Electronic Warfare and the Iraq Surge
In 2007, the President of the United States unveiled a new strategy of the country in Iraq, which was unofficially called the Surge. The core of the operation lied in the need to increase the American contingent in Iraq (King, 2016). During his speech to the American people, the president stressed that the main reasons for the previous failures were the lack of troops and insufficient freedom of action of the American command. The purpose of the paper is to analyze the 2007 Surge and reflect on its contribution to today’s military operations.
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It is worth noting that the basis of the strategy was the additional entry of 20 thousand troops into Iraq. The main innovation proposed by the US authorities was a new set of military and police measures. Up to this point, the policy of the occupation forces in Iraq could be characterized by sufficient passivity (King, 2016). The troops that were in the country at that time spent most of the time at the base since they needed to protect themselves from terrorist attacks. Moreover, operations outside the base walls (such as patrolling, working at stationary checkpoints, and so on) were minimized. Many people criticized the strategy for concentrating on protecting the US own units, which led to the physical and psychological separation of America from the people of the country which it sought to protect.
The new strategy included measures to reduce the use of aircraft in the fight against militants. The leadership decided to resort to these measures since the widespread use of aviation led to unreasonably large casualties among the civilian population (King, 2016). The task of the command was to expand the land-based infrastructure for the protection of the territory, especially in Baghdad and in regions of the country with high terrorist activity. For this reason, it was necessary to carry out temporary reinforcements, and additional troops consisting of 20,000 soldiers entered the country (King, 2016). Such measures were supposed to stabilize the situation and provide an opportunity to regain control over the setting. In 2007, a peak of hostilities was observed in Iraq with the greatest losses among foreign troops. However, after the Surge, a sharp stabilization and reduction of losses among military and civilians were noted. Moreover, the intensity of hostilities and the level of terrorist activity in Baghdad have significantly decreased.
To implement the strategy, several individuals were appointed to leadership positions. In particular, John M. McConnell was appointed US National Intelligence Director, and Navy Admiral William Fallon took over as a commander of the unified armed forces command organization. In addition, General David Petraeus became the Commander of Multinational Force Iraq. The number of brigades functioning in the area was extended to 20. These included airborne, mountain, and infantry divisions; marines were also deployed and took part in the activities (Minkov & Tikuisis, 2016). The army personnel was extended to include up to 150,000 people. It is important that the strengthening of the contingent was to last for quite a long time. Unlike previous strategies in which US troops would leave the areas cleared of militants, the Surge campaign stipulated that they would remain on the territory for continued security (Minkov & Tikuisis, 2016). Iraqi insurgents reacted to the Surge plan by announcing the start of their own operation, which aimed to force the US government to sign a surrender act.
During the Surge, the average monthly boots on the ground indicator reached the number of 148,300. The Brigade Combat Teams were extended from 15 to 20 units. These measures were essential for realizing the counter-insurgency policy of the US (Minkov & Tikuisis, 2016). Interestingly, the process of extending the size of troops occurred within seven months, and then troops were gradually decreased. This approach allowed reaching an increase of 30,000 and boosting troop strength up to 243,000.
The timeline of the 2007 Surge entails series of steps. In June 2006, the leader of al Qaeda was killed by the American side. During the autumn winter, several operations were repeatedly launched by the US but failed (King, 2016). In January 2007, President Bush gave a public speech during which he announced the initiation of the Surge, and later that month, outposts were located in Baghdad. Next month, the US forces launched the first operation attempting to secure Baghdad. During March-June, Brigade Combat Teams and divisions arrived in Iraq, and counter-insurgency activities were implemented to the full extent (King, 2016). In August, forces launched Operation Phantom Strike through the additional military. In 2008, the final operations were held, and the brigades were gradually withdrawn from the location.
The mission of the campaign underwent significant alterations under the leadership of General Petraeus. The core of the strategy lied in the need to get the hearts and minds of the local people. This was to be achieved through building relationships, averting causalities, and protecting people instead of killing insurgents. Since the greatest percentage of violence was observed in Baghdad, it was decided to locate troops there (Minkov & Tikuisis, 2016). Previously, during earlier operations, Coalition forces distanced themselves from the local people and lived in isolated bases. During the Surge, units were interacting with the population uninterruptedly to establish a long-term relationship through improved security.
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Curiously, one of the main deployment strategies was the introduction and initialization of new technologies. The core of the approach was to disrupt the communication networks of the insurgent commanders. Such tools as Suter network exploitation programs were effective in hearing the interlocutors and checking the enemy’s sensors. Apart from that, various updated technological solutions and devices were used (Minkov & Tikuisis, 2016). Prowler electronic attack planes were helpful in catching and disrupting signals that were sent to explosive devices, especially to those along convoy routes. These systems were actively used to manipulate sent and received signals (Minkov & Tikuisis, 2016). Other defensive approaches included the application of such systems as the Shortstop Electronic Protection System. It was used as part of preventive measures to protect the US forces from artillery and mortar fire.
To detect and identify enemy emitters such as radios and phones, targeting tools were employed. For instance, L-3 Communications’ Network-Centric Collaborative Targeting system was utilized by the US forces to handle explosive devices. Suter programs were particularly effective in terms of localizing antennas (Minkov & Tikuisis, 2016). The US side could embed into the commanders’ interaction without being spotted. Interestingly, the program was used for both hand-held and aid defense technologies. One of the adversities of which the US electronic warfare came across was the fact that the territory was electronically polluted, which complicated the use of technologies discussed above (Minkov & Tikuisis, 2016). Some of the devices would conflict with one another, causing interference. To resolve this problem, the units placed antennas higher than usual. For advanced enemy technologies, the US also used more complex devices and systems (Kaempf, 2018). Warlock Duke was introduced to catch malicious signal and disrupt specific types of devices through a series of jamming responses. This measure was particularly useful in disrupting the activities of insurgents who exploded roadside bombs.
The factors of urban terrain and weather were of great importance for operations, and they influenced the nature and effectiveness of the actions of American troops directly. The terrain was analyzed according to the OAKOC (observation and fields of fire, avenues of approach, key terrain, obstacles, and cover and concealment) method. The main strategies of guerrilla warfare during the Surge were terrorist attacks, attacks by maneuverable combat groups, and the use of improvised explosive devices (Kaempf, 2018). All this posed a serious problem for the United States and coalition forces, so the OAKOC method contributed to the determination of the correct strategic points significantly. Based on the results of the analysis, typical installation sites for improvised explosive devices were identified (Kaempf, 2018). In particular, these were bridges and passages, roads, areas where equipment slowed down, areas of the terrain that provide masking to installers of explosive devices. In this regard, it is crucial to note that the weather factor influenced both the visibility of explosive devices and targets and the choice of location for their installation.
In addition, it should be emphasized that the activities undertaken by the US Army were complicated by terrorist attacks throughout the campaign. In general, the number of terrorist attacks began to increase, starting from 2003 until the second quarter of 2007. In 2007, more than 1.5 thousand people suffered as a result of the terrorist attack (King, 2016). In order to attack the Yezidis living in this territory, the terrorists used a fuel truck in combination with three other vehicles filled with explosives. Another instrument of warfare on the part of the partisans was targeted armed attacks and shelling of the enemy (King, 2016). Partisans fired at the enemy with 122mm rockets, mortar shells, and sniper shells. The actions of the insurgents were relatively effective due to the fact that the electronic circuits created by the partisan technicians did not respond to the operation of the electronic warfare equipment of the Americans in their usual ranges.
One of the main difficulties during the 2007 Surge was resistance from the side of the mobile partisan units. Despite the technical advantage and widespread use of electronic warfare, the US was not able to suppress the partisan movement in Iraq quickly (Minkov & Tikuisis, 2016). For this reason, the leaders had to resort to tactics that were based on strengthening military-police control over the occupied territory and intensifying patrols.
The effectiveness of the campaign was a subject of debate for many people. On the one hand, after the start of the operation, the death toll in Baghdad fell by almost half. The number of abductions and killings decreased, but such results were achieved at the cost of an increase in the loss of American troops (Minkov & Tikuisis, 2016). Moreover, outside of Baghdad, the number of victims of terrorist attacks has increased, and it can be assumed that security in Baghdad has been improved at the expense of other areas of the country. Some experts in the field also argue that, politically, the United States was defeated because, in the long term, it failed to build democracy in the country.
Nevertheless, despite the conflicting views of the effectiveness of the 2007 Surge, the operation allowed detecting some tactical and technological features that accompanied the fighting on the part of the groups opposing the coalition forces. For example, the command may take insurgent warfare tactics as the basis of their strategy or prevent the implementation of such a strategy by the enemy in the future. During the operation, partisan detachments avoided direct combat clashes with the regular army (Minkov & Tikuisis, 2016). Also, the partisans used all kinds of improvised explosive devices massively and carried out terrorist attacks against regular troops, other groups, and the civilian population (Minkov & Tikuisis, 2016). At the same time, they actively used simple technical resources as well as human resources, while civilians and culturally significant places were used as a kind of shield and means of information warfare (Kaempf, 2018). Therefore, with fairly small financial costs, operations based on insurgent tactics can be successfully carried out, which can be generally characterized as an effective asymmetric response.
Thus, it can be concluded that the Surge launched in 2007 in Iraq was an operation during which the US used updated and sophisticated electronic warfare and tactics. In addition, this was a series of events that provided crucial insights for the tactical groups and leadership. The main goal of the campaign – to reduce the death toll in Baghdad – was achieved. Nevertheless, opinions exist that the US has lost in a political battle while winning in a physical one.
Kaempf, S. (2018). Saving soldiers or civilians? Casualty-aversion versus civilian protection in asymmetric conflicts. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
King, E. G. (2016). Obama, the media, and framing the U.S. exit from Iraq and Afghanistan. New York, NY: Routledge.
Minkov, A., & Tikuisis, P. (2016). Revisiting the 2007 surge in Iraq. Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, 17(3), 37-72.