Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Yikes! Iraqi Army troops mutiny, attack, and loot British base.

You know Our President frequently acuses the Media of Under--reporting the "good news" from Iraq, so in a gesture  a bi-partisan goodwillI thought I'd Share   This Story From Today's Washington Post  about The British Army's handover of one of their bases in southern Iraq, to Iraqi Army.

So how'd that go?

Maj. Charlie Burbridge, said the last of 1,200 troops left Camp Abu Naji,...., after several days of heavy mortar and rocket fire by a local militia,... the Sadr-controlled Mahdi Army

"This is the first Iraqi city that has kicked out the occupier!" trumpeted a message ...that played on car-mounted ...."We have to celebrate this occasion!"...

The withdrawal sparked wide-scale looting at the base then intense clashes late Thursday between Iraqi army forces guarding the camp and unknown attackers... the situation worsened when the 2nd Battalion of the Iraqi army's 4th Brigade mutinied and attacked a local military outpost

Yep. We'll be out of there any day now, Cleary.  

Even worse for our prospects of wrapping this up quickly is the reason the British handed over the base in the first place:

 Sadr's Speaker vans weren't far off.  The British commanders are trying to put the best face on it, but it's clear they feel that holding the base was simply too costly in the face of Militia attacks:

Burbridge acknowledged that constant shelling of the base in Amarah by militia forces, including 17 mortar rounds fired in recent days that wounded three people, were part of the reason the camp closed.

"By no longer presenting a static target, we reduce the ability of the militias to strike us," he said. But he rejected Sadr's claim that the British had been defeated and pushed out of Amarah. "It's very difficult to claim a victory without causing significant casualties."

Perhaps but in the "hearts and minds" of the locals, it apparently damn sure felt that way.

The mood was quite different in Amarah, where jubilant residents flocked to Sadr's office to offer their congratulations. Drivers in the street honked their car horns in celebration. Some prepared to take to the streets to rejoice.

"Today is a holiday in our province," said Abu Mustaffa, an unemployed 45-year-old from the city's al-Hussein district. "Thanks be to God!"

Meanwhile what happens to the British forces?  Well this is where the story gets REALLY interesting.   Basically the British have made the tactical decision to abandon the trappings of a First world cavalry unit, and trade them for  for the tactics and equipment of a Somali warlord's militia:

Adopting tactics used by a British special forces unit in North Africa during World War II, 600 of the soldiers plan to slip soon into the marshlands and deserts of eastern Maysan in an attempt to secure the Iranian border.

The British soldiers, members of the Queen's Royal Hussars,{ and really who HASN'T wanted to be a Royal Hussar at some time in their life?-ed}  are preparing to trade their heavy Challenger 2 tanks and Warrior fighting vehicles for lightweight Land Rovers, Burbridge said. They expect to become a flexible, mobile force with no fixed base and receive supplies by airdrops.

This would be an adaptation the tactics of the Famous Long Range Desert Group or "Mosquito Army" of WWII, who disrupted operations of the  Italian Army all over North Africa.

However effective as those tactics were, in that war; the decision to use them now is an acknowledgement of a HUGE shift in the reality on the ground in Iraq.

The repositioning is the first public acknowledgment that forces from the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq have entered into guerrilla warfare to combat the insurgents and militias they have been fighting for more than three years.

re-Read the Bold text carefully.  This is really important, as it represents a positively seismic shift in tactics from what we've been doing up until now.  

Militarily speaking, Guerilla tactics are extremely effective at dislodging an occupying army,  making ground simply too expensive to hold.  You do  NOT use those tactics when you ARE the occupying army because guerillas, by their very nature, cannot take and hold territory effectively.  

In adopting this strategy we've admitted, militarily at least, that we no longer control the country, the militias do..  The British have lowered their goals " from Pacifying the countryside and restoring civil order" to "trying to loosen the Militia's hold over the region".   By any realistic measure that's a HUGE step backward.  In fact a fair observer might even say it's a sign we are losing this war militarily, a previously unthinkable statement.

And the Official US reaction to this huge tactical shift and embarrassing base handover Debacle?:

Here is the  featured soloist of the US Cemetary Whistling Choir   giving his  bravura rendition of Denial Ain't Just a river:

In Baghdad, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East said a new security plan was helping to curb violence in the capital. "I believe there is a danger of civil war in Iraq, but only a danger. I think Iraq's far from it," Gen. John P. Abizaid told the AP. "I think that there's been great progress in the security front here recently in Baghdad."


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