Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Sunday | July 06, 2003

Why the US is losing a man a day

By Steve Gilliard

What goes unsaid in the wider media, but is clearly apparent, is that the follow on force we so desperately need in Iraq is nothing like the force that is there now. It's pretty obvious that no one is talking about the reason US troops are vunerable to daily attacks.

We are fighting an enemy which fights in small groups and merges in and out of the background of the population.

A 2003 US Armored division is perhaps the most powerful fighting force on earth. There are few enemies which can withstand it's combined arms force for long. Against a conventional force, the US is likely to dominate. But with our current force in Iraq, we cannot win and we cannot control the country.

1)Misusing special forces

We have no supermen. Special Forces and their cousins, Delta Force/Dev Group (the Navy's version of Delta), are extremely well-trained men, but they cannot perform miracles.

The ideal situation would be to use Special Forces to train local forces and do occasional patrols. Not running around the country, playing commando and hunting for WMD which clearly exist, if at all, in very limited numbers. Special ops can only work with the cooperation with locals to be effective. Without them, they are very vunerable to assault, as the ambush of a Task Force 20 convoy shows.

They also stick out. With civilian clothes and M-4's draped across their chests, they basically wear a sign which says "follow me, I'm a special operator." Even when they don't. their formation signs, insignia and movements inform the average Iraqi soldier/guerrilla that these guys are not regular soldiers.

The problem with special ops is that they work best when no one can tell they've been there. The longer they operate, the more likely they are going to be spotted. Unless they devise cloaks of invisibility, their safe houses are observed, their vehicles tagged. Why? Because they're white men, extremely fit and armed with unusual weapons. Even if they dressed as Iraqis, their homes would still be noticed by the fact they came and went as they chose.

When encamped, their vehicles are logged in and out.

In short, while they may have some chance at surprise, they are unlikely to maintain that surprise. They also do not enhance the security because so many detailed to direct action and observation missions. Special Forces work best when they are in theater for a short period of time, work with locals, and are used for clearly defined missions. Units like Task Force 20 and the 75th Exploitation Group drain these resources, limit local commanders flexibility, and take expensive, highly trained resources and squirrel them away.

What needs to be understood is that SO has its limits. You cannot run effective special ops without solid intelligence. We have the same informers Saddam used and they are doing a miserable job.

2) Our intelligence in Iraq is abysmal

The Iraqi guerrillas are protected by the populace and for all our efforts we do not know who they are or where they come from. They may have some idea in CENTCOM, but the fact is that the US is facing an enemy which can vaporize, turn solid within minutes, then return to vapor. We don't know who they are, or who supports them, and all Viceroy Jerry and his men can say are "Saddam remnants". Ok, so the Shias are tolerating Baathists?

We have Predators which fly day and night over Iraq, but they can't stop a man with a Tokarev pistol and a friendly crowd. And it's not like they're using an obscure strategy, they are shoving away the people from the US and making the US paranoid about even the most innocent, normal encounter. Buy a soda, you may get shot.

We conduct raids which round up small numbers of men at great expense. It isn't cheap to send a battalion to round up three guys in their sleep. We arrest a few hundred people, run them through the system, get a little intel for a lot of anger and get hit harder the next night.

The idea that foreign volunteers can roam around Iraq and not stick out should also be of concern. While the CIA may be trying to penetrate these networks, the fact is that they should be sore thumbs and they aren't. It is fair to say that our intelligence in Iraq was and is incredibly bad and has not improved. No one says the obvious, we have miserable intel in Iraq. No WMD, no Saddam, no clear picture of the guerrilla forces we're facing, who are being resupplied by any wacko who hates Americans and wants to kill a few.

3)Too loud, too noisy, too big

The US can be heard the minute they mount up. The Brads, the Blackhawks, they all announce themselves. Any halfwit guerrilla with a watcher and a cellphone knows the US is coming before they come. Because we have so many heavy divisions in Iraq, we have to parcel them out in a way which rips apart their combat power. Placing a Brad on a street corner is waste of money and time and makes it a target. How do you do patrols in an M113. The US needs what it doesn't have, light infantry to present a presence. Because the Iraqi military dissolved, US forces are forced to place themselves in situations which will get them killed. Like the bitter MP sergeant who found himself stuck in a Baghdad police station, his presence makes him a target.

The lack of Iraqi helpers forces the US to be an overt presence, thus driving the occupation and presenting many, many targets for angry Iraqis and jihadis.

4) Misusing regular forces

American paratroopers facing a line of protesting Iraqis. Engineers and artillerymen on patrol and trying to run small towns. A lack of competence and Arabic language skills all around. Well-meaning, but clueless soldiers doing their best, but which is not nearly good enough.

Colbert is one of the few Marines who continue to follow the war's progress on the BBC each day. When the BBC runs a report of a U.S. Army unit that accidentally fired on civilians, he stands up, outraged, and walks past his fellow Marines dozing on the concrete. "They are screwing this up," he says. "Those idiots. Don't they realize the world already hates us?"

"Relax, Devil Dog," Espera says, calling him by the universal Marine nickname. "The only thing we have to worry about are the fucking do-gooders."

The problem is that the whole thing is ad hoc, and the Iraqis need the expertise of professionals. Having mechanized infantrymen act as police who can't speak the language makes them targets. Until and unless we can get trained civilian advisors on the ground, who can speak Arabic, the occupation is little more than a guerrilla war and enforced poverty.

And our allies seem to have their own agendas

5) The locals do not support us

Instead of cultivating the Shia, we raid SCIRI's offices, try to manipulate Sistani into a defacto ally and ignore Badr. Does the CPA and CENTCOM think that the guerrillas are just Saddam lackies and no one will oppose them? Everyone has a gun. A Baathist can be shot down as easily as a stray dog. While they wait for their water to not make them ill and to have reasonable amounts of power, a significant minority is aiding the guerrillas and even more are turning their backs when they strike.

Random mobs steal and loot from US vehicles after attacks and do nothing to stop those who shoot Americans . They have no stake in our survival, if nothing else. The random attacks on those working with the CPA have provoked no great outcry from clerics of any persuasion. Instead, they have to bite their tongues to prevent the anti-American sermon of the week. And now Sistani issues a fatwa to declare no one should be appointed by the US. It is clear appointees have a short life span ahead of them.

Relying on the exiles was a brutal, near fatal, mistake. Chalabi, when not called a crook by his fellow Iraqis, is unknown. The rest are resented as having avoided suffering under Saddam. They don't represent the Iraqi people and have less insight than we need them to have.

Hostility has many guises. Inaction as well as action. Letting a man die while you do nothing is just as hostile as ignoring the man who shoots him and only a little less hostile than killing him yourself.

Posted July 06, 2003 05:50 PM


Bush Administration
Business and Economy
Foreign Policy

© 2002. Steal all you want.
(For non-commercial use, that is.)