CAMP BUCCA, IRAQ–Detention Operations, Behavior Modification, and Counterinsurgency


Detention Operations, Behavior Modification, and Counterinsurgency

Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC®)


Major General Douglas Stone’s assumption of command of Task Force 134 in May 2007

“Camp Bucca leaders and Soldiers are working to modify the behavior of detainees so that when they reenter Iraqi society, they are no longer threats to the Iraqi government and coalition forces but
rather agents of change for the future of Iraq.”

“In conventional warfare, opposing forces usually
do not release their prisoners of war until combat
ends. In counterinsurgency, however, the reintegration
of detainees into the population should take
place as soon as they are no longer a risk to society.
Task Force 134’s current strategy regards detention
facility operations as a legitimate part of
America’s overall counterinsurgency fight. The
detention facility is not just a repository for those
plucked from the “real” insurgency, but a legitimate
arena for counterinsurgency actions. The task force
has shifted detention operations from warehousing
insurgents to engaging them. The strategy focuses
on touching the human spirit and aligning detainee goals and aspirations with those of a peaceful and
prosperous Iraq.”

“Fighting for victory from inside the wire.”–JTF 137 Motto

“Victory means identifying and separating detainees who can become allied with the moderate Iraqis, effectively empowering moderate detainees to marginalize violent extremists, and providing momentum for reconciliation with Iraqi society….Moderate Iraqi detainees can return to Iraqi society and influence extremists toward less violent action” [the opposite of that is true as well, “extremists can return to Iraq and influence moderates to take violent actions”–ed.].

“We build alliances with detainee leaders in the internment facilities.  In October 2007, detainees in Compound 2 at Camp Bucca presented the guard force a letter declaring their awakening. The letter read, in part, ‘We believe that if we want to fulfill our aims, we should wake up . . . We must work together, side by side to reach our noble aims of freedom, justice.'”

“Work details provide a means of paying detainees for their labor, and the money they earn goes into their property accounts and is either paid to them in cash when they leave or distributed to family members during visitations.  In a society where unemployment may be the number-one recruitment incentive for the insurgents, this policy shows detainees and their families that America is committed to their well-being. It also rewards cooperation with the authorities.”

The intent of the strategy is behavior modification both in internment facilities and in Iraqi society.  The objective does not reflect a vague hope to win hearts and minds in a popularity contest, but a desire to promote commonalities and goal alignment between the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government, and the United States.

Camp Bucca, Iraq, has a proactive counterinsurgency strategy for detention operations. The strategy identifies detainees who no longer pose imperative threats, then educates and trains them, and subsequently releases them to return to their homes as “moderate missiles of the mind” who can marginalize extremists,…confining them to areas where they are unable to
influence moderates or former extremists moving toward moderation.

Detainee change
does not come through brainwashing or indoctrination,
but through…basic education
and vocational training…medical care, culturally appropriate food, and
the lifting of the human spirit by American guards,
whom express the Nation’s humanistic ideals
through their words and deeds.


al‐Qa`ida’s Road In and Out of Iraq,

Saudi Arabia and Libya supplied the most fighters in the Sinjar Records.
Saudi Arabia contributed the highest number of foreign fighters to al‐Qa`ida’s fight in Iraq between August 2006 and August 2007, followed by Libya. Of the 576 fighters in the Sinjar Records that listed their nationality, 41 percent (237) were of Saudi Arabian origin, and 19.2 percent (111) were Libyan. Syria, Yemen, and Algeria were the next most common countries of origin with 8 percent (46), 8.1 percent (44), and 7.1 percent (41), respectively. Moroccans accounted for 6.1 percent (36) of the fighters and Jordanians 1.9 percent (11).

Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt were the source of most of the foreign fighters detained in Camp Bucca, Iraq.
As of April 7, 2008, the United States was holding 251 foreign fighters at Camp Bucca, Iraq. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria each contributed 19 percent of those fighters. Libyans comprise only 3 percent of foreign fighters held at Camp Bucca.

Foreign Fighters contributed approximately 75 Percent of suicide bombers between August 2006 and August 2007.

The plurality of suicide bombers entering Iraq between August 2006 and August 2007 were Saudi.

AQI is a wounded organization.–July 22, 2008
Tribal disaffection, the surge in Coalition and Iraqi Forces in 2007‐2008, and AQIs self‐destructive penchant for violence have all contributed to the organization’s decline. The number of foreign fighters entering Iraq every month has declined to between 40 and 50, and many

“…foreign fighters are now trying to leave the country.”

AQI is largely concentrated in and around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
AQI still desires and is capable of generating large‐scale asymmetric attacks, but is unable to control territory with impunity as it could two years ago.

There is a strong risk of blowback from Iraq. Relatively small numbers of Jihadis will “bleedout” to fight elsewhere, but they will likely be very dangerous individuals.
The Iraq war has increased Jihadi radicalization in the Muslim world and the number of al‐Qa`ida recruits. Foreign fighters in Iraq have also acquired a number of useful skills that can be used in future terrorist operations, including massive use of suicide tactics, organizational skills, propaganda, covert communication, and innovative improvised explosive device (IED) tactics.

Fighters from several nations contributed money to AQI, though Saudi Arabian nationals contributed a disproportionately large amount, totaling 46 percent of the overall funds received from foreign fighters.

Recognize that some US allies still see Jihadis as useful policy tools. Saudi Arabia and other Arab states are fearful of increased Iranian influence in Iraq. So long as these governments view foreign Sunni militants in Iraq as a bulwark against the dominance of Iranian‐influenced Iraqi leaders, they are less likely to crackdown completely on well‐placed Jihadi financiers operating from Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. Limiting the real and perceived influence of Iran in Iraq’s domestic political and security situation may therefore be a necessary first step to gain greater cooperation from some Saudi authorities.