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November 25, 2006

Good News From Ramadi

With all the chaos and death, it's easy to miss the fact that in actual engagements with the enemy, the US military is performing amazingly.

Michael Fumento, embedded with the Ramadi forces, says that while we're in a frustrating "grind" in our fight against the terrorists, we are in fact grinding them into dust. Albeit slowly.

Ramadi is both a litmus test for the counterinsurgency effort in Iraq and a laboratory. If we can defeat the insurgent and terrorist forces here, there is no place we cannot defeat them. And from what I found, we are defeating them. It's painfully slow, and our men there are still dying in inordinate numbers from a broad variety of attacks. But a multitude of factors, including tribal cooperation, the continual introduction of more Iraqi army and police, the beginning of public works projects, the building of more Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), the installation of more small operational posts (OPs), and plunking down company-sized Combat Operation Posts (COPs) smack in the middle of hostile territory are destroying both the size and the mobility of the enemy. This time the rats are dying in place.

More after the jump, but the article is worth reading in full.

Thanks to The Purple Avenger.

"We had a sheikh [pronounced shake] north of the river who was trying to put his men into the IP [Iraqi Police], and he was killed. Then the killers kept his body for several days, an insult almost as great as the murder itself. It angered local tribes so much that it galvanized them against the AIF [anti-Iraqi forces] and in favor of the coalition."

Sunrise in Ramadi

This led to the formation of a tribal council called the Sahawa Al Anbar, or Al Anbar Awakening, which "was designed to wake up the people of Anbar, who have been, for the last two years, allowing al Qaeda in Iraq and other elements to control the city and province of Al Anbar," Patriquin explained. "It started in August 2006 with 40 sheikhs representing 20 tribes from Al Anbar, and currently has over 50 sheikhs representing at least 25 tribes. There is currently tribal representation covering all of Al Anbar province, and they have provided more than 70 percent of our IP recruits in the last few months."

Even the Los Angeles Times – hardly pro-war or pro-Bush – in an October 5 article reported that local tribes are mad as hell about the insurgency and are not going to take it anymore. It observed that Abdul Jabber Hakkam, spokesman for a coalition of 11 tribes in Al Anbar, was saying locals were capturing and executing the anti-Iraqi forces on their own initiative. "People have done this with their own personal weapons," he said. "Now each house that hosts a terrorist, they will force all the residents of the house outside, so they're on the streets." When that is done, he predicted, the insurgents will "have no one to keep them, and they will withdraw." Further, said Hakkam, "we are not just targeting al Qaeda, but terrorists in general, because people miss real stability and freedom." Importantly, he not only urged the locals to work with the tribes, but also said the tribes need to work closely with the government in Baghdad.

If you're thinking this doesn't reflect doomsaying media interpretations of Marine Col. Peter Devlin's unreleased August intelligence report indicating there's no functioning government in the Anbar, you're right. The province has long been the domain of nomadic tribes. They have no EPA or Department of Education certainly. We're not going to change that system soon and there's little reason to do so. (Residents, for one thing, can simply establish a business overnight and taxes are low to nonexistent.) If they cooperate in the war effort, we've achieved our goal.

Turning Iraq over to the Iraqis

Probably the most important aspect of the plan to pacify Ramadi is the same as that for pacifying the country as a whole and drawing down U.S. troops – continuing to turn over more responsibilities and more geographic area to the Iraqi army and police. They'll need armor and artillery support for the next several years and U.S. assets like air support and special ops for much longer. But in Ramadi, at least, the transfers seem to be working. During the fighting in June the Iraqi Army 1st Brigade, 7th Division (1/7) aided the Americans. They had arrived in Ramadi in late March. Now they've been joined by the Iraqi Army 1/1, the oldest Iraqi Army unit in the country and considered by many to be the best. With a total complement of several thousand soldiers, the two Iraqi Army battalions now have their own areas of responsibility in western Ramadi, though American heavy support is always nearby.

The size and quality of Iraqi Army forces in Ramadi continues to grow.

The Iraqi Army is better-armed than the last time I was in the Anbar. Back then they lectured me on their need for 12.7 millimeter heavy machine guns called DUSHKAs, which the enemy has had all along, while I lectured them back on the need to kill the enemy rather than just defend themselves. In April, they were just taking delivery of armored Humvees; now these military vehicles are ubiquitous. Their equipment needs are still great; indeed, I was asked not to convey some details lest the enemy find out what they lack. But as the Iraqi soldiers earn the trust of the Americans, they're getting vastly superior equipment, often when a unit rotates out and bequeaths it to them.

Nobody pretends the Iraqi Army will ever approach the U.S. military in its willingness and ability to fight; but in fairness, how many armies do? Further, it's not as if the anti-Iraqi forces' abilities will ever approach those of the Viet Cong.

There's also a dig at reporters who "report" from their hotel rooms in the Green Zone.

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posted by Ace at 06:12 PM

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