Why the Surge Is Working, Yet More Americans are Dying

If the surge in Iraq is showing signs of success, are so many Americans dying over the last two months?  It comes down to the old real estate saying, location, location, location.  Lot of good things are being accomplished by putting our troops where they need to be. But that's also where the bad guys are.

From the end of 2004 through January 2007, the Multinational Force Iraq (MNF-I) strategy was focused mainly on force protection of American Forces. Units were moved to what were called "Super FOBs" (Forward Operating Bases).  Camp Victory near the Baghdad International Airport was the best known. 

The protection was on steroids.  A mass of protective barriers, towers, patrols, counterfires, air security and the like sheltered these bases.  Aside from predicable inaccurate enemy mortar fire, and (on rare occasions) direct attacks, units lived in relative peace while in the Super FOBs. 

The problem was that security in the Super FOBs came at a price in mission accomplishment and contact with the enemy. 

Unit patrols, each day, would move from their Super FOBs, that in many cases were miles and miles away from their areas of responsibility. Then move back again when done.  A patrol was not doing its job among the people during the journeys.  The Iraqi people felt that the Americans were not approachable, and even if they were, they were not around most of the time. As a result passing information to our people was difficult. Even worse, not sharing in the troubles of the neighborhoods built a wall between the Iraqis and the Americans.

Who filled the void that the Coalition's self imposed segregation left? The terrorists, insurgents, militias, criminals, death squads, and corrupt police, to name a few.  In general, when the good guys went home to call mama every night, the bad guys moved in to spread death, intimidation, indoctrination, crime, and chaos around their respective areas.

Don't get me wrong: in each company zone there was always a patrol of a platoon size, but this platoon may have been covering an area with a population from 100,000 to a quarter million or more. Thirty-five  Soldiers or Marines are simply not sufficient to provide security to an area of that size.

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), were in much the same boat.  Throw in the fact that in many places the ISF were in cahoots with the bad guys, and one can easily see why the Americans were safer because of their distance form the troubled areas, and why the sectarian violence was so high (see the Brookings Institution Iraq Index [BIII], Pages  9-11).  It was a matter of staying away from being in the wrong place at the wrong time

What has changed

The most important factor that has contributed the fledgling success of the surge, and simultaneously to the significant increase in American deaths, is that the Americans began to move into Combat Outposts (COPs) or Joint Security Stations (JSS) starting in February 2007 (BIII, Page 8).  The number of JSSs alone has steadily increased from 10 JSSs in February 2007 to 65 as of 23 May, and more will be established in the coming months.  In short, our troops have moved and continue to move permanently into the neighborhoods in which they are work. They have increased their visibility, activity, and interaction with the population, while concurrently increasing their contact with the bad guys. 

The increased casualties are of course lamentable, and for the individuals and families involved, they bring a heavy price. But exposure to violence is the nature of combat, and battles are fought to win. We are seeing benefits that will help bring us victory.
1. An increase in actionable intelligence from residents. The population sees that the Coalition is sharing in their hardships, that we are living among them and so a level of trust with local communities is developing that had not been there before.

2. With this increase in actionable intelligence naturally come more successful actions, in the form of raids, ambushes, attacks, and searches.
The liberation of 41 prisoners from an AQ prison last month is one excellent example out of many that have been reported, and many more that have not been reported. This increase in successful operations in turn degrades the enemy's capabilities and effectiveness.

3. The press has reported the terrorists are moving to different areas outside of Baghdad, where the violence has picked up. What is not being widely reported, but is unclassified, is that in response, Coalition commanders have moved more troops into those same areas to counter the insurgents' operations. The increase in violence in these spots is a sign that they have not eluded us by fleeing., rather than that violence is really spreading.

4. Because the Coalition has moved into these COPs or JSSs with the ISF elements, trust has grown between the two forces. Any combat veteran with tell you that participating in combat with another person is the quickest way to build a deep and dedicated relationship, which in turn leads to a corresponding strong trust. This trust is not just a trust between units, it is a trust between individuals, which is the strongest trust, that compels a person to do anything for his friend. This in turn makes for more effective missions.

5. Some in the ISF that have been working with the bad guys due to a lack of Coalition presence now have, for lack of a better term, "supervision". It is now harder for these bad apples to slip away and participate in passing intelligence to, and participating in, operations with the enemy, death squads, militias, and in insurgent activities. It is informative to note how the secretarian violence has dramatically decreased since the start of the surge. This is a result of the surge, not of some random phenomenon.

6. An increase in the raw numbers of US and Iraqi Security Forces in Baghdad means more soldiers per capita in Baghdad. With more soldiers come more contact with friendly Iraqis, neutral Iraqis, and insurgents. So while the vital trust is built, the vital enemy contact is made; and so more good is done and more enemy are killed or captured; but more Americans are, unfortunately, killed and injured.
These are by no means all of the results of the surge, but they do give the reader some insight into things much deeper than the raw numbers.  If one focuses only on the numbers, it will invariably lead to an emotional response and so to an irrational response.

The way ahead?

In blunt terms, more Americans will be killed in the coming months than have been killed per month up to now.  As the surge troops move into place and aggressively pursue the enemy the resulting increase in combat will lead to more American casualties.  It may take several months or more to see a downward trend in American deaths.    

Counterinsurgency is a very messy complex business.  There exists no standoff precision munitions for counterinsurgency.  Close contact with belligerents as well as neutral and friendly people is absolutely necessary. This is by nature a bloody business.

It is incumbent on us as Americans to understand, as much as possible, the determinant of successes and failures that come with the war we are fighting. The raw data of news reports and heart-rending images minus the necessary analysis to place things into perspective cause many to lose heart.  But true impact of what is happening in this war is positive, despite what most media report and what ost people seem to believe.

In 2001, President Bush failed to insist that the American People mobilize to fight the War on Terror.  He failed again to require mass action of the population in Iraq.  However, that doesn't mean that we as Americans should not participate in the war.  Young Americans are voting with their actions by enlisting and reenlisting in record numbers   For the rest of us, knowledge of our military activities, trust in our military, and speaking to our leaders in government are powerful tools in assisting the fight in Iraq and in the larger War on Terror.  

Those of us in the military want the American People to know what is going on, both the good and bad.  We are your military, and you have a right to know, and the responsibility know and to understand.  Take the time to research and think deeply about what is going on, but always remember that we in the military will never quit until the mission is complete.  As the Ranger Creed says:
"Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country."

"Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.

"I will never quit, though I be the lone survivor."

"Rangers led the Way"
This creed is not just for Rangers, it is for all the fighting men and women, and I hope for all Americans.

We will win this war.

Gerd Schroeder is a Major in the United States Army and a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  Major Schroeder has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. His views are his own.  He does not speak for the US Army or the Department of Defense.
If the surge in Iraq is showing signs of success, are so many Americans dying over the last two months?  It comes down to the old real estate saying, location, location, location.  Lot of good things are being accomplished by putting our troops where they need to be. But that's also where the bad guys are.

From the end of 2004 through January 2007, the Multinational Force Iraq (MNF-I) strategy was focused mainly on force protection of American Forces. Units were moved to what were called "Super FOBs" (Forward Operating Bases).  Camp Victory near the Baghdad International Airport was the best known. 

The protection was on steroids.  A mass of protective barriers, towers, patrols, counterfires, air security and the like sheltered these bases.  Aside from predicable inaccurate enemy mortar fire, and (on rare occasions) direct attacks, units lived in relative peace while in the Super FOBs. 

The problem was that security in the Super FOBs came at a price in mission accomplishment and contact with the enemy. 

Unit patrols, each day, would move from their Super FOBs, that in many cases were miles and miles away from their areas of responsibility. Then move back again when done.  A patrol was not doing its job among the people during the journeys.  The Iraqi people felt that the Americans were not approachable, and even if they were, they were not around most of the time. As a result passing information to our people was difficult. Even worse, not sharing in the troubles of the neighborhoods built a wall between the Iraqis and the Americans.

Who filled the void that the Coalition's self imposed segregation left? The terrorists, insurgents, militias, criminals, death squads, and corrupt police, to name a few.  In general, when the good guys went home to call mama every night, the bad guys moved in to spread death, intimidation, indoctrination, crime, and chaos around their respective areas.

Don't get me wrong: in each company zone there was always a patrol of a platoon size, but this platoon may have been covering an area with a population from 100,000 to a quarter million or more. Thirty-five  Soldiers or Marines are simply not sufficient to provide security to an area of that size.

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), were in much the same boat.  Throw in the fact that in many places the ISF were in cahoots with the bad guys, and one can easily see why the Americans were safer because of their distance form the troubled areas, and why the sectarian violence was so high (see the Brookings Institution Iraq Index [BIII], Pages  9-11).  It was a matter of staying away from being in the wrong place at the wrong time

What has changed

The most important factor that has contributed the fledgling success of the surge, and simultaneously to the significant increase in American deaths, is that the Americans began to move into Combat Outposts (COPs) or Joint Security Stations (JSS) starting in February 2007 (BIII, Page 8).  The number of JSSs alone has steadily increased from 10 JSSs in February 2007 to 65 as of 23 May, and more will be established in the coming months.  In short, our troops have moved and continue to move permanently into the neighborhoods in which they are work. They have increased their visibility, activity, and interaction with the population, while concurrently increasing their contact with the bad guys. 

The increased casualties are of course lamentable, and for the individuals and families involved, they bring a heavy price. But exposure to violence is the nature of combat, and battles are fought to win. We are seeing benefits that will help bring us victory.
1. An increase in actionable intelligence from residents. The population sees that the Coalition is sharing in their hardships, that we are living among them and so a level of trust with local communities is developing that had not been there before.

2. With this increase in actionable intelligence naturally come more successful actions, in the form of raids, ambushes, attacks, and searches.
The liberation of 41 prisoners from an AQ prison last month is one excellent example out of many that have been reported, and many more that have not been reported. This increase in successful operations in turn degrades the enemy's capabilities and effectiveness.

3. The press has reported the terrorists are moving to different areas outside of Baghdad, where the violence has picked up. What is not being widely reported, but is unclassified, is that in response, Coalition commanders have moved more troops into those same areas to counter the insurgents' operations. The increase in violence in these spots is a sign that they have not eluded us by fleeing., rather than that violence is really spreading.

4. Because the Coalition has moved into these COPs or JSSs with the ISF elements, trust has grown between the two forces. Any combat veteran with tell you that participating in combat with another person is the quickest way to build a deep and dedicated relationship, which in turn leads to a corresponding strong trust. This trust is not just a trust between units, it is a trust between individuals, which is the strongest trust, that compels a person to do anything for his friend. This in turn makes for more effective missions.

5. Some in the ISF that have been working with the bad guys due to a lack of Coalition presence now have, for lack of a better term, "supervision". It is now harder for these bad apples to slip away and participate in passing intelligence to, and participating in, operations with the enemy, death squads, militias, and in insurgent activities. It is informative to note how the secretarian violence has dramatically decreased since the start of the surge. This is a result of the surge, not of some random phenomenon.

6. An increase in the raw numbers of US and Iraqi Security Forces in Baghdad means more soldiers per capita in Baghdad. With more soldiers come more contact with friendly Iraqis, neutral Iraqis, and insurgents. So while the vital trust is built, the vital enemy contact is made; and so more good is done and more enemy are killed or captured; but more Americans are, unfortunately, killed and injured.
These are by no means all of the results of the surge, but they do give the reader some insight into things much deeper than the raw numbers.  If one focuses only on the numbers, it will invariably lead to an emotional response and so to an irrational response.

The way ahead?

In blunt terms, more Americans will be killed in the coming months than have been killed per month up to now.  As the surge troops move into place and aggressively pursue the enemy the resulting increase in combat will lead to more American casualties.  It may take several months or more to see a downward trend in American deaths.    

Counterinsurgency is a very messy complex business.  There exists no standoff precision munitions for counterinsurgency.  Close contact with belligerents as well as neutral and friendly people is absolutely necessary. This is by nature a bloody business.

It is incumbent on us as Americans to understand, as much as possible, the determinant of successes and failures that come with the war we are fighting. The raw data of news reports and heart-rending images minus the necessary analysis to place things into perspective cause many to lose heart.  But true impact of what is happening in this war is positive, despite what most media report and what ost people seem to believe.

In 2001, President Bush failed to insist that the American People mobilize to fight the War on Terror.  He failed again to require mass action of the population in Iraq.  However, that doesn't mean that we as Americans should not participate in the war.  Young Americans are voting with their actions by enlisting and reenlisting in record numbers   For the rest of us, knowledge of our military activities, trust in our military, and speaking to our leaders in government are powerful tools in assisting the fight in Iraq and in the larger War on Terror.  

Those of us in the military want the American People to know what is going on, both the good and bad.  We are your military, and you have a right to know, and the responsibility know and to understand.  Take the time to research and think deeply about what is going on, but always remember that we in the military will never quit until the mission is complete.  As the Ranger Creed says:
"Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country."

"Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.

"I will never quit, though I be the lone survivor."

"Rangers led the Way"
This creed is not just for Rangers, it is for all the fighting men and women, and I hope for all Americans.

We will win this war.

Gerd Schroeder is a Major in the United States Army and a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  Major Schroeder has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. His views are his own.  He does not speak for the US Army or the Department of Defense.