Small Wars Journal

Spilling Soup on Myself in Al Anbar

Fri, 01/26/2007 - 1:26am
I thought I understood something about counterinsurgency until I started doing it. In this interview conducted by the Army's Combat Studies Institute, I discuss what I learned the first time I practiced counterinsurgency, in Al Anbar province from 2003-2004. An excerpt follows:

The key to success in a counterinsurgency environment is not to create more

insurgents than you capture or kill. A stray tank round that kills a family could create dozens of insurgents for a generation. Thus, it is essential to use force as carefully and with as much discrimination as is possible. This is especially important at situations like checkpoints when soldiers must be given the non-lethal tools to protect themselves from possible car bombers without relying upon deadly force. Always consider the long-term effects of operations in a counterinsurgency environment. Killing an insurgent today may be satisfying, but if in doing so you convince all the members of his clan to fight you to the death, you've actually taken three steps backwards.

I'd be happy to discuss the interview, the new Army/Marine Corps "Counterinsurgency" Field Manual, or other topics of interest via this blog when my day job commanding the 1st Battalion 34th Armor allows. Duty First!



Mon, 11/21/2022 - 8:54am

In the Iraqi city of Al Anbar, an anonymous group of people have organized a spontaneous and unprecedented event. They use social media to organize daily activities in order to maximize awareness of the growing humanitarian crisis. how to gain more followers project has reached 1 million followers on Facebook, more than 4 million followers on Twitter and more than 5 million views on their YouTube channel.


Wed, 10/19/2022 - 11:45pm

On Tuesday, June 19th, around midnight, a meteorite hit the town of Abraq city in Al Anbar province in Iraq. The police and army declared that only 30 people were injured, out of which 12 persons were attacked by fire from the explosion, and others suffered from huff post shock and stress. Everyone was waiting for them at the local hospital to see their own wounds because everyone saw what happened. As you can see in this video clip we put on Facebook (spilled... soup)...

Mike Sullivan (not verified)

Tue, 02/06/2007 - 12:38pm

I was recently out at Fort Riley working with your OC-Ts conducting advisor training. Can you give me some feedback on how you see integrating our current advisory effort (MiTTs, PTTs, NPTTs) etc into the current COIN effort? My concern is we are lacking in our unit of effort and advancing along two almost seperate tracks. The first involved our continued attempts to develop an effective COIN strategy, both from a US perspective and then an Iraqi effort. The second, focuses on our advisory efforts with Iraqi security forces. How do you see the two efforts combining to work towards a common goal? Thanks and duty first sir!

stan reber (not verified)

Fri, 01/26/2007 - 6:17pm

From a retired Army Senior NCO's perspective:
A very interesting interview filled with a wealth of information for anybody that would later have to fill your shoes.

By December, we were thinking hard about how, where and to whom to allocate CERP funds to rebuild schools, create health clinics and kick start the local economy. Our civil affairs team helped manage that process, but we really didnt have the deep understanding of the local economy or full knowledge of tribal affiliations and contractor management skills to be as effective as we could have been. This is an area where State Department augmentation down to the battalion staff level would be immensely useful, although State isnt manned to support such a requirement at present. Unquote.

I relate especially well to your comments regarding the use of CERP and the unfortunate inability to fully employ it without sufficient "outside the batallion" civilian assistance. Typically, the embassy's various elelments would have made your life a little easier, but this also comes with a price tag, as my former Colonel told me, pick-up basketball teams have some weeding out to do and rarely does anyone give you the best of their staff, you have to steal it, and that's where a good NCO takes over

The embassy's other-than-State assets in most cases should have tons of material and a little experience with the host country's customs, affiliations, etc.
They also should have been there for contractual support, the GSO is indeed a defacto Contracting Officer, and in addition to using your MIRPs and funds cites, can even pay in cash.
Finally, most embassies routinely deal with translators and translation support. They are however in most cases local hires. My 8 consecutive overseas tours (6 in the embassy world) taught me to be suspicious about local translators. The context of most conversations is twisted to meet and greet the local climate, and may not always come out the way in which it was originally conveyed.

Godspeed Colonel !

Steve (not verified)

Fri, 01/26/2007 - 1:03pm

Good luck with 1/34 Armor! Also welcome to the Small Wars Journal community. We're happy to have you on board!