Patrols and US counterinsurgency in Iraq

History Mar 31, 2021 1 min read

In June 2005, Salah Jmor came to Baghdad with his brother to visit family. When he was driving in Baghdad, he did not see an US military convoy entering the highway. Suddenly, he was shot in the head and he collapsed. His brother claims that there was no warning and no signal to slow down by the US military convoy before he was shot.

The story of Salah Jmor is representative for the uncountable Iraqi martyrs that lost their lives due to the US occupation’s  counterinsurgency programs. Whereas most cases of US aggression were swept under the rug and the perpetrators received protection, this story was only 'accidentally leaked' and managed to reach popular media.

When the US occupation intensified, so did American counterinsurgency strategies. This intensification prioritized penetrating the Iraqi society more to collect intelligence for a supposed  “quicker detection of the ‘enemy’”. The strategies that were implemented ordered continuous presence of the occupation forces in people’s daily life. US Military presence in Iraq was no longer tied to roadblocks, checkpoints and isolated bases. The occupation operated more extensively on city streets and became an inseparable part of the everyday image. These strategies were explained in the handbook for counterinsurgency used by the US military stating for example:

“Situational awareness can only be gained by interacting with the people face-to-face. This is essential to defeating the insurgents.”

Groups of around 15 patrolling coalition soldiers began to raid houses during day and night to fill in questionnaires which gathered ‘basic’ information of military age Iraqi males, including their tribal affiliation, work, licence plate numbers, and whether the house had water and power available. This gathering of the information at gunpoint had frightening and repressive effects in itself.

Patrols were now instruments to collect intelligence data to support counter-insurgency operations. Eventually they became vehicles to also conduct civil-military operations, information operations and developing human intelligence networks.

Convoy and foot patrols increased day to day visible aggression of the occupier for Iraqis. An innumerable amount of Iraqis lost their lives during patrol operations.

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