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Posted: 9/14/2004 11:44:14 AM EST
September 14, 2004

Fallujah turnover was forced lesson in flexibility, Marines say

By Christian Lowe
Times staff writer

Marines were ordered into a street-to-street battle against insurgents in Fallujah by U.S. Central Command officials last spring, ignoring the judgment of Corps leaders and scuttling a long-term strategy Marine commanders had hoped would quell the insurgency there with less bloodshed, according to a senior Marine official.

“We were ordered to go into Fallujah against our inclination,” said Brig. Gen. John F. Kelly, 1st Marine Division assistant commander, at a joint U.S. Naval Institute and Marine Corps Association forum held Sept. 7 in Arlington, Va.

“That was not what we wanted to do in Fallujah,” Kelly said. “We had a different game plan. A longer game plan.”

Marine forces, who had deployed to Iraq little more than a month earlier, had to shift gears quickly from a force organized for security and stabilization operations to one designed to flush out insurgents in pitched urban combat.

Regional commanders ordered the Marines into Fallujah shortly after the March 31 slaying and dismembering of civilian security contractors. The resulting clashes killed more than a dozen Marines and wounded scores more during the nearly monthlong siege.

In the end, just as two reinforced infantry battalions were poised for a final assault from positions on the outskirts of the town, Marine commanders were ordered to withdraw, handing over the mission instead to a hastily assembled “Fallujah Brigade” made up largely of Iraqi police, local militia members and former Iraqi army leaders.

“To our surprise, before we had completed [the mission], we were ordered to cease fire and work with Iraqis who were presented to us by higher headquarters,” Kelly recounted.

Though Kelly was using the seesaw battle of Fallujah as an example of the Corps’ ability to quickly change gears, the decision to withdraw sticks in the craw of many leathernecks to this day. Many said the final assault, though bloody, would have put an end to the town’s use as a terrorist and insurgent base.

But ending the fight early was the right thing to do, according to another senior Marine who spoke at the forum.

“You can’t really be against the decision if the reasons were political, because it’s fundamentally a political struggle,” said Col. T.X. Hammes, a senior fellow at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies.

Most people thought “if we’d just smash them it would be over,” Hammes said. “That’s just not the way insurgencies work. It’s a political problem.”

The Marine Corps needs to make significant cultural and organizational changes to meet the challenge of the war on terrorism, which has as many political dimensions as it has military ones, Hammes said.

Headquarters staffs should be cut back to free up field-grade officers for battlefield assignments; major training exercises should be unscripted, allowing for more innovation and free thinking — even if that means unit commanders lose a few simulated battles; and Marines should be encouraged to view the conflict as an insurgency rather than a force-on-force war.

As an example, Hammes cited tactics used by Afghans fighting Soviet troops in the heart of Kabul during the 1980s.

To move around the city, the Afghans simply checked out Soviet vehicles from military motor pools, disguising themselves as Soviet or Afghan government troops with uniforms taken from local laundry businesses in town — an innovative way to gain tactical advantage over their adversaries, Hammes said.

“We’re looking at the enemy we’re fighting now,” he said. “But one thing we know is that warfare changes, and the only thing that responds to change is a mentally flexible person.”
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 12:01:03 PM EST
Wait. When the USMC took over Fallujah, we had USMC GO's saying shit like, "There's a new sheriff in town." and bitching because they thought the 82nd Airborne wasn't aggressive enough. They talked about increasing patrols and moving deeper into uncontrolled regions of the city. Now, when that strategy pays out, they want someone else to blame?

Link Posted: 9/14/2004 12:14:12 PM EST
Marines do what they are told, period.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 12:20:16 PM EST
Most people thought “if we’d just smash them it would be over,” Hammes said. “That’s just not the way insurgencies work. It’s a political problem.”

Yea , Id be one of those who said that. I just cant understand what these two guys are talking about. Im willing to bet a MArine ass kicking would have taken care of most the problems in that city.

But was does a old SSGT know anyways
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 12:27:55 PM EST

Originally Posted By 6172crew:
Most people thought “if we’d just smash them it would be over,” Hammes said. “That’s just not the way insurgencies work. It’s a political problem.”

Yea , Id be one of those who said that. I just cant understand what these two guys are talking about. Im willing to bet a MArine ass kicking would have taken care of most the problems in that city.

But was does a old SSGT know anyways



Make the TWO old Staff Sergeants.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 12:32:09 PM EST
[Last Edit: 9/14/2004 12:32:49 PM EST by whodges13]
You guys are studs for ever serving anyway. About 4 months ago I tried to join up but they said I couldnt go because I fucked up my right forearm last year and cant feel my last 2 fingers. (nerve damage) Oh well. I was 31 at the time. I figured I could help in some way with my computer degree.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 12:34:46 PM EST

Originally Posted By SJSAMPLE:
Wait. When the USMC took over Fallujah, we had USMC GO's saying shit like, "There's a new sheriff in town." and bitching because they thought the 82nd Airborne wasn't aggressive enough. They talked about increasing patrols and moving deeper into uncontrolled regions of the city. Now, when that strategy pays out, they want someone else to blame?




I recall the same reports.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 12:39:20 PM EST

Originally Posted By SJSAMPLE:
Wait. When the USMC took over Fallujah, we had USMC GO's saying shit like, "There's a new sheriff in town." and bitching because they thought the 82nd Airborne wasn't aggressive enough. They talked about increasing patrols and moving deeper into uncontrolled regions of the city. Now, when that strategy pays out, they want someone else to blame?




Do you read Gen Conway's comments on the area? The basic synapsis was they went in, started to implement his and Gen Mathis's plan. The 4 contractors were killed, he recommended to not to attack the city and to continue the program. He was order to assault the city, over his objections the city was attacked. Once the attack began higher headquarters' got cold feet after a few KIAs and WIAs ordering them out.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 12:50:42 PM EST
Even before the incident with the contractors, the "new sheriff in town" bullshit was reaching its peak. In fact, it started before they ever returned to the theater. Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were complaining even before the transition was completed, because USMC press officers were already making statements that the 82nd wasn't aggressive enough and that all of that was changing with the Marines' return to Fallujah. If they didn't want that kind of engagement, they should have told the GOs and the press officers to keep quiet.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 1:01:07 PM EST

Originally Posted By SJSAMPLE:
Even before the incident with the contractors, the "new sheriff in town" bullshit was reaching its peak. In fact, it started before they ever returned to the theater. Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were complaining even before the transition was completed, because USMC press officers were already making statements that the 82nd wasn't aggressive enough and that all of that was changing with the Marines' return to Fallujah. If they didn't want that kind of engagement, they should have told the GOs and the press officers to keep quiet.


No that not what the Marine Program was, if anything they thought the 82nd was too aggressive (which I disagree with), I MEF wanted to implement a CAP like program, trust me on this one most Marines in the division didn't agree with allot of it. They were told things like, not to flag people with rifles, to not wear sunglasses because Arabs think it is offensive, etc. So what happen was actually a continuation of what was going on prior to the RIP.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 1:14:10 PM EST

Originally Posted By DPeacher:

Originally Posted By 6172crew:
Most people thought “if we’d just smash them it would be over,” Hammes said. “That’s just not the way insurgencies work. It’s a political problem.”

Yea , Id be one of those who said that. I just cant understand what these two guys are talking about. Im willing to bet a MArine ass kicking would have taken care of most the problems in that city.

But was does a old SSGT know anyways



Make the TWO old Staff Sergeants.



And a Sergeant! You know, the ones who get things done!
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 1:17:31 PM EST

Originally Posted By STLRN:

Originally Posted By SJSAMPLE:
Even before the incident with the contractors, the "new sheriff in town" bullshit was reaching its peak. In fact, it started before they ever returned to the theater. Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division were complaining even before the transition was completed, because USMC press officers were already making statements that the 82nd wasn't aggressive enough and that all of that was changing with the Marines' return to Fallujah. If they didn't want that kind of engagement, they should have told the GOs and the press officers to keep quiet.


No that not what the Marine Program was, if anything they thought the 82nd was too aggressive (which I disagree with), I MEF wanted to implement a CAP like program, trust me on this one most Marines in the division didn't agree with allot of it. They were told things like, not to flag people with rifles, to not wear sunglasses because Arabs think it is offensive, etc. So what happen was actually a continuation of what was going on prior to the RIP.



So;
1. All the "new sheriff" bullshit was just talking smack? I guess they should read the briefings and SOPs before calling the press every five minutes and thumping their chests.
2. This was caused by a continuation of the 82nd ABN's policies? Fallujah ignited after the 82nd ABN left. USMC GOs press officers made deliberate statements that the 82nd ABN was cutting too much slack to the region and that this was going to change.

Don't get me wrong. I think the USMC has done a hell of a job in Fallujah and that they should continue to take the fight to the enemy. But, it's becoming too convenient of some GOs to open their pie holes and impugn others whenever a camera or a mic is present. Now that those chickens have come home to roost, it's somebody else's fault? I don't like excuses from GO's, wether they run prisons or divisions.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 1:32:31 PM EST
I can post tomorrow after I get them from the office computer what Gen Mathis and Gen Conway actual orders to the Marines were, they were sent out in a serious of "read ahead's." And also remember what the PAOs were saying around the time and yes they did imply there is a new sheriff in town but they didn't say the 82nd wasn't aggressive enough and they implied that army units had not been sensitive enough to the region.

I personally think the blow up in Fallujah was a result of the original intent to be more sensitive to Arab desires and we should have went in with an iron fist off the bat. On the call to stop the offensive, who ever made that call should have been relieved. We cannot show any softness in the face of this enemy.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 1:55:53 PM EST

Originally Posted By STLRN:
I can post tomorrow after I get them from the office computer what Gen Mathis and Gen Conway actual orders to the Marines were, they were sent out in a serious of "read ahead's." And also remember what the PAOs were saying around the time and yes they did imply there is a new sheriff in town but they didn't say the 82nd wasn't aggressive enough and they implied that army units had not been sensitive enough to the region.

I personally think the blow up in Fallujah was a result of the original intent to be more sensitive to Arab desires and we should have went in with an iron fist off the bat. On the call to stop the offensive, who ever made that call should have been relieved. We cannot show any softness in the face of this enemy.



Agreed.
I'm Googling for the actual quotes, myself. I remember them because I knew they'd come back to burn that particular individual.
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 2:00:09 PM EST

Originally Posted By TeuffelHunden1775:

Originally Posted By DPeacher:

Originally Posted By 6172crew:
Most people thought “if we’d just smash them it would be over,” Hammes said. “That’s just not the way insurgencies work. It’s a political problem.”

Yea , Id be one of those who said that. I just cant understand what these two guys are talking about. Im willing to bet a MArine ass kicking would have taken care of most the problems in that city.

But was does a old SSGT know anyways



Make the TWO old Staff Sergeants.



And a Sergeant! You know, the ones who get things done!



Yeah, I remember who got things done. It was the Lance Corporals!
Link Posted: 9/14/2004 4:29:21 PM EST
Here is a perfect case of what I refered to, notice they didn't say that we were going to go in a get tough but quite the opposite. In this I think the Marine Corps was wrong.




Spare the Rod, Save the Nation

The New Tork Times, December 30, 2003

Carl E. Mundy III, Federal Executive Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies


It was April 19 and the Marine battalion I was commanding in Iraq was leaving Samarra to begin a long trip south through Baghdad along highways we had fought on just a few weeks earlier. Major combat operations were coming to a close, and we were headed to the small south-central city of Diwaniyah to undertake the uncertain business of post-conflict operations.

For most of us Diwaniyah was personal. The site of skirmishes we had with fedayeen, Iraqi Army Special Forces and local militias, the city represented my battalion's "blooding" — the scene of our first important combat action and casualties. By returning, we had the chance to root out remaining resistance and help restore a community wrecked by war.

As marines only a few days out of intense combat, it was natural for us to want to undertake the "rooting out" part first — going after the resistance with a vengeance. Fortunately, our division commander, Maj. Gen. Jim Mattis, had a different approach. He shifted our focus from conventional combat toward winning over the people. In so doing, his thinking went, we could isolate the Baathist insurgents and criminal elements and make them easier to detect and eliminate.

His guiding principle was "do no harm." So he detached our M-1 tanks and armored personnel carriers and, together with artillery, returned them to Kuwait. Armored vehicles are threatening by their very presence — not to mention being magnets for rocket-propelled grenades. General Mattis believed that any engagement with remaining insurgents could be handled by dismounted infantry.

We also tried to be aware of Iraqi sensitivities. We "dressed down" during foot patrols, removing body armor and helmets. Arabs consider sunglasses distasteful, so we took off our wraparound Oakleys when talking to Iraqis. And with varying degrees of success, we directed young marines not to look at Iraqi women and teenage girls.

Most of our efforts were straightforward. We cleaned, painted and picked up trash at schools. Wherever we went, we used "wave tactics" — waving at locals, especially children, and smiling at pedestrians. After capturing $5 million during a raid on suspected Baathists, we donated a large sum to a leading mullah for the needy who were not directly eligible for reconstruction money. It seemed the right thing to do and not "buying the peace." And it worked. The mullah became a grateful and helpful friend of the Marines.

In our efforts to overcome rampant crime and pursue remaining Baathists, we flooded neighborhoods with foot patrols, talked with townsfolk to gain information and laid ambushes in problem areas. We avoided rotating companies so that each company could develop a relationship with a specific village.

When out-of-work Iraqi soldiers began staging demonstrations, we invited their leaders into our compound and listened to their grievances while offering them cold sodas. By treating them as equals, we eased frustrations and countered a descent toward armed confrontation.

None of these techniques were particularly novel to the Marines. And they were practiced by our battalions across south-central Iraq. To be sure, we all benefited from the Shiite majority in the region, most of whom were joyous at the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. But it is undeniably significant that in the succeeding five months of post-conflict presence, not a single marine was killed because of hostile action.

I turned over the Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment last summer and headed back to the United States for a new assignment. When my fellow marines return to Iraq in March, they will pick up where our battalion left off and work once again to win over Iraqi hearts and minds. This philosophy will stand in contrast to the new get-tough strategy adopted by American forces in the Sunni Triangle. That area, north and west of Baghdad, is the scene of the most intense violence against Army soldiers, a dynamic much more volatile than the one we faced in south-central Iraq.

Yet it would be a mistake to think that the lessons we learned can't be applied to cities like Tikrit and villages like Abu Hishma. In the spirit of reconciliation, this may be a good time to hold back the iron hammer and extend our velvet glove.

Devising effective counterinsurgency techniques is a challenge. And based on my own experience — not necessarily the official Marine Corps position — I do believe additional considerations for fighting the insurgency may be needed. Certainly, United States forces need to press their attacks against regime loyalists and foreign fighters.

But for every reported military success there are also reports of Sunni Iraqis who are angered by tactics like knocking down doors of houses and shops, demolishing buildings, flattening fruit groves, firing artillery in civilian neighborhoods and isolating large segments of the population with barbed wire fences. Whatever the short-term tactical success of these techniques, they present several problems in America's long-term effort to win support of the Iraqi people.

First, humiliating the Sunni population will set back efforts to establish a rapport with citizens and bring about civil reforms. Resentment of the United States military presence seems to be on the rise. The continued use of such hard-nosed tactics only risks further erosion of trust.

Second, the "get tough" approach resembles tactics used by Israelis in the occupied territories. Talk of Israelis providing "lessons learned" to American forces plays right into the hands of those spreading fatuous propaganda about United States-Israeli desires to dominate Arab lands. Continued use of this approach is sure to reinforce a negative image in the Muslim world that the United States clearly needs to avoid.

With Saddam Hussein out of the picture and regime change deemed complete, Iraqis may also more fervently question why United States soldiers remain in their country. Heavily armed raids and air strikes used to "send a message" instead promise to further alienate the Sunnis, especially when they result in so-called collateral damage. To a lesser extent, but no less important, the hard-nosed style could also diminish the American public's enthusiasm for the war. The danger of any counterinsurgency operation is that it will create sympathy for the insurgents — or worse, push fence-sitters to the wrong side of the fence.

In light of this, the military should rethink its new strategy. I am not arguing for a "kinder, gentler" solution. I am, though, calling for a return to traditional, integrated methods aimed at maintaining security while genuinely intensifying efforts to improve Iraqis' quality of life. In addition to marines in south-central Iraq, British soldiers around Basra and 101st Airborne Division soldiers in northern Iraq applied this approach with great success. Now is the time to dangle more of the carrot and apply less of the stick in the Sunni region as well.

As a general rule, counterinsurgency operations call for patience and restraint. We need to abandon techniques like surrounding villages with barbed wire and rounding up relatives of guerrillas. In the short term, the challenge will be accepting the increased risk of violence against American soldiers. In the long term, however, the risk will decrease as conditions improve and the insurgent leadership has less with which to incite the Sunni population. We must outlast the insurgents one day, one week, one month at a time.

Throughout Iraq, the United States needs to place a premium on respecting local customs, building relationships among sheiks and mullahs, pouring money into the economy and finding ways to take disgruntled former Iraqi soldiers off the streets. Servicemen and women can be key symbols of American strength and resolve, as well as ambassadors of American goodwill and compassion.

The moment has arrived for United States forces to reconsider the tactical ways and means they are using to remake Iraq. There will be no quick fixes, but by shifting to more of a velvet glove approach, the long hard slog may be a lot less painful.

© Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company


Link Posted: 9/14/2004 4:53:57 PM EST

Originally Posted By DPeacher:

Originally Posted By TeuffelHunden1775:

Originally Posted By DPeacher:

Originally Posted By 6172crew:
Most people thought “if we’d just smash them it would be over,” Hammes said. “That’s just not the way insurgencies work. It’s a political problem.”

Yea , Id be one of those who said that. I just cant understand what these two guys are talking about. Im willing to bet a MArine ass kicking would have taken care of most the problems in that city.

But was does a old SSGT know anyways



Make the TWO old Staff Sergeants.



And a Sergeant! You know, the ones who get things done!



Yeah, I remember who got things done. It was the Lance Corporals!



Man screw that, everyone knows only the lower enlisted do any work.
All the NCO's do is sit around and bullshit.
You wanna get something done, go make a private do it.

Privates lead the way, HOOAH!
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