Jewish World Review May 21, 2003 / 19 Iyar, 5763
In danger of losing the peace?
Now that the war in Iraq has been won, some worry the United States might be
in danger of losing the peace. There is rising discontent among Iraqis with
the lack of civic order in many parts of the country, and with the apparent
sluggishness of the restoration of basic public services.
Military organizations optimized for warfighting are poorly configured for
the type of peacekeeping operations on which the ultimate success of the
U.S. mission in Iraq now depend.
The First Armored Division, which is taking over responsibility for security
in Baghdad from the 3rd Infantry Divison, is the most potent ground combat
force its size in the world. But many of its soldiers are essentially
irrelevant to the task at hand. The First AD has lots of Abrams tanks and
Bradley Fighting Vehicles, but few of the up-armored Humvees that are the
most useful vehicles for peacekeeping.
Iraq is still a dangerous place. Almost daily, there are reports of sniping
incidents or small-scale terrorist attacks. But the military threat is
essentially zero, and is likely to remain so as long as Americans are in
Iraq in strength. The remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime have gone to
ground, hoping to hide out until the Americans leave.
The tasks facing the Army in Iraq are essentially intelligence and police
work, and the burden of performing falls upon too few shoulders.
By far the most important task is identifying and arresting Baath Party
leaders. Only when these have been removed from their midst will ordinary
Iraqis be released from the grip of fear, and only then can we be reasonably
certain a neo-Baathist regime will not seize power once Americans have left
The key people performing the identification task are agents of the Army's
Counter Intelligence service. But in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's huge
area of operations in western Iraq, there are only three CI teams of two
The key people for making arrests, and for training the local police, are
the military police. But under the 3rd ACR's command, there are only two
military police companies, one that is part of the regiment, and a reserve
The busiest people in Iraq are the Arabic linguists from military
intelligence units. There are far too few of them to go around. Tiger
Squadron, responsible for peacekeeping missions along the Syrian border, has
only two. The ranks of the linguists steadily are being augmented by hiring
Iraqis who speak English as interpreters. But some tasks, such as helping
counterintelligence agents interrogate prisoners, are so sensitive that only
American linguists should perform them, and it is to the military
intelligence linguists that commanders turn to vet the Iraqi linguists.
The next busiest people, after the military police, are the members of the
psychological operations teams. It is chiefly upon them that the burden of
conducting information operations - providing the Iraqis with information
about what U.S. forces are doing and what they would like for Iraqis to do -
falls. There aren't many soldiers in the psyops teams, and they mostly are
reservists. In Tiger Squadron's area of operations along the Syrian border,
there is only a three-man team, headed by a sergeant.
Most soldiers contribute to "security and stabilization" operations by
conducting "presence" patrols, by setting up checkpoints, and by conducting
"snatch and grab" operations. Some soldiers complain they haven't been
trained for these missions.
But American soldiers are adaptable, and most perform these tasks well. Just
before I left Apache Troop of the Tiger Squadron, 3rd ACR, it - along with a
platoon of MPs from the 94th Military Police company, a reserve unit from
Londonderry, N.H. - pulled off three flawless "snatch and grab" missions,
the most delicate task in security and stabilization operations.
A large expansion of military police units would ease the burden. The
logical place for them is in the Army National Guard. But much of the
National Guard consists of ground combat units, such as Pennsylvania's 28th
Infantry Division, for which there is little likelihood of need. The Army
should consider converting some of these to military police units. MPs also
likely would be of more use to governors in dealing with natural disasters
than mechanized infantry.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
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© 2002, Jack Kelly