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Saturday, January 20, 2007

On Chess, Or, “The Surge Is Underway: What Now?”

I’m not so good at chess.

I’ve noticed, however, that a near universal rule of chess is…

…The farther you can look ahead, the better chance you have of success.

With that in mind, I’d like to create a hypothetical, and see if there might be ideas that can be gathered from the community, put them together, and develop a sort of “Iraq Repair Plan”.

So here goes.

Let’s go forward in time about 3 or 4 months.

Most, if not all, of 20, 000 “surge” troops are in country, and they have received assignments.

They are primarily Army Infantry and Marine combat troops.

As of now there is an additional $1.5 billion for economic assistance available.

If I understand the President’s plan, Iraqi Army troops (mostly Shi’a) will arrive to “de-militia” Sadr City (also mostly Shi’a).

The exact number of these militia troops, and their level of armament, is unknown; but the probability that the number is above 50, 000 is fairly high.

This disarming will occur while US forces are on station acting as an exclusion force keeping Sunni forces out of the Iraqi Army’s area of influence.

If this does not go according to plan, the most likely weak points are:

1) Insufficient Iraqi Army troops arrive.

2) They arrive unwilling to fight.

3) US troops are unable to exclude Sunni forces/individual operators.

4) The two Shi’a forces unite to drive Sunni from Baghdad.

Now here are my hypothetical conditions…

…At this point in the operation:

About two-thirds of the expected Iraqi Army forces have arrived.
Some of these forces (<10%)>
About 75% of US ground forces are on station, 25% in reserve.

Militia troops number 50, 000 and, like Iraqi Army troops, the probability is high that most of these militia forces are lightly armed.

The militia troops have access to RPGs, IEDs, and mortars.

Only US forces in Baghdad have access to substantial armor.

Sufficient helicopter and fixed wing ground support aircraft are available, along with helicopter transport.

There are no known (or, to paraphrase Rumsfeld) likely unknown opposition air forces; however, Stinger-like weapons are possible.

US troops are fairly effective in excluding Sunni ground forces.

Sunni mortar attacks, however, cause US forces to use “whack-a-mole” tactics for suppression, with some collateral effect on the local Sunni population.

Al-Sadr did not voluntarily disarm, and resists with violence.

As a result, a relatively small portion of the IA forces and their weapons (<5%)>
Another portion of the force chose not to engage during battle (15%), and instead faded from the area.

There are substantial Iraqi Army casualties from the combat operations (10%)

US casualties are below 50 killed for the operation so far.

The collateral effect on Shi’a civilians in the immediate combat areas is on the order of the Fallujah operation.

At this point in my scenario, the Iraqi Army appears unable, by military means, to disarm Al-Sadr.

No non-military means have been advanced beyond the appeal to Al-Sadr’s interest in a unified Iraq and his current bloc in the Iraqi Parliament.

The community is the commanding general.
What’s our best move?

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