ON Point in Anbar Province: The Tide Turns in Ramadi (Part 1 of 2)
05-03-2007, 10:35 AM • by ON Point

 

Tonight, the lights are back on in Ramadi.

 

One year ago, in a report that received national attention, the Administration, Pentagon, and Coalition General Staff had unofficially declared Al Anbar Province and Ramadi to be “lost.” Incidents in Ramadi, Fallujah, and Al-Qaim were measured in how many per hour.  Stories of fighting in Ramadi’s “Snake Pit,” or the tragic August 2005 report of fifteen Marine reservists of Lima Company, 3/25, killed in Haditha splashed across the news each night. This was the Sunni and Al-Qaeda in Iraq insurgency at its worst.

 

But Ramadi is a far different town than when I visited in October 2006 and Jan-Feb 2007.  And it’s decidedly different than a year ago.

 

Ramadi Today

 

In Ramadi today, the local financial institution, Rafidain Bank, is open and operating like any normal bank.  A new bus line brings people to work and market on a regularly scheduled basis.  Ramadi General Hospital has been re-opened.  There is a huge and vibrant market in the same Qatana area I crept through in February, when I reported on listening to IED’s and small-arms fire at zero-dark hundred.

 

The city’s water system has been restored.  The Medical College has reopened.  Alpha Co.’s 1/ 6 2,000 student school is still thriving.  The Dental College is open.  Two of seven Army Corps of Engineers electricity projects have been completed.  And the lights are on in the homes at night.

 

It’s not just Ramadi that’s come alive. The city of Hit just had 13 days without a bullet being fired.  And out on the Iraq-Syria border, Al-Qaim has a bank, a school-board, and a mayor.

 

The Ramadi-oriented group of Sunni Sheiks—the “Sons of Anbar”—have formed a national political party in order to more fully participate in the national government. The new “Iraq Awakening” party is a group of 200 sheiks who will be pushing a slate of candidates in the provincial elections this year, as well as the parliamentary elections in 2009.

 

The charismatic Sheik Sattar Al Rishawi and his brother Ahmed plan to continue their drive with Coalition Forces to make Anbar Province a safe, stable and economically viable part of Iraq.  If they have their way, the abysmal 2% Sunni Anbar participation figure in the 2005 election will be replaced by a far higher participation percentage.

 

A few weeks ago, Ramadi completed 17 days incident-free.  No deaths.  No injuries.  No bombs.  No attacks.  Just 17 normal days.   There was an Al-Qaeda suicide attack on Day 18, but the result, fortunately, was only innocent wounded and not dead.  This is in contrast to the daily and hourly bombings and beheadings in Baghdad.

 

Despite these many successes, Al Anbar Province as a whole is far from perfect.  In the last week three Marines and three soldiers were killed in Anbar.  Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq has been weakened, but not defeated.

 

But the difference between the scattered IED attacks here in Anbar and the brutal daily carnage in Baghdad is striking, as is the response of the Iraqis.  While the other cities of Anbar Province are quieting down as hundreds of their sons volunteer for the Iraqi Police each month, the remainder of Iraq continues to deteriorate.

 

Last week in Baghdad, I talked with MajGen William Caldwell, the official spokesman for Multi-National Forces-Iraq.  In our interview, Caldwell praised the Marines for their efforts. “In the last 12 weeks, violence in Baghdad is down 2%,” he said.  “In Anbar, it’s down 6%.”   He also noted that while American deaths in the same 12 week period in Baghdad rose 17% (and went up a stunning 52% north of Baghdad) American deaths were down 31% in Anbar.

 

How did it succeed?

 

There are three major reasons for Ramadi’s success:  Sheik Sattar al-Rishawi, the U.S. Army’s “Ready First” Brigade of the 1st Armored Division and the Marines of 1/6. 

 

Although individual sheiks had previously tried to stand up to AQI, they were uniformly butchered, which served to suppress the entire local population. In April 2006, Sheik Sattar, angered by the killings of his father and four brothers, formed “Sons of Anbar,” and began to fight back.

 

After that, the Sons of Anbar approached Col. Sean MacFarland, the CO of the Ready First, whose brigade was responsible for Ramadi.  Col. MacFarland and his staff negotiated a deal where Sheik Sattar agreed to help root out AQI by providing their sons to be Iraqi Police and protect their own villages as well as by providing crucial local intelligence.

 

As this was taking hold, 1/6 arrived in September 2006 to take over security in the heart of the city.  Because of Sheik Sattar’s initiative, and with Col. MacFarland’s support, 1/6 had a solid cadre of Iraqis who were ready to partner with them in security efforts.  The battalion that 1/6 had relieved did not have these advantages.  Fortuitous timing allowed 1/6’s commander, LtCol William Jurney, and his XO, Maj. Daniel Zappa, the opportunity to orchestrate their successful “Clear-hold-build” campaign.

 

The Sheik in the City

 

As Sattar’s sphere of influence outside of the Ramadi city limits began to bring calm and stability, Sheik Jasim Swidawi, the lead sheik from inside Ramadi, saw Sattar’s success and added his influence.  Sheik Jasim had also lost family members to AQI, as had many of his tribe. And they had suffered from the daily battles between the Marines and AQI that raged across his city.

 

At the same time that he reached out to Sattar, Jasim and his tribe were benefitting from the Marines of 1/6 taking back the city block-by-block through establishing outposts like VA, Hawk, Firecracker, 17th Street, and Qatana. 

 

With the Marines of Alpha Company (Capt Kyle Sloan) walking the streets and clearing the blocks around OP VA and 17th Street, and Bravo Company’s (Capt Jason Arthuad) Marines clearing the Government Center, Qatana, and to the east, it enabled the sheiks to go back to their tribes and recruit their young men as Iraqi Police.  Soon, the young men of Jasim’s tribe began to fill the IP recruiting centers.

 

“These Marines did the hard work in clearing the city and providing the security,” LtCol William Jurney said. “When the sheiks stepped up, they knew they wouldn’t be left hanging.”

 

The IP program is so successful that they have more recruits than recruiting billets.  Some 1,400 young men turned up last month.  Defending one’s family as an IP is now considered an honorable position. 

 

Short of training, short of uniforms, and short of arms, they continue to volunteer in droves.  Just last week, two members of a local neighborhood watch group disrupted an AQI suicide bombing attempt.  After all, who knows who belongs on a street and who does not better than a local citizen?

 

The security provided by LtCol Jurney’s Marines leads to an Iraqi confidence and trust that leads to even more calm and security.  “At first, I believed that AQI and his tribe shared the same patriotic, anti-American agenda,” Sheik Jasim told me.  But after experiencing AQI’s fundamentalist reign of terror—and having AQI kill all five of his brothers—Sheik Jasim joined forces with Sheik Sattar and the Marines.

 

“Islam is a religion of forgiveness and shared living,” Jasim said. “Extremism is not good.” The sheik added that he found the Marines and coalition forces to be a positive influence.  He even said that, if necessary, “the Marines can stay for a long time.”

 

 

ON Point’s Andrew Lubin just returned to the U.S. from his fourth overseas embed in nine months.  Part 2, which will feature portions of four exclusive interviews, will be published Monday.

 


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George Blutner said:
Yet another article from On Point that should make the major newspapers. This is a view of the war that mainstream media is too lazy, too biased, or too fearful to write. Excellent work !
May 03, 2007 02:07 PM

Kat said:
Negativity is news! Why in the world would mainstream media want to print anything positive?

Thank goodness for independent news sources!
May 03, 2007 03:09 PM

Richard Sage said:
Who knows how the public would feel about the war if we saw more reports like this ? Another example of journalistic excellence from On Point
May 03, 2007 06:01 PM

Deb Labrecque said:
My son is with the 1/6 Alpha Co Marines. I spoke with him almost 3 weeks ago and he said to me " Mom, I am so proud of the job we have done over here. We made a huge difference here in Ramadi". Its time these politicians started asking these young men and women what they want!!
May 03, 2007 06:05 PM

SGT DAN said:
Truth wil always prevail. Five yrs. from now all will be different. Mr. Bush will be fully appreciated for leading us into Iraq. The people of Iraq will fully understand the price Americans are willing to pay to have security and for inviting another nation to enjoy our freedoms. And all the doubters and critics of what we have done in the Middle East will be tossing their opinions and writings into the dust bin of history. We will always have our detractors and supporters. It's too bad that the media of a free nation like ours has joined forces with the critics who wish the worse for all the people we have set out to help. On Point, keep up the good work.
May 03, 2007 06:24 PM

Kordts said:
Where is JC Rawley to call this a pack of right wing propanda and us a bunch idiots for believing it? The libs only see and hear what they want and make that their truth. I am proud of our people there and the work they are doing. I pray for them, and am ashamed to admit it isn't very much.
May 03, 2007 06:45 PM

Marsha said:
Another wonderful article Andrew.There has got to be an easier way to get this out to the public since none of the news agencies respond when they are forwarded.After 4 years, the mainstream media still only wants to publicize bloodshed.Thanks for the real news.I will deffinately be passing it along.My son is with 1/6 and will be home later this month.I will continue to support our military over there anyway I can,even after he is home safe.Keep the articles coming ONpoint.
May 03, 2007 10:46 PM

Marsha said:
Another wonderful article Andrew.There has got to be an easier way to get this out to the public since none of the news agencies respond when they are forwarded.After 4 years, the mainstream media still only wants to publicize bloodshed.Thanks for the real news.I will deffinately be passing it along.My son is with 1/6 and will be home later this month.I will continue to support our military over there anyway I can,even after he is home safe.Keep the articles coming ONpoint.
May 03, 2007 11:13 PM

Blake said:
I must admit that I am a war critic... I have never supported the war and the reasons for going were what ever convenient lie that would pacify the public.... However, I must admit I am impressed and maybe even a little hopeful that we can set right what has looked so much like a total screw up!! I for one am really glad that Rummy is only running a desk at the Pentagon because I am sure it is the only thing that is a mess still under his control!! I am also here to stand for those generals that quit or spoke out against more troops even before the war started that had there lives turned upside down for having done it.... If this plan of take hold and build had been the plan as well as controlling the looting in the beginning we would not be facing the world’s ire let alone the negative public. My hats off to our good efforts in Ramodi now the rest!!

Sgt Dan it was Rummy and Chaney that took us into Iraq you need to read your PNAC bible again… It was never Bush he couldn’t even lead a cheer in collage! The guy must have organic brain damage if you ask me! But your not…..
May 04, 2007 02:24 AM

proud father said:
my son is in the 1/6th and i know what they have achieved! these brave men busted thier humps 24/7 to get this city where it is today,and lets not forgot the men and women before them. they have won the hearts of the iraqis and they know were there to help. i live in maine ans saw a local tv station casting only bloodshed and vilionce . but nothing off this nature. this is not the only city either that is under control there either,there are many others. and i tell you eveything that i read about our brave young men and women,they want to stay,and help these people live a life we enjoy. why the HELL can`t this stuff be put on national news.anyone have an awnser? i do,but i will keep those comments to myself, because i don`t want to slam certain parties. the american public would support this war more if they knew more of the facts,but the facts simply do not go out there. everyone needs to look back at other military wars we have been in and see we have made more progress here in less time,with less loss,than many other conflicts. and if we pull out and you dont think iran and al-quieda will take over,you have to be brain dead! and iran wont stop there,they will then look at afganistan,then mayby saudi arabia? ERA, Hitler 2 coming! thanks to all our great troops who stand for what AMERICA is about,helping other country`s to live a decent life.SEMPER FI
May 04, 2007 05:23 AM

Proud Mom said:
What a great story! It is my hope that the citizens of Ramadi appreciate all our Marines and Solidiers have done! They have worked tirelessly to reestablish as normal of a lifestyle as possible considering the continued violence. My son is a 1/6 Marine expected home this month and I know he feels satisfaction of what they have accomplished. Looking forward to the next great story!
May 04, 2007 07:27 AM

Very Proud Marine Dad Phillip said:
I talked to my Son the Morning of the 19th and told him that a certain Wash, leader had declared the war is LOST. I had read it the night before. He said why would he say that? He said the war is not lost , we are winning they are running from us . he said that things are better, That they are making a difference and that he belives in what he is doing. He said that he does not care what they say . they are over here and he is over there where it is happenning and he knows the truth. When our troops get on line and see news that under cuts what they are doing when they lay down thier life for us we need to give them the support and anything else we can give them. But nothing will ever compare to what they give us.For my Son to have such resolve and be willing to serve this great Nation with Yellow weak leaders constantly trying to surrender, I have even more respect for him and the other Marines ,Sailors, Army and Air Force that keep that saying true,(Freedom is not Free) VPMD of a 1/6 Bravo Marine
And thank you so much for printing that article.
May 04, 2007 08:15 AM

Blake said:
proud father said
"why the HELL can`t this stuff be put on national news.anyone have an awnser"

Yes I have an answer....
Clinton rescinded the "farness and accountability act" in reporting the news... Now all you get is SPIN! Now both parties catapult the propaganda so that their truth sinks in.... I am sick of it!
May 04, 2007 08:49 AM

Andrew Lubin said:
Blake :

It has nothing to do with Bill Clinton. In Feb called my local FOX station, Philadelphia, from Fallujah with a scoop - they turned me down; said that since it didn't have 155's, tanks, JDAM's or anything 'exciting' - they didn't want it. And I've been a guest on FOX Philly; they know me, yet still aren't interested in 'war news'. That's beyond pathetic.

To everyone else : my article concerns Ramadi and Anbar. The situation in the rest of the country, especially the Bagdad area, is bleak. The Sunni's in Anbar have a couple of sheiks who have seen the benefits of working with the Marines; unfortunately the Shia's do not have such inspired leadership; they've mostly got Moqtada al-Sadr.
May 04, 2007 09:43 AM

TOP said:
My son is with WEAPONS COMPANY 1/6 and all I hear from him is good news he is proud of what he has done and I'm proud of all of our troops that have accomplished so much in such a dangerous place.GOD BLESS THESE MEN AND WOMEN. My family has had 7 deployments to the Middle East and what I see and hear from these men including myself show nothing but success.
May 04, 2007 03:48 PM

KRIEGER said:
I thought that with the "SURGE" in Baghdad all militias including the shias Moqtada would be sought after.It seems like the insurgents had so much warning time of the new Baghdad plan that they all moved out to surrounding areas.
May 04, 2007 04:03 PM

Louise M. said:
It's a relief to see some unbiased news for a change. Surely all the news coming from Iraq can't allbe bad? Unlike a lot of the readers, my children are too young to be in the military, but after following these articles, I'd be proud if my oldest signed up to be a Marine.
May 04, 2007 04:36 PM

James Peterson said:
Thank you for confirming my reasons for being optimistic. The US armed forces may not do everything right but given time and some breaks they'll figure it out.
Every last citizen of the US should be forced to read this.
Thank you Lubin for telling us the story behind the soundbites and "facts" of big media.
May 04, 2007 04:40 PM

from Hurricane Point said:
Good to go Andrew, you got the story right. You're welcome back any time!
Semper Fi
May 04, 2007 04:59 PM

Lauren said:
Great Job 1/6!!!

We will see you all at homecoming!

Semper FI!!
May 04, 2007 05:26 PM

M VINCE TURNER said:
This is GOOD STUFF! Now, if only we can transplant it to the areas that remain brutal and hostile. Excellent reporting, Andrew. I am not surprised by the rebuff you received from FOX in Philly. And, I suspect it would not just be FOX turning you down. Unless it is filled with blood and gore, explosions and fire fights most news outlets could care less. It is not "exciting!"

May 04, 2007 08:13 PM

R GOMEZ said:
Thankyou for a great artical, my son is serving 1/6 wpns. and will be home in just a couple of weeks and it means alot to see the good these young soldiers do, instead of all the bad that is put out there . They are proud of what they have been doing and I for one am very proud of all of them.
May 04, 2007 10:48 PM

De'on Miller said:
What a fantastic article! I am the Gold Star Mom of Lance Cpl. Aaron C. Austin, USMC who earned the Silver Star Medal for his actions April 26, 2004 in Fallujah. I am so glad to hear this! Thank you. And Write On!
May 06, 2007 09:25 PM

M VINCE TURNER said:
To De'on Miller: My heartfelt condolences and sympathy at your loss. May a Light Perpetual shine around LCPL Aaron C. Austin, USMC. Semper Fidelis!
May 07, 2007 08:49 AM

Andrew Lubin said:
Mrs Miller - my sympathy on your loss. Your knock on the door was the one thing I feared when my son did his tours.

Fallujah 1 is one of those early, ugly Marine battles that never recieved the publicity it deserved; coverage of these awesome young men is something we're trying to rectify with our writing here at OnPoint. It's our honor to report on these young Marines, all contemporaries of your son //
May 07, 2007 10:08 AM
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