Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On Going Summer Offensive By Insurgents Shows Deadlock In Iraq’s Security Situation


Iraq’s insurgents are in the midst of their summer offensive. June 2012 saw a string of deadly attacks as a result. Despite all the press that generated, two out of three groups that recorded casualties in Iraq last month noted a decrease showing that there is not always a correlation between security incidents and fatalities. More importantly, recent events highlight the current deadlock in the country’s security situation. On the one hand, Al Qaeda in Iraq is trying to re-assert itself. On the other, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have returned to being a reactive, and often times repressive force. Neither side has the ability to win this struggle meaning that Iraq will continue to witness this level of violence.
Chart shows how Iraq Body Count and the United Nations' death figures follow the same pattern, while the government figures are not only far lower, but steadily decreasing likely due to official interference (Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction)

The Iraqi government said June was the deadliest month in two years, but that’s only because it has been underreporting casualties in the country. Baghdad said 324 people died last month, up from 131 in June. July had the highest official death count since August 2010’s 426. That compared to 436 by Iraq Body Count for July, which was down from 472 seen the month before. The United Nations had no new figures available, because its security webpage is down. Agence France Presse however, had 278 killed in July, a decrease from 282 in June. During July, it seemed like those last two groups would have coincided with the government’s numbers, because of a series of attacks. First, On July 3, there was a truck bombing in Diwaniya, Qadisiyah province that killed 40. With the usual fare of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and shootings, Iraq Body Count recorded an additional 20 deaths, for a total of 60 in just one day. That was overshadowed by July 23, when insurgents carried out at least 37 separate incidents across Baghdad, Salahaddin, Diyala, Ninewa, and Tamim governorates, which cost the lives of 115 people. Despite those two deadly days, Iraq Body Count and Agence France Presse’s death counts went down. While they cannot fully capture all of the security incidents in Iraq they have proven to be more reliable than the government’s. Since the end of 2010, Baghdad’s casualty statistics have been far below any others. That coincided with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki putting together a new ruling coalition after parliamentary elections that made him the acting Defense, Interior, and National Security Ministers. Officials have likely been keeping down the figures since then to make it seem like the premier has been securing the country. June 2012 was the first time since October 2010 that the government’s numbers have been in line with independent groups, which was why they claimed it was the most fatal in two years.

Deaths In Iraq 2011-2012
Month
Iraq Body Count
Iraqi Ministries
United Nations
Avg. Monthly Deaths
Avg. Daily Deaths
Jan. 2011
387
259
265
303
9.7
Feb.
250
167
267
228
8.1
Mar.
307
247
268
274
8.8
Apr.
285
211
279
258
8.6
May
378
177
319
291
9.3
Jun.
385
271
424
360
12.0
Jul.
305
259
381
315
10.1
Aug.
398
239
455
364
11.7
Sep.
394
185
405
328
10.9
Oct.
355
258
416
343
11.0
Nov.
272
187
264
241
8.0
Dec.
371
155
313
279
9.0
TOTALS
4,125
1,591
4,056
-
-
2011 Mo. Avg.
343
217
338
298
9.7
Jan. 2012
464
151
500
371
11.9
Feb.
293
150
254
232
8.0
Mar.
320
112
294
242
7.8
Apr.
309
126
320
251
8.3
May
220
132
332
228
7.3
Jun.
472
131
401
334
11.1
Jul.
436
325
N/A
380
12.2

The uptick by Iraq’s ministries accounted for the rise in monthly averages. In July, there was an average of 380 killed, up from June’s 334. Likewise, the number of daily deaths went from 11.1 in June to 12.2 in July. Again, those increases were due to Baghdad finally recording realistic figures.

Iraq’s on-going summer offensive is a sign of the stalemate between Iraq’s security forces and militants. First, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is trying to regain its former position. In July, the emir of Al Qaeda’s umbrella organization the Islamic State of Iraq announced a new campaign called “Breaking The Walls.” He said that his forces would target the government, seek to rebuild its ties with tribes, and return to its former strongholds. The insurgency overall has gotten a boost in manpower with the withdrawal of American forces in December 2011. They released thousands of prisoners, many of which went back to being militants, because they were committed to the cause or could not find a normal life. At the same time, the Iraqi Security Forces have returned to their traditional culture. Rather than conducting  counterinsurgency operations like they learned from the Americans, they are now more of a reactive force, carrying out mass arrests after attacks, and sometimes acting like armies of occupation in Sunni areas; tactics very much like those used in Saddam’s time. The on-going political crisis has also played its role as it has increased sectarian tensions and resentments, which militants have exploited for their own gain. All together, that means that the Iraqi army and police will be unable to prevent any major attacks even though they know the summer months bring them about. At the same time, Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent groups do not have ability to really challenge the government.

After the summer is over, attacks and deaths will go down in Iraq. The problem is that the routine will repeat itself next year, and the year after that until there is a change in the status quo. That will not come from the security forces that are set in their ways. Only the political class can bring about a real transformation. In 2009 and 2010, large numbers of Sunnis participated in elections after largely boycotting them in 2005. That led to a drop in casualties. Now, things are going in the other direction, as the ruling parties are moving farther and farther apart in their feud over the distribution of power, increasing ethnosectarian tensions. That growing resentment within the country, gives some the reason to fight rather than reconcile adding life to the insurgency. The problem for Iraq is that nothing looks to be changing the political deadlock, and in turn the security situation will not improve either.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraq says July deadliest month in nearly two years,” 8/1/12

Arango, Tim, “Dozens Killed in Rising Iraqi Violence, Including at Least 40 by Truck Bomb,” New York Times, 7/3/12

Ghazi, Yasir and Nordland, Rod, “Iraq Insurgents Kill at Least 100 After Declaring New Offensive,” New York Times, 7/23/12

Iraq Body Count

Al Jazeera, “Iraqi security officers killed in clashes,” 7/26/12

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraq president’s testimony rejected in trial of VP,” Associated Press, 7/24/12

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maliki is holding the security post (Interior,Defense and Inteligence)so we cant put most of the blame of the current security situation to the Americans gone...
Many wanted men have been reported captured in Maysan. Wanted Men are JAM and its gangs (Iranian proxies)? Here we must remember the deals between Maliki and the killers of Asaib Ahl al-Haq very active in Baghdad and in the South.
Insecurity as deadlock political agreements are playing cards for Maliki and his Iranian supporters to remain in power.
Biden must be very proud with his stable and friendly Iraq.

Joel Wing said...

Maliki is trying to court Asaib Ahl al-Haq to split the Sadrists, but I don't think that or any of the other Shiite militias has anything to do with the current security situation.

I don't think Maliki wants continued insecurity either. It hurts his image. Remember his list is called State of Law.

Anonymous said...

Yes State of Law...,keeping/black mailing with the arrest warrant of Moqtada Al Sadder (Al-Hoei killing..., with the secret jails in Green Zone...,threaten the judges to withdrawal their security if they not follow Maliki wishes...,giving safe heaven to Asaib Ahl al-Haq when they are responsibles of multiples killings in Maysan, Basra and Baghdad..., State of the Law where under its umbrella the torture is applied in daily basis...
Insecurity allow to postpone political decisions while Maliki keep the key security post.
Again please do you think Wanted Man reported captured are JAM...?

Joel Wing said...

I have no idea who's being arrested in Maysan. I haven't heard the Sadrists complaining about it so I doubt it's their followers.

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi said...

A couple of points:

1. I think an important distinction should be made between attacks on civilians versus attacks on government officials etc. The former still appear to be the work of ideological groups (e.g. AQI and Baathist Naqshibandi) that don't really care if there is an impasse in the political process.

If people were joining these groups because of the current political crisis, they would surely make clear their grievances vis-a-vis the political impasse, Maliki's autocratic tendencies inter alia. That said, the point about prisoners being released and re-joining such insurgent groups is valid: it does appear to have given them some new manpower and deadliness.

As for the latter type of attacks I mentioned, in my view these can be tied to politics. That political factions might use small armed militias against each other seems to be a perfectly legitimate supposition.

2. I don't see any evidence that the Iraqi security forces have 'reverted' to reactive tactics. For me this is a problem as deeply entrenched as that of torture by the security forces, which persisted throughout the course of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. In fact, even when it came to armed Shi'a groups like the Jund as-Samah, the military displayed the same heavy-handedness. According to the former national security advisor I spoke with, they simply wiped out the village where the cult originated wholesale.

If you have some information about how, if at all, the Iraqi security forces improved their tactics with the guidance of U.S. counter-insurgency instruction, I will be grateful to have a look.

In short, though, I agree with the basic point that violence is likely to remain at the current levels for quite some time.

Joel Wing said...

Aymenn,

I think the role the current political crisis plays in the security situation is that it causes resentment with all the sectarianism, and provides an environment in which insurgents can act. Meaning they can get some support from the public, people won't report them, etc.

2nd, yes, the assassination of government officials is likely done by a number of groups. Baghdad has officially blamed insurgents and militias, but political parites are likely involved in that as well. That being said those attempts are a relatively small amount of the overall attacks that happen each month and Al Qaeda in Iraq and Naqshibandi go after both civilians and government officials/security forces.

Finally, the U.S. was obviously not able to change the culture of the Iraqi security forces, but from the end of 2005 to 2009, the Iraqis were partnered up with U.S. units. There were joint operating bases, patrols, etc. During that period, the Iraqi forces were following the U.S. lead and doing counterinsurgency operations. That doesn't mean every unit was doing that and every unit had an American with them, but I would say most were for a time.

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