A Day Inside Fallujah

A small scale attack on the Fallujah Government Center; Fallujah Police form the SMG

Fallujah Police truck destroyed by IED on December 7. Click image to view.

FALLUJAH, IRAQ: As the American mission in Iraq is increasingly focusing on transitioning security responsibilities to the Iraqi Security Forces, the American Military and Police Transition Teams are becoming the focal points of Iraq policy. At the Iraqi Government Center in the heart of the city of Fallujah, the Police Transition Team (PTT) of the 3rd Battalion, 14th Marines is working to organize the local police and teach them to operate independently. The Fallujah PTT is commanded by Major Brian Lippo, a Marine Reservist and former Philadelphia policeman who works for the FBI. One of the primary missions of the PTT is to facilitate communications between the Fallujah Police, the Iraqi Army and the Marines in the Joint Command Center.

The Government Center occupies several city blocks, and contains the Fallujah Police headquarters, the Major Crimes police division, the mayor’s office, a company of Iraqi Army accompanied by a Marine Military Transition Team, and Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 24th Marines. The Government Center is largely secured by the Iraqi police, who man the gates and outer security watchtowers.

The city of Fallujah has been locked down since Operation al-Fajr in November of 2004. Residents are required to possess identification badges. The large traffic arteries into the city are controlled by six Entry Control Points (or ECPs), which are manned jointly by the Fallujah Police, Iraqi Army and U.S. Marines. The city is also ringed by outposts manned by Iraqi Army and Marines.

Yet despite the cordon, Fallujah is not completely sealed. Al-Qaeda and insurgents are able to slip through the deserts to the south and west of the city.

Boneyard for destroyed Fallujah Police vehicles. Click image to view.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq is the driving force behind the attacks inside Fallujah, according to military and intelligence officers, as well as the Iraqi police. Al-Qaeda’s primary advantages are leadership and organizational capabilities, and most significantly, cash. With the high levels of unemployment in Anbar province and the abundance of ‘military aged males’ or MAMs, al Qaeda uses abundant cash supplies to fund insurgent attacks against the U.S. military, the Iraqi Army and the local police.

The Iraqi police are a prime target for several reasons. As the police force is made up largely of local Fallujans (over 95% of the force is local), the police possess local knowledge of the city and have their own contacts and intelligence networks. Al-Qaeda has conducted a campaign of intimidation and terror against police and their families. Twenty-two police have been killed in Fallujah since the 3/14 PTT has been in the city, including a respected police captain.

The police are a soft target for al Qaeda. They are the most lightly armed and armored units in the city. While the Marines and Iraqi Army patrol in up-armored humvees with heavy weapons, the police drive white painted unarmored Nissan pickup trucks and carry AK-47s and PKCs. The police have begun a program to add armor plating to the doors, and are set to receive 11 armored humvees in the middle of December.

Violence and attacks are a near-daily occurrence inside Fallujah. Just yesterday, a Fallujah Police patrol was hit with an IED. Marines were patrolling across the river from the Fallujah hospital and came under small arms fire from insurgents. One Marine was killed, and two were wounded. The attackers are believed to have fled to Fallujah Hospital, as the Marines heard a call from a mosque requesting blood donors.

The Marines requested the police follow up and search the hospital. The patrol was dispatched, and was hit almost immediately with a roadside bomb at one of the most dangerous intersections in the city. Ten women and children were killed in the bombing, according to the police. Three policemen were wounded, and the vehicle was devastated. Dozens of police trucks have been taken off the line by roadside attacks over the past several months.

Today, the Government Center was hit by a small insurgent attack. Just about ten minutes after noontime prayers, insurgents in a white sedan attacked the northern watchtower, which is manned by police. The police returned fire, and the insurgents fled. The Marines never fired a shot, and the engagement was over by the time we reached the rooftop. Inside the Joint Coordination Center, the Fallujah Police, Iraqi Army and Marines organized a response, and a police patrol and Marines from Charlie 1/24 left the gates shortly afterwards to pursue the attackers. No police or Marines were injured, and the insurgents escaped.

Fallujah Police training for the Special Misions Unit. Click image to view.

To combat al Qaeda and the insurgency, the Fallujah police are working to build offensive capabilities. One such example is the Special Missions Group, a new, platoon-sized unit of thirty specially selected Fallujah police designated to hunt al Qaeda and insurgents in the city. The Special Missions Group was the vision of a Marine Reserves sergeant in the Police Transition team. The sergeant, who asked not to be identified, is an FBI agent, and has experience with this sort of training.

The Special Missions Group training includes weapons discipline, as the Iraqis are known for firing their weapons liberally when attacked. The Iraqis typically fire their weapons in all direction, in what is known as the “death blossom.” Last week, a policeman was hit in the backside in a death blossom after the Government Center was attacked. The Special Missions Group is also being trained to clear rooms, floor and buildings.

While the Fallujah Police conduct their training, the U.S. and Iraqi Army continue to hunt al Qaeda in the Fallujah region. Yesterday, Iraqi Army Special Forces captured a senior al Qaeda commander believed to be involved in the murder of several police officers and Army personnel, as well as organizing terror cells in Anbar province.

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

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26 Comments

  • Tom says:

    Sounds like the bad guys baited the police by using the Mosque to call for blood donors knowing they would move towards the Fallujah hospital.

  • Fedayeen says:

    Different story than one we get on the nightly news. Tell me again exactly what we are doing there? If it is nation building then aren’t we doing exactly what the administration said we would not do? If not then isn’t it time for the Iraqi citizens to take over? If they actually found WMD or precursor chemicals then why didn’t they trot them out to show on the news? Is it a secret? Finally what exactly are we getting out of this? Oil, or exactly what?

  • Philip Cassini says:

    What we’re getting out of this, you Saddamite sympathizer, is the freedom of 30 million people, and the hope of a better Middle East that is both democratic and liberal. Apparently you’re the type who whines no matter what decision is taken.
    Kudos to the brave Iraqis who are resisting the terrorists, guerrillas and thugs of tyranny.

  • Tom Paine says:

    “Fedayeen” asks:

    “…what exactly are we getting out of this?”

    We are getting a state whose entire resources are not controlled by an Islamo-FASCIST government like Saddam’s was; and are also not controlled by an ISLAMO-fascist government like Amedinejad’s is.

    The phrase “terror-supporting” should explain why that’s a good thing.

  • Chip Anderson says:

    I think that the U.S. policy, if it’s not already so, should be to remain in Iraq as we have with Germany, Korea, et al. We should also let our enemies in the region, such as Iran, know this in no uncertain terms.
    They should also know that there will be severe consequences to any adversarial role they play in the region. The best way out is straight through.
    Chip

  • Rob says:

    nice Report Bill. Very helpful.

  • Rob says:

    It would appear that Fedayeen, and many of his ilk, just don’t understand the long term vision. I don’t suppose we are getting much of anything out of it right now (other than distracting bad guys and killing them over there instead of in LA or Detroit). But the real prize that GWB sees and many seem to miss is that in 20 years the world will be a much safer place. The democracy that we are helping to grow in Iraq will surely flourish and spread. That is a good thing. Freedom is always better than the alternative.

  • Tim Solan says:

    It may seem that actionable intelligence was taken from the al-Qaeda senior commander captured yesterday.
    //www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7895&Itemid=21

  • Mike says:

    The fact that he calls himself fedayeen shows that he’s just a troll. Don’t feed him. He’ll shrivel up and die. Although the day to day events may seem grim, there are signs of hope. The fact that 95% of the police force is local is a great sign, and a big change. That southern approach to the city has always been a problem.

  • Victor T says:

    I recently became a first-time contributor to Bill. I tip my hat to him. Godspeed to him and our troops and those Iraqis who are freedom-loving.

  • Michael says:

    Great detail Bill.
    I continue to wonder why Mosque are allowed to stay open and functional if they cooperate with the enemy. If Imams are allowing terrorist in their buildings, not reporting this to ISF, INF or CF, then a couple of warning should suffice, with a complete lock down of the building.
    Curious what those experienced think who read Bill’s reports.
    Chip, I agree. If we left South Korea, where would it be today? Helping that nation rebuild after a devastating “civil war” there is a thriving Democratic nation, 10th in the world in GDP.
    Our leaders must look at this from a long term view. Working with Iraqis who have a vision of freedom and equality for all their citizens. This is made difficult by Syria and Iran. But to return to status quo where media conglomerates like CNN feed news for review to a Tyrant like Saddam again is not the direction to go in.
    We tried capitulation to thugs. It never works. They keep wanting more power and starting more trouble for the surrounding regions and eventually our own interest are nullified or Americans are brought into harms way.
    Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, other Arab financiers have made this war the most important one – for a reason. They know that a free country in their midst will bring all of their corrupt regimes down. When light flows into these regions, darkness rages and then it flees. But only if we maintain the light. We can’t shine it a few times and then take it away. This would only prove disasterous to those millions who have welcomed freedom.
    I noticed many former and current soldiers posting here. Thanks for your service.
    I am curious what any of you think about terrorist and insurgent friendly Mosque? Are we being to politically correct by allowing them to stay open while they support the enemy? I read MNF every day and it seems daily our soldiers have to tangle with enemy shooting from or running into Mosque.
    They are definitely using them as safe grounds in which our government has made a decision not to tread on. What do you guys think? Should our soldiers be unleashed to be more aggressive, or at least arrest, detain, or shut down some of the Mosque that are repeat offenders?
    Malaki and our Generals must address this issue in my opinion, or they leave a wide open door to the religious zealots that inspire hatred.

  • Bill,
    Many thanks for your courageous presence and reporting (though I know you would never put it quite that way);
    Take care, you’re in our thoughts –
    DA

  • sam says:

    saddam was an evil fascist dictator. But he wasn’t islamo-fascist as the term is commonly used.
    I’ve always agreed with the never openly (politically) discussed idea of using iraq to force a pardigm shift in middle east politics, securing a safer world for america. But, from the beginning, I’ve disagreed with the manner we’ve gone about it. The intentions were grand, but I believe we’ve fumbled the ball…while I can hope that we can recover, I don’t believe it is either likely or possible.
    Rumsfeld held my respect for a long time, but he was the wrong man for this war…it required a large footprint, not the small one he’s always espoused, and it’s really too late to effectively shift gears, as the american populace won’t support it.
    my opinion.
    Do I look like a terrorist sympathizer for that? I earned my stripes, used my M16, and would still be fighting if it was medically possible. If that’s not enough then there really is no hope for further dialogue. Fedayeen asked questions from the viewpoint of one who knows little and desires answers. You attacked him for it. Yes, he obviously leans to the side espousing leaving Iraq, if only for his posting name, but if I only had the information most people were given so would I. Try to inform without assumptions, as this article does, it’s the only way we’ll ever come back together as a country.

  • Operation al-Fajr in November, 2004 was explicitly supposed to “break the back of the insurgency.” Destroy Fallujah, they said, and the insurgency would be finished.
    Who should we hold responsible for the failure of al-Fajr to end the insurgency?
    Why should we trust anyone telling us now that al-Qaeda is running the show in Fallujah?

  • Fred Beloit says:

    Great reporting, Bill, of a kind we seldom see. One thing you’vr writen, and this is not a criticism of you, troubles me. You wrote: “One of the primary missions of the Marine PTT (Police Transition Team) is to facilitate communications between the Fallujah Police, the Iraqi Army and the Marines in the Joint Command Center.” Whenever I read the term “facilitate” or about someone who is going to “address” an “issue” my antennae go up. These are very soft terms in the language of Bureaucratish. They are like the Southern term “fixin to”. Fixin to go fishing can be anything from reading an article about fishing to stepping inro a boat. Does this mission mean they are laying phone line, teaching the use of signal flags, writing a communications manual or what? And the Marines patrolling across the river, were they part of the PTT or simply an infantry unit, and was the patrol a recon or combat patrol? I wasn’t a Marine, but the overall mission of Army infantry is basically to close with and destroy the enamy and/or their will to resist. I can’t help but believe the Marine overall mission is close to identical. A recon patrol’s specific mission is to gather information about the enemy and generally requires an effort to avoid a fire fight. Maybe I’m asking for too much nitty gritty, but I’m trying to understand what is really happening at the small-unit level over there, and yours is the first report I’ve read that might make that possible. Fine report. I’m hoping for more of the same.

  • Mike E says:

    {{Destroy Fallujah, they said, and the insurgency would be finished.
    Who should we hold responsible for the failure of al-Fajr to end the insurgency?
    }}
    Al Fajir removed the only no go safe haven for insurgents in Iraq. It clearly did break the back of the insurgency in Eastern al Anbar.

  • Fedayeen says:

    Thanks for the answers, but the idea is what exactly our presence in Iraq is accomplishing? We did get rid of Saddam, but in the action managed to kill a lot of innocent people, or is that not correct?
    Plus the military outlook is one that if it is a fight we need to win it to establish some form of control over these people and indoctrinate them with western values? If this is true, didn’t this start out with a necessity of stopping an evil dictator from devastating america and the world with WMD. Or is the liberation from an oppresive regime the goal? Or is it the privatization of the oil resources with the large petroleum multi nationals controlling those resources the goal? Or is it an ever evolving morphing goal that never gets truly articulated nor achieved?
    Seems to me that some that so loudly defend the US action in Iraq need to read some of the books out there now. What we are accomplishing in Iraq is an invasion of a sovereign nation for the purpose of stealing their resource. The cover of the supposed civil actions that are taken by the soldiers cannot cover up the fact that Iraq has been devastated by this process and will not be put back together by humpty dumbty or this current administration. So the daily actions of patrolling and “looking for the bad guys” and just collaterally damaging whole families out of existence is a pretty sad way to accomplish anything.
    Before any of you gung ho military types get your wind up, it seems that taking a step back from the mess and actually asking yourself some questions about your involvment in this mess would be an eye opening experience.
    War is hell for the soldiers, but war is a racket also as stated by the Marine Corps commandant Smedely Butler. This was before any of the big wars, not to mention the slew of small ones that always seem to get fought by the young, and started by the old. Just makes you think. When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. When all you use is military might to solve problems everything looks like a war.

  • Mike E says:

    {{Plus the military outlook is one that if it is a fight we need to win it to establish some form of control over these people and indoctrinate them with western values? }}
    Since they elected their own leaders in a democratic election where the turnout was about 70% your comment could not be more wrong.

  • Gaffer says:

    Just found this blog Bill and I am impressed. Great reporting.
    We have two wars going right now. The one in Iraq and the one in the media. And we are losing the one in the media. I get 90% of my news now from blog sites like this rather than the MSM.
    I have backed the war in iraq since it began and still do. I see one problem with Bushes over all plan. Democracy and islam cannot coexist. A democracy based on islamic law is not a democracy. So it will eventually fail.
    fedayeen’s second post shows he’s a troll not just someone that’s ignorant about history or events.

  • Fedayeen says:

    In other words if you comment here and ask questions that are not in lock step with the premise that we are the ultimate arbiter in world affairs then you are consigned to trolldom. If that is the premise then I propose another question. Why isn’t there more progress in Iraq? After all of this time why isn’t there more tangible progress in Iraq? Why is the military patrolling and then having engagement, retiring to their base camp, then doing it all over again the next day. Saying that they are bringing peace to this country is a bit absurd. The soldiers are just targets there, not a peace keeping force, one of the commentators mentioned that military is supposed to Find, Fight, FIx the enemy and then they move on.
    So with that in mind, these small fire bases are just irritants to the population. You will never achieve peace while occupying this country. Not going to happen. As far as bringing home the troops now. My question is why not? We went there willy nilly with a commander in chief that knows nothing of conflict either from personal experience or reading about it, so how do we figure that he can conceive of a tactic that will succeed. This blog is about the soldiers, how about being for getting them out. Unless open ended rotations with the highest number of Iraq duty wins a prize. Take a look at some of these guys that are coming home they aren’t in the best shape, and all of this Rah Rah, macho BS is not going to cut it down the road. There will be long nights where there is just them and their memories. Not going to be pretty, but hey if you guys want your blog to keep on just reinforcing your own biased viewpoints, then I am out of here. SUpport your troops, send them back, yeah that’s the ticket. One of these days we might win, I believe that, really I do. Later

  • eLarson says:

    What we are accomplishing in Iraq is an invasion of a sovereign nation for the purpose of stealing their resource.
    Man, that’s a stale fart of a talking point, isn’t it?
    If we wanted their oil, we’d have had it by now, don’t you think? We wouldn’t have had to fool with any of the rest of the country, either.
    As for the invasion of a sovereign nation, would it be best to re-install Saddam Hussein, in your view?

  • edward a. says:

    Thanks for the great interesting post about the Fallujah Police. The stale greenzone balcony monkeys are so boring, and they seldom report anything specific like this.

  • Connie says:

    Thanks, Bill. Not many willing to hang out in that part of Iraq to report on what is happening. It gives me a bit of insight on what my 1/24 Charlie Marine is facing.

  • Iraq Report, 11 Dec/06

    DEC 11/06 TOPICS INCL: Maliki government may fall; Talabani blasts ISG; report from Fallujah; U.S. airstrike raises hackles; Black Watch snags terrorist; military has done what it can; refugee problem grows; Japan looks to invest; 268 new companies in …

  • Jason K says:

    Well Done Bill – I’m an Aussie the debate here rages on. It’s wonderful to hear your reporting. I’m truly sick of the typical media frame of reference being each terrible tragedy or act of violence without the connect to the macro problem that we need to confront and defeat. The western worlds collective attention span and timeframe is just too short, there is no real understanding of the implication of not succeeding. The bad guys have a very long term grand plan and we play into their hands if most people can’t see, imagine or envision it. I’m sure each guy on the ground sees this too.
    Cheers

  • acplsaunt says:

    Thank you for the hard work you are doing. My nephew is serving in 1/24th Charlie Company. The information you are providing is much appreciated.

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