10 years, 3 months ago
I have previously argued that the mobility of insurgents in Anbar challenges U.S. abilities to maintain security; that the constant resupply and safe haven across the Syrian border makes the battlefield dynamic to the point of making standard counterinsurgency tactics inapplicable. From Haditha, we learn that tactics are being used to seal off insurgents. Non-human resources are being used as a force multiplier in this region.
Adapting ideas tracing back from ancient history to modern Israel, US Marines have sealed off flashpoint towns with sand walls in a new counter-insurgency tactic to quell the wilds of western Iraq …
When 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines deployed to western Al-Anbar from Hawaii in mid-September they sustained casualties in Haditha every day for 45 days. Then on November 10, gun battles in the town stopped.
Captain Matthew Tracy, whose marines patrol Haditha, attributes the lull to a local strongman, a former officer in the Saddam Hussein army known simply as Colonel Faruq, with the power and charisma to bring the town to heel.
Provided, that was, the Marines built a defensive sand wall sealing off Haditha from the porous desert, with checkpoints and traffic restrictions.
So last month, “berms” stretching 20 kilometres (12 miles) were built around Haditha and two neighbouring towns to cut off insurgent supply lines. A simultaneous US-led raid left dozens of insurgents dead or captured.
Ultimately, the borders with Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran will have to be completely sealed, and safe haven denied to would-be insurgents inside Syria. The vulnerability of the tactic described above is that it relies on a local “strongman.” Assassination of this strongman might cause a problem, so the ability to resupply elements of terror across the border must be stopped.
This article has been updated with Security and WHAM: Getting the Order Right