The Battle for Fallujah (Has Once Again) Begun!


Earlier today, which is already tomorrow in Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi announced that Iraqi Forces (regular Iraqi Army and [most likely the National] Police, as well as irregular forces from the sectarian and tribal militias) had begun their operations to retake Fallujah. From the Iraqi perspective, specifically the Iraqi leadership’s perspective, this is necessary to take the remaining Islamic State pressure off of Baghdad. This is because Baghdad as the seat of government is the core of Iraq for the Iraqi leadership, whether it makes strategic, operational, or tactical sense.

What should be of great concern to everyone is whether the fate of Fallujah is similar to that of Ramadi. The Iraqis retook it, but it was reduced to rubble. And as Major Mohammed Hussein, a member of the counter-terrorism battalion that was first into Ramadi at the start of the offensive remarked: “All they (Islamic State) leave is rubble. You can’t do anything with rubble.” Islamic State has, apparently, mined and wired explosives throughout Fallujah as they did in Ramadi and there is a large civilian population trapped within the city and behind the enemy lines. The Iraqi’s have conducted an Information Operation informing these civilians to fly white flags from their buildings so they won’t be targeted by the Iraqi Forces. Unfortunately if they do so they will be targeted by the Islamic State Forces for collaboration.

Here’s what Ramadi looks like now:

isisramadidestructionap16116413304064 **ramadiisiscratersap16116413160960**

* Image from Voice of America.

** Images found here.

76 replies
  1. 1
    raven says:

    We did it to My Tho, and most of the other major cities, at Tet. The more things change. . .

  2. 2
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @raven: The damage to Ramadi was helped along by Coalition air support. But they were trying to be careful, believe it or not. One of the articles I’ve read on this quotes the Iraqis as saying they wouldn’t have been as careful as the Coalition if they were in charge of air support. So the locals own context would have made the destruction worse. Regardless its going to be a huge issue. If relieving pressure on Baghdad means that the Iraqi leadership is less tense and the Coalition can get them better focused that’s a good thing. However, if it comes at the cost of a huge new population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), that’s a long term strategic problem.

  3. 3

    What hell.

    Thanks, Adam. It’s great to have you here on this stuff.

  4. 4
    PsiFighter37 says:

    No GoT thread?

    That was the saddest episode I’ve seen in the entire series.

  5. 5
    Raven says:

    @Adam L Silverman: So how do they get them out?

  6. 6
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @PsiFighter37: I don’t watch Game of Thrones and have never read the books. I’m watching ice hockey.

  7. 7

    Poor Iraqi people. Also too, fuck the British and their stupid empire. Palestine, Pakistan their finger prints are everywhere, especially the mess in the Middle East. Bush II made it worse.

  8. 8
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @PsiFighter37: People are dropping spoilers in the previous thread without any word of warning.

  9. 9
    Helen says:

    @PsiFighter37: Don’t watch but apparently the shit hit the fan, yeah?

    Gonna watch VEEP. Many funny. I love JLD. I am Elaine. Trust me. I am.

  10. 10
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Raven: Good question. The news reporting says that a lot of them are the families of the Islamic State fighters. So I have no idea how to quantify or qualify who would want to leave because they have been trapped behind enemy lines and under Islamic State control versus those that want to be where they are. So I have no idea how many people we’re actually talking about. Without knowing that, I wouldn’t want to speculate on the best way to even try to get them out.

  11. 11
    Davebo says:

    50′ diameter craters aren’t created by coalition munitions. It’s obvious taking Fallujah is going to be a mess, especially for the local population but it has to be done.

  12. 12
    raven says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Tough nut to crack.

  13. 13
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Raven: Jesus, that is the question.
    @schrodinger’s cat: This, also, too.
    And W managed to exacerbate pretty much everything the British and its assistants had put in place for potentially permanent hell in MENA.

  14. 14
  15. 15
    Keith P. says:

    @PsiFighter37: There was a LOT to process in that episode. Damn

  16. 16
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @Adam L Silverman: @Helen: There have been a lot of shocks, but this was probably the saddest episode straight-up, on top of being surprising. One of the harder twists to swallow.

  17. 17
    redshirt says:

    My sympathies for the battle scarred innocents. Just by running you don’t deserve their aggression.

  18. 18
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mingobat f/k/a Karen in GA: You were okay. Someone else was not.

  19. 19
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @raven: If this was US and Coalition in the lead, it would be a Special Forces mission with close air and precision fires support. But the US and Coalition aren’t in the lead – just advisory support – and I don’t know what the Iraqi military leadership is willing to throw at this. Additionally, given that its Fallujah, the majority of people in the city are Sunni. I do not know and cannot say if the sectarian Shi’a militia forces are disciplined enough not to engage in some sectarian extra-curriculars. This would massively complicate any operation.

  20. 20

    @schrodinger’s cat: Is there any possible way to… I don’t know. Fixing this seems impossible. But improving things at all for the Iraqi people? It just seems like we smacked a hornet’s nest, and now all we can do is hope that one day the hornets’ grandchildren will make peace just because they’re so damned sick of fighting. But this is a region with a long memory, so never mind even hoping for that.

  21. 21
    Mary G says:

    @PsiFighter37: I know, I’m crying over here. The whole episode was put up early by HBO Nordic and spoilers were all over this afternoon, but I managed to avoid them.

    Adam, is this operation the reason for the extra American forces that were sent over a few weeks ago?

  22. 22
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mary G: Not that I’m aware of. But I’m not privy to Force Generation and Deployment requirements. All I know is what I read in the news reports. Those reports that those guys are going as trainers and will be working at the Division and higher equivalent level. This is not the level that they usually work at.

  23. 23
    Keith P. says:

    @Mingobat f/k/a Karen in GA: What was pretty cool was that just a few days ago, I was wondering about the point of that season 1 or 2 scene where there are all these horseheads that the white walkers arranged in a spiral. It was an aspect that they haven’t really touched on since, but then tonight, they showed another spiral.

  24. 24
    raven says:

    @Adam L Silverman: what a cluster fuck

  25. 25
    Prescott Cactus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: No warning ? DIACFWLS, as you kinda said before.

  26. 26
    Mike in NC says:

    Iraq: the Bush gift that just keeps on giving.

  27. 27
    Mike J says:

    @Adam L Silverman: How many years do we have in theatre? I’ve read between 3800 (treaty limit)and 5000.

  28. 28
    Mary G says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Good. I don’t want any American boots on the ground in battle.

  29. 29
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Prescott Cactus: DIACFWLS?

  30. 30
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @raven: Has been since 2003.

  31. 31
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mingobat f/k/a Karen in GA: We pulled the lid off a state and society that had been formed in a very artificial manner and had been held together by force for over 70 years. We then didn’t manage the resulting responses, because the people that established the policy and strategy that pulled the lid off didn’t seem to care about the context or what came after the cessation of combat. There was no focus on the most important questions: what does victory look like? how do we establish the conditions to win/secure the peace, not just win the war? The Iraqis will eventually establish a new normal for themselves. But it will not be all at once, it may not consolidate, so there will likely be many redos, which will also likely be violent. What they were doing before the rise of the Islamic State was working out who was and wasn’t an Iraqi. Who did and did not get the full benefits of being an Iraqi. Who would and would not be allowed to be involved with running things. Would would only be tolerated. And who would have to find some new place for themselves.

    What we can do, what we have a moral obligation to do, is help to manage and mitigate this iterative and repetitive process. We need to be working with our Coalition partners and the Iraqis to set the conditions to win/secure the peace. Even if that takes a long time. One of the most important contributions we can make, because the center of the Islamic State’s gravity (to use the military term) is an idea/doctrine/theology and you can’t kill an idea, is work with the Iraqis to develop, establish, foster, and propagate a better idea of how to order state and society than Islamic State’s.

  32. 32
    Mike J says:

    @Mike J: should not be years in above. Stupid tablet. People, troops, etc.

  33. 33
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @raven: Yes. But, and its a big one: if we just do this for the Iraqis, it doesn’t resolve anything in terms of the Iraqis. They have to do this for themselves. I would be very, very surprised if the American and Coalition personnel working with the Iraqis, at all levels, were not encouraging them to develop contingency plans to resolve this particularly wicked problem of civilians trapped within Fallujah.

  34. 34
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mike J: I don’t understand the question. Years is confusing me.

  35. 35
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mary G: Unless, as was the case in the news reporters about three weeks or so ago, US and Coalition personnel are embedded as advisors with an Iraqi tactical unit and wind up in contact with the enemy, there won’t be any combat for the US and the Coalition personnel in Iraq.

  36. 36
    Mike J says:

    @Adam L Silverman: how many people/troops? Treaty limit is 3800, but we’ve been running about 5000 overlapping leaving/coming in.

  37. 37
    Helen says:

    LOL Cole just wrote the next thread and said he’s waiting to see GOT. Ain’t that shit over on the East coast?

  38. 38
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mike J: I don’t know the totals.

  39. 39
    Prescott Cactus says:

    Didn’t know anything about Fallujah. Per Wikipedia

    325,000 people in 2010

    43 miles West of Bagdad

    30 square kilometers of area

    (Author of this doesn’t seem to be a hack) Intersting if verifiable.
    In 2010 it was reported that an academic study[38] had shown “a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer.” since 2004.[39] In addition, the report said the types of cancer were “similar to that in the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to ionising radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout”, and an 18% fall in the male birth ratio (to 850 per 1000 female births, compared to the usual 1050) was similar to that seen after the Hiroshima bombing. (Patrick Cockburn Toxic legacy of US assault on Fallujah ‘worse than Hiroshima’

  40. 40
    Prescott Cactus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: The smell of cow makes it worse I guess.

    Die In A Car Fire With Leather Seats

  41. 41
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Adam L Silverman: If I were the Iraqi’s; when the US says we’re here to help, the response would be ‘you’ve help quite enough, thank you’.

  42. 42
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Prescott Cactus: I see.

  43. 43
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Prescott Cactus: He’s generally pretty solid. I don’t know if they’ve been able to do the last couple, but the best estimates of population sizes in Iraq have been in the UN’s World Food Program surveys. Here’s the 2008 one:

    I was asked to actually design a population survey when I was deployed in Iraq. My Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Commander, in conjunction with the local Iraqi leadership, wanted to do a census. We designed the census implement – partially adapted the old Saddam era one that I found somewhere, modernized it, tidied it up survey design wise, added a few important questions, and then had it translated into Iraqi Arabic. We never did administer it though. Someone upstream put a stop to it. My guess is that someone on the Iraqi side leaned on someone upstream on the Coalition side. No one really wants a proper census and measurement of the population because no one wants their assumptions about who should control what based on sheer numbers (Sunni or Shi’a or Arab or Kurd) challenged.

  44. 44
    Prescott Cactus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Not a GoT person myself, but it seems that revealing info without a spoiler for such a well followed show would be like leaking Star Wars endings years ago.

    Perhaps I was a bit harsh.

  45. 45
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: I don’t necessarily disagree. At the same time, my take is, the Iraqis will want us there as long as its in their interests. Specifically dealing with the Islamic State threat. Once the Iraqis think it is resolved, they will tell us to leave, whether we’ve achieved the 9 strategic objectives delineated by the Obama Administration. The nine can be found here:

    Once the Iraqi leadership feels that it is no longer threatened by IS, they will turn around like they did in 2008 in regard to the SOFA negotiations, and ask us to leave. And they’ll do this because they want to finish the process of deciding who is and isn’t an Iraqi. And unless something very strange happens, we’ll leave. Because we and our Coalition partners are there in support at the invitation of the Iraqi government.

  46. 46
    Miss Bianca says:

    Goddamnit, I heard about this on the radio this evening. Is the first of the news that has come out on this operation, or am I just woefully behind the times? Heart is in my mouth.

  47. 47
    Prescott Cactus says:


    Is this all on us (US) ?

    Would Daesh / Islamic State eventually have formed without the coalition invasion ?

    Did Saddam Hussein have things wrapped up tight enough that this never, ever could have happened under his control, even this late in the game ?

  48. 48
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Miss Bianca: It just started earlier today. So not a lot of info yet other than the announcement that the offensive has begun. Given how dug in Islamic State is likely to be combined with the high likelihood that they’ve set explosives everywhere like they had in Ramadi, this could take a while.

  49. 49
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Prescott Cactus: Islamic State/DAESH is the most recent iteration/evolution of al Qaeda in Iraq. Much of its leadership were able to manipulate the de-radicalization programs put into place at the detainee operations at Camp Bucca and its current leadership emerged from their. This was combined with a number of the Baathists that the Coalition Provisional Authority cleaned out of both the military and government and banned from ever being involved in those two institutions ever again. Including the Sufi military leaders and personnel from the Naqshbandi Order. We set the conditions for this in 2003 and 2004 and then contributed to it by making a number of key strategic mistakes from 2003 through 2010.

  50. 50
    Prescott Cactus says:

    Islamic State/DAESH is the most recent iteration/evolution of al Qaeda
    Baathists of both the military and government
    Including the Sufi military leaders and personnel from the Naqshbandi Order

    You almost need a scorecard.

    Seems like it would be hard not to make a number of key strategic mistakes when you have this many players, unless you really took the time and great effort to not make any mistakes.

  51. 51
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Prescott Cactus: here you go:

    A bit dated, but it still holds up.

  52. 52
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Stupid question, Adam: are we doing this? Any/all/part/of this?

  53. 53
  54. 54
    Steeplejack says:


    Well, he doesn’t read this blog, so he doesn’t have to worry about the spoilers.

  55. 55
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Ah, thanks for this! I’ll read it directly. I was wanting to ask you about Jordan, and what all the refugee crisis/new Iraqi fighting meant for them right now, but it looks like my trip over there may be postponed…

  56. 56
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Miss Bianca: Try indirectly. Perhaps a camera obscura?

  57. 57
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I…uh…huh? Sorry, afraid this does not compute.

    ETA: Oh. Never mind. I am a size-one idjit, evidently.

  58. 58
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Adam L Silverman: @Miss Bianca: It’s funny.

  59. 59
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Miss Bianca: @Omnes Omnibus: Things may be nuts, but we all clearly need to maintain our perspective.

  60. 60
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: @Adam L Silverman:

    “Much laughter was heard at this little remark of mine…however, I noticed I was the only one laughing.”

    Quick, O2, *you* know whose bon mot *that* one is! ; )

  61. 61
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Miss Bianca: I confess to missing that one.

  62. 62
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Who but your pal Robert Benchley?

  63. 63
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Miss Bianca: Oh, dear. Stylistically, I should have guessed.

  64. 64
    Miss Bianca says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Ah, well. The ex was a big RB fan, and that was one of his favorite quotes, so it became one of mine.

  65. 65
    Steeplejack says:

    @Omnes Omnibus, @Miss Bianca:

    Wow, I just Googled the phrase “Much laughter was heard at this little remark of mine” and the only hit that came up was this thread. The search engine is inside the house!

  66. 66
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Indeed. Even when they’re “done” with Fallujah, that’s just the beginning. Imagine what Mosul will be like when its time comes. I imagine that will be much worse for the civilians (lots of diversity (at least before Daesh took over), much larger population, oil center, etc., etc.).



  67. 67
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @Prescott Cactus: Der Spiegel got internal Daesh paperwork showing how the “state” was designed by one of Saddam’s air force security people. It’s basically a Baathist police-state rerun with an “Islamic” face.

    Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi was the real name of the Iraqi, whose bony features were softened by a white beard. But no one knew him by that name. Even his best-known pseudonym, Haji Bakr, wasn’t widely known. But that was precisely part of the plan. The former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein’s air defense force had been secretly pulling the strings at IS for years. Former members of the group had repeatedly mentioned him as one of its leading figures. Still, it was never clear what exactly his role was.

    But when the architect of the Islamic State died, he left something behind that he had intended to keep strictly confidential: the blueprint for this state. It is a folder full of handwritten organizational charts, lists and schedules, which describe how a country can be gradually subjugated. SPIEGEL has gained exclusive access to the 31 pages, some consisting of several pages pasted together. They reveal a multilayered composition and directives for action, some already tested and others newly devised for the anarchical situation in Syria’s rebel-held territories. In a sense, the documents are the source code of the most successful terrorist army in recent history.

    It’s an interesting read.

    Saddam was going to die eventually, and his kids might not have been able to hold the place together. But whether we “created” Daesh or merely created the conditions so that Saddam’s police state could morph into Daesh sooner, I dunno. Probably not much different to the folks who have to live over there…



  68. 68
    NotMax says:

    Can’t tell the players without a program, as Hezbollah Brigades involved in the actions to reclaim Fallujah as well.

    A tad more.

  69. 69
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet: Provided the dam holds out.

  70. 70
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet: There may be some issues with the Der Spiegel stuff. I’ve read it and its interesting, but I’ve had several folks tell me that they’ve made more out of what they’ve found than is really there.

  71. 71
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @NotMax: I’d be careful with that source. They’re not always the most reliable because they’re more interested in promoting their agenda than anything else. This is The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy’s house journal. The organization is part of Gaffney’s larger set of groups, so its important to take anything that it puts out with a large amount of salt.

  72. 72
    burnspbesq says:

    If they can continue to get orenance, I expect that the Shi’a and Sunnis in Iraq will keep killing each other for at least as long as the Catholics and Protestants in Ulster.

    Speaking of ordnance, who is supplying ISIS, and why are those supplies not being interdicted?

  73. 73
    burnspbesq says:


    You keep voting the same way and expect a different result.

    What are you on about now, jackass?

  74. 74
    NobodySpecial says:

    Man, maybe they should just pull a Coalition, and, you know, barricade the city so no fighting age men can get out and pound it into oblivion. I mean, it obviously worked so well for us, right?

  75. 75
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I’ve had several folks tell me that they’ve made more out of what they’ve found than is really there.



    Yeah, one has to be careful about simple explanations for complex problems, especially in the popular press.



  76. 76
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @burnspbesq: From reading news reports it is my understanding that its a combination of stuff they’ve acquired with the territory they’ve acquired. So stuff we left with/gave to the Iraqi Security Forces when we did the 2010 drawdown and then resupplied them with from 2010 through 2014, stuff captured from the Syrian Arab Army, and stuff purchased on the (black) market.

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