The Surge: the Untold Story

Understanding the Surge from ISW on Vimeo.

The Surge: the Untold Story is a 34 minute documentary produced by the Institute for the Study of War. This video documents the Iraq Surge as part of a population-centric counterinsurgency approach and features many of the top commanders and others responsible for its implementation - including GEN Jack Keane (Ret.), GEN David Petraeus, Amb. Ryan Crocker, GEN Raymond Odierno, GEN Nasier Abadi (Iraq), COL Peter Mansoor (Ret.), COL J.B. Burton, COL Ricky Gibbs, COL Bryan Roberts, COL Sean MacFarland, COL James Hickey, COL David Sutherland, COL Steven Townsend, LTC James Crider, and LT James Danly (Ret.).

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This is an excellent follow-up story to Tom Ricks' Book "The Gamble" about COIN operations in Ramadi. I had the unique opportunity to command an engineer company in Ramadi from SEP 2006-FEB 2007. We were called the "surge company" that would hop from Army and Marine task force to task force building six Combat outposts deep in the city and along the outskirts. We took over AQI areas and they never turned back. I then went to Baghdad as the 2/1 ID Brigade Engineer as we expanded the number of COPs and started buidling Safe Neighborhood barriers. These barriers stopped Shia killing squads from entering Sunni muhalla's, and vice versa. We started with 3 foot jersey barriers thinking they would stop IED supply flow made by vehicles, and Jersey barries stopped vehicle flow. But the killing continued because it was not about IED supplies, but "fighter" flow. Once we emplaced 6 or 9 or 12 foot barriers, that immediately stopped fighter flow.
I wish every American would watch this film.
MAJ Carl Dick, Engineer

I haven't had time to watch their video, however I did browse through their site and noticed something very odd. In the 'bios of key-players' found at the 'briefing room' link, they make absolutely no mention of any Iraqis involved (either as part of the 'Awakening' program or as insurgents) and they only mention one (American) civilian. It's as though the bios want you to believe that only American soldiers were present. When I emailed them to ask if the bios were still in development I received the following reply:

"If you watch the full film, available for a free download at www.understandingthesurge.org, you will see that Gen. Nasir Abadi and several Iraqis give interviews in the film.

Regarding perspective, this is a short 34 min documentary from the point of view from the US military commanders who executed the COIN strategy in Iraq from 2007-2008. The scope is narrow and is not intended to be the only history on the Surge, rather a limited viewpoint from the military. It's very hard to fit a lot of details in 30 min so it had to be a limited film simply b/c of time constraints."

I could forgive them if the interviews were sufficiently long and had honest questions and answers but the second paragraph states that it was focusing simply on the military view. As the sudden flood of writing on insurgencies urges greater civilian involvement and less force (though they give incredibly little advice on how to do this) that simply isn't sufficient to me.

This is a very parochial view of the 'Surge'. Having been in Iraq for all of 2007 and some of 2008, I am pretty sure the Awakening was built in Anbar with the likes of some charamasitc Army, Marine, and Iraqi leaders - of which, only one is included in this 'documentary'. In my opinion, The 'Sons of Iraq' program was essentially a large scale and watered down immitation of what was done in Anbar where they did not have to pay these 'Sons' $300/month to garner support.

And Roger...

Matthew speaks from many of the offensive lineman and defense in this football game, blooding through incompetence.

What took y'all so long to fire the coach and develop an offense that could score???

Or did you just want to stay the oourse until the final two minute drill?

Things to consider.

Matthew, thank you for your service.

The surge was a magnificent achievement made by courageous American and Iraqi forces. However, all of the concepts behind the Surge are old truths of counter insurgency. "Protecting the people", is not a revolutionary breakthrough. All of the facts on the ground (escalating violence and expanding/competing insurgency groups) requiring the surge, were visible in 2003. The real question about the Surge is why did it take so long, and catastrophic failure, to occur? Given the rapid progress made once the Surge began, it is even more troubling that it did not begin earlier, when it would have had an even more dramatic impact. I spent 26 months in Iraq.

Matthew