Despite our resolve, we did have some lingering concern of the attack’s timing and the US Presidential election. On a secure videoconference outlining the attack to the President, he assured us that he saw no connection between the US election and our mission in Fallujah. In addition, he gave commanders in Iraq the guidance we needed to successfully take out the cancerous safe haven there.
With total support from the chain of command, our options grew. Special programs gave us valuable and timely intelligence. Iraqi battalions were recruited and trained. The 1st Cavalry’s Blackjack Brigade Combat Team’s early departure was delayed. After gaining the United Kingdom’s support, we moved one of their battalions to just southeast of Fallujah to free more Marines for the Fallujah fight. General Casey won the confidence of Prime Minister Allawi and the support of the young Iraq government. As the battle neared, Prime Minister Allawi disbanded the Fallujah Brigade, established a 24 hour curfew, and prohibited carrying of weapons in Fallujah – actions that were instrumental to success in Operation New Dawn (we agreed with the Iraqi leaders to rename the operation – an important concession to help win their support).
A dominate combat power force was planned, and this force began to train and ready itself for Operation New Dawn. The team work in preparation was splendid – from the tactical level to the strategic level all were aligned, but with one very subjective part unknown: Information Operations.
Doctrinally we were doing everything right in the Information Operations domain. Deception feints were successful. Psyops operations were also very successful, as almost 90% of the population departed Fallujah. And even with over 200,000 moving out of the city, the exodus did not create the humanitarian problem many predicted. Our electronic warfare efforts were superb: we listened when we wanted to and jammed when we did not want the enemy to communicate inside or outside Fallujah. We knew the enemy remained convinced that we would not attack them and that if we did, they would prevail. We could not hide the movement of massive combat power, but our operational security supported our IO efforts, and the enemy remained confused before and during the battle. Computer network operations were managed well above the NMC-I/MNF-I levels. Doctrinally, we were on top of the Information Operations, but I saw one remaining challenge: “The IO Threshold.”
Since the first battle for Fallujah was lost in some measure due to the enemy’s use of information – albeit false information – General Casey could have impose strict rules of engagement for the second battle of Fallujah. On the other hand, General Sattler, MNF-W Commander, had every right to unleash as much combat power has he needed to protect his force and achieve the mission.
Relationships are as important in the military as they are in many other professions; friendships make those relationships tight and loyal threads bind warfighters. And so it was with General George Casey, Lt. Gen. John Sattler, and me. George trusted his team to adhere to our standard rules of engagement and allowed his operational and tactical commanders to orchestrate this battle. I would go to John and tell him that we can’t lose this battle before it starts, so his prep must stay beneath the IO Threshold. In turn, I’d go to George to gain his support for using all available combat power regardless of what the media says until the enemy was defeated. We were absolutely confident that our Marines and Soldiers would defeat the enemy in Fallujah.
There were, of course, IO challenges we could anticipate and for which we could plan. We took control of the hospital the evening before the main attack on Fallujah, removing it from the enemy’s IO platform. When the enemy uses a mosque, school or hospital from which to fight that structure loses its protection under the Fourth Geneva Convention and Rules of Land Warfare. But since a majority of our young men and women carry digital cameras in their pockets, I asked them to take a picture of the enemy’s misuse of these facilities before rightly using overwhelming combat power against them. When I visited young commanders, I emphasized to them that to win this battle I needed digital pictures coming my way as much as they needed main gun tank rounds headed toward the enemy. I knew our Marines and Soldiers were good enough to win the total information war.
We were ready with a plan to strike at the enemy’s strength quickly with overwhelming combat power, political support from home, the Coalition Partners, and the sovereign Iraqi government, and an understanding of the “IO Threshold” by commanders and warfighters alike. The real burden then fell to Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen to get the job done, and Richard Lowry has masterfully captured the hard, dangerous, personal fight that took place in Operation New Dawn. His research and accuracy will not only be enjoyed by readers today, but also help historians for years to come. He has honored young leaders and warfighters as he covers their actions minute-to-minute throughout one of the toughest urban fights in which Americans have fought.
I want to thank Richard for the honor of writing this forward because his book superbly records the major challenge of III Corps’ success in Iraq. Each of the major units in the Corps fought numerous successful tactical battles. The operational success achieved in Operation New Dawn by MNF-W, MNC-I, MNF-I and the Iraqi Government then led to the strategic success of national elections in January 2005.
In his book, Richard Lowry has brilliantly captured the successes of the young men and women of all the services who fought and supported Operation New Dawn. To them and Richard, we owe a debt of gratitude. God Bless them all and God Bless America!
LTG Thomas Metz USA (ret.)Read the full post and comments »