forces learned but then went home, while the enemy learned and, if he survived, fought better the next time. In 2003, one ill-conceived drive-by shooting was conducted from a horse-pulled cart . . . The Iraqi police who had come under attack simply shot the trotting horse and then finished off the stranded attackers. “The insurgents grew more proficient” with the passage of time, noted Ahmed Hashim, a professor of strategic studies at the U.S. Naval War College, who as a reservist would later serve in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. “American forces had killed most of the incompetent ones; the tactics, techniques, and procedures of the surviving insurgents became more lethal as a result of experience.” . . . U.S.
New troops had two strikes against them. In a culture where social life turns not on official positions but on personal relationships, they were blank slates. And with a fast and constantly moving insurgency, where the enemy was quickly adapting, as well as operating on his own turf, anything that can be distilled into written knowledge is already likely to be a bit too old, a bit stale. The cutting edge of operations against an insurgency is the gut instinct that tells a squad leader that the street scene that appears safe really isn’t, or the backlog of experience that allows a battalion commander to discern a new twist in what a sheikh is telling him. Much of that was lost when new troops rotated in. They were enthusiastic and hardworking but alien in the situation, while the other side had just gone through months of hard fighting.
© 2006, Thomas E. Ricks. All rights reserved.