Just some quick notes about the evolving situation here, since I was unable to expand beyond my previous, rather upbeat post.
-as per Big Mc’s question, population is excess of 100,000 as of 2 months ago, nearing 200k permanent residents. The difficulty in accounting comes from a combination of factors, not least of which is the focus on military age males in everything. That means that when resources are at all strained, the elderly, women, and children are largely ignored in counts and personnel control matters, since they are militarily irrelevant for the most part. Not to mention the difficulty in name translation, spotty id issuing, etc. It’s a census nightmare.
-Iraqi army forces here continue to far outshine what we hear from other parts of Iraq. A large part of that is, in my opinion, their absence of options. Fallujah, being as isolated from Iraq as it’s always been, is no safe haven for men from other places…they can’t just hop in a cab and go stay at a relative’s house like they do elsewhere in the midst of firefights. It breeds a wee bit of esprit de corps and urgency into their training; unfortunately it also means that ingraining professionalism and respect for the local populace is an uphill struggle.
Of course, it is an inverse relationship with the police. They remain questionable at best where in most of Iraq they are a strong point due to the same factors as above. Oh, well.
-Also, the US Army and its senior enlisted liasions are a crucial factor in the Iraqi military’s success relative success here. I love working with these guys…just a few e6-e9’s make a huge difference as they live and work out of the IIF bases and provide us with an instant means of communication, coordination, and continuous training and assessment. Best of all, they do it with virtually no translator assets…the rapport they establish with the Iraqis is invaluable.
-The insurgency here remains small and slightly effective materially in the tactical sense, highly effective in the strategic sense. For the former, their aggression consists mostly of ied’s of varying effectivity. The recent upswing in casualties was a result of yet another botched Tet Offensive style gesture. Of course, they can’t muster much direct action, but they did manage to inflict some KIA’s including one of my squad with IED ambushes. It’s the luck of the draw, I guess, but overall it’s not much to write home about on our level…it’s not really effective here except in a manner one would consider counterproductive to their cause, although I suppose there might be some hysteria back home.
Now, to presume to step out of my pay grade for a moment, I think they are being somewhat strategically effective simply because of the money and resources required to keep this city relatively safe. A small number of insurgents with a bake sale size budget are up against billions of dollars. Good job on them, I guess, but I don’t really see much hope for their future. Attrition has to be taking its toll seriously on them, as is the general lack of enthusiasm for their shenanigans in the area. We’ll see who’s the last man standing, I guess.
Other than that, I guess it’s strange to say that on a personal level, I am somewhat enjoying my job these days. Familiarity breeds contempt, it is said, but the more I get to know my peers in the Iraqi army and especially the local populace, the more I like it here. I have a profound appreciation for the responsibilities we are tasked with these days in stability and support operations, and apart from missing my wife there really isn’t much of a professional downside to being here.
So, yeah. We’re at the halfway mark of our deployment, one KIA one WIA (evac-ed) in our 10 man squad. It could always be a lot worse, I suppose.