February 28, 2008

How the West was Won

Also in this month's Military Review is a an excellent article on the turn-around in Ramadi through the eyes of the Army. MAJ Niel Smith writes at SWJ Blog:

Colonel Sean MacFarland and I teamed up to provide a firsthand account of the “Anbar Awakening” in this month’s issue of Military Review. The article details the efforts of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division in Ramadi, Iraq from June 2006 to February 2007. Transferring from Tal Afar into the most violent city in Iraq at the time, the Ready First designed a campaign plan that sought to set the conditions for a tribal alliance, and rapidly exploit success through developing local governance and security forces. Supported by the 1st and 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force leadership, the plan was successfully executed and achieved results beyond anyone’s expectations. This success in execution was carried forward to greater success by the actions of our follow-on unit, 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Understanding what happened in Anbar, and why, is critically important. And as MAJ Smith notes it's much more complicated than the standard issue explanations being offered in the popular press:

Likewise, the major actions that enabled the “Awakening” pre-date the execution of the surge, publication of FM 3-24, and the arrival of General Petraeus to Iraq. Attributing the success in Ramadi to the “surge” would be erroneous. However, the change to population centric tactics, patrol bases, and local security alliances that the Ready First and some other units had used in 2006 were systemically spread and adapted to local conditions throughout Iraq under the leadership of General Petraeus and General Odierno. The additional forces in the surge coupled with new tactics and doctrine enabled the transformation of Baghdad and several other provinces. The actions of the Ready First in Ramadi and 3d Armored Cavalry in Tal Afar were validation and prototypes for the change in tactics that accompanied the surge, and validated the principles that now embody FM 3-24.

Let Charlie take this opportunity to encourage others present at the creation to put their thoughts and analysis on paper (Marines of 1/6, 3/8, and 2/7, she's talking to you). Like it or not, the Anbar Awakening and flipping of Ramadi will be a template for confronting al Qaeda for years to come. It's not about giving credit or placing blame; writing needn't be about self-aggrandizement. We just owe it ourselves to get the history right from the outset.

PS And for those readers weary of of the stilted formality of Military Review, the Gazette, etc., Charlie is certain that the good folks at SWJ Blog would welcome your contributions. Hell, for that matter, so would we. Don't be shy...