Notes on Counterinsurgency and De-Ba'athification
Talisman Gate’s Counterinsurgency Recommendations: Al-Hayat reports today that Iraqi officials are planning to wall-in certain Baghdad neighborhoods within concrete barriers as part of the new security plan. An unidentified source at the Ministry of Interior told Al-Hayat that the neighborhoods that are to be walled-in are four predominately Sunni ones (Dora, ‘Amiriya, Al-‘Adel, and ‘Adhamiya), another predominately Shi’a one (Sadr City) and one mixed (Hai al-‘Amil).
This sound a lot like one of the counterinsurgency plans I was advocating four months ago: Go Smart (December 1, 2006). But I would have also added other Sunni neighborhoods and satellite towns such as Hai al-Jami’a, Khadra’, Yarmouk, Ghazalia, Jihad, Mushahdeh, Khan Dhari, Mahmoudiya, Yusufiya, and ‘Arab Jbour.
It doesn’t make sense to close-off Shi’a areas since the biggest danger from these neighborhoods would be death squads aimed at Sunnis; if the Sunni neighborhoods are already secure then there’s no need to close off Sadr City, which would have serious economic ramifications on Baghdad’s economy and services by bottlenecking the movement and circulation of the capital's workforce.
Here it is in full:
The ‘Fallouja Model’ and the ‘Kadhimiya Canton’: After the November 2004 offensive to take-back Fallouja from the insurgents, the U.S. military embarked on a drastically new experiment of controlling the turbulent town of 200,000 souls: fence the population in. Instead of bringing back old Ba’athists like the failed ‘Fallouja Brigade’ experiment of April 2004 to police the town, which only ended-up emboldening the insurgents, the Americans opted to turn Fallouja into a vast interment camp. But for a few incidents here and there, the plan worked very well.
All residents of Fallouja were issued special localized IDs, and unknown vehicles were barred from entering the town. The US forces set-up a perimeter around the dense urban center. However, this chokehold did not completely surround Fallouja’s ‘rural suburbs’ on the western back of the Euphrates River—hence, there is room for improvement on this particular model.
A ‘closed canton’ model was voluntarily imposed on the Kadhimiya suburb in northern Baghdad. This Shi'a center with a population of 500,000 is now virtually closed off: entry points have been bottle-necked to a handful, and no unfamiliar cars are allowed to pass through. The levels of violence in Kadhimiya have been drastically reduced over the past year since this model was put in place. In lieu of car bombs and suicide bombers, the insurgents now resort to lobbing mortar attacks to get the residents of Kadhimiya. But there is a feeling among the resident that their town is safe—a spectacular feat considering that it borders some major hotbeds of insurgent activity.
At least 90 percent of attacks on U.S. troops over the last year were conducted by Sunni insurgents, so isolating them and their operative bases should be the starting point in rolling back the insurgency.
I propose a ‘closed canton’ method for Baghdad’s Sunni-heavy suburbs of Hai al-Jami’a, ‘Amiriya, Jihad, Ghazaliya, Yarmouk, Dora, Khadra’ and ‘Adhamiya, closing each off unto itself. A similar fix should be extended to the rural Sunni satellite towns (the housing clusters) to the north, west and south of Baghdad: Mushahdeh, Khan Dhari, Mahmoudiya, Yusufiya, and ‘Arab Jbour.
This should be done using the Israeli method: fence them with concrete and technology. The Israelis have been building a separating wall between them and the Palestinians over the past two years. It is an expensive solution but not exceedingly prohibitive. According to Iraqi pricing, a 4 meter high and 1.5 concrete wide ‘T-wall’ barrier costs about 1,200 USD. That evens out to 1 million dollars per kilometer of concrete. Motion sensors, night-vision cameras, sniper observation towers and barbed wire would probably cost an additional 250,000 USD per Km. It is doable.
This would take 6-8 months to complete, and should be dismantled in two years time.
The benefits are the following: keeping the insurgents in, and the death squads out. The US military can pledge that all police patrols or raids in these enclosed areas would be accompanied by American overseers and advisors. The municipal councils should be encouraged to form sub-contracting firms from within their neighborhoods to undertake high-visibility development projects such as putting-in spanking new water mains and fiberglass optic cables (the ‘Sadr City model’). Instead of low-output neighborhood generators, the Iraqi government should bring in larger temporary electrical generators (…there are some that are worth 1 million USD a piece) to provide 24 hrs of electricity to these cantons.
Close it off, throw money at it and gather information. Such measures restricting maneuverability would render these Sunni enclaves useless for insurgents, driving them to find other locales.
A state-of-the-art biometric ID card system that incorporates DNA data as well as genealogical tables (…I’ll discuss this at length later) should be beta-tested on the residents of these cantons.
Furthermore, a systematic effort to match the Saddam regime’s personnel archives to the current residences of these ex-officers from the military and intelligence services should be undertaken. Most of these officers were given state-sponsored housing in the above mentioned neighborhoods during the Saddam era. The former regime kept meticulous files on all its officers and their extended families—these need to be updated and the officers placed under closer supervision for either recruiting or counterinsurgency purposes. We should match skills, such as sniper expertise, to sophisticated insurgent tactics. It holds to reason that if an ex-army sniper lives in a certain sector and there is sniper activity there, then that this person would be a good starting point for an investigation: he may be doing it himself or training others.
Moreover, the current rule that allows every Iraqi family to hold an unregistered Kalashnikov rifle for protection inside its home should be suspended in these cantons. Since these areas are closed off in the first place, they should have less to fear from death squads or criminal gangs. No weapons outside of state control would be registered; finding such a weapon (and ammunition) during a routine search should result in a fine and some prison time (two months).
Raid on Khalaf ‘Alayan’s House: Multinational Forces put out a press release yesterday detailing Tuesday’s (April 3) raid on a house in Yarmouk that yielded plenty of evidence of terrorist activity, but they did not release any information on the owner of the house or the affiliation of those 14 gunmen who were detained during the raid. The New York Times and the Washington Post both identified Iraqi Sunni MP Khalaf ‘Alayan as the owner of this house in their Sunday editions today, and described the detainees as members of his security detail.
News of this raid, along with all the pertinent details, was first reported here on Talisman Gate five days ago. The implication of this raid, as well as several others of late, is that the security teams of many of the top Sunni lawmakers seem to have been compromised by insurgent infiltrators, either with or without the connivance of those Sunni politicians, many of whom are facing investigations and are likely to have their parliamentary immunity revoked. Such an accumulation of evidence grinds against any logic behind rolling back de-Ba’athification; if anything we need to de-Ba’athify some more.