(CNSNews.com) - Indirect attacks on al Qaeda involving the smart use of alliances helped turn the tide in Iraq’s Anbar Province and other key regions of the country, an analyst with the Rand Corporation told members of Congress in testimony.
Although detailed studies have focused on some of the dynamics that spur individuals and groups to resort to terrorism, very little work has been done on exploring how terrorism is brought to an end, Seth Jones, a Rand expert with Georgetown University, told members of Congress.
Jones testified before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities last Thursday.
After examining 648 terrorist groups that were in operation between 1968 and 2006, Jones concluded that there were two primary factors in involved in breaking up terrorist groups: the members decided to choose politics over violence; or intelligence agencies either arrested or killed group leaders.
“Direct military force is not the answer from what we found in our study,” Jones told CNSNews.com. “In the Anbar Province, for example, we found that it was really indirect U.S. activity, not direct military power, that helped to reverse the situation.”
Although many of the Sunni leaders in the Anbar Province initially were opposed to the presence of U.S. forces, they also were leery of a theocratic ideology that could usurp tribal authority, Jones explained in testimony. The brutality of al Qaeda ultimately drove them in the direction of the U.S., he said.
The sheiks encouraged their young tribal men to join up with the police forces in Anbar and in other towns throughout the province, and in return, they received U.S. protection, according to Jones’s testimony. It took several months for this alliance to form, but by the end of 2006 and beginning of 2007 it was becoming more potent, Jones indicated.
The Ramadi police force doubled in size from 4,000 to 8,000 in December 2006 and in the western part of Anbar, the number of police went from nearly zero to 3,000, Jones’s testimony states.
A certain willingness to fight became evident in August 2006 when a sizable number of police officers in Fallujah remained home and on the job, despite threats from al Qaeda, the testimony noted.
“Sunni groups did the bulk of the work, not U.S. military forces,” Jones said. “The U.S. part of the bargain was to provide intelligence to Sunni groups and protection to the sheiks and their entourage, most visibly by parking a tank outside their compounds. The sheiks, in turn, promised to persuade tribal members to join the police forces of Ramadi and other Anbar towns.”
As CNSNews.com previously reported, there has been a remarkable turnaround in U.S. casualties in the Anbar Province in 2008.
U.S. casualties in Anbar peaked in November and December of 2004 and January of 2005, during a U.S. offensive aimed at Sunni insurgents and terrorists who were then occupying the city of Fallujah, a Cybercast News Service analysis of Defense Department data shows. The U.S. offensive there began on November 8, 2004.
That month, U.S. forces suffered more than 300 casualties in Anbar. In December 2004, U.S. forces suffered more than 100 casualties in Anbar. In January 2005, they suffered 53.
U.S. casualties in the province were never that high again, although they reached a secondary peak in the late fall of 2006, before the surge began, with Anbar casualties going as high as 45 that December.
In the first five months of 2008 combined, there have been 14 U.S. casualties in Anbar, according to U.S. Defense Department reports. That is a decline of 89 percent from the 124 casualties that took place in Anbar in the first five months of 2007, according to the Cybercast News Service analysis.
U.S. casualties in Anbar in the first five months of 2006 and 2005 held steady at 116 and 115, respectively. In 2004, there were 108 U.S. casualties in Anbar during the same January-to-May period.
There were 51 U.S. casualties in Anbar during all of 2003, the first year of the war.
In response to the results Jones spelled out in his study, some committee members suggested that a greater premium should be placed on unconventional methods that have proved fruitful in Iraq.
“I believe the key is to fight smarter, not necessarily harder, by more effectively utilizing a broader range of tools beyond just the military-led, kinetic approaches to counter-terrorism,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the committee chairman said.
“That means we must more aggressively pursue strategic communications strategies, intelligence and policing work, targeted development assistance, and a range of other counterinsurgency and irregular warfare tools.”