Why the Surge Worked
Discussion Board on this DLS topic
by Jonathan Henry
January 21, 2008
Over a year ago, a new plan was announced for improving security in Iraq. The plan was simply to increase U.S. presence in the country by 30,000 personnel with a three-fold contribution by Iraqi forces. Other Coalition nations provided additional personnel for the plan. The center of this plan would be Iraq's center of gravity, Baghdad, which is the political center and largest city in the country. The sectarian "fault line" runs throughout out the city.
Now, over a year later, the Surge plan has been successful. Violence is down 60 percent nationwide. Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has been expelled from Baghdad and Anbar Province and is currently on the run. Iraqi Ministry of the Interior (Waziriat al Dakhaliyah) has recently stated that AQI is 75 percent destroyed. Both the reduction in violence levels and AQI losses can be reinforced through Open Source Intelligence (OSINT).
Critics insisted that the plan would fail. They declared that U.S. forces in Iraq were already ineffective because the situation was beyond repair. The increase of U.S. forces would be seen as more as "occupiers" and would "create more insurgents". Critics also insisted that the Surge would destroy the already strained US military. Predictions by critics were a bust.
The question then becomes, "Why did the Surge work?" There are numerous factors that contributed to the success of Gen. Petreaus' Surge plan. The quick and simple answer is that it was the right plan at the right time. The new 2006 Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine was a key piece to the success of the Surge. The COIN doctrine showed a well-developed understanding of the causes of insurgencies, their make-up, and the best method for defeating them. The plan used an effective "clear, hold, build" tactic for improving local conditions. The net result of this has been reconciliation through most of the country.
Another contributing factor was that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were ready. The majority of the Iraqi military is under the control of Iraqi elected leadership and is nearly fully manned and equipped. With additional forces in the area, it was possible to remove corrupt elements from the Iraqi Police in Baghdad. Without the three-fold contribution of ISF, cleared areas would have again fallen back into instability.
The people of Iraq were significant factor in stabilizing Iraq. They had become tired of both Al Qaeda and Jaysh al Mahdi (JAM) and the violence that came with both of them. The Iraqi people developed trust in security forces and began providing tips. The tips then led to the discovery of caches and arrests of insurgents. Again, without the support of the Iraqi people, the plan would have failed.
Iraq is also a democratic nation. The local citizens turned out in 2005 to elect their government with 80 percent voter turnout. This makes the government in Baghdad more accountable. The citizens expected and will continue to expect results from their leaders.
AQI had also seriously blundered in Iraq. In areas they controlled, they imposed their strict version of Islamic law. Within months, the local populations turned against them. These locals, and the support of Coalition Forces, gave rise to the Awakening (Sahawa) Movements and Concerned Local Citizens programs. AQI had gone so far as to help create their own undoing.
With the failure of al Qaeda and increasing stability, steps toward reconciliation continued. The two largest insurgent groups, the 1920 Revolutionary Brigades and Jaysh al Mahdi (JAM), ceased their attacks on security forces and began working toward stabilizing the country. Before reconciliation, the 1920 Revolutionary Brigade was in discussions with the Iraqi government. The assassination of a key leader by AQI resulted in the group turning on and attacking AQI. During the Battle of Baqoubah, the first initial cooperation between 1920 and Coalition Forces exploded into full-scale reconciliation and the creation of Fursan al Rifadayn (FAR- Knights between the Two Rivers). JAM also reconciled after it came under severe criticism for fighting in Karbala. By August, Muqtada al Sadr called for a ceasefire and has continued to call for longer extensions and increased cooperation.
As stability increases and violence drops, U.S. forces are returning victorious. They have tamed the streets of Baghdad and Anbar, put AQI on the run, and reconciled the largest insurgent groups. Lessons learned from the Surge include having a well-developed and evaluated plan, a understanding of the battlespace, and political trust in military leadership. As violence continues in Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Palestine, and elsewhere, allies and other key players worldwide should adopt this doctrine to defeat the global Islamist movement.