December 02, 2005

Smaller Footprint Watch: Iraqis Doing the Oil Spotting?

Peter Spiegel, the FT's estimable Defense Correspondent:

Several US commanders, however, have argued that Mr Krepinevich's views, while compelling, are only a repeat of strategies already implemented by coalition forces. Brig Gen Mark Kimmitt, the deputy director for plans at US Central Command, said there were "a lot of people arguing about the oil-spot strategy", but insisted that the current practice of bringing Iraqi forces in to secure and stabilise urban areas after US raids illustrated that coalition commanders had already shifted away from "search and destroy" tactics.

"We don't want to say, okay, Krepinevich you're right: let's all pull back into cantons and start over," Brig Gen Kimmitt said. "The coalition forces are providing a thin protective shield, to some extent, over the country at large. It's not perfect, but what it then allows is to set the condition for the Iraqi forces to be the oil spot. The goal is that the oil spot, in fact, are the Iraqi forces who establish control, maintain control, and then get larger and larger."

Indeed, Maj Gen Douglas Lute, the operations director at Centcom, said such recommendations as embedding US forces into Iraqi units began early in the year, well before Mr Krepinevich began advising Mr Khalilzad. Such embeds, largely in 10-man "coalition assistance teams", enable Iraqi officers to have direct battlefield contact with coalition intelligence and airborne weapons, a practice that military leaders said has greatly contributed to Iraqi effectiveness.

"Here you have an Iraqi battalion in contact [with enemy forces], the Iraqi battalion commander turns to one of these 10 guys who is trained in close-air support, and F-16s or Tornados are dropping precision munitions in support of that Iraqi formation," said Maj Gen Lute. "It accelerates the hand-off of battle space to the Iraqis, and second of all, just imagine the psychological effect for that Iraqi battalion commander."

All this Krepinevich compliant doctrine sounds pretty hunky-dory, but I am concerned about having the Iraqis "be the oil spot" (especially if barely disguised Shi'a militia are oil-spotting Sunni areas, say). Also there's been a lot of scuttlebutt about more U.S. action from the air, as the baton is more and more handed off to Iraqis on the ground. This is not a risk-free strategy either (erroneous targetting will refresh the ranks of the insurgents). Still, however, the status of the overall counter-insurgency effort is much, much better than it was even 12 months ago--and we should be grateful for such improvements rather than merely bitch and wail from the sidelines day in, day out. Much more on the state of the war effort, I hope, over the weekend. And yet still a good amount of it quite gloomy I'm afraid.

Posted by Gregory at December 2, 2005 12:07 PM | TrackBack (15)


What should be the role of these American "assistance team" members when they suspect that their "assistance" is being used to do stuff the US (supposedly) doesn't want done --- murder and torture.

And what, if anything, is the US doing to ensure that the units that these Americans are "assisting" are not infiltrated by "the enemy", and that the Americans are at considerable risk of being killed as a result?

Posted by: lukasiak at December 2, 2005 07:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Faith, in Jesus Christ, is all one needs, in the valley of death.

Posted by: NeoDude at December 2, 2005 09:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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