Iraq: The Mystery Metrics Sending The Americans Home

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May 30,2008: The U.S. is beginning its withdrawal from Iraq. U.S. troops strength is expected to decline from 170,000 to 140,000 by the end of the Summer. The reduction is made possible by the growing number of Iraqi army and police units that can do the job. U.S. military advisors have seen this coming for years, as they tracked dozens of different metrics (statistics on various aspects of Iraqi performance). The Iraqi armed forces and police had to be completely rebuilt. That's because the Saddam era army and police existed mainly to keep Saddam in power. Most of the leadership in that force was Sunni Arab, and the new Shia and Kurd dominated government did not trust these guys to serve a democratic Iraq.

These metrics are kept secret, as the enemy would love to have some insight into the effectiveness of the security forces. But in the last year, many Iraqi army and police units have revealed their capabilities through their performance. The greater number of capable soldiers and cops was a big reason why the Sunni Arabs turned on the Sunni Arab terror groups (especially al Qaeda) they had long supported. A year ago, it finally became obvious to most Sunni Arabs that the Shia majority had finally done the impossible (according to Sunni Arab beliefs) and created a large number of effective soldiers and police. That force, backed by the Americans, could not be defeated.

The attitude towards the U.S. troops had also changed. For five years, the American troops consistently demonstrated their superior combat ability, while also observing strict ROE (Rules of Engagement) that protected civilians far better than Arab terrorists or soldiers ever did. Many Sunni Arabs had come to see the Americans as protectors (from Shia and Kurd death squads, out for revenge).

When the security forces went after the Shia militias earlier this year, the militiamen were dismayed. It was widely known that the Iraqi army and police were defeating al Qaeda, and a few hold-out Sunni Arab militias. Now these forces were moving into Shia Mahdi Army strongholds, and the Mahdi gunmen quickly discovered they could not hold out against these Iraqi troops who dressed like American troops, and fought a lot like them as well. Worse, the Shia militias could not exploit the U.S. ROE (and hide out in mosques or use civilians for cover) when confronted by Iraqi forces. The "new" Iraqi troops were also systematic and relentless like the Americans. Mahdi Army strongholds in Baghdad and Basra are being taken apart, week by week. By the end of the Summer, the Mahdi Army will be reduced to weak remnants.

Iraq still has the corruption and tribal loyalties, but at least the police are now able to go after the many criminal gangs that have made life miserable, for more people, than the terrorism of the last five years. That leaves the corrupt politicians to be taken down. That depends on trained and disciplined voters, which are less numerous than the newly reformed security forces.

 

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