Q How is the state of the insurgency different today than when you arrived to start your mission?
COL. BROWN: There's a significant difference from when we got here last October. Last October, we faced a foreign fighter that was very well-trained. I remember watching attacks out -- we had an attack that involved about 60 foreign fighters in a pretty complex ambush. By complex I mean three or four forms of engagement. They'll hit you with an IED, small arms, mortars -- a very complex attack. We saw that regularly in November and December. We also defeated -- in one of those fights, we killed 40 terrorists, and we did not lose anybody, and we defeated them every time they tried to do that against us. We really worked hard and aggressively at getting out. I mean, we conducted some 2,100 cordon and searches, and thousands of aggressive offensive operations -- 18 attacks a day against the insurgents back in that time period. I remember watching an attack and seeing the insurgents move against us, and I had to look and say, gee, are those our guys or their guys because they're moving very well around buildings. Now, that was November and December. What we saw is that that's faded away very quickly, as we captured and killed. And we killed some 550 enemy and captured over 3,000.
And as we got to February and March, we saw a completely different foreign fighter. We've captured Libyans. We've captured Saudi, Yemenis, Algerians. And many of these -- one Libyan that we captured about a month and a half ago -- he was clearly brainwashed. And he was told that, you know, what was going on here and brainwashed to come and be a -- what he thought was -- he was going to be a foreign fighter against this crusade against the Muslim religion. He got here. He saw that was not correct. They told he was going to be a suicide martyr. He said he didn't want to do that. When we happened to capture him, several other foreign fighters and the cell leader that was orchestrating them, he was very happy to talk to us about what he had seen and what they had done.
And very interesting that younger foreign fighter that we're seeing now -- very poorly trained. We would call them more like RPGs for hire. And we believe it's the -- we know that the leadership is severely disrupted. Again, from -- about 25 percent of the attacks were very complex prior to elections, as I described. Now we're down to five percent are complex. And we're at the lowest number of attacks by far over the last three months. And that is -- clearly the foreign network is disrupted. The leadership is severely disrupted. We captured Abu Talha, the number-two al Qaeda leader in the north of Iraq. And right after that we got Abu Bara, Madhi Musa (sp), Abu Zab (sp), the next six leaders that would step up and take over. Nobody's taken over now. It's not a very popular position because if they step up, they get captured or killed. And so they're really disrupted, totally different.
The other thing -- the other huge change is the population. And in a counterinsurgency, of course, the terrorists don't have to -- the people don't have to love them; they just have to remain neutral and not turn them in. And when we got here, the people were intimidated, and they were neutral. Now they are turning them in. We'd like to call it, you know, the terrorists swim in a sea of anonymity, and that sea has been taken away from them.
And for example, when we got here, they could fire mortars, and they did that. Three hundred mortar attacks a month was the average for the six months prior to us getting here. As we got the population more and more on the side of their government and their security forces, as they saw how the terrorists offered no hope for the future and their government did, they started turning these guys in. And in the beginning, a guy would fire a mortar; in a city of 2 million, it's pretty hard to track him down. Well, we've captured over 142 mortar systems, and now the average is six attacks a month in the entire province, from 300 to six.
And just a couple of weeks ago, when they did fire a mortar, the people told what they looked like, what their license plate was. In one case, they knew one of the individuals. The Iraqi army went out, tracked them right down, arrested them, and there you have it -- much different from that prior to elections, when, you know, they wouldn't say anything. It was -- we didn't see anything, and it was very hard to stop this.
So it just shows -- and again, I talked about the number of call- ins, the number of tips on the street, the cooperation of the people. The people have -- are fed up with the terrorist acts. I mean, I -- you know, I was -- witnessed one suicide VBIED that killed innocent women and children, and I've never seen evil like that. And the people -- Iraqi people saw that, and they know -- it's very clear to them that their government wants a brighter future for them, the Iraqi security forces want a brighter future, and the terrorists offer nothing but fear and intimidation and a very poor future.
The war as waged in Iraq, what we take to be the frontline, is being won. But this is not where our enemy wages their war to win. The true frontline is right in front of us whenever we turn on the TV to watch the news, or open our newspaper to read it. The enemy has relied on reports of their continued activities as sign of their power, regardless of whether they are being defeated on the field. They rely on the absence of good news reporting. And when necessary, they will fabricate the news and present it to us. Behold the rise of Pallywood as reported by Solomonia:
Last Thursday evening I attended a presentation given by Boston University Professor Richard Landes. The subject concerned the ways in which the Palestinian Arabs manipulate the foreign media - often with the foreign media's cooperation. The focus of the presentation was, of course, on the Muhammed al Durra hoax, and included large quantities of the unedited video from that day.
I saw Professor Landes give this presentation once before, and reported on it at length last September here: Truth is Essential - "The Mideast Conflict Through the Eyes of the Media" Report. Since that time, the al Durra hoax has begun to become accepted as such in an increasing number of places, and France 2 - the French media outlet primarily responsible for the slander - is very much on the defensive. Landes now has a much-improved and far more professional DVD set-up of his video, and the event was taped for use by CAMERA. I won't bother going into detail here again, you can read my previous piece, as well as CAMERA's extensive al Durra (or al Dura) backgrounder here for a timeline and explanation of the scandal. All the same issues of mainstream media refusing to be critical of Arab claims, holding Israel to a different standard and not being particularly interested in objective truth remain the same.
Due to the instability of an insurgent penetrated area, it is deem unsafe for the MSM to send in their reporters independently, or at all. The solution adopted appears to be either contract with the insurgents (whether the MSM realize this or not) for escort duty, or as subcontractor as translators and camera men, or even as independent contractors for the whole footage. This arrangement makes it possible for whole fabrication of the news as the insurgents would like to protray. And Belmont's Club analysis:
Some may argue that 'the Israelis and the US military are also cooking up stories', but that is beside the point: because the point is that nothing on packaged television can be inherently trusted, and Pallywood demonstrates that. If the 60 Minutes host can dish out fantasy -- as he unambiguously does in this case -- then who else can you trust? The answer in my view, is no one. An earlier post noted the existence of enemy "combined media-arms" teams. Col HR McMaster described their role in the enemy order of battle at Tal-afar in this way: "In each of their cells that they have within the city has a direct action cell of about 100 or so fighters. They have a kidnapping and murder cell; they have a propaganda cell, a mortar cell, a sniper cell -- a very high degree of organization here." Pallywood shows one of those "propaganda cells" at work in front of an Israeli checkpoint, and their product on 60 Minutes. How many products of propaganda cells may you have viewed lately?
Do not trust the mainstream media. But then what to believe? I suggest we all return to the analysis of intent and motives of the parties involved. Then make a preliminary judgment based on principles of ethics and history. Then consider whether what is being reported is consistent with this backdrop. Certainly there will be lapses of reason and straying from the desired path, all sides are human and all sides will err. But history is not built on news cycle.