Fallujah has been pacified by American and Iraqi forces. There has not been a major insurgent attack since April.

US Forces locked down the city and cut it up into fortified segments. No transports or commerce flowed into or out of the city. Civilian auto travel was prohibited. All civilians had to pass through checkpoints and register with a biometric database to enter or leave the city.

Everything was completely shut down so the Iraqi security apparatus could be constructed and could flush out the remaining insurgent pockets.

Danger Room:

The Marines have walled off Fallujah, and closed the city’s roads to traffic. The only way in is to have a badge. And the only way to get a badge is to have Marines snap your picture, scan your irises, and take all ten of your fingerprints. Only then can you get into the city.

The idea: deny insurgents “freedom of movement,” says Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Smitherman, who heads the biometric badging program for Multi-National Forces-West, here in Al-Anbar province.

Since the battles of 2004, Fallujah has been economically stagnant but served as a staging base for insurgent operations in Anbar and Baghdad. The economy couldn’t recover without needed security and infrastructure.

In late 2006 and 2007, the Americans applied the Urban Tourniquet strategy to separate insurgents from civilians. They shut down the city by restriction economic flows in and out.

This stops insurgents from moving in and out of the city – along with everything else. The economy comes to a standstill, but this provides an opportunity to create a census, government infrastructure, and security apparatus. As the police and neighborhood watches are trained, they secure each isolated segment of the neighborhood. Once the environment is secure, local infrastructure like electrical and water lines are repaired. A census is taken to confirm civilian identities and differentiate innocents from insurgents.

Once the city is purged of insurgents and reconstruction begins, the security forces slowly release the chokehold on the city. They start letting more legitimate economic traffic through. Renewed commerce helps the city rebuild its economy. Local shops reopen, there’s more employment, and incomes rise.

If insurgents start re-entering the city, security forces are better prepared to stop them (and if they fail, they restore the chokehold).

Marines are using biometrics to track civilians in and out of the city, as reported by Danger Room:

Putting the system in place can be… well, tedious doesn’t even begin to describe it. One Iraqi after another walks into this converted schoolhouse, ringed with sandbags and razor wire. One Iraqi after another is asked their name, their tribe, and told to put their fingers on the glowing green scanner. A half-dozen Marines from the 2nd Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 6, take the information, and print out the badges.

There are some issues with the biometric machines. The Marines are using three different systems instead of a single standardized one. Some of this is obviously ad-hoc.

The locals are cooperating with these measures and are improving the local security situation.

The Americans never won the hearts and minds. They won cooperation from the tribes for a different reason: Shame and Honor

“Mac” Macallister, a consultant working for the Marines, shakes his head when I tell him about the scene, the next day. He’s spent years on end studying Middle Eastern history and tribal culture – and the Sunnis of Anbar are definitely tribal.

The first thing Mac tells military leaders coming into the area is to focus on shame and honor, not hearts and minds.

Shame and honor are “limited resources,” Mac explains. “They’re exchanged like currency. And it’s a zero sum game. If I embarrass you, I take some of your honor, and you give me some of your shame. Now you want to do something to get it back.

The entire point of the lockdown was to reorganize and improve the Iraqi Security Forces in the city. They are doing much better.
Danger Room also reported on the rapid growth of the Police force and neighborhood watches.

Bill Ardolino at the INDC Journal is embedded in Fallujah and notes that the improvement since January is “astounding.”

The surreality of the change can be summed up by this afternoon. I sat chit-chatting in a downtown precinct with Iraqi cops and newly-minted neighborhood watchmen, junior security officials drawn from the same labor pool that previously drove the insurgency.

Through a local interpreter, we talked about their changing opinion of Americans, Iraq’s prospects, the misery of living under al Qaeda, the joys of kabob and favorite soccer teams. Their open and friendly nature is hard to reconcile with the violent history of American-Iraqi interaction in Fallujah, and many of them charitably chalk it up to a “misunderstanding.”

The security forces are larger, more capable, and less afraid than ever before. The last time Bill was in Fallajuh, he interviewed a Fallujah Police Officer last January, and Iraqi soldiers in February. Back then the Police and Army were overcoming their differences and starting to work together against Al-Qaeda and other insurgents. AQI engaged in brutal retaliation against any Sunnis who cooperated with the Americans or the Iraqi Government.

The tone today is more upbeat and optimistic. The people of Fallujah rejected AQI and helped pacify their city.

Soon, the chokehold will be released, then who knows what will happen. Either the Iraqi Police can maintain order or the insurgents try to take over again. The Iraqi Army will likely remain nearby to support the police.

Update: INDC Journal has a graph of the monthly attacks in Fallujah.
There were around 600 attacks a month earlier this year. In August there were less than 100.
attacksjan.jpg

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