Controlling Ramadi

The situation in Ramadi is still unclear. Coalition and media reports are sparse on the subject of Ramdi, but it does appear operations are occurring, accompanied by an up tick in violence. Last week, we discussed an operation in the northeast of the city, where Marines airlifted equipment into a stadium and fighting soon broke out in the industrial district directly north. In the past few days, six Marines have been killed in combat. All six were killed “conducting combat operations” .

Matthew D. LaPlante, a reporter with the Salt Lake Tribune who is embedding with Utah National Guard units stationed in Iraq, describes Ramadi as a chaotic city. According to Mr. LaPlante, Marines, along with an Iraqi police force are stationed in the city, a city council has been established, tribal leaders meet with councilmen and Coalition commanders on a weekly basis, reconstruction projects are carried out and police stations are being rebuilt. But the police are often confined to their stations, the majority of the local policing is done by Marines or local tribal units, and recruiting for the Iraqi Army in Anbar has fell far short of its goals.

The question of who is exactly is in control in Ramadi is raised by Mr. LaPlante. Ma’amoun al-Awani, the governor of Anbar province states the police do not have the freedom to act in the city. Col. John Gronski, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, is emphatic that the Coalition controls the city; “We are in control  I can have any piece of land in this city, any time I want.” Based on the reports, perhaps it is fair to say the city is not secure but the balance of power is shifting to the Coalition in Ramadi. The Marine’s ability to project power within the city, and the establishment of a police force, a city council and other government institutions indicates a measure of control. Iraqi Army and police battalions are training to take responsibility within the city. The city has yet to meet its full security potential.

But it is clear the city not fully secured. Local groups of insurgents are operating in the city, intimidating neighborhoods at times, employing IEDs, setting up ambushes and sniping at Marine and Iraqi police forces. This does not constitute control of the city. Al Qaeda does not have a secure foothold in Ramadi; this is the city where al Qaeda was attacked by the predominantly Sunni Dulaimi tribe when they threatened to murder Shiites who did not leave the city. The organization is stalked by Coalition forces, as the recent arrests of four key members of the Nu’man Brigade, including the leader, demonstrates. Al Qaeda and the insurgency certainly are not in control of Ramadi.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • desert rat says:

    This is a better explanation than yesterday’s.
    While the Marines control where ever they are, they don’t where they are not. Not in control but not besieged, either.
    That must be what the Iraqi Defense Minister meant. According to his previous statements, post Tal Afar, the Ramadi battle is scheduled to coincide with the Referendum on October 15.
    The Iraqi Cavalry is coming. What a PR gain for the ISF, to come to the rescue of the US Marines.
    The spin’s the thing in a PR war.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Top U.S. General Says Number of Capable Iraqi Battalions Drops to One
    WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of Iraqi battalions capable of combat without U.S. support has dropped from three to one, the top American commander in Iraq told Congress Thursday, prompting Republicans to question whether U.S. troops will be able to withdraw next year.
    Gen. George Casey, softening his previous comments that a “fairly substantial” pull out could begin next spring and summer, told lawmakers that troops could begin coming home from Iraq next year depending on conditions during and after the upcoming elections there.
    In June, the Pentagon told lawmakers that three Iraqi battalions were fully trained, equipped and capable of operating independently. On Thursday, Casey said only one battalion is ready.
    “It doesn’t feel like progress,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., questioned why the generals are discussing troop withdrawals when it’s clear Iraqi security forces aren’t ready.
    “You’re taking a very big gamble here. I hope you’re correct. I don’t see the indicators yet that we are ready to plan or begin troop withdrawals given the overall security situation. And that just isn’t my opinion alone,” he said.
    I am hearing alot of very negative things coming out of the media right now about Iraqi security forces.
    Global Security has a pretty negative article showing how Iraqi forces have risen and fell on a number of occasions.

  • desert rat says:

    The MSM will portray the ISF in a poor light, when ever they can. As they are US exit policy, they will also be portrayed poorly, as proof of Policy failure.
    Look at Tal Afar, the ISF performed well. The coming action in Ramadi and Quim will showcase their abilities, again.
    The performance of troops, in any force, is dependent upon Leadership. Raw numbers hardly ever tell the entire tale. If greater numbers were all that mattered, Alexander would have never been Great.

  • cjr says:

    I think the linked Salt Lake Tribune article is quite old. In the article, 1MEF commander was quoted, but the 1MEF left Iraq last March. 2MEF is now in charge. It also says there are

  • cjr says:

    I think the linked Salt Lake Tribune article is quite old. In the article, 1MEF commander was quoted, but the 1MEF left Iraq last March. 2MEF is now in charge. It also says there are less than 2000 iraq troops in Anbar. That is no longer true. From a press briefing on 8/4 with (cant remember who), there are 12,000 troops in 13 battalion operating in Anbar.
    My guess is that the article is 6-7 months old.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Here is the link to the Salt Lake Tribune main page (I linked to the print page, they tend to stay around longer):
    09/29/2005 01:45:41 AM
    My guess is the reference to the 1 MEF is an error.
    I agree the number of Iraqi troops in Anbar mentioned is innacurate. I noted it when I read it but chose not to address in this post. I would have had to shoehorn that in, it just didn’t fit with the point I was trying to make in this post. Plus, I could spend all day just debunking stories, which becomes tedious after a while. Comments are good for that.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “Global Security has a pretty negative article showing how Iraqi forces have risen and fell on a number of occasions.”
    There have been changes in the reporting. The biggest change was dropping out from the total numbers of forces those that had not been trained.
    The other big change was dropping the “Facility Protection Service” people from the reporting altogether.
    Those two things resulted in a reduction of 100,000 in the “gross” number.
    On the point of the capability of Iraqi Battalions, the difference between a Level 1 capability and a Level 2 capability is the proficiency of the Headquarters Company.
    If more than 10% of your equipment is broken because of a lack of spare parts or mechanics, a battalion can quickly go from a level 1 to a level 2. IED’s and Sand tend to create a maintenance nightmare.

  • cjr says:

    #2 Justin Capone
    The ups and downs of the ISF as described by Global Security is compete BS. I have been debunking is lie on various forums for almost a year, but its keeps reappearing.
    For example, the apparent number of ISF troops dropped in Oct2004. This occured because of a definition change. Before 2004, the number plotted was “number of troops on hand, trained or not”. After Oct2004 the number plotted is “number of trained troops only”. In reality, the number of ISF troops has been STEADILY raising at the rate of ~9000/ month since July2004. I have a excel graph of this based on the weekly reports from MNF and can provide it to anyone who wants it.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Yes, I would like to see your graph cjr.

  • desert rat says:

    According to the Iraqi President, Mr. Chilabi has been put in charge of the Facility Protection Service recently, and their performance has markedly improved, with oil deliveries to export facilities at the highest levels yet. Incidents of disruption to the infrastructure, down.
    Hard to tell, for sure, from here.

  • liberalhawk says:

    so was this a response to the post on Belgravia Dispatch? Have you noticed my comments there?

  • Justin Capone says:

    British hand over control of Basra
    British forces have handed over their main base in the city of Basra to the Iraqi military to allow it to take over the main security duties there.
    The handover by the British took place a week after riots broke out in the city – Iraq’s second largest – after troops stormed a jail on September 19 where they believed two British soldiers had been taken after being arrested by Iraqi police. The raid sharply increased tensions between the British forces and Iraqis in the city.
    It was the third southern city to be handed over to Iraqi forces in the space of a month following the US transfer of security control in the cities of Karbala and Najaf.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I had a private email conversation with Greg Djerjian, as open blog-warfare does not interest me. The last set of comments I read were from Dan Darling this morning, I did not read yours until you mentioned it. It does not surprise me you and some others came to a similar issue of what entails ‘control’.
    This isn’t a direct reply to Greg’s post. The issue of control is an issue I have discussed here concerning Qaim, Haditha and other spots.
    I recently posted on Ramadi (September 23, follow the 1st link) and would have written this with or without Greg’s post on the subject. I have been following the situation in Ramadi as closely as I can with the limited amount of news. (Marlin can vouch for this, he assists me in research and I have asked him to keep a close eye on Ramadi). I discovered the Salt Lake Tribune article just prior to seeing Greg’s post.
    Hope that answers your questions. Good to hear from you again, its been a while.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Let me clarify by saying that Greg’s post no doubt brought the issue of control to the forefront, but this is not a new issue for me. I would have addressed the statements of Gov. al-Awani and Col. Gronski had Greg posted or not.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    From IIMEF Press briefing august 7th –
    “GEN. ALSTON: … There are roughly 12,000 Iraqi security forces deployed to Al Anbar province right now…”

  • cjr says:

    Justin Capone #9
    Hum. I dont know how to post an excel spreadsheet.
    If you post an e-mail address and I will forward it.
    I sent Bill a copy. I really think he should write something about it because the trend is quite remarkable…..

  • Ike says:

    Let the media downplay the Iraqi Security Forces. The lower their expectations, the more surprised they will be when their forces are successful and that might lead to more play in the media.

  • Justin Capone says:

    [email protected]
    my email

  • Ya Allah!
    Ammar, Hamza, and Numar look like they could have been in one of my classes! They look young, only Jabbar looks like he has any age. Perhaps Ammar would have been one of my older students.
    Wow, they are really deep into their bench.

  • Marlin says:

    liberalhawk & Bill –
    Sorry, I’ve been out of pocket late this afternoon and evening. I can definitely say that Bill and I were looking high and low for articles on Ramadi and Qaim the last few days, but to no avail. The Salt Lake Tribune article was the first substantive one to appear in almost a week.

  • Mixed Humor says:

    I’ve been tracking the number of Iraqi security forces through several sources (ie. Brookings Institute, MNF-Iraq, The “Advisor”, etc) and have shown a consistent rise in the total numbers.
    Just yesterday, Army Major General Rick Lynch put the figures at 195,000. I’ve got a graph plotted of the progress as I’ve tracked it over the last 14 months.

  • Justin B says:

    Sorry to come late to this party…=)

    I have a tough time with the idea of “controlling” a city or urban area. Our troops and Iraqi security forces would have to remain in large numbers to “control” an area, and doing so puts a gigantic target on our service men and women and the ISF.

    We have complete freedom of movement, can conduct operations anywhere within almost all areas of Iraq, and the ISF is gradually taking over control of the day to day policing of Southern Iraq.

    War is not about taking and holding territory as it was in WWII or Korea. We have the capability to take and hold any territory we want, and have demonstrated that repeatedly. What we do not have the ability to do is provide total security to every Iraqi and provide the police forces to control all areas at once. Many times this is the success criteria that the Democrats have wanted, but that would require as many as 3-4 times the troop numbers we have. We went into this war with the objective being to establish an Iraqi force that could provide the police functions and ensure a Democracy. It is very dangerous for us to even attempt to “take control” because it sets the ISF up for failure as we transition “control” into their hands.

  • Mixed Humor says:

    By the way, thanks for the informative update Bill.

  • Mixed Humor says:

    Also of note was the recent transfer of power in Najaf and Karbala. There are as many as 9 other cities in Shi’ite/Kurd territory that are slated for transfer in the near future. One would think this would free up more resources to direct at the Euphrates valley, greater Baghdad and north up the Tigris.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “Many times this is the success criteria that the Democrats have wanted, but that would require as many as 3-4 times the troop numbers we have.”
    Yes, it is a question of whether the US wants to become and “Imperial Power” or just lend a helping hand.
    With 540,000 troops, we could zero out the violence, and 50 years from now, we would still be administering Iraq.
    Sometimes, one needs to allow folks to stumble.
    But then, the Utopian Marxist view is that the government should not allow people to stumble.

  • JarheadDad says:

    All this is way above my little pea brain since I can’t figure out how a battalion or two equals even 165,000. heh! And this whole time I was picturing brigades and divisions in my mind’s eye but what do I know? Obviously an AP/Reuters/Iraqi battalion is a massive thing to behold! 😮
    As far as battalions go I can think of three right now that can and do walk the walk. 1-4-1 comes to mind and that’s not mentioning any Iraqi special forces. Just your basic run of the mill good time Charlie fighting battalion. But then I’m biased! 😉
    A young Jarhead is doing a real good job on his blog if you care to take a gander. Goes by the handle of USMC: Just saying! 🙂
    You’re spot on Bill. Good stuff!

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    OT –
    In other news via
    Two choice Rumsfeld quotes –
    “No country in that part(Middle East) of the world has a ‘level 1’ military”
    “In fact, many of the countries in NATO don’t have a level 1 military”
    via the Pentagon Channel, Gen Lynch
    “The number of effective attacks has been fairly constant, 80% are ineffective”
    “Of the 88 attacks yesterday, 30 were in AlAnbar, 25 in Salahadin/Diyala(combined) and 21 in Baghdad”

  • sam collins says:

    I’m afraid you’re ignoring some of the basics of guerilla warfare. We may dominate the streets when we are there, we may even reduce the attacks on us. But the local cops in many a city also sominate the streets, they are rarely attacked. But gangs rule many projects, they are the shadow government.
    The legitimacy of the legitimate government is undermined as it’s demonstrated they can not rule. The fanatics we are dealing with are willing to engage in their “struggle” for years or decades just like the radicals among the Palestinians.
    We are less likely to make this committment, especially as society disintegrates around us. By putting things in the context of the US/insurgent direct fights, you put an issue which is perhaps number 3 or 4 on the list of importance as the only one.
    Yes within that context we win and can continue to win, but the thing is that 2 years ago many areas of Iraq could safely be visited by unarmed westerners.

  • Jamison1 says:

    “Yes within that context we win and can continue to win, but the thing is that 2 years ago many areas of Iraq could safely be visited by unarmed westerners. ”
    Wait a minute, this is an issue that is #3 or #4, not #1. Our highest priorities has never been to make Iraq safe for unarmed westerners.
    I think you need to go back to what the conditions of success are.

  • gj says:

    With 540,000 troops, we could zero out the violence, and 50 years from now, we would still be administering Iraq.
    Sometimes, one needs to allow folks to stumble.
    This is a very well put point. I’ve never believed more troops would be the answer. As Bill has stated, actionable intelligence, is the key. Iraq being an Arab country requires different measures. When the media brings up all the violence they don’t realize that this is a “Way of Life” in those countries. That’s why so many of them have dictators. Once they are given to prosperity I suspect that will be the beginning for them. Remember binLaden has said we value life whereas he values death. It’s a mindset that will take time to overcome.

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  • liberalhawk says:

    I dont think we need to have control everywhere to show progress. If insurgents still controlled parts of Ramadi, and other towns in Anbar, but Baghdad was essentially secure, etc that would be a big gain.
    But we still have largely the same security situation in Baghdad and the Tigris valley we’ve had since February (when the tactical gains from the recapture of Fallujah came to fruition). In that context, the establishment of some degree of security in the Anbar towns is one of the few tangible gains (apart from the debated improvements to Iraqi forces) Therefore Bills post IS quite valuable and interesting, and critiques are also relevant.
    And note the question in debate is NOT whether to put 540,000 troops in, so much as whether it will be safe to pull out 20,000 or so in spring of 2006.

  • Kenneth says:

    From what I have read, the real limit on the build-up of the Iraqi army is the training of NCO’s. There are plenty young recruits for privates available, & enough older officers around (non-Baathists one hopes), but the Iraqi military tradition never emphasised the importance of corporals, sergents & lieutenants. These take time to develop & train, and nothing trains like experience. It will take time.

  • Jamison1 says:

    The whole concept of NCOs is a novel one for the Arab world. Most of their armies really don’t have them.

  • steveH says:

    Do they tend to lack a real NCO core because they adopted the worst bits of Soviet doctrine?


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