Academic journal article Military Review

Thickening the Lines: Sons of Iraq, a Combat Multiplier

Academic journal article Military Review

Thickening the Lines: Sons of Iraq, a Combat Multiplier

Article excerpt

Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them.

-T.E. Lawrence, "Twenty-Seven Articles," The Arab Bulletin, 20 August 1917

Over time, if you build networks of trust, these will grow like roots into the population, displacing the enemy 's networks, bringing them out into the open to fight you, and seizing the initiative. These networks include local allies, community leaders, local security forces...in your area.

-LTC David Kilcullen, Twenty-Eight Articles," Military Review (May-June 2006)

WHEN 3RD SQUADRON, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment, deployed to Iraq in March 2007 as part of 3d Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT), 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized), the third of five "surge" brigades, the unit inherited a complex battlespace that had not been routinely occupied by large numbers of coalition forces (CF) since late 2004. Only two under-strength cavalry troops conducting economy-of-force operations for Multi-National Division-Baghdad patrolled the entire Mada'in Qada, an area east of the Diyala and Tigris Rivers approximately the size of Rhode Island. As a result, the security situation deteriorated to the extent that forces operating out of central Baghdad labeled it the "wild, wild East." Large and well-organized extremist forces - both Shi'a and Sunni - operated with impunity and virtually held citizens and local government representatives hostage. Although the surge of American forces brought CF units there for the first time in several years, the complex environment and poor security situation made counterinsurgency progress slow and difficult. After creating forward deployed bases to better project troops into the population, 3-1 CAV had to overcome some initial challenges to make progress.

In late July, a coincidence of outside events and the application of counterinsurgency (COIN) fundamentals presented a way to improve security through the use of local nationals as security contractors to protect critical infrastructure. What started as a grass-roots movement that gained traction in one small portion of the battlespace became a fundamental part of the squadron's COIN strategy; improved security allowed for economic, political, and social development, which won the sustained support of the people.

This extraordinarily effective strategy used "Sons of Iraq" security contractors to thicken CF lines, facilitate reconciliation in local villages, empower Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), connect the local government to the people, and improve economic conditions.

Wave from the West

The idea behind the Sons of Iraq originated in the Al Anbar province of Western Iraq. During the summer of 2006, insurgents associated with AI-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) assassinated a prominent Sunni sheik and hid his body from the family for three days so that they could not arrange for its burial in accordance with Muslim customs. The outrage over this act, in combination with improved local security, encouraged a group of Sunni tribal leaders led by Sheikh Abdoul Sattar Buzaigh alRishawi to form an alliance with CF against AQI. They called the movement Sahwah al Anbar, or "Awakening in Anbar."

Supported by CF and the Iraqi government, the alliance eventually encompassed 41 tribes or subtribes, mostly Sunni, in the Anbar Province. The alliance conducted a highly successful counteroffensive targeting AQI. By the summer of 2007, the Anbar Awakening had largely driven AQI from the province and killed dozens of key AQI leaders. The success earned Sheik Sattar personal meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. President George W Bush. The results of the Awakening were concrete and provocative. The increased security meant that stability and reconstruction operations could begin, prosperity could return, and disenfranchised Sunnis could have a chance at returning to the polity. …

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