Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq
Report to Congress
In accordance with the
Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2007
(Section 9010, Public Law 109-289)
Report to Congress
In accordance with the
Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2007
(Section 9010, Public Law 109-289)
Section 1-Stability and Security
1.3 Security Environment
This reporting period saw an increased effort to provide security to the population of Iraq. The increasingly complex conflict has remained a struggle among and within ethnosectarian, criminal, insurgent and terrorist groups to wrest political and economic power from the elected GoI. Much of the violence is attributable to sectarian friction, and each faction is driven by its own political and economic power relationships. Illegally armed groups are engaged in a cycle of sectarian and politically motivated violence, using tactics that include indiscriminate bombing, murder, executions, and indirect fire to intimidate and to provoke sectarian conflict. The United States is supporting Iraqi efforts to reduce sectarian violence in Baghdad, regain control over the capital, and defeat al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and its supporters, ensuring that they find no safe haven in Iraq.
In support of political efforts, Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (FAQ) was launched on February 14, 2007 as the main security component of the New Way Forward. FAQ is intended to provide population security, primarily in Baghdad, to contain the sectarian violence and give Iraqis an opportunity to pursue political reconciliation and to implement government reforms. FAQ involves an increase of five U.S. Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) and support forces; four of the five BCTs are now in place. The remaining BCT will be in place in June.
Iraqi Security Commitments
On January 25, 2007, the CoR formally endorsed the new Baghdad operation and extended emergency authorities to provide security to the citizens of the capital. Three additional Iraqi Army brigades completed their 90-day deployments in Baghdad; and one has been extended until mid-summer.
Additional Iraqi brigades have been alerted and are moving to support operations in Baghdad. The surge of U.S. and Iraqi forces into Baghdad is intended to provide adequate force levels to clear insurgents, militia and organized criminal gangs from neighborhoods and subsequently maintain a presence in those areas to preserve security and provide an opportunity for follow-on assistance efforts. Since the start of FAQ, Iraqi and Coalition forces have established 27 of 34 planned Joint Security Stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad. These stations, staffed 24 hours a day by Iraqi local police, National Police and Iraqi Army personnel as well as Coalition forces, seek to improve population protection by providing a persistent presence in Baghdad's neighborhoods.
In support of FAQ, Prime Minister Maliki has publicly committed to giving ISF commanders the authority to execute operations against all criminals, terrorists and illegally armed groups, and to prohibit militia from controlling local security, regardless of ethnosectarian affiliation. He pledged no safe havens, no political interference in security operations, and even-handed enforcement of the law. Prime Minister Maliki has prohibited political authorities from making false accusations against security forces, and has pledged to establish popular mobilization committees to support the Baghdad Security Plan. To date, operations in Baghdad indicate that Iraqi government delivery on these commitments has been uneven. For example, there have been reports of political involvement by some leaders in tactical and operational decisions that bypass the standard chain of command. In addition, sectarianbased decisions have been made within the Iraqi government and its military and police forces.
Nonetheless, Iraqi units are generally performing up to expectations. Although the initial battalions had mixed results in deploying at desired manning levels, units deployed later had sufficient soldiers and officers to meet operational requirements, and some Iraqi commanders showed an ability to plan, command, and control relatively sophisticated joint and/or combined operations. In addition, as of this writing, all but one of the National Police (NP) brigades not enrolled in the National Police Transformation and Retraining program are conducting counterinsurgency operations to support the Baghdad Security Plan. Performance of National Police Brigades that have been through the Transformation and Retraining program has greatly improved during this reporting period. Two NP battalions were assigned security lead for their areas of responsibility within Baghdad. One battalion was designated as part of the Prime Minister's operational reserve, and the Prime Minister has requested the creation of an additional (10th) NP brigade to provide security to the Samarra Shrine reconstruction project.
Prime Minister Maliki has verbally committed to a militia demobilization, disarmament, and re-integration (DDR) program. A 12 May amnesty workshop named an executive director of the program. In early April, Prime Minister Maliki approved the DDR committee structure and appointed an Executive Director for the committee. As of this report, committee members have yet to be appointed and work has not begun on drafting a DDR plan. The 2007 Iraqi budget includes US$150 million to institute this program.
Militia will remain a problem as long as the public lacks confidence in the ability of the Iraqi Army and Police to adequately perform the protective role that militia claim in many communities. Establishing an effective DDR program will probably require technical assistance from the international community as well as broad support from within Iraq. In addition, the extent of the Iraqi public's commitment to such a program is unclear. In Baghdad, a majority of residents report that militias act in the best interest of the Iraqi people. On a positive note, only 20% of respondents held this view nationwide.4
Overall Assessment of the Security Environment
The overall level of violence in Iraq this quarter remained similar to the previous reporting period but shifted location. Insurgents and extremists are unable to operate as freely in Baghdad because of FAQ and in Anbar Province because of growing tribal opposition to AQI. Accordingly, many insurgents and extremists have moved operations to Diyala, Ninewa, and the outlying areas of Baghdad Province. Outside Baghdad and Anbar, reductions in Coalition force presence and reliance upon local Iraqi security forces have resulted in a tenuous security situation. Sectarian violence and insurgent attacks still involve a very small portion of the population, but public perceptions of violence have adversely affected reconciliation and contribute to population migration. Early indications are that sectarian killings have declined (albeit possibly temporarily) in Baghdad and that some Sunni tribes in Anbar Province will no longer tolerate AQI operations. Continued operations should build upon these encouraging signs.
The conflict in Iraq remains complex and requires that the GoI and the Coalition continue to undercut the root causes throughout the country. FAQ demonstrates that some positive changes in the dynamics that perpetuate violence may be possible, but more time, and careful analysis will be required before conclusions about the effectiveness of this effort can be reached. Some preliminary results include a significant increase in the number of caches cleared (reaching a 12-month high in April) and a significant reduction in sectarian murders and executions nationwide.
Assessment of the Security Environment- Baghdad
Baghdad is the center of gravity in the struggle for political and economic influence in Iraq for irreconcilable violent groups. Although it is still too early to assess whether a sustainable trend is emerging, attacks in Baghdad declined as Coalition and Iraqi force presence expanded while Sunni insurgent groups and Shi'a militants departed or refrained from operations. Despite the departure of large numbers of JAM fighters from Baghdad, JAM has continued to act as a de-facto government in Sadr City. Although sectarian-motivated Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence has declined in Baghdad, violence against Coalition and Iraqi security forces remained consistent with previous levels. Despite heightened security measures and increased ISF proficiency at reducing civilian casualties from sectarian murders and executions, AQI maintained the ability to conduct infrequent, high-profile, mass-casualty attacks in Baghdad.
Assessment of the Security Environment- Western Iraq
AQI remains the primary threat to the security environment in Anbar Province, where it continues to target local ISF through use of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), suicide attacks, assassinations, and hit-and-run attacks to subvert and undermine governmental institutions. There are some early signs that are encouraging as Sunni tribal resistance to AQI along the Euphrates River Valley has grown, and combined with a robust ISF and Coalition presence in Fallujah and Ramadi, has begun to hinder AQI operations. However, local Sunni cooperation with and support to Coalition forces in Anbar Province is not uniform. Moreover, the Iraqi public in Western Iraq is increasingly willing to provide intelligence and report weapons caches. As part of the increase in force levels, 4,000 additional Marines are currently deploying into Anbar Province. These additional Marines, in conjunction with an expansion of the ISF, and aided by increasing tribal resistance to AQI, are pushing AQI out of many of the population centers, facilitating stability in large parts of the province. Although tribal resistance to AQI is a positive development in Anbar, insurgent groups continue to attack Coalition and ISF targets in other areas in western Iraq, excluding Anbar.
The recent success of tribal engagement in Anbar Province is primarily driven by a concerted campaign of widespread contact with the Anbar tribes ranging from the Syrian border to Baghdad. The Sahawa al- Iraqi (SAI), formerly known as Sahawa al- Anbar, an anti-AQI tribal movement led by 41-year-old Sheikh Abdul Sattar Bezea Fitikhan al-Rishawi, claims 24 tribes as organizational members. Primarily Ramadicentric, SAI is representative of the capabilities of tribal alliances to assist the Coalition in fighting AQI and other resistance elements. Though notable for its contributions to fighting AQI, the SAI is not alone in tribal efforts to eradicate AQI. Large and influential tribes, such as the Albu Mahal, Albu Nimr, and Albu Issa, have also actively opposed AQI.
Assessment of the Security Environment- Central/Northern Iraq
Outside of Baghdad, this reporting period saw increased inter-sectarian violence in Diyala, increased high-profile attacks in northern Iraq by AQI, and Coalition and Iraqi forces confronting the JAM-the Shi'a militia associated with the radical cleric Muktada-al Sadr-in Diwaniyah. Ongoing ethnic and sectarian violence in central and northern Iraq is a reflection of AQI and JAM elements competing for political control of Diyala Province-particularly as some of the Baghdad militia fighters moved to the province. On a positive note, there are initial signs that some tribes in Diyala are discussing ways of countering AQI. Coalition forces are using lessons learned in tribal engagement in Anbar to help reconciliation efforts in areas such as Abu Ghraib, Samara and Bayji. In Ninewa Province, Mosul is AQI's northern strategic base and serves as a way-station for foreign fighters entering from Syria. There, insurgent and terrorist groups have increased the frequency and intensity of attacks on the local police. AQI's efforts to reignite sectarian violence in Tal'Afar through high-profile attacks against civilians reflects its desire to undermine stability along sectarian fault lines and deepen the conflict in Iraq. Coalition forces deployed to Baqubah in mid-March and local ISF units have been unable to diminish rising sectarian violence contributing to the volatile security situation.
AQI has shifted some of its focus to the north. This is due in part to expanded Coalition and Iraqi operations in Baghdad and the rise of ethnic tensions in Kirkuk. These tensions may mount as property is reallocated to Kurds displaced under the previous regime's Arabization programs and as the prospect of a census and referendum on Kirkuk's status looms. Kurdish and Sunni Arab concerns about fair distribution of hydrocarbon revenues also could exacerbate tensions.
Assessment of the Security Environment- Kurdish Region
The overall security situation is stable in Dahuk, Irbil, and Sulaymaniyah, and several foreign countries are establishing consulates and pursuing oil and energy business interests in the Kurdish region. However, the attack on May 9 against the Kurdish Ministry of Interior in Irbil demonstrates that AQI maintains its ability to strike in the Kurdish region. Violence occurs mostly in outlying areas near the border with Iran. Traditional conflicts with Ansar al-Sunnah (AS) have ebbed and flowed in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) region since the mid- 1990's. The newly formed Brigades of Kurdistan announced their intent to attack the Kurdish government but the capabilities of the group is unknown. While AQI's increased presence in northern Iraq is of growing concern, AQI largely conducts its anti-Kurdish operations in Kirkuk and Mosul, rarely venturing to more remote areas in the region in large part due to the presence of Kurdish security forces.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has provided relatively good governance over the three Kurdish provinces. The existence of the Kongra Gel (KGK) and the potential for border skirmishes with Turkey or Iran, and in the case of the KGK, possible cross-border operations by the Turkish Army, are issues that could increase tensions in the Kurdish region
Assessment of the Security Environment- Southern Iraq
The security situation in southern Iraq is characterized by competition between various Shi'a militia, factions, tribes and organized criminals aligned with various parties positioning themselves for greater influence over local authorities and resources. Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (formerly SCIRI) (SIIC) maintains a strong political presence in the south. Increased political competition between SIIC and the Office of Martyr Sadr (OMS), the political arm of JAM, has resulted in clashes between their respective armed wings, the Badr Organization and JAM. Some JAM members relocated to the south in response to FAQ in Baghdad, further empowering JAM in confrontations with both Badr and provincial authorities. In Basrah Province, the OMS and the governing Fadilah Party vie for dominance over local economic activity, adding to the intra-Shi'a violence. This intra- Shi'a violence has contributed to a significant increase in attacks against Coalition forces in Basrah and an observed greater hostility towards Coalition presence, as well as highlighted the failure of the Iraqi police to challenge Shi'a militants in southern Iraq. In Diwaniyah, however, a reported increase in JAM presence and aggression prompted local officials to request military action to lessen JAM's influence and local control. Relatively little AQI activity has been observed in southern Iraq.
Overall Attack Trends and Violence
For this report, the term "attacks" refers to specific incidents reported in the Multi-National Corps-Iraq Significant Activities Database. It includes known attacks on Coalition forces, Iraqi forces, the civilian population and infrastructure. Attacks typically involve improvised explosive devices; small arms, including sniper fire; and indirect fires. Not all civilian casualties are observed by or reported to Coalition forces; as a result, these data only provide a partial picture of the violence experienced by Iraqis.
The aggregate level of violence in Iraq remained relatively unchanged during this reporting period. Violence has decreased in the Baghdad security districts and Anbar, but has increased in most provinces, particularly in the outlying areas of Baghdad Province and Diyala and Ninewa Provinces. Since January 2007, Coalitionreported murders in Baghdad proper have decreased by 51% as militia activity was disrupted by security operations. Throughout Iraq, the total number of attacks on Coalition forces, the ISF, and Iraqi civilians increased by 2% in the February through May reporting period compared with the previous quarter. High-profile attacks, usually conducted by AQI, are now causing more casualties in Baghdad than do murders by militia, criminals, or other armed groups. Spectacular attacks on historical and significant infrastructure (such as Baghdad bridges and the Parliament building) seek to discredit FAQ, the Coalition presence, and the GoI, rather than create casualties. In Anbar province, anti-AQI sentiment is widespread, with growing tribal influence as the primary driver of decreasing violence levels. The total number of attacks in Anbar has dropped 34% since December 2006, with Ramadi-where attacks are at a two-year low-accounting for the largest decline in violence levels. Attacks in Anbar have dropped from 35 per day in the previous reporting period to just under 26, dipping below average daily attacks in Salah ad Din Province.
Less encouraging, the number of suicide attacks across Iraq increased from 26 in January to 58 in March and remained constant at 58 in April. During the reporting period, the average number of improvised explosive devices found and cleared increased 15% from the previous quarter, and the average number of vehicleborne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) found and cleared rose by 69%. These gains are likely due to increased civilian cooperation and interdiction of the networks conducting these attacks. The majority of overall attacks continue to occur against Coalition forces, while the ISF and civilians continue to suffer the majority of casualties. Consistent with previous reporting periods, most attacks occurred in Baghdad, Anbar, Salah ad Din, and Diyala provinces. Explosively formed projectile attacks were at an all-time high in April.
Public Perceptions of Security
Public perception of security is shaped by the confidence the people have in the government and its security forces, as well as the perception they have of neighborhood safety. On security, Iraqis continue to feel more positive at the local level than they do at the national level.5 The perceptions of safety inside and outside neighborhoods correlate with their perception of local and national tensions.6 Within Baghdad, the Joint Security Stations contribute to this improvement by providing local tip hotlines, and local security force responsiveness to these calls provide tangible, visible proof that the security forces are responsible to and for the people. These actions may contribute to the continued support for the dissolution of militias, not only in Baghdad, but nationwide as well.7
The differences between local and national perceptions indicate that it is easier to affect local views through localized actions than general views through news of operations taking place elsewhere.
Although slower to adjust, national perceptions showed improvement in March as confidence in the GoI's ability to improve the security environment reached its highest level (63%) in the previous twelve months. Although this confidence declined in April, it remained above the twelve-month average.8 Iraqi recognition of the initial successes of FAQ in Baghdad has led to similar plans and operations being adopted by Mosul and by Diwaniyah Province. These and other actions by the GoI are reflected in public opinion, and twice as many people agree than disagree that the government is leading the country in the right direction.9 Additionally, public perception of the Iraqi Security Force has improved due to their increased interaction with the local populace through initiatives such as the Joint Security Stations.10,11,12
The conflict in Iraq is a struggle among ethno-sectarian, criminal, and terrorist groups to wrest political and economic power from the democratically elected government. The situation in Iraq remains complex, with each region of the country posing different security challenges. Although Iraqi and Coalition forces have had initial success at reducing sectarian violence in Baghdad, it will be months before a trend emerges indicating whether the New Way Forward and the FAQ are sufficient to enable Iraqi leaders to advance key political goals including national reconciliation.
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