The Status of Forces agreement George Bush negotiated with the government of Iraq expires in December, in anticipation of a withdrawal of US troops. The USG has dropped heavy hints over the last six months that the Department of Defense was amenable to leaving behind some significant military forces in Iraq to safeguard the country’s borders and continue the training and logistical support of the Iraqi Army. In a perverse outcome of the desired goal of democratization, such remnants would be a political non-starter for any Iraqi political party; acceding to US troops remaining in their cantonments – they have for the most part given up offensive military operations – would be an electoral death knell.
A rocket attack that killed six soldiers yesterday - the deadliest attack in two years – at Baladiyat was intended to emphasize the point for a mostly diffident US electorate, who have pocket book issues of their own to worry about, and who are in any case tired of hearing the word “Iraq” and have become desensitized over the last decade to US troop deaths overseas:
The attack occurred around dawn at Camp Loyalty, known to Iraqis as Baladiyat base, when about six rockets struck near the U.S. residential quarters, according to Iraqi security officials. The rocket strikes were part of a day of violence across Iraq that left at least 17 Iraqis dead. Insurgents detonated car bombs, booby-trapped a house with explosives and attacked security checkpoints in the capital.
Iraq is a less violent place than it was for much of the time after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, but recent attacks have caused unease. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is under growing pressure to assert more leadership as Iraqis face newly emboldened terrorist groups, continuing shortages of clean water and electricity, and a new national government that often appears paralyzed by mistrust.
“The complexity of the political situation has weakened the government in general and weakened our security forces to prevent actions by terrorists,” said Falah al-Naqib, who was interior minister in 2004 and 2005 under then- Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. “If the situation remains as it is right now, it’s going to get much more complicated and we might see a lot more problems.”
Their problems, not ours. Ya basta.
Our soldiers will have problems of our own to worry about:
Even as the American military winds down its eight-year war in Iraq, commanders are bracing for what they fear could be the most dangerous remaining mission: getting the last troops out safely.
The resurgent threat posed by militants was underscored Monday when rockets slammed into a military base in eastern Baghdad, killing six service members in the most deadly day for American forces here since 2009. In recent weeks, insurgent fighters have stepped up their efforts to kill American forces in what appears to be a strategy to press the United States to withdraw on schedule, undercut any resolve to leave troops in Iraq, and win a public relations victory at home by claiming credit for the American withdrawal.
American commanders say one of the gravest threats to the 46,000 troops here is that they could become easy targets for insurgents when they begin their final withdrawal this summer and head for the border along a 160-mile stretch of road cutting through the desert into Kuwait.
“Our forces were attacked today, and we were just sitting still,” said Col. Douglas Crissman, who is in charge of American forces in four provinces of southern Iraq, and is overseeing highway security in them. “What is going to happen to the threat when we line up our trucks to leave and start moving out of the country?”
The military’s answer appears to be bribery:
Eight years in Iraq has taught the United States military a hard-learned lesson, that American forces cannot effectively secure large areas without the help of the local people. So commanders have fashioned an exit strategy which borrows a key element from the Awakening Movement, a successful tactical program carried out in 2006, just as the violence was peaking. The American exit strategy calls for the military to give cash payments of $10,000 a month to 10 tribal leaders.
Officially, the money is paid to have Iraqis clean the crucial roadway of debris, an apparent pretense because an Iraqi-American agreement bars outright payments for security. The sheiks keep some of the cash and use the rest to hire 35 workers each who clear the road of trash. The work does make it harder for militants to hide bombs.
But the military says it is aiming for more than a highway beautification project. It is hoping for local people to help police the road and the area, and to provide intelligence on militants.
As the NY Times article goes on to say, $120K per “friendly” tribal chief per year may be cheap against the cost of a $400K MRAP, not to mention the human cost.
But .50 cal ammunition is pretty cheap too.
I’m just saying.