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On Surges

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  • On Surges

    Insurgencies and wars are complicated things. If someone tells you there are simple solutions to them, they’re either fools or crooks. Consider the Iraqi surge.

    The Iraqi troops surge began in January of 2007 with the deployment of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division to Baghdad. Over the next four months an additional four brigade combat teams would be deployed to Baghdad and the tours were extended for 4,000 Marines in Al Anbar Province. In mid-June Operation Phantom Thunder, a major security effort, got under way. There was some tough fighting in Baghdad for several months, but U.S. casualties began dropping in September. About six months later a friend just back from Iraq told me the change in Al Anbar province was remarkable. Surge = Success, right?

    Yes and no.

    There were five elements which contributed to the drop in violence and casualties in Iraq following the surge. The increase in troops in theater was one of them, but arguably was the least important.

    1. Karbala
    Sectarian violence had been a feature of the Iraqi conflict from the start, with a violent attack against Shias provoking a retaliatory attack against Sunnis and vice versa. The escalating violence reached a climax on April 28, 2007, when a car bomb exploded outside the Imman Abbas Mosque in Karbala, killing 68 and injuring over 160 Shiite religious pilgrims. What happened next was truly remarkable. Instead of retaliating in kind, Moqtada al-Sadr, the head of the largest Shia militia, the Mahdi Army, announced a unilateral cease-fire.

    The west was ...


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