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Thread: What would a US withdrawal from Iraq look like?

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Default What would a US withdrawal from Iraq look like?

    We can argue that it will never happen. We can argue that Iraq is the new Korea. In fact we can argue that more troops are needed before fewer troops. There are arguments that political will can never sustain an actual withdrawal. There are those who would argue that any talk of withdrawal is ceding failure.

    Balderdash.

    Whether we should or should not withdraw troops is not the question (which would likely devolve into a political cess-pool). The question is how would you withdraw troops.


    I think it is possible to discuss the issues of a removal of troops in Iraq without invoking Vietnam as some specter of haunted failure. Those who engage in the fear mongering forget we walked away from many wars after the political capital was spent and the troops came home. There is a lot of political investment in keeping troops in the field and a withdrawal may never happen. But, what if it did? It is easy to support the status quo, but intellectually more stimulating to consider the contrary question.

    Google ‘What would a US withdrawal from Iraq look like?’ and you will find a substantial amount of punditry and near zero intellectual discourse on the topic.

    There are many questions. How would you draw down safely in what may be hostile terrain the number of troops? What would the impacts be on contractor staff and non-combatants? Where would the state department and associated green-zone elements find security? What would be the smallest level of troop engagement that would be safe? Can there be a draw down without a total walk away? How would you maintain security of one of the largest embassies on the planet? Where would you withdraw troops to, and how would you provide security for those troops? If violence escalates (as many predict) what would the rules of engagement be as troops are leaving?

    I am sure I have only glossed over the top of the questions. I suggest that in actually considering the issues like contract and non-combat staff there may be a humongous security issue. It may be necessary to increase troop levels to get the non-combatants out of the field first. Any time I move it takes no time to un-pack the boxes, but a huge amount of time to get all the stuff into boxes. The logistics train works really well going to war how well does it work coming home? With a reducing force on the “supply” end of the logistics train? How much troop strength and material would be moved to Afghanistan?

    Then there are the social political issues of bringing home a military force and contracting staff. Jobs and employment opportunities are constricting as the economy circles the drain. Unemployment rates for the repatriated contractor staffs, and soldiers who are now looking at reductions in force are going to be harsh. Political will turns on a clock of public support and that 18 month plan puts a presidential aspirant looking at huge issues at the beginning of a second campaign cycle. Where will the “stuff” go when it returns? Personal opinion I am opposed to any reduction in force for the military and think the contractor jobs should be inherently governmental positions owned by the military exactly so they are non-issues in deployment.

    How would you accomplish the task should it be necessary? Never mind the politics what would the methods look like?
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    Default Oddly enough, Sam,

    I would look to the Vietnamization program of 1969 - 73. It worked pretty well and had no formal, public timeline for withdrawal. (There was a w/in govt timeline of ccourse, but it was not relaeased.) We also assured the RVN that we would defend them against overt NVA aggression but did not live up to our promise. The test of its success was the ARVN defense against the 1972 Easter Offensive where they did quite well with limited but important assistance from the US mostly in the air.

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Define the problem first.

    Selil,

    Outside of politics (or talking heads to us engaged in the fight), I dont think it's a question of would, but will. What will a pullout from Iraq look like? I'd submit that we must first define the problem set.

    “If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will suffice. Eventually, the road must lead somewhere.” -Wise old man

    "If I had only an hour to answer a question, then I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes answering it."
    -paraphrased Albert Einstein

    Enthropy's thread of "What is the Surge" may get us there.

    As this debate evolves, I'll interject with further editorials. Your question is the subject of my thesis, and yes, I have no problem with cherry-picking SWJ elites to provide legitimacy to my work(appropriate footnotes included of course). I appreciate the question, and I have no doubt that an SWJ collaboration between academics and grunts may provide a feasible solution.

    v/r

    Mike

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    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default Always more difficult to get out as opposed to in...

    As MikeF points out, its critical to define the problem before seeking a solution...

    A few assumptions -

    - a framework of QRF/combat, logistic and air support will remain far beyond a withdrawl
    - the withdrawl will not occur under enemy pressure -- we'll turn and fight, before we jump on the last helicopter evacing the embassy
    - significant advisor footprint

    So what we are looking at is a reduction in force (combat & support) as opposed to a complete withdrawl.

    Off the top of my head, it'd look like is...

    - Begin with a thinning of forces (as is happening now) either transfer of land to IA with QRF capability or reduction of BDE to BN then transition

    - retain three BNs of QRF in country (north-center-south) each with heavy light mix and lift assets

    - Plus establishment of a Camp Doha type facility at TAJI - with Discom and ready set responsibilities

    Wow think of all the time I just saved GEN Petraeus and his staff
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    Council Member MSG Proctor's Avatar
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    Until the ISF can develop its own ISR, C2, Sustainment, Aviation, AF and leader academies, this withdrawal question is just a morale boost to the (mostly demoralized) insurgency.

    The Iraqis are doing the lion's share of the maneuver mission now - that's a win. But their top GOs have stated that they will need help in the above listed categories to secure the inner cordon - Iraq's 18 provinces - until 2012. They also added that they will need external support (read: CF) to secure their own borders against extranational threats until 2018.

    What will withdrawal look like? If its done according to the estimates of the combined Iraq and CF commanders, withdrawal will be a reverent military ceremony with lots of speeches and parades. If its done as the political Left in our country are forecasting, it will be a fight-your-way-out-while-it-all-unravels-debacle.

    Maneuver forces are your meat/potatoes, but without sustainment, INTEL, infrastructure and seasoned leadership, maneuver forces alone are not enough to sustain the gains made in 2007-08. Pulling the rug out from the Iraqis by withdrawing prematurely may be a win for one US political party, but it will be a strategic defeat and seriously erode trust in the region for any future US-led intervention.
    Last edited by MSG Proctor; 07-28-2008 at 08:02 AM. Reason: spelling
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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Are the chickens roosting?

    Ok we have had a fairly steady diet of good news for the past several months. Many have taken to crowing that we have "won" without offering what the term means when applied in a setting like Iraq. This AM the news reported that the US-Iraqi negotiations had come to satisfactory terms. Maybe as that agreement is released we can use that to define success.

    But there are remaining questions. They are long term and they are not being addressed. Notably they deal with the very same sectarian divisions we sought to dampen through measures like the Awakening.

    Iraq Takes Aim at Leaders of U.S.-Tied Sunni Groups

    BAGHDAD — The Shiite-dominated government in Iraq is driving out many leaders of Sunni citizen patrols, the groups of former insurgents who joined the American payroll and have been a major pillar in the decline in violence around the nation.

    In restive Diyala Province, United States and Iraqi military officials say there were orders to arrest hundreds of members of what is known as the Awakening movement as part of large security operations by the Iraqi military. At least five senior members have been arrested there in recent weeks, leaders of the groups say.
    “These people are like cancer, and we must remove them,” said Brig. Gen. Nassir al-Hiti, commander of the Iraqi Army’s 5,000-strong Muthanna Brigade, which patrols west of Baghdad, said of the Awakening leaders on his list for arrest.

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Ok we have had a fairly steady diet of good news for the past several months. Many have taken to crowing that we have "won" without offering what the term means when applied in a setting like Iraq. This AM the news reported that the US-Iraqi negotiations had come to satisfactory terms. Maybe as that agreement is released we can use that to define success.

    But there are remaining questions. They are long term and they are not being addressed. Notably they deal with the very same sectarian divisions we sought to dampen through measures like the Awakening.
    The more things change, the more they stay the same. The links below reflect a couple of episodes from the "wild west" days of American history that, IMHO, seem apropos to the story Tom posted.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln_County_War

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunfigh...he_O.K._Corral

    Which side were Pat Garrett and the Earps really on anyway?
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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    The more things change, the more they stay the same. The links below reflect a couple of episodes from the "wild west" days of American history that, IMHO, seem apropos to the story Tom posted.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln_County_War

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunfigh...he_O.K._Corral

    Which side were Pat Garrett and the Earps really on anyway?
    They were on their own sides, frankly. IMO, anyhow. The Earp clan was always good at looking after their own interests (going back to their time in Kansas), while Garrett was an opportunist.

    Sorry for the digression.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    They were on their own sides, frankly. IMO, anyhow. The Earp clan was always good at looking after their own interests (going back to their time in Kansas), while Garrett was an opportunist.

    Sorry for the digression.
    Not really a digression as the splits in Iraq as captured in the article echo the same base line. They are on their own sides; a neutral zone between them remains a goal.

    Tom

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Not really a digression as the splits in Iraq as captured in the article echo the same base line. They are on their own sides; a neutral zone between them remains a goal.

    Tom
    You noted you're rereading Pakenham's book on the Boer War. I suspect we could find some interesting analogies from the 1880s to the early 1900s in South Africa as well. While never explicitly stated as such AFAIK, isn't something like a neutral zone part of what the Boers were after in both their conflicts with the British Empire?
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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wm View Post
    You noted you're rereading Pakenham's book on the Boer War. I suspect we could find some interesting analogies from the 1880s to the early 1900s in South Africa as well. While never explicitly stated as such AFAIK, isn't something like a neutral zone part of what the Boers were after in both their conflicts with the British Empire?
    Essentially yes at least when you limit discussion to the old school Boers like Oom Paul Kruger. The original trek was to get away from the Anglos and do as they the Boers wished. Where that came into conflict with the Empire was when gold and diamonds were discovered. The magnates like Cecil Rhodes and Alfred Beit sought British control because they saw it more in line with their own interests. An irony that Packenham brings out is that the mine owners felt the Boers were making them pay the Africans too much to work the mines. One of the Empire's claims was always that it sought to protect the interest of the Africans and non-whites against Boer abuses.

    The wild card played in the struggle were the Uitlanders (outsiders) who flocked to the mines and they included the gamut of Europeans, Americans, Canadians, and Australians. The Boers sought to control their influence by not giving them the vote; a logical step since they outnumbered the Boers. Empire builders like Milner as well as Rhodes and Beit saw the franchise as the means to end Boer control. Once diamonds and gold were discovered, the Boer vision of a volks land was doomed.

    Tom

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Once diamonds and gold were discovered, the Boer vision of a volks land was doomed.
    While not actually germane to this thread, your line above prompted the following paraphrase to me:

    "Once natural gas and oil were discovered, the (pick the name of your favorite former Soviet Republic or Autonomous Region) vision of a volks land was doomed."
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
    The greatest educational dogma is also its greatest fallacy: the belief that what must be learned can necessarily be taught. — Sydney J. Harris

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I've become predominantly concerned with the effects of 5-10 years from now.

    Specifically, how many men under arms is the Iraqi Army projected to have by 2011? Can the government sustain them after we are gone and the COIN requirements inevitably die down?

    At worse, what pressure will this martial force put on the already fragile government that I suspect with continue to strain under the sectarian forces.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Related articles on the SOI issue from the LAT Times yesterday and Washington Times today--captured by Dave and Bill on the round up. The second is a dervative of the first but offers some additional viewpoints. it also rightly links this issue to US-Iraq SOFA.

    Baghdad's misguided crackdown on the Sons of Iraq

    There is a gathering storm on Iraq's horizon. Over the last several weeks, its central government has embarked on what appears to be an effort to arrest, drive away or otherwise intimidate tens of thousands of Sunni security volunteers -- the so-called Sons of Iraq -- whose contributions have been crucial to recent security gains. After returning from a trip to Iraq last month at the invitation of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, we are convinced that if Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his advisors persist in this sectarian agenda, the country may spiral back into chaos.

    Much of Iraq's dramatic security progress can be traced to a series of decisions made by Sunni tribal leaders in late 2006 to turn against Al Qaeda in Iraq and cooperate with American forces in Anbar province. These leaders, outraged by Al Qaeda's brutality against their people, approached the U.S. military with an offer it couldn't refuse: Enter into an alliance with the tribes, and they would turn their weapons against Al Qaeda rather than American troops.
    Shi'ite resistance to Sunnis threatens progress of surge

    Shaun Waterman, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL
    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    The Iraqi government is resisting U.S. efforts to incorporate former Sunni insurgents into Iraqi security forces, threatening a strategy that helped make the surge a success thus far and could allow U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities next year.

    Fewer than 600 of the 103,000 Iraqis currently active in U.S.-supported Sunni militia groups have been absorbed so far, said Colin H. Kahl of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, citing figures provided to him by the U.S. military during a recent trip to Iraq.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Good finds.

    The damn disturbing thing about this ties into Steven Simon's The Price of the Surge article in the May/June issue of FA, which I bought into the first time I read it.

    As we step back on the military front and do more "by, with, and through", who's job is it to perform quality control in this integration process? Is it a PRT task, a Law Enforcement Professional (LEP) problem, or will this turn into another life in the emerald city problem where the blind start tring to lead the blind?

    Recently retired U.S. Army counterinsurgency expert Col. John A. Nagl, who traveled with Mr. Kahl to Iraq, partly attributed the slow integration to bureaucratic problems.

    "I´m sure that there is some sectarianism in these decisions, but I also am confident that some of it is just inefficient bureaucracy," said Col. Nagl, the author of several books on counterinsurgency, who helped write the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual published in December 2006.

    Mr. Kahl also warned against a strategy of limiting integration to Sunni leaders and placing them in low-level jobs.

    "Oh, sure, we´ll let that colonel in the ... Republican Guard into the Iraqi police, but we´ll make him an enlisted beat cop," he said, describing the attitude of some Baghdad officials. "Do you know how low on the social scale that is in Iraq and how humiliating this is?"

    "You don´t have to believe that 100,000 of these guys are going to turn back into insurgents," Mr. Kahl said. "If 5,000 of them do, that could be a big problem."
    I worry because I am about to step back into Anbar, and wonder where these integration issues fit into the measures of effectiveness for LOO work. When I last stepped into Iraq, the 1st Mrine Division was trying to integrate Iraqi volunteers (predominantly Shiite) into small special formations to put an Iraqi face on our operations. I had a front row seat to the scheming and maneuvering from these "volunteers" to become a part of the fledgling security apparatus in order to reap greater reward down the road.

    The start-up program died and got rolled into a large MOI/US effort, but the intentions of the Iraquis were clear: get in, establish what power base I can, and then run with it. Are the Sons of Iraq any different? If they want to infiltrate the security apparatus and the government is stonewalling, who is on the dime to break the impasse and move forward?

    So this leads me back to my original question. If think tank guys are identifying potential friction points, who is smoothing them out...a suit and tie in Baghdad, a grunt in Rawah, or a State guy?

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post


    I worry because I am about to step back into Anbar, and wonder where these integration issues fit into the measures of effectiveness for LOO work. When I last stepped into Iraq, the 1st Mrine Division was trying to integrate Iraqi volunteers (predominantly Shiite) into small special formations to put an Iraqi face on our operations. I had a front row seat to the scheming and maneuvering from these "volunteers" to become a part of the fledgling security apparatus in order to reap greater reward down the road.

    The start-up program died and got rolled into a large MOI/US effort, but the intentions of the Iraquis were clear: get in, establish what power base I can, and then run with it. Are the Sons of Iraq any different? If they want to infiltrate the security apparatus and the government is stonewalling, who is on the dime to break the impasse and move forward?

    So this leads me back to my original question. If think tank guys are identifying potential friction points, who is smoothing them out...a suit and tie in Baghdad, a grunt in Rawah, or a State guy?
    Ultimately the Iraqis will have to define the terms. That process is underway and this is part of it. Maliki is setting conditions for the SOFA via the press and as the process continues those conditions get tougher. No doubt that part of that is for the media effect. Equally no doubt that the sentiments that prompted those pronouncements are quite real. This is of course all happening in a seam of the US political backdrop; Maliki knows that and can afford to push the envelope. Where he cannot afford to push the envelope is inside Iraq against the Sunnis unless he really wants it to fall apart.

    Bottom line: the Fat Lady is now where near the stage, much less ready to sing...

    Tom

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    I missed this last week as Ike came steaming in: more in the Awakening versus the GOI

    Tom

    Iraqi government reassures the Awakening, but fighters are wary
    By Nicholas Spangler and Mohammed al Dulaimy | McClatchy Newspapers
    BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government will not turn its back on the men who paid in blood for the country's fragile peace, said the officials on stage in the ballroom at Baghdad's al-Rasheed Hotel, referring to U.S.-paid Sunni militias. But the Awakening leaders listened warily. "I don't trust a word they said," said one, afterward....

    ...The leaders of the Awakening never expected the Americans to leave them in such a time," said Firas Qaasim Khalef, commander of 475 men in the al Amil neighborhood of western Baghdad.

    "I see this will be a big mistake," said Naji Rahal, commander of 400 men in Taji. Over the years, 14 of his men have been killed, 23 injured, and six had their homes destroyed. Some of his men now wear police uniforms, but they have not been put on permanent staff, and he distrusted the leadership.

    "It is breached," he said. "I saw an al Qaida member, a killer, who is a colonel in the (police) now. "If a report is written, who would the government listen to, this colonel or me?"

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    Council Member sullygoarmy's Avatar
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    Everytime someone metions a withdrawl from Iraq I keep wondering just how we are going to get all of our crap out of there. Anyone who has been to Camp Victory or LSA Anaconda has an idea of what I'm talking about. While I'm not a loggie, most say you can plan on getting out about one BCT a month...perhaps a little more if you do not have troops coming in as you are getting them out. The BCTs are mobile (and practiced) enough to do the move out. It is all the infrastructure, the stay behind equipment and the 60' plasma screen TVs in the AAFES tents that makes me scratch my head...not kidding about the TVs either!

    I am guessing there has to be an agreement between the U.S. and GOI regarding what facilities we are going to leave for them (payment?) and what is going to be torn down and sent back to the states. If I were a loggie, I'd be pulling my hair out just trying to plan on how to get everything out. I'm sure somewhere in a dark office in a basement of one of Saddam's old palaces there probably is a team doing this...and thank goodness I'm not on it! I thought I could use Desert Storm as an example but then we did not have the years of build up infrastructure to send back to the states..."just" soldiers and equipment.

    Any thoughts on the physical efforts it might take to get us out of there...for the most part?
    "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."

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    Default I'm guessing it would start...

    ...with something like this:

    Gen. Petraeus Leaves Iraq After 20 Months

    BAGHDAD — David Petraeus, the American general who presided over Iraq's pullback from the brink of all-out civil war, relinquished his command Tuesday to Gen. Ray Odierno under a cascade of official thank-yous.

    In an elaborate ceremony in a marble-lined rotunda of a former Saddam Hussein palace on the outskirts of the capital, Petraeus handed off to Odierno the responsibility for leading U.S. and coalition forces at a stage in the still-unpopular war that appears far more hopeful than when Petraeus assumed command 20 months ago.

    Petraeus leaves behind a heavy dose of caution, reflected in his recommendation to President Bush that he maintain 15 combat brigades in Iraq through the end of the year instead of pulling out one or two, as many had expected.
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,423092,00.html
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sullygoarmy View Post
    Any thoughts on the physical efforts it might take to get us out of there...for the most part?
    In terms of the physical pullout, I'd say that Vietnam might be a decent case study of what Iraq could look like. We had massive infrastructure there as well, and many base camps were more or less abandoned once the major equipment was shifted to other units (RVN or US) or backhauled.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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