Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Al-Anbar Awakening: [Much Needed] Iraqi Perspectives

We've heard a lot of perfectly legitimate crabbing over the last year or so that the so-called "dominant narrative" of the Surge has been based on an American-centric understanding of history, that there wasn't enough consideration given to the thinking and motivations of those who turned in the sahwa, or to Iraqi civilians, or to the Jaish al-Mahdi stand-down. By and large, I agree with this. The actions of Americans have probably been overstated in the (American) story of Iraq's (relative) stabilization.

That's this new report is so welcome: Al-Anbar Awakening, Volume II: Iraqi Perspectives; From Insurgency to Counterinsurgency in Iraq 2004-2009, a publication of Marine Corps University Press. The companion document is Volume I: American Perspectives. (h/t SWJ)

I haven't read it yet, so don't hold me responsible for the content. Three hundred and forty pages should help get me through my Christmas Eve flight (and if you add in the other volume, it's nearly 700)!


  1. "I haven't read it yet, so don't hold me responsible for the content."

    A new disclaimer for the blog!


  2. As opposed to your usual 'I'm just kidding, so don't hold me responsible for my posts' disclaimer?

  3. The new disclaimer should probably read something like this:

    "I haven't read it yet, so don't hold me responsible for the content, but SNLII probably has and I have his email address, so if you like, I can put you in contact with him."

    (But seriously, no, I can't, so don't ask.)

  4. Since I'm all about the trash talking -- Mavs blow goat -- I'll just say that everyone is kinda yapping about MajGen Kelly's diss to the Surgistas, a leitmotif that follows throughout the volume.

    I was given parts of the advance copy to read. I share some views with the authors and think other things about other aspects of it.

    I very much appreciate that the authors chose to determine some of the motivations of the Iraqis in making the switch, but I probably would've pressed them more because -- and I say this with all respects to the authors -- they didn't fully compass the role Shiite death squads and torture gangs played in breaking the "will" of the people and forcing the "Awakening" sect to realize that AQIZ and other groups were more harm than good, especially since they couldn't win the civil war they kind of started.

    I can't tell you the name of the author, but a new book is being writtn in the spirit of Bing West's classic "The Village," with a focus on the years of pacification in a very rough patch of Anbar.

    We'll see, but it might be one of the defining works of this war, written by a USMC combat leader who was there leading a MiTT.


  5. SNLII, was the ISCI (then SCIRI) Badr Iraqi MoI of 2005 and early 2006 a success? They sure killed a lot of resistance fighters . . . unfortunately not everyone they killed were resistance fighters. They were rough.

    JAM was never as good as Badr.

    Did you read the section by MG Kerry on the ISF? What are your thoughts?

    I think that the perception that the IA was a capable fighting force in late 2006 and 2007, was an essential ingredient to what happened.

    I think the role of 2nd/3rd/4th IADs up North, 4-6 IA (later became 17th IAD), 8th IAD, 1st/7th IAD in the victory in Iraq are understated. 34-9, 35-9, also did their part in Baghdad in 2007. There is something about Iraqi T72s, T55s, and IFVs that Iraqis like to rally behind.

    It is because 2nd/3rd/4th IAD did so well up North in 2006, that so many MNF-I were able to redeploy South for the Surge. For that matter, large parts of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th IADs also redeployed South to Baghdad and Diyala in late 2006 and 2007 as part of the surge. They were better quality than the 6th, 11th, and 9th IADs that Baghdadis has seen previously. 4th IAD was a hell of a lot better than the 5th IAD in Diyala (although I think 4th IAD focused on the western parts of the province.)

    With respect to Al Anbar, I think the way 7th/1st IADs treated the Al Anbaris that joined their ranks in 2006 and 2007 cemented the win in Al Anbar.