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Army Col. Stephen Twitty at the Blogger's Roundtable

We talked to the commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav, Multinational Division-North.  The transcript is here.  There are several important exchanges on IO, measures of effectiveness for the counterinsurgency strategy and how it is tracking (short version:  according to current MoE, very well), and more in the extended entry.

By the way, if you're reading along, there's an exchange at the start where the Colonel is correcting how his name is pronounced.  It's Colonel 'ste-FAHN' Twitty, which the transcript doesn't make clear.  Since it was important enough to him to correct it, I figured you'd like to know.

The Colonel starts by noting that the number of attacks have dropped from 15-18 in January, to 10-13 by March, to about 7-9 today.  He attributes the decrease to successes training Iraqi Police and Army units, and the aggressive operations against insurgency groups -- especially al Qaeda.

Bill Roggio asked a question about the AQI leadership in the area, which the Colonel could not answer in detail for security reasons.  He did mention that the last large-scale VBIED attack was in May, which seems to have been a cooperative effort by Ansar al-Sunnah, and various insurgent groups who were coordinated by al Qaeda in Iraq.

I asked him what MoE he was using to track success in the region, and how those tracks were leading.  He said:

Here are a couple of things.  First of all, we're getting ready to stand up 3,000 new Iraqi police in Mosul.  We're getting ready to stand up one battalion in the 2nd Iraqi Army Division that will be in Mosul, and we're getting ready to stand up two Iraqi battalions in the 3rd Iraqi Army.  And here's a couple of reasons why we're standing these up. 

First of all, the Sunnis that have largely been left out of the Iraqi security forces have now come to me and said, "Hey, I want to be a part of the police, and I want to be a part of the Army."  These units were supposed to grow anyway.  We're ensuring that all these elements that we're standing up -- we're ensuring that they're predominantly Sunni.  And this is part of a reconciliation package that we're putting together, because this is what the people want.

This province is 45 percent Sunni, 40 percent Kurds, 10 percent other -- Yezidi, Chrisitans and so forth.  But when you look at the Iraqi army, it's predominantly Kurds.  So we have to change that and bring the Sunnis in as part of the Iraqi security forces.

We will stard opening up the polls here in the 3rd Iraqi Army on the 29th.  I've met with the various sheikhs, and it's been overwhelming the amount of names they've given.  We will grow these battalions [overnight] based on the sheikhs committed to providing these names....

So that is the measure of effectiveness -- this is what the people want.  Here we're opening up these venues, the police and the army, to provide for you.  The measure of effectiveness is now, okay, come to the table and join.

The second measure of effectiveness is the HUMINT reporting, the human intelligence.  We've seen a huge increase in the amount of human intelligence that we're getting in order to fight this insurgency.  That was not the case when we first got here.  And the reason for that is the attacks that happened on 15 May with al Qaeda.  In my view, the people got fed up with those, and they started turning that.  And we took advantage of that, and we started an aggressive campaign to counter with information operations and our own OPTEMPO operations that we conducted.

Matt Armstrong of Mountain Runner asked a very good question about those IO mentioned by the Colonel.  "How are you managing information poerations to get the word out [about the successes with the Iraqi security forces, etc]?  And do you have any examples of proactive or preemptive IO?"

The colonel answered that he has focused a lot of attention and time on talking to the shiekhs.  "We must get the sheikhs involved not only in the security process, and I will," he said.  "We also get them involved in our own IO campaign.  And I meet with the sheikhs intensively to ensure they hear the good, the bad, and the ugly, and that we get the word out of the things that we're doing project wise, that we get the word out of who we're fighting in terms of whether it's al Qaeda or Ansar al-Sunna and so forth."

There is no doubt that engaging the tribal machinery to work IO is a wonderful idea, if it works.  I wonder if there are MoE on that as well -- that is, if we have the ability to track what the sheikhs tell their people to any degree, or if we're using reflected MoE like increases in cooperation and recruitment for this process also.  I would think it would be relatively hard to get direct information on this.  You could create agents within the community, and cross reference what they were telling you to make sure they weren't using their conduit to you to manipulate your understanding.  That would be an intensive process, however, so we're probably relying on the reflected measures.

The Colonel also added that there was an aggressive IO campaign in Mosul and other cities in his area to communicate directly with the people, and that they were buying sat TV for the area so that broadcasts from the central government would be received by the populace.

That is important as well -- it will be beneficial both for the central government and for the local population, if the government can talk to them, have its message heard, and follow through.  That last part has been the rub for the central government all along, and we didn't touch on it much here one way or the other.  The MoE we have, however, seem to be tracking well in the province.