US Military Hires Former Enemies

Discussion in 'Politics' started by ZZZzzzzzzz, Aug 4, 2007.

  1. In Iraq, a Perilous Alliance With Former Enemies

    By Sudarsan Raghavan
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Saturday, August 4, 2007; A01

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE ISKAN, Iraq -- Inside a brightly lit room, the walls adorned with memorials to 23 dead American soldiers, Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage stared at the three Sunni tribal leaders he wanted to recruit.

    Their fighters had battled U.S. troops. Balcavage suspected they might have attacked some of his own men. The trio accused another sheik of having links to the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. That sheik, four days earlier, had promised the U.S. military to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq and protect a strategic road.

    "Who do you trust? Who do you not trust?" said Balcavage, commander of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, his voice dipping out of earshot.

    An hour later, he signed up some of America's newest allies.

    U.S. commanders are offering large sums to enlist, at breakneck pace, their former enemies, handing them broad security powers in a risky effort to tame this fractious area south of Baghdad in Babil province and, literally, buy time for national reconciliation.

    American generals insist they are not creating militias. In contracts with the U.S. military, the sheiks are referred to as "security contractors." Each of their "guards" will receive 70 percent of an Iraqi policeman's salary. U.S. commanders call them "concerned citizens," evoking suburban neighborhood watch groups.

    But interviews with ground commanders and tribal leaders offer a window into how the United States is financing a new constellation of mostly Sunni armed groups with murky allegiances and shady pasts.

    The two-week-old initiative, inspired by similar efforts underway in Baghdad, Anbar and Diyala provinces, has more than halved attacks here against American troops, from 19 a day to seven, U.S. commanders said. But in a land of sectarian fault lines and shifting tribal loyalties, the strategy raises concerns about the long-term implications of empowering groups that steadfastly oppose the Shiite-led government.

    Shiite leaders fear that the United States is financing highly trained and well-armed militias that could undermine the government after American troops withdraw. Shiites worry such groups could weaken central authority and challenge democratic institutions that many would like to see take root.

    U.S. generals said they vet the backgrounds of every recruit, but ground commanders here said that is all but an impossible task.

    "Officially, we will not deal with those who have American blood on their hands," said Balcavage, 42. "But how do you know? You don't. There's a degree of risk involved. A lot of it is gut instinct. That's what I'm going on. They didn't teach me how to do this at West Point."
  2. I think this is a sensible strategy. In fact, it is quite similar to elements of my revised plan for Iraq.

    The beauty of it is that there is accountability and immediate incentives. If there are attacks in areas controlled by these sheiks, we know who to blame. They are able to deal with problems in ways that would put US soldiers in front of a court martial board. If the sheiks don't deliver, we fire them and replace them with someone who can deliver. It is basically like the mafia or gang structure, a proven way of maintaining order when normal civil processes are not effective.

    The key element here is to understand there is a big difference in local insurgents and al qaeda, which is mainly foreigners. The locals insurgents want security, power and money. Al qaeda wants death and destruction, and above all, to defeat the US. The locals are probably ambivalent about our presence, depending upon whether or not they see it as advantageous to them. Put the appropriate incentive structure in place, and they will help us or at least not goout of their way to attack us.
  3. Cruzan


    There's really little good about this strategy. It's simply the least bad of the present options and speaks much more to the utter desperate failure of this entire adventure. In the short term it will, as it has, do good by cutting down on U.S. troops being attacked, but in the longer term it will almost certainly, against all promises to the contrary, simply further entrench ethnic, tribal, and sectarian divisions to the point where the defacto breakup of Iraq along those lines becomes a forgone conclusion.

    I also wonder, as I read someone say in another article on this, that when the U.S. military inevitably comes across one of their 'neighborhood watch groups' battling, say, an Iraqi police unit, which side U.S. troops will take.
  4. alqaida plays a minimal role in the daily attacks and violence; it's all mainly shia vs sunni and legitimate insurgency fighting the occupation. fact is, WH dont give a damn about the reconstruction and improve things. the insurgency can be easily called alqaida and when that works, what incentives are there to placate violence? without the threat of alqaida the reason to stay the course would exist no more and americans would realize this whole fictitious war on terror got nothing to do with iraq;
    cant repeat that "we fight them over there so we wont have to fight them over here" anymore. more pressure for timetables, timelines and all that crap would follow.