Regression in al Anbar Province

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 9 months ago

In Ramadi is Still a Troubled City it was shown that Ramadi, capital of the al Anbar Province, is still a very deadly city, and that the region appears to be regressing, or devolving, into deeper trouble with the passage of time.  Al Qaeda brazenly attacks in daylight hours, recently even taking over a Hospital in Ramadi and executing wounded Iraqi soldiers and police.  It is an area awash in arms, and the flood of arms into the area may increase due to pressure from the Sunni tribes (who have ostensibly sided with the Iraqi central government against al Qaeda) for the U.S. to arm them for the fight against the foreign elements.

The redeployment of troops to Baghdad has hurt the effort in al Anbar.  Four Marines were killed July 29th, the very day that soldiers were pulling out of al Anbar to redeploy to Baghdad.  Three Marines with Regimental Combat Team 7 were killed Sunday, and Michael Fumento is blogging directly from Ramadi at the present.  He is reporting that the 1/6 Marines just arrived in Ramadi, and the enemy is testing them.  They lost three Marines to an IED today, October 9, 2006 (read all of Michael’s reports from the al Anbar Province at his web log).

About one third of the U.S. troops who have died in Iraq since September 1 have been killed in al Anbar.  The U.S. is paying for some of the same territory more than once, and losing confidence among the citizens due to the transient nature of force presence.  In complaints that mirror our concerns over Force Size, U.S. commanders privately disclose that the lack of force projection in al Anbar has hurt their efforts.

Commanders in western Anbar have long complained privately that they don’t have enough troops to control their area, which is about the size of South Carolina and includes notoriously violent cities such as Haditha, Rawah and Haqlaniyah.

“Any time you reduce forces it’s a concern,” said Marine Lt. Col. Norm Cooling, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Regiment which is scattered across western Anbar.

Few dispute that the U.S. military had to do something about the deteriorating security in the Iraqi capital, which threatened to spiral into fullscale civil war.

But the question is whether the U.S. has enough forces in the country overall to both regain control in Baghdad while also preventing Sunni insurgents in the west from using the U.S. military drawdown there to gain strength.

About a third of the 102 U.S. troops who have died in Iraq since Sept. 1 have been killed in Anbar, according to Pentagon reports.

“Where we’re not, the insurgency goes there. That’s just how an insurgency works,” said Capt. Chris L’Heureux, 30, of Woonsocket, R.I., who was also among those relocated to Baghdad.

U.S. commanders have also said that the reshuffling of forces makes it difficult to build trust among civilians and convince them to cooperate with U.S. forces.

For example, five different U.S. units were based in the western city of Hit in the space of just last year.

“It’s been like a transient area” in Hit, said Lt. Col. Ronald Gridley, the executive officer for Marine Regimental Combat Team 7.

“In a counterinsurgency,” he said recently, “you can’t throw put (sic) someone in there for 45 days and expect them to understand the communities, the different tribes, the different personalities involved.”

We have discussed both the positive and negative aspects of the alignment of some of the Sunni tribes in al Anbar with the Iraqi central government.  In the interest of full disclosure, it is meaningful and productive to hear voices of dissent.

“We heard a lot from the Americans and successive Iraqi governorates that they arrest hundreds of al-Qaeda men in Anbar and other places in Iraq,” said Ibrahim an electrical engineer in Hiyt, “but the number of these fighters is increasing daily”.

A former Iraqi intelligence officer believes the challenge in curbing violence may lie in the fact that the tribal leaders are not fully representative of the people in Anbar.

“There is no agreement among the tribes in Anbar to fight the foreign gunmen,” he told

“The chieftains who attended the meetings with al-Maliki represent small tribes in the province and many of them reside outside Iraq for fear of assassination and so on.”

He believes the tribal leaders who met with al-Maliki have little clout over armed groups in western Iraq.

We have provocatively posed interrogatory with “Will we Lose the Anbar Province?”  The answer is that we have not yet lost, and we do not have to lose.  But winning efficiently and effectively will require U.S. force projection an order of magnitude greater than that of the enemy.

  • Chris

    The unfortunate fact is that this push in Baghdad is not working.

  • Thomas Rogers

    I have a son in Iraq right now. I think we need to either give them enough fire power, personnel, and freedom to respond to enemy forces and push as hard and fast as possible, or pull out. We have been there to long and the more talk about what to do, the more time the enemy has to dig in and prepare for us, this has happened to much already. We have the capability to make our point be well taken, and also that this should be the last sweep and the Iraqs should know to be ready to take control of their country at the end, because we are pulling out after the hard sweep of Anbar and Bagdad.

You are currently reading "Regression in al Anbar Province", entry #331 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,War & Warfare and was published October 10th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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