February 22, 2005

Insurgency Odds And Ends

Interesting passage from an old Washington Post article on U.S. plans to try to reduce the number of soldiers in Iraq during the upcoming troop rotation next month:
The last major U.S. troop rotation occurred a year ago, when commanders, as now, were feeling upbeat after a milestone event -- the capture of ousted president Saddam Hussein in December 2003. But within several months, U.S. forces were embroiled in simultaneous Shiite and Sunni uprisings and confronting a burgeoning insurgency.

U.S. military officers say there was a decline in the quality of U.S. intelligence on the insurgency last spring as a result of the turnover of forces. To prevent similar slippage this time, the 18th Airborne Corps' intelligence unit arranged for a longer handover period with its counterpart in the departing 3rd Corps. Additionally, more than 60 intelligence analysts from other military centers were brought in last summer and will help bridge this period.
We (by which I mean "we reading the newspapers") still don't know if intelligence on the insurgency is getting better or worse. They're still launching 50-60 attacks per day. James Glanz reported the other day that insurgents have been very smart about attacking key infrastructure spots in or around Baghdad—no doubt because many of the Baathists in the insurgency fighting still know how all of the pipes and grids connect. I also wouldn't be entirely surprised if there were insurgent "moles" currently working in some of the Iraqi ministries. Presumably this is the logic behind the Shi'ite scheme to purge the government of anyone who even smells like a Baathist. But without better intelligence there's no way to know where sound policy ends and paranoid "Baath-baiting" begins. Off course, there's also the possibility that this Newsweek report is right and Iranians, rather than ex-Baathists, are the ones planting moles.

It's not as memorable as "Have you, at last, no sense of decency left?", but Iyad Allawi recently told the AP that too much Baathification would "throw the country into problems, severe problems." Seems likely to me. In the Wall Street Journal recently, Greg Jaffe noted that one of the new "pop-up" militias—many of which are being used by the U.S. for security—is being run by General Adnan Thavit, the uncle of outgoing Interior Minister. For those keeping score, that minister is Falah al-Naqib, an ex-Baathist likely (I think?) to find himself on the business end of a Baathist purge by the new government. Gen. Thavit's militia may well follow him out, if it comes to that.

UPDATE: ...oh, wait, never mind. The Belmont Club says we're winning, and insurgents are big fat losers, so ignore all the foreboding evidence above. Indeed, it's time we ask ourselves: "Why bother reading newspapers when you can just read blogs?" Er, make that "blogs that link to newspapers." Oh whatever.
-- Brad Plumer 9:14 PM || ||