The Truth About the Anbar Awakening

Editor's note: This week, Fox News Opinion is pleased to feature an exclusive excerpt from the new book by Mitchell Reiss, "Negotiating With Evil: When to Talk to Terrorists." The following excerpt is taken from the book's "Anbar Awakening" chapter.

The causes and consequences of the Anbar Awakening have been widely mischaracterized and misunderstood. The conventional wisdom is that the Awakening started in the summer of 2006, led by a powerful and charismatic sheikh in the provincial capital city of Ramadi. It was nurtured and encouraged as part of a masterful counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy that had been fundamentally rethought and re-engineered by the U.S. Army and Marines. It was largely “non-kinetic,” involving not the use of force but only reconstruction funds, information operations and “three cups of tea.” It succeeded because of dumb luck. It eliminated Al Qaeda. It was then duplicated across Iraq in later initiatives, such as the Concerned Local Citizens (CLC) and Sons of Iraq (SOI) programs.

None of these claims is true.

The Awakening cannot be reduced to a discrete moment, a solitary sheikh or single Anbar tribe. Rather, it was a series of disjointed tribal uprisings throughout Anbar province that started fitfully as early as 2003, were suppressed, and then gathered new life and momentum in 2006 and 2007. The path to the Awakening was full of missed opportunities, bureaucratic infighting, sectarian hatreds, world-class incompetence, medieval brutality, personal rivalries, arrogance and ignorance.

Many factors led to the Awakening; without any one, it would not have occurred. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, AQI’s leader, and his followers had to miscalculate the impact their extreme religious beliefs, casual violence, encroachment on traditional tribal business, and random terror would have on the tribes. The Sunni Arabs had to conquer their fear, anger, mistrust and injured pride before they could imagine themselves allying with the United States. And the American military had to overcome the misguided policies imposed by civilian officials in Washington and Baghdad, as well as its own analytical and operational shortcomings.

Mitchell Reiss, is the author of the forthcoming Open Road E-Riginal ebook, "Negotiating with Evil: When to Talk to Terrorists" which is available on September 7. For more information, click here.

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