There was a big battle in Diyala on Friday. Depending on how you look at it, it was a great victory or a shattering defeat.
BAGHDAD - Coalition forces supported by aircraft killed at least 25 people early Friday. U.S. military officials said the dead were members of a radical Shiite Muslim group backed by Iran, but an Iraqi government official said they were armed civilians.
It was one of the biggest firefights in Iraq this year.
The coalition troops were in Diyala province west of the provincial capital, Baqubah, seeking a leader of the so-called Special Groups when they came under attack, said Maj. Winfield Danielson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. He declined to identify the unit involved or its nationality.
The Special Groups started as part of the Mahdi Army militia, controlled by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. But when Sadr ordered a cease-fire, the Special Groups ignored it and continued attacking U.S. troops. American military officials have said Iran's elite Quds Force supports the group with weapons, money and training.
Falih al-Fayadh, the director of an office that represents the prime minister in the province, said that more than 20 people had been wounded Friday and that the dead and wounded were residents who'd often been attacked by terrorists.
The locals fired first, Fayadh said, but only because they mistook the soldiers -- who came about dawn -- for insurgents. Those killed included two women and a child, he said.
"There was clearly a problem with the coordination between the coalition commanders and local police," Fayadh said.
It’s questionable whether the locals really thought the troops – described as “coalition” rather than American, were insurgents, given the fact that American soldiers have been heavily involved in combat in this area for months. However, Mr Fayadh’s statement about a lack of coordination has two clues: some of the attackers were likely Iraqi Army or National Police (“coalition”), and the local police aren’t being told about these operations because they’re more effective if there is no advance notice.
There had to have been Americans involved though, for air assets to be brought in so quickly. And that is the problem: depend on it that those 25 dead people were not all resistance, despite MAJ Danielson’s assurances. We have seen that Viet Nam rules apply in Iraq.
Blue Girl hits a key point, saving me some heavy lifting:
The use of air strikes in a counterinsurgency is a deadly serious act. It is always seen as a desperate, last-ditch effort of an army that is losing. Air power, when you are the only side that has it, means asymmetric warfare, and asymmetric warfare is nowhere near a stand-up fight. I would even go so far as to argue that the recent reliance on air power is indicative of the failure of the so-called Surge™.
Right out of the gate, it indicates that we are facing an enemy that, all things being equal, would possibly give us a run for our money in a stand-up fight – indeed, they are managing to almost do so in a bug hunt. As the insurgents develop strategic and tactical approaches to engage the occupiers, all indicators point to increasing effectiveness among the insurgent fighters.
At least that is the impression taken away by the local populations left to clean up the mess and bury the dead.
When fighting insurgents or guerrillas, the moment you kill an innocent civilian you have lost moral superiority, and that is all you have unless you want to fight to the last. You may think (or pretend) that civilian was somehow involved in resistance, but the locals know best, and you’ve just created more resisters.
When the warmongers and chickenhaws get in front of the cameras on your teevee, and insist we are "winning" because “We haven’t lost a single battle!” they aren’t really shooting straight.
The pitched battles will always go to the Americans, because the Americans can call in the air strikes.
Coalition forces. Will. Never. Lose. A. Battle.
We never lost a battle in Viet Nam, either. Notice who garrisons the country though.