Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Friday, March 30, 2007

Welcome to COIN

I'll try to keep writing about the winds here in Al-Anbar. I'll go out on a little bit of a limb and say that the insurgency is quickly approaching a tipping point. If things continue as they are right now, our military won't need a surge to chase the terrorists out of Anbar- the citizens will do it for us, which is as it should be. It's beginning to show already: more local tips, more police recruits (far more than anticipated), and sadly- in bigger and more desperate Al-Qaeda attacks.

At this point, a reconciled insurgent is better than a captured one, and a captured one is better than a dead one.

That is a hard fact for the military to accept. We are quickly approaching the point at which more and more soldiers and Marines will be asked to support men who fought with and sometimes killed their brothers-in-arms. That is not an easy thing to do, even in the aftermath of a conventional war, and it is far more difficult when fighting an insurgency. However, it is absolutely necessary. We will be asked to fight the strategy of our enemy rather than his fleeting fighters. We will have to defeat Al-Qaeda's attempts to disrupt and derail the efforts of the population to end the violence. We will have to spend more time away from our big, safe bases, and more time getting to know the local leaders- the leaders that can tell their men to join the Iraqi forces and forsake the insurgency. We will spend more time with their people- the people that have known the insurgents since they were children. The people that form an intelligence net far more effective than ours will ever be, if they trust us enough to share it.

It's a big job, but I think we may have finally learned enough forgotten lessons from places like East Timor, Vietnam, Ireland, Malaysia, and others that it just might work this time.

Color me hopeful.


  1. The New York Times should pick up this post, sure.....

    Thanks TD, stay safe

  2. thanks for posting. Stay safe young man and thank you for your service to yourself, your family and your country. {{{Hugs}}}.

  3. Anonymous30/3/07 10:51

    take care
    good luck
    be safe

    you know lots of thoughts and prayers behind you.

  4. Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 03/30/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  5. Wise words! Thank you, for the post and of course for your service.

    Doug, I think it's pretty outstanding that those at the 'pointy end' are figuring out solutions to problems that the planning end didn't foresee--and I don't think that failure was a result of budget, but like Teflon Don is saying, one of institutional convention. We're in effect asking our shooters to fight in the arena of ideas, and as our author demonstrates, they're rising to the challenge.

    Color me hopeful as well. =)

  6. Anonymous30/3/07 12:02

    More good reporting.

    COIN is a whole different game from maneuver warfare. Your thoughts about it are very illuminating. It's really tough and requires so much headwork. One reason American fighting men are the best, they know how to use their heads.

    Thanks to you and all our warriors. You're doing a great job.

  7. TD. I have said many times to many people, that we cannot simply export our way of government. The people must fight to import freedom. free countries are free because people fought for the freedom and continue to fight to keep it free. It is good that the poeple there are starting to fight for the freedom and peace that they deserve! keep up the good work. stay safe

  8. Anonymous30/3/07 17:48

    I too have hope, namely because of guys like you.

    I supported 3 Marines for the entire year in 2006. 2 were on a firm base and went out to operate and back home each day, and by some stroke of luck had no casualties.

    The other was embedded in a MiTT on the Syrian border. It was an enlightening experience for me. As you can imagine the MiTT had a tough year - much like your team. (Several KIAs and 3 severely wounded) BUT, it was amazing to "hear" about, and “watch” the transformation of the Iraqi troops over the 12 month period. The Iraqis are not perfect – but they went from running from the action in Feb of '06, to running towards the action in June '06. Again the team went from locals not talking to them, to locals telling them where the IEDs were buried each day. It's all in the relationships that this team built over the 12 months. Interestingly enough the team rotated home in February, but is still in contact with one of the Iraqi officers.

    As to why this did not happen sooner. There have been several interesting articles on this topic in the WSJ , which are archived and can be access by a key word search of Iraq or Military Transition Teams. The net out is that there was a schism in the military about which way to go. At first the traditional military philosophy won out and many MiTT members were tagged as “going local”, sadly to the detriment of their careers, when they were really just trying to adjust their training to meet the needs of the Iraqis. This is not a cookie cutter situation – it never was, nor will it be. It requires, very sharp guys who are closest to the “customer”, who can adapt and transform what “corporate” thinks needs to be done, to what really can and needs to be done. This happens all of the time in the private sector, the military is just now catching on.

    Ok, you’ve hooked me as a regular reader – keep up the good work, and take care that you stay close to the edge, but don’t go over it and of course, thanks for all you do.

  9. TD-

    Thanks for the truth about what is happening on the ground in Iraq. I will be posting your blog at:

    Keep these updates coming and watch your back.

  10. Glad to hear the military is starting to understand how this new kind of warfare works. It's been years since Dubya claimed we would be winning hearts and minds, and it's profoundly sad to me that it's taken this long for him and the rest of the top brass to really understand what that means. Good luck, and I'll continue to follow your reports!

  11. TD when you get back to Baker you need to compile this into a book you really do. If Clair Button can get a book called "Cow Patties" published surely we can get this published. This is too good of writing to not. Come back safe.

  12. Anonymous30/3/07 21:50

    It sounds very logical that a reconciled/reformed insurgent is better than a dead one. Because, hopefully, he will work with/for us and convince other insurgents that they are wrong.

    I had the opportunity to talk to a surgeon who was at Abu Ghraib last year. He had to treat & save lives of insurgents who tried to kill our troops. He said that while it was very difficult, treating them was the Christian thing to do, & they knew it was very necessary in order to change hearts and minds...and it did. During recovery, insurgents would call our doctors and nurses 'angels of mercy'. Insurgents would tell our troops that "this is not the jihad I signed up for" (meaning they didn't expect such kind treatment from the 'infidels') And finally, an insurgent who drove a VBIED into the base was badly injured. After 3 mos of treatment, when he could finally talk to them, the troops asked where his family was. He said they were now his family. He begged the troops who saved his life not to return to the US. There are so many more stories like this.

    It seems like it just takes time for the Iraqis to get to know us and learn to trust us. The insurgents need to see and understand that we are not the evil enemy they are brainwashed into believing we are. It isn't easy to 'make friends' with the enemy, but I know all of you have it within you to do it.

    I'm glad to hear the tides are finally changing!

  13. Anonymous4/4/07 14:30

    Well put.

    Has anyone there told you that you need to get to OCS? We need smart officers.....

    Engineers lead the way!