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In the context of the Iraq War, the surge refers to United States President George W. Bush's 2007 increase in the number of American troops in order to provide security to Baghdad and Al Anbar Province.
The surge had been developed under the working title "The New Way Forward" and it was announced in January 2007 by Bush during a television speech. Bush ordered the deployment of more than 20,000 soldiers into Iraq, five additional brigades, and sent the majority of them into Baghdad. He also extended the tour of most of the Army troops in country and some of the Marines already in the Anbar Province area. The President described the overall objective as establishing a "...unified, democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror." The major element of the strategy was a change in focus for the US military "to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security". The President stated that the surge would then provide the time and conditions conducive to reconciliation among political and ethnic factions.
The five U.S. Army brigades committed to Iraq as part of the surge were
2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Infantry): 3,447 troops. Deployed to Baghdad, January 2007
4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (Infantry): 3,447 troops. Deployed to Baghdad, February 2007
3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Heavy): 3,784 troops. Deployed to southern Baghdad Belts, March 2007
4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker): 3,921 troops. Deployed to Diyala province, April 2007
2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Heavy): 3,784 troops. Deployed to the southeast of Baghdad, May 2007
This brought the number of U.S. brigades in Iraq from 15 to 20. Additionally, 4,000 Marines in Al Anbar had their 7-month tour extended. These included Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 2nd Battalion 4th Marines, the 1st Battalion 6th Marines and the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. Most of the 150,000 Army personnel had their 12-month tours extended as well. By July, 2007, the percentage of the mobilized Army deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan was almost 30%; the percentage of the mobilized Marine Corps deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan was 13.5%.
The plan began with a major operation to secure Baghdad, codenamed Operation Fardh al-Qanoon (Operation Imposing Law), which was launched in February 2007. However, only in mid-June 2007, with the full deployment of the 28,000 additional U.S. troops, could major counter-insurgency efforts get fully under way. Operation Phantom Thunder was launched throughout Iraq on June 16, with a number of subordinate operations targeting insurgents in Diyala province, Anbar province and the southern Baghdad Belts. The additional surge troops also participated in Operation Phantom Strike and Operation Phantom Phoenix, named after the III "Phantom" Corps which was the major U.S. unit in Iraq throughout 2007.
Counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq changed significantly under the command of General Petraeus since the 2007 troop surge began. The newer approach attempted to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people through building relationships, preventing civilian casualties and compromising with and even hiring some former enemies. The new strategy was population-centric in that it focused in protecting the population rather than killing insurgents. In implementing this strategy, Petraeus used experienced gained while commanding the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul in 2003. He also explained these ideas extensively in Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency, which he assisted in the writing of while serving as the Commanding General of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center (CAC) located there.
Instead of seeing every Iraqi as a potential enemy, the current COIN strategy focuses on building relationships and getting cooperation from the Iraqis against Al Qaeda and minimizing the number of enemies for U.S. forces. The belief is that maintaining a long term presence of troops in a community improves security and allows for relationships and trust to develop between the locals and the U.S. military. Civilian casualties are minimized by carefully measured use of force. This means less bombing and overwhelming firepower, and more soldiers using restraint and even sometimes taking more risk in the process.
Another method of gaining cooperation is by paying locals, including former insurgents, to work as local security forces. Former Sunni insurgents have been hired by the U.S. military to stop cooperating with Al Qaeda and to start fighting against them.
To implement this strategy, troops were concentrated in the Baghdad area (at the time, Baghdad accounted for 50% of all the violence in Iraq). Whereas in the past, Coalition forces isolated themselves from Iraqis by living in large forward operating bases far from population centers, troops during the surge lived among the Iraqis, operating from joint security stations (JSSs) located within Baghdad itself and shared with Iraqi security forces. Coalition units were permanently assigned to a given area so that they could build long-term relationships with the local Iraqi population and security forces.
However, opponents to occupation such as US Army Col. David H. Hackworth (Ret.), asked whether he thought that British soldiers are better at nation-building than the Americans, said "They were very good at lining up local folks to do the job like operating the sewers and turning on the electricity. Far better than us -- we are heavy-handed, and in Iraq we don't understand the people and the culture. Thus we did not immediately employ locals in police and military activities to get them to build and stabilize their nation."
CNN war correspondent Michael Ware, who has reported from Iraq since before the U.S. invasion in 2003 had a similar dim view of occupation saying, "there will be very much mixed reaction in Iraq” to a long-term troop presence, but he added, “what’s the point and will it be worth it?” Mr. Ware contended that occupation could, "ferment further resentment [towards the U.S]."
Hostile and Non-Hostile Deaths.
Despite a massive security crackdown in Baghdad associated with the surge in coalition troop strength, the monthly death toll in Iraq rose 15% in March 2007. 1,869 Iraqi civilians were killed and 2,719 were wounded in March, compared to 1,646 killed and 2,701 wounded in February. In March, 165 Iraqi policemen were killed against 131 the previous month, while 44 Iraqi soldiers died compared to 29 in February. US military deaths in March were nearly double those of the Iraqi army, despite Iraqi forces leading the security crackdown in Baghdad. The death toll among insurgent militants fell to 481 in March, compared to 586 killed in February; however, the number of arrests jumped to 5,664 in March against 1,921 in February.
Three months after the start of the surge, troops controlled less than a third of the capital, far short of the initial goal, according to an internal military assessment completed in May 2007. Violence was especially chronic in mixed Shiite-Sunni neighborhoods in western Baghdad. Improvements had not yet been widespread or lasting across Baghdad.
Significant attack trends.
On September 10, 2007, David Petraeus delivered his part of the Report to Congress on the Situation in Iraq. He concluded that "the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met." He cited what he called recent consistent declines in security incidents, which he attributed to recent blows dealt against Al-Qaeda in Iraq during the surge. He added that "we have also disrupted Shia militia extremists, capturing the head and numerous other leaders of the Iranian-supported Special Groups, along with a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative supporting Iran's activities in Iraq." He argued that Coalition and Iraqi operations had drastically reduced ethno-sectarian violence in the country, though he stated that the gains were not entirely even. He recommended a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq with a goal of reaching pre-surge troop levels by July 2008 and stated that further withdraws would be "premature."
While Petraeus credited the surge for the decrease in violence, the decrease also closely corresponded with a cease-fire order given by Iraqi political leader Muqtada al-Sadr on August 29, 2007. Al-Sadr's order, to stand down for six months, was distributed to his loyalists following the deaths of more than 50 Shia Muslim pilgrims during fighting in Karbala the day earlier.
Michael E. O'Hanlon and Jason H. Campbell of the Brookings Institution stated on December 22, 2007 that Iraq’s security environment had reached its best levels since early 2004 and credited Petraeus' strategy for the improvement. CNN stated that month that the monthly death rate for US troops in Iraq had hit its second lowest point during the entire course of the war. Military representatives attributed the successful reduction of violence and casualties directly to the troop surge. At the same time, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior reported similar reductions for civilian deaths.
Iraqi Security Force deaths.
However, on September 6, 2007, a report by an independent military commission headed by General James Jones found that the decrease in violence may have been due to areas being overrun by either Shias or Sunnis. In addition, in August 2007, the International Organization for Migration and the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization indicated that more Iraqis had fled since the troop increase.
On February 16, 2008, Iraqi Defense Minister Abdel Qader Jassim Mohammed told reporters that the surge was "working very well" and that Iraq has a "pressing" need for troops to stay to secure Iraqi borders. He stated that "Results for 2007 prove that– Baghdad is good now".
In June 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense reported that "the security, political and economic trends in Iraq continue to be positive; however, they remain fragile, reversible and uneven."
U.S. troop fatalities in Iraq by month, the orange and blue months being post-troop surge.
In the month of July, 2008, US forces lost only 13 soldiers, the lowest number of casualties sustained by US troops in one month since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Also, a report by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, given to Congress in May 2008, and published July 1, stated that the Iraqi government had met 15 of the 18 political benchmarks set out for them.