Saturday, November 20, 2004

What's Next For Fallujah?

This simple answer to this question can be found by looking at the current state of affairs in Samarra, Najaf, and Sadr City. Oh, I'm sorry- the press isn't telling you anything about that. Well, the short story is that our forces are steadily working on financing and supervising reconstruction projects- employing a substantial Iraqi work force and getting the towns back on their feet. Newly trained Iraqi cops provide security and protection, and US forces just sort of monitor the situation and help where they're needed. This is what we in the business call an "exit strategy."

While this is a relatively new concept for insurgent strongholds, it's old hat for long-time areas of relative stability like Mosul and Basra. When I was in Mosul last year, we didn't have a substantial insurgent threat to prevent us from moving the city forward. There's a guy named Eric T. Holmes (here's your plug, Eric) who's writing a book about this sort of thing. He asked me to contribute and I gladly obliged. So here's an excerpt for your weekend reading enjoyment:


I think the winning idea for “The Blinding Flash of the Obvious” goes to the 101st Infantry Division. In the course of combat operations and searching for weapon caches the 101st came across large amounts of Ba’athist cash. They immediately turned right around and spent the money in the local economy for humanitarian efforts. During 2003 they seized and spent $178 million. Other units are now continuing the program.

“1st CAV forces are currently employing 1,000 people alone in Sadr City, and this is only one of the many projects throughout the city,” Brigadier General Kimmit told the press during a briefing on 30 April 2004.

Captain 2Slick served with the 101st in Mosul during the first year of the war. He’s a Black Hawk pilot by trade, who personally spent $2.7 million in support of higher education in Mosul. After serving with his unit in Iraq, 2Slick is now serving in Kuwait. “I honestly believe that we are losing the information campaign here. As soldiers fighting this war, we have an obligation to get the word out about what's really going on over here.” Below is 2Slick’s description of the program.

"Here's how it worked. About one week after we (the 101st) arrived in Mosul (approx. May 8th), every major subordinate command in the 101st (including mine, of course) received an order to report to Finance Headquarters, draw $10,000 US cash (seized assets recovered from the old regime) and go out and spend it. There were rules and guidelines- no single purchase over the amount of $2,000. Any expenditure must benefit the Iraqi people only, and may not result in any kind benefit to Coalition Forces whatsoever. No spending on entertainment for the Iraqis. Other than that, it was pretty much go out there and spend. I was selected to be my brigade's project manager because of my experience handling budgets and my history of successfuly dealing with Iraqis.

I first went to a Civil Affairs guy who lived in the tent next to mine, and asked him if he had any good tips. He told me that the University had been severely looted, and that they could use some help with ADP products (monitors, disk drives, etc.). We went to the University, worked out the arrangements, made some connections, and delivered the products the next day. The purchase was simple- we went to a computer store across the street from the university, worked out a deal, and had them deliver the goods at the agreed time and place, at which time we paid them. We repeated this often. After our first purchase for the university we still had $8,000, so we stopped at a primary school and asked them how we could be of assistance. They were very happy to see us, and we communicated through our interpreter. We worked out a deal to get them school supplies, new school desks, chalkboards, etc.

When our $10,000 ran out, we drew more and repeated the process. Every other major subordinate command in the 101st did the same thing we did. This continued for about 3 weeks.

Once it became obvious that this operation was working, Division Headquarters decided to step things up. We were soon authorized to draw $250,000 at a time (usually about one draw every two weeks- and the maximum withdrawal amount continued to grow), and spend up to $10,000 on a single purchase (more if we obtained the CG's approval).

MG Petraeus (the CG) then decided to split up responsibilities, to avoid duplicating our efforts. My brigade (the 159th AVN BDE) was told to focus on the University, since we had already built up a habitual relationship with them. Our umbrella of responsibility soon began to include all Higher Education through out Mosul (the University, 3 technical schools, and 1 private school). My brand new Brigade Commander, COL Harrison, arrived at about this time (mid-June). At COL Harrison's in brief, the CG told him that Higher Education in Mosul was our #1 priority, not flying helicopters (we had 102 Black Hawks and 34 Chinooks). COL H ordered me to put together about 30 teams, each led by officers from within the brigade, to increase the work effort. Each team had a specific responsibility, i.e. one team was in charge of the Medical College, another was in charge of the Library, another took on the College of Science, etc.

Each team would go out twice a week, arrange projects with their Iraqi counterpart (usually a Dean or a professor), and I would make the payments as required. We held weekly meetings where teams would submit their project requests, and I would prioritize them and approve them based on the amount of money I had left to spend. When I drew more money, I'd approve more projects, get bids on the contracts, hire labor forces, etc. We continued on like this until we left in January of '04. Other units within the 101st did the same thing, but within their own areas of responsibility. The Artillery BDE was in charge of rebuilding security, the Support Brigade was in charge of Lower Education (schools for kids), the 2nd Infantry Brigade was in charge of rebuilding buildings and industries within the City of Mosul, etc. This is how we implemented what came to be known as the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP).

Of course, with each trip to the University (or occasional primary school), we were required to travel in groups of at least 9 soldiers (fully armed and fully equipped), traveling in at least 3 humvees (the trail humvees had to include a crew-served weapon), and we maintained constant 2-way radio contact with headquarters. We left our base at the airfield almost every day, and we were only attacked once. A disgruntled student threw a grenade under one of our trucks while we were leaving a parking lot at the College of Math. The blast resulted in 2 minor injuries to soldiers and minor damage to the humvee. The perpetrator escaped. We believe he was a foreign student on a Ba'ath Party scholarship that was (obviously) about to expire.

We actually used some money to compensate victims of fatalities. The Dean of Political Science, Dr. Abdul-Jabar Mustaffa, was abducted and murdered by insurgents hours after I met with him and spent $10,000 at his college. We gave his surviving widow, two twin daughters, and son a "sympathy" payment, which was authorized. We had to do this a few other times when University-affiliated personnel were either murdered or caught in crossfire. It was always a sad event.

When it was all over, I had spent over $2.7 million, mostly on the University. I'm told that other Division's throughout Iraq followed our model, since we had so much success with it. As far as I know, CERP is still ongoing."

End of excerpt.

So there you have it- a little anecdote that might shed some light on what's to come in Fallujah. Our friend, RWSparkle, recently posted something about a soldier who's already doing this sort of thing in Fallujah- and it got me thinking about this- thanks for the idea.

And For the Record

The Iraqis that we helped and worked with were some of the nicest, most thoughtful people I've ever met. But don't take my word for it- see for yourself:

Email from a retired Iraqi Air Force General who used to work directly for Saddam- not by choice- Saddam's henchmen murdered his brother in front of his wife and 4 children for "suspected treason":

Dear sir,

How are you, I wish you nice day, I hope you spend good time back at home, I am happy that you are at home safe, I miss you and miss your company, You are good freind of mine, Here in MOSUL nothing change ( same, same ) . I like to hear a good news about you .



Email from the same guy (sent last July 4th):




Here's one of about 50 emails from one of the phone-system repair contractors I hired (I like this one- it's kinda funny):

Hi 2Slick!!!

At last 2Slick send to me e-mail I cant believe it , I didn’t went to internet coffee from one month passed because I was very busy & sick in the same time , so I read your letter very late .

Before two week I went to the airport ((I have business there)) and I asked about you they tried to call you but say you leave alrady I forgot. BUT I met a beautiful Capt. there her name is Allison , I hope you can work with her in the same group if you do that I will join the U.S army and work with you.

Not sure what he's saying there, but it's funny. Same guy sent me this while I was (obviously) still in Iraq:

where are you? I am very happy to the news about saddam .I want to know the e.mail of the officer how catch saddam to send to him a letter to thank him. I wish to here good news from you

s a n

Email from the Mosul U Dean of Medicine (his wife made my fiance a dress):

dear 2Slick thank you for your letter and it is good to back ot home safe and we wish to be happy with her locking to hear from you in near future Dr. S

From my interpretor:

Dear Capt.: How are you doing Sir?I hope you are enjoing your time.How is everything, are you doing well at home.You didn't tell me anything about your marriage project? Don't say you posponed it. I am waiting to hear from you. How is life with you? I miss you too much. Thank you for this E-mail. keep in touch,please and take care.



I've got tons of 'em. I posted these because I wanted you to see what some of the 95% of the Iraqis who don't get any news coverage are saying. Have a great weekend- I'll be back Monday...

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