Academic journal article Military Review

A View from Inside the Surge

Academic journal article Military Review

A View from Inside the Surge

Article excerpt


DURING THE EARLY YEARS of Operation Iraqi Freedom, too many units attempted to fight an emerging and eventually flourishing insurgency the wrong way. They over-emphasized kinetic operations against an adaptive insurgent hidden in a sympathetic or intimidated population. While there are examples of successful counterinsurgency efforts at various levels of command during the course of Operation Iraqi Freedom, those successes have been sporadic and short-lived at best. However, with the implementation of a new strategy in Iraq based on the tenets of FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency, our military has proven that it can effectively conduct counterinsurgency operations on a large scale. An increase in troop density at key locations in and around Baghdad, a significant effort to move away from large forward operating bases to combat outposts (to protect the people), and a relentless attack on Al-Qaeda in Iraq were critical to the improved security levels across the country.

David Galula's 1964 treatise Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice served as the primary source behind the development of chapter five of FM 3-24, "Executing Counterinsurgency Operations." The principles Galula emphasizes have stood the test of time in various theaters of operation. Unfortunately, his work has remained largely unknown to front-line Soldiers, some of whom ventured into the Iraq insurgency relying primarily on previous experience and instinct rather than the proven principles discussed by Galula. Writing from first-hand experiences on the counterinsurgency battlefields of the 1940s and 1950s, Galula emphasized the importance of collecting intelligence from the local population to identify and then purge the insurgents from their midst.

As a battalion commander during the surge, I found that our unit had limited effectiveness during our first several weeks on the ground in Baghdad. Almost all of our tactical victories and defeats were kinetic in nature. Over time, however, we pursued a winning strategy centered on the population that resulted in a complete reversal on the ground. Previously unknown to me, I have since found David Galula's book on counterinsurgency warfare to be indispensable as an operational framework. Facing the insurgency in Baghdad, 1-4 Cavalry of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), 1st Infantry Division, employed Galula's tactics during the surge of 2007-2008.


Serving as the commander of 1 -4 CAV during this time, I received the mission to reposition our unit from the Al Hadr, Saha, and Abu T'Shir neighborhoods of East Rashid in southwest Baghdad slightly north to the Doura neighborhood. Al Hadr was a violent neighborhood, but Doura was the most violent and contested neighborhood in the Rashid District. The 2-12 Infantry was fighting valiantly as the 4th IBCT main effort there with three rifle companies, but it would require a greater concentration of troops to defeat the entrenched insurgency led by Al-Qaeda. We were assigned the eastern one-third of the territory, allowing 2-12 Infantry to concentrate in the west part of Doura while 2-23 Stryker assumed control of our former area of operations.

Doura was a perfect breeding ground for the insurgency for several reasons, and a place that Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) felt it could and must hold on to. After some analysis, it became clear that our new area of operations was the gateway into Doura from the southern belts of Baghdad. Insurgents regularly met in various locations in the area to plan their activities, and they brought in significant amounts of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other materials for use throughout Doura. This Sunni neighborhood was important to Al-Qaeda because it was readily accessible from the southern belts where AQI remained largely unchallenged (this would change dramatically when follow-on surge brigades arrived in the coming months), and it offered insurgents passage over the Tigris to the Karadah Peninsula and into the Rusafa District-- both Shi'a dominated areas. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.