CTX Journal Vol. 3, No. 2 - May 2013

From the Editor


Welcome to the May issue of the Combating Terrorism Exchange. This issue is unusual not for its length—although it is by far the longest issue we've yet produced—but because in it we offer you two main articles that describe in exceptional detail the "Anbar Awakening" in Iraq (2004–6), from very different points of view. The backstory for both accounts begins when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's violent jihadi group al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) had infested the Al Qaim district of Anbar after fleeing Fallujah. Having presented themselves as freedom fighters, the militants were now beginning to show their true intent, using killings and coercion to keep the locals in line with their radical al Qaeda agenda. Although most of the Anbar tribes opposed the U.S.-led occupation, once the sheikhs realized that AQI was working to undermine their authority, they had a change of heart, and the Sahawa (Awakening) was born. Dr. William Knarr and his team of researchers at the U.S. Institute for Defense Analysis concentrate on the U.S. Marine battalions deployed to the Al Qaim district to fight AQI. Through extensive archival research and first-person interviews with a significant number of Iraqi and American participants, Knarr and his team describe how the Marines, initially wary and suspicious after a year of hard fighting, came to embrace the Awakening and, working with the sheikhs and their people, pushed back against AQI to free the Al Qaim district from the jihadis' grip. We are urged to see the events in Al Qaim as the earliest manifestation of a wave of counterterrorist revolt that culminated in the battle for Ramadi and the decimation of AQI in western Iraq.

MAJ Brent Lindeman, U.S. Army Special Forces, then takes us through these events from the quite different perspective of two Special Forces team sergeants, whom he calls William and Robert. Lindeman's is a firsthand account of the slow, painstaking work these men put into understanding the complex, sensitive, and perpetually shifting relationships among local power brokers, and what they did to leverage their understanding into achieving cooperation and then success. Through Lindeman's eyes we get an unusually clear picture of the many personalities involved on all sides of the table. He describes with sharp insight and occasional ironic humor the negotiations and machinations that brought the tribes and the teams together to beat back their deadly mutual enemy..

The Indian government, by contrast, has made less conclusive progress against an indigenous insurgency that has festered for decades. How do you solve a problem like the Maoists? Group Captain Srinivas Ganapathiraju of the Indian Air Force offers us some CT solutions that, perhaps unsurprisingly, are not too different from those described by Knarr and Lindeman. Foremost is the need for the central government to actually follow through on its promises to improve the lives of its long-neglected rural population. Then, the author advises, New Delhi must develop a broadbased strategy to both exploit the Maoists' structural vulnerabilities at the political level, and target their hardcore leadership via dedicated Special Operations Forces..

From the present situation on the Indian subcontinent, we move to Yemen in 2001, when MAJ Mohammed Garallah, a newly minted young army officer, was among the first cadre of Yemeni soldiers to be trained by American SOF in counterterrorism. Unfortunately, mutual cross-cultural misunderstandings doomed that initial effort to, if not failure, then a very qualified success. The best intentions of the American trainers and the willingness of their Yemeni pupils, Garallah explains with keen irony, could not make up for each side's misguided expectations of the other. We are pleased to introduce a new feature in this issue. Global ECCO's Combating Terrorism Archive Project (CTAP) is devoted to collecting interviews with CTFP alumni from around the world, who share their experiences, knowledge, and insights for the benefit of their peers and successors in the CT community. This issue's excerpt is from an interview with Canadian Army Engineer MAJ Nils N. French. In it he describes how his two years as an instructor at the U.S. Army Engineering School, Fort Leonard Wood, prepared him to work effectively with his American EOD counterparts in Afghanistan in 2009. English may have been a common language, French explains, but, he found he had to translate "a whole bunch of U.S. terms … into Canadian." Even between close neighbors, cross-cultural misunderstandings can raise problems..

Prof. Rebecca Johnson of the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College writes our Ethics and Insights column. Asked by the field grade officers who are her students what they can do to maintain an ethical command climate when deployments take their units far from base, Dr. Johnson emphasizes the importance of setting and maintaining high expectations. A good leader embodies commitment to the mission, demonstrates the ability and willingness to control his or her actions, and accepts adversity as a challenge, not an impediment, to personal and group development. In his State of the Art column, LT Edval Zoto, Albanian Army, casts a discerning eye on the gap between what author Max Boot told an NPS audience during a presentation about his ambitious new book, Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (New York: Liveright, 2013), and what the painting that is on the cover of his book actually represents. Boot thinks one thing, Zoto another. What the disparity boils down to, Zoto concludes, is the need to articulate a clear definition of guerrilla warfare, something Boot, in Zoto's opinion, doesn't do. Finally, we welcome back the sharp pen of Dr. Kalev Sepp, who takes on the Hollywood blockbuster Zero Dark Thirty in this issue's movie review. The film purports to tell the story of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, but Sepp warns, don't imagine what you see bears any resemblance to the truth. In the end, Zero Dark Thirty, with its profanity-laden dialogue and absurd depictions of CIA tradecraft, insults just about every real-life person who had a hand in the destruction of bin Laden..

Now I'm calling on you, the CTX community, to write to me at CTXEditor@GlobalEcco.org and tell me what you think about this and past issues of CTX. Did you serve in Anbar during the Awakening? Do you have yet a different point of view to offer? Or maybe you liked Zero Dark Thirty …. We are going to start publishing some of your feedback in a Letters to the Editor section, so write to me and get the discussion going!.

Elizabeth Skinner
Managing Editor
CTXEditor@GlobalEcco.org

This issue was in production on 15 April, when terrorist bombs struck the Boston Marathon, killing three. On that same day, dozens of people died from car and roadside bombs across Iraq. Our thoughts are with all of terrorism's victims, their families and friends, and with responders, including you. Thanks for the work you do to combat terrorism.