The Surge and Its Skeptics
THE SOURCE: “Testing the Surge” by Stephen Biddle, Jeffrey A. Friedman, and Jacob N. Shapiro, in International Security, Summer 2012.
In January 2007, President George W. Bush ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq, where a fearsome insurgency and fighting between the Shiite Muslim majority and Sunni minority were tearing the country apart. Armed with a new counterinsurgency strategy, U.S. and Iraqi troops left their big bases and fanned out among the people. Their plan: to protect Iraqi civilians, put their society back on its feet, and flush out the insurgents. By the end of 2007, casualties were down sharply. Twenty-three Americans and about 500 Iraqi civilians died that December, compared to 126 and 1,700, respectively, in May.
So the surge worked? Academics, military officers, and others have debated the question ever since. A vocal group of naysayers point to another explanation. In late 2006, the Albu Risha, a tribe of Sunnis in Anbar province that included fighters for the insurgency, switched sides. They formed American-financed militias called the Sons of Iraq and turned their guns on the radical Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq. In what became known as the Anbar Awakening, other Sunni tribes followed.
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