Sunday, June 13, 2004

Leadership of the Iraqi terrorists and failure of targeted air strikes (0 for 50)

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Errors Are Seen in Early Attacks on Iraqi Leaders

There's more interesting material in this NYT article than the title suggests.
June 13, 2004
Errors Are Seen in Early Attacks on Iraqi Leaders

...The strikes, carried out against so-called high-value targets during a one-month period that began on March 19, 2003, used precision-guided munitions against at least 13 Iraqi leaders, including Gen. Izzat Ibrahim, Iraq's No. 2 official, the officials said.

General Ibrahim is still at large, along with at least one other top official who was a target of the failed raids. That official, Maj. Gen. Rafi Abd al-Latif Tilfah, the former head of the Directorate of General Security, and General Ibrahim are playing a leadership role in the anti-American insurgency, according to a briefing document prepared last month by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

... A report in December by Human Rights Watch, based on a review of four strikes, concluded that the singling out of Iraqi leadership had "resulted in dozens of civilian casualties that the United States could have prevented if it had taken additional precautions."

... In retrospect, the failures were an early warning sign about the thinness of American intelligence on Iraq and on Mr. Hussein's inner circle. Some of the officials who survived the raids, including General Ibrahim, have become leaders of what the Defense Intelligence Agency now believes has been a planned anti-American insurgency, several intelligence officials said.

... An explicit account of the zero for 50 record in strikes on high-value targets was provided by Marc Garlasco, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who headed the joint staff's high-value targeting cell during the war. Mr. Garlasco is now a senior military analyst for Human Rights Watch, and he was a primary author of the December report, "Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq."...

... An unclassified analysis prepared last month by the Defense Intelligence Agency and obtained by The New York Times describes Mr. Ibrahim as having "assumed Saddam's duties" as the titular head of the insurgency after Mr. Hussein's capture. It lists General Tilfah, a cousin of Mr. Hussein's, as one of the leaders of former government leaders involved in the insurgency.

General Moseley, the top Air Force commander during the war who is now the Air Force vice chief of staff, said in the interview last summer that commanders were required to obtain advance approval from Mr. Rumsfeld if any planned airstrike was likely to result in the deaths of 30 more civilians. More than 50 such raids were proposed, and all were approved, General Moseley said.

But raids considered time-sensitive, which included all of those on the high-value targets, were not subject to that constraint, according to current and former military officials. In part for that reason, the report by Human Rights Watch concluded, "attacks on leadership likely resulted in the largest number of civilian deaths from the air war."...

There were conflicting accounts about whether another Iraqi leader who is still at large, Col. Hani Abd al-Latif al-Tilfah, the director of the special security organization under Qusay Hussein, had been a target in the raids. The colonel, the brother of General Tilfah and another maternal cousin of Mr. Hussein, is listed by the D.I.A. as among the leaders of the insurgency.

...Another Iraqi leader from the top 55 list who is still at large and is identified in the D.I.A. report as a leader of the insurgency is Abd al-Baqi Abd al-Karim al Abdallah al-Sadun, chairman of the Baath Party regional command for Diyala...

A few interesting notes from this article.

1. Zero for 50 is a crummy record for leadership-target air strikes. I think the article is confused, however, as to whether the total includes all the leadership targets. The article seems to contradict itself.

2. Rumsfeld never declined when asked to authorize a raid that would likely kill over 30 civilians. Many would have been family members.

3. If Human Rights watch says only "dozens" of innocent civilians were killed then the air force did very well -- considering. Fifty times 30 is 1500.

4. The list of former government officials still at large and now running the insurgency is quite impressive. Are they in Falluja? Syria? One day we may know more. Ibrahim, General Tilfah, Colonel Tilfah, al-Sadun ...

5. The NYT is still calling the Iraqi bombers an "insurgency". I guess that's technically correct, but since terrorizing the Iraqi population is their primary modus operandi I'd say "terrorists" works too.

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