WHO’S THE ENEMY?
CNN’s Matthew Chance reports:
A tough new response by U.S. military officials to this mounting insurgency across areas of Iraq — Operation Iron Hammer has been going on for its third successive day. We have seen strikes against various military targets across the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, as well as helicopters flying in the skies day and night over Baghdad, to carry out reconnaissance missions to try to keep a tab on what militant activities there may be in the city.
Commanders say this latest operation, Iron Hammer, is intended to show America’s attackers that its forces will strike back and are watching what they’re doing. The big risk, though — will it actually curb the activity of the militants or encourage them?
Well, they don’t seem to need any encouragement. Still, as this Reuters report makes clear, it’s a tough fight:
The Pentagon is struggling to figure out who the enemy is in Iraq, with officials saying they remain foggy about the leadership and organization of the insurgency and analysts decrying a huge intelligence lapse.
Military commanders and U.S. intelligence officials describe resistance forces in Iraq as some combination of loyalists of toppled President Saddam Hussein’s government, criminals paid by those loyalists to carry out attacks, Islamic militants from outside Iraq, and isolated Shiite radicals.
Gen. John Abizaid, responsible for military efforts in Iraq as chief of U.S. Central Command, has estimated that no more than 5,000 people have taken up arms in the resistance.
But U.S. officials said they could not identify the leader or leaders of the insurgency, the degree of collusion among its elements and whether central coordination existed or autonomous groups operated merely at a regional level.
“It would be helpful if we knew. That might make it easier. At least you know who you’re going after,” a defense official said on Friday.
The failure to know with better clarity who is perpetrating the attacks is “a very powerful indication of how deficient our intelligence is,” said Andrew Bacevich, a Boston University international relations professor and retired Army colonel.
“I think it has to be unprecedented in U.S. military history to be engaged in a war of increasing intensity for this long a time and we really still don’t know who the enemy is,” Bacevich added.
That’s pretty much the nature of insurgencies–and not exactly unprecedented in U.S. experience.