The Deuce Four is a Stryker infantry battalion comprised of about 700 soldiers, and has lost 12 men and earned over 150 purple hearts in some of the most intense urban combat of this war. When the battalion arrived in Mosul, the mostly-Sunni city had already devolved into an insurgent stronghold. When the home-base for organized kidnap and beheading squads swelled with the steady stream of fighters fleeing the crackdown in Falluja, the local police simply abandoned their stations. Mortar rounds and rockets fell by the hundreds, scores of car bombs attacked Deuce Four, the ISF, and later crowds of people, and IEDs made the roads literal minefields. In December, a terrorist slipped into the dining facility on FOB Marez and detonated his explosives vest during a crowded meal, killing 22 people.
Kurilla’s aggressive battle plan brought the fight to the enemy. Every new evolution in terrorist tactics was met with a ferocious counter blow that not only destroyed the immediate target, but also signaled frightened civilians that the US Army meant business in Mosul. Equally important civil affairs projects generated electricity virtually around the clock, built schools and parks, and brought top medical care to civilians. Within months, increasingly desperate to maintain control over the population, terrorists began launching attacks straight through groups of children, leaving many horribly burned. Their savagery further alienated civilians who were beginning to see the benefits of change. When top insurgent leaders were killed and captured, largely based on tips from Iraqi citizens, enemy attacks fell precipitously.
As the Deuce Four heads home this week, they leave behind a Mosul that, while not yet in the clear, is much closer to security and prosperity than anyone would have considered possible eight months ago.
Thats from Michael Yon's latest and why I sincerely believe that victory is possible in Iraq. I think that the successes of our military have been largely in spite of, not because of, the Administration's leadership - but the people of Iraq have hearts and minds that can be changed, and they can see the benefit of a future that does not involve someone's iron thumb. I go against the grain of most muslims, who are rightly cynical of Western motivations in this post-colonialist world, and most liberals, who are rightly cynical of this Administration's commitment to anything beyond their immediate political fortunes. The success thus far in Mosul is assuredly temporary if there isn't political will on both sides to see it continue.
Where my cynicism comes into play is whether such political will can be found. If not, then stories like the work and blood sacrifice of Deuce Four will be rarer and rarer still. There is a tipping point, and we are close to it - but we can tip either way.