Can the Anbar Strategy Work in Pakistan?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

At the Small Wars Journal Blog there is an article by the same subject title.  This article is by Clint Watts and is another excellent warning to the Pentagon thinkers and planners.  It is commended to the reader, and I supplied the following comment.

I have argued similarly in the post:

The Special Forces Plan for Pakistan: Mistaking the Anbar Narrative

It has become in vogue to characterize the Anbar narrative as the “awakening,” and nothing more than this, as if it was all about getting a tribe to “flip.” To be sure, we needed Captain Travis Patriquin’s observations sooner than we got them, and I have argued almost nonstop for greater language training before deployment and payment to so-called “concerned citizens” and other erstwhile insurgents. You can qualify expert on the rifle range, but if you can’t speak the language, you’re going in ‘blind’ (to play on words).

But just to make it clear, to see the Anbar narrative as all about tribes “flipping” is an impoverished view of the campaign. It’s a Johnny-come-lately view. Hard and costly kinetic operations laid the groundwork for the tribal realignments. Sheikh Sattar had to have his smuggling lines cut and dismembered by specially assigned units conducting kinetic operations in order to ‘see the light’ and align with U.S. forces. Then, a tank had to be parked outside his residence to provide protection against the insurgents in order to keep him alive and aligned with the U.S.

The pundits talk about the tribes, but the Marines talk about kinetic operations inside Ramadi to provide the window of opportunity for the tribes to realign their allegiance:

Marine Staff Sergeant Helps Awaken Anbar

To be sure, the tribal alliance is a large part of the Anbar victory, but force projection (not force protection) was the pretext for the Anbar awakening. We simply cannot do COIN on the cheap. I hope that no one exists who believes that we could have waltzed into Anbar three years ago, without the pretext of force projection, and sat down with the tribes and verbally persuaded them to join “the cause?” Perhaps we could have done it (won) sooner (perhaps two years), and perhaps we could have done it without quite the heavy losses (if we had been prepared for IEDs and snipers a little better), and perhaps it could have been more efficient had we understood the culture and language better. But make no mistake. The strong horse gets the bet. There is no value in weakness in this part of the world. And the Anbar campaign must not be seen as the consequent of any revised strategy or the surge. It did not result from any of this, but was ongoing for three years separate from what happened in the balance of Iraq.

Export the strategy? Of course, but an understanding of the strategy is necessary in order to export it. SF operators and talk didn’t win Anbar. Force projection won Anbar.

COIN in Pakistan begins in Afghanistan and along the Pakistan / Afghanistan border. Unless and until we devote the troops and effect the force projection to let the people in these AOs know that we are serious about the campaign, there will be no success. The troops needed to conduct COIN in this campaign are currently in Anbar, or at Camp’s LeJeune or Pendleton.

Conclusion: This is a good article, and serves as yet another warning to the Pentagon thinkers and planners that there are no strings to pull, no buttons to push, and no magic words to speak. ‘Abracadabra’ plus the right formula just doesn’t work, and leaves us where we were before. COIN requires boots on the ground. How many more warnings will have to be issued?

Force projection + COIN =  A winning strategy.


You are currently reading "Can the Anbar Strategy Work in Pakistan?", entry #842 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Pakistan,The Anbar Narrative and was published December 21st, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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