Keys to Iraq: Jobs, talks and oil

January 21, 2007|by ANDREW DUCK

The problem in Iraq is not how many troops we have there, or how long we will continue to be there - it is that we are doing the wrong things there. Instead of traditional combat, we must employ effective counter-insurgency techniques if we wish to be successful. Doing more of the same will bring more of the same failure we have seen over the last three years.

We must change course in Iraq. We cannot continue to sacrifice our young men and women and get no results. Increasing the number of troops, without a major and significant change in strategy, will not change the outcome. We cannot change this situation by increasing troop strength in Baghdad without the same effort in the rest of the country. We must build local security forces everywhere simultaneously. Any other plan is simply playing whack-a-mole on a national scale. We have tried this and it does not work.


The president stated that those who disagree with his plan "have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed." That is what follows.

The first thing is to recognize that we should be using counter-insurgency techniques instead of traditional combat. The president should read Table 1-1 of the new Counter-Insurgency Field Manual, FM 3-24. Do the things in the column listing techniques that work, and stop doing the things in the column listing techniques that do not work. The Army has been doing this job for years, and it knows what works from experience. Listen to the generals. Let's do what works.

We need to focus on training and equipping the Iraqi Army and police, not doing their job for them. We should use special forces soldiers to train the Iraqi forces, not to conduct raids. That means we should cancel the contract for civilian trainers, and use the military forces that were trained for that mission. We must not only train the Iraqis, we must equip them also. The special-forces soldiers are trained to in foreign languages, like Arabic, and have always had the "train and equip" mission. They are much more likely to succeed than the contractors and ad hoc teams that are now trying, and failing, to do the job.

We must also rebuild the economy. The president's proposal calls for additional funds for "make-work" jobs. We are already spending a fortune on reconstruction projects. But we have outsourced the job to contractors who are bringing in workers from Indonesia and the Philippines. Instead of throwing more money down the drain, we should require the money we are already spending be spent productively.

Congress should act immediately to require KBR and the other contractors to hire Iraqis, instead of importing laborers. At least 50 percent of the work force should be Iraqis within 30 days and 75 percent within 90 days. Within a year, at least 50 percent of the dollars spent on reconstruction should go to Iraqi firms, instead of to the politically connected American firms that are getting the money now. This will put much more money into Iraqi jobs, while not adding anything to the cost. This is a real jobs program. This will empower Iraqis to rebuild facilities in their neighborhood, where they will protect the work they have done, because it benefits them. "Make-work" projects are foolish when there is so much real work to be done.

We must also engage through diplomacy. We must start by recognizing the reality on the ground. We must then negotiate with everybody, including the local militias and neighboring countries. We must work with the Iraqi government to build consensus and force compromise.

The key issue to be resolved is the sharing of oil revenues. Each of the warring factions is trying to increase its control in order to increase its share of the oil revenues. Once that political issue is resolved, the motivation for the conflict will be removed. The Iraqi government must develop a fair and equitable distribution formula and do so quickly. If we intend to succeed, the Iraqis must succeed at this political task, because the military threat will remain until this political task is completed.

The president says, "There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods." The question is how many troops would be required to secure Iraq through traditional combat.

The president proposes an increase of 22,000 to give us a total of less than 175,000. This is much less than the number that would be required. T.E. Lawrence, in 1920, did the initial calculations, and put the figure at 600,000. General Shinseki put the figure at about 450,000. To surge from 30 percent of what is needed to 40 percent of what is needed cannot succeed. We have got to change strategy and change tactics. We must use counter-insurgency tactics, not traditional combat. That is how we get success.

Andrew Duck was a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army. He served as the intelligence liaison to 1MEF in Iraq in 2003. He currently works as a consultant on military intelligence issues.

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