In Iraq, Lieutenant General Peter W. Chiarelli, who had commanded the 1st Cavalry Division in the early days of the occupation of Iraq, recently returned for a second tour. Chiarelli now commands the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, the headquarters that conducts day-to-day operations in the country. Almost as soon as he assumed command, Chiarelli began telling his field commanders that they had to conduct more reconstruction efforts, as well as combat operations. When he commanded the 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad three years ago Chiarelli helped quell the violence in many areas of the city by a program that combined combat operations and civic action.
Chiarelli believes that this approach is essential to crushing the anti-government forces in those areas (usually Sunni Arab) where it is being fueled largely by unemployment, poverty, and brutal living conditions. He is urging his commanders to initiate development projects, to demonstrate that progress toward a peaceful and more prosperous society is being made. This is actually a form of "offensive" information warfare operation. Development projects put the terrorists and anti-government gangs on the horns of a dilemma; if they let the projects go forward, they will probably lose local support, if they attack the projects, they are also likely to lose local support, and probably personnel as well.
As the general puts it, "It's all part of a complicated relationship. When you work infrastructure, governance, when you work the economy to put people to work … all those things coming together cause things to improve." Back when he commanded Baghdad, his approach soon had local people providing tips on insurgent plans and revealing their safe houses. The loyalty of the Kurdish and Shia Arab population has allowed reconstruction in those areas, and several years of cooperation from civilians in identifying and suppressing anti-government and terrorist forces. It's been so quiet in the Kurdish north for the last two years, that there is a thriving vacation resort industry up there, where Sunni Arabs and people from Baghdad come to relax, safe from the al Qaeda and Sunni Arab terrorism.