The Anbar Narrative: Part 1

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

Matthew Burden of Blackfive has a great post on a speech delivered by Marine Corps Major General John Kelly.  General Kelly can speak authoritatively concerning the Anbar counterinsurgency campaign, and this quote touches on a subject on which we will publish in the coming weeks and months.

The higher command in Baghdad told us four years ago when we first took responsibility for the Al Anbar not to worry about victory, as no one-military or civilian-thought it possible. That thirty years from now when the rest of Iraq was a functioning democracy, Al Anbar would still be a festering cancer within……Our success, so we were told, would be in containing violence, not defeating the Al Qaeda and other foreign born terrorists that were deeply entrenched in the Province. The reality is that today the incidents of attack in Al Anbar-mostly by Al Qaeda-are down by over 80% in the last six months-that translates to dozens and dozens everyday then, to perhaps three or four today. Since the spring local inhabitants and their sheik leadership, are now joined with us at the shoulder in fighting the extremists that plague their country. Three weeks ago I went to a gathering of sheiks from the Province outside of Ramadi that numbered over 300 of the most influential men in the west. Three years ago my entire days and nights were devoted to tracking many of these same men down, and capturing or killing them, which is exactly what they were trying to do to me. However, by relentless pursuit by a bunch of fearless 19 year olds with guns who never flinched or gave an inch, while at the same time holding out the carrot of economic development, they have seen the light and know AQ can’t win against such men. By staying in the fight, and remaining true to our word, and our honor, AQ today can’t spend more than a few hours in Fallujah, Ramadi, or the Al Anbar in general, without being IDed by the locals and killed by the increasingly competent Iraqi Army, or by Marines.

Ignorant senators and semi-knowledgeable bloggers alike weigh in on the Anbar campaign, coming up with everything from we couldn’t provide security for the insurgents so that’s why the insurgents decided not to be insurgents any more (Chuck Schumer’s position, which is prima facie absurd due to its self-referential incoherence) to we were losing and would have lost except for the “flipping” of a single Sheikh.

While the so-called Anbar awakening was important, it was set up to succeed with months and years of combat action by the Marines in Anbar.  Without the backdrop of this history, the awakening is nonsense.  It cannot be properly understood if removed from its historical context.  Seeing the tapestry of the Anbar narrative is one that will require many stories.

The Anbar narrative is complex and involved, but General Kelly gives us a good starting point.  Read his entire speech.

  • http://www.rokdrop.com GI

    I appreciate your accolades for the Marines in Anbar but I would like to point out that a lot of US Army soldiers have and are still serving in Anbar to this day. The Marines have done fantastic work in Anbar but they haven’t done all the work.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Absolutely. You are correct. A lot of people don’t know it, but National Guard troops also contributed significantly to the Ramadi campaign. And, there are Navy corpsmen serving both, as well as airmen. I have had this feedback a lot, but I know that there are others who have contributed to the Anbar campaign.


You are currently reading "The Anbar Narrative: Part 1", entry #619 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,The Anbar Narrative and was published September 19th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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