Sunday, December 02, 2007

Iraq: A Colonel's View

Fire of Liberty

Here's a good column by Col. Ralph Peters(Ret. Army) in which the former Colonel has Q&A with Lt. Col. Jim Crider of the 1st Squadron of the 4th Infantry and points out how our troops are making great strides in defeating the insurgency in Baghdad. Unlike the speculating that we find with the talking heads of the MSM, Peters provides us with a no-nonsense interview with a Colonel who is on the ground and is actually implementing General Patraeus' counterinsurgency plan in Iraq. If you want an informative pieces on how our soldiers are effectively taking down Al Qaeda and helping the people of Iraq bring their nation out of near chaos, then I suggest you read this column. Here's a look:

Q: What are the keys to working with Iraqis?

A: The key is to focus on building a relationship. Our squadron didn't hold every Iraqi responsible if a roadside bomb went off. We didn't wait for good behavior before helping with essential services - we just did it and positive behavior followed.

Second, we kept our promises. If we said it was going to happen, it did. Third, our actions were always justified and proportional. If we detained someone, he was bad - and the people knew it.

Q: You've gotten to know our enemies pretty well - what are their strengths and weaknesses?

A: Initially, the enemy's greatest strength was the ability to hide in plain sight - by co-opting or intimidating the people. We turned the tables. People in our area are now pointing out insurgents who did their deeds one or two years ago. They can hide from us, but not from their neighbors.

The enemy's greatest remaining strength is the central government's slow pace, measured against the impending US troop draw-down. If the people get discouraged, they'll turn elsewhere.

Q: This has been a learn-as-you-go fight. Can you identify three key counterinsurgency decisions you and your subordinates made this past year?

A: We've been on the ground 24/7 in the neighborhoods, not just holed up in an outpost. We also have an ongoing operation, Close Encounters, in which platoon leaders and NCOs literally go into living rooms and kitchens to sit down with people and get to know them, house by house. We learned about their concerns and broke down misconceptions about American soldiers. We not only found people who were willing to talk about the insurgents in their neighborhood, we also found doctors, businessmen and others with the skills essential to rebuild the area.

We aggressively emplaced walls to restrict the insurgents' ability to move, while providing physical protection to vulnerable people on the outskirts of dangerous areas.

If you'll allow me a fourth - we handed out small business grants. This was huge. It quickly produced tangible results. People here believe what they see. If they see businesses open, full streets and US soldiers on patrol, then it must be normal and safe.

Sorry - there's a fifth, as well: We embraced the Sunni turn against the insurgents.

Here's wishing Lt. Col. Crider and his men great success and a safe journey home. Hopefully we'll see more pieces like this in the near future.

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