Archive for the 'Concerned Citizens' Category



Betraying the Sons of Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

Professor W Andrew Terrill, Research Professor of National Security Affairs, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, has a good history of the Sons of Iraq program, including the near and present danger that Iraq faces by refusing to make good on the promises to the Sons of Iraq.  The Washington Post gives us an even more personal account of the evolution of this fated program.  After cataloging the exploits of one particularly powerful and renowned insurgent, the fall from grace hits hard.

They were polite but insistent; he, the wounded Yasser and another brother had to come with them. Khalil asked to change into a clean gown known as a dishdasha, then sent word to another brother, Shaker, to tell militiamen loyal to him not to start trouble.

He was taken to neighboring Balad, where, Khalil said, cheering members of the Iraqi security forces began shouting slogans for Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric.

Loyalties in Thuluyah are mercurial and suspicions entrenched, even more so since the arrest of Khalil, whose absence has emboldened his rivals and confused his supporters. Maliki, in no uncertain terms, said that Khalil “will be released.” But as Jabbouri, a critic of Khalil, pointed out, the future tense can be rather indefinite.

In the town, residents once too fearful to speak have begun airing their resentment of Khalil’s past. Some suggested that Osama bin Laden had bought Khalil the Nissan Armada parked in his driveway. Others, even his fellow tribesmen, blame him for hundreds of deaths in 2006 and 2007. As a way of explanation, they contend that he was al-Qaeda in Iraq’s fifth-ranking leader. Only that much bloodshed, they insist, would have delivered him that much power.

To Khalil’s supporters, his arrest was simply motivated by politics, prompted by Sunni rivals fearful of his promised run for parliament in elections to be held by January. Even Hammoud acknowledged as much. Hammoud’s brother sits on the new provincial council, and the new governor belongs to the same party.

“Now with the situation in Iraq, everyone wants to win, everyone wants to prepare for the next elections. Every party — how do you put it? — is already challenging the other,” said Shaalan Mohammed, a friend of Khalil’s, sitting at his house.

Khalil’s brothers Shaker and Maher nodded their heads in agreement.

“But I still have a question,” Shaker said. “Why did the Americans take part?”

Just months ago, Lt. Col. David Doherty, a U.S. military spokesman in northern Iraq, praised Khalil’s role in the battle against the insurgency. “He has helped maintain peace and stability in the region,” Doherty said, “while supporting the populace’s need for the same.”

Hammoud said the town’s mayor had warned him not to file charges against Khalil because the U.S. military last year had declared Khalil “a red line” — untouchable.

In the interview from detention, Khalil still called himself “America’s man and one of its most important supporters in the fight against al-Qaeda and other armed groups.”

But these days, U.S. military officials are less generous. Another spokesman denied that the military had ever given him an amnesty, as Khalil claimed. Military officials now say he played no role in the Sons of Iraq, even as fighters in Thuluyah maintain that he is still their leader.

“We do believe Mullah Nadhim’s arrest is a matter for the government of Iraq and are confident he will be treated fairly under Iraqi law,” Maj. Derrick Cheng said.

“Citizens here are treated fairly under Iraqi law,” he added …

At the city council, long considered as corrupt as it was impotent, some members once too meek to offer anything but praise for Khalil have assumed a newfound swagger. Jabbouri, a lawyer and former general who was one of the few to speak out about Khalil, sat under a lazy fan, exuding the sense of someone proved right.

Asked if he was happy about Khalil’s arrest, he paused for a long moment.

“Definitely,” he finally said.

“He forgot that the Americans are going to leave one day,” he said. “It’s like a fiancee and her groom. Before he marries her, he promises her a lot. After the marriage, he forgets everything. The Americans have pulled the carpet from under his feet.”

The opinion expressed by the Major Cheng is stolid and dangerous.  It’s stolid because not even citizens in the U.S. are always treated fairly under the law.  No one believes that all citizens of any country are always treated fairly and with justice.  It’s dangerous because if the Iraqi people hear and believe the idea that we believe that all jurisprudence in Iraq is fair and just, then we’re in the pocket of the Iraqi administration and have lost all power and authority.  It would have been better to say nothing at all.

A whole host of bad decisions has led up to this point.  Professor Terrill believes that the worst decision in the campaign was the dismissal of the Iraqi Army.  I strongly disagree.  Moqtada al Sadr was actually in the custody of the 3/2 Marines in 2004 and released because command pressed for it.  Sectarianism is alive and well in Iraq, and leaving Sadr alive was, without any competition, the worst mistake of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  It may yet cost us the campaign.

Second, I worry about the cost to our souls of the betrayal of the Sons of Iraq.  We have too easily amended the public discourse in America to fret over the moral fidelity of enhanced interrogation techniques that were applied only to a handful of terrorists.  That promises were made to the thousands of Sons of Iraq is not important to us, and yet it says something very profound and deep about our honesty, integrity and continued support for an administration in Iraq that is as sectarian as is the culture.  It says something when we are able so quickly to dismiss and betray those who fought alongside us against al Qaeda.

Finally, the Anbaris and Sunnis in other parts of Iraq will not forget, and since this is probably not the last counterinsurgency campaign we will fight in the twenty first century, we had better hope that the balance of the world forgets our broken promises.  The next “awakening” may be much harder coming.

Maliki Undercuts Awakening Movement

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 3 months ago

The U.S. forces have performed heroically, and many lives have been lost or irrevocably changed with wounds that will never heal. The U.S. has expended a significant part of the country’s treasure to free Iraq and start it on a course of freedom and democracy.  Certain lines of effort in the campaign have been clear and important throughout the history of the campaign for Iraq, one of which is the awakening movement (leading to the concerned citizens).

TCJ has made it clear from our initial coverage of the concerned citizens (later called the “Sons of Iraq”) that given the indigenous nature of much of the Sunni insurgency, settling disputes with the Sunnis was necessary (which was possible because they weren’t fighting for religious reasons like al Qaeda or the Taliban). Befriending those who were once shooting at you is a hard thing to do, but both the Sunnis and U.S. troops managed to do it because it was the right and smart thing to do. Combined with force projection by the U.S. Marines, it helped to win Anbar, and then subsequently Baghdad.

But Maliki may yet lose it all for us with his refusal to reconcile and recognize the legitimacy of the U.S. strategy.

The Shiite-dominated government in Iraq is driving out many leaders of Sunni citizen patrols, the groups of former insurgents who joined the American payroll and have been a major pillar in the decline in violence around the nation.

In restive Diyala Province, United States and Iraqi military officials say there were orders to arrest hundreds of members of what is known as the Awakening movement as part of large security operations by the Iraqi military. At least five senior members have been arrested there in recent weeks, leaders of the groups say.

West of Baghdad, former insurgent leaders contend that the Iraqi military is going after 650 Awakening members, many of whom have fled the once-violent area they had kept safe. While the crackdown appears to be focused on a relatively small number of leaders whom the Iraqi government considers the most dangerous, there are influential voices to dismantle the American backed movement entirely.

“The state cannot accept the Awakening,” said Sheik Jalaladeen al-Sagheer, a leading Shiite member of Parliament. “Their days are numbered.”

The government’s rising hostility toward the Awakening Councils amounts to a bet that its military, feeling increasingly strong, can provide security in former guerrilla strongholds without the support of these former Sunni fighters who once waged devastating attacks on United States and Iraqi targets. It also is occurring as Awakening members are eager to translate their influence and organization on the ground into political power.

But it is causing a rift with the American military, which contends that any significant diminution of the Awakening could result in renewed violence, jeopardizing the substantial security gains in the past year. United States commanders say that the practice, however unconventional, of paying the guerrillas has saved the lives of hundreds of American soldiers.

“If it is not handled properly, we could have a security issue,” said Brig. Gen. David Perkins, the senior military spokesman in Iraq. “You don’t want to give anybody a reason to turn back to Al Qaeda.” Many Sunni insurgents had previously been allied with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other extremist groups.

Even before the new pressure from the government, many Awakening members were growing frustrated — and at an especially delicate time. United States and Iraqi negotiators have just completed a draft security agreement that next year, Iraqi officials say, would substantially pull American forces back from cities and towns to be replaced by Iraqi security forces.

Awakening members complain, with rising bitterness, that the government has been slow to make good on its promises to recruit tens of thousands of its members into those security forces. General Perkins said only 5,200 members had been recruited in a force of about 100,000.

“Some people from the government encouraged us to fight against Al Qaeda, but it seems that now that Al Qaeda is finished they don’t want us anymore,” said Abu Marouf, who, according to American officials, was a powerful guerrilla leader in the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade west of Baghdad. “So how can you say I am not betrayed?”

After he said he discovered his name on lists of 650 names that an Iraqi Army brigade was using to arrest Awakening members west of Baghdad, Abu Marouf fled south of Falluja. His men, he said, “sacrificed and fought against Al Qaeda, and now the government wants to catch them and arrest them.”

It actually goes further than that, this surreptitious undercutting of the awakening movement. They don’t intend for them to be engaged in the provision of security for the population at all. They want to strip them of their weapons.

The groups, known as Awakening Councils, Sons of Iraq and Popular Committees, have helped rout al-Qaida in some parts of Iraq. But Shiite leaders fear the Sunnis’ switch of allegiance is just a tactic, and that they could one day turn their weapons against the Shiite majority.

The U.S., which put many of the Sunni fighters on its payroll, has urged al-Maliki to incorporate them into his security forces, but the government has been slow to do so.

In a speech to Shiite tribal leaders in Baghdad on Saturday, al-Maliki mixed praise for the Sunni fighters with a warning. He said armed groups, alongside security forces, were tolerated for a limited period because their weapons were “aimed at the chests of the terrorists.”

“So they (the Sunni fighters) deserve our gratitude and the inclusion (into the security forces) because we adhere to a policy that there are no arms but the arms of the government,” he said.

One day turn their weapons against the Shi’ite majority? The best way to ensure that is to attempt disarmament. Does Maliki really believe that the Sunnis will turn in all of their weapons, or that the ISF will be able to find them all? As for al Qaeda, they are probably not a threat. The indigenous Sunnis are more than capable of inflicting immeasurable pain on the country without AQI if they so choose.

Maliki and the Shi’ite majority love to refer to the awakening movement as a “cancer,” or “criminals.” But The Captain’s Journal considers Maliki a criminal for his willingness to meet and politic with Iranian officials, and his tolerance of the SIIC. So regarding criminality, it really is a matter of perspective, and Maliki’s current position amounts to nothing more than “might makes right.”

But is Maliki really that mighty?  Maliki obviously has a large degree of confidence in the ISF and the idea that the Sunnis will willingly roll over. TCJ is not as confident. But regardless of the outcome, Maliki’s actions are immoral and thuggish, and if Iraq is still peaceful once the “Shi’ite majority” has accomplished this disarmament and imprisonment of the awakening, it will be in spite of and not because of Maliki’s actions. Maliki may yet prove himself to be the most stolid dunce and inept stooge on the planet.

Will the Sons of Iraq Re-emerge as Insurgents?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

As background, recall not too many months ago that U.S. forces rolled out a plan to split off the indigenous insurgents from al Qaeda, Ansar al Sunna, former Ba’athists and Fedayeen Saddam.  We offered to pay them for services rendered, these services specifically being the provision of security for neighborhoods and intelligence gathering.  Basically, we co-opted their services.

The Captain’s Journal strongly supported this move, initially called the concerned citizens, but we knew at the time that nothing was cast in stone.  Nothing was irreversible, and the progress was tentative.  The Iraqi government had to reconcile and incorporate them into the system, and this was pointed out to us by contacts from field grade officers in Iraq at the time.  The warnings from these contacts were rather dire.  We knew the risks, but supported the program anyway as the best and wisest approach to counterinsurgency at the time and in this situation.

Now comes a report from the LA Times that hints at a potential re-emergence of the Sons of Iraq as insurgents, entitled The rise and fall of a sons of Iraq warrior.

Abu Abed in his Amman apartment holds a picture of him and General David Petraeus from last year when the Sunni fighter was celebrated for leading a then unthinkable revolt against Al Qaeda in Iraq in Baghdad.  Photo courtesy of the LA Times, Ned Parker

A year ago, Sunni Arab fighter Abu Abed led an improbable revolt against Al Qaeda in Iraq. As he killed its leaders and burned down hide-outs, he became a symbol of a new group called the Sons of Iraq — the man who dared to stand up to the extremists in Baghdad when it still ranked as a suicidal act.

Today, Abu Abed is chain-smoking cigarettes in Amman, betrayed by his best friend, on the run from a murder investigation in his homeland. He once walked the streets of Baghdad wearing wraparound sunglasses and surrounded by a posse of men in matching fatigues like something out of “Reservoir Dogs,” but now he shouts futilely for speeding taxis to halt, a slight figure in jeans and a button-down short-sleeve shirt.

Abu Abed’s rise and fall encapsulates the complexities of the U.S.-funded Sons of Iraq program. Although the Shiite-led Iraqi government has regarded the Sons of Iraq as little more than a front for insurgent groups, the Sunni fighters’ war helped end the cycle of car bombings and reprisal killings by Shiite militias that had sent Baghdad headlong into civil war. America’s new friends also helped bring down the death rate of U.S. forces in Iraq.

The Defense Department’s report to Congress last week emphasized the vital nature of the program, saying, “The emergence of the Sons of Iraq to help secure local communities has been one of the most significant developments in the past 18 months in Iraq.”

Abu Abed’s flight into exile shines a light on a violent power struggle pitting upstart leaders like him against Iraq’s entrenched Sunni political elite and its Shiite-dominated government. The frictions could easily shatter the Sons of Iraq — and open the door to Al Qaeda in Iraq’s resurgence.

In the cramped Amman apartment he shares with his family, Abu Abed opens a folder with pictures of him and American officials — Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and others. He holds up the medals they awarded him, the letters commending him.

But his eyes glaze over at a photo of Iraqi officials from a reconciliation conference he attended in mid-June. “They pat you on the back with one hand and stab you with the other,” he says bitingly.

Abu Abed doesn’t reveal his identity to people in Amman. He tells them he sells cars. His skin is grayer and his cheeks, once plump, are noticeably gaunt. The family has already moved once, after his 8-year-old son was handed a threatening letter at school.

He worries that his fate will serve as a warning to others who gambled their lives fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. “Al Qaeda will come back and the government and Iraqi army will be helpless to defeat them. People will have lost their faith in the government because of the way they treated me and others.”

The government considers Abu Abed a former militant with blood on his hands.

“If he has done something, let the legal system take its course. It is not just with Abu Abed, but all the people,” said Tahseen Sheikhly, an Iraqi government spokesman for Baghdad military operations. “They were part of the major problem of violence in Iraq.”

Abu Abed’s defenders, including some U.S. military officers, suggest that the fighter earned enemies for upsetting Baghdad’s status quo as he brought former insurgents into an alliance with the Americans.

In recent months, Abu Abed had been organizing like-minded fighters around Baghdad and northern Iraq for provincial elections in the fall. U.S. officers believe his transition to politics could have proved the last straw for the government.

“Certainly you can draw the conclusion because he was getting involved in the political process to engage Sons of Iraq leaders to form a political party, the Iraqi government actively targeted him,” said a U.S. military officer, who declined to give his name because of the subject’s sensitivity. “I don’t know that I can say it outright, but it certainly does seem that way.”

Amid the political skirmishing, the committee set up to integrate U.S.-backed Sunni fighters into the security forces and public works jobs has stalled.

We always knew that reconciliation would be necessary for the real gains to obtain.  Maliki has a once in a generation opportunity to bring peace to Iraq.  He demands that his people reconcile, but refuses to entertain the idea himself, perhaps beholden to Iranian influence.  If he continues this path, he might very well plunge Iraq into civil war upon the eventual departure of U.S. forces.

If this happens, nothing – including Maliki and the ISF – will be able to stop it.  The Sunnis may make up only 15% of the population, but aligned with al Qaeda would become as formidable as they were before.  Maliki will sit at the top of a crumbling government and nation-state.  Thus he will have proven himself to be the ultimate fool.  This is not inevitable, but probable if his administration doesn’t ensure that all parties are properly incorporated into the government.  The U.S. will have no leverage with the Sunnis next time if Maliki’s administration doesn’t produce.  Our wallet has been shot on this one chance.

Attacking the Enemy’s Strategy in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 11 months ago

“Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.  Next best is to disrupt his alliances.  The next best is to attack his army.”  Sun Tzu, The Art of War, III.4 – III.6

The role of Syria – at least tacitly – in the suicide bombings in Iraq and other foreign terrorist activities is well known.  Yet only recently is the United States diplomatic corps said to have lost patience with Syria.  Despite reports to the contrary, Iran continues to fund, arm, train and supply terrorists in Iraq in an effort to destabilize the country.  The foreign origins of the violence in Iraq could have been (and could be) better addressed than it has been.  The EFP (explosively formed projectile) factories in Iran should have been enemy targets as much as insurgent domiciles, and the Syrian Imams who recruited and supplied suicide bombers into Iraq should have been considered enemy fighters as much as those holding a weapon in Fallujah or Baghdad.  While the U.S. has conducted robust kinetic operations against the foreign fighters in Iraq with huge success, the strategy could still have been completed with so-called black operations against rogue elements in Syria and more visible operations against EFP factories in Iran (or at least diplomatic pressure against Iran, something the State Department seems loath to do).

However, in the area of the indigenous insurgents, the U.S. strategy has been more lucid.  The goal in counterinsurgency is to disrupt the allegiance of the people to the insurgents and then to ameliorate the conditions that led to the insurgency.  Kinetic operations against foreign fighters were necessary because they fight mainly due to religious motivation.  However, for the indigenous fighters, for months we have advocated both settling with the erstwhile insurgents and payment to the concerned citizens as both effective and anthropologically sound.  It has become in vogue, especially among the political left, to level very specific criticisms at this approach.  Kevin Drum gives us the template for this strategy bashing.

I’ve mentioned a few times before that our “bottoms up” strategy of supporting Sunni tribes in the provinces surrounding Baghdad carries a number of risks. The biggest risk, I suppose, is that once the tribes finally feel safe from the threat of al-Qaeda in Iraq, they’ll relaunch their insurgency and start shooting at American soldiers again. The second biggest risk is that the Shiite central government understands perfectly well that “competing armed interest groups” in the provinces are — well, competing armed interest groups.

That phrase comes from Australian Lt. Col. David Kilcullen (here), and a week ago I linked to a quote from a U.S. Army officer who was fairly candid about the effect that arming the tribes is likely to have on the balance of power in Iraq. “The grass-roots level will force change at the top,” he suggested, “because if they do not act on it, they will get overrun.”

Quite so. And does the Maliki government understand this threat? Via Cernig, AP reporter Diaa Hadid makes it clear that they do indeed:

Iraq’s Shiite-led government declared Saturday that after restive areas are calmed it will disband Sunni groups battling Islamic extremists because it does not want them to become a separate military force.

….The statement from Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-Obaidi was the government’s most explicit declaration yet of its intent to eventually dismantle the groups backed and funded by the United States as a vital tool for reducing violence.

“We completely, absolutely reject the [Sunni] Awakening becoming a third military organization,” al-Obaidi said at a news conference.

He added that the groups would also not be allowed to have any infrastructure, such as a headquarters building, that would give them long-term legitimacy. “We absolutely reject that,” al-Obaidi said.

The Maliki government has made similar noises in the past, but this is by far the most unequivocal they’ve ever been about it. And needless to say, the Sunni leaders are having none of it. There’s exactly zero chance that they will ever voluntarily disband their “Concerned Local Citizens” groups.

Who knows? Maybe this is posturing more than anything else. Maybe Petraeus and Crocker can work some magic that will defuse all this. But a year from now, if the Iraqi civil war is raging once again, this is where it will have started.

UPDATE: In the New York Times, Alissa Rubin and Damien Cave have a long overview piece on the current status of the Awakening. Money quote: “The Americans are haunted by the possibility that Iraq could go the way of Afghanistan, where Americans initially bought the loyalty of tribal leaders only to have some of them gravitate back to the Taliban when the money stopped.” The whole thing is worth a read.

Surely, with the Sunni leaders warning against sidelining the auxiliary police and concerned citizens, the Maliki administration should listen carefully.  Furthermore, Major General Rick Lynch has been clear on U.S. expectations for the administration.

A top U.S. commander warned that Sunnis who fight al-Qaida in Iraq must be rewarded and recognized as legitimate members of Iraqi society - or else the hard-fought security gains of the past six months could be lost.

Lynch has credited these groups for much of the improvement in security in the region he commands, an area that stretches to the Iranian and Saudi Arabian borders …

The people say security is good now, but we need jobs. It’s all about jobs and we have to create them,» he told The Associated Press as he flew into patrol base Salie, just south of Baghdad - where U.S. troops fund about 150 members of the tribal groups.  We are in a tenuous situation. We need to give jobs to the citizens (groups) or they will go back to fighting.

Lynch, who leads the 3rd Infantry Division, said he had 26,000 members of the groups in the area he controls and that they have given U.S. and Iraqi forces a key advantage in seeking to clear extremist-held pockets. They number about 70,000 countrywide, and are expected to grow by another 45,000 in coming months …

The U.S. military now funds the groups, known as Awakening Councils, Concerned Citizens and other names. But these Sunni groups expect to be rewarded for their efforts with jobs, either in the Iraqi security forces or elsewhere.

Having been militarily defeated by U.S. forces, we consider it to be unlikely that the Sunnis would take up the fight once again with the U.S.  More likely, however, is an escalation in the low intensity civil war that was ongoing for much of the previous two years.  This all makes it critical that political progress take root in the wake of the military successes.  But Kevin Drum’s concluding comment is absurd: ” … a year from now, if the Iraqi civil war is raging once again, this is where it will have started.”

Rather than an observation of the necessity for political progress, this statement follows the template of criticism set out by the left, and it has been followed with religious fervor.  Note carefully what Drum charges.  Rather than the seeds of violence being one thousand years of religious bigotry between Shi’a and Sunni, or recent history under Saddam’s rule, or the temptations of oil revenue in a land that has not ever seen the largesse of its natural resources due to corruption, the cause is said to be the “concerned local citizens” groups, i.e., U.S. strategy.

This outlandish claim betrays the presuppositions behind it - specifically, that it would be somehow better to continue the fighting than to, as they charge, buy peace with money.  But for the hundreds of thousands of disaffected Sunni workers who have no means to support their families, this criticism is impotent and offers no alternative to working for the insurgency to feed their children.  It ignores basic daily needs, and thus is a barren and unworkable view when considering the human condition.

The strategy all along has been one of ground-up counterinsurgency.  The statements by military leadership in Iraq, far from hiding the fact that political progress must follow on the heels of military progress, show not only a knowledge of this fact, but demonstrate that it is this way by design.  The intent from the beginning has been one of providing the window of opportunity for political reconciliation, at least insofar as the provision of basic human needs is concerned.  In this way, command in Iraq has attacked the enemy’s strategy, and has done so with remarkable success.

To the chattering class, success of the preparatory stages (the counterinsurgency proper), doesn’t provide a reason to hail the successes of the campaign.  Rather, it provides a reason to level the a priori charge that we caused a civil war, if in fact one ensues.  To the more sensible thinker, it should remind us of the fact that we are not finished, and more work needs to be done to complete the campaign.

Exporting the Anbar Model: An Exercise in Nuance

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

James Janega with the Chicago Tribune follows up the reporting that I and Bill Ardolino have done on the campaign in and around Fallujah area of operations.

The last car bomb in Fallujah exploded in May.

On that warm evening, insurgents drove a vehicle packed with explosives into mourners for a slain local tribal leader as they wound through a ramshackle corner of the city, killing 20. The next day, Fallujah’s mayor banned all vehicles from city streets.

If there were no cars, reasoned Mayor Saad Awad Rashid, there could be no car bombs.

“It stopped,” said Lt. Col. William Mullen, commander of a shrinking force of U.S. Marines in the city who have watched the insurgency melt into the encircling countryside. “The ‘significant events’ in the city stopped. I think a lot of [the insurgents] left.”

The Americans are not far behind: After surrounding the city with walls and improving security on its streets, the Marines are pulling back from the one-time insurgent bastion of Fallujah. They are redeploying to surrounding areas as the U.S. troop “surge” allows them to consolidate progress made largely by tribal leaders and local officials in security and civil works.

They leave behind a city devastated by years of fighting and starved for reconstruction, as well as questions about whether Fallujah — a place infamous for the 2004 mob killings of four American contractors and two resulting U.S. offensives — can now serve as a model of stability for a wider American troop withdrawal from Iraq in the months and years to come.

It has been a workable but messy solution, with successes like the reduction in car bombings coming as much from the mayor’s spur-of-the-moment decisions as any military planning.

A partially trained Iraqi police force and bands of armed volunteers now work under American supervision, carefully preserving peace on streets covered by years of trash and rubble. To live under this new protection, most of Fallujah’s 250,000 residents submitted fingerprints and retina scans to get identification cards that let them stay in the city.

As a point of fact, Lt. Col. Mullen is now a Colonel, one of thirty two promoted to Colonel effective October 1, 2007, prior to the publication of the Tribune article.  Also, there aren’t a quarter of a million residents left in Fallujah.  The article does go to show that the Marines in the Fallujah area of operations are currently primarily engaged in reconstruction, rebuilding and public affairs.  The article also reminds the reader that more work needs to be done.

It is a place under 24-hour lockdown, surrounded by berms and barbed wire. But that’s a price Fallujah’s war-weary residents say they are willing to pay for now.

“The last four months, things have been going better,” said Khamis Auda Najim, a 38-year-old cabinet-maker in Fallujah’s Andalus neighborhood. “But the changes are just on the security side. The street surfaces, the sewage, the electricity, the water? Those aren’t as good.”

U.S. forces promise those services are coming, along with U.S.-funded reconstruction projects and more money from the federal and provincial governments. But nothing in Fallujah moves quickly. As they face impatient city residents, the Americans are learning that everything is important now.

“I’ve been an infantry officer for 10 years. Since I’ve been here, I’ve learned more about water treatment and sewage than I’ve ever wanted to know,” said Marine Capt. Jeff Scott McCormack, 32, a company commander from Oak Forest, Ill.

Quick transitions have been made from the U.S. forces that established security to civilian Iraqi forces deployed to preserve it. The last Iraqi army troops left a month ago; the streets are now in the hands of 1,500 volunteers and police officers, some of whom have completed abbreviated training courses.

Heavy kinetic operations in May and June of 2007 were followed on by gated communities and biometrics, and involvement of the local Iraqi police along with paid individuals engaged in community watch.  Marines filled sand bags and constructed joint combat outposts – Police Precincts, and patrolled with Iraqi Police in order to give them confidence.  With the comparative irrelevance of tribal leaders in the Fallujah area, Muktars were engaged to provide leadership of and communication with the communities.

Upon pacification of Hit, Haditha, and Ramadi (all by different means, Haditha with sand berms, curfew and a ban on vehicular  traffic, Ramadi with tribal engagement), the insurgency fled to Fallujah, where kinetic operations routed them from the area in the second quarter of 2007.  Many of them left and went home to Lt. Col. Bohm’s area of operation, where they are being carefully assimilated back into society.

Col. Richard Simcock who commands Regimental Combat Team 6 is measured and careful, yet honest with where he believes Anbar currently stands.

U.S. Marine Colonel Richard Simcock, who commands the 6th Marine Regiment, says his forces have successfully routed the insurgents in Anbar province.

“There are still attacks in Fallujah and surrounding areas,” said Colonel Simcock. “We have not killed or captured every single al-Qaida member that is here. But their capabilities are greatly diminished. I would characterize them as a defeated force from my perspective.”

Speaking to reporters in Washington via satellite from Iraq, Colonel Simcock says the surge of more U.S. forces in Anbar and Baghdad has allowed Marines to stay in areas where al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists have fled to prevent insurgents from returning.

He also credits the cooperation of the Iraqi army and police, as well as local tribal leaders in the effort to defeat al-Qaida in Iraq and bring security to Anbar.

“That has been the building block that has allowed the people to come out and participate in governance,” he said. “But, probably more importantly, it allows them to come out and do the things that a lot of the citizens here in al-Anbar have not been able to do because of murder and intimidation that al-Qaida was doing. We have made great strides in regards to that, and we are very, very pleased with the progress that we are making.”

Measured, careful and honest.  There are still attacks – we have not killed or captured every single AQI member – but they are a defeated force.  Exporting this model is complicated and nuanced, and involves more than just the participation and approval of tribal shiekhs, no matter what the current narrative says.  Nibras Kazimi has crafted a smart analysis of tribes and their saliency in Iraq for the New York Sun.

Does it really matter, whether tribes were the primary factor in defeating Al Qaeda or not, given that the story coming out of Iraq is more and more hopeful? Yes it does: the implication is that if you don’t know why and how you’ve won, then you won’t be able to replicate victory. The tribes, like the American troop surge, were catalysts that sped up the demise of the insurgency, but they did not trigger the process the insurgency’s failure predated the surge and any tribal strategies.

I believe the insurgency failed because it had bad ideas and unrealistic expectations. When the price paid by the local population for these ideas and expectations — fighting the Shiites and re-establishing Sunni hegemony — became too steep, Sunnis turned against the insurgents and tried to find shelter, yet again, under the central government This latter trend is the one that should be reinforced: Sunnis should be encouraged to throw in their lot with the New Iraq, rather than falling back into the tribal identities of Iraq’s past.

Once tribal leaders realized that Al Qaeda was losing, they turned towards Baghdad for guidance. As one Iraq observer put it to me, “Tribes are a barometer of power; they swarm around whoever has the upper hand.” The danger now is that Americans are trying to resuscitate a clannish social system that had withered away in Iraq, and turning it into a power in of itself.

We agree with Kazimi.  Nonetheless, the U.S. has worked with tribes where it suited our needs, and community Muktars where it suited our needs.  Given the constricted time frame that the U.S. public will allow for this counterinsurgency campaign, efficacy and expediency is the order of the day.  Thus, following the model in Fallujah, do we see retinal scans being taken by Army troopers south of Baghdad.

troopers_taking_scan.jpg

The Christian Science Monitor has an article in which they examine the export of the Anbar model to Shi’ite parts of Iraq.

Forward Operating Base Iskan, Iraq – The violence has dropped dramatically, say US commanders, in the towns surrounding this base in northern Babil Province, south of Baghdad.

In May, four improvised explosive device (IED) attacks targeted the battalion; none in August, says Maj. Craig Whiteside, executive officer of the 1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry Regiment. Fewer undetonated IEDs have been found – five in May and two in August. Indirect fire and small-arms violence have also dropped from about a dozen incidents in May to less than three in August.

The reason, they say, is that the same approach that won success in Anbar Province, where the Marines gained support of Sunni tribesmen against Al Qaeda, is taking hold in mixed-sectarian areas. But here, Americans have enlisted Shiites frustrated with extremists from such groups as the Mahdi Army, run by Moqtada al-Sadr.

Across the Euphrates River Valley, known to the military as the southern belts of Baghdad, about 14,000 Shiite and Sunni “concerned citizens” are being paid to man checkpoints and patrol roads in an effort to prevent attacks from violent extremism of either sect.

Largely untrained and armed with weapons they already own, the citizens wear armbands and monitor traffic along the roads, keeping watch to ensure no outsiders or other extremist elements come through to bury roadside bombs. If they fail to keep violence out, they could lose their monthly paycheck. Ultimately, the idea is that they will become members of the Iraq security forces.

“They are making their community safe,” says Army Capt. Charles Levine, one of the company commanders here. His battalion has recruited more than 1,300 participants since mid-September. A little less than half of them are Shiite.

Concerned citizens and turnover to the local communities is the key to the current counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq.  If the hope is that people are taking responsibility for reasons other than their tribal Shiekh says to do so, this strategy is seeing some success.

A 72-year-old man stopped a suspected suicide bomber from detonating himself at a checkpoint in Arab Jabour Oct. 14.

The man approached a checkpoint where Mudhehr Fayadh Baresh was standing guard, but did not make it very far.

Baresh, a tribal commissioner and member of the Arab Jabour Concerned Citizens program, said he ordered the man to lift his shirt – using training received from Coalition Forces – when he did not recognize him as a local villager. 

The suspect refused to lift his shirt.  Baresh repeated the command again, and the suspect exposed his suicide vest, running toward the checkpoint.

Baresh opened fire which caused the vest to detonate, killing the suspect.

“I did it for the honor of my family and the honor of my country,? said Baresh, when he met with Col. Terry Ferrell, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

All counterinsurgency is local, and whether it is for family, tribe, remuneration or simply for personal safety, the enemy is being defeated in Iraq.  There are fights remaining, and a precipitous departure of U.S. forces might turn a positive situation into a negative one.  Yet it is impossible to ignore the gains on the ground in Iraq.

Other sources:

TCJ, Payment to Concerned Citizens: Strategy of Genius or Shame.

TCJ, Reorganizations and Defections Within the Insurgency in Iraq.

TCJ, Iraq: Al Qaeda’s Quagmire.

TCJ, Al Qaeda’s Miscalculation.

TCJ, Operation Alljah and the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment.

Bill Ardolino, Operation Alljah: The Swarm.

Bill Ardolino, Confidence is Key: The Evolution of the Fallujah Police Department.

Bill Ardolino: Shuffling Paperwork to Victory: The Evolution of the Fallujah Police Department.

Granny in Iraq: Armed and Dangerous

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

As I discussed in Iraq: al Qaeda’s QuagmireReorganizations and Defections Within the Insurgency in Iraq and Al Qaeda’s Miscalculation, al Qaeda and affiliated fighters and foreign terrorist elements are taking a pounding by U.S. forces in Iraq.  These kinetic operations continued today from Ramadi to Tikrit to Tarmiyah.

Coalition forces killed three terrorists Saturday while conducting an operation to deny sanctuary to al-Qaeda in Iraq and foreign terrorists Southwest of Samarra.  During the course of operations, Coalition forces observed an individual, who emerged from the target area, get into a nearby boat and meet up with another boat carrying several individuals.  Coalition forces further observed the group beginning to transfer equipment and weapons.  Perceiving hostile intent, supporting aircraft engaged, killing three terrorists.  The ground force discovered a cache of weapons on site.

South of Samarra Sunday, Coalition forces captured an associate of an al-Qaeda in Iraq network believed to be responsible for trafficking funds to senior terrorist leaders.  Reports indicate the individual has made numerous recent attempts to communicate with the terrorist leaders.  In addition to the targeted individual, five suspected terrorists were detained during the operation. 

Coalition forces also conducted an operation in Ramadi targeting associates of an al-Qaeda in Iraq network reportedly involved in foreign terrorist facilitation. Three suspects were detained on site without incident. 

In other operations, Coalition forces captured a wanted individual and seven other suspected terrorists south of Tarmiyah.  The targeted individual is reportedly a close associate of the leader of a terrorist network operating in the region.  Intelligence reports led the ground force to the target area where the individual identified himself. 

Farther north in Tikrit, Coalition forces detained three suspects while targeting an associate of a senior leader of an al-Qaeda network operating outside of Iraq who is attempting to reside in Mosul.

But in order for the advances to be permanent, something else must take the place of U.S. kinetic operations.  Solution?  Concerned citizens.  One reason for al Qaeda’s misadventure in Iraq is armed and concerned citizens.  Many Somalians and Syrians have been in Haditha (close to the border) and elsewhere in Iraq, but Between Baghdad and Arab Jabour:

“The al Qaeda that’s here is not guys … from Syria or Somalia. They are local people who grew up here,? Adgie said. “They were bad, bad teenagers who stole cars, and (with) the lure of fast money from al Qaeda … they joined al Qaeda, and they carry out al Qaeda’s bidding.?

These home-grown terrorists employed “ultra-violence? against their fellow villagers to “strike fear in their hearts,? the colonel explained. Coalition forces from the final phase of the U.S. troop surge streamed into the region earlier this summer.

“In early August, we started seeing the first of the concerned local citizens come forward,? Adgie said. “And they started providing us with just a lot of information on who the bad guys were.?

The “concerned citizen? movement was greatly bolstered last month, the colonel explained, when a retired brigadier general from Saddam Hussein’s former army encouraged more local people to assist the coalition effort.

“(He) decided, ‘Enough is enough. I’ll be the leader,’? Adgie said. “He stepped up, stepped out into the light of day and helped us recruit this concerned citizen organization.?

That organization has grown from 87 to 538 people in just seven weeks, the colonel explained, and its members provide crucial information.

“Al Qaeda operates under a veil of secrecy. No one knows who al Qaeda is,? Adgie said. “Well that’s no longer possible when the guy you went to high school with is a concerned citizen, and he can look you in the eye and say: ‘You’re al Qaeda.’?

This approach is developing spuriously in some areas, while planned in others, involving leadership across Baghdad.

Iraqi governmental officials met with more than 300 sheikhs from the Mada’in Qada in Baghdad to discuss the way ahead for reconciliation in their area, Oct. 4.  (A qada is roughly equivalent to a county in the U.S.).

Leaders from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and Multi-National Division Center attended as observers.

“When this many sheiks attend a meeting such as this, it is an indicator that the people are tired of the violence and have a desire to return to normalcy,? said Maj. Dave Fivecoat from Delaware, Ohio, 3rd BCT operations officer.

The sheikhs agreed security in the qada had improved since the arrival of the 3rd BCT in March 2007, and pledged to continue cooperation with U.S. and Iraqi security forces (ISF) to fight terrorism. To that end, they discussed a plan that would lead to the eventual acceptance of concerned local citizens into the Iraqi security forces.

The sheikhs also proposed a plan to increase coordination between tribal leaders and the government.

U.S. commanders hold out the concerned citizens programs as Iraq’s best hope for reconciliation and stabilization from the ground up, but stress that the concerned citizens must, in a timely manner, be folded into the official Iraqi security forces.

According to Maj. Jeremy Moore, 3rd BCT Iraqi security force liaison, the meeting was a positive step toward that transition.

“We are optimistic that their inclusion will ultimately enable the ISF to accurately represent and effectively secure the local populace,? Moore said.

Lest we think that only men can participate in this deal, the women of Iraq are making their presence known.

In a well-lit meeting room in a government building in the Iraqi capital, 20 Iraqi women were sitting in a circle, intently watching the demonstration in the center of the room. They were dressed modestly but with some flair: bright pink and blue headscarves mixed in among the black chadors, chunky, designer purses resting on the floor beneath their seats.

The friendly, casual atmosphere in the room looked similar to a suburban book-club meeting, or maybe a Mary-Kay cosmetics party. Except that these women were not learning how to apply foundation, they were learning how to lock and load an AK-47.

“Who can show me how to do it?? asked the instructor, an Iraqi Army sergeant, holding up the weapon.

One of the women jumped up and took the automatic rifle, expertly disassembled it and put it back together. When she cocked it by loudly slamming the charging handle back, the rest of the women applauded.

granny_in_iraq.jpg

Granny is armed and dangerous.  The local bad boys won’t be so eager to do the bidding of the savage foreigners if they know that neighborhood mothers and grandmothers are drawing a bead on them.


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