An interesting insight from someone who's been there who's just venting on a message board:
I'll just take my old stomping grounds in Baqubah, and create a fictional 10 man terror cell operating in the area to illustrate my point.
Habib has his 9 insurgents, plus himself as the "sheik". In the immediate vicinity, there are over 1,000 American troops, producing round the clock patrols of the city of Baqubah and the surrounding highways. He cannot hope to do damage to so many soldiers by fighting them directly, so he plans ambushes of small convoys, roadside bombings, and suicide bombings. His only problem is the fact there are so many Americans watching these areas at such random times that he can't accomplish much without risk of losing his people.
So here's what he does...
He targets the poor families with men of fighting age (and with lots of mouths to feed), and he approaches them to guage interest in the insurgency. If the people reject him, he threatens to kill the family, and fades off to the next target. If the people waiver, or express interest, he will innundate them with propaganda, and eventually make an offer of cash for doing some "small" task. This might be something like wiring a roadside bomb, or firing an RPG at an American convoy. The men of the starving family are eventually swayed to the insurgency through the fear, or the money, the latter being the most common. In this case, we'll say they've been asked to fire an RPG at an American convoy for $100, which is a small fortune to these people.
So a man and his son then take the RPG, and find an area that they feel they have the best chance of success, and they set up there. This is usually a rooftop or an alleyway, and they wait for the convoy. The Americans don't disappoint. They arrive on their convoy, which is likely a combat presence patrol designed to project force, and deter action in a sector. They choose the vehicle they want to shoot (usually a command vehicle, which is rather stupidly identified from the pack by virtue of having multiple antennae on them for better communications)and fire.
Usually, panic and lack of training account for a missed shot, but on occasion they will hit the mark. The Americans in the convoy then must identify the source of the attack, and engage the threat. In this case, they will dismount, and enter the building chosen by the insurgents for their attack. They will leapfrog through the building, clearing each room until they find the man and the son, and they will engage and kill them.
The family lost two men, and did not earn a dime. The Americans may or may not have taken casualties, but engaged and killed two "insurgents". The insurgency, however won the day without doing a thing. They protected their numbers, and through the inability of the Americans to discern who or what the threat was or wasn't, they didn't even lose a hundred bucks.
That's how the insurgency works ... They use the Iraqi people to fight for them, and so we must hunt and kill them instead of those who oppose us.
And how exactly are we supposed to win?
(Photo: Seen through splintered bullet-proof glass, US soldiers from 2-12 Infantry Battalion examine their damaged Humvee after an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detonated on the vehicle, following a patrol in the predominantly Sunni al-Dora neighborhood of southern Baghdad 19 March 2007. By David Furst/Getty.)