the strange capitulation of bagh- dad - where large Iraqi formations simply melted away - appears in retrospect to have been calculated to some degree. The almost daily guerrilla attacks against U.S. forces have resulted in more than 50 deaths since U.S. president George W. Bush declared the end of major military operations.
The attacks have tied down a substantial number of troops in counter-insurgency operations, two of which (Operations Peninsula Freedom and Desert Scorpion) have been launched already.
The nature of counter-insurgency requires that guerrillas be distinguished from the general population.
This is extraordinarily difficult, particularly when the troops trying to make the distinction are foreign, untrained in the local language and culturally incapable of making the subtle distinctions needed for surgical identification.
The result is the massive intrusion of force into a civilian community that may start out as neutral or even friendly but which over time becomes hostile because of the inevitable mistakes committed by troops who are trying to make sense of an incoherent situation. The United States is in a tough spot.
The centrepiece of guerrilla warfare, even more than other types of war, is intelligence. Knowing who the enemy is, where he is and what he plans to do is the key to stopping him.
In Vietnam, the North Vietnamese had much better intelligence about these three things than the United States. Over time, despite material weakness, they were able to turn this and a large pool of manpower into victory.
Since intelligence is the key, we must consider the fact that this war began in an intelligence failure. The core assumption of U.S. intelligence was that once the Baath regime lost Baghdad, it would simply disappear.
Some intelligence and military analyst speculated that Saddam Hussein had a post-war plan for a national redoubt in the north and northeast.
Most analysis rejected the idea of a guerrilla war on the basis that Iraq's terrain would not support one. Nevertheless, this is the strategy the Baathists apparently have chosen to follow.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban declined combat, withdrawing and dispersing, then reorganizing and returning to guerrilla warfare. Hussein appears to have taken a page from that strategy.
Certainly, most of his forces did not carry out a strategic retreat to carry on as guerrilla fighters. Most went home. However, a cadre of troops, first encountered as Mujahideen fighters in Basra, Al Nasiriyah and Karbala, seem to have withdrawn to fight as guerrillas.
What is important is that they have retained cohesion. The tempo of operations - daily attacks in different locations - seems to imply an element of planning by someone. It means that the basic infrastructure needed to support the operation - reserve weapons, a communications system and intelligence and counter-intelligence capabilities - were in place prior to the war.
We continue to suspect that Hussein had chemical and possibly biological weapons before the U.S.-led war. Where are the weapons now? Are they stored in some way? Are they available for use, for example, against U.S. base camps at some point?
Are Hussein and his lieutenants operating the war from a bunker somewhere? How do they communicate with whatever command authority might exist?
The Iraqi Achilles heel is that the transition from the current level of operations is very difficult to achieve.
This is the same problem facing the U.S. forces.
If it is to win a guerrilla war, carrying out battalion-sized operations to capture or kill three guerrillas is not only exhausting but also undermines popular support.
But the Iraqis can't move to stage two without playing into the hands of the Americans. That seems to argue that the Iraqis intend to remain at this level of operations for an extended period of time. How long depends as much on their resources as on their intentions.
General Abid Hamid Mahmoud al-Tikriti, Hussein's number-four commander, was seized last week, which certainly represents a breakthrough for the United States.
What is not yet clear is whether this is the beginning of the systematic collapse of the guerrilla command structure or if he was irrelevant to that. The only strategy the United States has is to find and destroy the command structure.
The question of where Hussein, his sons and the rest of the officials are is no longer academic. It has become the heart of the military equation.
Excerpted with permission from Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (www.stratfor.com), one of the world's leading global intelligence firms.