The Anbar Province Reconsidered

BY Herschel Smith
10 years ago

In Where is Anbar Headed? Where are the Marines Headed?, I cited the ABC News Report that claimed that the Pentagon officials were considering a major pullback of Marines from the Anbar Province, due in part to the most recent Devlin intelligence report covered by the Washington Post.  Michael Fumento notes that the Post article stands in stark contrast to his recent experiences as an embedded reporter in Ramadi.  I said in “Where is Anbar Headed” that it looked like the U.S. was either getting out of Anbar or getting serious about Anbar.

Today General Peter Pace denied reports that the Pentagon was considering a movement of Marines out of the Anbar province.  Asked specifically whether serious consideration is being given to the idea of abandoning Al-Anbar to put more U.S. forces in Baghdad, Pace bluntly replied “no.”  “You gave me a very straight question. I gave you a very straight answer. No. Why would we want to forfeit any part of Iraq to the enemy? We don’t,” he told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

I believe that it is important to keep balance with respect to our understanding of the Anbar Province.  Assuming that Pace is correct and that conditions and intentions don’t change, the U.S. will not abandon Anbar.  I have discussed the alignment of some of the tribes in the Anbar Province with the Iraqi government and against al Qaeda, but it is also clear that these tribes cannot secure Anbar without the help of Iraqi security forces and more particularly U.S. forces.

In Coalition, Al Qaeda and Tribes Battle in Anbar and Diyala, I covered the recent battles against al Qaeda in which tribal elements participated.

On November 25, insurgents linked to al Qaeda attacked an Anbar tribe in an alliance of twenty five tribes who have vowed to fight al Qaeda.  The insurgents attacked the Abu Soda tribe in Sofiya, near the provincial capital of Ramadi, with mortars and small arms, burning homes, in apparent revenge for their support of the Iraqi government.  “Al Qaeda has decided to attack the tribes due to their support,? said Sheikh Abdel Sittar Baziya, head of the Abu Risha tribe and a founder of the movement. “The terrorists have gone to a neighboring tribe and have brought fighters to attack the Abu Soda.?

Al Qaeda attacked through a tribal area checkpoint, and burned homes and killed tribal members using small arms and mortar fire.  Coalition forces assisted the Abu Soda tribe with air strikes and artillery fire at al Qaeda.  There is no report of coalition casualties, but fifty al Qaeda linked insurgents and nine tribesmen were killed in the battle (Reuters is reporting fifty five al Qaeda killed).  Four Iraqi civilians were evacuated to Camp Taqqadum for medical treatment for inujuries sustained during this battle.

Take note of the determinative aspect of the battle: “Coalition forces assisted the Abu Soda tribe with air strikes and artillery fire at al Qaeda.”  Without the presence of U.S. forces, I believe that the tribes would lose heart and nerve, disperse, flee to Syria (like so many of them already have), and desist offensive operations within several weeks.  Al Qaeda would own Ramadi within one month and all of Anbar within two months.

Col. Peter Devlin wrote “Although it is likely that attack levels have peaked, the steady rise in attacks from mid-2003 to 2006 indicates a clear failure to defeat the insurgency in al-Anbar.”  The Post misinterpreted this and other aspects of the report as meaning that “The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda’s rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military’s mission in Anbar province.”

This is a preposterous statement by the Post.  Regardless of what the intelligence report said or didn’t say, to assert that it is no longer possible for the most powerful nation on earth to defeat an insurgency makes the authors of the article look like rodeo clowns.  No one alive believes that it is “impossible,” not even the authors of the article.

But just as we should not overreact to the Devlin report, we should listen to it and heed its advice.  I concur with Devlin’s remarks.  The trend line for casualties in Iraq has a positive slope line (see Statistical Evaluation of Casualties in Iraq).  I have commented here in The Consequences of Inadequate Force Projection that lack of force projection, along with rules of engagement that cause our troops to be hamstrung (with Marines reporting that “A lot of us feel like we have our hands tied behind our back“), are the two most serious impediments to victory in Anbar, and in fact, all of Iraq.  With the current force projection and rules of engagement, the U.S. will not win.

As before, I say that the U.S. is getting out, or getting serious.  Getting serious requires robust rules of engagement and proper force projection.

Prior:

  1. Where is Anbar Headed? Where are the Marines Headed?
  2. Coalition, Al Qaeda and Tribes Battle in Anbar and Diyala
  3. Racoon Hunting and the Battle for Anbar
  4. The Reasons the U.S. Won’t “Clear? Ramadi
  5. Demonstrations, Violence and Preparations in al Anbar Province
  6. Combat Operation Posts
  7. Regression in al Anbar Province
  8. Ramadi is Still a Troubled City
  9. Al Anbar Tribes Gives Coalition Three Divisions of Recruits
  10. Ramadi: Marines Own the Night, 3.5 Years Into Iraq War
  11. Will we Lose the Anbar Province?
  12. Haditha Sequence of Events
  13. Update on Ramadi
  14. Ramadi: Don’t Expect More Fallujah

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  • Pat

    Just got back from Ramadi, and I know Col Devlin. He knows what he is doing.
    A couple important notes though. The 25 tribes are only 11 . Get someone who can read Arabic look up the truth for you. Second, notice the comments about Al Qaeda using a local tribe. Again the reality is we most likely helped out an inter-tribe fight as opposed to killing any actual Al Qaeda members. I have no doubt Al Qaeda facilitated the attack, but whenever we kill 50 young Iraqi’s our job gets harder and Al Qaeda wins a little. Until we accept the truth in what we have there, we won’t be able to win, which I think is what Col Devlin meant.

  • Herschel Smith

    I don’t believe I said in this post or any other that 25 tribes had aligned themselves with the Iraqi government. If I did in some earlier post, it was citing a source rather than asserting it myself. In fact, I have pointed out all along that the tribes are divided, the leaders, some of them, do not even live in Iraq, the fighters that they have given the government are just recruits and have no specific military training, and that they tribes would likely not fare well without U.S. troops backing them (and may not even with U.S. troops backing them). As for internecine warfare between tribes, I have no comment, as I wasn’t there. I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the four or five sources that I cited, all of which said about the same thing.

    By the way, Pat.  I notice that you did not leave me a valid e-mail address with which I can contact you to verify as best as I can that you were indeed in Ramadi.  Why?

    If you respond, please leave a valid e-mail address, or I will have to delete the comment.

  • Pat

    Here is the post
    Coalition, Al Qaeda and Tribes Battle in Anbar and Diyala
    Published November 26th, 2006 by Herschel Smith in Iraq |

    And it has been mentioned here about the tribes, although I realize a lot of what is in this blog is quotes from other sources. I did not mean to attack you as the source of that info, but rather it’s truthfulness. As to me having been in Ramadi, go ahead and send your questions, and I will answer what I can as long as it stays away from secure info.

  • Breakerjump

    It does no good to make guesses – educated or not – on what certain officers might or might not have meant when they say things. It is best to take statements at face value and move on. The point here is that Iraq is in shambles, the trend line on U.S. casualties has a positive slope, Iran is posturing and neither Maliki or President Bush are being rational about any of this.

    The U.S. government, down through the military as well as civilian leadership, is completely divided on proper course of action from here forward, which is acceptable as long as a consensus is reached quickly and action is taken swiftly.

    It is a punch in the stomach to every military family in America when Bush gets on a stage somewhere and caterwauls incessantly about staying some flipping ‘course’ until the job is ‘done’.

  • Herschel Smith

    Pat,

    Thanks for the exchange of e-mail. I appreciate the willingness to provide evidence of who you said you were. You just wouldn’t believe the comments and e-mail I get from crackpots all over the world claiming to be people they aren’t.


You are currently reading "The Anbar Province Reconsidered", entry #407 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) al Qaeda,Iraq,Small Wars,Snipers and was published November 30th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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