So here's what I know about Mosul. Mosul went down without a fight during the original invasion. The Iraqi 5th Corps, which was based just northwest of Mosul Airfield, simply melted away into their homes. The senior leadership skipped town along with the other high-level Ba'athist bigwigs. Tanks and vehicles were literally left scattered all over town- empty and useless.
As soon as the city was void of any law-enforcement authorities, the Peshmerga (Kurdish troops) came down and exacted "revenge" (Kurdish country lies mostly north and east of Mosul- only about one hour away by car). It was ugly. The Kurds looted and pillaged and unleashed years of pent up aggression on the mostly-Sunni city. Remember that Saddam's Sunni regime slaughtered 180,000 Kurds during their reign of terror. The Kurdish Militia came to Mosul with a vengeance. The mayhem lasted for almost two weeks- until Marines and elements of 4th ID came in and sent the Kurds back home. The Sunnis in Mosul were initially outraged with the US forces- blaming them for allowing the Peshmergs to have free reign in the city for all that time. You may recall an incident where a demonstration got out of control and some Marines shot a bunch of civilians.
After about 3 weeks, the 101st Airborne (including yours truly) came up from Baghdad and relieved the Marines and 4th ID. We stayed there for about 9 months before being replaced by a much smaller force- a "Multi-National" Division, which was really just a souped-up Stryker Brigade out of Fort Lewis. A lethal force to be sure- but nothing even close to the size of an entire light infantry division. I believe that decision was made because things were relatively stable in Mosul during that time. The government was functioning well enough. We had constant mortar attacks at the airfield, but they never hit anything. We had our share of car bombs and roadside bombs, but nothing like the Sunni Triangle. I think the top brass just decided to mass forces in the Sunni Triangle and hope that Mosul would continue to progress steadily towards stability.
My feeling is that we squeezed some terrorists out of the Sunni Triangle, and many of them fled north hoping to set up shop. I think they've been stirring things up and trying to turn the tide of public opinion against the current government using propaganda tactics as well as exposing corruption (yes, corrupt politicians are everywhere). Many city government officials have been assassinated during the past couple months. Recent reports indicate that Zarqawi might be in town. As I've said before, I think he'd be making a terrible mistake by coming to Mosul. My feeling is that the insurgency was in the beginning stages of setting up operations in Mosul, and that they were hoping things would drag out for much longer in Fallujah. Didn't happen. Fallujah's now transitioning to SASO (Stability and Support Ops), and the offensive in Mosul has already begun.
I anticipate a relatively quick and lethal smackdown by the Coalition Forces, and if Zarqawi is indeed hiding out there- I think he'll turn up (while a citizen of Mosul will suddenly find himself and his family sitting on the beach in Malibu wondering what to do with $25 million). Don't get me wrong- the road ahead will be tough, but the good guys will continue to prevail.
The Fallujah Incident
The good people at SGT Stryker's Daily Brief liked what I had to say on the matter (thanks El Gato), but I must humbly defer to Matt Heidt (former SEAL) at Froggy Ruminations- he says it way better than I ever could:
Here is your situation Marine. You just took fire from unlawful combatants shooting from a religious building attempting to use the sanctuary status of their position as protection. But you're in Fallujah now, and the Marine Corps has decided that they're not playing that game this time. That was Najaf. So you set the mosque on fire and you hose down the terrorists with small arms, launch some AT-4s (Rockets), some 40MM grenades into the building and things quiet down. So you run over there, and find some tangos wounded and pretending to be dead. You are aware that suicide martyrdom is like really popular with these kind of idiots, and like taking some Marines with them would be really cool. So you can either risk your life and your fireteam's lives by having them cover you while you bend down and search a guy that you think is pretending to be dead for some reason. Also, you don't know who or what is in the next room, and you're already speaking english to each other and its loud because your hearing is poor from shooting people for several days. So you know that there are many other rooms to enter, and that if anyone is still alive in those rooms, they know that Americans are in the mosque. Meanwhile (3 seconds later), you still have this terrorist that was just shooting at you from a mosque playing possum. What do you do?
Read the entire post here.
The Quiet Shaping of Iraq's Future
Brett McGurk is a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, and since returning from Baghdad, he's been feeling exactly what I felt upon my return from Mosul. I read his article in the Philly Enquirer, and I had to remind myself that someone else had written this- not me:
For eight months, I served as a legal adviser in Baghdad, first with the Coalition Provisional Authority and then with the new U.S. Embassy. Now, I am home in Washington, and it feels like another planet.
The startling contrast is not the welcome drop in temperature, or sleeping soundly without fear of falling mortar rounds. Rather, it is the stateside conversation about Iraq; conversation that fails to appreciate the historical significance of what's taking place there.
Over eight months, I observed Iraqis overcome years of division to create an interim constitution that enshrines individual rights and strives to resolve the false tension between Islam and democracy.
I saw colleagues from the United Nations and Iraqis of the new Independent Electoral Commission plan for nationwide elections to define Iraq's future. And I witnessed the first laws of the new Iraqi government emerge from a process of tedious drafting to ensure compliance with a new bill of rights and international law.
Alas, most Americans see none of this and know nothing about Iraq beyond the daily media offering of televised violence and chaos. This is unfortunate, because the only way Iraq can fail is for the United States and its allies to pull out, leaving Iraq to return to violence rather than the rule of law.
Thanks, Brett- for describing exactly what I noticed during my 6 months between tours. Read the whole article.
Don't get me wrong- I was treated well. My fellow troops and I enjoyed a nice homecoming from a grateful nation. We just couldn't believe the narrow focus and complete lack of perspective from the "big" media. Even those poor guys at Fox would be covering a car bombing or mortar attack, and they'd be saying stuff like "we hate that we're always having to cover stuff like this instead of all the progress that's going on." It's just sad, really. And for all you Iraq Vets out there- this is why we need to call radio shows, write to newspapers, and blog our hearts out...