Anbar, an amazing transformation Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I was part of an interesting conversation with Marine COL Pat Malay, commander of Regimental Combat Team 5 in western Anbar province. His area of operations encompasses the Western Euphrates River Valley (Hit, Haditha, Rawah, al-Qaim, etc.) and runs along the Syrian, Jordanian and Saudi borders.
This is COL Malay's 3rd deployment, all in Anbar, and the differences are staggering from his first to his third. His first, was the initial assault. He returned as an infantry battalion commander in time for the clearing of Fallujah on his second tour. Now, in 2008, he's a Regimental commander and essentially his focus is to get the government and economy moving (through his EPRT) more than being concerned with kills and captures.
His AO has about 60 "incidents" a month (an average of 2 a day). Finding an IED is considered an "incident", and, as he says they are finding more and more of them before they're detonated. Most of those finds come by way of tips, something they rarely got his last time through.
Since his area consists of much of the area where foreign fighters are known to travel through, I ask him A) who was taking the lead in covering the border areas and B) what the foreign fighter flow was like now vs. his previous experience.
He says that the ISF is completely in the lead now. He plays a supporting role. In fact, he said "I don't help them out with their operations anymore". They plan and execute their own. Where the Marines continue to help and train is on the sustainment side of the house, where, the ISF is vastly improved (their biggest sustainment problem has been getting and supplying fuel).
As to the foreign fighters, their capability has been tremendously degraded. As COL Malay said, prior to the surge and the awakening, foreign fighters (FF) came over the border by "the busload". It was a very robust organization that moved them and they came well equipped and were, essentially, "a functioning fighting force" per the COL.
No more. Now, they're smuggled over the borders in ones and twos, held in a safe area for sometimes weeks or months and many of those the security forces catch - having managed to survive the engagement - tell those forces they were trying to get back out of Iraq, having become disenchanted with the "jihad".
COL Malay also said that they are finding more and more caches which, he said, is "tearing the heart out" of the "operational base they had in Anbar". That has seen AQI increasingly turn to homemade explosives, which are easier to trace and find. Additionally more "accidents" occur in which those making the explosives or placing the IEDs are blowing themselves up. I'm sure the Marines just hate that when it happens.
Because the FF are now being denied sanctuary and base in Iraqi towns and villages, they're reduced to a nomadic existence, basing in wadis in the Iraqi desert. That obviously has an effect on their morale and effectiveness, and, one would suspect, a large effect on recruiting.
He was asked by Rich Lowry about the status of the MRAPs and said they were doing well. "So they're saving lives", asked Lowry? "Absolutely saving lives", replied Malay. They're having some maintenance problems, but they're handling them and able to keep them on the road.
COL Malay closed by saying he wasn't sure after his 2nd tour that Iraq was ever going to be a success. He says seeing what he's seeing now, with the implementation of COIN and the huge progress in Anbar and with the ISF, he no longer holds those doubts. But, as with most commanders there, he knows it will still take years to see this through, but, he certainly seemed to think such an investment was worth it. _________
For the last 5 years has a single one of these briefings ever said things aren’t going super well? And I’m not disputing a thing he’s saying but needless to say I don’t think liberal blogs and others skeptical of the war get this sort of outreach.
For the last 5 years has a single one of these briefings ever said things aren’t going super well?
I have no idea, I’ve only been doing them for about a year - but as I’ve said before I have enough of a military background to know when I’m being fed BS and I know the questions to ask if that happens.
To this point I’ve not gotten that sense during any of the calls I’ve participated in - and I and others have asked some pretty pointed questions.
I don’t think liberal blogs and others skeptical of the war get this sort of outreach.
They sure do. I helped Think Progress get hooked up with the program. They attended one call (last year) and have never been back. Whose fault is that?
Oliver, until you sit in on one, don’t presume to know what is or isn’t said, ok?
I don’t know and I can’t say but it sure seems like a concerted effort to court only the supporters of the war.
Well you’d be absolutely incorrect. In fact Jack Holt, the guy who runs the outreach, asked me to help him contact the top liberal blogs out there. He did, those that expressed an interest were put on the email list that announces the roundtables and apparently they have chosen not to attend.
Yeah, this is a good example of why I stopped paying much attention to Oliver. He doesn’t really have a desire to investigate the truth behind anything. He’s just a major shill who openly admits his hypocrisy. His only desire is to elect democrats by any means. It’s a shame he wastes his talents as an incurious hack.
Any means! Yes, my words on a blog are clearly going to tilt the levers of power. From Howard Dean’s lips to my keyboard.
No, McQ, I’m not the sort of person who would do well to hear a military briefing, but there are liberal bloggers who write at length about national security I think would do well to be included (like the folks on Democracy Arsenal, for instance).
But I’m honestly asking: Does anything negative ever come from those briefings?
But I’m honestly asking: Does anything negative ever come from those briefings?
Well, first, they’re not "briefings". A briefing is when someone brings you up to speed with what’s going on and your only role is to listen. These are Q and A sessions in which the first couple of minutes are an opening statement and the remaining 25 or so minutes are questions and answers.
Secondly I can think of many problems that have been discussed, two off the top of my head are the problems with getting the central government involved at a regional and local level and ongoing problems with the police (both national and local). There’s also the problem with integrating the CLC (now the SOI), and numerous others.
And I’ve even brought up problems we discussed on a previous talk with them and asked if there has been any progress and if so what and if not why.
So why wouldn’t left leaning blogs be interested in talking to people actually on the ground doing the job and asking them pertinent questions?
Seems to me it is because they might have to examine their own biases and narrative and reconsider things and they’re not willing to do that.
So why don’t you be the exception? There are two roundtable discussions scheduled for tomorrow.
Thursday, 17 April, 2008. 1035 Eastern
Topic: Mark Laity is available to provide a strategic and political overview of NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan. Having served previously in Afghanistan and with years of NATO experience, Mr. Laity brings a clear understanding of the complex situation on the ground and alliance diplomacy. With the Bucharest Summit having just occurred a few weeks ago he can address the outcomes from the summit, what big issues remain and what the challenges are, talk about the progress and successes on the ground and lay out what NATO hopes the way ahead will be.
Thursday, 17 Apr 08 1100 Eastern
Topic: Col. Shelia Bryant-Tucker will offer her perspective on the latest developments of how MNSTC-I Inspector Generals Office is working together with the U.S. State Department to assist the Iraqi government with its anti-corruption strategy, also, how we are assisting the Iraqi Inspector Generals to assist their commanders to insure readiness of the Iraqi Security Forces.
Seems to me you could learn something about Afghanistan and question a person actually responsible for the anti-corruption strategy pertaining to ISF readiness in Iraq.
No problem with hard questions, they only ask you be civil and respectful when doing so.
Funny isn’t it? They’ll take pot shots at what you say and what you report, make uninformed claims about the format and the people you talk too, and yet won’t take advantage of the opportunity to actually hear the same thing from the same sources and form their own opinions (and write about it).