Academic journal article Military Review

Growing the Iraqi Security Forces

Academic journal article Military Review

Growing the Iraqi Security Forces

Article excerpt

The political record suggests that even the most valid counter-guerilla tactics provided transitory victory that gained meaning only when exploited politically....

--Robert B. Asprey in War in the Shadows: The Guerilla in History (1)

POLITICAL LEADERS in America and military leaders in Iraq have repeatedly emphasized the importance of building up Iraqi security forces (ISF) as a foundation for the rule of law, economic progress, and political stability. Underlying the strategy is the ancient proverb "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."

Arming a democratic Iraq with the internal and external security to defend itself will be a political victory that will allow the United States to withdraw from operations. Military units across the Iraqi theater have spent a tremendous amount of energy and resources to help produce an Iraqi National Guard (ING), civic and border police, and special operations and regular army units. Much remains to be done, but the U.S. Army has laid a solid foundation for democracy despite the persistent barbs of a stubborn insurgency.

Recent operations in Samarra, a city of 300,000 in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, illustrate why the ISF holds the key to Iraq's future. Coalition forces easily regained control of Samarra overnight after a brigade combat team assault combined with elements of three ING battalions, the 7th Iraqi Army (IA) Battalion, and the 2d Ministry of the Interior Commando Battalion. After only a day of combat, the insurgents fled, died fighting, or went to ground in Samarra.

That the insurgents stood their ground at all against mechanized forces came as a surprise. As former CBS reporter and author Robert Taber explains, "[G]uerrillas restrict their] operations to nibbling around the edges of the opposing army and fighting in the enemy's rear areas. Materially unable to face a military decision, they must of necessity await a political decision." (2)

Operations in Samarra rapidly shifted to locating any remaining insurgents and weapons caches and returning the city to normalcy. Iraqi forces quickly exceeded coalition force (CF) capabilities in gathering intelligence because they could communicate with Samarra's inhabitants in their native tongue without relying on interpreters. The ISF rapidly developed credibility, but the lack of effective law enforcement led the city's inhabitants to doubt the CF could maintain a lasting peace in Samarra. The CF quickly began training and resourcing a police force that could assume control and maintain order within the city. Without a police force, the tactical victory in Samarra was the equivalent of giving the citizens a fish; providing a police force would teach them how to fish. But training policemen to stand up to an insurgency is not easy. The insurgents harassed and intimidated ISF leaders and their families, creating a climate of uncertainty that the CF and ISF still contend with.

Protecting the Populace

To defeat an insurgency you must win over the populace, not simply win the tactical battle. Defeating insurgents on the field of conflict requires sufficient combat power, but winning over the population by helping them achieve a better future requires economic opportunity, security, and stability. Iraqis are pragmatic. If the government can provide jobs for the heads of households and security for families while ensuring that insurgents will not destroy that hope, the people can be won over. Most Iraqis do not believe the United States will remain in Iraq for the long term, given repeated U.S. policy statements about not wanting to be an occupying power. However, if U.S. forces leave, the Iraqis must have a credible force in place to continue the rule of law. An effective police force best provides stability and security at the level where individual families make decisions. Given the prospect for a better tomorrow, most Iraqis will tolerate occupation efforts as long as the coalition takes no actions to aggravate existing anti-Western sentiment, which is why the United States emphasizes developing ISF capacities and capabilities. …

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