Small Wars Journal

How We Lost the Peace in Iraq

Fri, 12/30/2011 - 6:26pm

Regardless of what the current US administration and Senior Military Officers claim, we have lost the peace in Iraq.  The current Iraqi government is fully supported by and responsive to the Iranians. For example, ministries within the Iraqi Government have placed Iranians in key security positions;  The Prime Minister and members of the Iraqi Parliament routinely travel to Iran to consult with them on internal Iraqi issues.  It has been reported that some Iraqi Parliament Members and Iraqi Ministers have taken bribes from Hezbollah.  Additionally, it has been reported that some Parliament Members were briefed by and were told by senior Hezbollah members that once the US Military was out of Iraq, that anyone that was a threat to Iran must be killed.  They reportedly agreed to this Iranian mandate.

The fact that the Iraqi Administration clearly wanted the US military out of Iraq, indicates that the Iraqi Government is only waiting until they have a free hand to revert to sectarian assaults on the Sunni and Kurds. The Status of Forces agreement that was the hang-up for US Forces remaining in Iraq was not approved, although it is a common agreement in every country in which we place US Forces.  If the negotiated agreement is  something that the Iraqis don’t want to happen, rather than tell you no, they will  find one item that the other side will not concede and hold a hard line on it.  Thus, making the negotiations fail.  We used to call this negotiation tactic the “Iraqi Slow Roll.”  This deliberate effort to make the negotiations fail is what happened with our Status of Forces agreement.

Yes, we lost the peace in Iraq and I fully expect in the next few months to see massive sectarian violence occur with large numbers of casualties in the population.  It’s “get even time” for the Shia.  A warrant for the arrest of the Sunni Vice President was issued by Maliki the day after the last American Military was out of Iraq.  I’ve heard a number of Iraqi Military express that Iraq needs a Strong Man to run the country.  This Strong Man would be similar to Saddam Hussein except a Shia rather than a Sunni.  Once again, our political machine has failed, compared to the Iranians.  However, none of the combatants will submit without a fight, therefore, I expect to see a bloodbath over the next year involving all the people of Iraq.  The civil war has begun.

This paper expresses my frustration and even anger with the results of the Iraqi conflict and not winning the peace.  However, it’s intent is to identify the mistakes we made in Iraq and present solutions to prevent them from happening in the next unconventional war we undertake.  My perspective is based on almost three years of service in Iraq. My three assignments in Iraq was in the beginning, the middle and at the end of the conflict and of having spent twenty years in Special Operations, focusing on unconventional warfare with service in Viet-Nam as a member of a Special Forces A-team.  After serving three tours in Iraq as a civilian with a military history of specializing in unconventional warfare, I finally departed Iraq in October 2011, with a bitter sense of failure for the effort.  Our Iraqi experience ended unsuccessfully for those 4500+ military and the many US civilians that “gave their all” to win this conflict.  My anger is because the Iraq conflict did not have to end the way it has.  Had we managed the conflict differently in the beginning, we could now be viewed as a partner in their economic and political development rather than an occupier being asked to leave.  As stated by Colonel Mansoor in his book Baghdad at Sunrise; “In short, counterinsurgency is a thinking soldier’s war.  It requires the counterinsurgent to adapt faster than the insurgent, and therefore requires an effective system for gathering, evaluating, and disseminating lessons learned.  A failure to adapt inevitably means defeat.”[1] After the VN conflict, the US has become viewed by the rest of the world as not having the ability to successfully fight and win a unconventional conflict.  In the 1970s, the unconventional warfare “lessons learned” in the VN conflict were deliberately forgotten and the documentation filed away never to be resurrected.  It has been claimed by some that the military deliberately destroyed much of the documented lessons learned from the VN conflict.[2]  Our performance in Iraq has proven the World to be correct in that we cannot successfully engage and win an unconventional conflict, because the American Politicians and Public cannot tolerate extended wars.

In 2003, the US Military along with their allies took Iraq from a numerically superior foe in the shortest time and with fewer causalities than any conflict in history.  This previously unheard of feat was due to the superior technology, better individual training and the ability of the conventional leaders to focus their war making synergy to specific objectives.  Nowhere in history has an army this small defeated an army four times its’ size in such a short time with so few causalities.

The purpose of this paper is not to criticize the conventional military, because they have proven that they can decisively win a conventional conflict with a numerically superior foe.  The purpose is however, to identify the mistakes we made in wining the peace and to present some solutions for those shortcomings. The below shortcomings, and possible solutions are a direct result of the author’s personal observations and discussions between the author and US officers and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and previous Iraqi Army and Air Force officers and NCOs over the course of three assignments in Iraq.  Having witnessed US military operations, tactics and the development and implementation of US policies and procedures towards Iraq, the author has reached the following conclusions of why we have lost the peace in Iraq.

Although the senior military and civilian leaders know how to focus conventional military skills and capabilities against a conventional foe, they are at a loss when the conflict morphs into an unconventional war, as has been demonstrated over the past eight (8) years in Iraq.

We have only been successful in a unconventional conflict when it has been managed by unconventional personnel. The El Salvador conflict was managed successfully by Special Forces personnel with very little conventional military involvement.

Many of us remember in the early days of the Iraq conflict when Secretary Rumsfeld repeatedly used the term, “winning the hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people.  He was recognizing that this was the key element for winning an unconventional war.  Because we instinctively recognize this term as correct and necessary for winning unconventional conflicts, we tend to assume that the person using the term also knows what actions to take and how to win the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi population.  Nothing is further from the truth, as demonstrated by US actions, policies, and procedures undertaken in Iraq.  For many, this statement of  “winning hearts and minds” is nothing more than a “buzz phrase or cliché” that sounds good and leads the listener to assume that the speaker knows how to win the hearts and minds.  The top US civilian and military leaders in Iraq have demonstrated that they have no clue of how to actually accomplish this.  Until we as a nation (senior military and civilian leaders) can define and implement the conditions, tactics, policies and procedures which are necessary to “winning the hearts and minds”, we will continue to “lose the peace” in future similar conflicts.  This paper is designed to help identify and develop some of those conditions, tactics, policies and procedures and present them in the form of “lessons learned” so that we have a higher probability of “winning the peace” in future unconventional conflicts.

It is unrealistic to think that we will not encounter other similar situations as the developing world seems to embrace the concept of unconventional warfare to confront the major powers.  As a nation, we can expect to confront unconventional warfare in the future and we must be prepared to confront it using the best possible conditions, tactics, policies and procedures.

Because of the complexity of unconventional warfare and the many terms used to describe the different elements, participants and motivations of unconventional warfare, I have chosen, with a few exceptions, to use “conventional” and “unconventional” as generic terms throughout this document.

Establishing Conditions to Win the Peace

Once the conventional war was won, we should have started transitioning into a military organization to win the peace.  It is unreasonable to expect the same soldier that fought a conventional war to immediately make a mental transition to peacekeeper or adopt an unconventional warfare mindset with all the associated skill sets.  Excellent unconventional warriors take years to train and develop.  In 2003, we began an approach to the conflict with conventional military mind sets that would lose the peace and be impossible to turn around after the first couple of years.

In future unconventional conflicts, we must insure that the senior civilian and military commanders work together as a team with a common game plan to win the conflict.  They must understand and support the role that unconventional forces play in unconventional conflicts and allow the unconventional forces to perform that roll.  Likewise, we must transition from conventional military leadership to unconventional leadership immediately after winning the conventional war.

One conventional commander that seemed to have the best grasp of unconventional warfare in Iraq is Colonel Peter R. Mansoor, who commanded the Ready First Combat Team (1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division and its attachments) from July 2003 until September 2004.  In his book “Baghdad at Sunrise,” he clearly states and/or implies many of the concepts I identify in this document.  I believe that had he been supported to the extent needed, he could have had a much greater impact on the positive outcome of winning the hearts and mindes.

The policy of maintaining unconventional warfare mission assignments for the conventional military must be changed to allow Special Operational Forces (SOF) to assume overall command and operational control of the unconventional conflict.  The concept of having the conventional military conduct and manage the unconventional aspect of the conflict is flawed to the point of being unworkable.  For example, conventional military personnel are trained and expected to confront all conventional enemies of America and to overcome any resistance (as they should) using massive military force.  However, the unconventional military (Special Forces (SF) and other Special Operations Force (SOF) personnel are trained to look beyond the obvious and search for causes for the resistance and for solutions that will reduce the local populations support to the unconventional (enemy) combatants and increase their support for the friendly forces.   US Special Forces are trained to work with the indigenous personnel so that they do not feel or have a need to attack the allied forces or to support its enemies.  This is not to say that we should not confront the enemy whenever and wherever they attack us, but to look for solutions to convince the population that they should support us rather than the enemy.  A multi-front effort must be undertaken to address the tactical, political, individual, criminal and tribal issues to gain the support of the local population.  The political, individual, criminal and tribal issues are traditionally beyond the scope of conventional military training and thinking.  Our culture has demanded that political and religious issues be kept from the military and reserved as the domain for our politicians and religious leaders.  Likewise, the individual and criminal issues are the domain of the police and social workers in our culture.  We must develop unconventional warriors that are well versed in and can influence indigenous personnel in all these areas of interest.

Unconventional warfare most often requires a softer approach when dealing with these local nationals.  The conventional military tend to use a “heavy handed” approach when working with the indigenous personnel.  I have a saying that “when conventional Armor, Infantry or Artillery Officers command unconventional warfare, they look for big gun solutions to little gun problems.” In Iraq this resulted in a heavy handed approach by the conventional military and also by some of the SOF[3] who lost sight of winning the hearts and minds of the people, in the quest for the “high value targets.”

A better mission assignment for the convention military would have been to pull them to the Iraqi borders to stop or reduce the infiltration of weapons, equipment, financial support and personnel to the enemy unconventional combatants and to provide the security for the logistics support required by all the US units.  Additionally, assign the overall responsibility for the unconventional war to a unconventional officer and have unconventional teams spread throughout the country to live with and interface daily with the local population. This concept is directly contrary to military doctrine that says the ranking officer is in charge and all friendly forces must be behind T-walls.  In unconventional or SOF operations, we must place the officer in command that is most knowledgeable of the situation and that is most likely to assure a successful unconventional conflict conclusion.  We must also allow unconventional personnel to interface daily with the indigenous personnel at all levels of their society.

The US Army must begin to recruit, train, and develop more unconventional warriors in preparation for future unconventional conflicts.  The US conventional military underestimated the extent of the Iraqi conflict and the resources needed to win the peace from the beginning.  The military planning for the activities to follow the conventional war was poor to nonexistent.  We must develop the capability to fully plan responses to unconventional warfare and be prepared to exercise those responses.  Contingency plans must be developed to address the unconventional aspect, should the conventional war morph into unconventional war.  Since it takes years to fully develop unconventional warriors, we should start this effort immediately.  As stated earlier, the US Army currently has a “mix” problem, in that we need more unconventional forces.  Our unconventional army must be at least 2/3 the size of the conventional army and the Chief of Staff of the Army and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must not remain the sole domain of the conventional military.

We should also have fully engaged the tribal sheikhs, both Sunni and Shia, early in the conflict.  Saddam Hussein knew that to govern Iraq without the help of the tribal sheikhs was impossible.  The tribal system has existed for hundreds of years and the approach we took overlooked or ignored this valuable resource.  Rather than try to overlay our political system on the Iraqis, we should have worked with the tribal sheikhs to gain their ideas, address their concerns and allow them to form a government that did not challenge their established system or their authority.  Even Saddam, at the height of his power, worked with the tribal sheikhs to gain their support or to reduce their negative effect on his administration.  The vacuum we created with the tribal sheikhs directly reflected on our inability to conduct “nation building” operations and successfully conduct unconventional warfare.  We could have insisted that the new government include a couple of important items, such as “Rule of Law” and “Elections” into their government.  The tribal sheikhs could have and would have accepted these conditions and incorporated them into their form of government.  We should have developed Iraqi local oversight and/or planning committees to help in the decision making process to govern the local nationals, at all levels of their culture.  These groups could have worked closely with the tribal sheikhs to coordinate and recommend solutions to the local problems.

Most of the support for the enemy combatants was provided directly or indirectly by the tribal sheikhs.  Because of our marginalizing them and because of their fear of lost of face, financial and political status in their society, we indirectly encouraged them to support the enemy combatants.  We failed to recognize the control that the tribal sheikhs hold over their tribes.  They had been excluded from fully participating in the new Iraqi Government, a catastrophic error that led them into the arms of the insurgency.  Additionally, we did not recognize that the tribes are made up of all ethnic groups in Iraq.  Although a tribe may be predominantly Sunni, they also have Shia and Kurds within their tribes, as do the Shia tribes have Sunni and Kurds in theirs.  At the tribal level the population of Iraq could be controlled and won over to support the Allies, if we had properly engaged the tribal sheikhs.  All Iraqis belong to one of the 150[4] identifiable tribes in Iraq and none of them would have taken up arms against the Allies without the tribal sheikhs’ permission.  There are approximately 30 mainstream and influential tribes that should have been included in determining and establishing the government of Iraq.  The Americans, mostly from ignorance, treated the sheikhs with huge disrespect.  Things started to fall apart, because when someone disrespects the sheikhs, they will fight for their respect and honor.  Eventually, the US started to communicate with the Sunni Tribal Sheikhs who decided that the US actions in Iraq was less violent towards the Sunni Tribes than Al-Qaeda actions.  This led to “the Awakening” of the Sunni tribes that began supporting the Allies and led to the vast reduction of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.  Had we taken this approach with all the tribes in Iraq, early in the conflict, the end result would have been much different.

In June of 2003, I hired around 50 local nationals (Sunni) to provide security for our company facilities and personnel in Baghdad and to provide executive protection to company VIPs when they visited on official business.  Not knowing whom I could trust, I met with a Sunni Tribal Sheikh and explained my situation and what I needed.   He assured me that if I hired his people that their loyalty would be in the following order; to him, to Allah, and then to me.  When I first met the provided Iraqi security personnel, I explained to them my rules, expectations, and conditions under which they would work.  I asked if any of them had a problem with those rules/conditions and none did.  I asked them to swear loyalty to their tribal sheikh, Allah, the company and to me, which they did.  Knowing that if the company and myself were included in the same oath of loyalty as the tribal sheikh and Allah, that the oath would be taken seriously and followed.  If this approach had been taken in each city, town, and village in Iraq, with the Iraqi military and police forces, it would have made a great difference in controlling the local population and reducing attacks against the US forces.

Over the next 16 months while living and working out of the Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad, I never had a problem with any of the local security force and never had a reason to questioned whether I could trust them.  They were responsible to protect me, my staff and the company VIPs.  This was the first time in Iraq that an American Company had used Iraqis in armed security positions for protection of company personnel and property.  Nothing was ever stolen, lost and not a single one of our personnel for which this security force was responsible was injured due to enemy actions during this 16 months.  They would also warn me of times and areas I should avoid.  They explained that they had heard rumors on the street of pending attacks on US forces or against US contractors in those areas.  The US military and other US civilian security personnel were continuously advising me against using Iraqis for security, “because you can’t trust them.”  Yet, they sat in their protected camps and did not interface with the Iraqis on a daily basis.  Therefore, they did not know that under the right conditions with the right agreements and leadership, most Iraqis could be trusted.  This trustworthiness changed after we placed our personnel behind “T”-walls that effectively cut off any communications with the Iraqi people that would allow us to establish relationships to win their hearts and minds.

In late 2003, the Sadr Mahdi Army (Shia) started attacking American Forces.  The Iraqi security force personnel advised me that the American Forces should arrest or eliminate Sadr because otherwise he would continue to attack Americans as long as we were in Iraq.  I stated that we did not conduct assassinations, as they were suggesting.  However, in hindsight, I wish that we had done so, since he has been from the beginning, the biggest foe we have had in Iraq.  His militia and affiliated elements have killed more Americans than any other group in Iraq.  The current Iraqi Government (Shia) is unwilling or unable to effectively control him and stop his attacks on American Forces.  Yet, they spend 80% of their effort attacking the Sunni Resistance Elements which conduct about 25% of the attacks in Iraq, of which most are against the Iraqi Government.  The Shia Resistance Elements conduct about 70% of the attacks in Iraq with most being directed against the Allied Forces.  The American forces are unwilling to confront Sadr to either kill or capture him.  Meanwhile, Sadr moves around Iraq and Iran with impunity.  He is fully supported by the Iranians and the current Maliki government (Shia) and continues his attacks as the Americans are withdrawing from Iraq. He will likely claim success in militarily forcing the Americans to withdraw from Iraq.  This claim will be to make himself look strong to the Iraqi people and self aggrandizement, while making it appear that we were beaten militarily.  If successful, he will gain even more power in Iraq and Iraqi politics.

Since successful unconventional warfare is dependent on wining the hearts and minds of the population, a soft approach must be used whenever and wherever possible.  It is all about establishing relationships between the Americans and the local population at all levels and not just the higher level, as the US leadership appear to have tried, while preventing relationships from being established at the lower levels.  Unconventional Warriors establish relationships with the “man on the street”, shop owners, construction workers, bus drivers and anyone else with whom they interface.  This is an essential function if we ever expect to win their hearts and minds. 

In the early days, I witnessed many times the effectiveness of the American Soldiers working as diplomats between the Americans and the Iraqi people.  Although he or she did not fully realize what they were doing or their effect; I could see the Iraqi people communicating and the children playing games (such as the children’s game of paper, rock, and scissors) with them and the mutual respect and trust that they were developing for each other.  Some children even brought their parents to meet their new American friends, and some of the parents began giving information to the soldiers about bad guys in their neighborhoods.  The young American SF Soldier is the best diplomat we can provide to interface with the Iraqi population.  This interface evolves into trust and eventually reliance and mutual respect.  However, this was not allowed to continue in Iraq as a matter of US policy.  Eventually, all Americans were kept behind “T”-walls and not allowed outside except to conduct essential missions and take-down operations, which only allowed interface with the local population to the extent they were involved in or were a target of the operation.  In later years, the majority of the Iraqi population only saw Americans when we were attacking someone in their neighborhood or when we ran them off the street, as we were aggressively moving from place to place. Relationships are established between people who talk and interact on a regular basis.  The American Soldier cannot interact from behind T-walls, therefore trust and personal relationships cannot develop, nor can we win their hearts and minds.  When the senior leaders only interact with Iraqi senior leaders, they cannot win the hearts and minds of the average Iraqi citizen.  To win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, it takes many people interfacing on many levels to make the impact needed in a society.

In 2003 there was no reason to use the heavy handed approach in dealing with the local population.  In the early days, there was very little enemy activity and the American Civilians and Military moved around Iraq with few attacks.  As a mater of routine, I could and did drive all over Baghdad and to outlying cities/towns such as South to Al Hillah and North to Tikrit in soft cars with no security escorts.  That was the time in which we should have pulled the conventional military back to the borders and assigned security missions for them.  We should have placed an SOF officer overall in charge of the unconventional effort with SOF teams spread throughout the cities and countryside to win the hearts and minds of the local population.  In such a case, it is essential that the SOF teams be supported by military and civilian intelligence and psychological operations organizations as well as life support and transportation capabilities.  In unconventional conflicts, the conventional military must play a much smaller and supportive role, provide support to the unconventional forces and provide the overall security for the logistical support and key facilities of national importance.  Much of this can be accomplished by using the current Iraqi military and police forces rather than dismissing them as was the case in Iraq.

Likewise, in the early days of the Afghanistan conflict, there was little enemy activity directed against the US military.  It wasn’t until the massive buildup of American Conventional forces that it exploded into numerous enemy attacks against us.  In the early days of Afghanistan, the US military consisted mostly of SOF personnel, US Government Civilians and their support elements.  When combat operations were conducted to capture or eliminate enemy combatants, the SOF team would interface with the village elders after the operation, to explain why it was necessary to arrest or eliminate the individual enemy combatants.  The team would then provide something the village needed such as a new well, school, or something else that would benefit the entire village.  There were cases of village elders walking two and three days to the SOF camp to report enemy combatants that had moved into their village and to request that the SOF team come and remove them. 

When the conventional US military deployed to Afghanistan, the SOF teams identified the villages that were working with them to eliminate the enemy combatants and requested that the conventional military use a soft approach when dealing with these villages.  In most cases, this request was ignored and the heavy hand approach was used.  One such example that was relayed to the author by an SOF NCO was that the conventional forces ignored the request for a soft approach and went into the village and turned each house “upside down” in their search for weapons or other enemy equipment or materials.  The village never worked with the SOF team after that and became a center for enemy activity.   

By the time I returned to Iraq in 2006 and 2007 the opportunity to address this conflict properly by winning hearts and minds was past and we were locked into the current hostile situation.  The window of opportunity to take the different approach would not have been possible after the first two years.  The further we pushed into this time frame with the conventional mindset, the more difficult it became to reverse the direction the conflict was taking.  Therefore, in future we must make this transition to the unconventional controlled approach immediately after the conventional war is concluded. The sooner the transition can occur, the more likely of a successful conclusion.

If we had taken the actions to create an environment for success, changed the command of the conflict from conventional to unconventional, modified our policies, procedures and engaged the tribal sheikhs early in the conflict, they could and would have established the conditions and environment for winning their hearts and minds and thus, having a higher probability for winning the peace.

Early US Tactics Encouraged Conflict

The major operation the enemy combatants conducted against the Allies in 2003 and 2004 was the personnel ambush of supply convoys.  The US “Rules of Engagement” (ROE) for these attacks was to “break contact and continue the mission.”  Additionally, until the middle of 2004 the supply convoys were only assigned a military escort placed at the front and another at the rear of the convoy.  These escorts consisted of a single military vehicle with three or four lightly armed military personnel.  These convoys regularly consisted of up to one hundred tractor-trailer type vehicles.  The convoys would be stretched out for up to and sometimes beyond 5 miles.  This effort of protecting convoys was only paying “lip service” to the contractual requirement that the convoys be provided military protection.  Communications was not initially established between the convoy vehicles and the military escorts.  Many attacks occurred without the military escorts knowing that an attack had occurred until the next stop when the drivers of the supply vehicles would notify the military escorts or the rear military escort came upon the disabled vehicles and/or dead drivers.  Because of the ROE and remoteness of the escorts to the main body of the convoy, most enemy attacks were not addressed by the escorts.  No fire was returned to the attackers.  This lack of confrontation of the attackers encouraged them to attack and allowed them to attack with impunity.

In mid 2004, the ROE was changed and we began placing a military escort every 5th or 6th vehicle within the convoy and started confronting (returning fire) the enemy attacks.  At this time the enemy reduced their personnel ambushes of the American Convoys.  They then began mostly using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to attack the convoys and other military and civilian targets.  This terrorist[5] tactic allowed them to attack with a higher level of survivability.  These enemy tactics and techniques are still being used at the end of the conflict, although they have added rockets, supplied mostly by Iran and some other surrounding countries, as an additional technique.  In the future, it must be military policy that ROEs be developed and employed to effectively confront the enemy. We must insist that enemy combatants be confronted whenever and wherever they attack us.  They must never be given a “pass” when conducting attacks as was the case in 2003 and midway through 2004.

This lack of determined response to enemy attacks encouraged their continued attacks and communicated our reluctance to fully confront them.  This lack of response also projected the idea to the Iraqi people that the terrorists or unconventional combatants were more powerful than they actually were and thus encouraged the Iraqi people to support them.  It wasn’t until mid 2004 that we finally became serious in confronting the unconventional enemy.  However, by this time we were already sliding toward losing the peace.

In 2007, and once the insurgency had progressed to this point, the next best tactic was to conduct the much publicized “surge.”  At this point, the surge was the most appropriate tactic for the insurgency.  The surge took and held areas with soldiers that not only confronted the enemy, but allowed them to interface with the local nationals in the contested areas.  This effort if allowed to continue could have produced positive and lasting results.  Again, our short sighted political and military leaders cut the effort short and stopped long before lasting effects could occur.  I do agree with General Sanchez when he stated that “The best we can do with this flawed approach is to stave off defeat.”[6]  The entire allied effort after 2005 was to “starve off defeat”, not to win the peace.

Interface with the Local Population

Much has already been discussed in this paper concerning interfacing with the local population, but it is the key element to winning the unconventional conflict.  A clear understanding of the concept must be understood before we can expect to appropriately address the unconventional conflict. 

Currently American Soldiers are not allowed to freely interface with the Iraqi population.  We have spent Billions of dollars on T-walls to protect the Americans, but which in reality separates the Americans from the Iraqis.  This has effectively killed any effort to interface with the Iraqi population and win their hearts and minds.  During the early days, Americans manned checkpoints and performed other duties that allowed for daily interface with the local nationals. They could talk to and otherwise establish relationships with the local population, which allowed a free flow of discussions and ideas to be expressed.  Even basic discussions of democracy and how it could influence the Iraqi population could be discussed.  In our own development of democracy, our forefathers developed the “Federalist Papers” to better communicate and foster discussions about democracy, our constitution and its’ advantages.  Why would we think that the Iraqi people would need anything less?  In Baghdad at Sunrise, Colonel Mansoor stated, “in an insurgency-or, for that mater, in a counterinsurgency-the people are not the means to achieve the objective, they are the objective.” [7]

The soldiers and US civilians are kept behind T-walls that surround each of the American camps and are not allowed to leave except on missions that generally doesn’t allow free interface with local nationals.  The military commanders will offer a number of reasonable explanations for these restrictions, that range from the safety of the soldier, security for the soldier, and lack of need for the soldier to be outside the camp.  However, these same restrictions prevent the critical need to win the hearts and minds from occurring and thus loosing the peace.  The underlying reason for this restriction is that commanders will suffer a career setback if they experienced casualties.  The officers go to great lengths to prevent their soldiers from realizing injuries.  Although this is commendable on one level, it hinders the accomplishment of the mission on another.  This puts us mainly in a defensive role, which no army has ever won a war by being only defensive.  By not allowing our soldiers to openly interface with the Iraqis at all levels, we destroy the chance of winning hearts and minds and the unconventional conflict.  We should establish rules for conduct when interfacing with the public and when those are violated, punish the guilty, but don’t try to make one set of restrictive rules fit all situations and personnel. 

That being the case, there are other situations that could be arranged to allow the soldier to interface with the local population and to develop those personal relationships and hold discussions, while maintaining a level of security/protection for themselves.  For example we could conduct random foot patrols within certain areas of the cities and towns to allow the interface with local nationals, just as the Israelis do in Jerusalem.  Assign each squad a section of town to patrol and have the same personnel conduct the patrols so that personal relationships can occur between the soldier and the Iraqi people.  Encourage the patrols to talk to and otherwise interface with the local nationals to form trusting and lasting relationships.  Eventually, relationships would form and I submit that it would result in a more secure city/town and in the long run produce fewer US casualties and help win the peace.

Managing the Iraqi Military and Police

In 2003, CPA issued order #2 which completely disbanded the Iraqi Military and Police, which “set the stage” for the former Iraqi military and police becoming heavily engaged in unconventional warfare directed at the US and Allied forces.  Immediately after the conventional conflict was completed, CPA discharged all Iraqi military and police personnel.  This was a major mistake.  The allied forces were totally unprepared for the massive effort that would be required to function as both the Iraqi military and police forces.  Considering that the police force in the four largest US cities are equivalent to the total number of allied soldiers in Iraq, yet the US military was expected to not only perform the military functions but the police functions as well.  It was never realistic to expect the 150,000 Allied Soldiers to perform both the duties of the Iraqi military and police.  On top of all of this, the US soldiers were expected and committed by contract to provide security for the contractors that were supporting the US military with administrative and life support functions and to guard the key points of infrastructure.  This clearly overcommitted the military forces and assured that glaring gaps would remain in Iraqi security.

What should have happened, was to remove the top 2 or 3 layers of command in both the Iraqi military and police, identify potential replacements from the next layer of command and allow them to continue performing their duties with strong US military oversight.  This is a conservation of forces concept that would have freed up an estimated 2/3 of the Allied forces to conduct more appropriate missions.  There would have been some of those commanders that would eventually have to be replaced, but it could have been accomplished on a case by case basis.  Any additional training the Iraqi military or police forces would have needed could have been conducted as rewards for performance and motivation for loyalty.  This policy would also have had the benefit of having the police and military that was totally knowledgeable of the areas and personnel within those areas.  They would know when foreign fighters moved into the neighborhood and be able to quickly identify and remove them from the situation, a problem that we struggle with even today.

The decision to totally dismiss the Iraqi military and police forces served to encourage these personnel to conduct unconventional warfare against the allied forces.  The decision to dismiss these personnel was exactly the wrong decision at the wrong time.  Many of the unconventional combatants are paid to conduct attacks against the allied forces to earn money to support their families.  It was common knowledge that Saddam Hussein’s daughter in Jordan was offering $10,000.00 dollars for each attack on the allied forces.  Although, this was common knowledge, we took no action to eliminate or marginalize her.  Most of the old Iraqi Military and Police Forces would have been happy to resume their former duties and would have done so in a supportive manner for the Americans.  The personnel that had the training and had the capability to conduct those attacks became unemployed and had to make the choice of becoming an enemy combatant or watch while their families starve.  When large numbers of personnel with military or police training become unemployed, should we be surprised when they do what they are trained to do, exercise civil disobedience or become enemy combatants?  If the US was occupied by a foreign military force and our military and police forces were placed out of work, what choices would they make?  I would fully expect them to resist the foreign occupiers.


Crap happens in war and the friendly forces do not always win every action. Therefore, senior military officers, government civilians and politicians must learn to accept the situation without necessarily crucifying the officer in charge.  In short, accept losses on the battlefield without judging the involved officers and NCOs as being incompetent and destroying their careers.  In those cases where they are clearly incompetent, I fully support getting them out of the chain of command.  But we must be very carful in this process so that we don’t also kill the “will” of commanders to be innovative and aggressive.  When the fault for a situation is not clear, we must error on the side of the individual officer and NCO.

The concepts presented in this document fly in the face of current and historical military doctrine, policies, regulations and procedures.  However, if we are to win the future unconventional conflict, we must be capable of quickly transforming the military force from a conventional to an unconventional force with all the associated support functions and chain of command capable of effectively addressing unconventional warfare. 

In order to establish interface with and win the hearts and minds of the local population, we must allow and nurture individual communications to occur and relationships to develop.  We cannot continue to treat our soldiers as children that are not trustworthy to interface with the local population, because of a few “bad apples.”  If we can treat our soldiers as responsible adults, they for the vast majority will respond in kind.  Therefore, allow their interface with the local population to win their hearts and minds, thus the unconventional conflict.

The “T”-walls which on one hand prevented the process of winning the hearts and minds, came into being because senior officers and politicians were not willing to take the risk of losing American lives.  I am convinced that more lives were lost because we did not allow that interface with the local nationals.  The politicians and senior military officers must come to an understanding that during war, there will be lost American lives and they must determine what they are willing to accept, before becoming engaged in conflict.  They must also be willing to provide the numbers of soldiers necessary to successfully confront the unconventional enemy.  It is estimated that to successfully control and interface with the population, the friendly police forces must be a ratio of 200 to 250 personnel to each one hundred thousand population.  This 70,000 estimate is based on a normal society, not in a war zone.  In a war zone, this number should double to approximately 140,000 police.  Most of these could have been gotten from the old Iraqi Police Forces, had the CPA not disbanded them in the beginning.

An unconventional war is by its nature, a war of wills.  The US must have the will to engage enemy combatants for long periods of time as we struggle to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous personnel.  The US must be prepared to address a number of social, economic, political, security and religious issues.  These are time consuming efforts that are measured in years and decades rather than months.  As Colonel Mansoor stated in his book “Baghdad at Sunrise,” “One sure way to lose, however, is to forfeit the struggle by quitting the field prematurely.”[8]  If the politicians, senior officers and American public cannot accept the extended time necessary to win the unconventional war and the natural process of loosing soldiers in war, then they must not get us involved in the conflict.

[1] Baghdad at Sunrise – Colonel Peter R. Mansoor – Reflections, Page 345

[2] Baghdad at Sunrise – Colonel Peter R. Mansoor – Reflections, Page 345

[3] Special Operational Forces (SOF):  By definition these forces specialize in conducting direct action missions, train local national military or Insurgents and work with friendly combatants, physiological operations,  aviation operations, intelligence and civil affairs.  There is an overlap of capabilities and operations between most of these forces, but they mostly stay within their designated areas of expertize.  Of the different SOF forces, US Army Special Forces is the one organization that has the most experience in coordinating operations, conducting training of friendly host nations forces and/or insurgents, conducting limited direct action operations using conservation of force concepts, and influencing the political environment of their immediate areas of interest.  On a national level, Special Forces form fusion cells to coordinate the SOF operations, intelligence collection and dissemination, physiological operations, civic action projects and the needed support functions.

[4] Wikipedia: – Tribes of Iraq

[5] Terrorists: The enemy combatants in Iraq fully meet and deserve the term terrorists since they do not meet the conditions that are internationally recognized to declare them insurgents or guerrillas.  The enemy combatants fully meet the descriptive of terrorist, however, elements of their resistance would also meet the definition of insurgent and guerrilla.  Terrorists on the other hand routinely use weapons of mas-destruction against the opposing forces and civilians alike.  Their objective and tactics are designed to create massive destruction and death to shock the public and government officials into making decisions and changing operations, procedures and policies to accommodate the terrorists objectives and demands. They do not follow the rules of land warfare and therefore are not recognized by nor given the protection of the Geneva Convention


[6] Wikipedia: - Sanchez Quotes

[7] “Baghdad at Sunrise” – Colonel Peter R. Mansoor – Reflections, Page 343

[8] Baghdad at Sunrise – Colonel Peter R. Mansoor – Reflections, Page 342.


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Mark Pyruz

Fri, 12/30/2011 - 11:32pm

Mr. Jones, OIF had been a series of false narratives and in-denials from beginning to end. And even now, there's the in-denial thinking regarding the $11 billion dollar arms deal to Iraq. Get this - the justification is to make Iraq strong enough to counter its Iran threat. Hell, Saudi Arabia is now their main threat and Iran their ally. One can even claim Iraq is now a member of the resistance camp to Zionism.

But that $11 billion dollar arms deal - either the military industrial complex just can't help itself from its own greed, or they are in complete denial, or they're feeble minded - maybe all of the above!

One thing's pretty obvious: the Iranians are hoping that arms transfer goes through in full. They see it as a substantial military gain attached to their column.