Report from Ramadi
Jim Haldeman forwards a recent e-mail from Colonel John Charlton, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division, describing the current situation in Ramadi, Iraq…
Colonel John Charlton: Security here in Ramadi continues to improve as the Iraqi police and army forces work daily to keep the population safe. When we arrived in February, we were averaging 30 – 35 attacks per day in our area of responsibility. Now our average is one attack per day or less. We had an entire week with no attacks in our area and have a total of over 65 days with no attacks. I attribute this success to our close relationship with the Iraqi security forces and the support those forces receive from the civilian population. The Iraqi police and army forces have uncovered hundreds of munitions caches and get intelligence tips from the local population every day.
Our biggest challenge with the Iraqi police is getting them fully equipped, paid, and consolidated in police stations. The support system that begins with the MOI [Ministry of the Interior], and extends through the provincial police chief, is still a work in progress. As a result, the Iraqi police still rely heavily on coalition logistics and support. We expect the equipment issue to improve soon, and we are working hard to get their logistics and command and control systems in place. One thing that is not lacking is the courage and the dedication of the Iraqi police in al Anbar. For them, this fight is personal. They know that al Qaeda is targeting them, their families and their tribes.
Some of our most recent successes have been in the areas of reconstruction and governance. The city government didn’t exist before April of this year, but has grown steadily over the past few months, and is now providing essential services to the population. In areas that were battlefields only a few months ago, city electrical employees are now repairing transformers and power lines. Sanitation workers are fixing sewer leaks caused by hundreds of buried IED’s [improvised explosive devices]. The Iraqis now have repaired the electrical grid in about 80 percent of the city and about 50 percent of the rubble has been removed. We expect to have all rubble removed in the next 90 – 120 days, which will allow for many parts of the city to start rebuilding
We now have our Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (EPRT) and they are working hard to help build the municipal government in Ramadi. The EPRT is composed of personnel from the U.S. State Department, USAID, and other experts in various areas of government. We have partnered the EPRT with officials from the municipal government in much the same way that we partner Soldiers and Marines with Iraqi police. The EPRT works every day with the city government helping them with budgeting, planning, and delivering services to the public. The EPRT is a critical capability that we never had before, and I’m confident that it is going to make a big difference in building stability here in Ramadi.
We have been working closely with the chief judge of the province to rebuild the judicial system in Ramadi and throughout al Anbar province. Four months ago, there were no attorneys, judges, or investigators because of the threat from al Qaeda. Now that we have greatly increased security, these legal professionals are coming forward, and we are helping them reestablish the rule of law. Investigative judges are reviewing case files for prisoners in Iraqi jails. They have released many of these prisoners because of lack of evidence, but have also prepared over 100 files for prosecution. We established a detectives course in our police training center to help the Iraqi police do better investigations and evidence collection. We expect to have criminal courts beginning here in Ramadi in August—pretty good progress considering there was no rule of law here four months ago.
We are also making good progress on economic development by focusing on low-level economic stimulation. Once we had completed our large-scale offensive operations in February and March, we realized we needed to provide a massive and quick economic stimulus in order to stabilize the communities within the city. Because of the fighting in the city, the economy was in ruins, and it was clear that it would take some time to get businesses back in operation. We started day labor programs throughout the city to help clear trash and rubble, as well as provide an economic shot-in-the-arm to these devastated communities. These day-labor programs were all planned and executed by company commanders, and their effect was dramatic. We have funneled over $5 million in aid to these programs and have employed over 15,000 Iraqis. All this happened in about three months. This decentralized economic development program only used about 10 percent of my reconstruction funds, but has accounted for over 70 percent of new employment in Ramadi. These programs have cleaned neighborhoods, uncovered caches of munitions, and have restored hope and pride to the citizens of Ramadi.
We have joined efforts with organizations like the Iraqi/American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) to help revitalize small business in Ramadi. Company commanders went through every neighborhood and conducted assessments on all small businesses so we could help jump-start the small business grant program. We collected over 500 assessments, which helped the IACC begin its grant operations. This is the same technique we use with all non-military organizations—we use our presence in the city and access to the population to facilitate their operations. Revitalizing small businesses in Ramadi will lead to more stable communities, which helps us maintain overall security in the area.
We have a great relationship with another non-governmental organization called International Relief and Development (IRD). IRD focuses on programs for community stabilization just like we do, and it provides help in ways the military can’t. For example, IRD helped us fund a city-wide soccer league, providing equipment and uniforms to hundreds of young Iraqis. The organization has also helped us form women’s outreach groups that focus on adult literacy, health, and education issues. Forming relationships with NGOs like IRD is essential in a counterinsurgency campaign, and complements our efforts to improve security.
I’ve mentioned several times our focus on stabilizing communities, and I believe this is a fundamental aspect of a successful counterinsurgency campaign. Counterinsurgencies are fought neighborhood by neighborhood with the focus on protecting the population and improving conditions in the community. After clearing an area of terrorists (we do this by conducting large-scale offensive operations), our focus shifts to establishing a permanent security presence with coalition forces and ISF. That is the purpose of the Joint Security Station (JSS). The JSS helps secure and stabilize a community by proving an overt security presence, which establishes a perception of security in the minds of the population. Once they feel safe, they begin to provide intelligence to the police, and security improves steadily. This also helps insulate the community from terrorist attempts to move back into the neighborhood. We then shift our focus on non-lethal efforts to stabilize the community. This is done through day-labor programs, small business development, engagement with local sheikhs and Imams and information operations focused on the community.
Despite all the progress we have made with the Iraqis here in Ramadi, the area remains very dangerous. We recently received intelligence reports that terrorists were attempting to stage attacks from an area south of the city. We increased our offensive operations in that area and made contact with a large group of al Qaeda terrorists that were attempting to infiltrate into Ramadi. There were about 50 well-equipped and well-trained terrorists who were moving toward the city in two large trucks. They all had new equipment, weapons, and explosive belts. Their targets were the tribal leaders in Ramadi (we know this from propaganda videos taken off the terrorists). We attacked these terrorists using ground forces and attack helicopters, resulting in 40 enemy killed and three captured. If this force had made it into the city, it would have been a tremendous victory for al Qaeda. We successfully defeated their attack, but we know they will try again in the future. We continue to receive truck bomb attacks, but have been successful in keeping them out of the city and other populated areas. Al Qaeda has not given up on their desire to retake Ramadi and al Anbar, so we can’t let up in our efforts to stop them. The good news is that the people of al Anbar and Ramadi are united in their stand against al Qaeda.
Rock of the Marne!
John W. Charlton
COL, Infantry Commanding Camp
A few quick follow-ups…
1. Since improving “logistics and command and control systems” seems to be the factor most under our control in helping to establish an effective Iraqi police force, I asked Colonel Haldeman what exactly that means given the context. Colonel Haldeman explained that logistics and command and control means, quite literally, giving Iraqi police commanders basic, reliable, and round-the-clock ability to communicate with their men in the field. He offered this example from his own tour in Fallujah…
We are talking the very, very basics of communication. The main police headquarters was blown up twice, had no computer, and no modes of communication. I was giving the Fallujah Chief of Police, General Salah, money out of my pocket to go to a store and get phone minutes for his cell phone. Citizens were calling me, (I gave out my cell phone number) then I would go through the wire at night, sneak over to Genral Salah’s HQ and tell him what was going on in the city. Police recruits were coming from everywhere throughout Iraq to join the force. They were going through the school, graduating, and going to work in the same clothes that they had with them the first day they joined up. No weapons. The ministry of Interior in Baghdad wasn’t set up yet to pay them, so the young policemen would stay for a few weeks, get frustrated about no pay and never come back. The turnover was brutal and exhausting for General Salah.2. I also asked Colonel Haldeman about a specific point in the report that caught my eye. Many previous analyses of Iraq have cited too-slow establishment of effective Provincial Reconstruction Teams as a serious hinderance to the rebuilding effort. Given this, I asked Colonel Haldeman if he thought Colonel Charlton’s praise for Ramadi’s PRTs was significant…
The lack EPRT’s was the single most frustrating element of our trying to streamline events in Fallujah. And seeing that there are now PRTs should make your ears perk up very quickly as it did mine when I first read the article. First of all NGOs (Non Governement Officials) and state department reps were not coming over because it was just too dangerous. Period. We had ‘ONE’!!!!!! Department of State rep who worked and operated in the al-Aanbar province. Disgusting…. But credit that one for having the cojones to be that one rep. His name is Kael Westin.3. Finally, and maybe most importantly, from this report and others from Iraq, we see unmistakable evidence of the people of al-Anbar trying to build a stable society and a functioning government at the local level, regardless of the political follies at the national level. The worst thing we could do now would be to ignore this and declare that the regular people of Iraq don’t matter because the national governing elite can’t get its act together. That would be a betrayal of both the Iraqi people and our own best traditions. It would also be hypocritical.
But there’s the catch for all the ney sayers who think we are failing over there. They now have NGOs and DOS and EPRTs!!!!!. That tells you that it has become safe enough for non-military people to come to place like Fallujah and Ramadi. BINGO!!!!!