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Anbar, the surge, Clark and McCain
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, July 24, 2008

McCain wants to start the surge too early, Wesley Clark gets his facts wrong and also claims the Saudis had a hand in calming the violence - the surge has become a bit of a political football in this not yet official presidential contest.

So let's discuss this as rationally as possible. Yes, the Anbar Awakening had some effect on calming the violence - in Anbar. That's 1 of 18 provinces and it was something which was growing within Anbar as we began surging our troops. But it hadn't grown anywhere else at that time. Read Michael Yon about that awakening. I remember talking with him during an interview on WRKO's Pundit Review Radio and while he thought, at the time, that it was a great thing, it still was quite small and the violence in Iraq still very high.

I remember talking to MG Rick Lynch (Commanding General of the 3rd ID) not long after the surge's second phase had begun. The most memorable thing he said was that when he and his troops pushed into an area or neighborhood and contacted the local authorities, the first thing they asked, without exception, is "are you going to stay?"

Once answered in the affirmative, he said the local intelligence and cooperation multiplied exponentially. That is how the "awakening" spread.

A good example of that is Baquba, the provincial capital of Diyala province (NE of Baghdad). It was a place almost untouched by US forces and a mixed area of sunni, shia and kurds. The entire town was wired to explode. Yet, and this again comes from Yon, our forces carefully took the town, drove out AQ and convinced the insurgents (the 1920 Brigade) that it was in their best interest to join the side of the US and Iraqi Government.

I remember an incident talked about by Michael Yon where one of the leaders of the 1920s Brigades told the US leader there that all they wanted was the US to leave. The US leader told the insurgent leader that he and his soldiers wanted nothing more than to do exactly that. Yon says it then dawned on the insurgent leader that cooperation was the best way to accomplish that. Also understood by this insurgent leader is we weren't going to go away and try as he might, he wasn't going to be able to drive us off.

You don't know how key that is to the success we've begun to enjoy in Iraq.

Al Sadr, somewhere in this time frame, also agreed to a stand down of his Mahdi army. Some would like to attribute that to graciousness on the part of al Sadr. But as we've seen subsequently, when he did let them loose, it was a tactical decision driven by the fact that he wasn't ready and didn't have the assets he needed to directly confront the US. And he also figured that we might instead withdraw.

He was no more ready for the surge of troops than was AQI. Consequently he played the "patriot" by withholding his militia officially while the militia's "special groups" continued to attack us. Would his militia's presence have complicated the surge? Of course. But as we've seen since, it was a very ragtag lot which were pretty easily defeated in both Basra and Baghdad.

All of this to say the intent of the Democrats is to play down the significance of the surge. They want you to believe that the Anbar awakening was well established and spreading like wildfire and that once al Sadr stood down his militia, that surge, in essence, was unnecessary.

Clark even goes so far as to claim no troops were surged into Anbar. That's flat wrong. 2 additional Marine battalions were surged into that place because it was still hot.

Had the surge not taken place it is entirely possible that the Anbar Awakening would never have spread outside that province. That's because Baquba was the new "capital" of AQI and would have remained as such. Given the tactics of AQI, there is little doubt a concerted effort would have been made by them to decapitate the awakening leadership in Anbar as a lesson. Had the surge not taken place, the outlying rings of Baghdad would have continued to see car and truck bombs built at will and used in the capital to continue to fan the flames of sectarian violence. AQI forces would have remained positioned to continue to attack, kill, destroy and encourage more violence. Had the surge not taken place, al Sadr would have had no reason to stand down or restrain his militia.

And this talk, as I've heard from Obama, that the surge was about "tactics" is a load of dung as well. The surge was an integral part of a change in strategy. To ignore the fact that we switched our strategy to counterinsurgency warfare is to demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge about the operation.

When all is said and done, yes, the awakening was an important development and the stand down of the Mahdi army helped delay an inevitable confrontation (since resolved, btw) and made the surge less complicated, but the fact remains that the major reason that Iraq is in the shape it is today is the surge.

The surge insured and helped spread the Anbar Awakening. The fact that we promised to stay made it easy for tribal leaders in other provinces to cooperate with us. The fact that we surged 30,000 troops into Iraq made it pretty much a no-brainer, in a tactical sense, for al Sadr to stand his motley crew down. And while we're at it, it also allowed the time necessary to continue the training of the ISF to the point that they were recently able to mount successful major operations in Basra and more recently, Baghdad's Sadr City.

So don't let the Democrats rewrite history on this one. They were wrong about opposing it and that is what they're trying so hard to duck. When all is said and done, it was the decision to change strategy and surge troops into Iraq to implement that strategy which played the major role in defeating AQI, turning the rest of the insurgents into allies and driving the Mahdi army off the battlefield, at least temporarily (and later permanently).
 
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Fred Kagan disassembled many of these arguments last year, and provided a good history of the Awakening and the surge, which matches what you’ve posted here.
The tribal leaders in Anbar began to turn against al Qaeda in Iraq last year, largely due to unspeakable atrocities committed by the terrorists against their own hosts. Many analysts and observers have seized upon this fact to argue that the movement in Anbar had nothing to do with the surge, began before the surge did, and would continue even without the surge. This argument is invalid. Anbari tribal leaders did begin to turn against AQI in their areas last year before the surge began, but not before Colonel Sean MacFarland began to apply in Ramadi the tactics and techniques that are the basis of the current strategy in Baghdad. His soldiers and Marines fought tenaciously to establish a foothold in Anbar’s capital, which was then a terrorist stronghold, and thereby demonstrated to the local leaders that they could count on American support as they began to fight their erstwhile allies. Even so, the movement proceeded slowly and fitfully for most of 2006 and, indeed, into 2007. But when Colonel John Charlton’s brigade relieved MacFarland’s in Ramadi and was joined by two additional Marine battalions (part of the surge) elsewhere in Anbar, the “awakening” began to accelerate very rapidly. At the start of 2007 there were only a handful of Anbaris in the local security forces. By the summer there were over 14,000. Before the surge, Ramadi was one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq; now it is possible for Americans to walk through its market with limited security details and without body armor. David Kilcullen describes the relationship between the surge and the movement very well in his Small Wars Journal posting, and I have also addressed the issue in detail in a recent Weekly Standard article . The fact is that neither the surge nor the turn of the tribal leaders would in itself have been enough to turn Anbar around — both were necessary, and will remain so for some time.
Oh, and tell Dale (if he doesn’t read this,) that the search function here kinda sucks. I really need to search by phrase, and date range, and be able to sort it by date, and ignore the trackbacks. Just a suggestion.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Will somebody please tell Wesley Clark that he is an ass. I’ve had it with him.

I don’t want his butt face on TV or anywhere else any more .. so will he please .. please fade away.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Keith; Jagan is quite correct, here....
The tribal leaders in Anbar began to turn against al Qaeda in Iraq last year, largely due to unspeakable atrocities committed by the terrorists against their own hosts. Many analysts and observers have seized upon this fact to argue that the movement in Anbar had nothing to do with the surge, began before the surge did, and would continue even without the surge. This argument is invalid. Anbari tribal leaders did begin to turn against AQI in their areas last year before the surge began, but not before Colonel Sean MacFarland began to apply in Ramadi the tactics and techniques that are the basis of the current strategy in Baghdad.
I’ve had arguments with him on specific points but this isn’t one of them.
The fact was and remains that abesent the Surge the Awakening would have been back in dreamland before anyone noticed it. The surge gave the Iraqis an alternative to al Qaeda, and in more than just Anbar.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
I really need to search by phrase, and date range, and be able to sort it by date, and ignore the trackbacks. Just a suggestion.
Then you can try building the program to do it. Just a suggestion.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
one real problem was that it took so long for the bush and rumsfield to do the surge in the first place. they simply denined there was a insurgency for a long time. we could have avoided the hell that was iraq from 2004-2007 if we have more troops from the beginning like gen shinseki said in a sente hearing from the beginning.
 
Written By: slntax
URL: http://
Sure IF we were willing to pump far more troops into the area than we were willing to...we had what 200,000 troops in OIF? We have about 150,000-180,000 troops now? We weren’t going to commit 300,000-500,000 troops to the mission. There isn’t going to be another Desert Storm with 500,000-plus troops for quite a while as the total force structure is much, much lower.

Bottom-line: We’d have some ham and eggs if we had some ham and if we had some eggs...
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Or, more troops at the beginning could have meant more resentment from Iraqis, and a bigger insurgency, especially since we didn’t have the COIN strategy indoctrinated into the Army at that point (2003-2004.)
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Yes, the Anbar Awakening had some effect on calming the violence - in Anbar. That’s 1 of 18 provinces and it was something which was growing within Anbar as we began surging our troops.
Dude, Anbar was the biggest hotspot of violence outside of Bagdad in the late 04, 05 and 06 timeframe, and a safe haven for the fighters going into Bagdad. It’s kind of important. This graphic may help. (Push the big red button.) Anbar is the area to the west of Bagdad, the one that keeps lighting up.

No doubt the surge of forces made things easier, and helped the movement to spread, but wasnt’t the key decision the one to work with the Sunni insurgents, like the 1920 Brigade, and abandon the pretense that all insurgents were foreign fighters and Al Qaeda together?
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
like the 1920 Brigade, and abandon the pretense that all insurgents were foreign fighters and Al Qaeda together?

A nicely built straw man, there...no one said ALL the insurgents were AQ!
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
No doubt the surge of forces made things easier, and helped the movement to spread, but wasnt’t the key decision the one to work with the Sunni insurgents, like the 1920 Brigade, and abandon the pretense that all insurgents were foreign fighters and Al Qaeda together?
It was something we’d already done in Tal Afar. And it was also something we then repeated in Ramadi. The awakening wasn’t some one-sided affair. It was something which was cultured and encouraged by McMaster and McFarland, and incorporated in the COIN doctrine which drove the surge.

Secondly, Anbar didn’t contain all of the sunni insurgents, only a part of them. It was after the surge which ensured the success of the awakening that other sunni insurgents (like the 1920 Brigade), took a serious look at doing the same thing.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
It was something we’d already done in Tal Afar. And it was also something we then repeated in Ramadi. The awakening wasn’t some one-sided affair. It was something which was cultured and encouraged by McMaster and McFarland, and incorporated in the COIN doctrine which drove the surge.
Exactly. That was the change from the "we don’t make deals with insurgents, we kills insurgents" policy that we had for the first three plus years of this war. And that still lives on in the conservative comentariat. IIRC the folks practicing that COIN doctrine called for a much bigger surge, but they were overruled, by politicians whose first love was staying the course.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
That was the change from the "we don’t make deals with insurgents, we kills insurgents" policy that we had for the first three plus years of this war.
The deal wasn’t made with insurgents. It was made with tribal sheiks who had influence over their area and thereby some influence with the insurgents and saw the eventual bad outcome of their insurgency. They are the ones who brokered the deal with the insurgents and made it work. That’s why they were on AQI’s most wanted list.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Here’s a cute one... just read this off the headlines - opened the story expecting to find a story about US forces in Afganistan only to realize the accurate headline would be:
"Female Suicide Bomber Kills 8 Iraqi Soldiers"
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25836017
 
Written By: BillS
URL: http://
Well there’s Abu Marouf who commands 13,000 Awakening fighters in Anbar, and was an insurgent. And of course the original awakeners are usually described as a tribe of notorious smugglers on the Syrian border. The relative importance of various components of the Awakening Groups is fairly murky from here, but I’m sure we can agree that a large portion of them were fighting the US forces until just before they awoke.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
I think you’ll find that Marouf had been fighting AQI since 2006.
And of course the original awakeners are usually described as a tribe of notorious smugglers on the Syrian border.
Which has little to do with the point does it?
The relative importance of various components of the Awakening Groups is fairly murky from here, but I’m sure we can agree that a large portion of them were fighting the US forces until just before they awoke.
Uh, yeah ... that’s why it’s called the "awakening".

And it was fostered and encouraged by US forces there as they developed what is now known as COIN.

Where are you going with this?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
All of this to say the intent of the Democrats is to play down the significance of the surge
When all is said and done, it was the decision to change strategy and surge troops into Iraq to implement that strategy which played the major role in defeating AQI, turning the rest of the insurgents into allies and driving the Mahdi army off the battlefield, at least temporarily (and later permanently).
Actually, when your boy Maliki - you know, the man in charge in Iraq - was questioned by Der Spiegel on the subject, he cited many factors that led to the change in Iraq. Noticeably, he didn’t mention the surge as one of them. Now, if anyone would be in a position to know, it would be Maliki, right McQ?
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Now, if anyone would be in a position to know, it would be Maliki, right McQ?
Whoa ... now that’s funny. Suddenly MK is a huge fan of Maliki’s.

You’re shameless MK - that’s why no one pays attention to you anymore.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Where I’m going is to your suggestion that the deal wasn’t made with insurgents. It was. There may have been less-insurgent intermediaries, but, as you note, the deal was made with people who had been fighting against the US forces.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Whoa ... now that’s funny. Suddenly MK is a huge fan of Maliki’s.

You’re shameless MK - that’s why no one pays attention to you anymore.
No - he’s not my boy. Never has been. He’s an Iranian stooge.

It’s called sarcasm.

I was making a point that is seemingly over your head, namely, that he’s been your boy for months, but now that he disagrees with you about (1) timetables and (2) the effect of the surge, you have suddenly disowned him because it hurts the GOP domestically.

Shameless? Oh yes, it’s shameless.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
It’s called sarcasm.
Heh ... it’s called sarcasm when you get your hand called.
I was making a point that is seemingly over your head, namely, that he’s been your boy for months, but now that he disagrees with you about (1) timetables and (2) the effect of the surge, you have suddenly disowned him because it hurts the GOP domestically.
What he says or doesn’t say has no bearing on the facts as they stand, does it MK?

Well, except in the void between your ears perhaps.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Where I’m going is to your suggestion that the deal wasn’t made with insurgents. It was. There may have been less-insurgent intermediaries, but, as you note, the deal was made with people who had been fighting against the US forces.
The eventual deal yes ... that was it’s point (you do know that, right?).

But not the initial deal.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Success has many fathers, so lets not get too carried away in giving credit to group A or group B. I would give MOST credit to the implementation of the small outposts among the populace. This is classic counter-insurgency, and if you have read the book The Village by Bing West, we actually had success with this in Vietnam.

The Awakening in Anbar was very, very important, if only because they were killing lots of our soldiers and getting headlines in the paper everyday sapping our political will at home. But the civil war we were trying to avert was happening in Baghdad not in Anbar, and the awakening without the COP’s would not have been enough. Keep in mind that the Sunni insurgency, while dangerous to us, was not as dangerous as the civil war to the Iraqi government.

The extra troops allowed us to extend the programs out to make it hard for AQ to run to the next place, etc.

So all three were important, but extra troops without the new strategy would not have been as useful, and the Anbar Awakening absent our efforts in Baghdad may not have produced much beyond a safe Anbar with Baghdad still a war zone.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Suddenly MK is a huge fan of Maliki’s.
Funny you mention this, Bruce.
I just put up something on this point this morning,
isn’t it amazing? Just a few months ago, the left was spending all it’s time trying to discredit Malaki…and there was much to discredit, though the left never focused on the important stuff… such as he was invariably wrong about timeline pronouncements, as Max Boot pointed out yesterday.

There is some irony in the fact that Democrats, after years of deriding Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as a hopeless bungler and conniving Shiite sectarian, are now treating as sacrosanct his suggestion that Iraq will be ready to assume responsibility for its own security by 2010. Naturally this is because his position seems to support that of Barack Obama.

A little skepticism is in order here. The prime minister has political motives for what he’s saying — whatever that is. An anonymous Iraqi official told the state-owned Al-Sabah newspaper, “Maliki thinks that Obama is most likely to win in the presidential election” and that “he’s got to take preemptive steps before Obama gets to the White House.” By smoothing Obama’s maiden voyage abroad as the Democratic nominee, Maliki may figure that he will collect chits that he can call in later.
But now suddenly because he’s playing the polical animal, hedging his bets, making nice with Obama, (While obviously not really agreeing with him) suddenly the left thinks him a sage for the ages...
And true to form, MK provides the case in point hours after I write that and post it. And even better, when he’s called on it, he says the whole thing is a joke.

Amazingly predictable, our boy MK.





 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us

 
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