Informed Comment - The misterious shrinking of Iraq Forces

Let's see. AP also reports that One thousand US troops go into the small town of Sadah, block it off, bomb it, displace its inhabitants, comb through it looking for foreign jihadis. Since there are only 2,000 inhabitants of Sadah on a good day (it is a tiny border settlement near Syria northwest of Baghdad), the Marines have a certain advantage. You figure half of Sadah is women. Some further proportion is boys too young to fight and old men. Could they muster 300 local fighters (would all of them be in the guerrilla movement)? And how many foreign jihadis could live in a town of 2,000? Would you guess 50? So have we thrown 1,000 Marines at between 50 and 300 local fighters, who are poorly armed and lack real organization? Meanwhile entire districts of Baghdad, a city of 5 or 6 million, are controlled by the guerrillas. Wouldn't they be a bigger priority, since 95 percent of the violence in Iraq is plotted out by Iraqis?

This operation strikes me as odd. Perhaps they think a high-value target like Zarqawi is there, and the thousand Marines are to make sure that he does not escape?
Personally, I'm not sure Zarqawi exists, so I'd be reluctant to send a thousand Marines after him and to majorly inconvenience (and from the video on Aljazeerah, partially flatten) poor little Sadah.

Then there is the question of why only US troops are being deployed. In the recent Tal Afar operation, the US asked Iraqi troops to take the lead.

There's a funny thing about that, too. SecDef Rumsfeld and Gen. Casey were saying not long ago that there were 3 Iraqi units (a brigade and two battalions) that would and could take the lead in fighting the guerrillas. A brigade doesn't have a fixed number, but let's say it is 1500 to 3000. A battalion is roughly 500-1000 men. Now, the press said that the charge at Tal Afar was led by 4,000 to 6,000 Iraqi troops. Was that the level-1 units plus some level 2s? Were these the units who could fight on their own? They were said to be mostly Kurdish Peshmerga, with some Shiites along (Badr Corps?)

Now Rumsfeld and Casey say there is only one battle-ready battalion in the Iraqi army. We'd be back down to 500 to 1000 men who could and would fight on their own. And Casey now says it isn't even one of the 3 units earlier so identified. What happened to them? [This is a revision; I had earlier switched around in my mind brigades and battalions and couldn't imagine they were down to one of the latter.]

Question: Did some melt away at Tal Afar? We know that the guerrillas mostly escaped the city through tunnels, and few engagements were fought (though 500 or more people were killed in the city, some proportion of them innocent civilians caught up in bombing raids) The US military claimed 150 guerrillas killed and 400 captured, but it is not at all clear that the 400 apprehended were actually guerrillas as opposed to Sunni Turkmen who had some pressing reason to try to stay in the city. The stated objective had been the foreign infiltrators. What happened to them? AFP reported on Sept. 13, "An Iraqi army lieutenant colonel suggested that up to half the rebels might have managed to flee to neighbouring villages. Among those arrested were some 30 foreign fighters, including around 20 Syrians, as well as four Afghanis and two Saudis, he told AFP requesting anonymity." That is, 200,000 inhabitants were driven from their homes, neighborhoods were flattened, and 500 people were killed so that the US could capture 20 Syrian villagers so angry about the US military occupation of Iraq that they slipped over to Tal Afar to fight it.

But wait. This battle was supposed to be a major one. How how did at least half of the guerrillas (I suspect many more) escape from the city? Could it be that they were tipped off by officers in the Iraqi army? How did the US find out about the infiltration? Was it when they got to Tal Afar and nobody was there? Or was it when there were a few firefights, and everybody but a few gung-ho Kurds held back?

If the US military did think that Zarqawi and some fighters were in Sadah, then, they might well have refused to involve the remaining reliable Iraqi battalion, for fear that some elements in it were not in fact reliable, and Sadah would be gone when they got there, the way Tal Afar was.

Informed Comment


Blogger lawnorder said...

fixed comments!

10/02/2005 07:12:00 PM  

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