Iraq: April 15, 2004


At least five of the fifty or so foreigners who have been kidnapped, have been killed, most of the others have been released. None of the kidnappers have been given their demands (usually that this country or that pull their troops out of Iraq.) One effect the kidnapping spree has had is to slow the economic reconstruction. The Iraqi economy had been experiencing double digit growth so far this year, but with so many of the foreign workers and technical experts afraid to travel, a lot of projects are stalled, or slowed down. The increase of attacks on truck traffic has slowed down delivery of building materials and equipment, which has disrupted construction schedules. This has been noticed by the population, and whatever enthusiasm there was for the "brave Iraqi resistance fighting the evil foreign occupation" is fading. 

The United States has said it hold over in Iraq 21,000 troops who were to go home. Another 10,000 troops may be sent. The units in Iraqi being held over for another three months are the 1st Armored division and the 2nd Armored Cavalry regiment. 

The intelligence work has identified the specific "gangs" (groups of dozen to a hundred or more) armed Iraqis operating together and attacking coalition troops and civilians. The gangs tend to stay in the same area. Some of these groups can be talked into disarming, or just keeping the peace. The groups that are criminal gangs are inclined to get out of the revolution business if they take a beating. The political gangs (pro-Saddam, pro-Sadr, pro-al Qaeda) are less likely to give up the fight, but it is possible and that's why there has been a truce in Fallujah. The pro-Sadr Shia gangs are full of unemployed young guys who have been exposed to a lot of "blame the infidel" rhetoric by opportunistic Shia clerics. Other Shia clerics are trying to preach a different message ("let's rebuild Iraq and get you a job") that is making some headway.

The al Qaeda type gangs, and the foreign Arab nationalists, cannot easily be negotiated with. The fighting against the gangs in the last two weeks has resulted in a lot more raids and searches, and more evidence of bomb making and foreign terrorists, has been found. This is especially the case in Fallujah, and one item Iraqi negotiators in Fallujah are hammering away with is the identification of all the foreign terrorists in the town. The terrorist bombings are very unpopular in Iraq, if only because they kill mostly Iraqis. The Sunni Arab gangs have lost some more popularity when it was discovered in the last week that so many terrorist operations had set up shop in Fallujah.

The truce in Fallujah is slowly falling apart as some groups realize that the marines are improving their capabilities by collecting information and exploring the city every day in anticipation of renewed fighting. The marines still have the city cut off from the outside, and many of the gang leaders are unable to control all of their gunmen. 

The failure of so many police units settles a dispute among coalition commanders over how important it was to train police commanders. The police that stayed on the job all did so because of their commanders. In an attempt to get as many Iraqi police on the job as quickly as possible, many Saddam era police, and their commanders, were hired. A training program for the cops (a few weeks) and the commanders (a few months) was set up, but police were being put on the job before they could get their training. Eventually, in the next year or two, all the police and commanders were expected to get some professional training. This appeared to be working as long as all the police had to do was take care of traffic and street crime. But when it came to the crunch, with the Sunni, Shia and criminal gangs coming out in force, many of the untrained police simply fled. So now more resources are going into training and selection. 


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