ON Point in Anbar: The Tide Turns in Ramadi (Part 2 of 2)
05-07-2007, 11:24 AM • by ON Point


Ramadi’s successes—and challenges—have started to garner attention from mainstream media.  Although a pair of suicide bombs hit the city yesterday, killing 20 ON Point follows last week’s article with several profiles of personalities, events, and issues that have been the talk of the town in recent weeks.  Here’s a look inside Al Anbar Province and its capital, Ramadi:


Latif’s the Man


The security provided by the Marines in Ramadi is reflected in the work of the mayor, Latif Obaid. Having organized the 3rd Economic & Reconstruction Conference, Mayor Latif, a professional and thorough mayor promoting his city with all the skills and enthusiasm of any mayor back in the States, took a few minutes to talk to ON Point about Ramadi.  Quotes include:


-       “We plan to provide the same services as you have in America; water, sewage, schools, sanitation, electricity.”


-       “We can claim victory over AQI because of what the Marines and Coalition have done.”


-       “The people of Ramadi need to work hard to keep the victory.”


-       “The Marines – IP’s – IA’s need to continue to work together for the good of the people and the good of Ramadi.”


Mayor Latif of Ramadi addresses the Economic and Reconstruction Conference in April 2007




Conference Garners Big Numbers


Last month’s Economic & Reconstruction Conference had over 200 attendees, predominantly local sheiks and Iraqi contractors, who gathered to discuss street paving, soccer fields, contracts, and bidding.  They also prioritized the needs of the city in their meeting. 


The founder of the Sons of Anbar, Sheik Sattar al-Rishawi, was also present for the April event, but he sat back and let the Mayor and his District Council run the show.




More from the Sheik


Inaccurately called “Sheik al-Risha” in a recent Christian Science Monitor article, Sattar al-Rishawi has become both the beacon and the lightning rod for Ramadi. In late March, he survived yet another AQI assassination attempt.  In his spare time, he helped form the new Sunni political party “Anbar Awakening.”  The sheik and ON Point talked privately after the conference about his views on Ramadi, Anbar, and Iraq:


ON Point:  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Coalition say that the battle for Baghdad is the most important struggle today. Do you agree?


Sheik Sattar al-Rishawi:  No. What is happening here is of equal importance. We are proving that  AQI can be defeated by joint Marine and Iraqi efforts.


ON Point:  Last month the Prime Minister made a much publicized visit to Ramadi. Are you now getting the support he promised?


Sattar:  We need the money he promised for [Iraqi Army] salaries, weapons, trucks, and equipment. The approval process from the MoI/MoD takes forever.


ON Point: Can you tell us more about your new political party, “Anbar Awakening?”


Sattar: We [the Sunnis] want to participate in the national government. We are an important part of this land, and we need to be heard. We are talking to our brothers in Fallujah, Taji, Zorba, and northeast Baghdad.


ON Point:  Three years ago, the Marines fought a fierce battle in Fallujah…


Sattar: That was against foreign fighters. General Zilmer [the former commanding general in al-Anbar] was my friend. General Gaskin is my friend.  We want the Marines to stay.



ON Point's Andrew Lubin and Sheik Sittar al-Rishawi, after their interview.




Interviewing the General


Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin, who commands the 25,000-person II MEF (Fwd), is responsible for the security of Anbar, the largest province in Iraq with a population of 1.7 million Sunnis. When Gen. Gaskin and II MEF assumed command responsibility in February from Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer and I MEF, Gaskin emphasized continuity in his actions and policies. Two weeks ago, ON Point had an opportunity to talk with Gaskin about his first months in Anbar.  Here’s what the general said:


-       “We want to build on the foundations I MEF left us. They built some strong local relationships, which I want to continue.”


-       “1/ 6 did it the right way [in Ramadi]. They used bullhorns to give out information, like the imams do at the mosques.  They secured the neighborhoods, so that only those who belong there can get in.”


-       “Listen to the tribal leaders on a personal level. Talk to the tribes, the I/As [soldiers] and the I/Ps [policemen]. You have to know the neighborhoods.”


-       “The Sunnis didn’t participate in the last election, but now they are sorry. They will participate in the next elections. They want the same things that we have: electricity, employment, water, health care, rule of law, and working sewage, and they know that we can help them achieve these goals.”


-       “I am responsible for the entire province, with 6 major cities [Fallujah, Ramadi, Habbaniyah, Haditha, Hit, and Al Qaim]. In each city I want to see a viable and effective I/A and I/P presence, a mayor, a chief of police, economic development, and the sheiks and tribal leaders on board. When we have these, we own the town.”


-       “We need to be careful that we don’t hold the I/A’s and I/P’s to some unreachable American standard. They need to know how to fight as squads, companies, and battalions in their role of defenders of their country’s borders.”


-       “We know we have a political timetable, and are dealing with a new government in Baghdad as well. That government is only 10 months old and still going through massive growing pains.  We can win this, but not on an artificial political timetable.”




Anbar: Past and Future


The Army’s Raider Brigade from Fort Stewart, Ga., arrived in Ramadi at the end of February. They replaced the Ready First, and are building on the foundations that 1/ 6 Marines, Sheik Sattar, the Ready First, and Sheik Jasim built.  The new arrivals would be wise to demonstrate some humility.


“Ramadi is free of Al-Qaeda” Raider Col. John Charlton crowed last week. “We’ve driven them out.” Maybe, but this is an insurgency, and not a conventional war.  Two days after he made this statement, the 17 day respite was broken by 2 VBIEDs attacks on an I/P position. No one was killed, but five were wounded in that attack.  And yesterday’s tragic attacks are a reminder of the bad days of a year ago.


The Marines departing are more circumspect. “Things are certainly better than when we arrived,” admitted Lt. Col. Bill Jurney, 1/6 commanding officer.  Gen. Gaskin mentioned the need to get out of the cities (once they’re secured), and go after AQI in the countryside. “We’ll go find them where they don’t expect us,” he said. “We’ll go after them where ever they are.”


With Ramadi and Anbar are being held out as examples of American – Iraqi co-operation, it is worth remembering the efforts that both sides have made to get this far.  1/ 6 had 12 KIA, 100 WIA.  Shiek Sattar lost 4 brothers and his father.  Sheik Jasim lost 5 brothers, and his tribe alone lost more than 200.  And the exact count of the Ready First’s losses was unavailable, but not meager.  If Ramadi and Anbar are the showcase of the war, it is worth noting the effort and valor that led to the accomplishment.


Despite Col. Charlton’s boast, Ramadi is not yet 100% pacified. The terrorists know that the I/P’s are rooting them out and are targeting them accordingly.  The checkpoint system is working, but at a cost. The insurgents are no longer targeting just Americans and the Iraqi Army; there have been 527 attacks in Anbar just on I/P’s, who respond by rolling up terrorist after terrorist.


Yet the local Iraqi population in and around Ramadi, led by Sheik Sattar, Sheik Jasim, and the other leaders of Sons of Anbar, continue to rally with the Marines and Army. Last month some 1,400 Iraqi’s signed up to be policemen.  They are signing up faster than America can train them.




Lubin’s Parting Thought


As I finish my latest embed, I’m left with one overarching thought.  It is important that the Raider Brigade, the USAID workers, and the State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams who are now arriving with their American expertise in zoning law, tax law, and other do-good ideas are cognizant of the history of blood and sacrifice that preceded them. They would do well to remember 1/ 6’s HM3 Christopher “Doc” Anderson, Capt Travis Patriquin of the Ready First, and all the other American dead who helped make Ramadi and Anbar Province the success it is today.



ON Point senior correspondent Andrew Lubin is enjoying a well-earned vacation at his home on the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border.



Email It! Digg! Discuss It

TOP said:
May 07, 2007 03:55 PM

George Blutner said:
One of these days On Point will be considered "mainstream media". National TV and newspapers would do well to be as thorough and as interesting as Lubin's articles.
May 07, 2007 05:28 PM

Louise M. said:
Finally an article that talks about the success of our Marines instead of all their alledged failings. Well Done Marines !
May 07, 2007 05:31 PM

Dano said:
Great reporting, Andrew, and welcome back home!
May 07, 2007 05:53 PM

This one I REALLY LIKE: "They [the 1/6] used bullhorns to give out information, like the imams do at the mosques." When in Iraq, do as the Iraqis do! :-) Again, Andrew, this is good stuff. If only this positive activity can be replicated in Baghdad.
May 07, 2007 08:43 PM

Jamie McMillan said:
It's good to see the Marines getting credit for their efforts. My son did two tours and I'm proud of what he did over there. Why don't we see these articles in the normal media channels ?
One proud Marine mom!
May 07, 2007 09:16 PM

Claudia said:
The loss of each American soldier in Iraq grieves my heart in a way that I could never verbalize. I can tell you, however, that those lost soldiers have my undying respect and gratitude. Their families have my unending sympathy. I can think of nothing more noble than a life given in an attempt to free a people who cannot do it by themselves.
May 07, 2007 10:28 PM

Marsha said:
Claudia,ditto! Andrew,thankyou again for this.It is so nice to read how things are changing for the better over there.1/6 is anxious to get home,but they can deffinately be proud of themselves for all the hard work they did helping to make Ramadi a more humane place to live.It's a start.I am sure the new units coming in will continue to gain respect as well as give it to the IA's and IP's,and work together to make it an even better place to live.(however I bet the squad taking over at the OP my son has been at these past 7-8 months didn't expect to enherit a goat they adopted!) Great job Andrew,enjoy your rest so you can get back over there and keep us up to speed on the REAL news. DPMM of SGT.Jason,1/6 Charlie Co.
May 08, 2007 07:06 AM

Andrew Lubin said:
Vince - Marsha - George - all

Thanks for your kind words on my reporting, It's a great gig to be able to spend time with our Marines and soliders, as you've noticed from my articles.

But I've been lucky - today in the NYTimes they reported on a journalist who was killed yesterday; Dmitry Chebotayev, a photographer for Newsweek - Russia.

Dmitry was 29, and I spent a few days with him when I was in CPIC Baghdad, moving into Ramadi. He was a good kid, interested in the war, pro-coalition, and was desperate to get out and 'see some action." He listened to all my stories of Afghanistan, Ramadi, etc., and kept pushing to get out with out troops. Finally he wangled an embed into Diyala. He was in the truck that was blown up yesterday, killing him and 6 of our soliders.

So take a moment and spare a thought for Dmitry, Russian, who approached working with our Marine and soldiers as enthusiastically as I did. He'll be missed.

May 08, 2007 10:15 AM

Hopefully the replcements will do as good as a job as 1/6.May yall come home safe,we are indebted to your service.My condolences for the soldiers and Russians family.
May 08, 2007 10:48 AM

pjgarvey said:
Amen on the loss of Dimitry and our lads in the truck. God be good to them all. I think its important to recognize that the biggest challenge we have is "turnover," maintaining a high level of optempo and aggressive patrolling and not sitting on butts behind the outpost walls. We now have a lot of returning vets in the ranks and that is all to the good, but aggressive leadership at the Bde and Bn level is critical. That and maintaining and supporting the local leadership which has been a critical element in the success to date. You can be sure that anytime an area gets on the skyline as a "success story" AQI will demonstrate it is not and poke you in the eye with VBIED or two.
May 08, 2007 11:26 AM

Cathy Holm said:
Andrew: Atta Boy--OOH RAH! You are definitely "On Point" with finding redeeming information in the region. I know it exists, because my son is a Marine and is 'over there'.

Thank you for your dedication to the Marines. The last couple of days of mainstream news has definitely sucked, so it's good to see some unbiased news for a change.

May 08, 2007 03:16 PM

May the Peace of Our Lord be ever Present with Dmitry and our Troops who gave their greatest and most precious gift of all.
May 08, 2007 09:42 PM

Dano said:

A good lad lost, but we can understand that and miss him! Let us not lose track that the heros in this war are not honored Nationally.

I've met a few Russians from the Cold War & Afghanistan and they are just like me. What a surprise. Not a surprise Andrew runs into the same, ey?

"But the war is still going on dear
and I'm helpless and bereaved ... "
May 09, 2007 03:32 AM

Brian H said:
It seems like we may be into a virtuous circle, here, where each unit rotating out is "competing" to show even more improvement in the situation to its replacements than they themselves experienced and benefited from on arrival. Bragging points, so to speak.

I think that it's unlikely the MSM will ever catch up to the curve on this; it would be too embarrassing a climb-down from the long running effort to depict escalating crises and demoralization. They are in a hole, trying to dig their way out. Won't happen.

May 09, 2007 10:37 AM

Brian H said:
Here's an interesting quote; I'll let you Google the source:

[[ Has it not occurred to us that if al-Qa'eda really were as wily and resourceful as we tell ourselves they are, and if their tentacles really did extend as wide and deep as some say, they would be on the advance - not battled into a stalemate by Western security and intelligence? If I were an al-Qa'eda activist I could have blown up Parliament or shot at least one of a range of prime ministers by now. Al-Qa'eda's failure to infiltrate or penetrate Western structures has been complete.

There is a reason for this. Islam, in its more fundamentalist form, doesn't work. Serious, committed Islamists are most unlikely to succeed within any structures but their own. Their own, meanwhile, are notoriously inefficient and corrupt... How can any culture which despises modernity, hates mobility, distrusts individual liberty and autonomy, persecutes those who deviate from cultural or ideological norms, imposes a kind of brutal conformity on the way people live, love and work, and at a stroke disempowers 50 per cent of its people (women) from proper education and from all career opportunity so that every boy-child it produces is being brought up by a person who knows little of the world and only a fraction of what the boy must learn - how can such a culture bestride the 21st century...?]]

May 09, 2007 10:40 AM

Claude said:
Brian H, I sure hope that your assumptions are correct. However, I have learned in life, that when facing any enemy, one has a far better chance of winning a battle, if one is not telling himself or herself that he or she is superior, more intelligent, more capable, etc. than the enemy. It is when we respect the enemy's capabilities, that we realize and act on our own need to magnify our efforts, abilities and strengths. We should never be lulled into complacency with any enemy, especially an enemy who is intrinsically so very different from what we are. Look at Pearl Harbor and 9-11. Our wonderful country came under attack both times because we assumed that we were superior and no one would dare attack us on our own land. We were shocked and devistated in both cases. Had we been more astute in assuming that the enemy might, just might, be capable of anything...we might have been better able to protect our country and our people before the attacks. "The best defence is a good offence!"
Once again, I must say, thank you to all of you who are out there giving, in every way to our efforts. God Bless you and your loved ones! God bless all of you who have given your lives or have been hurt in your efforts to right what is wrong in the world. All of you are our heroes.
May 09, 2007 04:24 PM

Davina said:
Thank you for an informative article. My son is doing his second tour to Ramadi (the first was in the Snake Pit) and he said there is a vast difference from two years ago to now. There were no IA or IP when he was there the first time. This time is different! More help from the Iraqi people and less violence. While no place is 100% safe, it is better than before. I am glad to see that they (Iraqi's) are stepping up to the plate and rolling up their sleeves to get the job done. Just remember though "Rome wasn't built in a day" and that our country is still working on democracy 200+ years later. It does this Marine mom's heart good to see that things are getting done.

Semper Fi and Ooohrah
Proud Marine Mom
May 11, 2007 04:22 PM

Dano said:
Brian H states: "It seems like we may be into a virtuous circle, here, where each unit rotating out is "competing" to show even more improvement in the situation to its replacements than they themselves experienced and benefited from on arrival. Bragging points, so to speak. "

And why wouldn't a unit rotating in want to do better? If you were rotating in, wouldn't you want to improve the situation?

It's not competition, it's what you do.
May 13, 2007 08:45 PM
What do you think?
Name (required):
Comments (required):
- fan6 - ww5