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Posted on 06/03/2006 10:26:22 PM PDT by MinorityRepublican
Al Anbar Province, Iraq I ARRIVED AT CAMP FALLUJA in Iraq's Anbar Province by Blackhawk at 4 a.m. on the morning of April 13. No sooner had I lain down in my bunk than I heard the "thump, thump, thump" of outgoing artillery, five rounds in all. I later learned they were illumination rounds, probably called in to light up the area around the Iraqi Army's Observation Post 3 (OP3) in Karma, just northeast of Falluja. It was, I was told, the largest enemy action in the area in the last eight months.
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This was my second visit to Al Anbar, a hotbed of enemy activity that stretches out west of Baghdad all the way to the Syrian and Jordanian borders. It's almost entirely Sunni and was heavily Baathist before Saddam's overthrow, and it's also the pipeline into Iraq for jihadists from the rest of the Islamic world. When I was in Camp Falluja a year ago for about a week, I heard no outgoing fire, and there was no incoming fire. Ramadi, the reputed headquarters of al Qaeda in Iraq, remained wracked with violence, but Falluja was a tame pussycat.
Now it has sprouted long nails and sharp teeth. Before I left the city and its environs, I would hear outgoing artillery on all three nights I spent time at Camp Falluja, withstand a mortar attack on one of the small outposts I stayed at, and hear more firefights in the distance, either from the outposts or out on patrol, than I could count.
Did we seize Falluja in November 2004 only to slowly cede it back to the enemy? And if so, what does it say about the "grab and hold" strategy underway to secure this huge Sunni province, without which the war cannot be won? Is the Iraqi Army (IA) that we are training up to the job? The answers are complex, and I often felt like each of the nine blind men grappling with the elephant--at one point feeling a trunk, at another the tail. But this is what I saw and heard.
MiTTs and the IA
I rotated among three different battalions of the Iraqi First Division based out of Camp India, just east of Falluja. One was in Falluja proper, one in Karma, and one at Camp India itself. All comprise both Iraqi Army soldiers and Americans. The IA recruits come here fresh from basic training (formerly a scant three weeks, but now eight) for further instruction in tracking down, detaining, and killing the enemy. The enemy is known by several nicknames including "Ali Baba," "Wahhabi" (the strict form of Islam to which many of the terrorists adhere), "the bad guys," and "Mooj," for mujahedeen.
The Americans attached to the Iraqi First Division are from the 80th Division, an Army Reserve unit based in Richmond, Virginia. They are not combat support--that comes from Marines at Camp Falluja and various forward operating bases (or FOBs, which rhymes with "Rob") throughout the area. Rather, these soldiers form "Military Transition Teams," or MiTTs. They always accompany the IA on patrols and raids "outside the wire," as leaving the camp is called; their job is to transition the IA into an independent fighting force that eventually can operate with no American help. These MiTT units may have less than a dozen men in them, including a few Marines attached for extra firepower.
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Just ran into an old buddy who was "over there" recently.
He agrees with my assessment that the enemy is actively studying and using the tactics of the Vietcong from the Vietnam war. One such tactic is getting friendly civilians in the line of US fire as much as possible. The business of using women and children as human shields violates every law of warfare and human behavior. But according to the media, these "insurgents" are the good guys, and our troops who are forced to shoot both the terrorists and their human shields in order to save their own lives are the bad guys.
He also confirms that the media reports of widespread hatred of the US and an impending civil war are greatly exaggerated. Most Iraqis (according to him) realize that much of the vaunted "sectarian violence" was started by Al Qaeda in Iraq acting as "agents provocateurs." Attack a Sunni mosque, blame it on the Shi'ites, then attack a market in a Shi'ite neighborhood and blame it on the Sunnis. Pretty obvious, but some Iraqis have fallen for it.
"TAKE AND LEVEL is better than take and hold, because you don't have to defend it."
Oje Marine, nothing like expressing the situation. TAKE and LEVEL is nothing more than "urban renewal" if not an invitation from Del Webb.
In Pre-'Taught, "TAKE AND LEVEL" is a 360 field of fire.
Never unner stud'ed dems pesky aiming stakes..%$#&* :-)