McCain and the Oil Spots
Senator John McCain has now jumped on the “oil-spot” bandwagon, urging that the US forces concentrate on making a handful of key cities safe rather than doing sweep and clear missions like Tal Afar and Husaybah.
Unfortunately, this strategy is impractical, even if the US put 10,000 more troops in, as McCain suggests.
First, the elected Iraqi government doesn’t want it. In fact, they have been pushing US and coalition troops out of the cities. They had nice ceremonies when Najaf, Karbala and Baghdad were “turned over” to Iraqi forces. Elected Iraqi politicians simply could not risk putting more foreign troops into a place like Baghdad– their constituents would rebel. Why does McCain not know this, if I do?
Second, do the math. Mosul is 1.1 million, Baghdad is about 6 million, Kirkuk is about a million. All are highly mixed ethnically, and all are tinderboxes. If you put 50,000 US troops into each of those three cities and just abandoned Anbar province, you still could not control them. The US troops can’t tell a guerrilla from an ordinary Iraqi. They cannot penetrate urban extended family networks or neighborhoods. Adhamiyah would be opaque to them. And having a military force in the capital that would be only 1 percent of the population would not be decisive in ending guerrilla actions. The patrols and house invasions and inspections would also turn more and more urban Iraqis against the US presence.
Where have I heard this theory of fighting wars before? Here is what an Afghan general and his coauthor said about Soviet tactics in Afghanistan:
“The Soviet concept for military occupation of Afghanistan was based on the following:
# stabilizing the country by garrisoning the main routes, major cities, airbases and logistics sites;
# relieving the Afghan government forces of garrison duties and pushing them into the countryside to battle the resistance;
# providing logistic, air, artillery and intelligence support to the Afghan forces;
# providing minimum interface between the Soviet occupation forces and the local populace;
# accepting minimal Soviet casualties; and,
# strengthening the Afghan forces, so once the resistance was defeated, the Soviet Army could be withdrawn.