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A Shift in Operations

RAMADI, IRAQ: If you have a discussion with military officers in Western Anbar Province about the current and future status of military operations in the region, invariably the conversation will lead you to the reconstruction efforts of the Coalition. The phrases “switching from kinetic to non-kinetic operations” or “moving from kinetic operations to reconstruction” are often voiced.

Just the other day while at Al Asad Air base, I joined a group of senior staff officers of Regimental Combat Team – 2 in mid conversation at dinner, and the topic of the discussion was reconstruction efforts in a small strategic city in Anbar. Their concerns were the state of a water treatment plant, the status of schools and assisting in rebuilding them, electric power generation, and other mundane municipal issues. While these topics may seem less than glamorous to military officers, they astutely recognize their importance in countering the insurgency.

Major Tom Shoemake, the commander of the Civil Affairs Team in Hit, explains the mission, “Civil Military Operations is just another form of counterinsurgency warfare. Its predominantly a non-kinetic counterinsurgency tool. It takes place after the kinetic operations complete. After the fighting stops, you are not going through neighborhoods busting down doors, now you have to go in security and stabilization mode, you have to execute Civil Military Operations, you’ve got to get the power back on, drinking water is available, the essential services people need are there, the businesses are open. Its a whole different skill set.”

The dispersed nature of the towns along the Western Euphrates River Valley was once seen as an obstacle, but is now working to the Coalition’s advantage. The small communities make it easier for the Coalition to determine the tribal relationships and inner workings of the cities, and easier to identify members of the insurgency.

Major Shoemake explains how he gathered information in the city of Hit, with a population of 30,000. “First thing I did when I came in town was I knocked on doors and talked to the people. I can read the intelligence reports, listen to the mayor, listen to town council, but the heart of it comes from the people and that’s where I started. I started by meeting and talking to the people knocking on doors, going to markets, stopping on street corners, small businesses. It took three weeks before I had a picture of what was going on in the city… It gave me a solid picture of what I was up against.”

The impact of Major Shoemake’s efforts can be determined by the enemies he has made. The insurgents are actively targeting him. Just the other day, the terrorists detonated a large bomb in the center of the city market teaming with women and children in an attempt to kill him. One of his Marines was wounded in the blast.

As the Coalition continues to work to shut down the ratline from Syria, consolidate the gains from Operations Rivergate and Steel Curtain, and rebuild the small cities along the Euphrates River Valley, the core of the insurgency has moved back to the central environs of Iraq. Terrorist attacks continue in the capital of Baghdad. The cities and towns on the Tigris River directly north and west of Baghdad are a bastion of the Baathist insurgency. The city of Ramadi remains a battleground between the Coalition and the insurgency. Less than an hour ago incoming mortar fire landed about 300 yards from where I was sitting. The two rounds were quickly answered by counterbattery fire of the Army’s Paladin guns.

The larger cities give the insurgents cover due to the large populations. The foreign terrorists – al-Qaeda hit teams and suicide squads – which are responsible for the more craven acts of violence, can more easily blend in with the diverse peoples of the city.

But al-Qaeda in Iraq does not have complete immunity in the cities. In the past, the insurgency Ramadi has fought al-Qaeda to prevent them from slaughtering Shites and over the murder of Sunni sheikhs. Recently, residents of Ramadi turned in al-Qaeda in Iraq’s Amir Khalaf Fanus, also known as “The Butcher”.Fanus was number three on the most wanted list in Ramadi, and “wanted for criminal activities, including murder and kidnapping.” These are methods the terrorists and insurgents use to cow and intimidate the population.

The Coalition is taking further steps to improve the security presence in Ramadi. A press release from the 2nd Marine Division states “an additional 1,200 Iraqi Security Force soldiers have recently been stationed in Ramadi. Approximately 1,000 Iraqi Special Police Commandos and a mechanized Iraqi Army company completed their planned movement into the city.” The mechanized company, made of of Soviet era T-55 battletanks and BMP armored personnel carriers conducted its first patrol of Ramadi today.

The increased presence is designed to provide security for the election, and squeeze the insurgency and force the residents to make a choice between supporting the insurgents or rejecting them. The option to return to kinetic operations exists, however, as the inclusion of the mechanized Iraqi Army company makes clear.


Listed below are links that reference A Shift in Operations:

» "Switching from kinetic to non-kinetic operations" from Murdoc Online
The Wild West of Anbar isn't so wild anymore; the insurgency shifts back to the core Bill Roggio on Threats Watch: Major Tom Shoemake, the... [Read More]

» Political Will - Transforming Iraq (Part II) from By Dawn's Early Light
Part II of II. Dawn's Early Light looks at Democratic charges against the Bush Administration on why the War in Iraq is unwinnable. [Read More]


Hi Bill,

It's a good sign to hear about shifts from kinetic to non-kinetic operations. In your estimation, what percentage of US forces' time is spent on each? I think measuring this ratio over time would be another hard indicator of progress.
But I'm sure it varies from group to group...

Also, I remember reading about organizing reconstruction efforts more in the format of Afghanistan, with more decentralized, regional task forces. Have you met many veterans of Afghanistan now operating in Iraq, and is this change in approach evident on the ground yet?

Sorry for all the questions!

Take care,


This is what the jihadis were afraid of--that the Iraqis would start to value peace enough to coalesce into an Iraqi national identity. There is no place for jihadis in Iraq. Even most Shias look next door to Iran and say "no thanks" to the insane theocracy.

T-72's in the pieline and T-55's on patrol. Wonder how large the Iraqi tank force is?

How quickly can non-kinetic duties be transfered to Iraqis? Quite quickly, one would assume. The skill sets of the US troops not as hard to replicate in nonkinetic duty situations.

Great job, outstanding insights

Desert Rat asked my question on mechanized forces. I'd sure like to have a better picture of how these forces are shaping - training, getting equipped, and being tasked to the field.

For me it is a great benchmark and hearing of it puts a smile on my face.

Good reporting, Bill. We need more of it. We also need more reporting like this.

Iraqi armored forces:

9th Iraq Army Division, HQ Taji.
-1st bde = 2 mech infantry battalions (MTLB), 1 tank battalion (T55).
-2nd bde = 1st battalion (T72). 2nd battalion (BMP1) will be ready by Dec15. 3rd battalion(T72) will be ready early next year.
-3rd bde(2 tank, 1 Mech infantry battalions) will form next year.

A second armored division was planned for 2006, but this will probably be delayed.

1st Police Mech Infantry bde(AKA 8th Bde), HQ Bagdad.
3 mech infantry battalions in armored cars(BTR94's, M1117's). 1 battalion guards Route Irish(highway from Green Zone to BIAP). No more Police mech units are planned.

Hey all, I hope Bill doesn't mind if I take the liberty of pointing out a post I made recently on the Iraqi T-72s with several pictures.

Check it out at Murdoc Online if interested.