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Military Doctrine, Guerrilla Warfare and CounterinsurgencyFree

The current situation in Iraq requires revisiting the basic concepts behind counter-insurgency. Iraq now is an arena in which counter-insurgency doctrine is being implemented. Historically, counter-insurgency operations by large external powers have not concluded positively. Vietnam and Afghanistan are the obvious outcomes, although there have been cases where small-scale insurgencies have been contained. The actual scale of the Iraqi insurgency is not yet clear. What is clear is that it is a problem in counter-insurgency, which is itself a doctrine with problems. Read more…

Iraq and the Broader WarFree

The failure of the United States to achieve a decisive victory in Iraq would have substantial consequences. The deaths of Qusai and Odai Hussein last week reflect the American belief that decapitating the guerrilla movement might be decisive. So far, the tempo of operations by the guerrillas has not declined, but that means nothing yet; it might take time for the effect of the two deaths to ripple through the system. Nevertheless, it is possible that the Hussein brothers were not critical to guerrilla operations. Indeed, it is possible that those operations are designed to continue without centralized leadership. Bringing the guerrillas under control could be a daunting task, but the current disarray within the Bush administration makes it much harder to achieve. Read more…

U.S. Strategy: Perception vs. DeceptionFree

The Bush administration’s continued unwillingness to enunciate a coherent picture of the strategy behind the war against al Qaeda — which explains the war in Iraq — could produce a dangerous domino effect. Lurking in the shadows is the not fully articulated perception that the Iraq war not only began in deception but that planning for the Iraq war was incompetent — a perception driven by the realization that the United States is engaged in a long-term occupation and guerrilla war in Iraq, and the belief that the United States neither expected nor was prepared for this. Ultimately, this perception could erode Bush’s support base, cost him the presidency and, most seriously, lead to defeat in the war against al Qaeda. Read more…

WMD, Blame and Real DangerFree

The crisis du jour in Washington is a revelation that President George W. Bush quoted from a forged letter about Iraq trying to buy uranium from Niger in his State of the Union address. Congress, as usual, is missing the point. Weapons of mass destruction were not the primary reason Bush went to war in Iraq, but he certainly thought they were there. Everyone thought they were there. The critical issue is: Where are Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons today? What the CIA did with the Niger letter is of no real importance. What the CIA knows and doesn’t know about the current war in Iraq and whether guerrillas control chemical or biological weapons is the critical issue that everyone is avoiding. Read more…

U.S. Counterinsurgency Strategies in IraqFree

The appointment of Gen. John Abizaid as head of U.S. Central Command opens a new phase in both the Iraq campaign and the war on al Qaeda. In order to wage follow-on operations against al Qaeda, an effective counterinsurgency operation must be launched against the Iraqi guerrillas. This is a politico-military imperative. Politically, the United States must demonstrate its effectiveness against the full spectrum of opponents. Militarily, the United States must show it can project forces from Iraq while the base of operations remains insecure. Directly suppressing an insurrection without indigenous support historically has been difficult, but Iraq has a built-in opposition to the guerrillas: the Shiites in the south. But their desire to dominate an Iraqi government — and their ties to Iran — runs counter to U.S. policy. This means Washington will have to make some difficult choices in Iraq, and in the end will give away some things it does not want to give away. Read more…

Summer OffensiveFree

When we step back, the broader picture of the U.S.-al Qaeda war becomes clearer. It appears to us that both sides are gearing up for a summer offensive. Each, for its own reasons, is going to try to engage in operations in a series of theaters, including in the United States. This does not mean the offensives will be successful. It does mean we can expect complex action from both sides on a broad geographic scale. These need not be individual large-scale operations, but collectively they will constitute significant attempts to get an advantage in the war. Read more…

Guerrilla War in IraqFree

The United States is now clearly involved in a guerrilla war in the Sunni regions of Iraq. As a result, U.S. forces are engaging in counterinsurgency operations, which historically have proven most difficult and trying — for both American forces and American politics. Suppressing a guerrilla operation without alienating the indigenous population represents an extreme challenge to the United States that at this point does not appear avoidable — and the seriousness of which does not appear to be broadly understood. Read more…

WMDFree

The inability to discover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has created a political crisis in the United States and Britain. Within the two governments, there are recriminations and brutal political infighting over responsibility. Stratfor warned in January that the unwillingness of the U.S. government to articulate its real, strategic reasons for the war — choosing instead to lean on WMD as the justification — would lead to a deep crisis at some point. That moment seems to be here. Read more…

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Editor's Choice

2017 Annual ForecastFree

Long-term trends tend to quietly build over decades and then noisily surface as the politics catch up. Such is the case for 2017. Read more…

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