By Seaman William Selby, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 21, 2008 - Al Qaeda terrorists and other Iraqi insurgents are "off balance" in Iraq, an Army counterinsurgency expert said yesterday. In a teleconference with online journalists and "bloggers," Army Col. Daniel S. Roper, director of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., said he welcomed the opportunity to explain that counterinsurgency isn't just a military strategy.
"It is not just done by soldiers and Marines," he said. "Counterinsurgency is part of a broader effort and, therefore, we think it's extremely important to have opportunities like this to discuss counterinsurgency, so maybe we reach some audiences that may believe this is just a military operation."
Roper said coalition forces need to follow six lines of effort to be successful fighting insurgents:
-- Integrating various counterinsurgency initiatives;
-- Researching best practices to prepare for the future;
-- Improving doctrine;
-- Working on professional military education for soldiers and Marines;
-- Advising leaders and organizations; and
-- Conducting outreach to other military and civilian entities.
Roper, one of the Army's top counterinsurgency experts, recently made two trips to Iraq to assess the situation on the ground.
"In August and September, I was over in Iraq, primarily looking at operational level integration, ... meaning looking at different headquarters that have some responsibility with respect to the counterinsurgency effort," he said. "When I went back in the months of October and November, the focus was more on the tactical application of the counterinsurgency."
Al Qaeda is now off balance due to the implementation of the counterinsurgency initiatives and the surge of troops, Roper said.
"There was a noticeable, marked increase in momentum in coalition operations across the force," Roper said. "And it was due partially to the increase in forces that were on the ground." Iraqi security forces and local citizens stepping up to fight terrorism and secure their neighborhoods also contributed to the shift in momentum, he added.
"The general Iraqi population was tired of the guys that would come into the neighborhood and cause bad things to happen," he said. "They knew they couldn't trust them."
The bottom line, he said, is that collectively, coalition forces, Iraqi security forces and concerned local citizens were working together to secure Iraq.
While he was in Iraq, Roper said, the most astonishing development he noticed was how increasingly focused on success coalition forces were.
"They weren't saying 'winning'; they were saying 'succeeding,' because ultimately, winning or losing is a political decision of all parties involved," he explained.
Roper said he also was impressed with how junior leaders would go from one end of the operation spectrum to the other, depending on the needs and requirements of the mission.
"Guys who had been kicking in doors a month prior to me getting in their particular neighborhood were describing how they had evolved to get into the soft-knock scenario, and spent more time passing out candy and playing with the kids in the street than they did firing their weapons," Roper said.
While the military part of the counterinsurgency effort is helping to bring about progress, more needs to happen in other aspects, the colonel said.
"The full integration of all elements of our national power and our capability hasn't made its way to the ground to the degree that's necessary to fight and succeed, in a sustained manner, a comprehensive (counterinsurgency) operation," Roper said.
(Navy Seaman William Selby works for the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)