View Full Version : Situation Called Dire in West Iraq

11-05-2005, 07:09 AM
5 Nov. Associated Press report - U.S. Launches Major Offensive in Iraq (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/04/AR2005110400254.html). Excerpt follows:

"The American military launched a major offensive near the Syrian border on Saturday aimed at destroying al-Qaida in Iraq's ability to smuggle in foreign fighters, money and equipment..."

"The offensive of about 2,500 Marines, soldiers and sailors in the town of Husaybah will remove insurgents from the western province of Anbar ahead of Iraq's parliamentary election on Dec. 15, the military said. An unspecified number of Iraqi forces were taking part."

"The offensive is part of a larger ongoing U.S. military operation designed to deny al-Qaida in Iraq the ability to operate in the Euphrates River valley, which stretches through Anbar province, and to establish a joint permanent security presence along the Syrian border."

"... marks the first large-scale employment of multiple battalion-sized units of Iraqi army forces in combined operations with coalition forces in the last year..."

11-05-2005, 08:07 PM
Major U.S.-Led Offensive Continues in Iraq (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/05/AR2005110500364.html) (Associated Press)

U.S., Iraqi Forces Launch Offensive Along Syrian Border (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/05/AR2005110500813.html) (Washington Post)

U.S. Offensive in Iraq's West (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/05/AR2005110500611.html) (Reuters)

11-06-2005, 01:23 PM
Steel Curtain and the Anbar Campaign (http://billroggio.com/archives/2005/11/steel_curtain_and.php) (The Fourth Rail)

Major Offensive Hits Insurgents on Iraqi Border (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/06/international/middleeast/06iraq.html) (New York Times)

U.S., Iraqi Forces Launch Offensive Along Syrian Border (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/05/AR2005110500813.html) (Washington Post)

Operation Steel Curtain Moves Into Husaybah (http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Nov2005/20051105_3248.html) (DoD)

U.S.-Led Forces Attack al-Qaida in Iraq (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/06/AR2005110600169.html) (AP)

US, Iraqi Forces Face Resistance in Insurgent Offensive (http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20051105/wl_mideast_afp/iraq_051105212215;_ylt=Amzbhc76EjNQ_QvJGnrRkeSFOrg F;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl) (AFP)

U.S. Mounts Offensive in Iraq's West (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/05/AR2005110500611.html) (Reuters)

Iraq Offensive Meets Resistance (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4409332.stm) (BBC)

Attack on Insurgents Tests Iraqi Soldiers (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/05/AR2005110500364.html) (AP)

11-21-2005, 05:32 AM
21 Nov. Christian Science Monitor - Next Job: Keeping Rebels Out (http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/1121/p06s01-woiq.html).

...illustrate the difficulty of keeping insurgents permanently out of New Obeidi and the other towns in Anbar Province, along the Syrian border. Marines of the 3rd Battalion of the 6th Regiment have fought to wrest control of these towns from insurgents over the past three weeks in Operation Steel Curtain.

Resting in the bend of the Euphrates River, New Obeidi, located next to Obeidi, is a microcosm of the challenges and pitfalls of the broader fight against insurgents. It was the last city taken by the Marines in Steel Curtain. Fighting ended last Thursday, and the battle has turned to ensuring that insurgents don't return.

A day after the bullets stopped flying here, Marines began 24-hour foot patrols through the streets. Residents come forward to point out weapon stockpiles by day while insurgents plant IEDs by night. Children wave and some men shake hands with the Marines. Others hang back offering only hard stares.

06-11-2006, 01:27 PM
11 June Stars and Stripes - Iraqis in Al Anbar Province Leaving Army in Droves (http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=37831).

Iraqi soldiers in Al Anbar province are leaving their army in droves, draining much-needed manpower from fledgling Iraqi security forces and preventing U.S. troops from reducing troop strength in the volatile region, U.S. and Iraqi military officials say.

Lousy living conditions, bad food and failure to receive regular pay are the main reasons behind the exodus, which is running at least several hundred soldiers a month, the officials say.

“Many of my soldiers have not gotten paid in six months. Sometimes, they don’t eat for two or three days at a time. I tell my commander, but what else am I supposed to do?” said Lt. Moktat Uosef, a 29-year-old Iraqi army company commander based in Husaybah.

Uosef’s brigade is one of the most troubled. The 4th Brigade of the 7th Iraqi Army Division has lost nearly half its soldiers during the past six months, dropping from 2,200 troops in December to fewer than 1,400 in May, according to Marines who work with the Iraqi unit.

In Haditha, the Iraqi army brigade has been losing about 100 soldiers a month, dropping from more than 2,000 at the beginning of the year to fewer than 1,600 in May, Marines said...

06-16-2006, 12:26 PM
CSIS, dated 15 June: Iraqi Force Development in 2006 (http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/060615_iraqforcedev06.pdf)

Iraqi force development faced the challenge of an insurgency that continued to show it could
strike at the sectarian and ethnic fault lines in Iraq, and could exploit the lack of an effective Iraqi
government and leadership to push the country towards civil war. At the same time, sectarian
and ethnic militias and security forces became a steadily more serious problem, rivaling the
insurgency as a threat to Iraq security.
During these developments, the Iraqi regular military forces under the Ministry of Defense
(MOI) steadily expanded in size and capability, and expanded their military role. They remained largely unified and “national” in character. The lack of an Iraqi government did, however, allow a continuing drift in setting clear Iraqi force goals, and in creating plans that would both create forces that could sustain themselves in combat and eventually acquire enough major weapons and combat equipment to deter foreign threats and defend the country.

The situation was far more difficult in the case of the forces under the Ministry of Interior, including the special security units and police. Some elements of these forces became tied to Shi’ite militias, attacks on Sunnis, and other abuses. This forced the reorganization of all of the forces under the MOI, and it is still unclear how successful this reorganization will be.

The MNF-I and Iraqi government seem to be committed to giving Iraq effective internal and security police forces that will serve the nation, not given sects and ethnic groups. There has been no in-depth reporting about progress in this effort, and it faces major challenges in the form of militias and police and other security forces that are effectively under the control of regional or local leaders, most with ties to given sects and factions...

09-11-2006, 06:35 AM
11 September Washington Post - Situation Called Dire in West Iraq (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/10/AR2006091001204.html) by Tom Ricks.

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

The officials described Col. Pete Devlin's classified assessment of the dire state of Anbar as the first time that a senior U.S. military officer has filed so negative a report from Iraq.

One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost."

The "very pessimistic" statement, as one Marine officer called it, was dated Aug. 16 and sent to Washington shortly after that, and has been discussed across the Pentagon and elsewhere in national security circles. "I don't know if it is a shock wave, but it's made people uncomfortable," said a Defense Department official who has read the report. Like others interviewed about the report, he spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name because of the document's sensitivity.

Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Devlin offers a series of reasons for the situation, including a lack of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a problem that has dogged commanders since the fall of Baghdad more than three years ago, said people who have read it. These people said he reported that not only are military operations facing a stalemate, unable to extend and sustain security beyond the perimeters of their bases, but also local governments in the province have collapsed and the weak central government has almost no presence...

One view of the report offered by some Marine officers is that it is a cry for help from an area where fighting remains intense, yet which recently has been neglected by top commanders and Bush administration officials as they focus on bringing a sense of security to Baghdad. An Army unit of Stryker light armored vehicles that had been slated to replace another unit in Anbar was sent to reinforce operations in Baghdad, leaving commanders in the west scrambling to move around other troops to fill the gap.

Devlin's report is a work of intelligence analysis, not of policy prescription, so it does not try to suggest what, if anything, can be done to fix the situation. It is not clear what the implications would be for U.S. forces if Devlin's view is embraced by top commanders elsewhere in Iraq. U.S. officials are wary of simply abandoning the Sunni parts of Iraq, for fear that they could become havens for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

One possible solution would be to try to turn over the province to Iraqi forces, but that could increase the risk of a full-blown civil war. Shiite-dominated forces might begin slaughtering Sunnis, while Sunni-dominated units might simply begin acting independently of the central government.

09-12-2006, 08:21 AM
12 September Washington Post - Pentagon Weighing Report On Anbar (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/11/AR2006091101005.html) by Ann Scott Tyson.

The Pentagon is taking "very seriously" a classified intelligence report concluding that the U.S. military has fought to a stalemate in Iraq's western Anbar province as political conditions also worsen in the "epicenter" of the country's Sunni insurgency, a senior defense official said yesterday.

In congressional testimony on security in Iraq, Pentagon officials also said the rise of "ethno-sectarian violence" has laid the conditions for civil war, aborting plans by U.S. commanders to begin withdrawing U.S. troops. Gaps in the capabilities of Iraqi security forces leave open the prospect that U.S. forces may have to stay in the country for as many as five or more years, they said.

Calling Anbar "a very hot zone on the battlefield," Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric S. Edelman said the secret report on the volatile, strategic province was gaining high-level attention at the Pentagon...

09-12-2006, 09:05 AM
12 September New York Times - Grim Outlook Seen in W. Iraq Without More Troops and Aid (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/12/world/middleeast/12anbar.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin) by Michael Gordon.

The political and security situation in western Iraq is grim and will continue to deteriorate unless the region receives a major infusion of aid and a division is sent to reinforce the American troops operating there, according to the senior Marine intelligence officer in Iraq...

While the American military is focused on trying to secure Baghdad and prevent the sectarian strife there from escalating into a civil war, the assessment points to the difficulties in Anbar, a vast Sunni-dominated area of western Iraq where the insurgency is particularly strong. The province includes such restive towns as Ramadi, Haditha and Hit.

Marine commanders have been mounting a campaign to secure the province in the face of a virulent insurgency. But they have had to cope with seriously short-handed Iraqi Army units and a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad that has tended to view the area as a low priority for government spending and programs...

One factor that has hampered the American counterinsurgency effort has been the limited number of American troops. As a general rule, a substantial number of troops are required in a counterinsurgency campaign to protect the population from attacks and intimidation by insurgent groups...

09-12-2006, 12:11 PM
Interesting how the same story is presented differently by the two different sources. The Washington Post piece by Ann Scott Tyson comes across more as simply presenting the facts and some of the political wrangling around whereas the NYT piece comes across all doom and gloom, all is lost we can't win.


09-12-2006, 09:17 PM
... via the Armed Forces Press Service (http://www.defenselink.mil/news/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=824) (reposted here in full per DoD guidelines):

Different parts of Iraq have different security environments, and that is important to recognize as Americans assess stories coming out of the country, Pentagon officials said today.

Recent stories about the insurgency in Anbar province paint a very bleak picture of the security situation in western Iraq.

The stories reference a classified Marine assessment of the state of the insurgency in the province. The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., commands the Multinational Force West, headquartered at Camp Fallujah.

In a written response to the articles, Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, commander of Multinational Force West, said the reports “fail to accurately capture the entirety and complexity of the current situation.”

“The classified assessment, which has been referred to in these reports, was intended to focus on the causes of the insurgency,” he said. “It was not intended to address the positive effects coalition and Iraqi forces have achieved on the security environment over the past years.”

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman called the security situation in Iraq uneven. “There are places where it is relative stability, where the military and police working side by side have created conditions that are stable,” he said. “There are some places in Iraq that are much more of a challenge.”

Security is just one part of the equation, Whitman said. Governance, economic conditions, infrastructure reconstruction and the political situation are important factors in Iraq’s progress. “All these factors are interrelated to create an environment in which Iraqis feel they have hope and look towards a brighter future,” he said.

Anbar province, a Sunni-dominated area that runs just east of Fallujah to the Jordanian and Syrian borders, is Iraq’s largest in terms of size but is sparsely populated.

Building up the Iraqi security forces in the province has not worked as well as it has in other parts of Iraq, Marine officials said. This is because the province is so dominated by Sunnis, and tribal leaders wield real power in many areas of the province.

Similarly, building a provincial government also has been tough in the region. “The Iraqi government is working very hard to improve not only the national government, but to make local governments strong and able to meet the needs of the population,” Whitman said.

Zilmer said much security progress has been made in Anbar province, but “for lasting progress to take place, comparably effective advances must be made in the development of governmental and economic institutions at the local, provincial and national levels.

“Only then,” he said, “will the people of Anbar be able to realize their goal of long-term security, prosperity and confidence in their government.”

09-12-2006, 09:28 PM
If we want to take Iraq, and Al Anbar seriously, gloom and doom and be what is required. I wouldn't want to see the argument of "all is lost", but at least a pessimistic appraisal of what lies ahead. If it gets people (particularly policymakers) to sit up and take notice, then great.

Devlin offers a series of reasons for the situation, including a lack of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a problem that has dogged commanders since the fall of Baghdad more than three years ago, said people who have read it. These people said he reported that not only are military operations facing a stalemate, unable to extend and sustain security beyond the perimeters of their bases, but also local governments in the province have collapsed and the weak central government has almost no presence...

I personally don't know the issues of slant with either the Post or the Times, and frankly don't care, but none of this is new information unless you've been oblivious to the named operations and casualties that have taken place in Anbar.

One of the few positive articles I've seen written about Al Anbar was in an Oct or Nov Economist magazine IIRC, detailing the exploits of a special forces team that swooped into Ar Rutbah in 2003 and started to get governance back on its feet. The downside is that the writer should have visited Ar Rutbah anytime in the last two years. He'd have quickly decided to scrap the article, as Rutbah quickly turned to crap, through no fault of the 82d Airborne and Marine units that have rotated through there.

I'm curious to know if policy-makers have decided to accept a level of violence on the fringe (Anbar) to protect the center (Baghdad), because I think they have the risk calculations all wrong. If we lose Baghdad (though defining loss is squishy), we certainly lose Iraq and it would turn into pure anarchy. But if we lose Anbar (and terrible security is a reasonable index), there are secondary effects that we cannot ignore, because the center could implode as a result.

09-12-2006, 09:49 PM
12 September Associated Press - Zilmer: U.S. 'Stifling' Iraq Insurgency (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/12/AR2006091200764.html) by Robert Burns.

A senior American commander in Iraq said Tuesday that U.S.-led military operations are "stifling" the insurgency in western Anbar province but are not strong enough to defeat it.

Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer told reporters in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Fallujah that he has enough U.S. troops - about 30,000 - to accomplish what he called his main mission: training Iraqi security forces...

Zilmer, who has commanded U.S. forces in western Iraq since February, said increasing the number of U.S. troops there would help in the short term, "but at the end of the day I don't think it's going to be the significant change that is necessary to achieve long-term security and stability out here in Anbar."

What is needed, he said, is progress on the economic and political fronts that will undercut support for the insurgency...

On Edit: The Stars and Stripes also is reporting on General Zilmer's comments - Report Overlooked Anbar Province Progress (http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=39988)

On Edit: Tom Ricks follows up in the Washington Post - General Affirms Anbar Analysis (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/12/AR2006091201418.html)

09-12-2006, 10:20 PM
...One of the few positive articles I've seen written about Al Anbar was in an Oct or Nov Economist magazine IIRC, detailing the exploits of a special forces team that swooped into Ar Rutbah in 2003 and started to get governance back on its feet. The downside is that the writer should have visited Ar Rutbah anytime in the last two years. He'd have quickly decided to scrap the article, as Rutbah quickly turned to crap, through no fault of the 82d Airborne and Marine units that have rotated through there...
It was Foreign Policy, not The Economist, the Nov/Dec 05 issue:

The Mayor of Ar Rutbah (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3265&page=0)

Amid the chaos in Iraq, one company of U.S. Special Forces achieved what others have not: a functioning democracy. How? By relying on common sense, the trust of Iraqis, and recollections from Political Science 101. Now, their commander reveals the gritty reality about nation-building in Iraq, from the ground up...

09-12-2006, 10:42 PM
It was Foreign Policy, not The Economist, the Nov/Dec 05 issue:

The Mayor of Ar Rutbah (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3265&page=0)

Major Gavrilis submitted it to the SWJ Magazine with the caveat that we could publish if FP did not pick it up... Oh well - glad it got published and read by a wide audience.

09-12-2006, 11:00 PM
I knew it wasn't in Foreign Affairs, but one of the glossy mags on the periphery.

As good as it was at portraying what happened during that small snapshot of time, the reality of Rutbah today is 180 degrees away.

09-13-2006, 09:55 AM
Herschel Smith at the Captain's Journal - Will we Lose the Anbar Province? (http://www.captainsjournal.com/2006/09/13/will-we-lose-the-anbar-province/).

... To refer to politics in al Anbar is to refer to something that doesn’t currently exist. The brass in Iraq, by diminishing force projection in al Anbar in order to let “reconstruction win the hearts and minds of the people,” are deferring to a phantom. The very people whose hearts and minds we want to win are being protected by the enemy who destroys their political institutions and prevents reconstruction.

The Strategy Page from a few months ago is correct. There isn’t civil war in Iraq, and there can never be civil war in Iraq. If the factions war with each other, the Kurds will be left along (or defended by themselves alongside the Kurds in Turkey), and the Shia majority will utterly destroy the Sunni minority. Rather than speak of civil war, we should speak of genocide.

The only force in the region who is capable of winning the war on the battlefield is the U.S. Reliance on the Iraqis to effect the victory is a losing strategy...

...Maintenance of the peace can be accomplished by the Iraqi troops alongside U.S. troops, and the political process can be protected by both the U.S. and Iraqis. Reconstruction can be assisted by the most versatile force in the world, the U.S. military. But winning the war on the battlefield is necessary prior to winning it politically. Unless and until the enemy is killed or captured, politics is irrelevant because it doesn’t exist.

We can still win this war, but we need to dispatch a division of Marines as soon as possible to begin operations in Ramadi, Fallujah (yes, it has regressed), Hamdaniyah, Haditha and al Haqlania. Generals who learned the wrong lessons from the wrong war and who are applying them in the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reasons with the wrong understanding are decreasing our chances of success in al Anbar....

Much more, check it out.

09-18-2006, 08:10 AM
18 September New York Times - Most Tribes in Anbar Agree to Unite Against Insurgents (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/18/world/middleeast/18iraq.html?ref=world) by Khalid al-Ansary and Ali Deeb.

Nearly all the tribes from Iraq’s volatile Sunni-dominated Anbar Province have agreed to join forces and fight Al Qaeda insurgents and other foreign-backed “terrorists,” an influential tribal leader said Sunday. Iraqi government leaders encouraged the movement.

Twenty-five of about 31 tribes in Anbar, a vast, mostly desert region that stretches westward from Baghdad to the borders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, have united against insurgents and gangs that are “killing people for no reason,” said the tribal leader, Sheik Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi.

“We held a meeting earlier and agreed to fight those who call themselves mujahadeen,” Mr. Rishawi said in an interview. “We believe that there is a conspiracy against our Iraqi people. Those terrorists claimed that they are fighters working on liberating Iraq, but they turned out to be killers. Now all the people are fed up and have turned against them.”

It is unclear how quickly or forcefully the tribal fighters will confront Al Qaeda and other insurgents, who mostly operate in and around the provincial capital, Ramadi, despite recurrent American military efforts to stop them. But for American and Iraqi officials, who have tried to persuade the Sunni Arab majority in Anbar to reject the insurgency and embrace Iraqi nationalism, Mr. Rishawi’s comments are seen as an encouraging sign...

09-18-2006, 11:44 PM
Leader: Iraqi Tribes Fight Insurgency (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/18/AR2006091800318.html)by Sinan Salaheddin.

Tribes in one of Iraq's most volatile provinces have joined together to fight the insurgency there, and they have called on the government and the U.S.-led military coalition for weapons, a prominent tribal leader said Monday.

Tribal leaders and clerics in Ramadi, the capital of violent Anbar province, met last week and have set up a force of about 20,000 men "ready to purge the city of these infidels," Sheik Fassal al-Guood, a prominent tribal leader from Ramadi, told The Associated Press, referring to the insurgents.

"People are fed up with the acts of those criminals who take Islam as a cover for their crimes," he said. "The situation in the province is unbearable, the city is abandoned, most of the families have fled the city and all services are poor."

Al-Guood said 15 of the 18 tribes in Ramadi "have sworn to fight those who are killing Sunnis and Shiites and they established an armed force of about 20,000 young men ready to purge the city from those infidels."

He said they had asked the Iraqi government and the U.S.-led coalition "to back them with modern weapons and cars because the terrorists have weapons more modern than their rifles."...

Of course, the request for "modern weapons" begs the question - as the sands shift down the road will we be facing those modern weapons in the conduct of COIN operations?

10-05-2006, 12:41 PM
5 October Los Angeles Times - Tribes Heed Call to Join Battle for Iraq (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-tribes5oct05,1,5607754.story?coll=la-headlines-world) by Kim Murphy.

As tribal leaders from Iraq's troubled Al Anbar province met last week with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, pledging their support to clean out Al Qaeda insurgents, it soon became clear that they were as good as their word.

That day, at a mosque in the town of Ramadi, armed tribesmen seized four men — two Iraqis and two non-Iraqi Arabs — whom the tribesmen believed to be Al Qaeda fighters. The men pleaded for their lives, "for the sake of Islam, and for the sake of the prophet," according to a man who witnessed the incident during group prayers.

Their bodies were found a few hours later in a dumpster.

Abdul Jabber Hakkam, spokesman for a coalition of 11 tribes that have pledged to fight insurgents in Al Anbar, said that despite what apparently happened in Ramadi, the tribes' plan was not to dispatch suspects on the spot. Instead, he hopes his fighters will arrest suspects and take them to court or shun them until they leave...

10-05-2006, 02:01 PM
Interesting opportunity. I would suspect that we will see a lot more tribal justice than handing over to the courts, since I doubt that there is any real faith in them. Has anyone heard if there is a move to appoint a special prosecutor or special filed court for al Anbar? Something along the lines of a tribunal with an Iraqi, a coalition and a tribal chief as the judges?