Iraq's Road to Counterinsurgency

The seemingly enlightened approach to warfare outlined above in the US army manual (human rights advocates were consulted in the production of the book, FM-3-24 in 2006) did little to please historian Col. Gian Gentile, as he argued in 2009:

“The answer to this tactical problem in Afghanistan provided by the Counterinsurgency Experts is better population centric Coin tactics and operations; just try harder at building schools, roads, local security forces, establishing government legitimacy, and population security through dispersion of forces to protect them. Once we get better at these processes and try just a bit harder, with a just a few more troops, then voila (just like we think happened in Iraq) victory is achieved, triumph is at hand. But where in this formulation of scientific processes are the enemy and the killing of them?”

The same debates are playing out today in Iraq. Good, representative governance is undoubtedly essential for ending insurgency and terrorism, even better, to prevent people becoming insurgents. The problem in Iraq is that local engagement with tribes, negotiations for reconciliation and micro economic development schemes were something chiefly done by US army units and State Department personnel (many of them ex army) in Sunni majority areas.

The US, rightly or wrongly, made peace with Baathist insurgents of the 1920s Revolutionary Brigades and the Jaish Mohammed, to turn these movements against a widely hated ISI. For a while, it was spectacularly effective at stopping the salafist terrorists, but as Craig Whiteside recently argued, it was a solution built on sand.

Rightly or wrongly, Nouri al Maliki’s government were highly circumspect about many of the Sunni “Sahwa” formations, and many of them were either left unpaid or arrested, with the commander of the Iraqi army 6th division calling them a “cancer” and largely driving them from Abu Ghraib, leaving security to deteriorate.

46 Responses to Iraq's Road to Counterinsurgency

  1. Nicasso 6th July 2015 at 07:45 #

    Hi Robert,

    A useful article - good stuff. Muqtada al-Sadr will be minor player in any dialogue with the Hashd al-Shabi. His 'Peace Brigades' are not in the same league as Badr, AAH or Kaitab Hezbollah. Lots of rhetoric but the capability is not there as it was 2004-2008. Another problem will be convincing rank and file Hashd al-Shabi that the US is their ally. The amount of suspicion of US intentions is palpable in southern Iraq. It's quite common to hear ordinary Shi'a Iraqis talking of the US arming ISIS, even though elements of the Hashd are reportedly living side by side with US forces in Anbar. I believe closer co-operation is required but it will need high level agreement between US and Iranian officials....yes Iranian not Iraqi.