Winning with "very focused kinetic effect"

Ralph Peters:

IF you saw any news clips of intense combat last January, you were probably watching the fighting unfolding on Baghdad's Haifa Street: 10 days of grim sectarian violence.

Until we put a stop to it.

The boulevard of Sunni-inhabited high-rise apartments erupted in shootouts pitting the "Haifa Street Gang" and its al Qaeda allies against heavily Shia Iraqi army units. It was a recipe for massacre, as terrified residents - those who remained - cowered in their apartments.

Then the U.S. Army moved in. Commanders must've felt tempted to just level the former Saddamist stronghold. Instead, they decided to rescue what they could. Our troops cleaned out the terrorists with what Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks - one of the Army's rising stars - termed "very focused kinetic effects."

And the Cavalry charged in: the 2nd Infantry Division's 1-14 Cav, OPCON - Army-speak for "on loan" - to the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade.

This is a ride-to-the-rescue outfit in the old Cavalry tradition. Shifted from one hot spot to another in their wheeled Strykers, 1-14 Cav has fought its way through the streets of one gut-shot Iraqi city after another.

BUT Baghdad was the big one. Not only because it's the capital but also because our changing strategy suddenly opened new opportunities to reset the terms of our presence.

Initially, Haifa Street was a brawl-for-all. Even now, the troopers of 1-14 Cav keep their "sabers" ready. But a patrol through the sector on Tuesday evening revealed changes many in the media just won't credit. (We're not supposed to win, you understand.)


It would've been easy to write off Haifa Street.

Instead, 1-14 Cav and their foster parent, the 2nd brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, switched gears. First, they won the fight. Next, they were determined to win the peace.

AND the numbers in "AO Warhorse," their area of operations, reveal an impressive transition from a hellhole to a livable - if still understandably nervous - neighborhood: From 74 attacks on our troops in January, the violence dropped to 20 attempts in August. And they were minor attacks, compared to those of the past.

Overall, murder rates in Baghdad are down by two-thirds, while attacks on the Iraqi police and civilians have declined for months. In fact, 2nd Brigade is now "out of the checkpoint business," according to its commander, Col. Bryan Roberts. With the Iraqi police doing its job, Roberts can muster as many as 34 combat patrols a day - the presence we always needed and didn't have.

And plans are already in the works to turn the district over to the Iraqis.

During the mounted segment of the patrol, I asked Gen. Brooks - who stood tall in a Stryker's hatch beside me - if he worried about a surge in al Qaeda incidents in the remaining weeks before Gen. David Petraeus reports to Congress.

Brooks realizes how badly the terrorists yearn to embarrass us, handing ammunition to the just-quit camp. But he told me we'd just broken a key al Qaeda network that was planning dramatic eve-of-testimony strikes. Other terrorists might still manage to stage attacks, but the organization's spinal column was broken.


There is much more. This is counterinsurgency warfare defeating a wicked enemy without creating many more enemy. It is the opposite of what people like Diana West have in mind for defeating an enemy. She is looking for another type of enemy destruction. It sounds like she wants to be at war with all of Iraq and not just the ones shooting at us. What she fails to comprehend is the difference between an enemy that uses a combat persisting strategy such as the Japanese and Germans did in World War II and an enemy that uses a raiding strategy like the enemy in Iraq. It takes a very different strategy to defeat both types of warfare. Gen. Petraeus has developed an implemented an effective strategy that focuses on protecting the people who then in turn help us find and destroy the enemy trying to hide among them.

Peter Beinart still does not get it and he thinks Republican voters don't get it either. He is still locked into the strategy put forward by the Baker-Hamilton commission and thinks that is what Giuliani and Romney need to push to attract votes in the primary. It would be a huge strategic mistake to go back to a failed policy initiative that has also been pushed by the Democrats. It is just further evidence of how ignorant many in the media and in politics are of successful counterinsurgency strategy and how it is engaged. He is pushing this nonsense right in the middle of demonstrable success of the policy he opposes. The surge is what is making us successful and Beinart is still saying it is a political problem for those who support it. The opposite should be the case and Democrats should soon rue their opposition to a winning strategy.

Between West and Beinart at opposite ends of a war fighting spectrum, Gen Petraues is executing a successful strategy and Peters is witness to it. BTW, Peters has in the past been much close to the West strategy than the Petraeus strategy. Being there and seeing it work must make a difference. Beinart is more focused on the politics of which strategy to support, but it is always good politics to support a winning strategy.


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