Tom Ricks’s In­box

The Washington Post Sunday - - Outlook -

This com­ment from the April is­sue of the Marine Corps Gazette is one of the best ex­pla­na­tions I’ve seen of how the U.S. mil­i­tary is try­ing to op­er­ate dif­fer­ently and more ef­fec­tively in Iraq th­ese days un­der Gen. David H. Pe­traeus. The most im­por­tant as­pect of the “surge” isn’t troop num­bers but how the troops are used — most no­tably, get­ting them off big, iso­lated “for­ward op­er­at­ing bases” (FOBs) and in­stead hav­ing them live on small out­posts among the peo­ple.

This ob­ser­va­tion was made by Lt. Col. Dale Al­ford, who com­manded the 3rd Bat­tal­ion of the 6th Marines in Afghanistan in 2004 and in Iraq in 2005-06:

“Live amongst the peo­ple, eat off the lo­cal econ­omy and the peo­ple will tell you where the bad guys are, where they’re hid­ing their weapons and where the IEDs are. . . . Get out of th­ese damn FOBs that have KBR [Kel­logg, Brown & Root lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port], a nice gym and show­ers and in­ter­net and tele­phones. . . . The way you get force pro­tec­tion is you live amongst the peo­ple. Not with more ar­mor, not with more bases, not with more SAPI [small arms pro­tec­tive in­sert body ar­mor] plates. We should be go­ing in the other di­rec­tion with SAPI plates. It’s not very po­lit­i­cally cor­rect right now, but we should be tak­ing off ar­mor. . . . When I walked into a vil­lage the peo­ple would deal with me a lot quicker than if you came in all ar­mored up look­ing like a ro­bot.”

Tom Ricks is The Post’s mil­i­tary correspondent. This fea­ture aims to give read­ers a snap­shot of the con­ver­sa­tions about Iraq, Afghanistan and other mat­ters that play out in Ricks’s e-mail in­box. Have an in­ter­est­ing doc­u­ment? Send it to TheIn­box@wash­

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