Archive for the 'Fallujah' Category



Basra and Anbar Reverse Roles

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

In Operation Alljah and the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment, we interviewed Lt. Col. William F. Mullen who gave us a realistic but positive report on the accomplishments of the Marines in Fallujah.  As expected, we received e-mail from detractors (is Fallujah really this much better off?).  There are also reports that take the same facts and turn them into a completely different interpretation than the one we published.

We have also published extensively on the calamity in Basra, the British having essentially lost the military struggle for Basra and surrounding areas.  True to form, this assessment has also been questioned by detractors.  But even the British are finally managing to turn their gaze towards just how bad the situation is in Basra.

Like Donald Rumsfeld, the man British commentators love to hate, we never sent enough troops to Iraq. At first we were pretty condescending to the Americans, insisting that our light touch, learned in Northern Ireland, was far more effective than their alleged heavy-handedness. We were wrong. Basra is not Londonderry. Our ever-lower profile was seen by local militias — and the public — as weakness. As a result the militia grewstronger and stronger, and now Basra is a town of warring gangs. We never committed enough — and we reduced our numbers much too soon. We now have only 5,000 men and women in Basra. That small force must protect itself, must continue training the 10th Iraqi Division.

The U.S. has also begun to divulge the sensitivity of the situation.

“This is less an insurgency issue than it is criminal, a borderline Mafia kind of situation. You’ve got competing criminal interests looking for territory down there,” said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon’s press secretary.

“So that has certainly complicated matters for the Brits down there, and it certainly remains a concern for us,” he told reporters.

Britain has 5,500 troops in Basra but almost all have been pulled back to the airport where they are training Iraqi forces.

This admission may be gratuitous. Beyond criminal activity, three strong, competing Shi’a factions are at war with one another and openly demanding protection money from the population: Jaish al Mahdi, the Fadhila Party, and SIIC (Badr).

So what is the relationship between Basra and Anbar, and is there any acendotal evidence to back up these analyses?  The best on-the-scene evidence comes from Omar Fadhil of Iraq the Model, who assesses the reversal of roles between the Shi’a south and the Sunni West in Crossing Anbar.

We’ve been getting some reports about the improvement in security in Anbar in the last few months but little was said about the highway that runs across the province.

The several hundred kilometer western section of the international highway is technically Iraq’s second “port” in a way as it connects Iraq with Syria and Jordan and was for years the only window to the world when all airports and the southern ports in Basra were closed to traffic in the 1990s.

For most of the time between 2004 and 2007 taking this road was considered suicidal behavior as the chance someone would be robbed or killed was too high.

But with the tribal awakening in Anbar that cleared large parts of the province from al-Qaeda the highway is expected to be safer, but how much safer?

My family returned yesterday from a vacation in Syria and they have used this road twice in six weeks. I had tried hard to convince them not to do that and take a flight instead but now after hearing their story I’m convinced that my fear was not justified; the road is safe…

This is good not only for Iraq’s economy and traveling but also for the American troops who can use this road as an alternative supply route in case the British troops withdraw and leave the strategic southern highway between Kuwait and Baghdad unguarded.

Back to the story; there are two travel plans for passenger SUV’s and buses from Damascus to Baghdad; one includes leaving Damascus between 10 pm and midnight, reaching the Syrian border control before dawn, entering the Iraqi border control at 8 am and arriving in Baghdad around sunset. A total of approximately 20 hours with 6 to 7 hours lost in waiting and passport control.

The second plan includes leaving Damascus at noon and here convoys carrying the passengers continue to move all the way until a short distance northwest of Ramadi. At this point the time would be between midnight and 2 am and since that’s within curfew hours in Baghdad, the drivers park their vehicles and everyone gets to sleep 3 or 4 hours and wait for the sun to rise and then the journey would continue.

Now the first plan sounds predictable, safe and well planned given the distance and necessary stops. But look at the second one carefully and try to picture the scene; dozens of passenger SUV’s (GMC trucks mostly) and buses parking in he middle of nowhere in a zone that was until recently the heart of al-Qaeda’s Islamic state! Obviously the drivers and families feel safe enough that they know they won’t be robbed and slaughtered by cold-blooded terrorists. Even more interesting, this parking and resting zone was not designated nor protected by the Iraqi or American forces but simply an arrangement the drivers managed on their own perhaps with cooperation from the local tribes.

I still laugh every time I think of this incredible change and I honestly wouldn’t have believed it if the story teller wasn’t my father.

This sign of positive progress brings to my mind a sad irony. Back in 2004 when taking the Anbar highway was out of question for me, the Sunni dentist, I made the trip back and fourth between Baghdad and Basra countless times without any fear.

Now, I’m ready to try the trip through the west, but going south through the militia infested land is something I’d never dare do at this stage.

The reports on the pacification of Anbar are indeed correct, and sadly, the British failure in Basra has made Operation Iraqi Freedom much more complicated.

Prior:

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

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 2 months ago

Lt. Col. William F. Mullen who commands the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (currently at Forward Operating Base Reaper on the South side of Fallujah), gives us an exclusive look into Operation Alljah and what has been accomplished in Fallujah.  His discussion is both informative and interesting, and points to modifications and adjustments to the template used in the Anbar Province.  Every city and engagement has been a unique experience, but the adaptability of the United States Marine Corps has proven to be one of the most effective weapons in their arsenal.

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Marines take fingerprints, iris scans and other information from Iraqi citizens using the Biometrics Automated Toolset in an Iraqi Police precinct in Fallujah on July 19.

Interview with Lt. Col. William F. Mullen

TCJ: Lt. Col. Mullen, thanks for the chance to interview you on the hard work and accomplishments of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines in Fallujah. Operation Alljah seems to have had multiple phases.  For instance, the Multi-National Force issued press releases on June 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th on kinetic operations against the insurgency and terrorists.  Can you describe this part of the operation for us?  For instance,  since the so-called Anbar Awakening came somewhat late to Fallujah compared to Ramadi, how did 2/6 identify the insurgents?

Lt. Col. Mullen: Well, to help clarify, many times MNF-W identifies attacks or kinetic events as happening in Fallujah, but they mean the Fallujah area.  There has been a great deal going on in the smaller towns outside of the city to curtail enemy activities out there and keep them from trying to return to the city.  We have had some small events in the city, but overall, it has been very quiet.  The latest big event we had was on June 2nd when we conducted a raid with the police that killed 7 enemy, captured 8, found two truck bombs before they went off, IED making material and other enemy supplies.  Three of the dead enemy had suicide vests on and they were killed before they could set off the vests.  This was a great operation based off of intelligence that the police had gained.  We have also been conducting quiet little cordons and searches on houses based off of more tips from the civilian population and are picking off the enemy one or two at a time.  They never fight when we do this because we are too strong for them and this is having a serious demoralizing effect on the enemy.  We had a serious sniper problem in the city when we first took over and it is gone for all intents and purposes now.  We detained 11 suspected snipers and killed two.  They now operate well away from the city.  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.  As just one example, in an area NE of the city, AQI herded 12 women and children, all relatives of a prominent area Sheik who had declared himself against AQI, into a building and blew it up on them killing them all.  That is the type of rabid dog enemy we all face out here.  They are cutting off their nose to spite their face and the average Iraqi wants nothing to do with them.

TCJ: It seems as if the police of Fallujah have managed to assist and work together in the pacification of Fallujah, with the Marines doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the way of combat operations in the initial stages of Operation Alljah.  Can you describe the working relationship between the Marines and the police?

Lt. Col. Mullen: The relationship between us and the police is very good.  At the start of ALLJAH, they were centrally located in the HQ in the middle of the city.  They were afraid to go home in uniform, some never went home at all, IP houses were getting blown up or burned down, some would get assassinated on their front doorsteps, etc.  When they went out to do a raid, they went out in force and scared to death.  Now they are spread all over the city in precincts supported by over 1400 neighborhood watch personnel.  They not only go home now, they do so in uniform proudly. They used to always wear masks over their face so they would not be recognized and targeted off duty – few do that now.  They have a lot of logistical support issues, but we are working hard to iron them out and make them self sufficient.  They are brave (at last count they had lost over 200 police since they were reestablished in mid 2005) and genuinely want to restore security to their city.  They are well on their way.  We know they have corruption issues – it is a cultural thing that is much more acceptable to them than it is to us – and they are infiltrated by the enemy, but all of these things are issues they are specifically working on.  Given the track record of our own police departments, I’d say they are doing pretty well.  We implemented a professional development program for them using actual American Police officers that have come over to train police here and it is starting to reap positive results.  They have a long way to go, but are moving with a purpose in the right direction.

TCJ: Working with erstwhile insurgents to turn them against the insurgency and terrorists has been called a risky strategy by some, and of course, any strategy comes with risks.  But it would seem that working with the insurgents and using their services against the very violence they at one time perpetrated is part of the genius of the approach.  Can you describe how this has occurred in Fallujah?

Lt. Col. Mullen: We aren’t really doing that here in the city.  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.

TCJ: It appears that you have made signficant use of the concept of “gated communities” in Fallujah in order to bring security.  I noted that there is also a temporary ban on vehicle traffic that will be lifted soon.  Can you describe how the ban has helped and what the role of the gated communities has been?  How successful has this tactic been?

Lt. Col. Mullen: The gated community idea was implemented because the enemy uses cars almost exclusively to conduct their attacks.  The barriers emplaced allow the citizens of each precinct to choose who they want to come into their area, and makes it difficult for the enemy to move around and escape in a vehicle.  The vehicle curfew was implemented by the Mayor and Police chief due to several suicide vehicle bomb attacks, one of which was particularly horrific.  There was a funeral for an Iraqi that had been fighting AQI and AQI had a suicide bomber drive right into the funeral procession and blow himself up.  20 civilians were killed and 17 were injured.  This was a watershed event here in Fallujah.  We were not confident that a vehicle curfew could be implemented, but it has been, almost solely by the police and in conjunction with the barriers we have been emplacing, and it has resulted in a three-fold decrease in enemy attacks.  The people do not like the barriers or the curfew, but they do like the security and indicate they are willing to put up with them to keep the security.

TCJ: To what extent have you utilized COPS (variously called Combat Outposts and Combat Operation Posts) as part of Operation Alljah versus the more traditional military doctrine of force protection?

Lt. Col. Mullen: We do use Combat Outposts, but in this case, we call them Joint Security Stations.  We have Marines partnered with IP at every precinct HQ.  Force Protection is a constant, so we make sure each site is protected against suicide bombers and sniper fire, but we also ensure that the HQ is accessible to people on foot.  It is a difficult balance, but it is absolutely necessary.  Being out amongst the population is the only way to finish this fight.  Driving to work means you miss a lot.  Also, at least initially, the police would only stay in the precincts if we were there with them.  They were pretty intimidated.  This is no longer the case.  They know we have their back while they grow stronger by the day.

TCJ: It appears that the transition to nonkinetic operations was fairly stark.  Press reports about combat operations stopped and press reports about construction of police precincts started.  In a professional military academic climate that claims that standard counterinsurgency takes ten to twelve years, how did the Marines of 2/6 manage to pull this off?

Lt. Col. Mullen: We got the citizens of the city involved in providing their own security through the neighborhood watch system.  We pay them a pittance of $50 a month (only a part time job as an extra set of eyeballs for the police – they are not police) and we authorize them to carry a weapon if they have one for their own protection.  As I said above, the result has been a three-fold decrease in enemy attacks.  We also give the people a serious reason to stay on this side of the fence – we call it the “What’s in it for me?” program.  We have a heavy civil affairs emphasis that is changing the face of Fallujah.  In addition to the essential infrastructure improvements noted above, we are hiring them to pick up rubble and garbage, to paint cement barriers and school walls with murals (negates graffiti) and we are putting them to work in every way we can think of so they can put food on the table for their families.  Progress has been astounding and whenever we measure atmospherics (several times a week) all indications are that we are having a tremendous amount of success.  We have tied all of this to the improvements in the security situation and we tell them that if they want it to continue, then the enemy has the be driven out completely and kept out.  They understand and are providing a great deal more tips than they used to.  The enemy has not been able to do much of anything of late and we just passed the three month mark without having a single casualty from this battalion as a result of enemy action.  That is unheard of in Fallujah.

TCJ: In the accelerated environment in which the Marines work, how concerned should we be about the potential stand down of U.S. forces in Fallujah in 2008?  How soon will the police be trained, funded, cohesive and able to work alone in the security of Fallujah?

Lt. Col. Mullen: The police are watching activity in the US as much as we are.  They are getting better, but if we pull out early, it could have a serious detrimental effect.  I think they will manage to remain in control, but it will not be pretty.  They have a way of muddling through that makes us cringe, but it does work for them.  We certainly need to finish what we started, but pulling out would not be an unmitigated disaster here in Fallujah.  Neither the police nor the citizens want us to leave any time soon because they fully recognize what is happening around them and want it to continue.

TCJ: How badly has the lack of political reconciliation harmed the efforts to pacify the Anbar Province and in particular Fallujah?  It seems that there is still much animosity between Fallujah and Baghdad.

Lt. Col. Mullen: I cannot comment too much on the political situation in Baghdad, but the people here do not like the Iraqi Government and blame them for all the shortcomings in fuel, food and essential services.  I will say also though that things are rarely as bad as the Iraqi’s make them out to be. They are prone to serious over exaggeration and always want to blame someone else.  It is never their fault.  For example, fuel arrives in the city, but to make extra money, the truck drivers sell it to “free enterprise” folks that then sell it curbside from plastic jugs – it is known as black market fuel where we come from.  They charge much more than normal and keep the fuel from getting to the gas stations and city government in enough amounts to keep them open and operating.  They also tap into electrical and water lines illegally to get better service, all of which seriously degrades the overall service provided.  The city government is working on these things, but they all contribute to the problems Fallujah is having, and the Fallujans blame it all on the “Iranians” who make up the current government.  In the general opinion here, only Sunni can run a country properly, as they have until the past few years.  You also have a hard time convincing them that they are a minority.  The things they come up with really are amazing at times.  It is only a semi-literate society though so word of mouth, despite how illogical or ridiculous the rumor, has a big impact – especially if it is along the lines of what they want to believe.

TCJ: Can you describe any actions by NGOs or U.S. forces to help the people of Fallujah with utilities (e.g., power and water)?

Lt. Col. Mullen: Our Civil Affairs, the US Army Corps of Engineers and USAID have all teamed up to restore basic infrastructure in the city of Fallujah.  They have been trying to do this for several years now, but the security situation was not conducive to making much progress.  Major projects stalled due to the lack of security and both electricity and water were becoming scarce in the city.  Complaints were frequent and fully justified.  All of this has been turned around due to Operation ALLJAH.  All major projects have been restarted, the electricity and water services are being restored and people are very appreciative.  As a recent example, one of our patrols was trying to get some atmospherics in one of the neighborhoods of Fallujah and could not find anyone out on the streets.  This is normally a bad sign.  They knocked on some doors and found that everyone was inside enjoying the air conditioning and satellite TV because they had reliable electricity.  It isn’t on 24 hours a day (they never had this even before Saddam was toppled) but we are working towards that.  Water is plentiful now also as you can see cars and sidewalks getting washed, vegetation getting watered, and children playing in the water from hoses.

TCJ: I have called the the counterinsurgency campaign by the Marines in the Anbar Province one of the greatest in history.  I believe that it will be discussed and taught as part of advanced warfighting for years or even decades to come.  How much attention has Operation Alljah received, and how do the Marines of 2/6 feel about their accomplishments?

Lt. Col. Mullen: I’d say that the jury is still out on the claim to be the greatest counterinsurgency campaign in history, especially because we cannot say that we have won it yet.  It looks that way, but a lot can happen between now and when we leave.  Even more can happen after we leave.  These types of wars cannot be properly judged until many years later.  If Iraq pulls itself together and rejoins the community of nations as a well respected and contributing member, then we have been successful.  If it collapses in civil war or anarchy and we end up with a situation like there was in Afghanistan under the Taliban, then no matter how well 2/6 did, we will have failed overall.  ALLJAH has gotten some attention at some pretty high levels as an example of something that could work in other places in Iraq and this is always good.  As for how we feel, we are amazed by the progress and greatly encouraged by it.  Whereas last year, the battalion returned from a difficult 7 month deployment where they lost 12 of their comrades and had many wounded with precious little evident progress to show for it, this time we have taken few casualties and the progress is incredible.  All of the Marines and Sailors see it and are proud of what we have been able to do to date.  They all comment on it when I talk to them and it is very encouraging.  We have frequent high level visitors and they all comment on how well we have done here in Fallujah.  It is obvious to all who see it in person.

Other Information

Prior at TCJ:

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Military Links:

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Combat action in Fallujah in June, 2007, AFP Photograph 

Short List of Accomplishments

Here is a rundown of a few of the accomplishments of the 2/6 Marines in the past several months:

 - Enemy attacks have gone from a high of 72 in April when we first took over, to only 21 last month
 - We have discovered and destroyed 40 different enemy weapons caches
 - We have captured 64 suspected enemy and taken them off the streets of Fallujah
 - We have distributed close to 10,000 food bags (each feeds a family of 4 for 2-3 days) throughout the city
 - We have made marked progress in restoring electricity, water and sewage services all ravaged by 4 years of fighting
 - We have removed tons of trash and rubble from the streets
 - We are sponsoring mural painting on school walls and cement barriers all over the city 
 - We are building soccer fields all over the city (their national team just won the Asia Cup and they all went nuts!) and are sponsoring teams and tournaments
 - We are installing solar powered street lights along the main street

Safe Enough to Shed Body Armor?

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 2 months ago

Courtesy of Forward Deployed, we learn that some of the Marines in Anbar might be shedding body armor soon.

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, Iraq — The commander of a U.S. Marine Corps unit in Iraq wants to have his Marines begin patrolling without helmets and with less body armor.But the Marines would have the gear at their local patrol bases and could resume wearing it whenever needed, said Lt. Col. Kelly Alexander, commanding officer of Task Force Highlander, part of Regimental Combat Team-2, which operates in western Anbar province.The proposed changes apply to what is called PPE, or personal protective equipment.Alexander said a change to a “soft posture? can now be considered because the security situation has improved significantly in recent months. That is especially so in local cities where the Marines work closely with an ever-growing Iraqi police force and where residents have shown a newfound willingness to tip the police to insurgent activity.

“In my opinion … things are good enough now that we can begin to institute a reduction in the PPE? in the task force’s area of operation, Alexander said in an interview this week.

The task force, whose elements include the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, is headquartered at Combat Outpost Rawah, near the Euphrates River.

Alexander said he’s proposed to RCT-2 that the changes be made and that the regiment Tuesday night told him it would seek the OK from higher headquarters.

Were the proposal to get the go-ahead, Marines patrolling the cities would first shed extra plates on their body armor.

“So that’ll save us about 10 pounds,? he said.

It would appear that what Lt. Col. Alexander is discussing is jettisoning the side ESAPI plates (enhanced side arms protective insert, that we have covered in Body Armor Wars: The Way Forward).  This might be a good move in terms of weight that the Marine must carry, and eventually they might shed all of the body armor except for the soft panels and outer tactical vest).

But the situation in Eastern Anbar around Fallujah isn’t quite as far along as in the West, and the Second Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, RCT-6, is still establishing new police precincts in what was the last stronghold of the insurgency and where kinetic operations have recently occurred.

Marines with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, worked alongside Iraqi soldiers and police in the Fallujah district of Andaloos to establish the newest precinct during Operation Alljah July 28.

“Operation Alljah is a shaping operation,? 1st Lt. Brian P. Mahon, executive officer of Company E, explained. “We’re sectioning off the city into more manageable communities for Iraqi security forces.?

For this step of the multiple-phase Operation Alljah, a police precinct was established as a joint service station for Iraqi soldiers, police, Marines and local community leaders in the historical Andaloos district, which remains a dangerous area of the city. The district is known to have the most mosques and schools within the city, and is considered a very strategically-important piece of the overall operation.

“It’s a very bold plan,? said Mahon. “It’s labor-intensive. It definitely wouldn’t be something everyone would volunteer for, but we understand that this plan has a great chance to succeed because we’ve already seen it work with other areas. It’s the most effective thing I’ve seen or heard of in Iraq since we’ve been here.?

These precincts create a secure outpost in their respective districts. They also provide a center of gravity for Iraqi Security Forces to maintain a constant presence as well as helping them build relationships with the people living within the district.

“We’re working a tri-partnership with (the Iraqi police) and (Iraqi army) to push all of the insurgency out and make a safe gated community so the Iraqi people can live in peace,? said Staff Sgt. Donnie F. Bridges, a platoon commander with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

It is best not to shed body armor components when they are potentially still needed.  But if it is judged that they they are no longer needed, shedding the side ESAPI plates will be good for the morale of the Marines because of weight reduction, and this is the best reason of all to make the call.

Al Qaeda, Indigenous Sunnis and the Insurgency in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 3 months ago

The insurgency in the Anbar Province, while being called ”al Qaeda” in hundreds of press releases, has had a significant part indigenous Sunni fighters.   Before pacification of Anbar could occur, the following two things were necessary: (a) robust kinetic operations to rout al Qaeda and Ansar al Sunna, and (b) settling with erstwhile indigenous insurgents, formerly enemies of U.S. forces, and forthwith allies in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Sources from Anbar are cited specifying the ‘breakdown’ of the insurgency; the counterinsurgency ’tour de force’ involved in the pacification of Anbar is discussed, and Shi’a refusal to reconcile is discussed as the largest remaining hurdle to ending OIF.

At the Small Wars Journal blog, Malcolm Nance has a provocative article entitled Al Qaeda in Iraq – Heros, Boogeymen or Puppets?   Nance’s article has been highly criticized as has a recent opinion piece at the New York Times.  These articles are part of a “renewed push by the antiwar crowd to discredit the idea that the war in Iraq has any real connection to the war on terror,” it has been said.

At TCJ we understand The Long War, but believe that motive cannot be ascribed to these articles based on our reading of the content.  The schema presented in them is either right or wrong (or perhaps wrong but containing nuggets of truth), and it is important to ascertain who the enemy is and determine the appropriate strategy based on identification of the enemy.  High strung reactions to probing questions and alternative viewpoints do not significantly add to our understanding, and are thus not very helpful.

We agree with much the core of Nance’s assessment of the insurgency (with qualifications and caveats, and with insurgency differentiated from the terrorists, an important distinction that will be discussed later), while holding that the solution he proffers is a false dilemma.  The entire article is worth reading, but the core of his analysis is contained in these few paragraphs.

It is well documented that the Sunni insurgency is composed of three wings of insurgents. It is composed of the nationalist Former Regime Loyalists (FRLs) and their former military elements (FREs). This force may be upwards to 29,000 active combatants carrying out over 100 unconventional attacks per day using improvised explosive devices, rockets and automatic weapons ambushes. The FRL-originated Jaysh al-Mujahideen is composed of former Saddam Fedayeen, Special Republican Guard intelligence officers, former-Ba’athists, Sunni volunteers and their families. The second wing is the nationalist Iraqi Religious Extremists (IREs). These are forces including the Islamic Army of Iraq, Ansar al-Sunnah and other smaller groups, which may total approximately 5,000 fighters, sprinkled throughout western, central and northern Iraq. On occasion come into the conversation when one of their attacks is particularly daring or when the coalition claims it is negotiating their departure from the battlefront. Inevitably these “lesser? insurgent groups are portrayed as bit players on the sidelines of the epic.

Finally, the foreign fighters of the Al Qaeda in Iraq and its umbrella group the Islamic Emirate of Iraq (aka Islamic State of Iraq) may be as few as 1,500 fighters and supporters and may also have direct links to the two other tiers. Overwhelming evidence exists that that the FRLs have been waging the lion’s share of the insurgency. Until 2004 they were considered a separate part of the insurgency but recently they have been called ‘Al Qaeda-associated’ because AQI was operating in their area of operations … by 2007 it wasn’t hard for Washington to make a semantic and rhetorical leap to refer to all insurgency forces as “Al Qaeda.?

This is an error worth remembering. For over four years the FRLs (especially the paramilitary Saddam Fedayeen and Special Republican Guard) almost exclusively carries out IED, indirect fire (IDF), sniping, aircraft shoot downs and ambush attacks with conventional weapons with alarming regularity which account for the lion share of the US forces’ 3,500 KIAs. The smaller IREs did the same type of attacks but occasionally peppered their missions with Suicide bombings. AQI almost exclusively perform carries out suicide car bombings and suicide vest bombings (SVBIED/SPBIED). They occasionally perform IED, rocket, MANPAD and even a few impressive massed infantry attacks on Iraqi Police and government buildings (such as the symbolic assault on Abu Ghraieb prison in 2005). In fact, AQI’s impact on US forces is actually quite small in comparison to the FRLs and IREs …

AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) and AAS (Ansar al Sunna) have indeed brought into Iraq funding, experience and religious commitment that at least some of the indigenous Sunni insurgency didn’t have.  Thus they have been involved in a disproportionate level of high profile violence.   However, on the whole TCJ will concur with Nance’s basic thesis.  Based on press reports and discussions with a well informed and strategically placed military contact (in Anbar), the picture of AQI being put out by the Multinational Force web site began to make little sense to us, and In Counterinsurgency Paradigm Shift in Iraq, TCJ offered the following analysis:

There appears to be a paradigm shift in the counterinsurgency strategy being employed by the U.S. forces in Iraq.  This shift goes further than the changes associated with the security plan of which many observers are aware (e.g., deployment out of Forward Operating Bases into the cities to combat operation posts).  The changes point to a fundamental shift in the way the U.S. sees the battle for Iraq.

The schema until now seems to have been focused on the notion that the Iraqi people, separated from the rogue elements in their midst, long for freedom and self-determination, with al Qaeda in Iraq, Ansar al Sunna, and foreign suicide bombers standing in their way.  Defeating the insurgents has primarily been seen as defeating AQI.  One need only to go back through the Multi-National force press releases to see how many references there are to AQI.  But it is becoming increasingly clear that this schema bears little resemblance to the realities on the ground in Iraq.

With AQI and AAS standing only at several thousand, for a country the size of Iraq, there simply aren’t enough to pull off destabilization of a country.  There are more gang members in most medium size American cities than there are al Qaeda in Iraq. Until recently, the Sunni militants were seen in the role of assisting AQI, but the view seems to be changing to one of the disaffected Sunnis (i.e., Fedayeen Saddam, former Iraq security police, former senior Iraqi army leadership and hard line Baathists) being primarily in the lead with AQI and AAS being secondary in their affect and power …

The much-heralded tribal split with al Qaeda is a positive sign in the Anbar Province, but it must be remembered that even if AQI loses in this showdown, the insurgency is not defeated.  One side of the insurgency has merely gained supremacy over the other.  This modified schema of seeing the insurgency as being primarily borne on the shoulders of disaffected Sunnis is supported in this informative and interesting report by Michael Totten from Kirkuk (Patrick Laswell has an equally interesting report from Kirkuk).

“Most, if not all, the terrorists are the old Baath Party members,? Mam Rostam said. “They changed their names and became an Islamist party. But they are the same guys. They have unified with some Sunnis around the Southwest of Kirkuk because they are living in this area. They are making these attacks to make this democratic experiment after Saddam fail.?

This difference in understanding we have of the insurgency in Anbar came as a result more than just of press releases.  Around the time of the worst Ramadi violence, TCJ communicated with a contact in the Anbar Province, who gave the following view of the insurgency (we haven’t divulged the contents of this communication until now; (1) it is somewhat dated and thus less sensitive, and (2) it is still ‘scrubbed down’ to remove remaining sensitive information).

There is Al Qaeda in Iraq, lead by a couple non Iraqis with a few highly place Iraqi leaders as well.  The are situated outside Ramadi (mainly East and North of the city).  They conduct their operations in Ramadi, Habiniyah and Khalidiyah, but for the most part use the Ramadi area as an R and R area.  In fact most attacks in those areas that are Al Qaeda attacks are locals paid to conduct the attacks.  They are one of the two the big dogs in town because of their small but well trained and ruthless core of foreign fighters.  These FF are used to kill competitors, not Americans.

Ansar Al Sunnah is the other big dog in town.  Most of the individuals identified as Al Qaeda in Ramadi were most likely actually AAS.  These guys are lead almost entirely by Iraqis Arabs Sunnis.  (By the way the connectiveness of Ansar Al Sunnah and Ansar Al Islam is more a result of similar name and wishful thinking then reality on the ground … [parts redacted]).  These are the guys that operated in the central part of Ramadi.  The Hospital was controlled by them (as opposed to Al Qaeda).  These guys have excellent access to suicide bombers (not sure if you realize it, but the vast majority of FF in Iraq are only there as suicide bombers.  Organizations (not particularly associated with Al Qaeda) based in Syria and Jordan “sell” them to Iraqi insurgents).  The reason we see these guys as Al Qaeda is because the info we have proving they are Al Qaeda is paid for, and we pay more for info about Al Qaeda.

Local Iraqi Insurgents.  Although they are comprised of a number of groups I think of them as the Islamic Army in Iraq.  The strength is to the North West and South West near Ramadi, North of the River near Khallidiyah and then East towards Fallujah and Bagdad.  We chased these guys before and during the time I was there under the impression they were Al Qaeda associated, even though nearly every time we caught one we found out otherwise (look up Nu’Man Brigade and Muhammad Daham, or the Butcher of Ramadi).

Upon the capture of Muhammad Daham in May of 2005, the Multinational Force – West PAO issued a press release in which they mentioned his possible link to the AMZ network, and upon capture of his successor (and leader of the Nu’man Brigade) in September of 2005, the Multinational Force specifically mentioned capturing an al Qaeda leader, and filled in the end of the press release with the words that would become so common in future press releases: “We are degrading the overall effectiveness of the Al-Qaida in Iraq terror network and its ability to conduct operations in Iraq.”  Continuing with our communication:

Daham turned out to be very anti-Al Qaeda, and although not mentioned the Butcher turned out to be a low level, local insurgent with no ties to Al Qaeda. These guys will actually call American Intel and report other local insurgents as Al Qaeda in order to knock off competitors.  Many of these groups are actually just thieves and thugs looking for a few bucks.  They will at times work with AAS or AQI, or depending on the groups fighting against them.

The last groups is the Iraqi criminal organizations.  They are also very closely linked to many of the local insurgent groups.  Daham was actually one of these guys originally.  The leader of this group currently in Ramadi is … [redacted].  [Other parts redacted].  These groups will sometimes work with AAS or Al Qaeda or locals.  They go back and forth.  They also kidnap people for ransom, or for political reasons if paid to do so [parts redacted].

Al Qaeda isn’t “IN” Ramadi.  They stay out for safety reasons.  AAS is in Ramadi, but some of their leaders live in “Safe” zones (i.e. near the Marines base at Hurricane Point.)  Others have been trained to not fight, but rather pretend to be “good” Iraqis when we came raiding.  IEDs and snipers are their speciality (they have the best sniper in town, an ex-Iraqi special forces sniper). They might pay local kids to attack the Americans during the push, but they will hide and try to stay safe.  The locals are just that, and the more we kill the worse it will get.

Returning to the seminal article at the SWJ Blog, Nance concludes that this mischaracterization of the insurgency as entirely al Qaeda adversely affects the going-forward strategy.

Still some classify any Iraqi insurgent support of AQI objectives, active or passive, is often pointed to as a reason to classify all insurgent groups as Al Qaeda. This reading of the enemy does not take into account the diverse strategies, goals, personalities and political linkages of the other insurgents. It lumps them all into one pot and uses the same hammer to try to smash them. Hammering this particular insurgency is like smashing a ball of mercury with your palm. You may get a little of it under your control (and the toxins that come with it) but the rest will disperse, roll away and reform as they please.

But Nance’s article, his many vocal critics, and this present article may be behind the times.  The going-forward strategy has already been developed and is in stages of implementation.  The so-called “Anbar Awakening” is about more than just enlisting the assistance of the tribal Sheiks.  The magnitude and brilliance of this coup by U.S. forces should not be underestimated.  To assert that AQI was the only enemy in Anbar belittles the scope of the accomplishment and ignores the intricate military, political, religious and anthropological machinations that were involved to pull off this coup.  Regardless of the disposition of OIF, the pacification of Anbar by the United States Marines will go down as the greatest counterinsurgency campaign in history and will be studied in professional war college classrooms for generations to come.  Contrary to Nance’s suggestion, requesting that Syria or Iran fake cooperation with the U.S. is not necessary.

With respect to al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other foreign elements (e.g., suicide bombers and Ansar al Sunna), their members and actions never met the classical definition of insurgency because they were not aiming to govern or provide for the population.  Rather, they brutalized the population with torture, houses of horror, beatings, bombings and other tactics aimed at forcing the population into submission.  They terrorized the population because they are terrorists.  It was not uncustomary to find electric drills used to put holes through each rib in the ribcage of some poor victim.

This terrorization of the population (and competing groups) managed to achieve its goal of keeping the population in submission, at least until the Marines prevailed over the course of several years at hunting down and killing many of the rogue elements.  It has been observed that  ”Americans learned a basic lesson of warfare here: that Iraqis, bludgeoned for 24 years by Saddam’s terror, are wary of rising against any force, however brutal, until it is in retreat. In Anbar, Sunni extremists were the dominant force, with near-total popular support or acquiescence, until the offensive broke their power.”

When the population observed that the Marines had no intention of retreat and never lost a military engagement, and also when the tribal leaders saw that the rogue elements were subsuming their role as chieftans and leaders of their people, the storied alliance developed.  This alliance may have been strategic and convenient at first, but is now pivotal and absolutely essential to the success of pacification of Anbar.

The coup is not merely that the tribal chiefs and their people are cooperating with U.S. forces.  It is larger than that.  The coup is that the insurgency, properly defined as indigenous fighters rather than terrorists and foreign fighters - those who were previously pointing a gun towards U.S. troops – are now pointing them at the terrorists.  Not only have many of them made peace with the U.S., but in a development just as important, the U.S. forces have made peace with them.  This has been accomplished with the new difficulty introduced by globalization (foreign fighters), and the new difficulty introduced by religious fanaticism (suicide bombers), and the new difficulty introduced by technology (stand off weapons such as roadside bombs).  This is a counterinsurgency tour de force, and as time judges this victory it will take its rightful place in the great military campaigns of world history.

In Settling with the Enemy, we discussed the reports of U.S. forces making allies of erstwhile enemies.

Shi’ite and Kurdish officials expressed deep reservations yesterday about the new US military strategy to partner with Sunni Arab groups to help defeat the militant organization Al Qaeda in Iraq.

“They are trusting terrorists,? said Ali Al Adeeb, a prominent Shi’ite lawmaker who was among many to question the loyalty of the Sunni groups. “They are trusting people who have previously attacked American forces and innocent people. They are trusting people who are loyal to the regime of Saddam Hussein? …

The collaboration has progressed furthest in the western province of Anbar, where US military commanders enlisted the help of Sunni tribal leaders to funnel their kinsmen into the police force by the thousands. In other areas, Sunnis have not been fully incorporated into the security services and exist as local militias.

Some of these groups, believed to be affiliated with such organizations as the Islamic Army or the 1920 Revolution Brigades, have received weapons and ammunition, usually through the Iraqi military, as well as transportation, food, handcuffs, and direct assistance from US soldiers. In Baghdad’s Amiriyah neighborhood, a local group of Sunnis, the Baghdad Patriots, were driven around earlier this month in American and Iraqi vehicles and given approval by US forces to arrest suspected Al Qaeda in Iraq members.

In Fallujah, Regimental Combat Team 6 is training former insurgents to fight AQI and AAS.

Marine Sgt. Tony Storey doesn’t like to think about what-ifs as he watches the young Iraqis he is helping to train take target practice. He recalls one man who was a natural with his AK47.

“Where’d you learn to shoot like that?? Storey asked.

“Insurgent,? the man said with a smile.

“Was he joking?? Storey asked while surveying the 50 men from the Albu Issa tribe firing their weapons at a distant target. “I don’t know.?

For the men of Regimental Combat Team 6, who are training members of Anbar province tribes to fight Al Qaeda, Storey’s question isn’t simple curiosity. Less than a year ago, the tribes viewed Al Qaeda in Iraq as an ally in their effort to push Americans out of the province.

Now, the tribes see Al Qaeda as a threat to their society and their businesses — many of them dependent on illegal smuggling — and they’ve turned to the U.S. military for help.

An analogous strategy is being implemented in the Diyala Province, where erstwhile enemy fighters are being used to rout the terrorist elements in their midst.

The situation is so desperate that U.S. forces over the last month decided to seek uncomfortable alliances with some of the groups that have killed Americans but now say they hate the group Al Qaeda in Iraq even more, and are willing to fight it.

Members of the 1920 Revolution Brigade, a Sunni resistance group that is dedicated to the expulsion of U.S. forces and takes its name from the revolt that pushed out the British occupation, are among those newly granted the right to patrol with U.S.-supplied uniforms and be exempt from AK-47 weapons seizures, said Lt. Col. James D. George, the acting American commander in the province.

Just a year ago, this region appeared to be nearly pacified. Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi was killed just outside Baqubah, and U.S. commanders decided the province was ripe for the transfer of primary responsibility for security to Iraqi forces.

Instead, Al Qaeda quickly regained a sanctuary in the province and imposed its extremist interpretation of Islam. U.S. and Iraqi security forces scarcely venture into west Baqubah, where smoking is prohibited, as is the sale of women’s clothing by men. Even placing a cucumber next to a tomato in the markets is forbidden because they have been gendered male and female …

U.S. forces in Diyala are looking past the Iraqi police and army for help driving Al Qaeda from the province. Dozens of militia members have been outfitted by American troops with brown T-shirts spray-painted with numbers and will soon be provided with cards identifying them as members of “the Concerned Local Nationals.”

The gunmen are allowed large caches of AK-47s and ammunition, and they are promised eventual positions in the Baqubah police force.

George said the group included members of the 1920 Revolution Brigade and other fighters who have engaged in violent battles with Americans, but he said no one on a “high-value target” list would be able to evade American capture.

“Since we came here, the No. 1 priority has been to drive a wedge between insurgents and terrorists, and this is one of the only ways to do that,” George said.

The delineation that Lt. Col. George makes between “insurgents” and “terrorists” is precise and highly technical, and comports exactly with the understanding we have.  The Maliki administration understands exactly what the U.S. is doing and has done, and has voiced their displeasure.

… one of  Al-Maliki top aides, Hassan al-Suneid, was quoted as saying the U.S. was treating Iraq like “an experiment in an American laboratory.” He sharply criticised the U.S. military, saying it was committing human rights violations, embarassing the Iraqi government with its tactics and cooperating with “gangs of killers” in its campaign against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Al-Suneid, a Shiite lawmaker close to al-Maliki, told The Associated Press that al-Maliki has problems with the top U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus, who works along a “purely American vision.” He criticized U.S. overtures to Sunni groups in Anbar and Diyala, encouraging former “insurgents” to join the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq. “These are gangs of killers,” he said.

Of course they’re gangs of killers.  This was the strategy.  The difference between them and the Shi’ite militias is that they have shown a willingness to reconcile and settle, while the Mahdi army and Sadrists have shown a hardening of their position over the past months.  Because of refusal to reconcile (mainly on the part of the Shi’a), along with lack of oil revenue sharing legislation, Iraqi politics is at a standstill.  Couple this with the U.S. allowing Moqtada al Sadr to go unmolested, free to disrupt Iraqi politics and security, and the result is a witch’s brew of present and future problems.

Here at TCJ, we have chided the Multinational Force for allowing Sadr to go unmolested (and have recommended his ‘strategic disappearance’), as has Omar Fadhil of Iraq the Model.  When recently pressed during a blogger’s interview with Tony Snow about Sadr, laughing, Snow said “we do not engage in assassinations.”  But while America preens and fluffs its moralistic feathers and struts its righteousness in front of the world, there have been and currently are indigenous Iraqi elements who would prevent success in Iraq.  The Sunnis have shown a willingness to reconcile, and are actively helping to rout rogue elements in Anbar.

The hard work has been done with the the Sunnis.  The question remains whether the U.S. will do the hard work and take the hard actions with the Shi’a that will finally be necessary to finish the job in Iraq.  If not, the lives of U.S. troops in OIF will have been to no avail.

Postscript

On July 16, 2007, the New York Times published an interesting and informative article that clearly substantiates our position, both with respect to the indigenous Sunni fighters, their new cooperation with U.S. forces, and the recalcitrance of the Shi’a army.

Abu Azzam says the 2,300 men in his movement include members of fierce Sunni groups like the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade and the Mujahedeen Army that have fought the American occupation. Now his men patrol alongside the Americans, who want to turn them into a security force that can bring peace to this stretch between Baghdad and Falluja.

A few miles away, in the town of Abu Ghraib, Brig. Gen. Nassir al-Hiti and his brigade of Iraqi Army soldiers also have the support of the American military. But they have a different ambition, some American commanders here say: doing everything they can to undermine Abu Azzam’s men, even using a stolen membership list to single them out for wrongful detention.

General Nassir, a 37-year-old former special forces officer, denies that, but says he has strict orders not to support “unofficial? groups and to arrest armed men, no matter who they are. He says he supports those who join the security forces but objects to “those who have Iraqi blood on their hands and who kill our soldiers.?

The gulf between Abu Azzam’s men and the Iraqi soldiers remains vast, with American troops sometimes having to physically intercede. And it is an unmistakable caution that the full depths of the problems facing Iraq cannot be measured in the statistics about insurgent attacks and sectarian killings that carry so much weight in Washington.

The United States has placed great hope in its deepening ties with Sunni leaders like Abu Azzam who have vowed to fight Islamist militants. But his mostly Sunni group, the Volunteers, is different from the American-allied tribes in the Sunni heartland of Anbar Province, in part because it patrols only 40 minutes from central Baghdad and close to large Shiite districts. So American commanders view this as a crucial test case for whether Shiite leaders will tolerate new alliances with Sunni groups.

If General Nassir’s unit, the Muthanna Brigade, is any indication, the outlook is not promising, said Lt. Col. Kurt Pinkerton, a 41-year-old California native who has spent the past months cultivating his relationship with Abu Azzam.

About a month ago, the Iraqi brigade, which is predominantly Shiite, was assigned a new area and instructed to stay away from Nasr Wa Salam, Colonel Pinkerton said. But he said he believed that the Iraqi soldiers remain intent on preventing Sunni Arabs, a majority here, from controlling the area. He cites a pattern of aggression by Iraqi troops toward Abu Azzam’s men and other Sunnis, who he believes are often detained for no reason.

Recently, and without warning, Colonel Pinkerton said, 80 Iraqi soldiers in armored vehicles charged out of their sector toward Nasr Wa Salam but were blocked by an American platoon. The Iraqis refused to say where they were going and threatened to drive right through the American soldiers, whom they greatly outnumbered.

Eventually, with Apache helicopter gunships circling overhead and American gunners aiming their weapons at them, the Iraqi soldiers retreated. “It hasn’t come to firing bullets yet,? Colonel Pinkerton said.

A few weeks ago, he said, a Sunni detainee was beaten to death while in custody of the Muthanna Brigade. And in the past year, he said, Muthanna soldiers detained two of Abu Azzam’s brothers, both of whom said they were abused, and raided Abu Azzam’s house.

Colonel Pinkerton’s experiences here, he said, have inverted the usual American instincts born of years of hard fighting against Sunni insurgents.

“I could stand among 1,800 Sunnis in Abu Ghraib,? he said, “and feel more comfortable than standing in a formation of Iraqi soldiers.?

He credits the Volunteers for taking on Sunni extremists, including Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown group that claims loyalty to Osama bin Laden’s principles. Abu Azzam’s men, including some local Shiites, have been lining up by the hundreds every day to submit to retina scans and fingerprinting so they can apply to join the Iraqi police. Some already stand guard, with loaded Kalashnikov rifles, alongside American troops.

Read the whole New York Times article.

Anniversary of the Blog and 2/6 Marines Golf Company

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 3 months ago

The July 14, 2007 edition of the WSJ  had a tribute to blogs, one section in which Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner discussed Milblogs.  Matthew Burden at Blackfive links this up with some blogs he likes to read.  There are many good resources listed in his post, but one of the links Matthew gives is The Captain’s Journal.  We are certainly undeserving of this kindness, but a word or two about Blackfive is appropriate.  In a world in which people and institutions are seldom worthy of the power or attention they are given, Blackfive is the most influential Milblog, and they are in the rarefied air of deserving this influence and attention.  They are tops.

On an slightly unrelated issue (but still pertaining to Milblogs), by Googling “Forward Operating Base Reaper” I stumbled across a new Milblogger named Jim Spiri, associated with the Philadelphia Inquirer, who has been embedded for five weeks with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Golf Company, and intends to be with them again soon.

Golf Company has seen the lion’s share of combat in Fallujah over the last three months, and is responsible for controlling the entire Southern half of Fallujah.  After talking some with Jim, he piped in, “I know your son.”  It is a blessing from God to talk a bit with a person who has been there recently and seen your son and his fire team.

I would embed if I had the funding, and although I thought that the funding was potentially available from an outside source, the opportunity seems to have dried up.  In lieu of reporting myself from Iraq, its nice to have friends there.

Settling with the Enemy

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 4 months ago

In U.S. Presses for Amnesty for Insurgents, October of 2006, I discussed the press towards a broad-based amnesty program for the Sunni insurgents, observing that:

This is without question an attempt to quell the violence in al Anbar, and the hope appears to be that the tribes in al Anbar will root out al Qaeda (and other foreign elements), while a deal with the former Saddam loyalists will end the bloodshed associated with the insurgency.

But a deal will without doubt create many personal and emotional wounds with mothers and fathers of Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines who have died in Iraq fighting the insurgency.  There are still difficult times ahead.  Either these emotional wounds are created – probably never to heal – or the fight continues, with an uncertain end.

More than simple amnesty, U.S. forces are making allies of former insurgents, in spite of the unease that this creates with the Shi’a and Kurds.

Shi’ite and Kurdish officials expressed deep reservations yesterday about the new US military strategy to partner with Sunni Arab groups to help defeat the militant organization Al Qaeda in Iraq.

“They are trusting terrorists,” said Ali Al Adeeb, a prominent Shi’ite lawmaker who was among many to question the loyalty of the Sunni groups. “They are trusting people who have previously attacked American forces and innocent people. They are trusting people who are loyal to the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

Throughout Iraq, a growing number of Sunni groups profess to have turned against Al Qaeda in Iraq because of its indiscriminate killing and repressive version of Islam. In some areas, these groups have provided information to Americans about Al Qaeda members or the deadly explosives that target the soldiers.

The collaboration has progressed furthest in the western province of Anbar, where US military commanders enlisted the help of Sunni tribal leaders to funnel their kinsmen into the police force by the thousands. In other areas, Sunnis have not been fully incorporated into the security services and exist as local militias.

Some of these groups, believed to be affiliated with such organizations as the Islamic Army or the 1920 Revolution Brigades, have received weapons and ammunition, usually through the Iraqi military, as well as transportation, food, handcuffs, and direct assistance from US soldiers. In Baghdad’s Amiriyah neighborhood, a local group of Sunnis, the Baghdad Patriots, were driven around earlier this month in American and Iraqi vehicles and given approval by US forces to arrest suspected Al Qaeda in Iraq members.

In Fallujah, Regimental Combat Team 6 is training former insurgents to fight al Qaeda.

Marine Sgt. Tony Storey doesn’t like to think about what-ifs as he watches the young Iraqis he is helping to train take target practice. He recalls one man who was a natural with his AK47.

“Where’d you learn to shoot like that?” Storey asked.

“Insurgent,” the man said with a smile.

“Was he joking?” Storey asked while surveying the 50 men from the Albu Issa tribe firing their weapons at a distant target. “I don’t know.”

For the men of Regimental Combat Team 6, who are training members of Anbar province tribes to fight Al Qaeda, Storey’s question isn’t simple curiosity. Less than a year ago, the tribes viewed Al Qaeda in Iraq as an ally in their effort to push Americans out of the province.

Now, the tribes see Al Qaeda as a threat to their society and their businesses — many of them dependent on illegal smuggling — and they’ve turned to the U.S. military for help.

This model is also being implemented in the Diyala province.  The alliance goes to the point of arming the Sunnis to manage security in their own geographical areas.  After some aborted starts at a coherent reply to this, Prime Minister Maliki who initially repudiated this idea later claimed credit for it.

Maliki, representing the Shi’a, doesn’t appreciate the new alliance with and arming of the Sunni no matter what he claims, and there is a tense relationship between him and General Petraeus.  But the point goes far deeper than interpersonal relationships between U.S. generals and Iraqi politicians.  The alliance being implemented in Iraq is a high-risk / high payoff strategy that must be successful if Iraq is to be pacified, Maliki’s objections notwithstanding.

When the U.S. forces begin to stand down and withdraw, to remove the U.S. men and materiel in Iraq will take more than a year.  Withdrawal will be slow and deliberate.  Furthermore, it is likely that complete withdrawal will not happen for a long time.  More likely is that the U.S. will re-deploy to the North in Kurdistan, assisting the Iraqi army and police with kinetic operations upon request, while also serving as a stabilizer for the Middle East and border security for Iraq.

But it is just as likely that U.S. forces will not be performing constabulary operations for much longer.  The counterinsurgency field manual, FM 3-24, was written based on the presupposition that the U.S. has the ten to twelve years necessary to conduct the classical counterinsurgency campaign.  This was never true, is not true now, and will not be true in the future.  Military needs aside, the public – by the power of the vote – has the right and prerogative within the American system to make the policy decision on the conduct of war.  Asking the American pubic to support a counterinsurgency campaign over three consecutive presidential administrations is expecting the impossible, no matter how well the administration communicates the conditions of the campaign to the public.

All wars must end.  The end of Operation Iraqi Freedom necessitates settling with the enemy, a high stakes strategy, absent which there is only loss of the counterinsurgency campaign.

Continuing Operations in Fallujah

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 4 months ago

Around mid-May, raw video of recent combat action in Fallujah was posted.  There are a number of interesting characteristics of this action, but particularly note the sniper fire coming from minarets.

In Fallujah: The Continuing Battle for Hallowed Ground, we discussed Fallujah being the most active city in the Anbar province for the insurgency, and the use of Fallujah as a staging location for enemy activity throughout not only Anbar but Baghdad as well.

Insurgent and U.S. operations continue with relentless consistency in and around Fallujah.  Eighteen people were killed south of Fallujah on June 5th when a “suicide bomber driving a truck packed with explosives plowed into a busy commercial district, police said. Fifteen others were wounded.” (other reports vary as to numbers killed and wounded).  “Some witnesses said the attack occurred near a meeting of tribal sheiks who have been fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

The multinational force does not issue press releases on all combat operations, and so the ease with which we can catalog coalition operations is a pointer to the regularity and comprehensive nature of the kinetic operations against the insurgency.

June 5th combat action by U.S. forces:

During continued operations to disrupt the al-Qaeda in Iraq network in Anbar province, Coalition Forces conducted a raid on four associated buildings northeast of Fallujah.  The ground force detained 13 suspected terrorists for their association with a cell that carries out attacks against Iraqis and Coalition Forces with VBIEDs, snipers, and mortars, and targets Iraqi infrastructure.

June 7th combat action by Iraqi army:

Iraqi Army Forces on June 7 detained four members of an al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist cell believed to be responsible for setting improvised explosive devices and conducting small arms fire attacks against Iraqi and Coalition Forces on and around Camp Fallujah.

With Coalition Forces present as advisors, Iraqi Soldiers detained the four suspects in the vicinity of Al Fayath, located south of Camp Fallujah. During the operation they seized assault rifles, numerous magazines, ammunition, and materials used to construct, trigger and place improvised explosive devices.

June 8th combat action by U.S. forces:

Coalition Forces killed one terrorist and detained 12 suspected terrorists during operations targeting the al-Qaeda in Iraq network Friday in Anbar province.

Based on information gained from an operation May 27, Coalition Forces raided several buildings northeast of Fallujah.  After they announced their presence through an interpreter, one terrorist outside the building threw a hand grenade at the ground forces.  Coalition Forces took appropriate self-defense measures and engaged the armed terrorist with small arms fire, killing him.

Coalition Forces searched the buildings and detained 12 suspected terrorists on scene for their alleged involvement in the al-Qaeda in Iraq network.  Information gained from earlier operations indicates the suspects are involved in indoctrination for al-Qaeda in Iraq.  In one ceremony conducted by the network, those who declined to join the terrorist group were killed.

June 9th combat action by U.S. forces:

Coalition Forces killed five terrorists and detained 11 suspected terrorists during operations targeting the al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network in central Iraq Saturday morning.

Coalition Forces tracked a suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq weapons distributor to a building southeast of Fallujah.  As they approached the area, five men in the front yard reached for weapons.  Responding appropriately to the hostile threat, Coalition Forces engaged the armed men, including the suspected weapons distributor, killing them.  Two other suspected terrorists were detained.

June 10th combat action by U.S. forces:

Coalition Forces captured six suspected terrorists Sunday morning during operations that continue to deny safe haven to members of the al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network.

Based on information gained during a successful operation May 27, Coalition Forces targeted a location in Fallujah looking for an individual suspected of recruiting for al-Qaeda.  The suspected jihad leader is known for using “join or die? sermons and indoctrination ceremonies where those who refuse to swear allegiance are killed.  Coalition Forces detained one suspected terrorist associated with the leader.

The phrase al Qaeda is being used as a surrogate for various insurgency groups, and there could be as many as thirty groups that have been spawned in Iraq that are fighting both the Iraqi government and the U.S. forces.


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