Monday, July 02, 2007

Operation Phantom Thunder - Background

Michael Totten links to this excellent background to Operation Phantom Thunder by Frederick and Kimberly Kagan. They look at the failures and successes in the period 2004-6 and how the lessons have been applied to the current operations. It's fascinating. In Falluja, Najaf Karbala and Sadr City, military success was turned into civil failure by quick withdrawal - the baddies were beaten, but the law didn't hang round. Whereas in Tal Afar to some extent, and then most notably in Ramadi, control was maintained, links were forged with the local population and extraordinary results were achieved.

Thus the slow and methodical preparation for Operation Phantom Thunder and the misunderstanding over what the Surge was and when it took place. Until a couple of weeks ago, just as Kilkullen said in that interview with Austin Bay, the ground was being very carefully prepared not only by gathering intelligence, as in Tal Afar and Ramadi, but by repositioning American units in forward operating bases that will be held.

Bill Roggio sets out the stages like this:

Disruption: U.S. and Iraqi forces do not have forces established in the region or have not conducted clearing operations. Security forces are conducting raids and other shaping operations to “disrupt” enemy activity and gain intelligence on the terrorist and insurgent networks.

Clearance: Security forces are in the process of conducting large-scale operations, sweeps, and searches to find and secure weapons caches, detain insurgents, and establish a permanent presence in the area.

Controlling: Security forces have a presence in the area, and neighborhood watches and police forces have been established. The areas are now considered secured.

Retention: Neighborhoods are under control and have been fully transitioned to Iraq control.

But get it from the horse's mouth. David Kilkullen has an article here where he explains the logic behind the Surge. In a sentence, it is this:

The "terrain" we are clearing is human terrain, not physical terrain.

It is, indeed, quite different from anything that has happened so far in Iraq, taking what was to be learnt from Tal Afar and Ramadi, but on a huge scale.

I would just add that none of this, I repeat, none have I learnt from the media. It's all been through bloggers such as Instapundit, Pajamas Media and Michael Yon, Michael Totten and Bill Roggio.

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