Anthony Cordesman has provided an update last week of the progress, such as it is, of the US-Iraqi effort to gain control of Baghdad: Iraqi Force Development: Summer 2006 Update (Center for Strategic and International Studies) 08/23/06 version.
When he first reported on it back in July, he gave the name of the original attempt as Operation Lightning. He now uses Operation Forward Together for it, so I suppose the name was changed early on. Operation Forward Together sounds much more like the typical propaganda names the Cheney-Bush administration uses for its military operations (abbreviated as Operation FT in the rest of this post).
The civil war continues to accelerate:
Baghdad became increasingly divided, with Iraqi officials saying “the Tigris river is already looking like the Beirut ‘Green Line,’ dividing Sunni west Baghdad, known by its ancient name of Karkh, from the mainly Shi’ite east, or Rusafa.” The violence had become so overwhelming that some Iraqi leaders had “all but given up on holding the country together” and spoke privately about “pre-empting the worst bloodshed by agreeing to an east-west division of Baghdad into Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim zones.” A civil war mentality seemed to have taken hold, particularly in the capital city. (my emphasis)
But everything can be cured by propaganda, right?
US and Iraqi officials were insistent that a significant portion of the sectarian threat was exaggerated “rumor-mongering.”
Well, maybe not:
US and Iraqi troops on the ground in Iraq said that civil war had already begun in Baghdad, describing neighborhoods turning into “open battlefields,” streets as “dividing lines,” entire villages “cleared out,” and bodies “dropped in canals and left on the side of the road.” A 4th Infantry Division battalion commander summed up the goal of the militant factions as “trying to force Shi’ites into Shi’ite areas and Sunnis into Sunni areas” and compared Iraq to 1994 Rwanda. A BBC correspondent reported that “Baghdad is increasingly becoming a patchwork of Shia and Sunni enclaves looking nervously out across barricades.” The Baghdad morgue reported that it had handled 1,815 bodies in the month of July. About 85% of them had suffered violent deaths, the “biggest cause” of which were gunshot wounds to the head “execution style,” a method associated with “sectarian death squads.” Some Sunnis in Baghdad took to impersonating Shi’ites to avoid becoming targets of death squads. A Sunni organization’s website displayed “tips on being Shia” such as “memorize the names of the 12 imams,” “have an ID with a different name,” and “keep a poster in your house of Imam Hussein.”
Cordesman now has a more reliable number for the troops that participated in the initial phase of Operation FT:
The exact number of personnel participating in the action was not disclosed, but was initially estimated to be as high as 75,000.30 The actual number was eventually determined to be 42,500 Iraqi troops and 7,200 Americans.31 Forward Together was to be a dramatic first initiative to curb violence in the capital and comprised a substantial increase in standard security measures such as patrols, checkpoints, and curfews.
But for the initial phase, the figure of speech, "it bombed" is unfortantely more literally true:
The attacks increased in scale and audacity in spite of Operation Forward Together. On June 21, approximately 50 gunmen wearing police uniforms abducted as many as 100 factory workers in broad daylight in the northeastern Baghdad zone of Taji, home to a major US base. On June 23, the government extended the curfew to afternoon hours following a major shootout involving Sunni insurgents, Shi’ite militiamen, and Iraqi and US security forces. Two major incidents occurred on July 1. A suicide car bomb blasted a crowded market in the Shi’ite Sadr City district, killing over 60 people and wounding twice as many. Media reports noted that US and Iraqi soldiers who arrived to the emergency site were pelted with rocks by Iraqi children and jeered by civilians. Meanwhile, Tayseer Najah al-Mashhadani, a female Sunni member of the Iraqi parliament, and her eight bodyguards were abducted at gunpoint on the city’s northern outskirts.
These events in Baghdad prompted the Iraqi government to announce a “comprehensive review” of the security operation. US officials “admitted that the plan has produced so far only a slight dip in the violence, and nothing like the results that had been hoped for.”
The propaganda claims of "good news" continued (of course!) but reality does have a way of imposing itself:
Top US officials attempted to paint the best possible portrait of Iraqi security force “progress,” as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserted on July 10, “I’m quite certain that the combination of a strong government and the security forces that are now engaged in the security plan for Baghdad will be able to bring this situation under control.” The words, however, seemed to ring hollow as events on the ground unfolded. Coalition spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell “announced no great accomplishments as the Baghdad crackdown involving 50,000 security forces - 42,000 Iraqi and 8,000 American - approached the 30-day point.” On July 11, “frustrated by the lack of results, Iraqi lawmakers called on the country’s Defense and Interior ministers to explain why the security operation hasn’t led to a decline in violence.”
By July, the initial phases of the security operation had clearly failed to reduce the violence. In fact, violence continued to increase: “in the 101 days before the crackdown, an average of 23.8 attacks occurred daily. In the first 35 days of the operation, the average was 25.2 attacks a day.”45 US military figures released July 20 “showed that the number of daily attacks recorded by the police and allied forces in Baghdad jumped to an average of 34 this month [July 2006] from 24 in June.”
Caldwell reported, “We have not witnessed the reduction in violence one would have hoped for in a perfect world.”
"A perfect world": he's talking about Iraq in the middle of an insurgency and civil war, for Christ's sake! Generals seem to have a special knack for ham-handed PR phrases.
In late July, a previously unplanned second phase of Operation FT was agreed on with more American troops, which meant among other things that instead of the decrease of US forces that the Republicans and their willing enablers in the officer corps had been hinting at for months became even more of a phantasm. But sometimes, one of our generals says something that is actually believable:
Lt. General Peter W. Chiarelli, “commander of day-to-day US military operations in Iraq,” revealed another aspect of the revamped security plan in an interview. As US and Iraqi troops secured neighborhoods in force, unemployed Iraqis living in those areas would be offered jobs on local public works projects, like digging water and sewer lines. “When [Chiarelli] commanded the 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad from March 2004 to March 2005, he reduced the violence in the Shi’ite neighborhood of Sadr City by putting many of the fighting age men to work digging a sewer system.” With a budget of $75 million to $100 million, Chiarelli planned to adopt that approach on a city-wide scale. Yet he admitted the troubles the US military was having in learning how to deal with the situation it faced in Baghdad, remarking, “Quite frankly, in 33 years in the United States Army, I never trained to stop a sectarian fight. This is something new.” (my emphasis)
And so, this led to the situation in the summer of 2006, over three years after the Cheney-Bush administration's brilliant victory over Saddam's regular forces, that the primary goal of the war became ... securing the capital city. Even in Afghanistan things are going better than that! Cordesman writes:
Securing Baghdad was clearly the primary objective of Iraqi and Coalition efforts during the summer of 2006, and it proved to be an elusive goal. The “first phase” of Operation Forward Together was simplistic in its approach, relying on a show of strength with more Iraqi security forces on the streets manning more checkpoints. It was a relatively passive operation that spread the participating units across the city, attempting to handle the entire capital at once with no preponderance of force in any area. The plan did not anticipate the acceleration of sectarian violence and was unable to cope with the cycle of retaliatory attacks and spiralling death toll.
“Phase two” of Operation Forward Together, formulated in late July well after the failure to slow the violence was apparent, demonstrated Coalition leaders’ recognition that a more coherent plan was necessary to provide security to Baghdad. It incorporated more elements of counterinsurgency warfare, specifically the “oil spot” strategy of creating secured areas one by one and the attempt to win the confidence of Iraqi civilians through more sensitive and subtle search operations and efforts to clean up battle-scarred neighbourhoods. Yet the introduction of more US troops in this phase was also something of an admission that Iraqi forces alone could not be counted on to handle security responsibilities. “Phase two” of Operation Forward Together may have been a better plan, but its true test will be when secured areas are returned to the control of Iraqi military and police units. (my emphasis)
Gee, and the film on FOX News looked so swell when the statue of Saddam Hussein fell way back when!