Army marks 10th anniversary of 'surge' in Iraq
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WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- Ten years ago this month, the fourth of five "surge" brigades arrived in Iraq as part of a new strategy to quell sectarian violence and bring a measure of stability to the country.

The surge was launched in response to deteriorating conditions in Iraq. An insurgency continued to hamper U.S. efforts to rebuild the nation's infrastructure. In addition, escalating violence between Sunni and Shi'ite militants was killing up to 3,000 Iraqis per month.

After some debate about how to boost security, President George W. Bush decided in early 2007 to deploy an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq and to extend units already there. He also appointed a new commander, Gen. David Petraeus.

To explain the surge, this month the U.S. Army Center for Military History released a 96-page pamphlet titled "The Surge, 2007-2008." Dr. Nicholas J. Schlosser at CMH spent much of the past year researching and writing this operational history, also available online.

"We wanted to provide a broad overview in an easily digestible form," Schlosser said.

The pamphlet portrays the surge as effective in reducing violence across Iraq as Soldiers moved out of large bases to live alongside Iraqis in joint security stations and combat outposts. It also credits operational success partly to "the awakening" or reconciliation of many Sunni tribes who grew tired of Al Qaeda's violence and decided to cooperate with the coalition.

The beginning of the surge, Schlosser pointed out, was also a test of the Army's new modular brigade combat teams.


"The surge was one of the Army's first major campaigns in which its new modular force was put to the test on a large scale," Schlosser wrote.

The Army had been restructuring its line brigades into autonomous BCTs that could deploy alone. Each division stood up a fourth brigade. Then support elements were taken from division or corps level and assigned permanently to the BCTs. This enabled a "plug and play" concept in which a brigade could be plucked from one division and assigned to a different division when deployed. That's exactly what happened with the surge.

The 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division was the first of the five surge brigades to deploy. It was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad. So was the 4th BCT, 1st Infantry Division.

In April 2007, the 4th BCT, 2ID deployed and was assigned to a new Multi-National Division-Center, to clear the belt north of Baghdad and Diyala Province. It was the first Stryker brigade to deploy with all 10 variants of the Stryker combat vehicle. Its top enlisted Soldier was Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, now the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


When Petraeus assumed command of Multi-National Force-Iraq on Feb. 11, 2007, he already had considerable experience in the country. He had commanded the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Mosul and northern Iraq in 2003, just after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The next year he became the first commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq as MNSTC-I was stood up to train Iraqi security forces.

In 2005, he returned to the U.S. to command the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. There, he published a new counterinsurgency field manual and infused full-spectrum operations into the Command and General Staff College curriculum. That, according to Schlosser, contributed to his selection as the new commander in Iraq to lead the surge.

Two months earlier in December, the III Corps headquarters rotated to Iraq and Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno took over as commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq. He had also served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 as commander of the 4th Infantry Division.

Responsibility for Operation Iraqi Freedom and the surge fell under both headquarters. Petraeus' MNF-I was responsible for overseeing the multi-nation coalition, coordinating with the Iraqi government and setting overall strategy. Odierno's MNC-I was responsible for translating that strategy into combat operations.


Until the surge, U.S. forces would often clear areas and then move on to another neighborhood. Insurgent forces would often move back in when the coalition departed, because, Schlosser said, MNC-I didn't have enough manpower to both occupy sectors and go on the offensive. In addition, U.S. troops were usually garrisoned miles away from Iraqi population centers in large forward operating bases such as Camp Victory.

When the surge brigades began arriving in country, more manpower was available.

"Having that extra manpower allowed Petraeus and Odierno to keep the troops there in the heavy urban areas," Schlosser said.

Units began leaving the FOBs to live in joint security stations inside Iraqi cities. This full-time presence emboldened more locals to cooperate with coalition forces against insurgents without fear of reprisal.

"All the troops there served as a symbol that the U.S. was there for the long haul," Schlosser said.

The new approach also allowed U.S. troops to gain a better sense of the local society and understand the communities they were securing, he wrote.

This approach wasn't entirely new, Schlosser pointed out. The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, commanded by Col. H.R. McMaster (now the national security advisor), had cleared and secured the northern city of Tall Afar in 2005 by stationing his Soldiers inside populated areas. The coalition, however, had never implemented this type of strategy on such a large scale until the surge, Schlosser wrote.


Baghdad was considered a center of gravity for the surge. Leaders figured if violence couldn't be stopped in the capital, what chance did the Iraqi government have of maintaining stability across the nation?

Three days after assuming command, Petraeus signed an order for Operation Fardh Al-Qanoon, loosely translated from Arabic as "Enforcing the Law" in Baghdad. The operation was led by the 1st Cavalry Division.

"Methodical and persistent patrolling through heavily populated areas was the hallmark of Operation Fardh Al-Qanoon," Schlosser wrote.

"Joint" was the operative word in the joint security stations, he pointed out, because U.S. troops lived alongside Iraqi forces.

Securing the belts around Baghdad was also important, Schlosser said, because both Sunni insurgents and Shi'ite militias had safe houses there and routes that they used to travel into the capital.

Two surge brigades from the 3rd Infantry Division were assigned to MND-Center to do this: the 2nd and 3rd BCTs. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch of the 3rd ID was made commander of MND-C and he set up headquarters to the south of Baghdad.

The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit also joined the surge to work the area between the Baghdad belts and Lake Tharthar in Anbar Province.


Al Anbar is the western desert of Iraq, and there Col. Sean B. MacFarland's 1st BCT, 1st Armored Division patrolled Ar Ramadi. The unit had been eliciting the help of local Sunni tribal leaders who had grown weary of Al Qaeda's threats and violence.

Petraeus saw a model there for counter-insurgency throughout the country. He encouraged reconciliation with Sunni tribes who may have formerly sided with insurgents. In the area north of Baghdad and Diyala Province, many Sunni tribesmen began working with the coalition, sometimes to the chagrin of the Iraqi Shi'ite government, Schlosser said.

These efforts, though, helped clear most of the insurgents out of Baghdad and surrounding areas for a time. The surge aimed to provide space and time to help the Iraqi people take control of their own destiny and begin the process of reconciliation, rebuilding, and self- government, Schlosser said.

"It was a tactical and operational success," he said about the surge. "Strategically, it's a little mixed."

One of the strategic objectives of the surge was to give the Iraqi government some "breathing room," he said.

That breathing room came with a cost of about 1,200 American lives and about 8,000 wounded U.S. service members over the two years of the surge.

While the surge did reduce the level of violence, the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki failed to take advantage of that breathing room, Schlosser said. It failed to sustain long-lasting stability and reconciliation.

The surge pamphlet was printed as part of the CMH commemorative campaign series, and it's the first one published about Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"This was the first step in part of a larger series that we're working on," Schlosser said, explaining that the Center for Military History is working on operational summaries and narrative histories that will be part of a "Tan Book Series" featuring operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Copies of the pamphlet can be downloaded at the Center of Military History's website:

Instructions for ordering a hard copy of the publication can be found at

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