January 16, 2006

Why Winning In Iraq is Complicated, Part 293

It's a three day old story, but it showcases something important. Galloway (one of the prominent KnightRidder reporters in Iraq) wrote about the downing of a US helicopter on Friday (three days ago). More recent reports have indicated that the helicopter was shot down (not an accident). What really caught my eye were these paragraphs at the end of Gallloway's report:

Charlie Company's commanding officer, Capt. Kent Park of Houston, rolled in and swiftly followed up on the OH-58D [helicopter] wingman's report that the helicopters had received ground fire from the vicinity of a nearby mosque.
At the al-Sadiq Mosque, the sidewalks and gutters were littered with hundreds of empty shell casings. With their Iraqi translators, Park and others went house to house asking neighbors what they had seen and heard. They also talked to the imam at the mosque.
Iraqi police arrived in their blue-and-white SUVs and pickups after about two hours and shed some light on the shell casings. They said they had been outside the mosque when insurgents fired on them from two directions and they fought them off.
The incident may have had nothing to do with the downing of the OH-58D helicopter and the deaths of the two Americans.

Read that second-to-last paragraph again. Two hours after the helicopter went down, while the US was investigating evidence of a many guns being fired (and what would, naturally, look to everybody like evidence of people shooting down a helicopter), the Iraqi police showed up and annouced that the shell casings had nothing to do with a helicopter, but were a gunfight the police had been in hours and hours ago.

Notice three things: (A)No one in the US military knew the Iraqi police had been in a gunfight. What does this say about the level of communication moving from the Iraqis to the US? (B)It took the Iraqi police two hours to respond to a helicopter crash? Are they that undermanned? What else was happening that was of more concern? How long does it take then to respond to "normal" crimes like murder? (C)Did the US military inform the Iraqi police of the incident, or did the Iraqi police just happen to find out. What does this say about the level of communication moving from the US military to the Iraqis?

I would argue that the single most important factor in counter-insurgency is information/intelligence. The more information/intelligence you have, the better you are able to prevent violence, kill the bad guys, disrupt their logistics, and help the civilians (thus, making more people on "your" side, and fewer on the bad guys side). In an ideal world, with omnicient, perfect information there wouldn't be an insurgency (you'd know who the bad guys were, and could just arrest them).

What does it say about the state of our intelligence if we don't know about gunfights between Iraqi police and insurgents, and if the Iraqi police don't know about our gunfights with insurgents?

Long war ahead.

Posted by baltar at January 16, 2006 11:17 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Iraq


What really worries me is that this is the second shot down in about a week with a hand held missile. In Afghanistan, the Russians were holding, about like we're holding in Iraq, until the US shipped the Stinger SAM's to the "islamic resistance", now known as Al Qaeda.

If the insurgents now have semi modern SAMS, the US forces lose a lot of their air cover and mobility. If a unit gets pinned down, the response will have to be far more cautious, read slow.

That means alot more deaths.


Posted by: mikevotes at January 16, 2006 04:26 PM | PERMALINK

That would complicate the situation, militariliy. However, I think the intelligence problem (showcased in this post) is a greater issue. However man hand-held SAMs the insurgents have, that's a solvalbe problem (change doctrine for helicopters, develop countermeasures, etc.). Getting good intelligence flowing back and forth between the Iraqis and US military (and up and down both sides hierarchical structures) is far more important.

That being said, we'll certainly lose more helos if the insurgents have a ready supply of SAMs. Do you have a cite for this?

Posted by: baltar at January 16, 2006 04:38 PM | PERMALINK
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