Iraq Situation Report
Operations by Coalition and Iraqi Forces throughout 2007 have transformed the security situation in Iraq. Violence decreased dramatically in the second half of 2007. The number of enemy attacks in Iraq, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians, and the number of murders in Baghdad, dropped to levels last seen in early 2006.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[i]<!--[endif]--> The mission shift to an aggressive counterinsurgency strategy, with an emphasis on population security, which occurred in January 2007, solidified these gains more quickly than many had predicted. Unexpected developments, like the emergence of Awakening movements and the unilateral Sadrist ceasefire, further helped to accelerate the ground level improvements in security. By late 2007, Al-Qaeda in Iraq had been defeated in Anbar, and its network and safe havens in Baghdad and the belts were largely disrupted. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been steadily pushed north, into isolated pockets, often far from population centers. Coalition Forces have also aggressively targeted Shi’a militia extremists and Iranian-backed Special Groups, with encouraging results.
The Institute for the Study of War has created this situation report to document the dramatic changes from January 2007 to December 2007. This report details the organization of Coalition and Iraqi Forces, the various enemy groups in Iraq, and operations across Iraq over the last year to defeat these enemy actors and improve security throughout the country.
- In 2007, the enemy groups in Iraq were al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), Sunni rejectionists, Ansar al-Sunna, the Kurdish Workers Party, Shi’a extremists, and Iranian-backed Special Groups. AQI remains the primary enemy of Coalition Forces in 2008, despite the degradation of the terrorist network in Iraq over the last year. The other aforementioned groups also remain serious threats in 2008.
- Coalition operations have degraded the AQI network and fractured the organization’s operational capabilities in the last year. Many AQI sanctuaries have been disrupted and denied. Pockets of AQI have been isolated from one another; however, AQI and Sunni insurgents continue to operate between these areas and use them to facilitate money, fighters and weapons to areas of strategic interest.
- In the first half of 2007 Coalition operations in Baghdad and the belts and the Awakening movement in Anbar province drove AQI into MND-North. To combat the “shift” of AQI to the north, MND-North forces conducted a number of division-level operations across northern Iraq since mid-2007. Northern Iraq, particularly Ninewah, Tamim, and northern Salah ad Din provinces, will likely remain the main effort for Coalition offensive operations.
- Coalition and Iraqi Forces aggressively targeted Special Groups and rogue JAM extremists during 2007. These efforts, along with Moqtada al-Sadr’s ceasefire, have contributed to a reduction in violence in central and southern Iraq. However, Special Groups remain active throughout Iraq, and they have continued to target Coalition Forces with especially-lethal explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs).
- The violence between the Sadrist Trend and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq reached unprecedented levels in 2007, culminating in the August 2007 gunfight at the Imam al-Husayn shrine in Karbala. This intra-Shi’a violence will likely continue in 2008, with the potential end of Sadr’s ceasefire and the likelihood of instability in the lead-up to provincial elections and referenda.
- In 2007, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) made strides in growing and maturing the force. The ISF grew from 390,000 to 491,000 and training programs also expanded.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]-->[ii]<!--[endif]--> However, the ISF still face a number of hurdles in 2008, namely, underdeveloped command and control structures within the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense, corruption, logistics, and insufficient training capacity.
- Concerned Local Citizens movements spread throughout Iraq in 2007. Currently, there are more than 80,000 security volunteers. A majority of CLC groups are Sunni; however, Shi’a groups have formed in Baghdad and the belts. In 2007, CLCs were generally deployed at the sub-provincial level in areas where ISF are not present or not trusted due to sectarian acts. It is likely that this type of deployment will continue during the first months of 2008.
- One of the most important issues of 2008 will be whether the Government of Iraq is able to incorporate the existing CLCs into either the Iraqi Police or Iraqi National Police. Failure to do this may have negative consequences for the counterinsurgency mission and for Iraqi security. If the CLCs grow frustrated with the government and are unable to serve Iraq in a more official capacity, they may return to violence or cease fighting al-Qaeda extremists and militia groups.
[i]DoD News Briefing with Lt. Gen. Odierno, Commander, Multinational Corps-Iraq, November 1, 2007.
[ii]United States Department of Defense Report to Congress Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, December 2007, 33.