9 years, 6 months ago
We have previously covered Operation Alljah in and around the Fallujah area of operations, involving robust kinetic operations around Fallujah in May and early June, gated communities, interaction with the population, parnership with the Iraqi police, and the use of biometrics for identification of the population. Bill Ardolino is embedded with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and is reporting from Fallujah.
Operation Alljah was the latest and most successful bid to achieve security in the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, marrying projection of force with aggressive civil affairs outreach.
We have argued for more than a year that force projection is usually inversely related to the actual need to use that force, something the British got very wrong in Basra. We have also argued for the proper involvement of NGOs and rebuilding and reconstruction (water, sewage, electricity) as an integral part of effective counterinsurgency. Continuing:
During the operation, the city was subdivided into 10 neighborhoods in efforts dubbed “the swarm,” a coordinated series of counterinsurgency components: US troops and Iraqi Security Forces rolled into a neighborhood and established security, cordoned it off with concrete barrier checkpoints, created a local police precinct, recruited a neighborhood watch, provided employment for day laborers, conducted an information campaign to inform the citizenry of the operation, arbitrated any claims against Iraqi or US forces, distributed food and began meetings with neighborhood leaders to address infrastructure concerns.
Heavy engagement of the population was the hallmark of Operation Alljah. But while the tribes were of paramount importance in Ramadi, the engagement of this operation specifically targeted a heretofore neglected constituency.
“When we got here, there was a sheik’s council. But in [the actual city of)] Fallujah, you can’t have a sheik’s council, because they have [Muktars, who are] like city sheiks. Fallujah is not divided by tribes, like in Ramadi. So when we were doing the sheik’s council, we were going nowhere, because the sheiks didn’t know the people … until we started noticing the Muktars. They were like, ‘What about us? How come nobody’s talking to us?'” explained 5/10 CAG Staff Sergeant Mauricio Piedrahita.
“So we started talking to them. They are like block captains who go back to the Saddam days. He’s in charge of a neighborhood. He knows everyone inside that neighborhood. They’re official positions appointed by the government. We do contracting for projects through them, because they know who to employ, because they know ‘Hey, I’m not gonna employ this guy because he’s from another district, he needs to be employed by his own (neighborhood).’ So this way we ensure that everyone is getting a fair amount of contracts and the projects and jobs are being distributed around the district.”
Engaging Muktars and backing their authority has succeeded where past civil affairs strategies have failed. Projects are now more in line with the needs of the community, and the decentralization of contracting has mitigated serious problems with corruption. During these meetings, the Muktars outline the most pressing infrastructure needs for the district: power (generators), fuel, water and sewage.
Bill marks this operation with a counterinsurgency exclamation point. “[The Marines and IP] are not kicking down doors, they knock on the door, they give them time for the women and children to go into a room, they’ll talk to the man of the house, so it’s a different attitude,” said SSG Piedrahita” … Some marines complain about the “boring” nature of the civil affairs focus, while others embrace it. “It’s a change,” said SSG Piedrahita. “But like they say, we’re marines, we adapt to anything. We’re always going to do the job as best we can. Like these guys, the 2/6, are all grunts, all infantrymen. They get trained to kill, in combat, and then we get this and we adapt to it and do the best we can. In a way, it’s good. We’re not getting Marines killed out here.” There has been a certain learned aspect to this operation, and the results have been recognized all the way up to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, who has visited Foward Operating Base Reaper.
1st Lt. Barry Edwards summarizes the conclusion of the operation, by saying that “Iraqi Security Forces and U. S. Marines concluded major activities associated with Operation Alljah, Sept. 6, having curbed the murder and intimidation threat imposed by al Qaeda and improved the security posture in Fallujah. The operation, which began May 29, was carried out by the Fallujah police; soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division; and Marines from Regimental Combat Team 6, throughout the course of 10 iterations to set conditions for Iraqi police control within the city of Fallujah. The improved security picture in the city has allowed the Iraqi Army to withdraw, leaving the Iraqi Police in full control of enforcement of the rule of law.”
In an interesting recapitulation of “what’s wrong with this picture,” in Saqlawiyah, 1/1 Marines (of RCT-6) have targeted weapons caches with success.
It was late morning when Pfc. Andrew D. Bear noticed the lone cinderblock in the middle of a field. There were no houses, no cement facilities, and no structures of any kind for hundreds of feet. It was just dirt, mud, weeds and the Marines of Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, accompanied by local Iraqi policemen. To the Yorba-Linda, Calif., native, the cinderblock, sitting in the sun-baked mud, stuck out like a cockroach in a spoonful of oatmeal.
“Now, tell me why a cinderblock would be just sitting in the middle of this field, all by itself,