Counterinsurgency: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 2 months ago

In Al Qaeda, Indigenous Sunnis and the Insurgency in Iraq, we discussed how most of the insurgency in Kirkuk was comprised of left-over Ba’athists, and the cooperation with the 1920 Revolution Brigade in Anbar had spread to Baghdad.  Yet in Fallujah proper, as we discussed in Operation Alljah and the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment, this approach was not only not necessary in Fallujah proper, but would not have worked.

As for the awakening, that is more of a tribal thing.  Tribes have little influence inside Fallujah because of how mixed up the population is.  They are all solidly against AQI though, because they want nothing to do with their extremist agenda and are appalled by the tactics AQI is using … I am sure that there are former insurgents in the police and neighborhood watch – which is why I tell my guys that we can never completely trust them – but we have not had a single instance where we took a known insurgent and turned him to our side.  We continue to target them heavily and most have either been detained, or fled the city.  The ones remaining spend a lot of time trying to keep from being detained instead of planning on how they will attack us.  We keep the pressure on them to keep them off balance and on the run.  That is having the best effect in the city.

Rather than this approach, the more classical approach of gated communities was used to partition the battle space and interdict insurgents.  Yet the use of former insurgents is still a strategy that is being employed in the Anbar Province.  Michael Yon observes that it is in use in Falahat.

The men of MiTT 8 are living along with their Iraqi protégées in filthy shipping containers on a highway. Several months ago they were attacked by a car bomb. But at about 0900, while I was traveling to their location with Marines in a Humvee (with sparkling glass) some Falahat villagers went to the new police station to report the presence of a culprit they knew to emplace bombs on the road.

It happened that quickly.

Within mere days of opening the station, people spoke up. The Iraqi Police (some of whom freely admitted to having been recent insurgents) called the tip into the Iraqi Army who were living with the Marines of MiTT 8 …

As we have observed before, the U.S. forces have tried to drive a wedge between the insurgents and the terrorists, a highly technical parsing of terms.  Reuters continues this reporting on the Diyala Province and the use of former insurgents.

U.S. forces have rebranded one of the main insurgent groups in Iraq and now use the term “concerned local nationals” to refer to a group that once claimed responsibility for killing scores of Americans.

The updated vocabulary for referring to the 1920 Revolution Brigade, described by a U.S. commander on Saturday, is a sign of the abrupt change in tactics that has seen U.S. forces cooperate with former Sunni Arab enemies.

The 1920 Revolution Brigade was one of the main anti-American Sunni Arab insurgent groups in Iraq in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and has claimed responsibility for killing scores of U.S. troops in ambushes and bomb attacks.

But for the past several months its members have cooperated with U.S. forces to help drive the strict al Qaeda Islamists out of Sunni Arab areas, part of a new U.S. tactic of cooperating with former Sunni Arab foes against al Qaeda.

Colonel David Sutherland, the U.S. commander in Diyala Province, said his men prefer not to call the group by its name.

“The 1920s as they’re called, we call them ‘the Baquba Guardians’, we call them the ‘concerned local nationals’,” he said. Baquba is the provincial capital.

“These are patriots who have come forward and have joined the security process. They are working with my soldiers and they are working with the Iraqi security forces,” he said.

Al Qaeda’s adherence to a hardline form of Sunni Islam and indiscriminate attacks has isolated it from Sunni Arabs and nationalist insurgent groups.

Sutherland said the 1920 Revolution Brigade name was now being used widely to refer to local pro-government militia and not anti-American insurgents. Some Shi’ite elders were asking if they too could recruit “1920s,” he said, a sign the Sunni Arab group’s name was no longer seen as sectarian.

“It has become a name, a catch-all phrase for these concerned local nationals throughout the province,” he told a news conference by video link to Baghdad.

His forces “do not deal with terrorists, and if we have information on individuals then we will act accordingly,” Sutherland said. “The individuals we are working with…. I have confidence in them and I have confidence in their leadership.”

One size doesn’t fit all in counterinsurgency.




You are currently reading "Counterinsurgency: One Size Doesn’t Fit All", entry #585 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,Small Wars,Sunni Insurgency and was published August 28th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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