If you don’t regularly read Michael Yon’s dispatches as an embedded blogger in Iraq…. you are missing the real news. His latest, The Ghosts of Anbar – Part II, highlight how General Petraeus’ counterinsurgency plan is being conducted and has been effective.
Over the past several years, while working into a strategic fatigue, our military has made an amazing transformation in how it conducts this war. Gone, for instance, are heavy-handed tactics, replaced by multi-dimensional counterinsurgency strategy rolled out simultaneously with targeted kinetic battles, like those recently with the 3/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Baqubah.
Arrowhead Ripper was merely the latest experience that underlines the Army’s rapidly-growing expertise. Yet the Marines have adapted faster and seem poised to win the war in their battle space. In fact, it’s been Army officers who have told me repeatedly over the past several years that nobody is successfully morphing to meet this war faster than the Marines. Of course, Army officers who compliment Marines always say, “But that didn’t come from me.”
In mid-May, 2007, days before I arrived, the Iraqi Army and Police had conducted a “Combined Medical Exercise” in the village of Falahat, wherein Iraqi doctors saw about 200 villagers. About two days after that, the Iraqi Police opened a police station at the Falahat train station. That was just about the same time I was driving out to stay with a small team of Marines who were assigned as “MiTT 8” (Military Training Team 8). MiTTs are familiar territory for me; this is a vintage Special Forces concept used the world ’round.
Marines and Soldiers are far outnumbered by Iraqi forces in many areas around Iraq. Many people have protested this, saying the teams could be kidnapped or killed. This is true. But this is war, and it’s a chance we need to take. In fact, some Soldiers had just been kidnapped and were missing in action in another province. (They had been taken in combat, not as part of a MiTT.)
The men of MiTT 8 are living along with their Iraqi protégées in filthy shipping containers on a highway. Several months ago they were attacked by a car bomb. But at about 0900, while I was traveling to their location with Marines in a Humvee (with sparkling glass) some Falahat villagers went to the new police station to report the presence of a culprit they knew to emplace bombs on the road.
It happened that quickly.
Within mere days of opening the station, people spoke up. The Iraqi Police (some of whom freely admitted to having been recent insurgents) called the tip into the Iraqi Army who were living with the Marines of MiTT 8. The Iraqi Army in turn told Marine Captain Koury, whose Command Operations Center is conjoined with the Iraqi Army unit there. Finally, CPT Koury told Staff Sergeant Rakene Lee to take care of the developing situation.
(Oh, and it is worth mentioning that Yon’s accounts are non-fiction and include photos and named sources…. unlike a certain “dispatcher” from The New Republic.)
Michael’s on-the-ground reporting is months ahead of where Congress thinks we are in Iraq. He should testify with Petraeus and Crocker in two weeks!