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US 'Hearts & Minds' campaign in HÄ«t, Iraq
Propaganda alert: This article, after the first three paragraphs, is written almost entirely from the perspective of the US army. However, it is still possible to read between the lines, and the information on the military's role in the 'Hearts and Minds' strategy of economic and human resource support for regime change that can be gleaned in this way is quite valuable.
See also Hearts and Minds & Wikipedia:Hearts and Minds
HÄ«t or Heet (Ù‡ÙŠØª) is a city in al-Anbar province, Iraq (WP). HÄ«t lies northwest of Ramadi, the provincial capital, in the Sunni Triangle. Along with other cities in Iraq, it was the target of a concentrated effort to throw money at the problem of the occupation of Iraq by US forces and the US puppet regime. The US army, after the third invasion of Iraq (the first being the covert support of Saddam Hussein's revolutionary forces by the CIA, in which they gave him information that would help him kill the communists in Iraq) were the instruments of this policy, dubbed "winning 'Hearts and Minds'"
In the sense of it being a program that relied on a great deal of money to implement, that remained largely in the form of money, and to a lesser extent wage labor (WP) bought with money, throughout its execution, it was similar to the Importation subsidy (no WP equivalent) program initiated in Viet Nam (WP) by the Ngo Diem regime, before the start of the Viet Nam War (WP). The US paid for goods imported into Viet Nam, sold to local merchants at artificially low prices, and gave the proceeds to the Diem government, on loan. In this way, the US in particular and the Diem government by extension was made more popular with the merchant class, the merchant class was financially empowered and politically motivated (bribed, in fact). The Vietnamese people would later be exposed to the Western lifestyle and attendant bribes in much the same way during the war, only with cigarettes and chewing gum.
2nd Battalion 7th Marines (2/7) returned to the HÄ«t area from supporting Wikipedia:Operation Vigilant Resolve. Its focus of operations was to propagandize the occupation and buy off local leaders to get the maximum amount of control in the area. U.S. military sources suggest that 2/7 civil affairs efforts injected nearly $3 million USD into local reconstruction and security efforts. Control was further increased by training armed forces such as Iraqi National Guard units and police forces. Psy Ops forces were used in Hit in March 2007, the same month as the Task Force oversaw the successful delivery of five billion Iraqi Dinar to the Hit bank. In April, the Task Force paid out almost $100,000 to local HÄ«t business owners.
Propaganda from here on out. You're on your own. Good luck
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HÄ«t during the Iraq War
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The small city of HÄ«t is one of a string of Wikipedia:Sunni population centers along the Wikipedia:Euphrates valley in Anbar province that the U.S. occupation forces found to be volatile. It is considered to be the main route traveled by non-Iraqi insurgents on their way from Wikipedia:Syria into central Iraq. Located on the river between the city of Wikipedia:Haditha and the provincial capital, Wikipedia:Ramadi, HÄ«t has been the scene of intermittent fighting between U.S. forces and Iraqi and foreign insurgents. Unlike Ramadi or Haditha, HÄ«t does not fit into the regular rotation structure of U.S. forces in Anbar; lying just east of the regimental sector headquartered at Asad and just west of the Ramadi brigade sector, it has long been the territory of stand-alone Army and Marine battalions on short-term deployments. The Wikipedia:Navea Training Center, which lies just to the south-east of HÄ«t, is used by the U.S. Army for training the Wikipedia:New Iraqi Army.
March 2003 through February 2004
The first U.S. units (besides special operations forces that passed through during the invasion) to arrive in HÄ«t during the Wikipedia:2003 invasion of Iraq were elements of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment. After September 2003, the (3d ACR) was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division based out of Ramadi. With 3d ACR stretched across a vast region of western Anbar, few forces and little effort was spared for HÄ«t; the city fell within the operating zone of the 2â€“3rd ACR, which was responsible both for providing convoy security in that sector of the Euphrates valley and for protecting the larger base nearby at Wikipedia:Al Asad. Attacks on U.S. units in the area were sporadic.
March 2004 through March 2005
In March 2004, the 82nd Airborne handed responsibility for Al Anbar province over to the 1st Marine Division. The Marines' Regimental Combat Team 7 (RCT-7) took the reins in the far west from the 3d ACR. As widespread violence flared across most of Iraq, and especially in Al Anbar in early April with major battles taking place in Ramadi and Fallujah (WP), the 1st Marine Division arranged for RCT-7's operations in the west to be supporting efforts for Regimental Combat Team 1's and 1-1st BCT's operations in the more densely populated eastern areas of the province; as a result, during the spring of 2004, RCT-7 and two of its battalions (Wikipedia:2nd Battalion 7th Marines (2/7) and Wikipedia:1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion [1st LAR]) were sent east to support these other operations. This left only one battalion (Wikipedia:3rd Battalion 7th Marines based in Wikipedia:Al Qaim near the Syrian border) and a provisional unit formed around elements of 2nd Small Boat Company and other Marine units operating out of Wikipedia:Al Asad to cover the whole of western Al Anbar. Marine presence in Hit decreased significantly with the loss of a battalion task force from the area. In the Marines' absence, HÄ«t was influenced by insurgent elements infiltrating from the Ramadi and Fallujah areas.
After 2/7 returned to the HÄ«t area from supporting Wikipedia:Operation Vigilant Resolve, the battalion re-established its presence in the city and insurgent activity abated. From April through September 2004, 2/7 conducted security and stability operations along the upper Euphrates River valley, at times having responsibility for the entire area west of Ramadi from the Highway 1/10 split, through the constellation of towns and villages composed of HÄ«t, Baghdadi, Haditha, and as far north as the town of Rawah. 2/7â€™s mission during this time was fourfold: defeat Anti-Iraqi Forces (AIF), conduct operations with Iraqi Security Forces, protect critical infrastructure, and secure key coalition supply routes.
2/7 focus of operations was in and around the city of HÄ«t. It worked extensively with the HÄ«t town council and citizens to establish a productive dialogue and local representative governance. The unit also worked with many tribes in the area, particularly with the Abu Nimur tribe to maintain relative security for the region; the Abu Nimur had a long and notable history in region. In addition 2/7 initiated a critical dialogue with the HÄ«t city religious leaders, working to gain support of the local religious community for coalition forces. U.S. military sources suggest that 2/7 civil affairs efforts injected nearly $3 million USD into local reconstruction and security efforts. Furthermore, the battalion established one of the first viable Wikipedia:Iraqi Security Force presences in the region by training local police forces and Wikipedia:Iraqi National Guard (ING, formerly Wikipedia:Iraqi Civil Defense Corps units) units. In a relatively short period of time, the ISF were capable of conducting small scale operations independent of the battalion.
2/7 was instrumental in establishing the 503rd ING Battalion. The 2/7 combined action program platoon was the focus of this effort. 2/7â€™s CAP facilitated the organization, training, and equipping of the Iraqi-led efforts of more than 500 Iraqi soldiers of the 503rd Battalion. Local Iraqi police forces also benefited from 2/7 presence in the city of Hit, but the experience with the ING was much more productive.
The 503d achieved an initial Iraqi-only capability for providing some aspects of local security within a four month period. In addition to daily security duties within the local area of operations, elements of the 503d Battalion conducted limited offensive operations in the HÄ«t area as well. For example, the 503d conducted several cordon and searches of local villages independent of 2/7. Another prominent example is the 503d being designated as the Regimental Combat Team-7 (RCT-7) main effort during an RCT attack to destroy insurgents in HÄ«t in mid-October 2004.
2nd Battalion, 7th Marines approach toward coalition presence in the HÄ«t area, incorporating local Iraqi civil, religious, and tribal communities, with the emerging Iraqi security force efforts, resulted in a model example of how to gain and maintain stability in an areas known for it violent backlash towards coalition efforts. The 2/7 model of utilizing Arab and Iraqi societal cultural keys to success was a template which other units adopted in part through 2004 and 2005.
The highlight of 2/7â€™s efforts came during the Iraqi national transfer of sovereignty from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to the Interim Iraqi Government (IIG). Local citizens had hope in a new future with this transfer of power.
The difficult and challenging security situation prevailed for the remainder of the year, when the 1st Marine Division and both of its RCTs focused on Fallujah. In late 2004, coalition units in the HÄ«t area were again repositioned to support operations in Fallujah during November 2004. This action depleted coalition presence in the western portion of Al Anbar even more so than during April 2004, reducing the span of tasks which U.S. units remaining in Al Anbar could perform. Without a sustained effort towards dialogue with local Iraqis and mentoring of Iraqi Security Forces in the HÄ«t area, the insurgency grew in intensity in the HÄ«t-Haditha-Rawah corridor; this situation was not reversed until mid-late 2006.
In September 2004 the 2nd Battalion 7th Marines were relieved by Wikipedia:1st Battalion 23rd Marines based out of Wikipedia:Texas. Initially the battalion was located at Al Asad Airbase but as the months passed and the conflict in Fallujah escalated, the battalion's companies were tasked with separate areas of operation. The battalion was ordered to cover a majority of the Al Anbar province. It was during this time that the Marines in the battalion engaged in the "Six Days of HIT." It began as an ambush on a US military convoy. That evening the 1st Battalion 23rd Marines' Scout/Sniper platoon was called upon to conduct reconnaissance on the western region of the city. At the same time, Bravo Company made their way to the eastern side of the city, via Ar Ramadi, to recover a police station which had been overtaken by groups of insurgents. In the six days that followed the battalion's Scout/Snipers, eventually accompanied by 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company and elements from US ARMY Special Forces, engaged and repelled hundreds of insurgents with minimal casualties.
March 2005 through February 2006
In April 2005, the 2nd Marine Division assumed control of Anbar, and Regimental Combat Team 2 established a base of operations at Wikipedia:Al Asad Airbase. Wikipedia:3rd Battalion, 25th Marines (3/25) incorporated the city of Hit into their area of operations assisted by Alpha Company, Wikipedia:4th Assault Amphibian Battalion. 3/25 formerly concentrating their operations out of the Forward Operating Base (FOB) six miles north of Hit, reached into the city, establishing two Firm Bases and one Combat Outpost. Firm Base One, which was the epicenter for Wikipedia:civil-military operations, was positioned at the "Teacher's College" and the primary school in Hai Al Molamein and Hai Al Seneya (Teacher's District and Industrial District). Firm Base 2 was established at the Youth Center in the heart of the city, and Combat Outpost 3 was established at the "Pink Hotel" along the Euphrates river, near the Hit water treatment plan. After establishing a stronger presence in the city the insurgency began to take emboldened steps at ousting the Marines. 3/25 worked to bring stability and security to the city through presence patrols, active intelligence gathering, and Civil Military Operations / Civil Affairs.
As the summer came to a close, the insurgency launched well aimed coordinated attacks against the Marines and the Iraqi Army unit that was assigned to the area. On August 1, around 6pm, a huge vehicle-borne IED detonated on Mobile Assault Platoon 9, a Weapons Company platoon composed largely of augmentees from other companies. The explosion was the largest of 5 IEDs suffered by MAP 9 during their tour. On September 4, around 10am, two suicide vehicle bombers attempted access to Firm Base One. Taking advantage of an innocent distraction created by some municipal workers, as well as a recent visit the Firm Base by a prominent Sheikh, one pick-up truck, and one bread truck, laden with explosives, sped to the east entry control point. The vehicles exploded killing two Iraqi soldiers and wounding a large number of coalition forces. A 45 minute fire fight followed, to include several RPG shots at the buildings. At the same time another parked vehicle bomb exploded on the Hit Bridge, which crossed the Euphrates River.
During the autumn of 2005, it became increasingly clear to U.S. military commanders that as the elections of October 15 and December 15 approached, more combat forces would be needed to bolster security along the upper Euphrates. 3/25 ended their deployment mid September and were replaced by the Wikipedia:3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. 3/1 moved north to take over Haditha Damn, while the 2/114, a Wikipedia:Mississippi National Guard unit, began operations in Hit. Operations in the City of Hit drove on consistent intelligence, civil-military operations, and special operations supported by an Operational Detachment "A" Team. 2/114 additionally oversaw the October 15 elections, and planted the seeds for a successful December 15 election.
After only 60 days, 2/114 was replaced by Wikipedia:2nd Battalion, 1st Marines (2/1), part of the Wikipedia:13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. 2/1 had just completed an operation across the Euphrates River, with mediocre results in weapons caches and insurgents discovered or killed. After the operation they took control of the City of Hit for two weeks. Mid-December saw the arrival of the Wikipedia:22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) with Wikipedia:1st Battalion, 2nd Marines (1/2). The 22nd MEU later withdrew in mid-February and were replaced by the 1st of the 36th Infantry.
The fall and winter of 2005-2006 represented one of the challenges coalition forces has with the war in Iraq, predominately an inconsistent policy for assigning units to an area of operation. Not only did this challenge demonstrate strained commitment, but it also hinders effective intelligence gathering and consistent operational tempo. Recognizing this, higher command facilitated a decision to position 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division in the city for a one year tour.
March 2006 onwards
March 2006 was the start of the first consistent policy in Hit, Iraq. The battalion arrived in February with a little over 750 soldiers and relieved a Marine force more than two times its size. The area of operation (AO) did not only include the volatile city of Hit, but an area nearly the size of Rhode Island that included one of the most dangerous stretches of the main supply route that connected Al Asad Airbase with the rest of Iraq. This posed a difficult challenge for the Task Force. where they focused a majority of combat power within Hit itself, and selected several key pieces of terrain from which to secure the rest of the AO. The Task Force developed a strategy that was not only aimed at physically clearing out the insurgents (and keeping them out), but also aimed at training the Iraqi Army and finding a way to get the leadership of Hit to raise a legitimate police force. The most influential unit in Hit during 2006, the PTT team consisting of 15 Marines who were influential in creating an Iraqi Police force in a volatile area in the Al Anbar province. The "Forgotten Fifteen" they are better known as performed special operations missions with ODA 182 while there and helped recruit, train and emplace over 1,000 Iraqi police officers in a seven month period. Their unit sustained two casualties and were in numerous combat encounters with the enemy. Their unit was commissioned and sent on their way by Maj Gen Zilmer while they were in Camp Fallujah before heading off to Hit to begin a historical mission that resulted in increasing the stability of that region for many years to come.
1-36 was forced to rely heavily on a poorly trained and under strength Iraqi Army Battalion to both provide needed combat power and more importantly to provide a visible indicator to the Iraqis of Hit that their Government can be successful in the fight against the insurgents. Iraqi Army Soldiers were involved in all operations from squad to battalion level. The training of the Iraqi Army was one of the top priorities for each of the battalion's company-teams.
This was not without cost. Within a month after assuming control of the AO, 1-36 was tasked to establish a vehicle checkpoint as part of a larger Marine operation. The Task Force sent a multi-national force consisting of an Iraqi Army platoon reinforced by Task Force Infantry, Armor and Sapper Platoons to establish the position. 12 hours after occupation, a Vehicle-Bourne IED (VBIED) detonated and killed two Iraqi Soldiers.
The Iraqi Army did not falter after this set back. They continued to fight alongside US forces throughout the entire 14 month mission with 1-36 IN. They took casualties at a rate slightly less than the Task Force did -just under 2 a month (1-36 suffered 24 KIA in 14 months), until insurgents fired three 82mm mortars that struck an Iraqi Army formation in October 2006. 5 Iraqi Army soldiers died and 34 Iraqi Army Soldiers and one Marine MiTT Officer were critically wounded. The Iraqi Army continued to fight and get better, culminating in establishing a semi-permanent checkpoint in Hit itself that help set the conditions for 1-36's final major operation that established the first police station in Hit.
There were no police in the vicinity of Hit at the time of 1-36 assuming control. While the Task Force companies were executing multiple intelligence-driven raids and cordon and search missions they were also planning on establishing a viable police force. The insurgents had executed a very effective murder and intimidation campaign in the months prior to the battalion assuming control. They killed or drove off all the police and pressured the city council not to reestablish a force. The insurgents also completely destroyed two buildings that were located in critical locations- a former Marine combat outpost (COP) that was in a key neighborhood, and a small police guard shack along the main road leading to Hit.
The Task Force actively engaged civic leadership about establishing a police force. This took months, and would have been ineffective without a broad indirect information operations campaign. At the same time, an aggressive claims process to pay for any damages that did occur coupled with targeting the degraded infrastructure with civil affairs projects, and more importantly, funding, helped to set the conditions for what was the Hit branch of the "Anbar Awakening".
The last three months of the deployment were dedicated to establishing a police station near "Traffic Circle 2", or TC2. This was a key intersection that controlled access into the heart of the city. In the months preceding this, Hit had managed to recruit a small police force with the backing of several local sheiks. This, combined with the nine previous months of US and Iraqi Army clearing operations had provided a window of opportunity to "establish a foothold" for the police to get started again in Hit. If 1-36 could clear out several key buildings near TC2 and hold it long enough to allow engineers to construct fighting positions and defensive barriers, maybe the police would survive, and maybe the insurgents would realize that they were beat. This is exactly what happened. In December 2006, the Task Force began a series of clearing operations aimed at both temporarily removing insurgents from the TC2 area and aimed at conducting detailed reconnaissance that would allow engineers to develop construction plans to reinforce the police station. The night of the final operation found the entire Task Force, along with Army, Marine and Navy Seabees and engineers, engaged is a fast pitched race against the clock the clear and hold TC2 long enough to reinforce the police station before insurgents could respond with a VBIED or other spectacular attack. That attack never came, and the police station was established.
1-36 IN's campaign was a success. The conditions in Hit were set for 1-36 to handver to 2-7 Infantry and allow them to capitalize on the momentum that the Soldiers of 1-36 IN had achieved.
In February 2007 Task Force 2-7 Infantry, from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Fort Stewart Georgia took over responsibility of Hit from Task Force 1-36 Infantry and its attachment A co. 1/6. Almost immediately following the transfer of authority, the local Iraqi leaders pressed TF 2-7 IN for an operation to clear Hit due to the high level of insurgents believed to be in the city leading to Wikipedia:Operation Shurta Nasir(Police Victory). This would be TF 2-7 INâ€™s first Task Force level operation and set the stage for stability and security within the vicinity of Hit. The intent of the operation was to clear the city of insurgents and assist the Iraqi Police (IPâ€™s) in establishing police stations within the city. Before the operation the Hit Police were overrun while trying to establish new police station in the city. TF 2-7IN elements provided an outer cordon (with IA assistance), construction assets, and ground and air QRF support, while the IPâ€™s conducted clearing operations and occupied new police stations.
The operation began on 15 February 2007 with six blocking positions occupied, preventing vehicle and pedestrian traffic into and out of the city, and a curfew was announced. RCT-2 heavy engineers began berming operations near the southern blocking positions to assist in enforcing the cordon.
Once the cordon was set, IPâ€™s established TCPâ€™s within the city to enforce the curfew and began to occupy the two new IP stations in conjunction with the PTT. Blocking positions were established and IPâ€™s began conducting clearing operations, beginning in the northwestern portion of Hit and moving toward the southern blocking positions, ultimately resulting in over twenty detainees and shifting the power in favor of the newly legitimized police force. At the conclusion of the four day operation, two new Iraqi Police stations were established; IP Station 2 in the middle of Hit and IP Station 3 in the southern area of the city. Over 45 concrete barriers were emplaced at IP station 2 as well as over 1000 sandbags and more than a kilometer of razor wire. Police checkpoints were also established at the hospital and several key intersections. The operation was finalized by a walk down the one time most dangerous street in Hit, "Cherry Street", by battalion commanding officer (Lt. Col. Doug Crissman), the Hit IP chief GEN. Hamid, Mayor Hikat and an entourage of Hit citizens. Cherry Street runs through the center of the city and is the home of the Hit outdoor market.
In Hit, A Company and B Company, along with the Civil Affairs team, PTT (Police Transition Teams) teams, a Psychological Operations team and other TF elements, continued to make progress. The TF began efforts in earnest through the expansion of the Joint Coordination Center co-located at FB1. This JCC would prove to be an invaluable asset to the TF and the citizens of the AO over the next eight months. During this time, the commander worked tirelessly with CAG assistance to appoint a city mayor and develop a working city council. Through these efforts, a mayor, Sheik Hikmat, and a city council were organized. On the 20th of March, the TF witnessed the successful delivery of five billion Iraqi Dinar to the Hit bank. The TF opened the Wikipedia:civil-military operations center at IP Station 2 on RTE CHERRY on 26 March beginning an operation that would assist with the governance and economic Lines of Operation (LOO) as well as offer a place to accept and pay condolence claims. March also marketed the first sustained month of peace in Hit. Citizens began reopening shops along Cherry Street and along the water front of the Euphrates.
April saw many advancements within the Hit. On the 25th of April, the governor of the Anbar province visited the city of Hit to meet with the Mayor and city council members. This momentous visit marked the first time since the war began that the governor visited the city. During his visit, he certified the city council and recognized them as a legitimate entity. Another significant step ahead during this month was the clean-up and reimbursement for damages at COP 3 near the Hit bridge. Given the improved security situation in the city, the TF decided to reposition its forces and turn the once thriving business area back over to the citizens of Hit. On the 29th of April, the final piece of this story was made as the Task Force paid out almost $100,000 to business owners for them to rebuild their shops and restaurants.
TF 2-7IN assisted in the coordination for another delivery of five billion Iraqi Dinar to the Al Rasheed bank in Hit. The Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) made multiple visits to assess current and develop future projects across AO Hit. The legal system in Hit also reached some very important milestones. Establishing a â€œRule of Lawâ€ had been a crucial step towards Iraqi self-sufficiency since American forces established a relatively safe and secure environment back in February. Hit was now one of the few cities in western Anbar Province with a fully-functioning courthouse with a full staff of lawyers, clerks, paralegals, and judge. The Task Force helped the Iraqis make improvements to their courthouse and also established a group of investigators to serve as the link between the police who arrest the criminals and the judge who determines their punishment. Like a group of detectives, the investigators researched alleged crimes and gathered the evidence to support any decision made by the judge. The IP arrested a man for kidnapping based on evidence gathered by the investigators. The judge was able to issue a warrant for his arrest and the individual was taken into Iraqi Police custody awaiting his trial.
TF 2-7 IN also initiated a local womenâ€™s group in Hit. With allegedly 53% of the local population being female, TF 2-7 IN attempted to take appropriate steps to engage with the female population in order to better address their needs. The American forces' Iraqi Womenâ€™s Engagement Program met each Tuesday evening with some of the Americans' female Cottonbalers and a female interpreter. Both U.S. and Iraqi doctors (male and female) were on hand to address their health concerns and even give quick exams to the women and their children.
1/7 returned to Western Al Anbar in August 2007. Assigned to AO Hit, they conducted thousands of combat patrols and cache sweeps. The Task Force found over 22,000 pieces of ordnance during the deployment and captured over 200 suspected terrorists and criminals.
TF 1/7 partnered with its two Iraqi infantry battalions and two police districts. The training and development of the Iraqi units was so successful that the city of Hit was the first city within all of Al Anbar Province to be turned back to Iraqi control.
- The United States in Vietnam: An analysis in depth of the history of America's involvement in Vietnam Chapter IV, The Emergence of Two Vietnams (and if it matters, since my copy is so old, page 78), by George McTurnan Kahin and John W. Lewis Delta Books, 1967. The best book on Viet Nam I have ever read, and wouldn't you know it, out of print. But as the link shows, cited by many other books. Ok, I admit it, it is the only book on VN I have ever read.
- Partnering with the Iraqi Security Forces webpage content by United States Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel P.C. Skuta, USMC. smallwarsjournal.com
- The Combined Action Platoon in Iraq: An Old Technique for a New War webpage content by United States Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel P.C. Skuta, USMC. smallwarsjournal.com