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12 November 2014


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You are right, Col. We already has a precedent to it, anyway when we helped the Kurds from Kobane w/ airlift drops before we told Erdogan about it. (Pls. correct if info is wrong.)

John Measor


I can't fathom what 'success' would look like.

I would assume such support - were it successful (and I don't believe the odds are good) - would result simply in there being an additional militia actor in the space. As you coherently lay the matter out, there are Shi'a militias and Daesh who are both much more powerful and already in existence. They are going to clash and eliminate any such a group, unless it can defend itself. The Shi'a militias and Daesh are not fighting over the population, but for the terrain and the resources alone.

Thus, before investing U.S. / Canadian / coalition blood and treasure in such an effort I would think step one needs to be a power-center in Baghdad/Damascus emerging that offered some kind of future to these tribesmen. That has not and will not happen without something unforeseen bringing about change.

The tribesmen cannot survive on their own devices. They were abandoned by the new regime implanted by U.S. force-of-arms in 2003. That hasn't changed. They were corralled and biometrically tagged and bagged by U.S. forces during the surge serving them up on a platter to the Maliki regime following U.S. withdrawal.

The myth of the surge should be glaringly obvious now - it wasn't about altering Iraq but about altering D.C. and the U.S. electorate to allow for the Bush retreat to be orderly. Obama was left holding the bag - and he hasn't done a good job of that thankless job, I assume because he (rightly) didn't see it as his mess.

FB Ali

It seems that the Sunni tribes that are resisting the IS are doing so in response to the killings and oppression of IS. They would probably welcome assistance from the US and, under their aegis, the Iraqi state. So, I agree that this is a good opportunity for the US to move in this direction, irrespective of what the Iraqi government does.

I still think that many other tribes will, for now at least, not rise up against IS, either because of fear or genuine support for IS among their younger members. If IS starts to suffer reverses they may well also join their brethren.

However, in the longer term, the Sunnis will probably end up again with the short end of the stick. The US will depart (after obtaining assurances from the Iraqi government), and they will again be left at the mercy of the Shia. (As TTG said elsewhere: that's hard-hearted empathy!).


Pete Deer

I think the possibility of s significant roll back in Iraq is far off in the future unless the Iraqi Army suddenly greatly improves in performance. The US has made what Scales calls "9 brigade gamble" in believing that there are 9 IA brigades that can quickly be re-trained to greater effectiveness. I have seen no evidence of that so far. In the context of a prolonged stalemate IMO what we must do is establish a "cordon sanitaire around the IS held area in which we assist the Kurds, Jordanians, Kuwaitis, Shia Iraqi government. Our Syria policy obviously must be changed and something serious done about the Turkish government. In that context a Sunni tribal resistance in the rear of IS makes sense. IS already has a lot of weapons. Some more given to the Sunni tribes won't make a lot of difference if they are captured. pl

different clue

John Measor,

Blood is BLOOD but TREASURE is only treasure. We can always earn more treasure. I don't think we are being called upon to commit soldiers directly to fighting alongside the tribes. We are being advised to contribute weapons and training to willing tribesmen in safely rear-area bases who are themselves willing to go back and fight all by themselves. Another militia? Yes, but a militia devoted to the things Colonel Lang describes . . . folk Islam, tribal custom, Sufi practices . . . the Old Ways.
It would not be a Salafi Headchopper Republic. It would be a Sunni Tribal Anbaristan.

Lost forever to Shia Malikistan? Well, it serves the Malikists right after having thrown away Anbar as they did. And what a bitter last-laugh cackle would ensue if Anbaristan were then discovered to contain unimagined vast deposits of oil which the Malikists never dreamed they would be throwing away.



"The Albu Nimr and other Sunni tribes want to fight to defend their way of life ..."

The old Baathist army (whose members were both Shia and Sunni)fought well togher for years against the Iranians (and us) in a couple of wars. Just what are the 9 IA brigades Scales talks about fighting for? (As far as I can tell it sure as heck isn't the Iraqi citizens who are Albu Nimr or other Sunni tribesman).

scott s.


A new book by a retired USA three-star might be worth a look:



different clue

SF soldiers (Green Berets) are triple volunteers 1 - They joined the Army 2- they volunteered to be paratroops and 3- they volunteered for the kind of work I wrote of in this post. Supporting the tribes in question (the ones who want to fight) will require support projected from places like Azraq in Jordan and some base in the KAR. This support will be mainly logistical as well as performing such functions as coordinating air attacks, supply drops and providing medical for evacuated personnel. It will also require infiltration of US SF soldiers into the denied areas behind IS "lines" to provide detailed training, planning assistance and the confidence that comes from the presence of such men. Is this dangerous work? Yes, but this is the Unconventional Warfare (UW) role in its purist form. There will be no problem finding highly qualified and motivated men for such duty. pl


"U.S. officials: President asks for review of U.S. policy toward Syria after realizing ISIS may not be defeated without political transition there."


So the WH has determined they can't defeat IS in Iraq first, they have to defeat IS in Iraq and Syria at the same time, topple Assad, and train the 'moderates' before they all get exterminated.

Admiral Kirby on how that training is going: The vetting hasn't started. Once it does start, that will be about a three- to five-month process and then it's about 8-9 months of training after that," Kirby said in an interview with CNN last week. "So we still got a ways to go."

This is going to go swimmingly.


Col., with all due respect, can you project how long this might take to happen with SF there in their valuable roles and with their dedication and skilled training? I remain skeptical about the willingness for such sacrifices on the part of many of my fellow Americans once we or the politicians are forced with the choice of sending our and their sons and daughters?

Perhaps my question answers itself, but I would welcome your and others' thoughts.


Anti-ISIS Sunni tribes would be an excellent source of intelligence which I'm sure we dearly need. Also perhaps the Iraqi government could see its way clear to providing financial subsidies to anti-IS tribes which are likely obligated to receive anyway as Iraqi citizens. This may be particularly important has gasoline must be in short supply and farmers must be in a difficult spot. As to weapons, who really keeps count of such things in Iraq? We didn't. So what if a few tens of thousands of weapons and ammunition show up? Small dollars really. And it seems that air cover we're providing which is likely preventing a run on Baghdad should fall into any Shea government calculation if presented in a persuasive manner. I'm in favor of supporting anyone that doesn't shoot at us today and is willing to shoot at ISIS.



I in addition to the intelligence business IS's communications and outposts would be very exposed to tribal forces. pl



We Americans broke the ME. Now we own it. I would love to pull completely out of the region but at this point the bastards would just follow us home. Professional soldiers will pay the bill as usual. pl

Babak Makkinejad

What makes you think "they would follow us home"?

They do not have air forces or ICBMs.

I think cut-and-run is still the best for US and for people and governments of the Middle East.

Babak Makkinejad

Yes but to what end would the US SF fight?

US has no political program with an end in sight; US cannot be waging war for many more decades there.

Babak Makkinejad

I doubt that there would be or could be any transition in Syria.

The Assad government and its allies - Iran, Syria, Hezbollah - have stood their grounds and have defeated the major war aims of the Anti-Assad coalition-of-the-willing.

Surely you cannot expect the partial victors of the Syrian War to now depart the scene into that gentle night?

No - ISIS is here to stay with a fractured Iraq and a fractured Syria.


Thank you Col. Yes your insignia up: special forces heading the post and this is one I wanted to put up about those here who have Rangers patches on their uniforms: http://poststar.com/news/old-remains-found-at-rogers-island-site-not-yet-identified/article_813d6ac0-60ac-11e4-9ef2-1318745aac57.html

Next to my small village, Hudson Falls.

Off-topic perhaps, but the politicians broke it and the soldiers will sacrifice as always.

different clue


It sounds like the SF soldiers would not have to be asked to volunteer. They would only have to be told the opportunity exists and they would ask to volunteer without prompting. In which case, would it be right to hope that they be free to meet whatever risk the hostile risk-imposers pose with an equal-or-greater and more-effective risk of their own. Anything else would seem less than fair to me.

If such a policy were agreed on and crafted in time to make a real difference, I would hope the SF soldiers would be supplied and assisted and permitted to aid the counter-ISIS tribes to the point of long-term free-standing survival-maintainance capability after our SF soldiers were brought back home.

different clue


We could never pressure the Shia government in Baghdad to offer any kind of fairness or respect to the Sunni tribes. Maybe the Iranian government could pressure Baghdad into showing such fairness if the Iranian government decided to try. And maybe even Iran's writ doesn't run quite that far.


If, as you say, ISIS is here to stay, we better clamp down on immigration because we would be next. That is why it is imperative for the Kurds, Shias, Sunnis and the tribes to succeed in defeating ISIS in order for its capability to do us harm diminished.


Bingo, Col. That is why it is imperative for those fighting the ISIS now to defeat them there. It might even unite the Shias and the Sunnis because of a common enemy.


What the Col. must mean are if the ISIS is successful in establishing their Caliphate, they will then have a base in w/c to plan a major attack in the U.S. and then those ISIS jihadists who are American citizens will then come home establishing terrorist cells here.


I agree with the Colonel, they'd follow us home for sure.
As for a 100 year commitment, I don't think one can put a
time limit on fighting tyranny & ISIS' behavior fits that description, ditto the Taliban, A.Q., Boko Haram, et al.

Actually this conflict may well have been brewing in both a hot & cold manner since 732 & The Battle of Tours. I sure don't see it cooling off in the next 2 years; C.I.C.
Obama is no Charles Martel. Neither was C.I.C. Jimmy "Let's
Arm the Muj" Carter. Both of those guys were/are so busy playing 2 & 3 dimensional chess against the Russians they lose focus on the real enemy.

I hope the R.O.E. for our Ops/advisors don't continue to land honorable warriors in Leavenworth.


Some news from Iraq says that there are now 18 Apache helicopters at Al-Assad airbase in Anbar to support the fighting against IS.
Also 150 U.S. "trainers" are working with 400 Anbar tribals to prepare them for fighting IS.

The Virginian

Supporting the Sunni tribes in Anbar is certainly a worthy tactic, as it will - even if not successful in seeing the retaking of territory in the near / medium term - further disrupt Daesh operations, fix them in relative place (limit new expansion) and provide useful intelligence insights to Coalition forces as the SST group has noted. I wouldn't think the types of weapons needed by the tribes would include things like MANPADs or conventional armor, artillery, etc - anti-armor / light standoff weapons plus a mix of light to heavy Russian-type machine guns, etc. plus training seem more essential (and realistically usable by these types of irregulars), but I defer to COL Lang and others on this. The tactic might also serve to placate to some degree concerns of regional Sunni monarchies that the US is solely supportive of Shia power. That said, such a tactic is not a substitute for a strategy, but should fit within a framework that looks at containment of Daesh as part of a broader rethink on what role the West / US should play in the region in relation to other priorities.

Baghdad is not a reliable partner in such a tactic, as in addition to the lack of trust the Iraqi military and intelligence agencies have limited capacity to manage or support such an operation - Maliki hollowed out what capacity was built, however limited, during the US interregnum. It is also critical to appreciate that such action will impact local inter- and intra-tribal dynamics as they compete against each other for control over local / provincial economies (ex. control of smuggling routes, highways, water / food resources, access to US / Coalition largesse, etc) in addition to either fighting, supporting or running from Daesh. In other words such support shifts how the tribes interact with each other as much as with Daesh, Baghdad, etc. The US / Coalition may, if the disparate Sunni tribes and political groups can find common cause beyond opposition to Baghdad and Daesh, see more calls for either an autonomous model akin to the KRG or more thus adding new wrinkles (this in parallel with some Shia groups calling for autonomy in Iraq's core oil producing areas in the south / south central provinces). Of course such things are linked to Syria plus the interests of other regional powers, plus larger dynamics relating to Iran's nuclear program, the falling away of Turkey as an ally, and efforts by royal families in Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries to hold onto power and deflect the threats to their rule posed by secularists and religious radicals.

All of this in parallel with shifts in US - Russia - Europe - China relations demands even greater focus on thinking beyond today and tomorrow, something few in Western capitals seem to be able to do effectively in recent years.

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