Tuesday, December 29, 2009

There is no black and white...only shades of gray.

It is rare that one gets to see the lessons of counter insurgency (COIN for you civilians reading at home) while deployed in a COIN environment. That may seem odd since we are conducting daily COIN operations here in Diyala, but what I am getting at is that you rarely, if ever, see it up close and blantantly obvious.

In a standard deployment, towards the end anyway, you may see a drop in attacks or a more friendly attitude towards your patrols if you conduct proper COIN by assisting the economy, fixing or upgrading the infrastructure, meeting with local leaders to discuss their needs, etc. You may even see the benefits after only a few months of COIN operations. On the opposite spectrum, if you operate in the area like you own it, break things, disrupt people's lives, are generally hostile and agressive, etc...you will eventually see an increase in attacks, a hostile attitude (the look of pure hatred is quite an interesting look), and a far from professional attitude from your local security partners.

However, on occasion, you get to experience a COIN lesson in a single moment. One of those situations where you think to yourself..."crikey, we really screwed this one up."

There is a certain individual who my squadron has been targeting almost since we got here. An interesting note, my brigade was actually targeting him last deployment as well, during our lovely adventure up to Baqubah in '07. He's the one guy I wanted to take down before we left...

...he was recently captured in Baghdad...and there was much rejoicing.

The rejoicing was tempered a bit when I learned why he become an insurgent/terrorist/criminal, which he was (murderer, extortionist, intimidator). He claims that he began attacking Americans back in 2004 when his father, aunt, and a few other family members were killed by Americans. Our heavy hand made this man an insurgent.

Had we used proper COIN back in 2004, or at the very least been less trigger happy, this man's family likely would still be alive. This man would likely not have begun attacking Americans. How many other men am I targeting are wanted only because we forced them to be wanted men? How much of this is our fault?

I almost feel sorry for the man, hell, he's about my age...I would probably have started attacking us too if put in his situation.

But we all make choices...he made his and I made mine.

Monday, December 7, 2009

No attractive cheerleaders though...

There is a side of Iraq that I thought I would never get to see, a situation that would be present long after I stopped coming to the place...normalcy.

In 1-14 CAV we have a yearly tradition around Thanksgiving, the Turkey Bowl. Each Troop puts together a football team or two and a tournament is held with the winners getting a large trophy. The Squadron Commander of course wasn't about to let this tradition slip by just because we were in Iraq so on Thanksgiving football was played on both COP COBRA and FOB CALDWELL between cavalry troops, engineers, and Marine military training teams. Victors were declared and the championship game was held that Saturday...

...at a sports stadium...

...in Khanaqin.

That's right, we played the championship game in an Iraqi city with no issues and no attacks. I never thought I would see the day. There is now an American football in the display case of the Khanaqin Stadium symbolizing the first ever American football game played there. Feels good to be a part of something like that.