Skip to comments.Iraqis In Former Rebel Stronghold Now Cheer American Soldiers
Posted on 12/18/2005 5:53:46 PM PST by blam
Iraqis in former rebel stronghold now cheer American soldiers
By Oliver Poole in Tal Afar
In the low-slung concrete buildings of Tal Afar, a city built on dirty sand and mud, George W Bush sees the potential for military success in Iraq.
In recent weeks it has been one case study the American president has consistently cited in order to buttress the rhetoric that the insurgency, and the killing, can be ended.
Tal Afar was the site of the largest military operation of 2005, when 8,000 US and Iraqi troops reclaimed it from armed groups.
It has since been used to test a new strategy of "clear, hold, build", in which areas would be purged of insurgents and then rejuvenated to win support from local people, before being handed over to the Iraqi security forces. It is also called "ink spot" strategy, whereby one area of control would spread to another - like an ink spot spreading on blotting paper - until the entire country was covered, in a model similar to that adopted by the British in Malaya.
In Tal Afar, according to the president, military success had been followed by the restoration of law and order and the implementation of reconstruction projects to give "hope" to its citizens.
Visiting the city, nestled near the Syrian border in the north-west of the country, there is no doubt that something has been achieved.
Unlike in Fallujah, another Sunni Arab insurgent stronghold, the storming of which by US marines was the defining campaign of 2004, there is actually large-scale rebuilding in progress.
While many of the citizens of Fallujah still eke out their existence in the ruins of their former homes, in Tal Afar the streets are full of building sites. New sewers have been dug and the fronts of shops, destroyed in the US assault, were replaced within weeks. Sunni police have been hired and 2,000 goats were even distributed to farmers.
More remarkably, the approach of an American military convoy brings people out to wave and even clap, something not seen since the invasion of spring 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.
But the success in Tal Afar only highlights the problems of replicating it elsewhere.
The strategy will require more troops, which is politically unacceptable right now in America, given growing public doubts about the war. Andrew Krepinevich, the academic who earlier this year outlined ink spot theory, said large numbers were needed to establish "safe zones".
The insurgents who used to control this city of 170,000 were amongst the most barbaric in Iraq. They beheaded, executed and shot locals who questioned their brand of fundamentalist Islam.
Compared to that reign of terror, it is little surprise that the sight of foreign troops on is more easily accepted.
But perhaps the key difference is that the American troops from the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, based in Tal Afar, are different from the majority found in Iraq.
Their commander, Col H R McMaster, is a counter-insurgency specialist who wrote a book about the Vietnam War, in which he criticised the US military's failure to understand the enemy's culture.
Before deployment, his men were given extensive Arabic classes and intensive lessons on Iraqi history, customs and religion. Proper efforts were made to woo local tribal sheiks with banquets in which goats were slaughtered and concerns listened to.
"The enemy is really good at disinformation and propaganda. We have to win the battleground of perception," he said.
A German woman abducted in Iraq three weeks ago is free and in good health. Susanne Osthoff, 43, an aid worker and archaeologist, disappeared with her driver on Nov 25.
I'm guessing we won't be seeing that headline in any of our larger newspapers anytime soon.
"The strategy will require more troops, which is politically unacceptable right now in America, given growing public doubts about the war. Andrew Krepinevich, the academic who earlier this year outlined ink spot theory, said large numbers were needed to establish "safe zones"."
Untrue. Many on both sides of the aisles were and are arguing for more, the usual reason given for border control, something Bush has a peculiar aversion to.
I can't wait to see this on the front page of the papers tomorrow./sarcasm off
The insurgency and AMerican Media are headed in the same direction: EXTINCTION!!!
I've been proved over optimistic regarding Iraq before but I really sense that we have reached the tipping point. Everyone but Murtha and the dumber of the 'rats seems to realize that the bad guys ain't going to win. Especially the bad guys.
A lot of good soldiers have died because we choose to take the high road. I was one of the loudest who said "MOAB the whole damn town if anyone so much as looks squirrelly at our troops." the President and our troops apparently understood that a lighter touch and more patience were required. They were right. I was wrong.
what makes you say that?? (sarcasm)
A good news ping.
Interestingly, Pershing, in his first command in the Moro areas of Mindanao in the Phillipines, did exactly the same thing.
The some strange reason the New York Fish-Wrap Times fails to regard this as a story.
Tryed but couldn't find a pic of Sky Marshal Tehat Meru. Good one though.
"Interestingly, Pershing, in his first command in the Moro areas of Mindanao in the Phillipines, did exactly the same thing."
My guess is that we'll be back in Mindanao and to the southwest before to much longer. It's another hornets nest.
He applaudes rebuilding in one area and laments the supposed lack of it in others. I wonder if it ever occured to the author how much quicker rebuilding in places liked Fallujah might have occured if the West (read EUROPE) would've coalesced behind the war effort instead of trying at every turn to prevent or derail it.
A VERY good point, prairie.