Special Forces

SPECIAL FORCES….Ann Scott Tyson has a depressing story in the Washington Post today about a conflict between Special Forces troops and regular Army troops in the volatile Anbar region of Iraq. Her focus is on operations in the town of Hit:

The conflict in the Anbar camp, while extreme, is not an isolated phenomenon in Iraq, U.S. officers say. It highlights two clashing approaches to the war: the heavy focus of many regular U.S. military units on sweeping combat operations; and the more fine-grained, patient work Special Forces teams put into building rapport with local leaders, security forces and the people ? work that experts consider vital in a counterinsurgency.

“This war was fought with a conventional mind-set. The conventional units are bogged down in cities doing the same old thing,” said the Special Forces team’s 44-year-old sergeant, who like all the Green Berets interviewed was not allowed to be quoted by name for security reasons. “It’s not about bulldozing Hit, driving through with a tank, with all the kids running away. . . . These insurgencies are defeated by personal relationships.”

Read the whole thing for more. There’s obviously a personality clash of some kind here, and it may well be that the Special Forces guys have made some mistakes. Still, this is not an isolated case and the broader picture the article describes is one of the reasons I gave up some time ago on the idea that we had any chance of succeeding in Iraq.

Think about it: three years after the invasion we still have widespread opposition to counterinsurgency methods in the most volatile region in the country. That’s nuts. If the past three years isn’t enough to convince every general officer in the Army that counterinsurgency is the only way to make progress in Iraq, what’s it going to take?

Of course, the other reason to be skeptical is that even if the Army brass figured this out, we don’t have anywhere near enough trained troops to conduct a serious counterinsurgency anyway. As near as I can tell, we’re not much farther along today than we were in 2003, which is why you read and hear endlessly about our great counterinsurgency success in Tal Afar. It’s because it’s practically the only one we’ve got.