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Thread: Ramadi Revisited; Cracks in Jihad

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    Default Ramadi Revisited; Cracks in Jihad

    11 Nov. on The Fourth Rail: Ramadi Revisited; Cracks in Jihad.

    "The city of Ramadi begins to take center stage as one of the last refuges of the insurgency along the Euphrates River Valley as Coalition forces press operations to clear and bold the border towns in western Iraq..."

    "The Marines patrolling the streets of Ramadi often find the citizens are supportive of Coalition efforts to restore law and order in the city. Some are even welcomed by the residents of Ramadi, as Private Jefferson Haney, an artilleryman with Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment stationed in Ramadi reports..."

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    Default Marines Try Lighter Touch in Ramadi

    12 July Los Angeles Times - Marines Try Lighter Touch in Ramadi by Julian Barnes.

    This is the anti-Fallouja strategy.

    Here, in the capital of Al Anbar province, the U.S. military is attempting to clear and pacify an insurgent stronghold without leveling the city in the process.

    In November 2004, U.S. forces surrounded Fallouja, set up checkpoints at every road and worked to empty the area of its civilian population. They then moved in and cleared every house and block. The effort destroyed large swaths of the city and forced a massive reconstruction effort.

    This time, U.S. forces hope to avoid such drastic measures.

    Rather than gauge success by blocks cleared, military officials here take heart from softer measurements — neighborhoods that have become safe enough for garbage collection to have resumed, stores that have reopened.

    "When we did Fallouja, everything shut down," said Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the chief spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq. "In Ramadi, it is the exact opposite. Shops are opening up and commerce is increasing."

    With both Al Qaeda and Sunni nationalist groups intent on asserting influence over Ramadi, the military cannot afford to draw down its forces in the city.

    "The trap lines, the foreign fighter flow from Syria to Baghdad, goes right through Ramadi," Caldwell said.

    Yet, the seemingly fragile Iraqi government would be unlikely to allow a Fallouja-style assault, particularly in Ramadi, which has 400,000 residents.

    Military officials believe Fallouja showed that the United States would not tolerate an insurgent safe haven in Iraq. In Ramadi, they hope to show that a city known as a primary battleground can be retaken with a softer approach...

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    Default Ramadi: Marines Own the Night

    20 September post by Herschel Smith at the Captain's Journal - Ramadi: Marines Own the Night, 3.5 Years Into Iraq War.

    The Marines in Ramadi are quite capable of counter-insurgency (COIN) operations and the proper conduct of “small wars.” The bone of contention is the doctrine of use of proxy fighters to effect stability while signficant enemy remain. To the extent that this remains a pivotal doctrine of COIN strategy, it may be a failing strategy...

    There has been intensive debate over the use of special forces operators and COIN strategy versus regulars and the (allegedly) more heavy handed tactics that they bring to bear. I discussed this in my posts linked above (Afghanistan’s Lessons for Iraq). But what we see here calls into question this whole debate, encouraging us to see the debate as a smokescreen and subterfuge, even if unintentional.

    The Marines are quite capable of using night vision, working with the locals to effect stability, smoking with the men, watching World Cup soccer, shooting with care at targets in order to avoid collateral damage, and setting up defenses to protect themselves (while also protecting the social and physical infrastructure of the region). The depiction of Marines and other regulars as knuckle-draggers is as incorrect as it is insulting.

    The debate over tactics has thus far centered on COIN versus regular (or conventional) operations. What we read above suggests that this conversation is too coarse to accomplish anything useful. The real debate lies not in strategy, but rather, when to utilize and implement a strategy. The Marines in Ramadi cannot conduct anything but COIN operations given their force size...

    The capabilities of the Marines in Ramadi show that they can handle the insurgency while conducting “small wars.” The question is not one of strategy. It is one of timing. I had previously recommended — completely apart from the recent intelligence report on al Anbar — another division of Marines in al Anbar. We can win this war, and to me it was an issue of taking the fight to the enemy. But as long as political talking points in Washington (”we’ll come home when the Iraqis can take over”) become military strategy, the Generals in Iraq will continue to tell the administration that they have enough troops.

    It requires very few troops to train others. We could cut the force size by three quarters and accomplish the training of the Iraqi army. However, if the mission is to bring stability to the region without reliance on proxy fighters (i.e., unorganized tribes in al Anbar), then we don’t have enough troops, and have not had enough troops from the beginning.

    In summary, there is simply no substitute for killing the enemy in war. Purposely circumventing urban regions in our push towards Baghdad leaving significant enemy left behind to fight another day, ignoring the al Anbar province to fester for 3.5 years, and simultaneously invoking COIN strategy, is not really COIN. It is premature cessation of conventional operations. It isn’t the failure of COIN that is to blame. It is the timing … a timing that is too connected to political altercations stateside...
    Much more at the link to include background and current news items. Read the whole post to put the above excerpt in context.

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    Default Fighting Back: The City Determined Not to Become al-Qaeda's Capital

    20 November London Times - Fighting Back: The City Determined Not to Become al-Qaeda's Capital by Martin Fletcher.

    ... While the world’s attention has been focused on Baghdad’s slide into sectarian warfare, something remarkable has been happening in Ramadi, a city of 400,000 inhabitants that al-Qaeda and its Iraqi allies have controlled since mid-2004 and would like to make the capital of their cherished Islamic caliphate.

    A power struggle has erupted: al-Qaeda’s reign of terror is being challenged. Sheikh Sittar and many of his fellow tribal leaders have cast their lot with the once-reviled US military. They are persuading hundreds of their followers to sign up for the previously defunct Iraqi police. American troops are moving into a city that was, until recently, a virtual no-go area. A battle is raging for the allegiance of Ramadi’s battered and terrified citizens and the outcome could have far-reaching consequences.

    Ramadi has been the insurgency’s stronghold for the past two years. It is the conduit for weapons and foreign fighters arriving from Syria and Saudi Arabia. To reclaim it would deal a severe blow to the insurgency throughout the Sunni triangle and counter mounting criticism of the war back in America.

    Sheikh Sittar and US commanders believe that the tide is turning in their favour. “Most of the people are now convinced that coalition forces are friends, and that the enemy is al-Qaeda,” the 35-year-old Sheikh claimed in his first face-to-face interview with a Western newspaper.

    “Al-Qaeda is now on the run,” Colonel Sean MacFarland, commander of the 5,000 US troops in Ramadi, told The Times at his headquarters just outside the city. But the four days The Times spent embedded with US forces in Ramadi last week suggest that al-Qaeda and its Iraqi allies are far from defeated, and that this is a battle with a long way yet to run...

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default Behind Success in Ramadi: An Army Colonel's Gamble

    Excellent interview in USATODAY with COL Sean McFarland of the 1st BCT, 1st AD who led the turnaround fight in Ramadi for the past year.

    When U.S. strategy in Iraq called for pulling American forces back to large, heavily protected bases last year, Army Col. Sean MacFarland was moving in the opposite direction. He built small, more vulnerable combat outposts in Ramadi's most dangerous neighborhoods — places where al-Qaeda had taken root.

    "I was going the wrong way down a one-way street," MacFarland says.

    ...

    Mains acknowledges that in the current Army, "not every brigade or battalion commander has gotten that." He says MacFarland, whose brigade returned to its home base here in Germany in February, "really understood this is an argument between us and the insurgents."

    ...

    In Ramadi, MacFarland embraced the freedom and accepted risk.

    "I had a lot of flexibility, so I ran with it," he says.

    He lacked the number of troops required for a large offensive. The combat outposts allowed him to secure Ramadi "a chunk at a time," he says, adding that he pursued the sheiks because of their "leverage" over the population.

    The brigade, which commanded about 5,500 soldiers and Marines, immediately began building combat outposts in Ramadi.

    "We did it where al-Qaeda was strongest," MacFarland says. The outposts housed U.S. troops, Iraqi security forces and civil affairs teams.

    It was a risky strategy that put U.S. soldiers in daily battles with insurgents.

    The brigade lost 95 soldiers; another 600 suffered wounds over the course of its tour in Iraq.

    Taking troops out of heavily fortified bases as MacFarland did often produces results but increases risk, says Hy Rothstein, a retired Special Forces officer who teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.

    MacFarland put a battalion under Lt. Col. V.J. Tedesco in the southern part of the city, where al-Qaeda fighters were concentrated.

    Before the battalion arrived, that part of the city "was largely off-limits to coalition forces," Tedesco said at a briefing for the Army Lessons Learned team last week.

    His battalion lost 25 tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and trucks to roadside bombs as they began patrolling and setting up bases.

    "We just absorbed IEDs," Tedesco said, referring to roadside bombs.

    MacFarland's brigade didn't wait until a neighborhood was entirely secure before launching construction projects, recruiting police and trying to establish a government. Lt. Col. John Tien, commander of 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor, says the brigade was "aggressive" about pushing ahead on projects as soldiers were establishing security.

    By the time the unit returned to Germany, the brigade had built 18 combat outposts in and around Ramadi.

    The combat outposts helped reduce violence last summer, but the brigade wasn't close to winning over the population, an essential part of defeating an insurgency.

    ...

    MacFarland says he soon realized the key was to win over the tribal leaders, or sheiks.

    "The prize in the counterinsurgency fight is not terrain," he says. "It's the people. When you've secured the people, you have won the war. The sheiks lead the people."

    But the sheiks were sitting on the fence.

    They were not sympathetic to al-Qaeda, but they tolerated its members, MacFarland says.

    The sheiks' outlook had been shaped by watching an earlier clash between Iraqi nationalists — primarily former members of Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath Party — and hard-core al-Qaeda operatives who were a mix of foreign fighters and Iraqis. Al-Qaeda beat the nationalists. That rattled the sheiks.

    "Al-Qaeda just mopped up the floor with those guys,"
    he says.

    ...

    The brigade made an offer: If the tribal leaders encouraged their members to join the police, the Army would build police stations in the tribal areas and let the recruits protect their own tribes and families. They wouldn't have to leave their neighborhoods.

    "We said, 'How about if we recruit them to join the police and they go right back into their tribal areas?' " MacFarland recalls.

    Some tribes agreed.

    The number of police recruits in Ramadi jumped from about 30 a month to 100 in June 2006 and about 300 in July. More than 3,000 new recruits had joined the police by the time MacFarland's brigade left in February.

    Trying to blunt police recruitment, al-Qaeda fighters simultaneously attacked one of the new Ramadi police stations with a car bomb in August 2006, killing several Iraqi police, and assassinated the leader of the Abu Ali Jassim tribe.

    They hid the sheik's body, denying him a proper Muslim burial, and his remains were not found until four days later. Members of the tribe were outraged.

    A couple of weeks later, one of the brigade's officers went to visit Sheik Abdul Sattar al-Rishawi, a local tribal leader. The officer was shocked to see a gathering of 20-30 sheiks jammed into al-Rishawi's home. Al-Rishawi was asked what was going on.

    "We are forming an alliance against al-Qaeda," the sheik replied, according to MacFarland. "Are you with us?"

    MacFarland was. Now he needed to convince his bosses.

    Officials at MacFarland's higher headquarters, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based near Fallujah, were worried. The U.S. military was supposed to be supporting Iraq's government. A tribal alliance could pose a threat to Anbar Gov. Maamoun Sami Rashid al-Awani.

    Al-Awani's government wasn't popular and had been thinned by threats and assassinations. Still, U.S. policy was to back Iraqi government institutions.

    The tribal leaders didn't like al-Awani and wanted him replaced. MacFarland said the sheiks agreed to back off their demand that al-Awani step down.

    There were other concerns. Al-Rishawi and his colleagues were second-tier sheiks. Most of Anbar's senior tribal leaders, some of whom amassed considerable wealth in a variety of businesses, had decamped to Jordan because of the growing violence after the U.S.-led invasion.

    The Marine headquarters in Anbar was in contact with the tribal leaders in Jordan and was concerned that an alliance involving the U.S. military and junior leaders — the ones who remained in Ramadi — would jeopardize that relationship.

    MacFarland says he saw it differently. The contacts in Jordan had yielded little. "Maybe there is a power struggle between the sheiks in Jordan and the sheiks in Anbar," MacFarland says. "But let's back the sheiks in Anbar. Let's pick a horse and back it."

    He says the results were immediate when a sheik pledged to support the alliance with the U.S. Army, an agreement some of the sheiks involved would grandly name The Awakening. "Once a tribal leader flips, attacks on American forces in that area stop almost overnight," MacFarland says.

    Marine headquarters officers also raised concerns about the backgrounds of some of the tribal leaders involved in The Awakening. Anbar's desolate roads and stretches of empty desert have long been home to smugglers.

    "I've read the reports" on al-Rishawi, MacFarland says. "You don't get to be a sheik by being a nice guy. These guys are ruthless characters. … That doesn't mean they can't be reliable partners."
    Despite its concerns, the Marine headquarters allowed MacFarland to pursue his work with the tribes and ultimately supported it.

    The alliance grew to more than 50 sheiks by the time the brigade left Iraq, spreading throughout the province. Police recruiting continued to increase. The tribes began attacking al-Qaeda leaders who were on U.S. target lists, according to brigade documents.

    More than 200 sheiks are now part of the alliance. They plan to form a political party ...

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    Default Another great example of initiative from below...

    Thanks for posting. My father called me this morning to let me know about the article. It's taken me a little while to explain why the "move in" plan is amongst our only means of achieving success in Iraq. I think he's becoming a believer more-and-more by the day. Not sure how much this relates to LtCol Yingling's article, but it appears that Col McFarland's decisions and his brigade's performance were a direct result of a plan he developed, not one driven from higher. Is this one more example, much like Col McMaster in Tal Afar and LtCol Alford in Al Qaim, where battalion/brigade commanders operating on their own initiative found success? In either case, I think the good thing today is that Gen Petraeus' team, along with the new COIN manuals, COIN Academy (created under Gen Casey's watch), increasing capabilities of the IA/IP, political initiatives in Baghdad and at the local level, etc. have most if not all units executing a similar strategy.

    Now that we're close to having a unity of effort and clear vision for the entire country on all fronts, we'll see if we're given the time needed to succeed.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Maximus, I get the feeling that this sort of "freedom" that McFarland mentions is really not so much freedom as an utter lack of a strategic plan under Casey and Abizaid. While McMaster and the 3rd ACR were implementing the Tal Afar plan in 2005 and McFarland (McMaster's replacement in Tal Afar, shifted to Ramadi in May 2006, meanwhile we've seen Tal Afar return to car bombings and sectarian killing) was working in Ramadi in 2006, the overall strategic thrust of the U.S. Army in Iraq was withdrawal to FOBs. Am I full of it? This is little more than a half-assed guess, so please feel free to correct me.

    I think a key to remember here is something that both Yingling and McFarland point to as key: a viable Iraqi partner on the ground to work with. As McFarland notes, simply moving to combat outposts was not enough. Only when the shaykhs were moved to fight al-Qaeda did he see real results. Similarly, the mayor and IA commander in Tal Afar had key input at all levels of Operation Restoring Rights as detailed by Yingling.

    That just makes things like this all the worse.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    I think there is something allot of guys are starting to understand - you probably will not find amongst the varying shades of grey someone who is perfectly in line with your perspective and goals. You are the outsider - you will always be. However, you can find common ground and seek like interests that promote both party's goals - however at a certain point you have to realize that they are going to diverge again - and that you are still the outsider. You can maintain the certain degree of influence that you achieved through your assistance, but if you do not acknowledge that you are the outsider, that you will always be an outsider and that the insider's problems will outlive your rotation and even those of your relief's, then you stand to forfeit it.

    What will really matter is how the next unit handles the sheiks - do they work with them to help them realize their goals as they coincide with what Iraq needs to create a secure and stable environement - or will the next guy try and impose something else?

    Look for the guy who is most in line with your (our) goals and who wields sufficient influence (or will by promotion). Push hard to support that person or group while trying to balance and influence them towards tolerance while not discrediting them as an instrument of a foreign power. People love conspiracy theories - Iraqis are no different from us in this regard. Unfortunatley its easy for us to obscure an opportunity for progress with rigid adherance to the perception of our own goals and standards.

    Its a very subjective thing - its art not science. We'd better get good at it however - the American perception of what is right and good is generally just that - an American perception. While we should never compromise it at home, abroad may require we consider what can be perpetuated in our abscence to provide the type of security and stability that provides us opportunities to apply resources elsewhere.

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    Couple of studs in that BDE. COL McFarland is well know throughout US forces in Germany as an out of the box thinker and aggressive commander. LTC Tien is one of the army's up and coming stars as well.

    The COP plan is by far the most effective, and dangerous method of uprooting the insurgents. I think more and more commanders are understanding the inherent value of living among the population and the dangers of trying to "commute" to war. As more and more leaders see the value in COPs, the more effective the hand over between units will be. The enemy will always look to exploit a seem. During tranfer of authority, the seem is easiest for insurgents to gain a footing.

    I think we need to do a better job of explaining the COP tactics to the american public. The 9 paratroopers killed in Diyala provience were at a COP, not a super FOB like Victory or Anaconda. Our PR folks need to get the word out to the US public that living among the population is both more dangerous and more effective than isolating ourselves. The results will develop and the casualties will decrease. But we've got to give time for this tactic to work.
    "But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet withstanding, go out to meet it."

    -Thucydides

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Sully - But it pays to remember the very real drawbacks of any COP-based counterinsurgency campaign. First, it requires a high ratio of troop-to-population and thus a large light infantry presence. It requires that these force levels remain somewhat constant over time and that a unit's leadership stay in place for a lengthy period. Lastly and most critically, as Yingling and McFarland make clear, it requires a dedicated native partner on the ground to work with in order. Foreign forces in COPs alone will not create lasting stability, not least because they cannot be maintained forever. Only with local partners can such a strategy succeed.

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    Great discussion. Tequilla, I'd say you're spot-on with your thoughts on the importance of indigenous forces operating alongside U.S. forces in the COPs for them to truly be effective. Question is where do the indigenous forces come from? The not so good answer but maybe better than nothing initially was to move predominately Shia Iraqi Army units into Sunni areas. This often proved as problematic as U.S. forces operating alone though. I think the best answer will always be indigenous forces from the local area living in the COPs and operating with us. That said, the first step to making this happen will almost always require us to assume significant risk (at least initially) moving in among the people to provide security for them. Without this first step, the locals will be too intimidated to join the security forces. Nothing new here. "Bing" West's The Village does a great job driving this home. Out in Al Qaim, after we moved in and negotiated with tribal leaders, they encouraged young males to join the security forces. We're seeing the same in Ramadi today.

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    Default In Ramadi, a Ragtag Solution with Real Results

    7 May LA Times - In Ramadi, a Ragtag Solution with Real Results by Chris Kraul.

    Call it Neighborhood Watch, Iraqi-style.

    As recently as two months ago, U.S. forces didn't dare stake out the Al Tash neighborhood of this insurgent stronghold in Al Anbar province. Enter 22-year-old Saif Sahed, a go-getter recruit for the Provincial Security Force, a new auxiliary police unit that offers hope for at least a bit of stability in the mean streets of Ramadi.

    Sahed lives in Al Tash, the kind of neighborhood where everyone knows everyone and newcomers are immediately noticed — and in recent years often have been insurgents.

    "If I find strangers or strange cars, I go to tell my officer. Last week we found some who were insurgents and they were detained," Sahed said matter-of-factly. "The important thing is to make my neighborhood safe."

    Because Sahed is young and illiterate, he ordinarily would not qualify for the Iraqi army or police. But for the last several weeks, he and his ragtag cohorts, wearing castoff army fatigues and numbering about 2,200, have filled crucial intelligence-gathering, patrol and checkpoint functions in the new provincial force...

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    This is a good example of compound warfare and how powerfull it can be. For new people Tom Odom posted an excellant paper on this subject awhile back. I don't have time to find it but it is worth the read.

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    Council Member Armchairguy's Avatar
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    Default American 'martyr" hero in Ramadi

    I thought this was a great story and looked around for a thread to put the link. In any case here it is http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/...e-801047e73bb7

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default I was there....

    Quote Originally Posted by Armchairguy View Post
    I thought this was a great story and looked around for a thread to put the link. In any case here it is http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/...e-801047e73bb7
    I saw the Times' version. I am so happy Travis got his due, but ashamed the UK media is the one that found it. I was on duty in he TOC when he was killed last December. It was a very hard blow to the BDE.

    Travis was the real force behind the Ramadi change, and COL MacFarland supported him 100%. He was killed in the same explosion that killed MAJ Megan McLung, our PAO. A huge loss that was hard to replace in our BDE, fortunately, he had laid the groundwork by that point for what came ahead. 1/3 ID has done great in building on what our BDE did.

    Tom Ricks' can eat crow about what he published about 1/1 AD "screwing up" Tal Afar. Both places remain success stories. 1/1 AD continued 3ACR's success, moved to Ramadi, and then turned around a city no one thought could be saved, not even the 1 MEF G2. LTC Tien and TF 2-37 AR made TA even better as well until handover last October. Even his own Wapo said as much in an Oct 06 article. (full disclosure, I commanded B/2-37 in TA)

    RIP, Travis.
    Last edited by Cavguy; 08-31-2007 at 07:54 PM.
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