The good people at INDCJournal had some excellent thoughts about my Roach Motel article, and I thought I'd use today's post to address some of the points that came up.
First, I never meant to imply that this was some sort of "big secret strategy" that was going to shock the world with our strategic brilliance. My intent was to suggest it as one key part of a much bigger comprehensive plan that's been under construction since April. When you tie it together with the timing of the offensive and the events that have transpired since the first siege in April- we start to see a sort of "grand strategy" that just makes sense.
Anyone with even a little bit of military knowledge could have told you that the offensive would take place in November- immediately following our elections. The reasons are simple. First, the enemy wanted to influence our elections (not that they would have been able to anyway), and therefore wished for a bloody showdown before November. Realizing that this was a big morale issue that was driving the enemy's will to fight, we wisely held off until after the election (one of perks of being on offense instead of defense). Doing so left them with only one goal to fight for- thwart the upcoming Iraqi elections. In order to prevent this from even being a possibility, we knew we'd have to "clean up the cities" well before January. It all fits the timeline.
So what to do between April and November? Easy- focus on the other guys. The ones not affiliated with Sunnis or Zarqawi- the Shi'a. Moqtada al-Sadr and his band of misguided misfits didn't really have any other goals other than to stir things up and make a "power play" as the Iraqis began taking charge of their country. Sadr wanted to be a big player, and he thought taking on the Coalition would win him some points among the Shi'a majority. He was wrong. We surrounded him in Najaf, forced him to bow to Sistani (a key supporter of the upcoming elections), forced his people out of Najaf, and then reduced his forces to rubble in Sadr City (but we made them feel better by giving them money for their worthless weapons after we crushed their spirits). Now I ask you- when's the last time you heard anything from al-Sadr? How are things in Najaf these days? Exactly.
All the while, we had patrols moving in and around the Sunni triangle just harassing, capturing, and killing foreign fighters and Sunni insurgents. Knowing that they'd be left alone (minus the occasional air strike here and there) in Fallujah, they flooded the place. Great for us- more bad guys to crush when we deal with them in November. We also launched an intense campaign to get innocent civilians out of Fallujah. Pamphlets, radio broadcasts, trucks with loudspeakers, you name it. We are probably the only military in the world that spends more time and effort on saving good guys than killing bad guys. Believe me, there were no secrets about an upcoming offensive in Fallujah. Some expressed dismay that this took away our element of surprise, but I'm telling you we have ways of dealing with that. Last October 17th, I wrote:
It's interesting to watch the various news agencies trying to figure out what we're doing in Fallujah. Are we attacking? Surrounding? Threatening? Is this the
big showdown? Of course I know the answer, but I can't tell you. Sorry.
It wasn't just the media types that were confused. The enemy was flabbergasted. It's called a feint- pretend we're launching a big offensive and then quickly pull back. It's a strategy as old as war itself. It causes the enemy to react with, "Is this it? Are they finally coming for us? Man the defensive positions!! Execute the battle drills!!!!"
Repeat this process daily for about 2 or 3 weeks, and I'm telling you it gets very old in the minds of the bad guys. Each and every day, we poke and prod, watch their defensive actions (UAV's, P-3's, ground observers, spies on the inside), and use this windfall of valuable intelligence to tweak and finalize the plan for the upcoming offensive. All the while, the enemy is left with an ever-increasing "boy who cried wolf" effect that leaves him confused and demoralized. Another reason it's great to be on offense.
The Road to Fallujah
Our first Sunni target was Samarra. It was like a mini-Fallujah. It gave our new Iraqi troops some combat experience, and allowed us to assess their readiness before the big fight in Fallujah. We also knew that Samarra would be the first place the bad guys would run to if they managed to escape Fallujah (Ramadi would be sealed off and blocked during the Fallujah offensive). Best to have Samarra under IIG control before we take Fallujah. Samarra fell quite easily. You'll recall figures like 100+ enemy dead and no Coalition casualties.
Zarqawi and his gang are morons, but they're not THAT stupid. They knew we'd be coming after them in November. He and some of his top guys are likely to have escaped before the offensive began. We expected this. But now ask yourself this question- how is Zarqawi going to thwart the Iraqi elections while he's on the run, most of his troops enjoying their time with 72 virgins, and no cities left in Iraq to offer him safe haven? His prospects are not good.
You may have heard some reports of insurgents (possibly the Z-man himself) fleeing to Mosul. This is not good news for the insurgency. The 2 million+ people in Mosul don't like trouble. There are some Sunnis there (it used to be the home of the 5th Iraqi Army), but it's close to the Kurdish area and it shows. The people are more civil, more educated, and much less inclined to tolerate violence in the streets. Many of them enjoy turning insurgents into money. Believe me, I know this from experience. If you don't believe me, ask Uday and Qusay Hussein how they fared in Mosul. You may be waiting a long time for their answer.
You may choose to believe the pseudo-intellectual journalists who have long been insisting that we had "lost control in Fallujah" and that the Coalition "couldn't handle the vast and growing insurgency in the Sunni Triangle." But if you actually believe this, then I'd ask you to try to explain the past 3 days. Here's a newsflash- our boys are kicking the $*#& out of them.