Saturday, June 17, 2006

Forward Together faces a serious challenge.

The first time I checked on Iraq's news this morning I read about several violent incidents in Baghdad that included roadside bombs and car-bombs that left dozens of civilians and ISF members dead or injured. I even did pass by close to the scene of at least two of these attacks after which many of the main roads in Baghdad were closed to traffic.

Just an hour ago I heard of another series of bombings, also in Baghdad and the news reports are talking about 5 new car-bombs that went off mostly at police and army checkpoints a short while before curfew time was there.

I was afraid that this would happen but I was also hoping it would not…unfortunately yet not surprisingly it did.
I think the problem with the new security operation is that the tactics employed so far are not new and were not adjusted in a way to meet the needs of the changing security challenges and its worst weakness is that it focused on fixed checkpoints.

My guess is that the terrorists/insurgents were frightened by the size of the operation and the amount of troops deployed but they were able to check the pulse of the new security measures and adjust accordingly, thus was the period of relative calm we had in Baghdad during the first two or three days between Wednesday and Friday.

The terrorists apparently were able to study the geographic distribution of checkpoints and a)find safe routes to move around and carry out their attacks without passing through checkpoints, and b)make the checkpoints themselves targets for their attacks.

I will not say Forward Together has failed as it's still early to make judgments but we will be waiting for the next phases of the operation which is the announced plans to disarm the city and attack the terrorists in their safe homes because that is the way to reduce violence.
Having checkpoints is a good idea, but these checkpoints should have no fixed places or schedules. On the other hand fixed checkpoints can be very helpful at the entrances and exits of Baghdad and these should be fortified enough to sustain themselves and repel possible attacks.

Needless to say, collecting intelligence is of critical importance to the success of the operation; no checkpoint can stop a suicide bomber from inflicting harm once he's on the street. Those must be dealt with before they wear their explosive belts or leave the garage with their explosive-laden cars, and this requires intelligence and a more aggressive tactic than fixed checkpoints.

What happened today urges an adjustment of tactics on the part of the commanders in the interior and defense ministries, and this adjustment must be made as soon as possible.

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