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The Iraq Report

From "New Way Forward" to New Commander.

11:00 PM, Feb 28, 2007 • By KIMBERLY KAGAN
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Insurgencies and counterinsurgencies are complex. But they are also comprehensible. The fragments of information available in open sources form a cogent, overall pattern that policymakers and other informed observers can understand, just as they can understand any military operation.

General Casey's Mission Statement and Intent

General George Casey remained in command of Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) until February 10. As the top-ranking general in Iraq, General Casey set the mission for coalition forces in Iraq in January and early February: "Since the inauguration of the Iraqi government, MNF-I forces remain in Iraq at the behest of its leaders. Coalition forces are committed to supplementing Iraqi Security Forces in ongoing operations--and striking at al Qaeda in Iraq in particular--but increasingly are focused on helping build and train the ISF with the eventual goal of leaving Iraq able to secure its streets, its borders and its citizenry without Coalition help."

Concept of Operations / Operational Design

The pattern of operations in January and early February supported this mission. In early January and February, American, Coalition, and Iraqi forces throughout Iraq engaged in coordinated raids and strikes in order to disrupt terrorist, insurgent, and militia networks. They killed or captured terrorists, destroyed enemy safe-havens, and oversaw controlled detonations of weapons caches. U.S. troops supplemented Iraqi Security Forces which requested assistance. They also trained Iraqi forces.

American forces were particularly active during this period within Baghdad and in the belt of cities and towns that surrounds the capital (from Falluja south and east to Mahmudiyah, Iskandariyah, Salman Pak, north to Balad Ruz and Baqubah, west to Tikrit and Balad and thence back to Falluja). Most of these towns are within one or two hours' drive of Baghdad--easy commuting distance for businessmen and insurgents. Operations in Baghdad focused on clearing out significant insurgent strongholds and attempting to turn cleared areas over to Iraqi forces. Operations around Baghdad focused on disrupting insurgent networks that had established bases and built up weapons caches in towns and villages all around the capital. These networks move weapons and fighters along various routes from these bases to attack targets in Baghdad, Falluja, Baqubah, and elsewhere. Coalition operations focused on disrupting these networks by clearing out these bases. In some cases, U.S. forces remained behind after the clearing operations to keep the insurgents out. Most, but not all, of these operations were part of a larger effort to create the preconditions for the success of the Baghdad Security Plan, but they were not part of that plan, which was not yet operative during the period covered by this report. This period also saw operations in Anbar Province, in the north (Ninewah and Salah-ad-Din provinces), and to the south. These operations will be considered in subsequent reports.

Operations Outside of Baghdad: Disrupting Terrorist Networks

U.S. forces use their intelligence assets to identify insurgents and IEDs directly targeted at coalition forces, but they also use intelligence to develop an image of how the insurgent group functions. They then identify particular "nodes" in the network that seem to enable a disproportionate number of other insurgents to function: leaders, weapons caches, safe havens, or assembly points. Units leave their base for one or several days, cordon and search an area, or otherwise take control of a location in order to seize people or information. Alternatively, they destroy important, identified enemy sites. They then return to their base. In subsequent operations, they may exploit the intelligence that they collect.

Many of the military operations in Iraq in January followed this pattern. MNF-I Press releases describe such activities weekly in various neighborhoods and suburbs of Baghdad. Beyond the capital, such targeted raids occurred in Tarmiya (series of raids, January 6-8); Risalah (January 14); Balad (January 12); al-Haswah (January 13); near Samarra (week of January 13); Jazeera (outside Ramadi, January 17); Falluja, Tikrit, North Karmah and the vicinity of eastern Balad (January 21, apparently coordinated).