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Iraq's Militias: The True Threat to Coalition Success in Iraq

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In the last five years, the United States invaded two countries and overthrew two ruling parties. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the so-called end of major combat operations came swiftly and decisively. In their wakes emerged resistances far more resolute than predicted, forcing coalition military commanders to shift from a conventional warfare doctrine to one better suited for fighting long wars against asymmetric enemies with extremist ideologies. But while religious extremism may typify the average insurgent, the biggest threat to American policy is not posed by the jihadist, who in most cases, lacks the ability to organize, effectively train and recruit forces other than suicide bombers, and has no long-term strategy for generating resources, garnering public support, or achieving realistic strategic goals. The real hazard to American objectives in Southwest Asia comes from armed and active militias who, unlike most insurgents, have served as career soldiers, seized the support of their populace, and, in many cases, infiltrated national government institutions. Though a form of resistance, militiamen are far different in nature than insurgents or terrorists. In the long-term, militias are most damaging because they weaken government influence by providing unofficial and effective security in localized areas using illegal methods. Due to the support they receive from their constituents and the resultant political power they wield, militias can only be neutralized through state-sponsored Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration DDR initiatives. By understanding the similarities and differences between militias and insurgents, noting the potential positives and negatives associated with militias, and applying lessons-learned from DDR-type programs recently employed in Afghanistan and Iraq, coalition forces can develop an effective counterstrategy for Iraq s militias.

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  • Geography
  • Land Mine Warfare

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