5 de noviembre de 2006
Military Charts Movement of Conflict in Iraq Toward Chaos
By Michael R. Gordon
The New York Times
Washington - A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago
by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as
edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using
as a barometer of civil conflict.
A one-page slide shown at the Oct. 18 briefing provides a
rare glimpse into how the military command that oversees
the war is trying to track its trajectory, particularly in
terms of sectarian fighting.
The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to
illustrate an "Index of Civil Conflict." It shows a sharp
escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a
Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further
worsening this month despite a concerted American push to
tamp down the violence in Baghdad.
In fashioning the index, the military is weighing factors
like the ineffectual Iraqi police and the dwindling
influence of moderate religious and political figures,
rather than more traditional military measures such as the
enemy's fighting strength and the control of territory.
The conclusions the Central Command has drawn from these
trends are not encouraging, according to a copy of the
slide that was obtained by The New York Times. The slide
shows Iraq as moving sharply away from "peace," an ideal
on the far left side of the chart, to a point much closer
to the right side of the spectrum, a red zone marked
"chaos." As depicted in the command's chart, the needle
has been moving steadily toward the far right of the chart.
An intelligence summary at the bottom of the slide reads
"urban areas experiencing 'ethnic cleansing' campaigns
to consolidate control" and "violence at all-time high,
spreading geographically." According to a Central Command
official, the index on civil strife has been a staple of
internal command briefings for most of this year. The
analysis was prepared by the command's intelligence
directorate, which is overseen by Brig. Gen. John M.
Gen. John P. Abizaid, who heads the command, warned
publicly in August about the risk of civil war in Iraq,
but he said then that he thought it could be averted. In
evaluating the prospects for all-out civil strife, the
command concentrates on "key reads," or several principal
According to the slide from the Oct. 18 briefing, the
variables include "hostile rhetoric" by political and
religious leaders, which can be measured by listening
to sermons at mosques and to important Shiite and Sunni
leaders, and the amount of influence that moderate
political and religious figures have over the population.
The other main variables are assassinations and other
especially provocative sectarian attacks, as well as
"spontaneous mass civil conflict."
A number of secondary indicators are also taken into
account, including activity by militias, problems with
ineffective police, the ability of Iraqi officials to
govern effectively, the number of civilians who have been
forced to move by sectarian violence, the willingness of
Iraqi security forces to follow orders, and the degree to
which the Iraqi Kurds are pressing for independence from
the central government.
These factors are evaluated to create the index of civil
strife, which has registered a steady worsening for months.
"Ever since the February attack on the Shiite mosque in
Samarra, it has been closer to the chaos side than the
peace side," said a Central Command official who asked not
to be identified because he was talking about classified
In the Oct. 18 brief, the index moved still another notch
toward "chaos." That briefing was prepared three days
before General Abizaid met in Washington with President
Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter
Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to take
stock of the situation in Iraq.
A spokesman for the Central Command declined to comment on
the index or other information in the slide. "We don't
comment on secret material," the spokesman said.
One significant factor in the military's decision to move
the scale toward "chaos" was the expanding activity by
Another reason was the limitations of Iraqi government
security forces, which despite years of training and
equipping by the United States, are either ineffective
or, in some cases, infiltrated by the very militias they
are supposed to be combating. The slide notes that
"ineffectual" Iraqi police forces have been a significant
problem, and cites as a concern sectarian conflicts between
Iraqi security forces.
Other significant factors are in the political realm. The
slide notes that Iraq's political and religious leaders
have lost some of their moderating influence over their
constituents or adherents.
Notably, the slide also cites difficulties that the new
Iraqi administration has experienced in "governance."
That appears to be shorthand for the frustration felt by
American military officers about the Iraqi government's
delays in bringing about a genuine political reconciliation
between Shiites and Sunnis. It also appears to apply to
the lack of reconstruction programs to restore essential
services and the dearth of job creation efforts to give
young Iraqis an alternative to joining militias, as well
as the absence of firm action against militias.
The slide lists other factors that are described as
important but less significant. They include efforts by
Iran and Syria to enable violence by militias and insurgent
groups and the interest by many Kurds in achieving
independence. The slide describes violence motivated by
sectarian differences as having moved into a "critical"
The chart does note some positive developments.
Specifically, it notes that "hostile rhetoric" by political
and religious leaders has not increased. It also notes that
Iraqi security forces are refusing less often than in the
past to take orders from the central government and that
there has been a drop-off in mass desertions.
Still, for a military culture that thrives on PowerPoint
briefings, the shifting index was seen by some officials
as a stark warning about the difficult course of events in
Iraq, and mirrored growing concern by some military
Posted by Madres contra la Guerra @ 8:37 p.m.