About this blog...

I am a former leader of a Human Terrain Team in Iraq. My intent with this blog was to identify relevant, open-source materials on Iraqi culture, society, politics, religion and economics - just about anything on or about the Iraqi population in general.

I am continuing the blog now only sporadically, as a means of information distribution in support of efforts to improve a vital program hamstrung by failures in execution.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Once more, why we need HTS

Saturday's LAT had an article on troop morale. You can agree or disagree with the article itself -- odds are, she decided to write an article on low morale and went out and found evidence to support it (which would have been pretty easy). She could just as easily have decided to write an article on high morale, and she would have found evidence for that as well (it's out there too). This is the very reason why I have a tag called "shallow news."

But one factor, mentioned only in passing, highlights why it's so important that the Army as a institution develop a better understanding of the local population:

Soldiers' discomfort is compounded by the task of forging relations with people whom few trust, and who often make clear their dislike of the U.S. presence.

"All war is political, but usually privates and specialists don't have to think much about that part of it. In this conflict they do, to a much greater degree," Biddle said, referring to the community activities that troops have been drawn into. These include negotiating with tribal leaders who once harbored insurgents, striking deals with former insurgents to bring them into the Iraqi security forces, and listening to residents' complaints about lack of services.

"You have to help people despite the strong suspicion that lots of them mean you ill," Biddle said. "We're asking an awful lot of very, very young people."

The more we equip soldiers with knowledge of the population, the better prepared they are for this new type of mission. That understanding is equipment nearly as essential as a weapon or body armor.

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