conditions for success do we need to set for the Iraqis before we begin to leave? And how long does it take?

In April, I posted about effects based operations (EBO) and setting criteria and “metrics” to measure success in Iraq. With this post, I’ll want to take the discussion a step further.
The following slides and notes are my attempt at analyzing the current situation in Iraq and establishing a “roadmap” to Victory that the average citizen can understand. Note that all these slides are labeled as “drafts”. I am hoping that my reader(s) will give me their input in the comments section which will allow me to establish a baseline evaluation of the situation. Then, I’ll post periodic updates.

EBO treats the enemy as a "system of systems". This is the
pre-invasion Iraq system with the Regime being the center of
gravity. The relative importance of a sub-system is mapped by
its size and proximity to the center of gravity.

This is the traditional military model that we are best

prepared to fight. Decapitate the Regime, and destroy the
high value military units.

***Note 1: Civilian Population. In the pre-war planning the

biggest consideration was averting a humanitarian crisis
and minimizing collateral damage. We expected to be greeted
as liberators, but the reality on the ground turned more
***Note 2: Religious and Tribal Power. I think we underestimated

the impact and importance of this element and were left
playing catch up.

This is the current system of systems. Note how the center
of gravity is now the Iraqi population itself, an element we
didn't have a clear understanding of going into Iraq.
Note the convoluted nature of the insurgency, and how
convoluted web of sub-systems impacts the civilian population.
The emergence of many of these systems was unexpected or
their impact underestimated.

These are the four key tasks that need to be accomplished in
order to secure "victory" in Iraq. Subsequent slides
expand on the tasks.

This is a break down of Task 1. The "rainbow" slide bars
indicate the status of the task. Red is bad. Green is good.
Below the slide bars are arrows to indicate which directions
the tasks are trending. All of the bars are parked in neutral,
and will be adjusted after the readers assessment.

Task 1 (con't)

Task 2

Task 3

Task 4

Task breakdown by region.

So when can we withdrawal from Iraq? My assessment is that first we have to get all of these tasks and regions are assessed in the “green”. Then they have to stay that way for at least a year, and only then we can start leaving. As things trend towards the “green” we may be able to draw down our troops, but, until all these criteria are met, we will stay in Iraq in one form or another.

I will post the task list in the comments section so you can cut and paste. Feel free to add and subtract. Tell me I’m wrong. In a couple weeks, I’ll republish the slides with the task bars actually measuring an assessment. Then I’ll do periodic updates.

Update: The Brookings Institution has some good metrics in their Iraq Index. Worth a look.


At June 23, 2005, Blogger Kris Alexander said...

1) Defeat Insurgency, prevent further escalation of violence, and restore security
a. Deny insurgency popular support
b. Deny insurgent “safe havens”
c. Interdict infiltration and smuggling routes
d. Capture/kill high value targets, decapitate leadership
e. Prevent new insurgent leaders from emerging or entering Iraq
f. Capture/kill foreign “jihadis”
g. Prevent further foreign “jihadis” from entering Iraq
h. Reduce number and lethality of insurgent attacks
i. Reduce crime rate to pre-war levels
j. Prevent Mahdi Army from re-entering conflict
k. Deny insurgent financing
l. Counter insurgent information operations/propaganda; deny insurgents domination of the news cycle

2) Build Iraqi Military and Security Forces; transition them into the fight
a. Re-build Iraqi Military; especially the slated 27 infantry battalions and counterinsurgency forces
b. Build security forces that are not dominated by one ethnic/cultural/tribal group
c. Prevent emergence of and reliance on militias or armed groups (warlords)
d. Insure long-term integrity of Iraqi borders
e. Iraqi Military and Security forces are viewed as capable, legitimate by Iraqi population
f. Create and effective, non-corrupt Iraqi police force
g. Transition “main effort” to Iraqi Army

3) Rebuild Iraqi infrastructure and economy
a. Oil production levels and exports back up to pre-Desert Storm levels
b. Sustain and protect oil production (no attacks)
c. Restore utilities (water, sewage, electricity) levels to pre-war levels, then improve to regional norms
d. Rebuild Iraqi middle class—prevent “white flight”/“brain drain”
e. Encourage foreign investment in Iraq
f. Rebuild and expand Iraqi education system

4) Build Iraqi Government
a. Constitution ratified—OCT 2005; constitutionally-based Elections—DEC 2005
b. Reduce corruption to a culturally “acceptable” level
c. Establish rule of law within Iraqi society
d. Deny outside influence on creation of Iraqi gov’t (state and non-state actors)
e. Maintain support of important cultural/religious figures (Sistani)
f. Insure Iraqi gov’t is representative of all tribal/ethnic/religious groups
g. Build popular support to insure that Iraqi gov’t is viewed as legitimate by Iraqi people
h. Build international support to insure that Iraqi gov’t is view as legitimate by the world.

At June 24, 2005, Anonymous Bobby said...


Great work. I haven't seen anyone-- anywhere-- undertake this exhaustive approach thus far. Of course, it only gets tougher from here: having established your Measures of Effectiveness, JFCOM's conception of EBO would say that you now have to establish your Measure of Effectiveness Indicators (MOEI); I would say you have to define your sub-components ("drill downs") for each MOE.

I'll look it over and see if I can't get you any substantive recommendations for changes.

Right off the bat, some minor ones would be word-smithing:
1)a. Deny popular support to insurgency
1)b. Deny sanctuary to insurgents
1)k. Deny financing to insurgents
2)d. Ensure long-term integrity of Iraqi borders
4)f. Ensure Iraqi gov’t is representative of all tribal/ethnic/religious groups

Also, you might want to think about changing 1)l. (or adding a 1)m.) that frames IO in its proactive mode: that is, establishing an IO climate that is conducive to the efforts of Iraq and the Coalition, as opposed to merely reacting to insurgent/jihadist propaganda [doctrinally, we're not allowed to say they do IO, even though they do it better than we do].

I'll try and get you some more substantive feedback once I finish this SATB PAINEX over the next few days.

But great work-- I haven't seen anyone even *try* to pull this off.

At June 24, 2005, Blogger Thunder Pig said...

Very well done. Now if some of our obstructionist politicians would keep quiet in the backseat and let the adults focus on the driving. ;)

At June 24, 2005, Blogger J. said...

Impressive. Good analysis. Minor quibble re "As things trend towards the “green” we may be able to draw down our troops, but, until all these criteria are met, we will stay in Iraq in one form or another."

In addition, we could identify and take those corrective actions needed to achieve that green status, such as add more troops, get a better info ops campaign going, etc etc. Crazy talk, I know, we just have to slog on with the current strategy and manpower numbers.

At June 24, 2005, Blogger armynurseboy said...

Looks like someone has BN/BDE staff experience...... ;o)

Regarding an exit strategy, what really gets my goat is that the folks who are clamoring the loudest for it are folks who have really no idea how operations work. Timelines are for coordination, not as a metric for success or failure. You train to standard not to time (NCO's out there, sound familiair?). In conducting ops, you conduct them to completion of mission goals, not so you can go home early to have dinner with your family. If you are always caught up in timelines, you are always going to be disappointed.

At June 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice work - 21/2 years too late though.

Couple of points:

1) Insurgencies not insurgency is the first. To defeat them ( no longer possible in my view - but certains strands within them can be bargained with ) you need to develop a "phenomenology" of the Iraqi insurgencies. Only when you've understood your enemies, and the wide variety of things that motivate them, will you be able to develop means of neutralising them.

Different insurgent strands will require different tactics. At present there is no concrete sign of this happening - the tactics required to pacify/co-opt Shia Turkmen in Tal Afar ( put some brakes on the Kurds ) are different from the tactics required to pacify/co-opt Sunni tribesmen in Anbar ( be prepared to pay shit-loads of blood-money as compensation for killing their relatives ).

2) You cannot deny the insurgencies safe havens and local support - they are autochthonous, the US military is not. This is not a zero-sum finite resource game - they actually outnumber you on the ground and if you kill one and create three, then you're going backwards.

3) If you ever manage to identify a leadership structure, and the US is frankly hopeless at this, killing it is pointless - you will, in the end, need to negotiate with someone with the authority to broker a deal. Decapitation doesn't work - it's 18 months since Saddam was captured, it made no difference whatsoever. In the end it's not about capturing the chief - it's about getting the troops to abide by a cease-fire.

4) It's all very well rebuilding Iraq's security forces. But bear in mind that the old security forces that actually managed to hold the country together still exist - they're a large part of the insurgency. They are going to beat the new forces hands down for a long time to come. Don't assume that they can't beat the US military - they may not have shown their hand yet.

Reconstruction will only become possible when the level of violence has been reduced to about 25% of the current level. At present, the violence is escalating.

The political reconstruction is all very well, but if there's no security, no reconstruction and and no services it will have no effect.

At June 28, 2005, Anonymous Mitch Miller said...

This is superb - it's probably foolish to ask, but have you shown it to any of the higher-ups? Are they at all interested?

I would argue that we should refocus use of our resources somewhat - regular troops being used primarily to secure and improve oil and utility production and delivery (3.c., b., and a., in that order), and SOF (including non-military) to locate and attack (including in denied areas) insurgent/jihadi assembly points, infiltration routes, safe houses, etc. (1. b., c., d., f., and g.) These have to be undertaken with a strong PSYOPS component, so truly scary things start to happen to the insurgents/jihadis.

I don't really understand how so many IEDs can continue to be planted in areas under our control, particularly along well-travelled routes or at installations we know are vital, such as oil or utility facilities. Whatever happened to "We own the night?" UAVs? Do we have too big a footprint?

Since we pretty much know where they have to go to attack such facilities, ambushes should be relatively easy to mount.

Anyway, this is a great piece of work! Keep at it! Hope you have better luck with the brass than I did.

At June 29, 2005, Blogger Kris Alexander said...

Okay Kids

I'm starting to do my assessment for the follow on post and I haven't heard much back from anyone to help me out.

I'm shooting for next week to have the assessment up with montly updates.


At June 30, 2005, Blogger Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg said...

Kris- have you seen this report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies? (PDF):

I'm going to start going through it today, but their assesment of the insurgency could help to determine some of the baselines for success and current trends.

At June 30, 2005, Blogger Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg said...

since we seem to be involved in a long-term insurgency don't you think that you should include more indications of public opinion (both Iraqi and US) and the policy positions and statements of US leaders?

In my eyes measuring our successes in an insurgency without measuring the political and social movements largely misses the point of, for lack of a better term, 4GW.

At July 22, 2005, Blogger Dave Schuler said...

Linked as part of my morning run-down. Very interesting and worthy of discussion.


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