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Part one of this series is here.
Major Smith and Colonel MacFarland's Military Review article can be found here, and should be read in its entirety.
The Guardian video can be viewed in full here.
A Stars and Stripes homecoming tribute (pdf) to the Ready First Combat Team can be found here.
Recent Mudville entries on this topic:
Earlier coverage cited in the video series:
Saluting the 3rd ACR (February, 2006)
Anbar Rising (September, 2006)
Close Air Support (November, 2006)
Links to most other reports cited in the video can be found in the above links, but additional links will be added to this post as time permits.
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Colonel MacFarland did brief the media on September 29, 2006. Unfortunately, with congressional elections looming little news from Iraq beyond the death toll was provided to Americans at the time.
For example, Time magazine covers from the month following featured the looming war with Iran, a reporter wounded in Iraq, evolution, the end of the Republican Party, and a feature on "the next president". The New York Times front-page Iraq stories detailed a new book claiming that President Bush ignored warnings on Iraq on the 29th, and a story that the US might cut funding to the abusive Iraqi police on the 30th.
So with great pride we now present the world premier of Colonel MacFarland's September 29, 2006 briefing to the American media from Ramadi...
Ignored by traditional western media, the story of the Anbar awakening was told only in Arab media and in American milblogs at the time
While Colonel MacFarland didn't use the term, as reported in part one of this series, The story of what would come to be known as the "Anbar Awakening" was first revealed in a little-noticed February, 2005 Time magazine article by Michael Ware.
A June, 2005 London Times report headlined "US in Talks with Iraq Rebels" would cause a bit more of a stir. (A follow-up story in the Washington Post would reveal the "insurgent outreach" program had been approved in August, 2004.)
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld answered questions about the effort on Fox News Sunday that week. The secretary announced that such meetings "go on all the time” and described efforts to "split local insurgents off from the al Qaeda/foreign fighters group."
He dismissed any need for additional US troops in Iraq, stating emphatically that Iraqis - not American troops, were going to win the battle against the insurgency in their country.
His confidence was based on expectations that the Iraqis would very soon reject the brutality practiced by the radical groups in their midst.
Reports of conflict between al Qaeda and Sunni groups would surface periodically thereafter, but would often blend into the emerging "civil war in Iraq" theme.
In June, the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi in a coalition air attack would result in a new leader for the group, and within days of Colonel MacFarland's announcement of the Anbar sheik's movement (limited at the time to Ramadi but then known as the "Anbar salvation council") Abu Ayyub al Masri would offer "amnesty" to the sheiks if they would return to his control before the end of Ramadan.
"Return to your religion and homeland before we defeat you", the new al Qaeda leader commanded, "and you will have peace and security. We will not touch you but with kindness. You must first declare your sincere repentance in front of your tribes and families and inform us by whatever means, lest we make a mistake [and kill you]. You should put your hands in the hands of your brothers and sons, the mujahideen, for peace and security to return to our homes and expel the invader and to expel the occupier from our midst in this blessed month"
His response came from Sheik Sattar Abu-Risha. – Though little known outside Ramadi, the Sheik was in the process of turning the tide of the war in Iraq
"I do not know what kind of authority he enjoys.” The sheik stated, “Is he a prophet? Did he receive a messenger from God to give us a pardon? Are we criminals like him? Are we killers like him to be given a pardon? Or did we ask him for pardon? On the contrary, he should ask us for pardon, because he killed Iraqis, Sunnis and Shi'is. Who is he? He is only an inferior criminal. We should not grant him a pardon."
A profile of Sheik Sattar From an early 2007 BBC report...
As Smith and MacFarland would relate in their 2008 review, Sattar was a dynamic figure willing to stand up to al Qada at a time when victory was far from certain. On 9 September he organized a tribal council attended by over 50 sheiks and the brigade commander, declaring the awakening underway and beginning a snowball effect that resulted in a growing number of tribes declaring open support for the movement or withdrawing support from al Qaeda in Iraq.
The establishment of the Awakening was not spontaneous; it was an evolutionary movement developing over years in Iraq. But dramatic events along the way ensured its success. One of the most significant of these was the battle of Sufia, retold by Smith and MacFarland in Anbar Awakens...
Once again,, other than milblogs readers, few would know of these events at the time. Coincidentally, the same milblogs story would include a report of Senator John McCain challenging General Casey on the need for additional troops in Baghdad and Anbar.
For while the Awakening movement was altering the course of the war in Ramadi, the terrorists fleeing that area were helping spread violence throughout Baghdad, Mosul, Baqubah, and other areas in Iraq.
In early 2007 the "surge" was announced. General David Petraeus was named commander of Multi-national force Iraq. Among his first agenda items on assuming command was a meeting with sheik Sattar.
From the earliest days of the surge, efforts were underway to recreate the success of the Ramadi movement, and spread the awakening model throughout the country.
General Petraeus' first press conference from Baghdad...
AS Smith and MacFarland would later explain
"The Anbar Awakening was the result of a concerted plan executed by US forces in Ramadi.
Tactical victory became a strategic turning point when farsighted senior leaders, both Iraqi and American, replicated the Ramadi model throughout Anbar Province, in Baghdad, and other parts of the country, dramatically changing the Iraq security situation in the process."
The conclusion of their report sums their unit's key lesson's learned from Iraq
Accept risk in order to achieve results.
Once you gain the initiative, never give the enemy respite or refuge.
Never stop looking for another way to attack the enemy.
The tribes represent the people of Iraq, and the populace represents the “key terrain” of the conflict. The force that supports the population by taking the moral high ground has as sure an advantage in COIN as a maneuver commander who occupies dominant terrain in a conventional battle.
They close by noting,
In the end, probably the most important lesson we learned in Ramadi was that, as General Petraeus said,
“Hard is not hopeless.”
The Ready First Combat Team returned to its home station in March 2007 as the first of the "surge" Units were positioned in Iraq. Over the course of about 14 months on the ground, 31 of the brigade’s soldiers were killed - among them, Capt Travis Patriquin, credited by Smith and MacFarland as the man responsible for the initial contacts and ultimate cementing of the American bond with the Ramadi Sheiks.
A police station in Ramadi is named in Capt Patriquin’s honor.
Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha was killed by a roadside bomb at the outset of Ramadan in the western calendar year 2007. Contrary to expectations at the time, his movement survived him.
In June, 2008 his brother and new awakening leader Sheik Ahmad al-Rishawi came to America, though his visits to President Bush and members of the US Congress received little media attention.
He told the New York Sun that his message to Congress was that American soldiers should stay in Iraq for at least as long as it takes to rebuild Iraq's national army – but also repeated his brother’s earlier offer to join the battle against al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
"Al Qaeda is an ideology," Sheik Ahmad told the Sun. "We can defeat them inside Iraq and we can defeat them in any country."
Excellent video. Just from reviewing mainstream media debates on this, I think both sides are unclear on what exactly was the catalyst for the tribes flipping? In other words, all the coverage starts by saying, well, AQI went over the top with their violence, so the tribes turned against them. Well, were the Marines doing something that ALLOWED the tribes to flip against AQI, in other words was the combination of U.S. lethality combined with overtures for diplomacy with the tribes what allowed the awakening to happen in the first place? That part of the picture is getting lost.
The MacFarland article shows some of the frustration we feel about the explanation that fortuitous events like the awakening and the Shia ceasefire just happened in a vacuum, out of sheer coincidence, while our soldiers stood around like potted plants (but doing "terrific" work nonetheless.)
The article says it was in fact a concerted plan conceived and executed by the U.S. military that was the catalyst -- the combination of lethality and the open hand of friendship allowing the tribes to say, "We're sick of getting killed on both sides by U.S. and AQ, so let's pick the Americans".
It seems Sattar's courageous decision was made possible by distinct, deliberate and methodical U.S. military actions. It may not have bee the surge per se at the time, but what is really at issue is, did our actions have anything, or nothing, to do with Iraq improving? B5 used to end vids with a tribute to Sattar and one of our Capts. as having been the architects of the awakening. Is this the framework that got the ball rolling?
Moreover, is it legitimate to say the later surge did allow the awakening to grow, and spread to other provinces?
I think the political end of the debate is getting hung up on which came first, the surge or the awakening, when in fact the real question is, in what way did U.S. actions allow the awakening and militia ceasefires (because they were being demolished by U.S. forces) to happen in the first place? To me it's a matter of giving credit where credit is due, whereas there's a political interest out there in minimizing the importance of troops' efforts in the Iraq turn around. This way, one can justify having opposed the surge.Posted by jordan at July 30, 2008 06:25 PM
I won't be as soft-spoken as the nice lady above:
The information about the Awakening and our role in it was available to the Big 0* as it was happening.
He ignored it, and instead promoted withdrawal as the solution from that time on ... revealing that, he had a tin ear for ground truth in Iraq as pronounced as Roseanne Barr's re: the National Anthem.
By not giving credit where credit's due, the Big 0* effectively spits on Capt. Patriquin's grave, IMO.
McCain perhaps chose his words badly ... but he accurately predicted what would happen all across Iraq, by implementing the strategy PROVEN in Ramadi by the Ready First nationwide.
As for the Big 0* ... the irony is, he is as accurate about the Surge even with having this information available, as the current Administration was about WMD stockpiles at the start of the war.
But he'll never get called on it ... because all the wailing and whining about no WMDs and quagmires isn't because this Chorus of Doom is interested in peace, freedom, or security.
All they are interested in, is discrediting a President and the worldview he represents, in the hopes of creating their Utopia ... where irresponsible behavior is celebrated, prohibitions against its disdain are legislated ... while the responsible have income confiscated, to subsidize libertine and inebriated ... and your choices are not yours to make, but dictated.
* As in, 1-1 ...
Enough of the Big 0 ...
Excellent reportage, Grey one. The video and screen-captures add significantly to the written account of Smith and MacFarland, which is already great in its own right.
Page is bookmarked, to pass on to others who might have been bamboozled by Big 0 and Keith Overbite.
More like this, please, as time and duty allows ... just make sure to keep some time available for pickin' ...
Greyhawk, damn nice work. Damn nice.Posted by Steve Schippert at August 1, 2008 04:57 PM
I agree with Steve Schippert.Posted by Mom at August 3, 2008 12:07 AM
Thank you for this! I knew the media's depiction of events was skewed, as if it all happened in a vacuum. I had been following developments of the Awakening thanks to Schippert and milblogs for months before I heard even a remote peep from MSM.
Thank you for the work you put into the video and providing a timeline.Posted by wordsmith at August 3, 2008 03:03 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(6) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)