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Interlocutors and Iraqi Insurgents: Lessons learned from negotiation and dialogue in Iraq


Chapter 1: Introduction p.6

Chapter 2: Learning to Listen p.11

Chapter 3: From anti-insurgency to counter-Insurgency p.20

Chapter 4: Learning and re-learning: Conclusions p.33

List of abbreviations AQI Al-Qaeda in Iraq CIA Central Intelligence Agency COIN Counter-Insurgency COP Combat Outpost CPA Coalition Provisional Authority DSF Director Special Forces FSEC Force Strategic Engagement Cell HUMINT Human Intelligence HVT High Value Target IFNCR Implementation and Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation IMINT Imagery Intelligence ISG Iraq Study Group JAM Jaish al-Mahdi JSOC Joint Special Operations Command MND-N Multi-National Division North MND-SE Multi-National Division South East NGO Nongovernmental Organisation NIF Network of Iraqi Facilitators SAS Special Air Service SENSE Strategic Economic Needs and Security Exercise SF Special Forces SIS Secret Intelligence Service SSTR Stability, Security, Transition and Reconstruction USIP United States Institute of Peace

Source: David Petraeus: Report to Congress on the Situation in Iraq, (US Gov, 2007) available online:

Introduction [In Iraq]...all were immersed in an environment where negotiation and violence, persuasion and coercion, intermeshed at every level.1 David Kilcullen On May 1st 2003, George W. Bush infamously declared that major combat operations in Iraq have ended, whilst a banner behind him proudly proclaimed Mission Accomplished. The speech gave the impression that the American-led coalition had achieved a total victory, but quickly became synonymous with unrealistic perceptions of the conflict allegedly held by the Bush administration as the insurgency took hold. The false belief in conventional military victory highlights two key observations which underpin the importance of study in the under-developed field of negotiation with non-state actors in asymmetric conflict. Firstly, as has been widely acknowledged, the contemporary era has seen conventional military conflict increasingly replaced with asymmetric forms of warfare. It is theorised that this is due to the phenomenon known as globalisation which has resulted in increased state inter-dependence while non-state actors have simultaneously exploited the changing environment for their empowerment. In particular four strands of development [have altered] the operational space in favour of the insurgent: transport technology; the proliferation of information and communications technology; the deregulation of the international economy; and the consequences of exposure to foreign cultures.2 In essence non-state actors can now compete with state actors more effectively than ever before. Whereas transnational corporations and NGOs have progressively challenged government policy-making, violent non-state actors have increasingly challenged government authority to make policy at all. Hence, governments, transnational enterprises, and transnational NGOs are in need of constructive diplomatic expertise in order to manage the complexities and uncertainties of todays globalised world and in order to prevent the multitude of potential policy conflicts from erupting into violence and chaos.3 Traditional diplomatic actors have rarely risen to this challenge, especially once violence and chaos has erupted. The second key observation is that the complexity of asymmetric warfare makes it significantly more difficult to formulate a plausible theory of victory, thus making a negotiated end to the conflict more likely. Indeed Dyvesteyn and Schuurman have observed that since the early 1990s the majority of armed conflicts have been ended through dialogue, negotiation and compromise. This stands in stark contrast to the dominance of military victories as conflict resolvers before that time.4 This observation is further backed by quantitative research on insurgency which indicates that more than half of all insurgencies (40 out of 73) have been settled through negotiations. Furthermore adding other means by which the government has recognised insurgents as other than criminals

David Kilcullen: The Accidental Guerrilla: fighting small wars in the midst of a big one, (Hurst & Co., 2009) p.xvii 2 John Mackinlay: The Insurgent Archipelago, (Hurst & Co., 2009) p.29 3 Raymond Saner & Varinia Michalun: Negotiations Between State Actors and Non-State Actors, (Republic of Letters, 2009) p.2 4 Isabelle Duyvesteyn & Bart Schuurman: The Paradoxes of Negotiating with Terrorist and Insurgent Organisations, in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39:4 (Routledge, 2011) p.677

that is, via earlier negations, cease-fires, or amnesty offers encompasses all but 12 of the 73 settled insurgencies, and even three-quarters of ongoing insurgencies.5 These two pivotal observations combined with internship experience working for a small conflictresolution charity headed by Jonathan Powell (former chief negotiator in Northern Ireland6) allowed the author to identify a small literature gap that this dissertation seeks to explore. Since 2001 the literature concerning insurgency and counter-insurgency (COIN) has expanded exponentially in a serious, concentrated attempt to convert experience into knowledge. This is reflected most clearly in the publication of new counter-insurgency manuals by both the American and British military in 2007 and 2009 respectively. Furthermore, several seminal works have been produced in recent years in particular David Killkullens The Accidental Guerrilla and John Mackinlays The Insurgent Archipelago, have permanently altered perceptions of what insurgency is and how to deal with it. Indeed, the Accidental Guerrilla Syndrome will be referred to several times in my analysis and is therefore diagrammatically explained below.

The analytical depth on display in these various texts is remarkable, and highly informative. However, it is not made immediately obvious the extent to which COIN is dependent on skilled
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Ben Connable & Martin Libicki: How Insurgencies End, (RAND, 2010) p.180 Powell has since written a detailed insider account of the Northern Irish peace process. See Jonathan Powell: Great Hatred, Little Room, (Vintage Books, 2009) 7 David Kilcullen: Op. Cit. p.35

negotiation and dialogue. Only a few texts have focused specifically on this aspect. Jonathan Powells Great Hatred, Little Room, is excellent for a first-hand perspective of the Northern Irish peace process. Also notable, Bew, Frampton and Gurruchagas study Talking to Terrorists, consists of a scholarly analysis of the peace processes in both Northern Ireland and the Basque Country. Interestingly, the two books fundamentally disagree on best approach to negotiating with terrorists Jonathan Powell asserts that it is always important to maintain dialogue with the enemy, regardless of their tactics8 whereas Bew et al conclude that it is not always good to talk [with the enemy] suggesting that the IRA had been encouraged by a belief that it could pursue negotiations and violence in tandem.9 This dissertation will re-examine this debate in the context of Iraq. A further notable text in the field is Mitchell Reisss book Negotiating With Evil. Study Approach Throughout this dissertation it will be argued that skilled negotiation and dialogue is critical to any COIN campaign. It is necessary to distinguish between the two. When I refer to negotiation I am talking about political accommodation between leaders. Dialogue is a somewhat less formal, more inclusive discursive process, which is no less important for national reconciliation. The difference is clearly visible when considering the two different modes of violence in Iraq. Firstly, there was politically motivated violence carried out by terrorists and organised militias against coalition and Iraqi government forces. This was obviously a serious security problem and severely affected the capability of those forces to conduct stabilisation operations. In the end, this would require a negotiated settlement. The second form of violence, although linked, is quite distinct. It consisted primarily of intercommunal sectarian killings on a massive scale, or as Kilcullen puts it: accidental guerrilla syndrome run riot.10 Many observers characterised it as a low-level civil war. It was this form of violence which led to the near collapse of Iraq, and it was actively encouraged by terrorist organisations such as alQaeda in Iraq (AQI), who were employing a chaos strategy to drive the coalition out of Iraq.11 Whereas politically controlled and directed violence can be halted by a negotiated agreement, sectarian violence is far more spontaneous in character and not directed in the same way, meaning that negotiation and political accommodation with local fighters is unlikely to be productive by itself because they are responding to localised violence.12 Instead, the communities involved have to engage in dialogue in order to reconcile. In Iraq, negotiation and dialogue can be seen to have had hugely significant ramifications at the strategic, operational and tactical level of war. Arguably our campaign in Iraq was undermined from the very beginning due to a failure of negotiation at the grand-strategic level and consequent dubious legal grounds for the invasion. As Frank Ledwidge puts it: it was axiomatic that British success in previous low-intensity conflict was based, to a very large degree, on legal legitimacy and
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Interview with the author 02/08/2012 John Bew, Martyn Frampton & Inigo Gurruchaga: Talking to Terrorists, (Hurst & Co., 2009) p.252-253 10 David Kilcullen: Op. Cit. p.127 11 Chaos Strategy is one of five main insurgent strategies. It aims to demonstrate the governments inability to impose law and order, ultimately leading to its collapse and a subsequent power vacuum which can be filled (at least in part) by the insurgents. The other four strategies are Propaganda of the Deed, Provocation, Attrition and Intimidation. 12 Frederick Kagan: Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq, (American Enterprise Institute, 2007) p.11

rule of law.13 In an extension of this point, it is also important to note that coalition forces were only ever a counter-insurgent by proxy. They were acting on behalf of the Iraqi government, which was at times divided, corrupt and sectarian, and therefore often perceived as illegitimate by large segments of the Iraqi population. In this sense the political situation bore little resemblance to the successful British campaigns in Northern Ireland and Malaya for example. Therefore, negotiation and dialogue with the Iraqi political elite were of fundamental importance. For instance, the political authority to move against certain Shia extremists required extensive negotiation with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. General Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker thus spent much of their time during the early weeks of 2007 convincing Maliki that their surge against the extremists required an evenhanded approach it could not simply be an anti-Sunni campaign.14 Another crucial strategic level consideration with impact on the operational level was diplomacy with regional powers. Just as in Northern Ireland and the Basque country, as well as many other notable insurgencies, the existence of terrorist hinterlands in border regions would have huge strategic significance. In an attempt to uncover the so-called rat-lines which delivered foreign jihadist fighters to Iraq, General Stanley McChrystal established Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) liaison teams in several surrounding countries. It was pretty well broadcast that the Saudis were cooperating, explains one senior American. You would pick up a Saudi guy or a Moroccan [in Iraq], feed the information over to them. Then within days, sometimes hours, you got the answers back from them.15 In April 2006, Britain followed the American lead and also deployed liaison teams to regional powers. In retrospect it seems extraordinary that this was not done earlier. However, the problem for both McChrystal and the British was that in the places where regional cooperation was needed most Syria and Iran it was, respectively, very limited and nonexistent.16 Despite its importance, the overall the grand-strategic game could be considered a somewhat static backdrop, compared to the complete overhaul of theatre strategy and tactics in Iraq. This dissertation concentrates on this overhaul, with analytical focus on negotiation and dialogue with non-state actors, which made a dynamic impact on the campaign. Some developments of particular interest include the formation of the Force Strategic Engagement Cell, under Lieutenant-General Rob Fry in May 200617 and with it the first concentrated effort to integrate negotiation efforts into an overall strategy. Subsequently, the Anbar Awakening established itself, making negotiations with tribal and insurgent leaders all the more critical. Additionally, the British wind-down in MultiNational Division South East (MND SE) and simultaneous efforts to strike a peace deal with the Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) in Basra will be scrutinised. What is already clear is that negotiation efforts were significantly more successful in the UScontrolled Multi-National Division North (MND N) than the British-run MND SE. This dissertation will seek to understand the reasons why. Furthermore, it will ask if any consequent lessons have been identified from this period and, if so, what steps have been taken to learn them and store them in

Frank Ledwidge: Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Yale University Press, 2011) p.22 14 See Mark Urban: Task Force Black, (Abacus, 2011) p.223-224 15 Ibid. p.134 16 Ibid. p.135 17 Ibid. p.180

the institutional memory. Interestingly, new lessons learned systems were instituted by the US Army in 2006 and the British Army in 2009.18 This dissertation will therefore also seek to understand whether the new American system contributed to the increasing success of negotiations in MND-N from 2006-2008, and the absence of an adequate British system contributed to the failure in MNDSE during the same time period. In addition to the strategic transformation, tactical-level negotiations and dialogue were also of critical importance since the killing was a mass social phenomenon, driven from the bottom up rather than the top down.19 Dialogue at the tactical level produced intelligence which built up the commanders knowledge of the human terrain in that area and informed operational level manoeuvre. Negotiation concerning matters of reconciliation and other neighbourhood issues contributed significantly to the overall population-centric strategy. As Kilcullen notes, the American modus operandi increasingly [focused] on local community engagement and generating bottom-up buy-in from ordinary Iraqis... [It] was a key part of our methodology.20 In summary, this dissertation seeks to understand how negotiations with non-state actors came about in Iraq, and why their results were so disparate. It will analyse the motives behind negotiations on both sides and examine its place as part of an overall strategy, with the critical 20062008 period as the primary focus. Secondly, this dissertation will seek to understand how the lessons learned process contributed to development of best practice in negotiations (if at all) and if any subsequent lessons have been identified, or indeed learnt, as a result.


See Robert Foley, Stuart Griffin & Helen McCartney: Transformation in contact: learning the lessons of modern war, in International Affairs, 87:2 (2011) p.253-270 19 David Kilcullen: Op Cit. p.122 20 Ibid. p.138

Learning to Listen By listening to his civilian counterpart and asking questions, a...military negotiator can better understand the civilian leaders true interests and can leverage that understanding to structure an agreement that achieves his units objective. Such a result can also be helpful in cultivating a productive relationship with the civilian leader.21 David Tressler

When did the coalition start talking to non-state actors in Iraq? In particular, when did they start talking to Iraqi insurgents? At the strategic level, the answer to both questions is regrettably only when they had to. The immediate post-war period is remarkable for the lack of attention the senior coalition leadership paid to the views and needs of non-state actors, despite several peaceful attempts to engage in meaningful dialogue initiated by the Iraqis themselves. This was probably largely due to perceived asymmetry of power; in 2003 coalition commanders believed that their overwhelming military dominance made negotiation (that is, a two-way process) with non-state actors unnecessary. The autocratic style in which the US leadership of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) established itself was extraordinary. Input from not only from Iraqis, but also from coalition partners, military commanders and the intelligence community was scant regarded in policy decisions of huge significance. It is therefore of little surprise that productive strategic engagement with non-state actors only began to emerge following the dissolution of the CPA in June 2004. The earliest advances towards genuine dialogue with the insurgency were reportedly made in 2004 through Jordanian intelligence officers22 but even such indirect contact was not officially sanctioned until June 2005.23 Meanwhile, at the tactical and operational levels, although regular negotiation and dialogue with non-state actors was an operational necessity, commanders found themselves illprepared for degree to which they would be required to engage with Iraqi society. This chapter will firstly discuss the extent to which initial strategic ignorance damaged the coalition campaign by failing to engage with non-state actors. Secondly, the ramifications of a lack of proper negotiation training for tactical commanders will also be considered. In Basra, just as in Baghdad, it quickly became evident that planning for post-invasion Iraq was somewhat cursory. As one well known tactical commander, Colonel Tim Collins, has put it: It became very apparent to me shortly after crossing the border that the government and many of my superiors had no idea what they were doing.24 Specifically in terms of dialogue, there had only been limited attempts to gage the local political situation. Weak pre-war human intelligence (HUMINT) from SIS and CIA spy networks led to an initial farce when Iraqi caretaker leaders appointed by the British and Americans were rejected almost instantly. Sheikh Muzahim al-Tamimi was a well known

David Tressler: Negotiation in the New Strategic Environment: Lessons From Iraq, (Strategic Studies Institute, 2007) p.48 22 Michael Ware: Talking with the Enemy, in Time Magazine, (Time Inc., 20/02/05), available online:,9171,1029805,00.html 23 Rory Carroll: US in talks with Iraqi insurgents, in The Guardian, (Guardian Media, 10/06/05), available online: 24 Colonel Tim Collins, speaking on the BBC Today programme, 14 September 2010, report available at

to the British as a moderate influence and was thus chosen as the Iraqi leader of the newly formed local council. Jack Fairweather notes: Few gave much thought to the potential consequences of putting a Sunni in charge of a Shia city like Basra, and no one had adequate contacts to gauge local views on Tamimi. In fact, Tamimi was notorious for being on Saddam Husseins payroll, and was known locally as Saddams Sheikh consequently the day after the council members were announced several hundred protestors gathered outside the [Basra] palace waving placards denouncing Tamimi as Baathist and demanding elections.25 A similar situation faced the Americans in Baghdad, where they had originally envisioned Iraqi exile leader Ahmed Chalabi as caretaker. However the Iraqis were making clear at private meetings in the Green Zone and in demonstrations outside the palace that they viewed Chalabi as an outsider and CIA stooge.26 It was however Paul Bremers decision to carry out full de Baathification of Iraqi society that demonstrates the most significant lack of engagement with it. While there were undoubtedly a number of former regime loyalists within the Baathist ranks who were rightly deposed, many of them would have later been judged reconcilable. More importantly many party members were never ardent Saddamists, their motivation was personal advancement and/or protection rather than strict political allegiance. Rajiv Chandrasekaran notes that many Iraqis with technical skills found it necessary to join the party in order to advance their careers, or even get admitted to the necessary colleges.27 The necessity of Baathist membership for professional advancement was also confirmed to me by a senior Regime Crimes Liaison Office (RCLO) employee, who talked with Iraqi legal professionals on a daily basis during his deployment to Baghdad 2005-2006. Although the judiciary had generally maintained an acceptable level of independence, many police investigators were purged, which hampered the processing of evidence for the courts.28 Ultimately the de-Baathification order authorised the removal of 35,000 to 50,000 people, mainly government employees, despite the obvious consequence of significantly reduced capability within the Iraqi civil service. However, there is considerable evidence that the order was used to execute a far more pervasive purge perhaps because Ahmed Chalabi, who held stringent anti-Baathist views and who wanted to eliminate rivals for power was partly responsible for implementing the order, an appointment Walter Slocombe later admitted was a mistake.29 Furthermore, because the Baath party was a Sunni party it was, rightly or wrongly, perceived as collective punishment for Saddams actions. In this way it stimulated sectarianism and ultimately the insurgency. What is most striking about the de-Baathification programme though is the blanket disbandment of the entire Iraqi military. In one stroke Bremer unemployed an estimated 500, 000 to 800,000 men, approximately 7 to 10 percent of Iraqs total workforce, the majority of whom had extensive weapons training and access to military weapons.30 This decision was made despite a complete lack of consultation with Iraqis, coalition partners or even US commanders, politicians and intelligence specialists. Had some form of dialogue been actively engaged in, and others views taken into

25 26

Jack Fairweather: A War of Choice, (Jonathan Cape, 2011) p.31 Ibid. p.39 27 Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdads Green Zone, (Bloomsbury, 2008) p.54-55 28 Interview with RCLO source 16/08/2012 29 Charles Ferguson: No End in Sight: Iraqs Descent into chaos, (Public Affairs, 2008) p.156 30 Ibid. p.164

account, Bremer might have learned that far from being uniformly Baathist, Sunni, or personally beholden to Saddam...the Iraqi Army was heterogeneous and independent, with the result that Saddam had in fact distrusted it. Further, ...recalling the army was both extremely important and eminently feasible.31 More poignantly, disbanding the Iraqi army did not make it disappear, it merely forced it underground. Colonel John Agoglia, US Central Command (CENTCOM) liaison officer to Paul Bremer, recalls the words of an early insurgent prisoner: Im a lieutenant in the Iraqi Army, and I believed you when you said you were going to bring me back as part of a new Iraq to serve a new Iraq and not Saddam. We deserted because we trusted you. But now youve called us Baathists and cowards and my men have come to me and said you are not to be trusted. Youve dishonoured us. We cannot trust the Americans. We must fight them to regain our honour, and thats why were out here fighting you.32 Rajiv Chandrasekarans conversation with a former Iraqi Army soldier also supports the view that disbandment stimulated, or even created, the insurgency: Chandrasekaran: What happened to everyone there [former soldiers at a protest march]? Did they join the new army? Soldier: Theyre all insurgents now. Bremer lost his chance.33 As if to demonstrate how completely closed off Bremer was from the possibility of negotiation with non-state actors, he turned down the opportunity to meet with a remarkable delegation of Sunni army officers who tried warn the provisional authority about the coming insurgency, and persuade Bremer to change his decision. These officers reportedly approached senior commanders, including General Petraeus, offering to negotiate prior to joining the insurgency. Petraeus strongly urged Bremer to meet with them, but Bremer refused. The Sunni officers also approached the United Nations, which in turn alerted Bremer. Again, Bremer refused to speak with them.34 In sharp contrast to Bremer were the efforts of the UNs top mediator Lakhdar Brahimi. Special Advisor to the Secretary General and seasoned power-broker, he was persuaded to take the job of special representative to Iraq in early 2004. His role was to supervise the establishment of an Iraqi interim government to replace the Iraqi Governing Council, a 25 person assembly which the US had selected the previous summer. Of particular note were his listening capabilities, which were diametrically opposed to those of Bremer. His spokesman Ahmad Fawzi says: Brahimi works on the principles of navigation by sight, meaning he makes no assumptions about what he will find. He will go in with an understanding but he will say in all humility, I dont know enough about this issue. ...So he will have 20 meetings a day with between two and 200 people and he will listen to them all. Bahami spent several weeks meeting Iraqis from every corner of society politicians, civic and religious leaders, academics and businessmen35 before eventually submitting a proposal to the

Based on interviews with dozens of people who knew the Middle East and Iraq well; who worked in the occupation for ORHA, the military, and the CPA; or who were involved in recalling the Iraqi Army. See Ibid. p.170-171 32 John Agoglia quoted in Ibid. p.185 33 Rajiv Chandrasekaran: op. cit. p.88 34 Charles Ferguson: op. cit. p.185 35 Ahmad Fawzi quoted in Harriet Martin: Kings of Peace, Pawns of War: The Untold Story of Peace-making, (Continuum Books, 2006) p.4

UN Security Council which advocated a caretaker government of technocrats, not politicians...based, he said, on what the majority of Iraqis, whom he had spent the previous weeks talking to, wanted.36 However, Brahimis anti-war stance and anti-US policy rhetoric, combined with the efforts of the existing Iraqi political elite to undermine him, (most notably Ahmed Chalabi) led to his plans being frustrated. For instance, Ghazi al-Yawar a US-educated Sunni with strong ties to Washington was appointed President instead of Adnan Pachachi Brahimis preferred candidate. Similarly, Iyad Allawi a man little known among ordinary Iraqis but with close links to the CIA became the new Iraqi Prime Minister.37 In some deft political manoeuvring, the Bush administration attempted to make it appear that Brahimi had ...made the decisions and brought their names to the Governing Council. As I understand it, the Governing Council simply opined about names. It was Mr. Brahimis selections [sic], said US president Bush. Brahimi would not tolerate this misrepresentation and commented: ...Bremer is the dictator of Iraq: he has the money, he has the signature, nothing happens without his agreement in the county.38 Moving away from the strategic quagmire to the tactical level, we find that although some commanders did engage the Iraqis in dialogue, they had neither the authority nor the training to make tactical or operational gains from their efforts. Moreover, the strategic delusions of the CPA leadership would directly interfere with the best-laid plans of tactical commanders to engage nonstate actors. In Basra, Major Chris Parker, the British officer who found himself burdened with dayto-day responsibility for running the city, was approached by Iraqi Rear Admiral Muhammad Jawad. The Rear Admiral was commandant of Basras naval academy and came to Parker out of concern for his men, who had gone without wages for over a month. Jack Fairweather describes the meeting: Parker was expecting a tirade from Jawad when they met; instead he found a calm and articulate officer who had spent a year at Dartmouth Naval College and spoke perfect English. He had also brought a CD with him containing the names and salaries of his employees, which he had made before the invasion in anticipation of looting. Parker saw the opportunity at once. So far, he had struggled to find enough Iraqi police to man a station let alone patrol the city, and those who reported for work were by and large the most corrupt. Why didnt Jawad organise his men to patrol Basras docks and shipyards?39 Parker sensibly negotiated a temporary agreement with Jawad that created a new 188 man Basra River Force. However a mere 3 days after setting up the unit, Parker was ordered to disband it as it was in breach of the CPA directive to disband all the Iraqi armed forces. At first he ignored the order, reasoning that securing the streets was priority over politics. However, shortly thereafter he was forced to shut-down the operation. This is going to set back rebuilding weeks or months, he warned his headquarters. Not only had his embryonic police force been scrapped, but Parker had lost credibility with an influential Iraqi leader and made enemies of his men. Did some of those guys who were sacked join the insurgency? I wouldnt be surprised, Parker reflected after the sackings.40
36 37

Ibid. p.6-7 Ibid. p.9 38 Ibid. p.10 39 Jack Fairweather: op. cit. p.43 40 Ibid. p.44

Of course, as deluded as the CPA leadership (principally Paul Bremer and Walter Slocombe) may have been, we cannot hold them solely responsible for the failure to engage effectively with Iraqi non-state actors. The second major problem was simply a lack of negotiation training and expertise at the tactical and operational levels. As one US intelligence officer observed as late as 2007: the skill and practice of negotiation continues to occupy a very minor role in pre-deployment training, and the time spent training for negotiations is not proportional to the amount of time that soldiers and commanders will spend negotiating with Iraqi civilian and military leaders or proportional to the tactical, sometimes operational, importance of those negotiations.41 The situation was comparable in the British armed forces. Tactical commanders had a misguided preference for robust action over considered dialogue and negotiation. It was, after all, what they were trained for. When the British Parachute Regiment (aka the Paras) first arrived in Maysan province they were surprised to find that local Marsh Arab tribesmen had successfully revolted against the Baathists and liberated themselves. There was no looting and Iraqi police [were] manning checkpoints across the province.42 However, the Marsh Arabs were not prepared to simply hand over to the British. For instance, the Paras were greeted outside the second largest settlement of the province - Majar alKabir - by an emissary who delivered a polite but firm warning: Please respect our wishes and do not enter the city.43 Instead of seeking to understand the local power structure and possibly negotiate a power-sharing deal with the Sheiks, the Paras began conducting regular patrols through the town, including house searches that used dogs to look for weapons.44 As a direct consequence, an angry Iraqi mob surrounded a British platoon at Majar al-Kabir police station. Fortunately, Abu Hatem, an influential Marsh Arab arrived at the police station and calmed the crowd by [assuring] the protestors he would raise their grievances with the British and stop them conducting weapon searches. Accordingly, the following day Major Chris Kemp held a meeting with the towns tribal chiefs in which he agreed to stop the invasive house searches and to develop a joint approach to weapon confiscation.45 However, continued patrols ran into trouble the very next day (despite some militia participation). What [began] as a rock-throwing scuffle...escalated into a full-blown revolt, with every man in Majar al-Kabir on the street with a gun.46 Unfortunately, this revolt ended in tragedy when six British military policemen were murdered by an incensed Iraqi mob. Why did Major Kemps negotiation efforts fail to pacify the town? According to one of the most prominent negotiation theory texts, Getting to Yes, written by the founders of the esteemed Program on Negotiation (PON) university consortium, negotiations such as this are best solved using a four-part method: (i) (ii) (iii) Separate the people from the problem Focus on interests, not positions Invent options for mutual gain

41 42

David Tressler: Op. Cit. p.6 Jack Fairweather: Op Cit. p.54 43 Ibid. p.54 44 Ibid. p.55 45 Ibid. p.56 46 Ibid. p.59


Insist on using objective criteria.47

A brief analysis will now be conducted using this template. In order to separate the people from the problem, Major Kemp needed to look for ways to separate the relationship from the substance of the negotiation. The substance in this case was the issue of who would exercise control over the Marsh Arab towns. The problem was the fears of the Marsh Arabs, their perceptions of the new occupiers and, likewise, the British fear of ungovernable townships and their perception of the Marsh Arabs as a threat to the security of MND-SE. It appears however, that Kemp (undoubtedly acting under pressure to show results) was more interested in the substance than the relationship. Consequently, he did not adequately deal with perceptions. The British were clearly still viewed as an oppressor rather than an ally or partner; the Marsh Arabs had after all liberated themselves from the Baathists and were in no rush to abandon their new-found freedom, particularly when their communities had suffered so much under Saddam. Specifically, the inhabitants of Majar al-Kabir still believed the British were intent on confiscating their personal weapons on that fateful day, when in fact the purpose of the patrols was simply to show a presence.48 Instead, Kemp should have looked for opportunities to act inconsistently with Marsh Arab perceptions, perhaps setting up a temporary medical clinic before renewing aggressive patrols into the town centre. In terms of the focus of the negotiations, Major Kemp needed to focus on interests, not positions. The position of the British and Marsh Arab leadership appears irreconcilable at first glance. Both actors believed that they were the legitimate controlling authority in the area. Yet, behind opposed positions lie shared and compatible interests, as well as conflicting ones.49 Both the British and the Marsh Arabs wanted stability and security in the area, and both were interested in a mutually beneficial relationship. However, both also wanted recognition as a legitimate authority and both wanted to exercise overall control of the area. The correct approach in theory is therefore to understand and acknowledge the other actors interests, whilst still attacking the problem. Perhaps a shared sovereignty arrangement could have worked. In fact, Major Kemp did make inroads in this direction by successfully negotiating an understanding whereby British soldiers would patrol alongside the militia, and take a joint approach to weapons confiscation. Thus, instead of inflexibly sticking to his positions regarding patrolling and weapons confiscation he acknowledged a legitimate interest in security and developed a solution whereby British soldiers and Marsh Arab militiamen were to patrol together (at least on a temporary basis). Yet, he still made at least one crucial mistake. He was perhaps misled. However, he failed to realise that the opposing side had multiple interests, and multiple layers of authority. In the event, Abu Hatem and the other tribal chiefs lacked the influence they claimed they had. Indeed, one village elder who sought to free the military policemen from the mob was simply pushed back by the crowd.50 In terms of inventing options for mutual gain, Major Kemp and other subsequent British leaders in the area failed to examine the Marsh Arabs interests in any great detail, meaning that potential

Roger Fisher, William Ury & Bruce Patton (ed): Getting to Yes: Negotiating an agreement without giving in, nd (Random House, 2 edition, 1991) p.13 48 Jack Fairweather: Op. Cit. p.56-57 49 Roger Fisher, William Ury & Bruce Patton (ed): Op Cit. p.24 50 Jack Fairweather: Op. Cit. p.62

opportunities for building a long-term mutual relationship were missed. Frank Ledwidge notes one such missed opportunity: in the latter half of 2008, [just as the British were preparing to pull out of Iraq] in a simple and quick operation, British troops immunized the Marsh Arabs cattle against tuberculosis (TB). At a stroke, this reduced the incidence of child mortality among Marsh Arabs predominantly caused by cattle-borne TB by 50 per cent. As one senior officer present in Iraq at the time said to me: It is incredible that this had not been done before, as the Marsh Arabs were the only people who could effectively control what came through the border.51 The officer was referring to the border with Iran, just 30km from Basra, along which many Marsh Arab communities have settled. Had this operation been carried out earlier, the British relationship with the Marsh Arabs may have served to curtail the flow of Iranian weapons from across the border. Finally, insisting on using objective criteria would have been hugely beneficial to this negotiation. Identifying objective standards based upon precedent, equal treatment, moral standards and tradition would have likely led to a more concrete agreement that both sides considered fair. For example, an agreement that each house is allowed one assault rifle and one full magazine might be determined a fair standard that met both the inhabitants need for personal protection and the British desire to reduce the amount of weapons in circulation. Additionally, if this standard could be equally applied across neighbourhoods, towns, provinces and ultimately the country, it would show equal treatment for all Iraqi societies. Indeed, this standard would later become law. Moral standards that might have been agreed upon could include things such as an undertaking not to physically punish offenders, men refraining from searching women and/or an agreement to pay for any property damaged in the process of a search. Furthermore, allowing an independent third party to play a role in the negotiation (for example, helping the two sides to identify such objective standards) could have contributed to a more successful outcome. Mediation experts would come to play a key role in Iraq. Resolving such grassroots conflict at a very local level was the speciality of a few remarkable organisations. Many were charitable NGOs staffed by experts in tack II diplomacy, mediation, reconciliation and other stabilisation skills. The largest conflict-resolution organisation operating in Iraq was the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), which is federally funded (it claims this allows it to stay independent of private interests) although strictly non-partisan. USIP organised and funded many conflict-resolution initiatives in Iraq, including many focusing directly on dialogue and negotiation. In 2003 alone it trained civil society and local government officials [to] manage conflicts in mixed communities and...Iraqi national security officials in problem solving, negotiation, and working with third parties, USIP civil society partnerships would go on to negotiate the release of seven Western hostages.52 Whereas Bremer and other high-ranking officials refused to engage in any form of diplomacy with non-state actors, these conflict-resolution organisations worked in partnership with community groups to begin the delicate process of building supportive constituencies for peace and initiatives for reconciliation among ordinary people. At its crudest, the distinction can be described as being between a top-down approach to making peace, and a bottom-up one.53 In 2004, projects included the introduction of courses and materials in conflict resolution and peace education into university
51 52

Frank Ledwidge: Op. Cit. p.56-57 Major USIP Activities and Contributions in Iraq: 2002 2003, (webpage), available online: 53 Antonia Potter: In Search of the Textbook Mediator, in Harriet Martin: Op. Cit. p.160

curricula throughout the country, a series of conflict analysis and resolution, negotiation, and mediation skills training workshops for senior leaders in the Iraqi military and the establishment of the Network of Iraqi Facilitators (NIF) a group that conducts grassroots peace-building initiatives in some of the most violence prone areas of Iraq. At the request of communities, NIF members bring together local government, tribal, religious and civil society leaders to prevent and resolve conflict at the local level.54 In 2005, USIP introduced the SENSE (Strategic Economic Needs and Security Exercise) to Iraq. This is an interactive, computer-supported program that teaches negotiation, coalition-building and effective resource-allocation skills.55 The success of the conflict-resolution initiatives did not go unnoticed and clearly impacted on the thinking of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), which was also convened and supported by USIP. Indeed their influential study, clearly advocates leveraging dialogue as a strategic tool: Violence cannot end unless dialogue begins, and the dialogue must involve those who wield power, not simply those who hold political office. The United States must try to talk directly to grand Ayatollah Sistani and must consider appointing a high-level American Shia Muslim to serve as an emissary to him. The United States must also try to talk directly to Moqtada al-Sadr, to militia leaders, and to insurgent leaders.56 The ISG also advised engaging Iran and Syria in negotiations in an effort to persuade them to contain the growing sectarian violence. However, this was (rightly) dismissed at the time as wishful thinking by another prominent think tank paper, Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq from the American Enterprise Institute. This paper was arguably more influential in the development of a new Iraq strategy. It also noted the importance of dialogue but warned against direct talks with insurgents whilst violence remained a regular occurrence: Encouraging the Shiite government to negotiate with them without first containing the violence only reinforces the Sunni Arab rejectionists belief in the efficacy of violence to advance their cause.57 The timing of negotiations with violent non-state actors is an ongoing debate, hitherto most clearly articulated in the context of Northern Ireland, as noted in the introduction. However, the importance of this debate in the Iraq context from late 2006 should not be underestimated. It represents something of a turning point, as senior leaders and thinkers began to acknowledge the necessity of engaging Iraqis and, at the very least, noting their grievances - as was done during the first reported meeting between the US military and insurgents in 2005.58 Crucially, it meant the coalition had learnt to listen. Unfortunately, it is probably not a coincidence that these early talks about talks only began to appear on the agenda of senior leadership figures as the violence reached its peak. In December 2006, the worst month of the entire war for civilian casualties, killings peaked at around 125 per night, more than half of whom were people killed inside Baghdad city limits. Iraq was falling apart, from the centre out...59 Comparatively, London experiences 120 murders over an

Major USIP Activities and Contributions in Iraq: 2004, (webpage), available online: 55 Major USIP Activities and Contributions in Iraq: 2005, (webpage), available online: 56 James Baker, Lee Hamilton, Lawrence Eagleburger, Vernon Jordon, Edwin Meese III, Sandra Day OConnor, Leon Panetta, William Perry, Charles Robb, Alan Simpson: The Iraq Study Group Report, (USIP, 2006) p.46 57 Frederick Kagan: Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq, (American Enterprise Institute, 2007) p.5 58 Michael Ware: Op. Cit. 59 David Kilcullen: Op. Cit. p.126

entire year.60 On the other hand, if the coalition were feeling the pressure, the insurgents were too. Indeed, it might be said that the reason why...the insurgents accepted the eventual offer to meet, is the most important precondition for successful conversations: universal exhaustion, and the fear that a grim reality might be succeeded by a grimmer future. As [Lieutenant-General Sir Graeme] Lamb explains, there were things we could do in 2006 that we could not have done in 2004 or 2005.61 Chapter Summary This chapter has shown how strategic myopia among the top-level CPA leadership led to a failure to engage Iraqi non-state actors in any meaningful dialogue or negotiation, ultimately leading to serious policy miscalculations which certainly stimulated, perhaps even created the Iraqi insurgency. Secondly, this chapter has shown how those policy miscalculations impacted on the tactical and operational levels and prevented commanders from leveraging the positive effects of negotiation and dialogue with their Iraqi constituents. Thirdly, a brief analysis was conducted of a tactical case study, which highlights the ramifications of a lack of negotiation training and expertise among tactical commanders. Fourthly, the role of conflict-resolution organisations is discussed. Notably, such organisations were the first to gain tactical success (that is, to improve security) by negotiation and dialogue. Finally, the emergence of a debate concerning possible strategic negotiation with Iraqi insurgents and other actors is discussed.

60 61

120 Murders recorded for 2011. See See Jan Lemnitzer: Talking with terrorists? A Q&A with Sir Graeme Lamb, [online] (Politics Inspires, 2011) :

From anti-insurgency to counter-insurgency Shaping operations generally support the political line of operation, which seeks to establish the political conditions necessary for a successful outcome. These conditions are achieved by a number of activities among which dialogue or engagement is crucial.62 British Army Field Manual As discussed in the preceding chapter, prior to 2006, despite being routinely and somewhat unavoidably carried-out, operational and tactical negotiations were not being leveraged as a strategic tool - hence shaping operations as referred to above, were not effectively executed. More easily understood in the context of conventional war fighting, to shape is to create favourable conditions preceding an engagement by using intelligence, (e.g. deception operations) supporting maneuvers (e.g. flanking) and/or fires (e.g. artillery, mines). The equivalent in a COIN campaign is engagement with local community leaders, seeking their commitment to support ones activity, and establishing measures to hold them to this commitment.63 Following the subsequent operation, the main force should be supported by an exploitation force, which follows-through and capitalises on initial gains where possible. In a COIN context the equivalent of exploitation is rapid follow-up with humanitarian and economic assistance, and rapid establishment of long term security measures to protect the population and confirm their decision to support the government.64 This chapter discusses how tactical and operational engagements of the type discussed in the previous chapter were eventually leveraged to strategic effect. For the first two years of the Iraq campaign, shaping operations of the conventional variant were more frequently carried out than an adapted COIN variant. This approach cumulated with the assault on Fallujah in 2004. In a textbook example of the provocation insurgent strategy, the highly publicised murder and mutilation of four American security contractors prompted US Marines to surround and subsequently assault the entire city. Military leaders appear to have acknowledged the danger of overreaction prior to the assault. Major-General James Mattis confided in LieutenantGeneral Conway that he [didnt] want to go into the city, Conway agreed, stating thats exactly what the enemy wants us to do right now. 65 As an alternative, the military had an open dialogue running that had started to yield results: we were working with the police chief and the then-mayor [to identify the perpetrators]...There were a lot of tribal factions that didnt necessarily get along in the city, so we were able to work with that. We had fairly good information coming out of inside the city. For several days, we continued along these lines, recovered some of the bodies, starting to get names and this sort of thing.66 However, the dialogue never evolved into a negotiation. Instead the city leadership was issued with an ultimatum to hand over those responsible, or face the consequences. Yet, the city fathers...never swung any weight...they were very heavily influenced by the insurgents...they had no real authority over the people.67 Consequently two marine battalions entered the city, supported by airpower, artillery and heavy armour and encountered heavy insurgent resistance fighting in groups of 8 to 30 men many of
62 63

See British Army Field Manual, Vol.1 Part 10: Countering Insurgency, (MoD, 2009) p.4-6 David Kilcullen: Op. Cit. p.69 64 Ibid. p.69 65 Timothy McWilliams & Kurtis Wheeler (eds): Al-Anbar Awakening: US Marines and Counterinsurgency in Iraq 2004-2009, Volume 1: American Perspectives, (Marine Corps University Press, 2009) p.34 66 Major-General James Mattis quoted in Ibid. p.34 67 Ibid. p.52-53

whom were incensed locals who perceived the offensive as collective punishment and an attack on their whole society.68 Ultimately, the assault (inadvertently) caused many civilian deaths (estimated between 220-700 deaths), destroyed over 75 buildings and damaged many more, virtually united national opinion against the coalition (Shia and Sunni protested together across the country and in some cases actively assisted each other), triggered several violent uprisings in other major urban centres and almost collapsed the Iraqi Governing Council (several members threatened to quit and indeed the human rights minister did resign alongside the Minister of the Interior).69 This led to the assault being called off before it had achieved its military objectives. The military was now forced into awkward cease-fire negotiations as described by Colonel Michael Walker (3rd Civil Affairs Group): ...we started opening lines of communication, went through a whole series of negotiations. They were going to hand over the prisoners, and they were going to turn over their weapons...we all knew that it was hokum...I studied negotiations at Harvard...Youve got to have something to be able to negotiate with somebody, and they knew we had no cards. Our card was, Well, if you do this, were going to resume military operations, and they knew we couldnt.70 Eventually these negotiations lead to a compromise agreement which proved highly controversial the so-called Fallujah Brigade a unit of some 1600 Iraqi soldiers funded and equipped by the US, was to enjoy autonomy in securing the streets of Fallujah alongside Iraqi police and national guardsmen. The Brigades ranks undoubtedly included insurgents who had been fighting against the US marines. Indeed, the Brigade was soon marginalised and simply became another faction in what was ultimately a huge no-go area for US forces. Colonel Walker defends the concept: created a the insurgency, he claims, suggesting that the brigade caused some different perspectives within the insurgencys internal dialogue i.e. some were prepared to work with the coalition under certain conditions while others were not.71 Yet, the fact remains that in terms of concrete results, the ceasefire negotiations were a failure, a failure which necessitated the second battle of Fallujah (November-December 2004) during which a joint US, Iraqi and British force finally cleared the entire city. Jonathan Keiler accurately summed up the two battles: The Battle of Fallujah was not a defeat but we cannot afford many more victories like it.72 Two dialogues stand out in the aftermath of Fallujah. One was the initiative of a junior Marine officer who spent 10 days welcoming and meeting residents as they returned to Fallujah...In a still-tense security environment heavily characterized by military power, the officer reminded the residents that the only way to free themselves from both insurgent violence and intimidation as well as intensive US occupation was to give US soldiers information to help them defeat insurgents and keep them out of Fallujah.73 Importantly, this dialogue with the Iraqi population represents a shift away from a purely power-based negotiation strategy towards one which was also based on interests. Though he may not have been aware of it the young Marine officer had just set a precedent (at the tactical level) for the cyclical negotiation strategy which would eventually succeed at the strategic level across al-Anbar province.

Carter Malkasian: Signalling Resolve, Democratization, and the First Battle of Fallujah, in The journal of Strategic Studies, Vol.29, No.3, (Routledge, 2006) p.435 69 See Ibid. p.437-441 70 Timothy McWilliams & Kurtis Wheeler (eds): Op. Cit. p.62 71 Ibid. p.63 72 Jonathan Keiler: Who Won the Battle of Fallujah? In Proceedings, (US Naval Institute, January 2005) 73 David Tressler: Op. Cit. p.51

The second effort was orchestrated by a more senior officer and was a considerably more ambitious dialogue with Iraqi leaders and businessmen, which first convened in Bahrain ...another Arab country...[with] skyscrapers, and everyones driving fancy cars, and theres landscaped highways and fancy hotels...all of a sudden they see...what the hell happened to them. They went from being top of the pile in the mid-70s to being way behind by the 2000s, mid-2000s.74 The Bahraini trip facilitated meetings with international businessmen keen to invest in Iraq, but highlighted the difficulty of operating in a violent environment, and therefore the potential benefits of working with the coalition. Subsequently, further economic development meetings, as they became known, were arranged in Jordan, where many prominent Iraqis had fled. The meetings were attended by international development banks amongst other potential investors. Not only did these conferences facilitate Iraqi business deals and stimulate economic initiatives, they also resulted in the opening of a communication channel with the insurgency. One of the attendees was a representative of a Sunni insurgent economic committee who was able to articulate their vision of al-Anbar, and what role they wanted us to do. It appeared to Colonel Walker that ...all of a sudden, the lights were going on that maybe the road out of this thing is with the Americans, instead of with al-Qaeda.75 However, despite these glimpses of the way forward, coalition operations from 2003-2006 continued to be heavily enemy-centric (focused on killing insurgents) and could therefore be considered anti-insurgency rather than counter-insurgency. Importantly though, the blunt cudgel approach seen in Fallujah was never repeated on the same scale. From 2005, the overall strategic emphasis shifted away from major sweeping and clearing operations such as Fallujah to one of training Iraqi security forces to effectively hold ground while the coalition gradually withdrew into large bases outside the towns and cities. From these external bases the coalition adopted a repetitive raiding approach as opposed to one of persistent presence. This was believed at the time to reduce popular resentment against the occupation by keeping foreign troops out of the Iraqis faces. While this made good sense in principle, the reality was very different: because troops did not live in the muhalla, the Iraqi neighbourhoods, they saw very little of the locals, did not know them, had no notion of who to trust and how far.76 This lack of situational awareness was directly due to an absence of sustained dialogue with the Iraqi population. As Kilcullen observes this was compensated for by an overreliance on airpower and artillery and an operational pattern of commuting to the fight from out of town, instead of getting in among the people. This created accidental guerrillas at every turn...77 In Basra where British force levels had stabilised between 7,000 and 8,000 troops, a mere 200 patrolling riflemen were available at any one time, while the rest were engaged in securing their own bases.78 Limited contact with the population led to a dearth of intelligence on the militias who were gradually assuming control of Basra. This problem was made worse by the British decision to incorporate the militias into the police in the hope that it would give them all a stake in the new government structure79, whilst neglecting to actually negotiate any form of loyalty in return or any mechanisms to oversee the new law-enforcement structure.
74 75

Timothy McWilliams & Kurtis Wheeler (eds): Op Cit. p.64 Ibid. pp.65-67 76 David Kilcullen: Op. Cit. p.124 77 Ibid. p.124 78 Frank Ledwidge: Op Cit. p.38 79 Ibid. p.33

The most notorious of the police units was the Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) which perpetrated more serious crime than it prevented. It became an instrument of intimidation on behalf of Muqtada alSadrs Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) militia. In September 2005, an SAS operation to arrest SCU officer Captain Jafar backfired when two SAS soldiers instead found themselves in custody, where they were badly beaten before being transferred to a radical fringe group called Iraqi Hezbollah. A negotiating team had failed to secure their release before the transfer took place. Fortunately, due to imagery intelligence (IMINT) gathered by an orbiting helicopter, their rescue was rapidly carried out the next day.80 The incident clearly demonstrated the lack of British control of the situation in Basra especially a lack of healthy relationships with local power brokers. Indeed, in the aftermath the Governor of Basra province, Mohammed al-Waeli, described the British assault on the SCU as barbarous and ordered his police force to end all cooperation with the British.81 Yet, as the coalitions soft-power strategy continued to flounder, 2005 did see some important developments in hard-power strategy namely the fusion of Special Forces with an effective intelligence operation. In the northern town of Balad, General Stanley McChrystal and his JSOC staff were coming up with ideas, technologies and tactics that amounted to nothing less than a revolution in counterterrorism.82 These all revolved around employing intelligence to target prominent AQI members, otherwise known as High Value Targets (HVTs). In particular they advocated 24/7 aerial surveillance of certain critical targets as well as an sharp increase in the tempo of SF operations, something made possible in part by the growing Iraqi uptake of mobile phones; and the emphasis of operations was crystallised into F3EA find-fix-finish-exploit-analyse meaning that intelligence gathering became the point of each strike.83 In early 2006, the JSOC operation expanded to fully incorporate an SAS task group and broadened its operations from HVTs to more against middle-level players pinpointed by the ground-holding units.84 Simultaneously, the very Sunni extremists that were the principal target of these operations had become aware of tentative coalition efforts to negotiate with some of the less extreme insurgents and drive a wedge between them. Their reaction was two-fold. Firstly, in an attempt to unite the Sunni insurgency against the invading infidels and their apostate stooges85, six Salafi groups formed an umbrella group: the Mujahideen Shura Council. Just over a week after the formation of the Council, in January 2006, a seventh group requested to join. The Council accepted without hesitation, stating that the door is open to anyone who wants to join. This response clearly implies that the Council [was] more concerned with unity rather than the dominance of its Salafi ideology amongst insurgents.86 It is also thought that AQI was using the umbrella group as cover it had been criticised for its brutal tactics and the umbrella group meant it would no longer needed to admit direct responsibility. Further, it was an attempt to put an Iraqi face to the campaign; officially al-Zarqawi stepped aside as emir of the Council in favour of an Iraqi named Abdullah Rashid al-

80 81

Mark Urban: Op. Cit. p.105 Ibid. p.106 82 Ibid. p.69 83 Ibid. p.83 84 Ibid. p.119 85 START: Terrorist Organisation Profile: Mujahideen Shura Council, (webpage), available online: 86 Ibid.

Baghdadi.87 Secondly, in order to polarise the situation, AQI detonated a large bomb at the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam, collapsing its golden dome and causing serious damage to the rest of the Mosque. This created a fresh wave of sectarian violence, as Shia militias exacted revenge on Sunnis whom later retaliated. Many observers characterised the tit-fortat killings as a low-level civil war. The Samarra bombing was a key turning point in favour of the insurgents. AQI were successfully employing chaos strategy. The coalition struck back to put pressure on AQI, attempting to eliminate terrorist cells faster than they could (re)generate. Certainly, the pace of these anti-insurgency operations was formidable; between January 2005 and May 2006, 161 significant AQI members were killed or captured (more than two per week) and in early June Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi was killed.88 The British Director of Special Forces (DSF) at the time, Major-General Jonathan Shaw, used the term industrial counterterrorism to describe the approach. However, he had not meant it as a compliment.89 Interestingly, the intelligence leading to Zarqawis death had come from a captured insurgent who had entered into false negotiations for a prominent role in the future of Iraq.90 However, the AQI leaders death had little determinable effect on the insurgency. As intercommunal violence continued to increase, the coalition leadership began to acknowledge what many analysts were concluding: hard-power was not enough. Coalition spokesman Major-General William Caldwell noted AQIs capability for regeneration and accepted that one mans life does not signify an end to an insurgency.91 Petraeus would also later comment You cannot kill your way out of an insurgency.92 It was in the search for a new approach that the importance of strategic-level engagement with the insurgency was finally realised in the formation of the Force Strategic Engagement Cell (F-SEC), in May 2006 under British Lieutenant-General Robert Fry. Its business as strategic implied, was the turning of key power brokers.93 With Basra sliding ever further into chaos and British politicians sticking stubbornly to a policy of phased withdrawal, Fry was determined to show that Britain could provide a valuable contribution to the battle for Baghdad and Al-Anbar; the F-SEC, alongside its SF contribution would prove to be of critical importance. The US military were wary of arming Sunni militias following the failure of the Fallujah Brigade. Yet, whatever rifts in the Sunni insurgency that had existed then, or indeed were created by that episode, had now clearly widened considerably. In an attempt supplant traditional authority within the tribal structures which it had infected, AQI had offended tribal custom [aadat]. AQI cadre had sought to (forcibly) marry into the various Sheikhs families, claiming that their religious standing trumped tribal tradition. Those Sheikhs that contested AQI authority frequently ended up dead. More and more tribes were fighting back, but so far this was just contributing to the chaos. As Kilcullen notes: The tribes were not pro-Coalition, much less pro-Government but were anti-AQ. That said...the tribes, if correctly handled, could often be brought to see that their best interests lay in supporting
87 88

Ibid. Mark Urban: Op. Cit. p.152 89 Ibid. p.91 90 See Mark Bowden: The Ploy in The Atlantic, (May 2007) available online: 91 Mark Urban: Op. Cit. p.161 92 Ibid. p.220 93 Ibid. p.181

the government and cooperating with the security architecture of the new Iraq. But this was not an integral part of their original motivation and required time, careful negotiation and confidencebuilding.94 In order to exploit these rifts, the first stage was to identify those Sheiks who had genuine influence. There were many who claimed the title who did not. For example, a Sunni Sheikh named Talal alGoud who claimed links to an insurgent group called the Iraq National Resistance Council which was offering to switch sides, all that was required was for the Americans to supply the weapons and $108 million to start.95 The Americans figured they were being played since no one had ever heard of the insurgent group the Iraq National Resistance Council and further doubted that al-Gaoud and his contacts could turn off a diverse insurgency by pulling the strings back in Jordan, where the meetings took place.96 Yet, despite their prudent avoidance of this scheme, the episode exposed American ignorance. The coalition sorely lacked a thorough understanding of the human terrain. This knowledge could only be obtained through sustained engagement with the population, which had hitherto been missing from coalition strategy. Kilcullen notes that in practice, the authority an individual Sheikh exercises, and therefore the reliance we can place on his commitments, can only be determined through trial, error, and relationship building.97 Building relationships meant getting closer to the Iraqi population, literally. Instead of commuting into the towns and cities from large bases on the outskirts, the coalition would deploy troops to numerous combat outposts (COPs) within Iraqi neighbourhoods. This operational concept was pioneered by the US 1st Brigade of the 1st Armoured Division, which deployed to Ramadi in July 2006. These COPs significantly increased interaction with the local populace and allowed troops to work much more closely with Iraqi security forces. They also made quick reaction strikes practicable as actionable intelligence came in. Further, their very presence initially goaded AQI fighters into unwise multiple-platoon assaults in which they were severely beaten and sustained heavy casualties.98 On the ground, commanders were doing local deals, some of which were helped by FSEC which was able to become a repository of knowledge.99 Worthy of particular mention are two remarkable US officers who were largely responsible for cultivating the most important relationship of the war. Lieutenant Colonel Tony Dean, the task-force commander, and Captain Travis Patriquin, an Arabicspeaking former Special Forces Soldier and an infantry officer assigned as the Ready Firsts S9/engagements officer, Patriquin coordinated brigade-level local meetings and discussions.100 Their contact was a Sheik by the name of Abdul Sattar Albu Risha. The relationship appeared unpromising at first given his familys lineage in the nationalist resistance101, the fact that he represented a minor and somewhat disreputable tribe and his personal reputation for being a road gangster 102. Nevertheless Abdul Sattar and his brother had demonstrable power and considerable motive for
94 95

David Kilcullen: Op Cit. p.159 Mitchell Reiss: Negotiating With Evil, (Open Road, 2010) p.189 96 Ibid. 97 David Kilcullen: Op Cit. p.157 98 Neil Smith & Sean MacFarland: Anbar Awakens: The Tipping Point, in Military Review, (US Army, March 2008) p.46 99 Emma Sky: Correspondence with the author 31/08/12 100 Ibid. p.47 101 Mark Urban: Op. Cit. p.183 102 Mitchell Reiss: Op Cit. p.203

turning against AQI. AQI had killed [their] father and two brothers and they were prepared to field new Iraqi police recruits in order to demonstrate their influence to the Americans.103 Furthermore, Sattar knew what needed to be done. In an early meeting with Patriquin he confidently stated: I dont care if you have helicopters, aircraft, and spies, youll never know more than the local people. Americans dont speak the language. If the local people dont fight against al-Qaeda, youll never win.104 Deane was impressed by Sattar and started spending three to four hours a night, three to four nights a week with him, between his command responsibilities. The investment paid valuable dividends. Abdul Sattar continued to deliver new police recruits and use his tribal connections to persuade other Sheiks to send their sons as well,105 so beginning the Al-Anbar awakening. By early September 2006, Sattar, the F-SEC and US engagements officers had established a loose alliance of twenty different tribes against AQI. They went public on 9th September, triggering a violent struggle with AQI who announced the Islamic State of Iraq the following month, a caliphate containing the Sunni dominated provinces.106 AQI responded with its usual brutality, in one case murdering and beheading several teenagers from the new tribal alliance, however this time the tribes responded in kind; a junior US officer explains: The mosques in the city went crazy. The imams screamed jihad from the loudspeakers. We went to the roof of the outpost and braced for a major assault. Our interpreter joined us. Hold on, he said. They arent screaming Jihad against us. They are screaming Jihad against the insurgents.107 In October 2006 Graeme Lamb had replaced Robert Fry as the British senior officer in Baghdad, and under his leadership the Strategic Engagement Cell stepped up its activities considerably [and] meetings with tribal leaders became more frequent.108 Lamb threw himself into the task of reconciliation and negotiation with considerable gusto, even imitating Arab traditions by serving his guests their tea personally. Such cultural awareness was important, having a seemingly disproportionate effect on relationship building, and among senior leaders had been something of a forgotten art according to an experienced US Foreign Service Officer.109 Moreover, Lamb soon saw the potential for locking together the tribal strategy and JSOCs industrial counterterrorist drive.110 Given the Awakening Sheiks were excellent HUMINT sources, they could provide actionable intelligence for SF raids If the local AQI emir could be taken down, in one stroke the militants would suffer a blow in the district, an element of intimidation would be removed and a new Sheikh could declare himself in support of the government.111 As the battle for Anbar continued into 2007, the F-SEC was instrumental in mediating between the different tribes on the Awakening Council. Difficulties arose when the Sheiks looked beyond the
103 104

Mitchell Reiss: Op Cit. p.202 William Doyle: A Soldiers Dream: Captain Travis Patriquin and the Awakening of Iraq, (New American Library, 2011) 105 Mitchell Reiss: Op. Cit. p.203 106 Mark Urban: Op Cit. pp.183-184 107 Thomas Ricks: The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 20062008, (Allen Lane, 2009) 108 Mark Urban: Op Cit. p.185 109 See Michael Metrinko: The American Military Advisor: Dealing with Senior Foreign Officials in the Islamic World, (PKSOI Papers, 2008) 110 Mark Urban: Op. Cit. p.186 111 Ibid.

primary mission of fighting AQI: There was a lot of internal squabbling and jockeying for power and status. Council members bickered over acquiring and allocating weapons, which Sheiks would represent the group at meetings with US officials, and how they could win construction contracts.112 However, the Awakening movement began to see results in the spring of 2007, with violence declining most sharply between March and April. By September 2007, there were less than 200 attacks per month, compared to 1200+ attacks the previous September. This allowed Petraeus to proudly state that Anbar province was a model of what happens when local leaders and citizens decide to oppose Al Qaeda and reject its Taliban-like ideology.113


Realising that momentum was key, that spring Graeme Lamb began looking for ways to replicate the success of the Awakening in Baghdad. This was easier said than done since the conflict dynamics were somewhat contrasting between the tribal lands, where clan bonds were strong and the military could easily identify leaders, to the sprawl and fragmentation of urban Baghdad. 115 Furthermore, some senior coalition leaders doubted the soundness of the concept, especially when it came to negotiating with insurgents known to have ordered fatal attacks US General Ray Odierno declared at one point: I will not talk to folks with blood on their hands.116 Lamb gave instructions to one of his team: find the humans that matter in this country. Work out who they are, how we talk to them...Oh, and convince the Americans that this is a good idea.117

112 113

Mitchell Reiss: Op Cit. p.204 David Petraeus: Report to Congress on the Situation in Iraq, (US Gov, 2007) available online: 114 Ibid. 115 Jack Fairweather: Op Cit. p.290 116 Ray Odierno quoted in Ibid. p.292 117 Graeme Lamb quoted in Ibid. p.293

Eventually Lamb was able to determine that the key to Baghdad was the western suburb of Abu Ghraib, which had retained its tribal linkages to Fallujah and Ramadi, unlike other parts of the city.118 Specifically, the key leader that was identified was one Abu Azzam, leader of a Sunni insurgent group called Jaish al-Islami. Azzam had apparently suggested a peace deal to the US embassy in June 2006, following a number of successful SF strikes against the Jaish al-Islami leadership and possibly having heard the first whispers of the tribal revolt against AQI around that time. The hard-power strategy was clearly having an effect, but not a strategic one. When quizzed about Azzam, a CIA agent told Lambs staff that the military have been trying to kill him, so we havent been paying too much attention to talking to him.119 Lamb and the FSEC needed to combine that pre-existing threat of hard-power with a soft-power approach in order to have a strategic impact. To that end, Lamb used CIA contacts to set-up a series of meetings with Azzam. Aware of the Arab emphasis on relationship-building prior to striking deals, Lamb was content to go through the ceremony of welcome and tea drinking...leaving it to Abu Azzam, the host, to broach the reason for their meeting.120 Patience paid off and at their third meeting, in March 2007, Azzam agreed to a deal. If he could maintain a ceasefire for fourteen days, Lamb would arrange for all 1,738 members of Abu Azzams group to join the security forces. The deal was a reminder to Lamb of just how low the threshold could be between implacable insurgent and bulwark of society. At the end of the day he just wanted to be an Arab Sheik taking care of his own, said Lamb.121 In order to deliver on his side of the deal, Lamb would have to convince the coalition leadership to bring its full diplomatic weight to bear on the Iraqi government. As noted previously, the coalition was only a counter-insurgent by proxy, and the Iraqi leadership was highly distrustful of the Awakening movement at first. Maliki considered the awakening councils a sham Sunni insurgents who had temporarily removed their Al-Qaeda badges in exchange for money.122 It is worth considering why Lamb and other coalition leaders were convinced that this was not the case. Essentially, what the Awakening did was separate the tactical non-state actors from the strategic non-state actors. AQI was a strategic actor, as was made clear by its stated intention to form a strict Islamic Caliphate. The Sunni tribes on the other hand, and a good number of urban militias, were tactical actors purely concerned with the security and economic wellbeing of their constituents. They were prepared to kill to advance these interests, but were willing to align with whichever strategic actor empowered them the most. Malikis trust issues were twofold. In addition to having a lack of trust in the Sunni Awakening he placed too much trust in the Shia militias. Maliki knew that dealing with Sunni insurgents like Abu Azzam would prove highly unpopular with his power base and risk antagonising Shia militias that he viewed as a necessary bulwark against Sunni extremists.123 As General Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker negotiated with him over the validity of the awakening concept and the need for an even-handed approach to both the Sunni and Shia extremists they realised that Maliki had a naive faith in the likes of Muqtada al-Sadrs assurances that his people were not attacking

118 119

Ibid. p.293 Ibid. p.294 120 Ibid. 121 Ibid. p.296 122 Ibid. 123 Ibid. pp. 297-298

coalition forces or contributing aggressively to the problem.124 Indeed, this had been a major source of frustration for the British effort in Basra, where Jaish al-Mahdi leaders were frequently protected by their political ties to Baghdad. So Petraeus and Crocker started briefing Maliki with sensitive material, including telephone intercepts of some of his Shia allies crowing about how they were pulling the wool over the prime Ministers eyes.125 Simultaneously, Emma Sky, General Odiernos political advisor, had struck up a relationship with Malikis only female advisor Basima al-Jadiri. She could not believe that the Americans had invaded Iraq without a plan, and assumed they were deliberately encouraging sectarian animosities to keep the country weak, Sky managed to convince her otherwise and they began regularly briefing each other on what the other was up to, a policy that quickly delivered results as perceptions improved. In late May Jadiri persuaded Maliki to incorporate Abu Azzams fighters into the government forces.126 Even in areas where the insurgents refused to talk with the coalition, skilled soldier-negotiators found a way to effectively apply the mixed hard/soft power strategy. In Zaidon district, the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade were locked in a deadly struggle with AQI but also continued to target coalition soldiers. The local coalition commander, Colonel Joe LEtoile, through a skilfully arranged series of political maneuvers and careful targeting, successfully played the two groups off against each other... [until] the local insurgents were desperate, expecting annihilation, and willing to ally with almost anyone in order to get back at AQI, LEtoile [then] made a clandestine approach to talk with them through a local tribal intermediary...and they ultimately partnered with US and Iraq forces, joined local security force units, and cooperated to defend their communities against both Shia sectarian militias and AQI extremists.127 The number of these deals expanded rapidly and the strategy morphed into the $30 million a month Sons of Iraq (SOI) program.128 Meanwhile, as if to signal the Iraqi governments acceptance of the SOI model, Maliki announced the formation of an Implementation and Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation (IFCNR) a policy development body for local-level reconciliation. The IFCNRs most important contribution was the application of the SOI model to Baghdads Shia population: IFNCR encouraged the Coalition to take the same risk with the Shia extremists as with the Sunni. They outlined for the Coalition the fears of the Shia community and how the hiring of Sahwa [Awakening] fighters was turning Shiites against the Coalition. Unlike in the case of Sunni extremists, who met with the Coalition first before the latter brought the Iraqi government into the discussions, Shia extremists refused to speak to the united States, but were willing to enter dialogue with elements of the Iraqi government.129 The Shia population had also suffered at the hands of AQI and the sectarian civil war that they had stoked, and it was in this intimidating environment that the JAM stepped up to protect the Shia population. However, when the Shia population learned of how Sunni Sahwa members were turning on [AQI], they no longer felt so threatened by al-Qaeda and thus were less willing to tolerate JAMs illegal activities.130 Furthermore, the movement leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, had taking refuge in Iran
124 125

Mark Urban: Op Cit. p.223 Ibid. pp.223-224 126 Jack Fairweather: Op Cit. pp.298-299 127 Joe LEtoile quoted in David Kilcullen: Op. Cit. pp.162-163 128 Mitchell Reiss: Op. Cit. p.208 129 Safa Rasul al-Sheikh & Emma Sky: Iraq since 2003: Perspectives on a Divided Society in Survival, 53:4 (Routledge, 2011) p.130 130 Ibid. p.131

to avoid being targeted by the coalitions hard-power SF assets. This limited his command-andcontrol over the militia which consequently separated into several factions, with local leaders interpreting Sadrs advice as they saw fit. Inroads were first made in Jihad district, southwest Baghdad: the local US Battalion commander played a critical role in brokering relations between the different groups, mediating when there were differences, and bringing them together in a reconciliation committee...this committee...agreed a plan which included returning internally displaced persons to their homes, releasing detainees back to their communities, and rebuilding their mosques... [consequently] young men came out of the armed struggle, joined the Sawha movement and then entered Iraqi Security Forces or found other government jobs, while community leaders reached out across sectarian divides to rebuild the social fabric.131 In Basra however, negotiation efforts with the Shia insurgents would prove decidedly less successful. This was largely to do with the way the scene was set. Firstly, unlike Anbar and Baghdad, the JAM had no challenge to their dominance, apart from the British presence. Whereas the Sunni tribes and insurgent organisations further north were under intense pressure from AQI and each other, the sectarian civil-war had not developed in Basra, due to a largely homogeneous Shia population Sunnis represented just 15% of the provincial population132, and many of those had fled the city fearing retribution, especially following the Samarra bombing. Secondly, a joint British-Iraqi surge operation between September 2006 and February 2007 had been under-resourced by the MoD, with General Richard Shirreff receiving less than one third of the extra troops he had requested. The end effect of the so-called Operation Sinbad was merely to stir up the militia, without removing their influence.133 Thirdly, the political links between the Shia militia and powerful politicians in Baghdad obstructed the British from persecuting JAM leaders to the extent they might otherwise have done. Certainly, the industrial counterterrorism approach seen in Anbar and Baghdad was not an option. Finally, the intelligence operation had (up until October 2006) failed to open any reliable channels of communication with the JAM; when Major-General Jonathan Shaw arrived in Basra he was surprised to discover that the local SIS station chief, James Proctor...had no good interlocutors among the insurgents.134 Favourable conditions for negotiations exist when the government can easily activate existing, reliable channels of communication to negotiate secretly with a coherent and dominant terrorist leadership who have reached a strategic juncture in their campaign.135 In Basra there was no existing channel of communication and most importantly no strategic juncture. Moreover, Ahmed al-Fartosi, the key leader Britain chose to engage with, was a questionable choice given he was a former tactical level commander who had been languishing in solitary confinement since his arrest in September 2005. However Shaw was convinced that the solution was political rather than military and began secret talks with the JAM through Fartosi. The secretive nature of the deal was largely

131 132

Ibid. p.132 See REO Basra: Sunni Concerns in Basra, (Confidential US Cable, 2008) available online: 133 Justin Maciejewski in Jack Fairweather: Op. Cit. p.301 134 Ibid. p.303 135 Andrew Totten: Under what conditions should governments negotiate with terrorist? [online] (The Risky Shift, 2012) available online:

due to the controversy it would have caused had it been revealed, for it involved a JAM ceasefire in exchange for the British keeping their troops off the streets of Basra and the steady release of JAM detainees, culminating with Fartosi himself. It seems unlikely that this was a strategic calculation to increase the potential audience cost for the British, (therefore encouraging the insurgents to negotiate) as has been observed by Browne and Dickson in other conflicts.136 Indeed there was little strategic thinking behind the deal at all. This prisoners-for-peace deal was in fact almost entirely tactical; the British only had a limited number of prisoners to release (70). Despite the JAM paying lip-service to the idea of renouncing violence, there was no way the British could hold them to this. If the JAM chose to break the terms following Fartosis release (which they duly did) the British simply did not have the hard-power to rebuke them with, a fact of which they JAM was only too aware. Fartosi was released on 31st December 2007 and within days the violence had resumed.137 The British failure to apply strategic thinking to their negotiation effort and appropriately mix hard and soft-power would contrast sharply to the strategy that would eventually end JAM activity in Basra. Colonel Richard Iron, mentor to Mohan al-Faraji, the Iraqi General in Basra, quickly realised that the deal had failed138 and began to devise a scheme that would lead to the famous Charge of the Knights operation. Iron persuaded Mohan to brief the Iraqi and American headquarters in Baghdad with an ambitious plan to re-take Basra by force. Maliki had been afforded greater freedom from the Sadrists since the five Sadrist members of Malikis cabinet resigned over the prime ministers failure to set a timetable for US withdrawal in April 2007. Petraeus and Crocker had also convinced him that standing up to the Shia militias would enhance his secular and nationalist credentials. Moreover, Sadrs militia had detained Rubaie, Malikis national security advisor, in Februray...Iraqi forces helped rescued him, and the incident reinforced Malikis determination to bring Sadrs militia under control.139 Maliki was impetuous and launched the assault on March 25th 2008 without waiting for coalition support, a move which led to some costly initial setbacks for the Iraqis. However, once the coalition embedded and began calling in airpower strikes, insurgent defences were quickly overwhelmed. Then, just as the tide appeared to be turning against the insurgents, Maliki declared a ceasefire. He had sent a delegation of politicians to the Iranian city of Qom to negotiate a cease-fire with Sadr, with the help of the Iranian Quds force commander.140 Sadr realised that he could not let their [JAMs] activities continue because it risked his future potential to become a viable political player in Iraq, the very thing he sought most from the beginning of hostilities. Therefore, Maqtada al-Sadr determined that it was best to disband Jaysh al-Mahdi, as the militias activities became completely uncontrollable.141 Yet, although he had no tactical control, Sadr retained strategic authority and consequently the truce had an immediate and dramatic effect.142 JAM almost literally melted away overnight. The battle for Basra had been won by an appropriate display of force, followed by a negotiation with a coherent and dominant leader, who

Julie Brown & Eric Dickson: We Dont Talk to Terrorists: On the Rhetoric and Practice of Secret Negotiations, in Journal of Conflict Resolution 54:3 (SAGE, 2010) p.381 137 Jack Fairweather: Op. Cit. p.331 138 Richard Iron quoted in Ibid. 139 Linda Robinson: Tell Me How This Ends, (Public Affairs, 2008) p.534 140 Ibid. 141 Leslie Bayless: Who is Muqtada al-Sadr? In Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 35:2 (Routledge, 2012) p.149 142 Jack Fairweather: Op. Cit. p.331

had been in constant contact with the Iraqi government given his attempts to influence it, and had realised that he faced a strategic juncture. Chapter Summary This chapter has shown the evolution and adoption of a highly successful counterinsurgent strategy with negotiation and dialogue at its core. Kinetic military operations (particularly small footprint Special Forces raids) remained important, but without leveraging negotiation and dialogue as strategic tools it could not provide a pathway out of the violence. Fundamental to the development of an engagement strategy was the recognition that the insurgency was extremely heterogeneous and included a significant number of accidental guerrillas who could be reconciled with. The diagnosis was late, yet just in time to save the patient. Indeed, it was only in March 2007 that Emma Sky successfully managed to ban the umbrella phrase anti-Iraqi forces from coalition HQ. Its too easy, she would say to Odierno. Youve got to ask who they are and what they want'143 This chapter has also shown how commanders learned to skilfully cycle between threat and conviviality in meetings with tribal and insurgent leaders, and were able to win over key power brokers to the side of the Iraqi government and/or play off groups against each other, thus increasing coalition power in relative terms. Finally, most importantly of all, the principal counter-insurgent, the government of Iraq, learned to apply the strategy in Basra, where the British had failed just a few months previously.


Emma Sky quoted in Ibid. p.296

Learning and re-learning: Conclusions New lessons learned systems were instituted by the US Army in 2006 and the British Army in 2009.144 Did the hard-won lessons of negotiation and dialogue, paid for by the blood of soldiers, accidental guerrillas and innocent civilians, penetrate the institutional brain of these two armies? Was the three year gap the ultimate reason for the contrast between the British and American strategic approach? In his seminal text Learning to eat Soup with a Knife, John Nagl found that the organisational culture of the British Army made it an effective learning institution in the Malaya campaign and beyond, whereas the American Army failed to adapt in Vietnam and continued to lack consensus on the lessons of Vietnam for many years afterwards.145 It appears this situation had been reversed by the time of the Iraq war. The British Army undoubtedly has a strong and unique culture, and is justifiably proud of its history. This may translate as a tactical advantage, given that its soldiers feel under a great deal of pressure to uphold the armys reputation through inspiring feats of stamina, courage and sacrifice. Unfortunately however, it may also be a strategic weakness. Nagl argues that a strong organisational culture can prohibit learning the lessons of the present and can even prevent the organisations acknowledging that its current policies are anything other than completely successful.146 This was perhaps most clearly demonstrated during a joint US-British commanders conference in 2007, when Major-General Jonathan Shaw was a little too quick to offer his professional opinion, much to the chagrin of his US counterparts: Its insufferable for Christs sake. He comes on and he lectures everybody in the room about how to do a counterinsurgency. The guys were just rolling their eyeballs. The notorious Northern Ireland came up again. Its pretty frustrating. It would be okay if he was best in class, but now hes worst in class. Everybody elses area is getting better and his is getting worse.147 The reason why the general brought up Northern Ireland was because he was proud of the Armys achievements there. Indeed, in recent years it has become increasingly fashionable to use the peace process in Northern Ireland as a model of conflict resolution.148 The conflict was clearly deeply embedded in the British Armys somewhat nostalgic institutional memory. Of course, the campaign in Northern Ireland is famed for the way in which negotiation and dialogue with insurgent leaders eventually quelled the violence, and this was undoubtedly on the mind of Jonathan Shaw when he struck the deal with Fartosi. Yet, there were some key differences: First, there was the vast background of political discussion, debate and international involvement with the closely monitored prisoner releases in Ulster. Second, and even more importantly, the British negotiators (who were not army officers) in Northern Ireland had an expert grasp of the people and the issues with which they were dealing. This was not the case in Basra.149

144 145

See Robert Foley, Stuart Griffin & Helen McCartney: Op. Cit. pp.253-270 See John Nagl: Learning to eat Soup with a Knife, (University of Chicago Press, 2005) especially pp.216-217 146 John Nagl: Ibid. especially pp217 147 Tim Shipman: British forces useless in Basra, say officials, in The DailyTelegraph, (19/08/12) available online: 148 John Bew, Martyn Frampton & Inigo Gurruchaga: Op Cit. p.1 149 Frank Ledwidge: Op. Cit. p.46

Precisely because many commanders believed that there was nothing new for the army to learn (or re-learn) and the belief that the lessons of Northern Ireland et al could simply be cut and pasted with minimal adjustment, undermined the British campaign from the start. Moreover it also ensured that unlike the US army transformation going on at the same time, evolving British army learning mechanisms...were largely ad hoc, under-resourced and structurally ill-conceived.150 Thus, although the army may have stored a basic understanding of good COIN principles within various doctrine products and staff courses, from 2003-2009 it was hard to access this knowledge on a regular basis, especially for those in theatre often resulting in misapplication of those fundamentals. Meeting the learning challenge requires the right culture, the knowledge itself, and access to the knowledge.151 The British Army had some hard-won knowledge, but not the right culture or access mechanisms necessary to exploit that knowledge. That situation has changed for the better since 2009. The formation of the Lessons Exploitation Centre (LXC) has rapidly improved the process of identifying, learning and disseminating lessons. Any soldier of any rank, regular or TA, can now log on to the Army Knowledge Exchange an online defence intranet site containing a large number of helpful documents including doctrine notes, academic research, presentations, videos and even interactive quizzes. Although now focused entirely on Afghanistan, the topics covered are remarkably diverse, ranging from a Narcotics Cycle Calendar to a study of Pashtun sexuality. However, beyond general encouragement to engage with Afghans, drink tea with them when offered, and take every opportunity to gather HUMINT, there is no documentation concerning, for instance, the applications of negotiation theory to COIN. This study is not arguing that negotiated tribal alliances and the accompanying social movement of the kind seen in Iraq can necessarily be duplicated in Afghanistan. Indeed Tribes in Afghanistan do not act as unified groups, as they have recently in Iraq. For the most part they are not hierarchical, meaning there is no chief with whom to negotiate (and from whom to expect results). They are notorious for changing the form of their social organisation when they are pressured by internal dissension of or external forces.152 However, given the impact that negotiation and dialogue has had on the Iraq campaign, more should have been done to extract and disseminate lessons concerning the art of negotiation. Similar frustrations have been expressed by a US reserve intelligence officer: The current training seems to assume...that thorough preparation on the substance of the issue involved in the negotiation will translate into effective execution. The negotiation experience of military officers in Iraq, in addition to a substantial body of negotiation research, suggests otherwise. Current training does not teach US military negotiators how to strategize for the negotiation or how to negotiate.153 Furthermore, the negotiations discussed in this dissertation have only scratched the surface of their wider applicability to all sorts of operations. The variety and number of negotiations increased exponentially as the Iraq War transformed from anti-WMD / anti-dictatorship invasion and occupation into a long-term Stability, Security, Transition and Reconstruction (SSTR) mission and concurrent counter-insurgency. Negotiations were necessary to address security concerns, gather
150 151

Robert Foley, Stuart Griffin & Helen McCartney: Op. Cit. p.261 Gordon Sullivan & Michael Harper quoted in John Nagl: Op. Cit. p.10 152 Afghanistan Research Reachback Centre White Paper: My Cousins Enemy is My Friend: A Study of Pashtun Tribes in Afghanistan, (US Army, 2009) p.2 153 David Tressler: Op. Cit. p.63

intelligence on terrorist cells or broader insurgent networks, ensure cooperation in supporting elections, or backing coalition and Iraqi military or police operations. Other negotiations were over participation in reconstruction efforts, including contractual negotiations with labourers or suppliers. Furthermore, there were political negotiations with local leaders and newly established councils over the governance of their towns and villages. Finally, there were hostage negotiations. In final summary, the British and American armies need to capitalise on the current opportunity to institutionalise good negotiation and dialogue practices in order to avoid repeating mistakes and to enhance their capability to effectively carry out COIN and SSTR missions. This should be done by incorporating negotiation theory into military training syllabuses. In addition the military should increase cooperation with NGO actors who offer additional expertise, particularly at the grassroots level. Finally, the FSEC was important for changing the mindset and approach of the military, and adjusting strategic communications accordingly154 and should therefore be maintained as a permanent structure and repository of knowledge.


Emma Sky: Correspondence with the author 31/08/12


Books: Bew, J, Frampton, M & Gurruchaga, I: Talking to Terrorists, (Hurst & Co., 2009) Chandrasekaran, R: Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdads Green Zone, (Bloomsbury, 2008) Doyle, W: A Soldiers Dream: Captain Travis Patriquin and the Awakening of Iraq, (New American Library, 2011) Fairweather, J: A War of Choice, (Jonathan Cape, 2011) Ferguson, C: No End in Sight: Iraqs Descent into chaos, (Public Affairs, 2008) Fisher, R, Ury, W & Bruce Patton (ed): Getting to Yes: Negotiating an agreement without giving in, (Random House, 2nd edition, 1991) Kilcullen, D: The Accidental Guerrilla: fighting small wars in the midst of a big one, (Hurst & Co., 2009) Ledwidge, F: Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Yale University Press, 2011) Mackinlay, J: The Insurgent Archipelago, (Hurst & Co., 2009) Martin, H: Kings of Peace, Pawns of War: The Untold Story of Peace-making, (Continuum Books, 2006) Nagl, J: Learning to eat Soup with a Knife, (University of Chicago Press, 2005) Powell, J: Great Hatred, Little Room, (Vintage Books, 2009) Reiss, M: Negotiating With Evil, (Open Road, 2010) Ricks, T: The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, (Allen Lane, 2009) Robinson, L: Tell Me How This Ends, (Public Affairs, 2008) Saner, R & Michalun, V: Negotiations Between State Actors and Non-State Actors, (Republic of Letters, 2009) Urban, M: Task Force Black, (Abacus, 2011)

Journal Articles: Bayless, L: Who is Muqtada al-Sadr? In Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 35:2 (Routledge, 2012) Brown, J & Dickson, E: We Dont Talk to Terrorists: On the Rhetoric and Practice of Secret Negotiations, in Journal of Conflict Resolution 54:3 (SAGE, 2010) Duyvesteyn, I & Schuurman, B: The Paradoxes of Negotiating with Terrorist and Insurgent Organisations, in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39:4 (Routledge, 2011) Foley, R, Griffin, S & McCartney, H: Transformation in contact: learning the lessons of modern war, in International Affairs, 87:2 (2011) MacFarland, S & Smith, N: Anbar Awakens: The Tipping Point, in Military Review, (US Army, March 2008) Malkasian, C: Signalling Resolve, Democratization, and the First Battle of Fallujah, in The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol.29, No.3, (Routledge, 2006)

al-Sheikh, S & Sky, E: Iraq since 2003: Perspectives on a Divided Society in Survival, 53:4 (Routledge, 2011)

Monographs / Research Papers: Baker, J, Hamilton, L, Eagleburger, L, Jordon, V, Meese, E, Day OConnor, S, Panetta, L, Perry, W, Robb, C, Simpson, A: The Iraq Study Group Report, (USIP, 2006) Connable, B & Libicki, M: How Insurgencies End, (RAND, 2010) Kagan, F: Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq, (American Enterprise Institute, 2007) McWilliams, T & Wheeler, K (eds): Al-Anbar Awakening: US Marines and Counterinsurgency in Iraq 2004-2009, Volume 1: American Perspectives, (Marine Corps University Press, 2009) Metrinko, M: The American Military Advisor: Dealing with Senior Foreign Officials in the Islamic World, (PKSOI Papers, 2008) Tressler, D: Negotiation in the New Strategic Environment: Lessons From Iraq, (Strategic Studies Institute, 2007) Afghanistan Research Reachback Centre White Paper: My Cousins Enemy is My Friend: A Study of Pashtun Tribes in Afghanistan, (US Army, 2009)

Original Research Interviews / Correspondence: Jonathan Powell: Interview with the author 02/08/2012. Powell is an expert in mediation and conflict-resolution. He was Tony Blairs Chief of Staff and Chief Negotiator on Northern Ireland 1997-2007. He is now CEO and founder of conflict resolution charity Inter Mediate. Emma Sky: Correspondence with the author 31/08/12. Sky was governor of Kirkuk 20032004, and then Political Advisor to General Ray Odierno 2007-2010. Senior Regime Crimes Liaison Office (RCLO) employee: Interview with the author 16/08/2012. The RCLO source was deployed to Baghdad between October 2005 and October 2006. He asked me to protect his identity owing to the sensitive nature of his work.

Newspaper/Magazine/Online Articles: Bowden, M: The Ploy in The Atlantic, (May 2007) available online: Carroll, R: US in talks with Iraqi insurgents, in The Guardian, (Guardian Media, 10/06/05), available online: Collins, T: speaking on the BBC Today programme, 14 September 2010, report available at Keiler, J: Who Won the Battle of Fallujah? In Proceedings, (US Naval Institute, January 2005) Lemnitzer, J: Talking with terrorists? A Q&A with Sir Graeme Lamb, [online] (Politics Inspires, 2011) : Petraeus, D: Report to Congress on the Situation in Iraq, (US Gov, 2007) available online: Shipman, T: British forces useless in Basra, say officials, in The DailyTelegraph, (19/08/12) available online:

Totten, A: Under what conditions should governments negotiate with terrorist? [online] (The Risky Shift, 2012) available online: Ware, M: Talking with the Enemy, in Time Magazine, (Time Inc., 20/02/05), available online:,9171,1029805,00.html

WebPages: Army Knowledge Exchange [Restricted Access] Major USIP Activities and Contributions in Iraq: 2002 2003, (webpage), available online: Major USIP Activities and Contributions in Iraq: 2004, (webpage), available online: Major USIP Activities and Contributions in Iraq: 2005, (webpage), available online: REO Basra: Sunni Concerns in Basra, (Confidential US Cable, 2008) available online: START: Terrorist Organisation Profile: Mujahideen Shura Council, (webpage), available online:

Government Documents: British Army Field Manual, Vol.1 Part 10: Countering Insurgency, (MoD, 2009)