Tuesday, November 28, 2006

anbar lost

This report from the WashingtonPost is profoundly disturbing. It's a summary of a recently declassified internal Marine memo detailing how the Marine Corps now admits they can not win in Anbar (the Western Sunni province).

The beginning says it all--read the whole thing:

The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military's mission in Anbar province.

Between al-Qaeda's violence, Iran's influence and an expected U.S. drawdown, "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" that U.S. and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar," the assessment
found. In Anbar province alone, at least 90 U.S. troops have died since Sept. 1.

But the contents have not previously been made public. Read as a complete assessment, it paints a stark portrait of a failed province and of the country's Sunnis -- once dominant under Saddam Hussein -- now desperate, fearful and impoverished. They have been increasingly abandoned by religious and political leaders who have fled to neighboring countries, and other leaders have been assassinated. And unlike Iraq's Shiite majority, or Kurdish groups in the north, the Sunnis are without oil and other natural resources. The report notes that illicit oil trading is providing millions of dollars to al-Qaeda while "official profits appear to feed Shiite cronyism in Baghdad."

Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all government institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq," or a smattering of other insurgent groups, the report says.

Global Guerillas has long talked about how al-Qaeda groups increasingly use the global black market to self-fund operations. The attack in Madrid was supported by sale of ecstasy of all things.

Also, not as much reported in the Western press is the massive exodus from the country. Nearly 10% of the population (2 million+ to date) have left the country, mostly Sunni, mostly well enough to leave. Leaving the Sunni provinces with even less in the way of administration capacity--the article also goes on to say that the Shia who control the purse strings in Baghdad have long since stopped paying the salaries of Anbari Sunnis.

What I think this will do will give support to the idea of a short-term (very short term) increase in troop buildup to be followed by a drawdown and a move towards training the Iraqi military and letting the Shia I fear have a free hand. The reason the Sunnis have moved towards AQ is they see it as their only means of protection. The Baathist Sunni insurgency for about a year now is profoundly scared. A buildup of the Iraqi Army at such a point can really only be, it seems, an essentialy Shia force. The police we know are totally infiltrated with the Shia death squads, but the army we've been told is non-partisan. Increasingly there is evidence that that is not the case--or at least not perceived to be the case by the Sunni, which in this case is all that matters, paranoid (to a degree) or not.

Frighteningly, this is exactly what Ayman al-Zawahiri, #2 for AQ said in his book (and letters to Zarqawi) was the next strategic goal: namely to create a haven/mini-state within the heart of the Arab world. Partisan force or not, the key will be its diminution. Once entrenched to the degree that is financially independent, no longer dependent on a figurehead (like Zarqawi), and weaved into the social fabric, al-Qaeda, or any Global Guerilla group, can never be fully extricated. The key will be to disrupt as much as possible their operational capacity.

But if these gruops have learned their technqiues fighting the most capable Army on the planet (American) and have played to a draw/won, then there is strong fear that the Iraqi Army however quickly trained is not going to be up to the task. Whether the Shia militias will want to take the fight to them remains to be seen. But I'm deeply worried about carnage either way.


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