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I served as Company Commander for a light infantry company assigned to

a predominantly Sunni area of Baghdad from January of 2007 until December of
2007. Prior to taking command I was the Battalion S3 from October 2006 until
January 2007. Our Battalion’s deployment extended to 15 months. We were not
part of a ‘surge brigade’, but instead served as one of the initial extended
Over the course of our 15 month deployment, I witnessed an increase in
US combat power (Battalions and Squadrons on the ground) and a more
ephemeral shift in the mentality of the Iraqi populace. Somewhere in the May-
June time period our increasingly adept operations combined with national-level
reconciliation momentum to drastically increase the security of our area.
My company ‘won’ the counterinsurgency of our area. We saw a 100%
decrease in IED and small arms attacks. For the first quarter of our deployment,
we were attacked multiple times daily. We discovered numerous dead locals
daily; by the mid point of the tour, such dead bodies were a rarity. Over the
course of our deployment, the populace went from being entirely complicit with
the insurgency to being supporters of our efforts to improve the area. We
established a local security group of some 200 individuals, working hand in hand
with the Iraqi Army. Some of our success was due to the momentum of
improvements all across Iraq. Most of our success, however, was due to the
daily hard work of my men.
The deployment was extremely challenging. Daily decisions and
circumstances would prove to either further our cause or hurt us dramatically.
My company sacrificed a great deal, in lives, wounds, and time in order to win
this campaign. We had an unusually talented bunch of leaders and soldiers;
particularly the company FSO, who assumed a great deal of responsibility for
campaign efforts and coordinations. Platoon leaders, Platoon Sergeants, Squad
Leaders, Team Leaders, and individual rifleman grew to understand the people;
our guys committed to winning through the people and the results speak for
I believe the topics covered below were critical to our success. I don’t
believe, however, that I have all the answers. I’m just one guy, who served at
one place, during a certain period of time.


I believe a successful counterinsurgency commander must master daily

operations and quickly delegate these operations to his patrol leaders and
company CP. The company commander should not direct every action of a
given patrol. The patrol must understand the commander’s intent and know that
they are expected to make decisions within that framework. The commander
must have sufficient distance from daily operations to work on guidance for the
next week, plan for the next month, and brainstorm about the next quarter. Don’t
do this in a vacuum- your subordinate leaders and peers are some smart
humans. This does not mean the commander should not patrol daily. I found it
critical that I was with the guys in the AO as much as possible; it is the only way
to truly communicate with your soldiers, maintain a feel for the ground truth, and
evaluate your company’s progress and understanding of your intent.

The commander of a counterinsurgency company has to, as quickly as

possible, provide guidance for daily operations and then power down, or
delegate, such operations to the patrol leaders and a company patrol-tracking
node. I do not believe that the company commander can effectively anticipate,
plan, and resource for an extended campaign (12-15 months!) if he is constantly
fighting the daily fight.
One could argue that the company needs to focus on the daily fight and
battalion, with its staff, should be looking months out; I disagree wholeheartedly.
We were given a company battle space. Battalion cannot set goals, milestones,
and a method of achieving those goals for each company’s battle space- they
don’t own or know the land. As a company commander I spent countless hours,
on patrol or in the company area, just thinking; thinking about where I wanted the
AO to be in a month’s time. Or in half a year. Or, what the AO should look like a
year from now. I defined my goals to myself and subordinate leaders;

1. Regular and predictable delivery of essential commodities

(propane, kerosene, food, electricity)
2. Increased local medical capability (defined as: clinic with
trauma and ambulance capability).
3. No IEDs on the roads- IEDs denied by a network of local
informants ready to take up arms against those who
would bury bombs in their streets. (Local solution- defeat
IEDs by proxy).
4. Legitimized and non-reprisal focused Iraqi Security
Forces, meeting regularly and hospitably with locals.
5. Kids in school. Parents confident that kids would be safe
at school.

In January of 2007 these goals were a long way off. People were terrified
of the insurgent thugs amongst them (who ruled by carrot and stick, either
distributing commodities to the complicit, hiring youths through US provided
money, or by murdering the non complicit. Insurgents also spread false rumors
of murders of non complicit locals). Thus terrified, folks were very reluctant to
assist or cooperate with my men. The Iraqi Security Forces we partnered with, at
the beginning of the deployment, had a deplorable relationship with the average
Sunni. Our initial partnered force was a National Police battalion perceived to be
extremely sectarian.
The area was ripe to become an insurgent stronghold. The insurgents co-
opted American money to fund their efforts (exorbitantly priced contracts with the
money siphoned off to buy IEDs or hire fighters- contracts intended to fix schools,
for example). The insurgents identified the area as a Sunni extremist enclave, a
place to launch attacks at the rest of Baghdad. The ISF was terrified to go into
this densely populated urban area without massing a significant force, and even
then, often with guns blazing. Coalition forces toured the area daily- and made
contact in the form of IEDs or SAF attack.
In order to meet the above stated 5 goals, we had a lot of work to do. We
had to break the campaign into bite sized chunks. We had to prove to the folks
that we could destroy the thugs amongst them without harming the innocent. We
had to show them that there was hope for the future, that a safe and secure area
did not mean ‘safety and security provided by Al Qaeda’. This required
population control, patience, and human relationships. It also required limited
surgical kinetic actions.
Our company battle rhythm changed often- one thing remained constant.
We established a nightly company huddle, at a conference table, in front of a
map. Attendees were all patrol leaders, the FSO, XO, 1SG, enablers for the next
day (when applicable), attachments, a representative from the company CP, and
myself. Patrol leaders covered their patrol for the day- so everyone knew what
was going on in the battle space and to share effective techniques. The FSO
described intel requirements to collect or gave intel updates from adjacent units.
The XO touched on maintenance or admin issues. And I would FRAG tasks for
the next day or coming weeks, or pass out and explain new guidance. Early in
the deployment we would often discuss rules of engagement, fundamentals of
counterinsurgency, and the reasons behind various frictions (why is there limited
electricity? How does the Iraqi ration card system work? Who exactly is in
charge of what function at the National Police) to ensure each patrol leader was
armed with as much knowledge as possible. These meetings lasted anywhere
from 15-55 minutes. They ensured that everyone was on the same page for the
next 24-96 hours of operations, allowing others to assume tasks passed from a
sister patrol, and synching our efforts.


Platoons must own daily operations and have a sense of ownership for
their area. I provided my platoons guidance so they would understand what
was expected for daily patrols (duration, method of execution, focus, specific
contingencies) and then FRAGO’d them a series of tasks to execute during the
week. Otherwise, the platoon leader had complete discretion for the execution of
his patrols. Individual patrol leaders were expected to make decisions.
We patrolled 24/7. Patrol size and composition often changed, based on
combat power available or the enemy threat. At one point, we patrolled with four
vehicles (half a platoon) for six hour shifts. Another point, we would stage an
entire platoon forward, with half the platoon in patrol base at the Iraqi Army
checkpoint, switching out with the patrolling half at four hour intervals over an
eight hour patrol. When the enemy threat was greatest, Battalion resourced the
company with seven platoons, and we had entire platoons patrolling at six hour,
overlapping intervals.
A patrol must never be “drive around and wait for something to happen”.
Patrols need a purpose, and never busy work. Additionally, the tactics for a
patrol should destabilize an observer. A ‘drive around’ patrol is predictable and
easy to attack. Combine driving with dismounted elements, overt and covert
overwatch elements, deception operations, satellite patrols, and other such
iterations. Put your platoon leaders in charge of creating effective patrol
techniques; arm them with a playbook of methods, so when the patrol goes long
they can rely on a rehearsed playbook and not cede initiative to the enemy.
Patrolling techniques are critical; have PLs war-game them with you during the
nightly huddle.
Give platoons a framework for success, a milestone to reach, for a given
(short) period of time. Rare is the platoon leader who you can task to ‘go
establish an informant network that will defeat all the IEDs and deny the
insurgents safe haven’. Instead, break the goal into achievable tasks and get
after it. I knew we needed a robust informant network; we achieved this end
state by charging platoons with talking to every household in the area. This effort
was tracked by the company FSO. Through talking to every household in the
area, via a specific format and answering specific questions, platoons developed
an innate understanding of who was more complicit in helping us than others. If
you talk to one hundred people, about fifteen will tell you something useful, and
maybe three will be habitual informants. But, in the process of talking to a
hundred people you have begun to establish a relationship with every one of
them, and most importantly the US soldier involved has gained a much deeper
understanding of his area. So, to sum it up, the milestone to reach for a
particular patrol for a week would be ‘conduct engagements on these 100
households’. More on how we would assign and track that operation later.
To further establish a framework for the platoons to conduct daily
operations the company must establish common graphics and terms. The Iraqi
addresses in our area were haphazard and not understood by the populace. We
kept their street numbering system, but re-divided the neighborhood into zones
and labeled each house with our own graphic control measures. Thus, relieving
platoons could easily talk to each other about individuals they visited, or who was
an informant and the addresses proved essential in population control.
As the deployment progressed, I put more and more responsibility on
platoon leaders. I assigned a platoon leader to conduct daily synchronizations
with the Iraqi Army in our area- I would still attend targeting meetings and work
with their leadership, but the Iraqi Army synched daily operations with a specific
PL. I assigned daily operations of the Iraqi Security Volunteers to another PL.
These two PLs, more so the ISV synch, would spend hours daily solving small
problems and relationship building with their counterparts. I also assigned a
platoon leader to inspect and ensure daily functioning of various projects and
municipality efforts, though due to attachment/ detachment task org changes we
never got very far along on making this a platoon effort and the FSNCO
eventually became a very effective synch of services.
Platoons and patrols are in sector for a long time. Limit patrols to no more
than eight hours (so guys stay focused and alert), preferably six hours. Have
patrols take ownership of what occurs during their patrol (you found a little girl
requiring follow up medical checks? Great- she is your responsibility to check
weekly). And ensure patrols understand that what they do during their ‘shift’
directly affects the security of all follow on shifts. Feed the patrols as much to do
as you can, without creating busy work; better they have more objectives than
they can feasibly accomplish then nothing to do. And the sooner they start
generating their own objectives (because you’ve powered down ownership of the
mission) the better.


I broke down the complex enemy/ insurgent situation into common terms
and an understanding that may have oversimplified things, but allowed my guys
to grasp the intricacies without confusing anybody. I hope. All terms are my

We had a whole bunch of insurgents. But we only had a hard-core small

minority that we had to detain or kill. And it was in our best interest to get the
remainder to become useful citizens.

The hard-core minority (call them Al Qaeda) were irreconcilable, often

imports to the area, focused on establishing strict sharia law, and actively fighting
the government throughout Iraq. This was a small group, feared by the locals,
and often not from the neighborhood. They had the money, access to IEDs and
weapons, and were very idealistic (in a bad way). These guys had to go- detain,
kill, or deny safe haven.

A larger group (call them Mujaideen) were religiously motivated (like the
ideals of sharia law), from the area, focused on defending the area from
perceived enemies (JAM, JAM complicit national police, Iranians), and actively
fighting perceived enemies encroaching into the neighborhood. This group got
money, access to IEDs, and weapons from the Al Qaeda. They were linked to Al
Qaeda because there was, in their minds, no alternative. Al Qaeda scared them,
but they fought alongside them for the money and to reach the common end of
protecting Sunnis. For a lot of reasons, these guys were critical to success in the
counterinsurgency. Chiefly, their leaders had the religious and tribal cachet to
sway their entire loose confederation one way or the other. These guys could
either be our (and the Iraqi Government’s) enemies or friends. And we could
definitely not find and detain all these guys without seriously persecuting the
entire neighborhood. So, these guys had to be engaged, convinced of an
alternate path to extremism, and brought alongside our efforts.
A similarly sized group (hard to judge the size) were what I called
‘criminals’. Granted, the circumstances of our neighborhood created a fecund
environment for criminality. Lack of jobs, perceived government persecution,
poor services, and ghetto-ization all contributed to a disenfranchised male youth.
Young men could choose to become complicit with terrorist activities for money,
commit crimes for money, or do nothing for no money. They had few other viable
options. Criminals were a harder animal to deal with that the Muj- specifically,
you do not want to co-opt known criminals to your cause without some serious
rehabilitation, or perceived rehab. Otherwise, your efforts get tainted by
scumbags. Furthermore, we did not want to begin targeting common criminals
and thugs as we did not have the ability to keep all those guys in the detainee
system. These folks were dealt with on a case by case basis and when possible
shifted to the Iraqi Army as targets. (Iraqi Police was never viable in our area
due to a VBIED decimating their HQ and having zero freedom of movement).

Beyond these ‘enemy’ groups, we had a large population just waiting to be

co-opted by whoever offered hope for the future and structure for life; it could be
the Al Qaeda or us. I did not focus on JAM or their special groups as we were in
a predominantly Sunni area.


Every human knows that insurgencies can only exist in a given population
and that the preferred way to get rid of the insurgency is for that population to
deny it safe haven. If you cannot convince the population to get rid of, or stop
growing an insurgency, you will never win. We looked at our little area, made
some assumptions about the insurgency we were fighting, and sought to change
those assumptions in our favor.
I assumed that the insurgency thrived in our area for three chief reasons;
the population believed that only the insurgents could or would protect them, the
population believed that the insurgents could not be defeated by CF or ISF, and
that the population believed the Iraqi Government would never provide them with
what they needed to survive. We had to counter these perceptions. We had to
get the folks of the neighborhood talking openly about how the CF, ISF, and IG
were working to make their area better. We had to get the folks of the
neighborhood counseling their kids not to raise arms against security forces. We
had to get folks willing to deny Al Qaeda safe haven. We couldn’t do it; only
they could.


Get your patrols talking to people as much as possible. They will naturally
pick up Arabic phrases that endear them to receptive folks. Make sure your men
understand that people are only comfortable around soldiers when they perceive
them as disciplined. Nobody wants to see face masks or bandanas on a
professional soldier. They don’t want to see your guys standing around outside a
girl’s school smoking. They don’t want to see your guys ogling attractive women.
50% of the population speaks some sort of conversational English and they know
when your guys are using foul language or speaking about women. They know
when you make disparaging comments. They can see a sideways ‘well, what do
you want me to do about it?’ sarcastic glance from your patrol leaders when
asked a difficult question. Simple actions from your patrols will either make or
break your relationship with the humans.
So, make it count. Respect the women. To a fault. In most
circumstances, you don’t need to search a house or question a household of just
women. Wait until the man comes home. People will spread malicious rumors
that you can never counteract if you are to make a habit of entering homes just
occupied by women. Don’t search women unless you are, in fact, a woman.
And don’t have a bunch of guys stand around watching if you do have a woman
searching women. And make sure your designated female woman searcher
takes off her helmet so folks know she is actually a woman.
When talking to someone in their house, I want the patrol leader (or
whoever’s talking- if you have a Sergeant better at talking to folks than the patrol
leader, delegate to the guy who has the talent) to take off his helmet and eye
protection. Sit down. Accept the water, tea, or whatever is offered. Use Arabic.
Be respectful. However, the other soldiers on patrol do not lounge around and
tea-it-up as well. They pull security. They are not rude or gruff, but they stay in
uniform and respectfully do their jobs.
Listen to problems with sincerity, but don’t make promises about things
you can’t change. People will see you as a representative of the government,
and accord you powers you don’t possess. Arm yourself and your patrols with
facts to respond to the usual questions. For example (without going into to much
detail and with the understanding that all answers are AO specific)-

“Why don’t you release all the detainees?”

“The detainees we take are the enemies of the people. Here is a list,
photograph, and circumstances for every person my unit has ever detained. As
you can see, the evidence against these guys is pretty concrete. Would you like
this guy released? Here are some guys we captured putting IEDs in the ground.
Here are some guys that neighbors of yours, in secret because they fear for their
lives, identified in sworn statements that they are murderers- and here are the
folks they are alleged to have murdered. Of course, each of these cases is being
reviewed and if you want to attest to the innocence of any detainee, I can
arrange to personally investigate his circumstances of capture and get back to
you. I can attest to the safety of every human in US custody. With some of
these guys I hope that they come out of whatever punishment deemed
necessary by the courts and become contributing members of society etc.”
Often when shown who has actually been detained by your unit, and
presented with the evidence, the questioning human will see that you are
detaining the right guys (as long as you are using precision in your detentions)
and gain confidence in your operations and fairness. Plus, he may just be asking
so he can tell ‘so and so’ that he went and asked the Americans, thus fulfilling an

“Please build us a hospital. Yarmook hospital is sectarian and we will get killed if
we go there.”
“I recognize your concerns- everybody needs medical care. My superiors
(COL X) have a plan to build a hospital for this area but we need to be realistic in
the short term- hospitals take millions of dollars and years to build, and then you
need to staff the building with the specialists and doctors. In the short term we
are increasing the capability of Dr X’s clinic, to give it trauma capability and an
ambulance to get you to a full-fledged hospital. Here is a handout with all of the
local clinics, their phone numbers, hours, and what they can treat- that’s a pretty
significant amount of coverage. And, as we have demonstrated in the past, if a
local is in danger of losing life, limb, or eyesight CF will rush them to Ibn Sina
(CSH) in the green zone, as we did for X’s little girl and Y’s grandmother.
Additionally, the Iraqi Army will escort families to Yarmook for non-life threatening
cases and ensure their safety at that location. IA LTC Z has committed to this,
and they always have an ambulance on stand by. You may have heard about
how the IA helped the families of so and so under such circumstances”.


One of our most important campaigns, as a company, was population

control. We developed a comprehensive interview and household tracking
operation to ensure that we periodically talked to every household in the area (of
which there were approximately 3,500). My FSO took lead on developing and
tracking this operation, which we dubbed CLOSE ENCOUNTERS.
The FSO produced a packet for each residence/ structure in the company
AO (prior to this operation he produced a graphic labeling every structure). To
successfully fill out the packet, patrols had to sit down and talk to the head of
household for 20-40 minutes. The packet consisted of simple demographic info
(house number, phone number, head of household’s name, tribe, age,
employment, concerns, names of other folks living in the house, weapons info,
length of residency, car info, etc) and a series of photographs- of each male
member of the house and the entrance. Platoons would return the completed
packets to the FSO or his representative (he trained the company CP on all
database management). The CP would enter all the information and photos onto
an easy to access database, and the original packet would be filed.
The advantages of such a program were numerous. Chiefly, CLOSE
ENCOUNTERs got patrols to talk to almost every person in the neighborhood,
increasing the patrols’ skills at human engagement and endearing them to the
population. This proved to be even more important than the database collected.
The database proved useful on many occasions for verifying tips, tracking down
people, or to call a person back about concerns they raised during the interview.
Additionally, we would take the photos of every male in the mulhalla and show
them to THT sources and others. You could mix in pictures of known bad guys
to verify source knowledge base. Or, you could just show pictures and get the
stories of individuals.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS was one of those framework operations that gave
the platoons something to do, in accordance with their own plan, for months at a
time. The FSO would assign each platoon hundreds of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS
objectives; the platoon leader would parcel them out amongst his various patrols
and come up with a plan to achieve completion within the time window I gave
him. A given patrol would only knock out 3 or 4 CLOSE ENCOUNTERs a day to
ensure quality of interview and because they had competing patrol requirements;
it was never a rushed operation. This was deliberate; I saw too many units
decide they wanted to ‘census’ their entire AO within a week or so. The end
result- a bunch of ‘census forms’ filled out in haste, with no associated
photographs, no lengthy interview to endear your troops to the populace, no real
database formed- just a block checked. If you are going to be in an AO for 15
months, don’t half-ass your interviews with the populace.
We did CLOSE ENCOUNTERS multiple times to study demographic shifts
and ensure accurate data. Later on we began to include the biometrics data.
Biometrics’ chief advantage is psychological. Folks who’ve had their eyeballs
and fingerprints scanned think big brother is watching them. (Another mistake
I’ve seen units do is rush an area to get biometrics on ‘every military age male’-
treating biometrics as an end rather than a means in achieving population
control. I would recommend making it part of an interview process as described
above. Also, be sure you see multiple forms of ID to verify a guy you are
entering the biometrics of; you don’t want to fill out fields with false info).


Won’t get into the weeds on this one because folks are still fighting IEDs
and don’t want to give away any TTPs. Bottom line- you need to defeat IEDs so
your guys have confidence they can move in and dominate their area of
operations and so the population sees that the insurgent’s chief weapon does not
scare you. We lost a lot of great humans to IEDs, but along the way we learned
to seriously defeat this menace. Platoons were averaging 95% IEDs found by
redeployment. Furthermore, the company standard was “IED found, triggerman
killed/captured”. By using local national tips and an understanding of enemy
TTPs we were able to neutralize a dozen separate triggermen, with their hands
on the detonators (not cell phones- IED detonators rigged to command wires). It
can be done. And the positive effect of neutralizing thugs while they are holding
the detonator to a bomb targeting your guys and then reducing the IED with EOD
is extremely powerful.

Set conditions to destroy positively identified bad guys with precision fires.
Good use of overwatch positions, shooting the right guy, teaches the enemy and
population that evil has consequences. The corollary to that is a poor shot, one
that hits an innocent human or leads to collateral damage, is worse than not
shooting at all.


We shifted AO’s as part of the surge and moved to occupy a neglected

Sunni area- one littered with IEDs. The insurgents denied CF freedom of
movement in this area for months, capitalizing on a network of deep buried IEDs.
We had intel from various sources and phone tips that allowed us to map out 40
or so likely IED hotspots. Over the course of three nights, the entire company
dismounted (save a mounted QRF/ EOD escort) and cleared, by hand, every
IED. Studs volunteered to dig for these IEDs with screw drivers and tire irons.
Over the course of three nights the company found and reduced 18 buried IEDs
of various types (predominantly anti-tank mines and pipe bombs). I’m still in awe
of the success we achieved over those three nights. As we started to clear these
IEDs (controlled detonations ringing out every half hour) the enemy grew
increasingly shaken- and he started a propaganda campaign on our tip line to
make us think that on subsequent nights their IEDs would be overwatched with
machine guns. We adjusted tactics accordingly, and the company crushed nuts,
all three platoons pushing hard. A couple studs got BSM Vs for that operation
and it really set the stage to teach that neighborhood that we were there to stay
and wouldn’t abandon them. We told every local we ran into that we knew where
the IEDs were because the citizens told us- and we didn’t need any more
informants because we had hundreds of people cooperating. (bluff).


Insurgents held our area using psychological operations. They would

exaggerate the crimes of the Iraqi Government or security forces. They would
exaggerate Al Qaeda’s power and influence. As a counter to our successful IED
clearance operation described above, they took three low-level AQ guys of some
out of favor faction, cut off their heads, and put them in the main street with notes
on their chests identifying them as Iraqi Army informants. As we began to make
inroads with the population, Al Qaeda overplayed the hard line stance, using fear
to get the population back in line. (This was due to a shake up in their
leadership; they had a particularly effective insurgent leader killed during
infighting and his replacement quickly lost the support of the populace. This was
good for us.) Eventually, our perceived success led to desperation on AQ’s side
led them to grossly mistreat the populace and gave us the opportunity to
capitalize on their errors.
Bottom line, recommend you exaggerate your successes and your power
base with the people to the extreme- in the culture over there, you never hear of
a force of a dozen guys about to attack your COP- it’s always 500 fighters from
Syria. Likewise, a murderer hasn’t killed three people- he’s killed 400. So, you
can plant seeds of exaggeration to make your enemy desperate, too.

I’m not going to get into the difference between sources and informants.
The party line is that you can only use informants and sources are for the
HUMINT guys. You will base everything you do on information from locals, or
you should, because they will know what is going on. So your patrols should
have habitual folks they talk to for atmospherics and such, habitual friends in the
neighborhood. Don’t task these folks to do things or collect specific PIR for you
because that is what sources do. Never trust one person to tell you the absolute
truth. People have their own frames of reference and agendas. Don’t base
targeting on informant X telling you guy Y (who lives in your neighborhood) is
bad. Poorly targeted detentions are often worse than doing nothing at all. Take
a look at your CLOSE ENCOUNTERS info on guy Y, give his photo to THT and
known sources, and develop the target. Note: if guy Y is ‘not from your area’, he
may be worth picking up for the temporary holding area while you send his photo
around. Maybe he is a bad guy from another AO and this is a one shot
detention. Always remember, though, that folks may just be suspicious of the
guy ‘not from their area’ and if no one can name him or describe his crimes, he is
destined to be let go. Rightly so.


Set this framework for your patrols early on so they know what to do.
Ours was- life, limb, or eyesight goes to the CSH. Take family members and get
them a visitor’s pass. Keep their contact info and have the CSH call you when
the patient is released. If possible, deliver the patient back to the family or escort
them to pickup.
Needs immediate attention but not life, limb, or eyesight- have the family
go with the Iraqi Army to the nearest Iraqi hospital. This was important- locals
would not travel the road to the hospital without escort because they believed
sectarian checkpoints would kill or detain them. Perception is reality. The IA
curried a lot of favor escorting folks to the hospital and we didn’t have the combat
power to do it.
Less than immediate attention- have the locals get an appointment at the
hospital and arrange IA escort, or refer them to a local clinic or doctor who could
meet their needs.

It goes without saying- task patrols to do follow ups with the family and the


Platoons want something to focus on. You want the enemy destabilized.
When you’ve got no other overarching objectives, or just to shake things up, put
some organizational energy into operations that keep your enemy off balance.
Challenge your squad leader’s ingenuity. Deviations from the norm keep that
guy that is watching your patrols nervous and may disrupt an attack, or keep the
enemy from focusing on winning the population. You can attach weirdo stuff to
your already weirdo vehicles, have patrols pay particular attention to some
otherwise uninteresting landmark, rapidly move to and search an abandoned lot
for no reason, mass forces un usual places, leave weird stuff in weird places, the
list of deception operations is endless. Break up the pattern. Disrupt the
observers. And keep your interpreters in the dark.


Funds, unchecked and unsupervised can work against you. In an area

controlled by the enemy, insurgents will take protection money from your
contractors and you will be funding your own enemy. In a more hospitable area,
if you fund the wrong contractors you may continue to work against yourself. My
philosophy is that funds should be used to achieve an effect. Easier said than
done. You will face pressure to get schools looking a certain way or make X
clinic look good, but remember to use the contractor or sphere of influence who
will best achieve an effect you desire. You may face pressure to use a contractor
that works well with your higher headquarters but does not have the support of
your local area or employ locals. Take a hard look at who you want to support,
what they are doing for you, and allocate money accordingly. People are getting
rich working with Americans in Iraq. Make sure they are the right people.


Our initial ISF partner was a National Police battalion. They were
sectarian. I witnessed them shoot at innocent people. They would mass forty
vehicles into the neighborhood and drive down the main street firing at store
fronts. They sought reprisals for attacks on themselves, detaining people without
cause. Rumor has it they then ransomed the detainees back to the families. Not
every National Policeman was bad or sectarian, but the actions of their unit made
them a poor choice to gain the trust of the populace. Hopefully that National
Police unit found itself reassigned to a Shia area or has been significantly
We shifted AO’s and our new partners were IA. In Iraq, the perception is
that the IA are less sectarian. Perception is reality. The IA had a great S2 who
understood counterinsurgency and worked to gain the people’s trust. Their
battalion commander understood the fight and did not work at cross-purposes
with CF. Unfortunately, the battalion commander and the S2 would take leave at
the same time, every month, and the battalion would fall under less competent
The IA never really became the force we wanted- a complete proxy to
wage the counterinsurgency, with us in overwatch. They did achieve success at
delivering propane and kerosene (operations we handed off to them after months
of joint execution). Their willingness to escort folks to the hospital was a major
coup. The IA, as we redeployed, was happy in their role of securing the
periphery of the neighborhood (at checkpoints), and conducting mounted and
dismounted presence patrols within. I wanted them to assume more control of
governmental functions (in the absence of a governing entity) such as collecting
ration cards, overseeing food distribution, and working hand in hand with the CF
supported district advisory council. Most importantly, I wanted them to actually
check vehicles coming in their checkpoints (to deny VBIED penetration) which
they would only do under close observation.
Ultimately, the IA did not work against our efforts, which is great. But they
also did not take ownership of the campaign. Most likely this is because they
weren’t from Baghdad, weren’t Sunni, worked for a National Police Brigade
whom they hated, and were counting days before their unit was reassigned back


Not sure we ever made much progress on this one. The local
governmental organization we supported was the Neighborhood Advisory
Council (NAC), subordinate to the District Advisory Council (DAC). NAC
representatives were scared to be known for what they were when we first
arrived- scared of being harassed or murdered. In fact, our NAC member was
gunned down at his office during the summer. The rest of the deployment was
spent trying to identify and empower a replacement NAC, a guy willing to serve
the neighborhood. Ultimately we were forced to assume many of the functions
of the NAC and only identified a replacement near the end of our tour.


Our battalion accomplished tasks that took a lot of weight off our
shoulders. Most importantly, my battalion commander truly put each company
commander in charge of their own area, and in doing so fostered ownership. A
plan that rotates companies through a given battle space, whether to ensure
coverage during the day or to provide companies a refit status, will be less
effective than creating landowners. We saw it in sister battalions on our flanks.
If the company commander does not own his own chunk of land, you will have
elements working at cross purposes and the population will suffer.

Our battalion FSNCO became a master at contracting and the utilizations

of various funds. If I identified a project or effect to achieve in the AO, I would
explain the effect to my FSNCO and he would talk to the battalion FSNCO to find
the proper way to fund it, and they would prepare and submit the contract or fund
request. Then the battalion FSNCO tracked the request or approved contract
process and gave updates to directly to me. Money achieves effects and,
properly utilized, is one of your greatest assets. Our battalion cracked the code
on getting money to landowners.
Our battalion’s HHC commander served as a direct liaison to the
functionaries at the DAC and coordinated with upper echelons of CA, EPRTs,
and others. He assumed a great deal of painstaking coordinations from all the
companies when dealing with Iraqi government organizations. For example,
when we were nominating a new individual to serve on the neighborhood
advisory council, the provincial advisory council required a good deal of
paperwork to get the guy looked at. Our HHC commander took lead on getting
the paperwork through the provincial council (not a quick task) for ours and other
One thing that will constantly challenge a battalion is the allocation of
scarce resources. I think all battalions have a plan and method for allocation of
typical scarce resources- UAV, enablers, aerostat, fixed wing ISR, CCA. These
are your “NTC enablers.” And they don’t accomplish a whole lot for you. The
resources that are more challenging to allocate, at battalion and brigade levels,
are the stuff that actually makes a difference; propane distribution, kersone
distribution, food and other commodities, municipal sewage, trash, and electrical
workers. The allocation of these essential resources will make or break a
landowner’s effort.
The local municipal station serviced six different companies’ AOs across
two battalions. Each company wants the manholes within his area pumped free
of sewage. The municipal station has one sewage truck/ worker team. They
long ago stopped trying to work a municipal plan to attack the sewage problem,
instead working on a series of bribes or to curry favor between the municipal
station operator and various neighborhoods. The other way they get employed is
when irate patrol leaders arrive and force them to work in their AO. This
municipal station is getting pumped full of governmental and USAID money, but
the execution of their actual functions is left in the haphazard hands of competing
company commanders. Our battalion never worked this out between the various
companies/ other battalion and it was always first come, first served for sewage.
We ran into similar problems as companies who wanted to ‘help their area’ would
ignore the NAC’s published propane distribution schedule and hijack the propane
to distro in their area. Great for that area in the short run, but it sabotages good
order and robs another neighborhood of an essential, rationed commodity.
Our battalion never really cracked the code on the allocation of these
commodities or services. I recommend that an organization with resource
requirements dedicate serious time in the battalion targeting meeting towards
commodities and services, and then fight to ensure that the companies get their
allocation. A battalion wouldn’t let some other entity steal their UAV away unless
it was troops in contact; the same mentality must apply when another battalion is
stealing a company’s propane. Set and enforce schedules for commodities and
services. Our battalion did a great job at getting the typical ‘NTC enablers’ for
us- the next level is controlling all the resources that get a given area back to a
state of normalcy.
The most important thing to remember, as a Company battle space owner
in counterinsurgency, is that if you really care about something or some staff
function you need to take ownership of it or replicate that staff function at your
level. Battalion staffs have reporting requirements and tasks assigned by the
Battalion XO, Commander, or have reports to deliver to Brigade- the only way
you can ensure top priority for anything is to do it in house. For example, we
replicated all detainee tracking across the battalion’s battle space within our
company CP. If an Iraqi wanted to know about X guy who was detained last
month, I wanted my patrol leader to be able to respond within minutes- so our CP
tracked all that info down and got the info to the guy on the ground. We also
developed relationships with adjacent battalion and company intel cells so we
could send RFIs directly to land owners rather than through our battalion staff.


In my area of Iraq, information moved orally. Rumors ruled the day. You
could either be the victim of misinformation, or utilized the oral culture to your
advantage. Figure out your spheres of influence. Have prominent folks’
numbers in your cell phone. When something happens, immediately broadcast
on the vehicle PA (using the interpreter) a command message of the facts. If you
take fire or are hit by an IED, describe the event. Otherwise, the event will be
twisted by your enemy into whatever they want. Call your spheres of influence
daily and explain what is going on, and on patrols have your guys defeat rumors
with facts.
Acknowledging the oral culture is grade school level. Defeating rumors
with facts is high school. College level is utilizing the rumor culture to get your
facts out. Grad school- use the rumors to destabilize your enemy and erode his
support network.


This was a long campaign. And a complicated one. Alluded to the fact
that the IA were not interested in securing the inside of the neighborhood, just the
periphery. I wanted a neighborhood watch willing to deny safe haven to IED
emplacers. We pursued this effort through empowering some informers and
sources, conducting source-ride-alongs (to identify AQ guys off the street, grab
them, and then conduct post-facto sworn statement production). We
exaggerated the size and effectiveness of a loose confederation of sources as a
neighborhood watch and encouraged the sources to do the same. We supported
a local security group standing up in another battalion’s area as a test bed and
because conditions were better set in that area for such a group.
When the time came to establish volunteers in our AO, we triple vetted all
candidates and used a vouching system- a local cadre, in a blind vetting, had to
vouch for each volunteer. Volunteers carried a badge, were identified by a
badge number, and the badge indicated which cadre member had signed for
(and was therefore financially liable, as well as face imprisonment) the
transgressions of the volunteer. The volunteers were assigned places and times
of duty. We maintained a daily assignment sheet at the ISV COP, by badge
number, so X patrol could go out and spot check every volunteer to ensure they
were doing their job. A patrol could dock an individual pay by recording their
badge number and letting me know the number and transgression. We were
extremely harsh on discipline- late for work, lose 20% of your pay for the month.
Shirt not tucked in, lose 20% of your pay. I also empowered the ISV leadership
to make such corrections.
We spent a lot of time with the ISV, ensuring they understood the
temporary nature of their function, that is was just to ensure security for the
neighborhood during these trying times, and that they must work hand in hand
with the IA. We would have a daily synch with the IA company commander for
the area, the ISV leaders, and coalition forces. At this daily meeting we would all
eat breakfast and address the minor issues of the day. The ISVs took on a lot of
tasks I would’ve wished on the IA; tasks we could never do ourselves. I tasked
the ISVs to get a list of all the poorest families (so we could better target
humanitarian assistance)- they returned, after consulting with the Imams and
tribal sheiks, with a list of 55 or so families. (the list included name, specific
circumstances of concern, phone number, and address. We independently
verified each family and the information was 100% accurate). The ISVs would
secure road repaving contracts, give a roll up of transformers as contractors
repaired them, repair holes in walls, recommend areas for clean up, and ensure
safety of contractors. They embedded at IA checkpoints and on IA patrols,
working jointly.
I had a series of meetings with the imams and tribal leaders to introduce
the ISVs and clearly define the mandate under which they operated, as well as to
establish that they were not a permanent force. The tribal leaders and general
population were given direct contact information to get in touch with either IA or
CF in the event of ISV malfeasance. The danger of establishing such an
organization is that it will be populated by thugs or act like organized crime, or
that it will have some kind of sectarian agenda. Thus, it required constant
attention and an even hand to squelch such shifts. I would spend 4-6 hours of
every day working directly with the ISVs, and my PLs many more.


As we redeployed, the ISVs were taking care of every mundane tasks I

would normally assign to patrols. IA were running the periphery effort and
ensuring government support of the neighborhood. Americans were in
overwatch. We conducted a thorough RIP (you’d have to ask the incoming guys
exactly how effective, but we did our best) and achieved success on what we
sought out to do.

1. Regular and predictable delivery of essential commodities

(propane, kerosene, food, electricity) - This was
functioning, overseen by the IA. Shortages Baghdad-
wide caused issues with fuels.
2. Increased local medical capability (defined as: clinic with
trauma and ambulance capability). Two functioning
clinics and a triage for things requiring higher care.
3. No IEDs on the roads- IEDs denied by a network of local
informants ready to take up arms against those who
would bury bombs in their streets. (Local solution- defeat
IEDs by proxy). Security situation improved drastically- no
IEDs for the last five months, no attacks, no murders.
This is to do primarily to our efforts giving rise to the ISVs
and the momentum carried over from Western Iraq.
4. Legitimized and non-reprisal focused Iraqi Security
Forces, meeting regularly and hospitably with locals.
Happening. IA doing a good job.
5. Kids in school. Parents confident that kids would be safe
at school. All schools renovated, functioning, and asking
for internet. Kids all over the place. Every store in the
neighborhood opened and doing business.