Security, insurgency, and military tactics

  • Iraq Pipeline Watch

    Timeline of attacks on Iraqi pipelines, oil installations, and oil personnel, from the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. Frequently updated.

  • Multi-National Force Iraq - "Operation Iraqi Freedom"

    Website of US commanded, UN legitimated, counter-insurgency force in Iraq.

    "In partnership with the Iraqi Government, MNF-I conducts full-spectrum counter-insurgency operations to isolate and neutralize former regime extremists and foreign terrorists, and organizes, trains, and equips Iraqi security forces in order to create a security environment that permits the completion of the UNSCR 1546 process on schedule."

  • Is the 'surge' working? Some new facts (14 Sept 2007)

    Michael Greenstone analyses statistics from Iraq to assess the success of the 'surge' policy. He concludes that deaths of Iraqi civilians have declined, but other measures of success have not improved. He also considers the price of Iraqi government bonds on world markets. These fell sharply after the surge, compared to other bonds, suggesting higher market expectations that Iraq will default. The statistics considered concern oil production, electricity, Iraqi and coalition troop levels, fatalities among Iraqi civilians and foreign troops, and American troops wounded.

  • Petraeus Report (10 Sept 2007)

    This assessment of the 'surge' was written by General David Petraeus, commander of the US forces in Iraq. In it, he claims that the surge is succeeding in military terms, and proposes a timetable for US withdrawal from Iraq.

  • Accepting realities in Iraq (18 May 2007)

    A pessimistic take on sectarian violence in Iraq from Gareth Stansfield of Chatham House. He argues that the survival of Iraq as a country is now in doubt. Iraqi society has fractured, and there are now multiple, overlapping civil wars in progress. Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia are influential in Iraq, more so than the US and UK. However, all three benefit from instability in Iraq.

  • US presentation on Iran military assistance to Sh'ia fighters (Feb 2007)

    This presentation (pdf) is described as the Powerpoint presentation given to journalists by US officials in Baghdad on 11 February 2007 - at a news conference where recordings and photographs were banned - intended to present evidence of Iranian military assistance to Iraqi Sh'ia fighters. It comprises information reportedly from captured Iranian military personnel, and photographs of allegedly Iranian-sourced weaponry.

    The presentation was posted on the McClatchy Newspapers site (see for the story).

  • Iraq: The War of the Imagination (Dec 2006)

    Excellent essay by Mark Danner, framed as a book review, interpreting the failures of US Iraq policy as an outcome of systematic misunderstandings within the American government.

  • GAO: Stabilising Iraq - An Assessment of the Security Situation (pdf) (11 Sept 2006)

    The latest assessment of Iraq's security situation from the US Government Accountability Office challenges much received wisdom. It finds that "attacks against the coalition and its Iraqi partners reached an all time high during July 2006" and that although Sunni insurgents remain strong, growing Shi'a militas "are [now] the largest contributors to sectarian violence in Iraq." Interestingly, it finds that attacks on coalition forces still outnumber attacks on Iraqi forces and civilians (although the proportion of attacks on the latter has grown significantly since the start of 2006)

  • CSIS: "Dividing Iraq: Think Long and Hard First" (01 May 2006)

    A short article from Anthony Cordesman at the CSIS, arguing against the division of Iraq.

    "The US has made serious mistakes in Iraq, and Iraq may well divide on its own. A strategy of dividing Iraq, however, is virtually certain to make things worse, not better, and confront the US with massive new problems in an area with some 60% of the world’s proven oil reserves and 37% of its gas. Even if one ignores the fact that the US effectively broke Iraq, and its responsibilities to some 28 million Iraqis, a violent power vacuum in an already dangerous region is not a strategy, it is simply an abdication of both moral responsibility and the national interest."

  • CSIS Report: "Iraq's Evolving Insurgency and the Risk of Civil War" (26 Apr 2006)

    An in-depth report from Anthony Cordesman at the CSIS.

    This report provides an overview of both how the Iraqi insurgency has moved towards civil conflict from its inception in the spring of 2003 through the first months of 2006, and of the ways in which insurgent tactics and methods have changed over time. It is divided into five general sections:

    • The first section examines Iraq under the rule of Saddam, the immediate post-war aftermath and the development of a violent insurgency in the spring and summer of 2003. It chronicles the insurgency’s inception and how it has evolved from 2003 until 2006 and examines Coalition operations to counter it.

    • The second evaluates insurgent patterns of attacks, and Coalition and Iraqi casualties. It also examines insurgent tactics, methods of attack, and the political, sychological and informational warfare lessons from 2003-2006.

    • The third section assesses the composition of the nsurgency including Iraqi Sunni Arabs (both “Islamists and “Nationalists”), foreign jihadists, and the uncertain status of the Shi’ites. It also addresses the degree to which these factions cooperate or conflict and the role of Iraqi’s neighbors in the insurgency.

    • The fourth considers Iraqi views of the threat.

    • The fifth and final section offers an assessment of probable outcomes of the conflict and lessons of the war.

  • Guardian: 'US postwar Iraq strategy a mess, Blair was told' (14 March 2006)

    Leaked memos reported by The Guardian newspaper. 'Senior British diplomatic and military staff gave Tony Blair explicit warnings three years ago that the US was disastrously mishandling the occupation of Iraq.'

  • The Next Iraq War? Sectarianism and Civil Conflict (27 Feb 2006)

    Report produced by International Crisis Group looking at the possibility of civil war in Iraq

  • In Their Own Words: Reading the Iraqi Insurgency (15 Feb 2006)

    Report from the International Crisis Group. Full report available in pdf and MS Word formats.

    "In Iraq, the U.S. fights an enemy it hardly knows. Its descriptions have relied on gross approximations and crude categories (Saddamists, Islamo-fascists and the like) that bear only passing resemblance to reality. This report, based on close analysis of the insurgents’ own discourse, reveals relatively few groups, less divided between nationalists and foreign jihadis than assumed, whose strategy and tactics have evolved (in response to U.S. actions and to maximise acceptance by Sunni Arabs), and whose confidence in defeating the occupation is rising. An anti-insurgency approach primarily focused on reducing the insurgents’ perceived legitimacy – rather than achieving their military destruction, decapitation and dislocation – is far more likely to succeed."

  • The Military Death Toll While Enforcing the Occupation of Iraq: A Data Sheet of US-uk Military Fatalities Post-May 1, 2003 (16 Dec 2005)

    Commentry and data on militrary deaths of UK and US personnel since May 1 2003

  • Military Review: 'Changing the Army for Counterinsurgency Operations' (Dec 2005)

    Biting criticism of the US Army's performance in Iraq, published in Military Review by senior British officer Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster.

    The BBC News report gives some US reaction.

  • US GAO Testimony: 'Rebuilding Iraq: Enhancing Security, Measuring Program Results And Mantaining Infrastructure Are Necessary to Make Significant and Sustainable Progress' (18 Oct 2005)

    Report by the US Government Accountability Office investigating US progress in rebuilding Iraq. Notes the difficulting in maintaining infrastructure projects, and the difficulty of measuring progress. Recommends that Iraq will probably need signifcantly more than the $56bn estimated previously by the World Bank, due to unforseen looting, sabotage and lower than expected oil revenues. Finds that data collected is incomplete, citing for example that the Department of State reports on number of water projects completed, but not on the condition of the water supply to Iraqi people. A summary can be found here.

  • A face and a name: civilian victims of insurgent groups in Iraq (Oct 2005)

    Human Rights Watch report centered around insurgent groups' own justifications for their attacks on civilians, and an account of the impact they have on their victims.

  • Planning post-conflict reconstruction in Iraq: what can we learn? (Oct 2005)

    Review of the planning process within the CPA and related bodies, conducted by the RAND corporation. This concentrates primarily on management and institutional organisation, rather than on the problems and successes of policies.

  • Improving security in Iraq (Senate committee hearing) (18 July 2005)

    This hearing considered four questions:

    1. Should the coalition revise its current counterinsurgency strategy?
    2. Could the US press its allies to provide more manpower?
    3. Should the US reprioritize the training schedule of Iraqi forces?
    4. Should the President change the force structure of the US presence in Iraq?

    Witnesses were Ken Pollack (Brookings), Barry McCaffrey, and Anthony Cordesman (CSIS)

  • 'Vicious Circle: The Dynamics of Occupation and Resistance in Iraq (Part I)' (18 May 2005)

    An analysis of Iraqi public opinion data and interviews by the Commonwealth Institute.

    The analysis suggests that coalition military activity is contributing substantially to anti-coalition sentiments. A "vicious circle" is indicated, whereby counter-insurgent operations create support for the insurgency. The report tracks coalition military activity and relates it to Iraqi discontent and insurgent activity. Differences among Iraqi communities are also assessed.

    Executive summary

  • Iraq's Evolving Insurgency (16 May 2005)

    Working draft of a book by Anthony Cordesman, examining security issues in Iraq. Includes some detail on the politics and organisatin of militant groups in Iraq. Updated versions may be available from the CSIS Iraq page

  • Strategic implications of intercommunal warfare in Iraq (Feb 2005)

    Paper by Andrew Terrill, for the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute. It "considers the regional consequences of intercommunal warfare in Iraq by examining how such an eventuality may develop and how neighboring states might become involved in such a conflict."

  • Insurgency in Iraq: a historical perspective (Jan 2005)

    Compares the insurgency in Iraq to other conflicts in the Middle East - those in Palestine, Aden, the Dhofar province of Oman, Algeria, and Lebanon. By Dr. Ian F.W. Beckett, for the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute

  • Developing Iraq's Security Sector (2005)

    Report by the RAND Corporation, originally prepared for the Coalition Provisional Authority.

  • Reality bites: the impending logic of withdrawal from Iraq (2005)

    Article by Barry Rubin in the Washington Quarterly. Argues for a gradual US withdrawal from Iraq beginning immediately, on the grounds that a hasty retreat triggered by a crisis would be seen as a defeat.

  • Global IDP Project 'Iraq: continued insecurity adds to vulnerability of over 1 million IDPs' (24 Nov 2004)
  • 'Iraq in Transition: Post-Conflict Challenges and Opportunities' (Nov 2004)

    Report by the Open Society Institute and the United Nations Foundation.

  • Insurgency and counter-insurgency in Iraq (2004)

    RAND report, repeating most of the conventional wisdom on counter-insurgency tactics for US forces in Iraq. Says that the coalition was hampered by poor planning, that the insurgents are developing more quickly than the coalition, that it is important to win 'hearts and minds'. Has been largely superceded by more complete and up-to-date analysis available elsewhere.

  • low intensity conflict and nation-building in Iraq: a chronology

    Regularly-updated listing of security incidents, compiled by Stephen Lanier of CSIS

  • RAND Review: Iraq and Beyond

    The spring 2006 RAND Review features as its cover story "Iraq and Beyond". The Review is the flagship magazine for the RAND corporation.

  • 'Disengagement' and withdrawal of US troops

    Various articles have discussed the consequences of withdrawing US troops from Iraq.

    • Options for Iraq: The Almost Good, The Bad and The Ugly (18 Oct 2006)

      Centre for Strategic and International Studies report on the options for US action in Iraq

    • Iraqi Liberation? Towards an integrated strategy (11 Dec 2005)

      Report by the Oxford Research Group, attempting to find a withdrawal strategy beyond "stay the course" or "cut and run". Recommends 7 elements to this strategy: increasing legitimacy for the Iraqi political process, international mediation, Iraqi control of security operations, removal of coalition forces, economic development, 'human security', and international security guarantees.

    • 'Exit Strategy, How to disengage from Iraq in 18 months' (Dec 2005)

      Essay by Barry Posen, International Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

      "The United States needs a new strategy in Iraq and the Persian Gulf. The war is at best a stalemate; the large American presence now causes more trouble than it prevents. We must disengage from Iraq—and we must do it by removing most American and allied military units within 18 months. Though disengagement has risks and costs, they can be managed. The consequences would not be worse for the United States than the present situation, and capabilities for dealing with them are impressive, if properly employed. [...]"

      "[T]he expectation of an open-ended American presence lends internal and external political support to the insurgents and infantilizes the government and army of Iraq, producing at best a perpetual stalemate ... The United States must try another strategy while it still has the political and military resources necessary to influence the pattern of disengagement and the aftermath. "

    • 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq' (30 Nov 2005)

      This "document articulates the broad strategy the President set forth in 2003 and provides an update on our progress as well as the challenges remaining". There also is a pdf version of the document

    • Up in the air (28 Nov 2005)

      Seymour Hersh examines the likely role of air power in Iraq as ground troops are withdrawn. He predicts that targets for air strikes will have to be chosen by Iraqi soldiers, and therefore that the air force will be manipulated to settle old disputes between Iraqi groups.

    • 'What would disengagement mean?' (22 Nov 2005)

      Article by Glen Rangwala commissioned by a group of UK parliamentarians.

      "If the only goal of the anti-war movement were the withdrawal of significant numbers of Coalition personnel from Iraq, it is likely that it would be able to think of itself as having achieved that goal in large part by the end of 2006. [...]"

      "However, it is important not to conflate the number of Coalition troops in Iraq with the extent of US-UK control over Iraq. The Coalition powers exercise control in various ways in Iraq, and intend to retain this control well past the reduction in troop numbers in 2006. With this in mind, it is more appropriate to consider the consequences and extent of disengagement, a broader concept that encompasses not only the military sphere but also the economic and political spheres, and not only those of troop withdrawal. "

    • What's wrong with cutting and running? (03 Oct 2005)

      Former NSA director William Odom attempts to refute objections to an immediate removal of US troops from Iraq

    • 'Precedents, Variables, and Options in Planning a U.S. Military Disengagement Strategy from Iraq' (Oct 2005)

      Monograph by Dr. W. Andrew Terrill, Dr. Conrad C. Crane, of the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. Available as a pdf file

      "The authors view the empowerment of a viable Iraqi central government and a security force to defend its authority as vital to the future of that country, but also suggest that there are severe constraints on the potential for the United States to sustain its military presence in that country at the current level. They conclude that the United States must be prepared to withdraw from Iraq under non-optimal conditions and that the chief U.S. goals should be to devise an exit strategy for Iraq that focuses on bolstering Iraqi government legitimacy even if this does not involve creating a Western style democracy."

    • Strategic Redeployment (29 Sept 2005)

      Lawrence Korb and Bruce Katulis argue for a gradual redeployment of US troops out of Iraq and into other hotspots. Troops would initially move out of urban areas, would focus on training, border security, logistical and air support, anti-terrorist operations, and serving as advisors to Iraqi units.

    • 'Iraq: The Logic of Disengagement' (Feb 2005)

      Article by Edward N. Luttwak in Foreign Affairs. (Subscription required)

      "Summary: The best strategy for the United States now in Iraq is disengagement. In a reversal of the usual sequence, the U.S. hand will be strengthened by withdrawal, and Washington might actually be able to lay the groundwork for a reasonably stable Iraq. Why? Because geography ensures that all other parties are far more exposed to the dangers of an anarchical Iraq than is the United States itself."

    • The third option in Iraq: a responsible exit strategy (2005)

      Article by Gareth Porter in the Fall 2005 issue of the Middle East Policy Council Journal

  • Iraqi Military and Security Forces
    • GAO Testimony: Factors Impeding the Development of Capable Iraqi Security Forces (13 March 2007)

      GAO congressional testimony:

      • Reports that "as of February 2007, DOD reported that it had trained and equipped 327,000 Iraqi security forces—a substantial increase from the 142,000 reported in March 2005...[and] double that of the 153,000-strong U.S.-led coalition currently in Iraq.

      • Notes that it is currently impossible for Congress to gauge the readiness of Iraq's security forces since the DOD refuses to release its Transition Readiness Assessments. In addition, "[t]he [Iraqi] Ministry of the Interior does not maintain standardized reports on personnel strength. As a result, DOD does not know how many coalition-trained police the ministry still employs or what percentage of the 180,000 police thought to be on the payroll are coalition trained and equipped.

      • Also notes that Iraqi units remain dependent upon US-led international forces for their logistical, command and control, including fuel and ammunition, as well as intelligence capabilities.

  • Pre-invasion plans and assessments
    • Desert Crossing: 1999 wargame on Iraq's invasion (04 Nov 2006)

      In 1999 the US Army's Central Command (CENTCOM) conducted a series of wargames to assess potential outcomes of invading Iraq to unseat Saddam Hussein. The exercise's reports - uncovered in November 2006 by George Washington University's National Security Archive - argued that even with the use of 400,000 troops, an invasion and occupation would likely cause bloodshed, ethnic fragmentation and regional instability. CENTCOM's then leader, General Zinni, argues that the findings of "Desert Crossing" were ignored prior to Iraq's invasion.

    • The Future of Iraq Project (01 Sept 2006)

      From October 2001, US State Department planners brought together over 200 engineers, lawyers, businesspeople, doctors and other experts to plan Iraq's future after Saddam. The New York Times has cited defense department officials as saying that the 'Future of Iraq' project was largely ignored after the 2003 invasion. The Project's 13-volume recommendations, as well as preliminary documents, have been made public by George Washington University's National Security Archive.