Friday, August 18, 2006

In Case You Missed It

Pentagon studies examine 'mistakes' in Iraq, Afghanistan
Pentagon studies examine 'mistakes' in Iraq, Afghanistan Sources say reviews have found serious deficiencies 'across the board.'

Quietly admitting that operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have not gone as well as had been expected, the US military establishment has undertaken a complete review of its operations and strategy in those two countries, with the idea of identifying what went wrong, and fixing it before the US faces a similar conflict in the future.

The Boston Globe reports that over the summer, the Department of Defense ordered two separate studies to find the errors the military has made in these conflicts.

The author of one of the reports says the results "won't be pretty."

The studies, according to several Pentagon officials involved, have found serious deficiencies across the board.

For example, US troops in Iraq have often used too much force when conducting operations in civilian areas, unnecessarily alienating local populations.

They cite US commanders as being too slow to establish working relationships with local allies, and note that providing security and safety for the Iraqi people wasn't an early priority.

The military's continuing shortcomings in gathering accurate intelligence about insurgents has particularly hampered its missions: "We know relatively little about insurgent motivation and morale, leadership, and recruitment," according to an unpublished study produced in June by the government-funded RAND Corporation.

The Globe reports that the military is also literally trying to "rewrite the book" on counterinsurgency operations, a skill that many in the military believe has been allowed to grow weak since the Vietnam war in the 1960s and 70s.

outlines ways to understand local culture, locate interpreters, train a local police force and army to help provide security, bolster the nascent government, effectively handle detainees, gather intelligence about enemy forces from friendly citizens, and link combat operations with humanitarian and other aid to rebuild the war-torn country -- and peel the local population away from the insurgents to cut off the enemy's source of support.

"The challenge is to train the force not what to think but how to think," [Colonel Peter Mansoor, a former battalion commander in Iraq who now heads the newly established Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.] said in an interview, saying that troops must get inside the minds of the insurgents as well as those of the citizenry.

There is public relations, civil affairs, information operations.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that President Bush is said to have expressed his frustration at a meeting Monday with the lack of public support in Iraq for the US mission there.

He was particularly concerned about a recent rally in Baghdad where 10,000 Shiites voiced their support for Hizbullah in its fight with Israel and condemned the United States.

"I sensed a frustration with the lack of progress on the bigger picture of Iraq generally -- that we continue to lose a lot of lives, it continues to sap our budget," said one person who attended the meeting.

"The president wants the people in Iraq to get more on board to bring success."

The Times also reports that in Iraq itself, July may have been the deadliest month of all for Iraqi civilians with 3,438 people killed.

An average of 110 Iraqi civilians were killed each day last month.

The 3,438 number is a nine percent increase over June's death toll.

The Baghdad morgue reported that it received 1,855 bodies in July, accounting for more than half of all deaths in the country.

The rising numbers indicate that sectarian violence is spiraling out of control and seemed to bolster an assertion many senior Iraqi officials and American military analysts have been making in recent months: That the country is already embroiled in a civil war, not just slipping into one, and that the American-led forces are caught between Sunni Arab guerrillas and Shiite militias.

The numbers also provide the most definitive evidence yet that the Baghdad security plan started by Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki on June 14 has not quelled the violence.

The plan, much touted by top Iraqi and American officials at the time, relied on setting up more Iraqi-run checkpoints to stymie insurgent movement.

On Tuesday, the US military reversed an earlier claim that explosions Sunday which killed 63 Shiites were caused by gas explosions.

The Washington Post reports that a military spokesman now says the Iraqi government was correct when it said the explosions were caused by a series of car bombs.

But so far, they are not willing to change the mission in Iraq to conform to the resources they are prepared to commit.

As a result, coalition troops are present in parts of Iraq with no achievable mission.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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