Andrew Krepinevich ("How to Win in Iraq," September/October 2005) proposes Baghdad and Mosul as the two primary targets for "oil-spot offensives." He asserts that the focus should be on "protecting the population, not pursuing insurgent forces." This proposal ignores two basic realities. first, Baghdad and Mosul are sprawling cities. Their populations would be very difficult to protect without pulling troops, American or Iraqi, from more contentious parts of Iraq.
Second, no matter how many troops we position around Mosul or Baghdad, the insurgents will always find ways to exploit the weak points in our security. Concentrating troops in these urban centers would hamper our ability to interdict weapons and insurgents in key support nodes outside major cities before they metastasize into full-blown attacks. Krepinevich qualifies his argument by allowing for "punitive expeditions" against major insurgent-controlled towns, as long as those operations remain subordinate to the overall "oil-spot strategy." However, as we have seen time and time again, leaving such towns without establishing a permanent security presence of some kind condemns them to renewed insurgent control.
Thus, concentrating coalition forces in only one or two specific locales would give insurgents the freedom of movement and access to safe havens that they need to survive.
I applaud Krepinevich's attempt to move our strategy beyond body counts, but I believe the ongoing operations in Tal Afar show that coalition forces have learned much from past offensive operations. We are far more adept at balancing the sometimes competing demands of killing insurgents and bolstering Iraqi civil society than ever before. The "oil-spot strategy" is too restrictive given the dynamism of the insurgency that we continue to face.
Wilson D. St.Pierre, Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Tal Afar, Iraq