Fallujah Awakens: Marines, Sheiks, and the Battle Against al Qaeda

Naval Institute Press
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The cradle of an insurgency that plunged Iraq into years of chaos and bloodshed, Fallujah conjures up images of the brutal house-to-house fighting that occurred during the 2004 U.S. invasion of the iconic city. But attacks in the area actually peaked two years later, when American and Iraqi government forces struggled with a reinvigorated insurgency and the prospect of premature withdrawal by U.S. forces. Fallujah Awakens tells the story of the remarkable turnaround that followed. Journalist Bill Ardolino explains how local tribal leaders and U.S. Marines forged a surprising alliance that helped secure the famous battleground. It is one of the few books to recount events from both American and Iraqi perspectives.

Based on more than120 interviews with Iraqis and U.S. Marines, Ardolino describes how a company of reservists, led by a hospital equipment salesman from Michigan, succeeded where previous efforts had stalled. Circumstance combined with smart, charismatic leadership enabled Americans to build relationships with members of a Sunni tribe—once written off as dangerous and intractable— who pushed al Qaeda and other insurgents from their notoriously rebellious area.

Accidental killings, intertribal rivalries, insurgents, and intrigue all conspired to undue the tenuous alliance forged between the Americans and tribesmen on Fallujah’s Peninsula. But the partnership was cemented after a Marine commander’s risky decision to welcome nearly 100 injured civilians onto a secure American facility after a ruthless chemical attack by al Qaeda.

The book’s gripping storyline will appeal to readers of historical nonfiction. Its exhaustive documentation will prove valuable to military students, analysts, and historians and will help policy makers better understand what is possible in counterinsurgency. Photographs and maps further enhance the reader’s understanding of everything from tribal dynamics to the geography of firefights.
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About the author

Bill Ardolino is an Associate Editor/Overseas Correspondent for The Long War Journal. His reporting includes embeds with the US Marine Corps, the US Army, the Iraqi Army, and the Iraqi Police in Fallujah, Habbaniyah, and Baghdad in 2006, 2007, and 2008. He traveled to Afghanistan in 2010 to embed with the Marine Corps, the Afghan Police, and the Afghan Army in Helmand province, and with the US and Afghan Air Forces in Kabul, and returned in 2011 to embed with the US and Afghan Armies in Khost province.

His reports, columns and photographs have been published in The Washington Examiner, Wired, Small Wars Journal and The Weekly Standard. His reporting has focused on combat operations, the development of indigenous security forces, civil affairs work, and Iraqi politics. He has also been a guest on The Dennis Miller Show, the John Batchelor Show, the Charles Adler Show, and Al Jazeera English (TV).

Ardolino’s work has been cited by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the RAND Corporation, and Defence R&D Canada, among other academic institutions and think tanks. He was an Adjunct Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies from 2008-2011, and was among the first group of bloggers to meet with and interview the President of the United States in 2007. Prior to writing professionally, Bill was profiled in the 2004 best-seller The World Is Flat: a Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, by Thomas Friedman, for "citizen journalism," including work exposing CBS News' use of fraudulent documents in a report on President George W. Bush's Air National Guard service. He lives in Washington,DC.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Naval Institute Press
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Published on
May 15, 2013
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781612511290
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Modern / 21st Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The city of Fallujah, Iraq will long be associated with some of the worst violence and brutality of the Iraq war. The battles to retake the city from insurgent fighters in 2004 have already indelibly carved its name into the historic annals of the U.S. military and occupy a revered place in the storied history of the United States Marine Corps. Initially occupied by U.S. forces in 2003, it eventually served as the headquarters for numerous insurgent groups operating west of Baghdad, including al-Qaeda in Iraq and its leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, until forcibly retaken at the end of 2004. Once the city was finally cleared, U.S. forces concentrated on trying to prevent it from returning to insurgent control by waging a counter insurgency campaign against both nationalist and extremist Islamist insurgent forces. It was a long, frustrating and, at times, brutal fight for control of the population with the eventual goal of setting the conditions for eventual Iraqi Government control and enabling U.S. forces to leave. Even though Coalition Forces were winning tactically, the initial policies of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which had deeply alienated the Sunni Arab population, negative press coverage of the ongoing violence, as well as the often clumsy and ineffective efforts of the developing Iraqi Security Forces served to make winning over the population a difficult process at best. The people of the area still strongly supported the nationalist insurgents and, although they often allied with the Islamists to push Coalition Forces out of Iraq, were frequently more terrified of the extremist Islamist insurgents than supportive. There seemed to be little U.S. forces could do to change the situation. By the middle of 2007, four years after the initial invasion of Iraq, the city of Fallujah and its surrounding countryside remained mired in a seemingly intractable cycle of violent action and counteraction between government security forces, assisted by U.S. forces, and the various insurgent groups. It was an unstable and chaotic time. It had even gotten to the point that some on the coalition side were beginning to wonder if Fallujah was being lost all over again. All of this began to change in 2007.


Progress up to that point had been slow, difficult to assess, and occurred in fits and starts. The hardest aspect of the counter-insurgency effort was maintaining a sense of enduring security for the population so that Iraqis would not have to live in constant fear of retribution from the different insurgent groups. Lacking an adequate Iraqi partner, this task was beyond the resources of U.S. forces in Anbar Province – something needed to change. Beginning in June 2007, local security conditions in Fallujah were fundamentally altered due to a concerted U.S. pacification campaign in the city, increased cooperation from local tribes, and greater efforts by Iraqi Security Forces. This campaign took advantage of the tide of the Al Anbar Awakening Movement that was sweeping the province from west to east as the tribes in the area and the broader Sunni Arab community began to turn against al-Qaeda in 2006 and 2007. As this movement gained momentum, Fallujah’s residents were waiting for it to push eastward in order to help them eliminate al-Qaeda from their own communities. Even though the local population had not yet risen up against the terrorist group, they were keen to do so and needed the help of U.S. forces. The campaign described in this book gave them this opportunity.
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