November 26, 2004

The Case of the Missing Weapons Dump

According to Reuters, the insurgents had a lot of weapons stashed away in Fallujah. How much is "a lot"? Enough "to take over the whole country," says Lt. Col. Dan Wilson. A lot! And that brings up a point worth repeating—that the bulk of these Sunni insurgents already have ruled a whole country before, and absent 300,000 U.S. troops, I can't imagine they'd have much trouble doing it again.

The question, then, is whether uncovering and destroying all these weapons dumps will preclude that possibility. If you look at the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force's slideshow on Fallujah, it's hard to imagine that this wasn't the nerve center of the insurgency, and that by uncovering all of these caches and whatnot we've actually "broken its back". On the other hand, no one knows exactly how many total weapons are in Iraq, or how many we have left to find. That's why we keep on getting reports of military commanders "surprised" at how many weapons they're finding. But why should this be surprising? Presumably Saddam Hussein's regime not only had enough weapons to "take over the whole country", but also enough to take over other large countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia as well. "A lot" may just barely scratch the surface.

Indeed, this story indicates that an AK-47 is a standard household item, and this story notes that the Green Zone is attacked by rockets and mortars "regularly". In the grand scheme of things AK-47s and RPGs are small potatoes, but it sure sounds like weapons are all over the place. Meanwhile, the military is almost daily finding buried weapons caches around Mosul and Babil, and there are thought to be a vast supply of munitions and explosives stored in the "triangle of death" around Latifiyah, Mahmoudiyah, and Yousefiyah—the last one home to everyone's favorite explosives dump, al Qaqaa. So I'm cautiously optimistic that the military is making inroads on this thing, but without better intelligence on how big the problem is (which, apparently, the military doesn't have) "making inroads" isn't any sort of metric for progress. Then there's the whole political component to counterinsurgency, but it sounds like that's simmering on the back-burner...
-- Brad Plumer 4:02 PM || ||