Thursday, September 07, 2006

August Revisions for Baghdad (re: Force Levels Op Forward Together)

I have been skeptical of success for  Operation Forward Together (the plan to stabilize Baghdad for the third or fourth time) for a number of reasons.  Most importantly, I thought that the force levels that were employed were too short:
I think that the long term effect will be fairly low, but that this is an engagement in security theatre targeted at both American and Iraqi domestic opinion.  This Operation  Forward Together   is designed to show that the PEOPLE IN CHARGE ARE DOING SOMETHING!!!!! ......
Furthermore, the force ratios for a city wide counterinsurgency campaign that could actually do something useful for security in the city are not there.  Via Ask.Com, the population of Baghdad is about 5.6 million people.  80,000 counter-insurgent forces means that there are roughly 13 counter-insurgents per 1,000 residents of the city.  This is a level below what the US Army recognized as needed for lower intensity conflicts with fewer actors such as Northern Ireland and it is a force ratio that is signifcantly less than the somewhat successful operation by the 3rd ACR and a couple of Iraqi brigades in Tal Afar where the "hold" phase of the clear, hold and build strategy had military forces constituting between 6-8% of the population. 
This basic critique of force levels still holds after the reinforcements of early August which was two more Iraqi infantry brigades and the US 172nd Infantry Brigade, which is a Stryker equipped unit, a couple of MP companies pulled from Anbar, and the theatre reserve battalions pulled from Kuwait.  This addition of roughly 10,000 troops barely changes the ratio of counter-insurgent:population.
However there looked to be some success.  Early reports showed a 60% or more drop in violent deaths in August for Baghdad.  Maybe the combination of reinforcements and search and destroy raids were sufficient that Forward Together had stopped being whack a mole planning.  There may be hope.
The Reaction (via Balloon-Juice) points out this ABC news blog piece from this morning:

It turns out the official toll of violent deaths in August was just revised upwards to 1535 from 550, tripling the total. Now, we're depressingly used to hearing about deaths here, so much so that the numbers can be numbing. But this means that a much-publicized drop-off in violence in August – heralded by both the Iraqi government and the US military as a sign that a new security effort in Baghdad was working -- apparently didn't exist.....

Violent deaths now appear roughly in line with the earlier trend: 1855 in July and 1595 in June




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