Turn around in Fallujah
Marines with Regimental Combat Team 5 spent 2006 making significant progress, with the help of the Iraqi Army, in eastern Al Anbar Province.There is more. It shows what isolating the battle space and providing adequate force to space ratios can accomplish. The Marines want to bring even more Iraqis into the process for both the police and the army. They have had good success in recruiting Sunnis to join in this area.
Fallujah, once the site of a pitched battle between Marines and al Qaida insurgents, is now considered a Sunni safe haven. It’s a marked progression that’s led to Marines turning over increasing responsibility to the Iraqi Security Force, a functioning city government and Iraqis seeking safety within the city’s limits.
It’s been a year of tough days, spectacular battlefield performances, hope, faith and steadfast discipline.
“We have aggressively worked to make Fallujah a model of progress, cooperation, and see it as an emerging, advanced and forward-looking city, perhaps one of the most in all of Iraq, certainly the most in all of Al Anbar Province,” said Col. Larry D. Nicholson, RCT-5’s commanding officer, in a recent press briefing. “The key to our success in Fallujah has been a thematic approach. We focus on ‘Team Fallujah,’ meaning that as the Marines, the Iraqi Army, the Fallujah police and the local citizens working together, nothing can stop us, no one can beat us.”
Marines now stand at the entry control points to the city alongside Iraqi Soldiers and Police.
Combined operations are standard in the area. Recruiting drives brought hundreds of Sunni Soldiers into the Iraqi Army, where none had volunteered before.
And Fallujah, along with the outlying cities that had never seen a Police Force, are now protected by their own. Fallujans continue to join the police, despite terrorists’ attacks.
“In many locations, Marines, Iraqi Soldiers and Police, along with Iraqi civilians and military advisers, live and work together in the same facility, sharing the same hardships, dangers and goals for the future,” Nicholson said. “Despite a campaign of murder and intimidation of local civic leaders and police by insurgents and criminals, city government and police stations across our area continue to develop and grow.”
Security in Fallujah improved so dramatically that the city, once the flashpoint for violence in Iraq, is now considered a safe haven for Sunnis fleeing sectarian violence in Baghdad and other regions in Iraq.
“In the two years since the conclusion of the battle, the population has rebounded to pre-Al Fajr levels,” Nicholson explained. “Today anywhere between 300,000 and 400,000 is our estimate. But not only have most of the original citizens returned, but many Iraqi citizens who were fleeing sectarian violence in Baghdad have found refuge in Fallujah.”
“Fallujah is today a boomtown for construction and is again reasserting its financial muscle in the province," Nicholson said. “We continue to work feverishly on items like electrical distribution, but what we are finding out is that there has now recently developed a First World appetite for consumer goods like air conditioners, satellite TVs, freezers and fridges, while there still remains a Third World infrastructure that struggles to keep up.”