In response to my post yesterday concerning the present participation of Sunni Arab tribes in fighting Al-Qa’ida in Iraq, I received the message below from a retired senior Army intelligence officer who served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. This message recounts the failure of the CPA and Joint Task Force-7 (Sanchez) to take advantage of the willingness of the same tribes to fight AQII then. This officer was a personal participant in the effort to bring the tribes into the fight at that time.
Take note of the reference to the attitude in the CPA at that time to the effect that the "new Iraq" would not want to deal with tribes. This is yet another instance of the Utopian nonsense that has shaped American policy in Iraq during the Bush ’43 administration. The blue words are mine, added for clarity. pl
Super comments about the Anbar tribes. Maybe the Americans working with the tribes today, if they are, appreciate the qualities of the Bedouins. In the event anyone is interested, unfortunately, here’s what happened in DEC 2003 to mid Jan 2004:
With help of an Arab American businessman and translator working at CPA, accumulated 19 Anbar sheiks who were willing to commit their tribes to fighting AQ. They were going to disarm their folks, and with our authorization and assistance (AK-47’s, some money, some vehicles, and a recognition of them – a "Patch" or something), they were going to boot foreigners out, and secure their areas. They would recognize the police, should any be out there. They were going to recognize whatever politicians were in the province. The only thing we offered in addition to getting the funding and equipment was that we had business lined up to come in once they were secure. No kidding, the Arab American had businesses lined up. The money provided by us would allow the tribal chief to start generating economy. Each of the 19 tribal chiefs would get equivalent of $200 per man monthly, starting off with 50 men. Our tribal Arab American businessman had a handshake with all 19 sheiks on objectives and who would do what. No city sheiks, or what the Iraqis referred to as "the false sheiks."
The concept was that once the 19 tribes got going, more would join in. Once Anbar in progress, would move south of Baghdad, then north.
Grand total for what it would have cost from Jan – Jun 04 was $3 million. No bribes – no coercion — only operating costs.
they would have provided weekly progress reports. They were motivated. They knew if they didn’t perform, they wouldn’t get the income for their people. Heck, we even developed metrics for what would constitute progress (for CJTF (Sanchez)and CPA (Bremer) consumption).
Spent 2 weeks doing circular briefings at CPA, driving the IED/sniper alley between CPA and Victory daily. First go round of the concept to one of Bremer’s deputy ambassadors sent us back with the instructions that every DIV had to concur. OK — rapid staff work thru CJTF-7 put this out to the field. Multi-page paper and brief slides. Brief slides also showed the areas in Anbar the tribes would cover. Made clear to the units what this helped: areas of roads they would secure and areas that needed to be IPB (intelligence analysis) by us and then covered down on for us to detect and act against enemies.
Got all the "concurs" back finally. 82nd was out in Anbar at the time. they didn’t non-concur either with our lead in assessment that Anbar was broiling and AQ threat had to be stopped immediately. AQ was using the area between Anbar and Mosul as a peninsula — freedom of movement.
Well, then the circus began. Multiple rounds of CPA briefs. Finally, all the pillar heads in the room, along with CIA, British intel, and some military. Oil guys were worried that we intended to take over their security. Went back over the concept, said these guys were not replacing infrastructure security – they were going to rid their areas of AQ, keep the MSRs (main supply routes) clear, and basically, make it a blood feud if anyone committed an act of violence in their area.
The last two holdouts, not pillar heads — ambassador types and 1 military. Comments were:
(Sanchez’s POLAD) – "We don’t want to recognize tribes in the new Iraq. The city folk want modern life – not tribes" Same echo’ed by one of her diplomat buddies.
(Military) How can you guarantee that these sheiks won’t then oppose the political electees?
Outcome: majority in favor. Need to present it to Bremer.
Went thru Amb Jones (I believe my memory serves me right here) and the newly appointed "Community Outreach office head — amb guy named Schlecker (had been in Egypt and a few other places. They said " we need to see an outline of how we would control this — what support architecture do we need?
OK — went back and drew them a picture of an office with about 10 folks, including budgetary oversight.
Back in: answer was: we don’t have $3 million. They had billions per supplemental but said they didn’t have money – go get it from Sanchez. I argued that this was their program. Nope – they refused to touch it.
Here’s what they were doing: they set up a series of town hall meetings under Schlecker with the city sheiks. Then they wanted to build some community centers out in the provinces.
Went to see the British general who was at CPA — deputy CDR for Sanchez. Briefed him. Came back after whatever he did to get with Sanchez – answer was "you aren’t going tog et support for this initiative. Drop it."
So, we had to go thru Anbar in APR 04, then in fall of ’04, and another couple of years of AQ in Anbar to get back to where we thought we should have been in Jan ’04.
I hope the guys there really appreciate those tribes. They knew It was going to be extremely dangerous back in ’03. They are putting their lives on the line. With or without our support, they wanted to do this — they did not want AQ in there screwing up their areas and their lives.