The Blog

The Vacuum

12:29 PM, Jul 31, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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We will know whether the latest security strategy for Baghdad has worked in the coming weeks but comparisons to Beirut are not encouraging. The AFP http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060730/wl_mideast_afp/iraqusunrestbaghdad_... target=_blank>reports that the "mood in Sunni west Baghdad turns in favor of US troops" but also quotes Maj. Coulson:

"Right now we're kind of at that level that Beirut was, at its worst, with different militias controlling different neighborhoods," said Major Scott Coulson, operations officer for the 8th Squadron of the 10th Cavalry.

The militias have filled the security vacuum - a vacuum deepened by http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/502qhx... target=_blank>inadequate troops levels beginning in mid-2003 when the insurgency was gathering steam and some on Capitol Hill were calling for more forces to fill the security void. In Corbra II, Michael Gordon and Gen. Bernard Trainor (fyi, Trainor supported the invasion) note that the lack of troops hurt our intelligence gathering capability (see p. 493 for example) - a crucial element in an effective counterinsurgency campaign - and cite a Rand study of past post-war operations that found that "not only did small forces encourage adversaries to think they could challenge the peacekeepers but they also led the occupation force to rely more on firepower to make up for their limited numbers." (p. 477) At this point, whether a large surge in forces (there hasn't been one yet) in Baghdad will make a difference or another strategy should be employed is an open question.