Thomas E. Ricks has an excellent article in the Washington Post about changing US military tactics in Iraq. The US has upped the rate of raids and operations and changed how the operations are conducted. The number of Iraqis volunteering intelligence information has doubled in some areas, the quality of information is reported to be very good, and the growing quantity and quality of information is leading to a growing number of raids that make use of the information to capture more Baathists, documents, and weapons. The increased rate of US casualties is mainly coming from the increased rate of operations. One consequence of this more aggressive approach is that the price the Baathists have to pay to get Iraqi youths to launch attacks against American forces has gone up by more than an order of magnitude.
At the beginning of June, before the U.S. offensives began, the reward for killing an American soldier was about $300, an Army officer said. Now, he said, street youths are being offered as much as $5,000 -- and are being told that if they refuse, their families will be killed, a development the officer described as a sign of reluctance among once-eager youths to take part in the strikes
Market prices are a powerful indicator of which way the wind is blowing.
The article is worth reading in full if you want to get a sense of how the US military is doing in Iraq.
But in Fallujah's mosques, markets and main streets, the unbridled anger and hostility that characterized the past three months have given way to a nervous peace, prompting both Iraqis and Americans here to suggest that the once-infamous city could serve as a national example of how to make the U.S. occupation more palatable to Iraqis.
In the turquoise-domed Abdelaziz Samarrai mosque, prayer leader Mekki Hussein Kubeisi used to rail against the presence of U.S. troops in this city. On Friday, he urged hundreds of men in ankle-length tunics to "be patient" and not to tolerate people who resort to violence.
A 14-man contingent from the British Army's Operational Training and Advisory Group (OPTAG) has spent the last five weeks in Iraq teaching more than 500 U.S. troops how to conduct patrols, search homes and deal with the locals in a way that does not raise their ire -- and hopefully minimizes U.S. casualties.
UPI reporter Pamela Hess has filed a very interesting story on Lt. Col. Christopher Conlin, US Marine commander of Najaf on how Conlin is working to improve relations with the people of Najaf.
Conlin has worked long and hard to win the trust of the people of Najaf through his soft-power approach: His Marines don't wear body armor when they are out in town. They pass out candy to kids. They take off their sunglasses when talking to people, so they can look into the Americans' eyes and know they are not threat. It works. Not a single Marine has died in Iraq from hostile fire since April 20. The Army has lost nearly 40 soldiers over the same period.
One thread that runs thru all these reports is that the US military is learning. It is not stuck on outmoded tactics. Its officers are not hidebound to follow an old rulebook. They are learning on many levels and getting better at how to handle the occupation of Iraq, religious rowdies, tribal customs, Baathist resistance, and any other problem that comes up.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 July 30 11:38 AM Mideast Iraq|