The untold story of US Marines’ bravery and sacrifices

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The untold story of US Marines’ bravery and sacrifices

The Warriors of Anbar: The Marines Who Crushed Al Qaeda by Ed Darack, Da Capo Press, US $28.00, Pp 256, November 2019 ISBN 978-0306922657

We all know that the US military succeeded in defeating Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) but we still don’t know the detail about how it was made possible. We still don’t know much about the role US Marines played in defeating the AQI. When the members of the second battalion of the Third Maine Regiment (popularly known as “2/3” and pronounced “two-three”) – also known as the Island Warriors – arrived in the Triad, the war was already in its fourth year. The Triad is a geographic term — coined by the Marine Corps — consisted of the city of Haditha and a number of surrounding towns and villages, notably Barwana, Haqlaniyah and Abu Hyatt. The Triad ranked as one of the most vital locations for Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and its affiliates. The Triad was — far from the country’s big cities — surrounded by vast sweeps of desolate, uninhabited deserts in the province of al-Anbar. The 2/3 or the Island Warriors played a key role in defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq. In The Warriors of Anbar, Ed Darack tells us the hitherto untold story of how they did it.

Ed Darack says that despite steadfast progress by 3/3 and previous units, 2/3 arrived at a critical moment in the war, when unforeseen circumstances created nearly insurmountable consequences. As components of the 1,100-stong battalion task force settled into their respective areas of operation throughout the region, key events, conditions, and factors coalesced to foment an enduring hurricane of adversity, violence and calamity. Ed Darack says that by this time, Al-Qaeda in Iraq had been eviscerated from blow after blow in key strongholds like Fallujah and Ramadi and they fell back to the Triad. They assumed the posture of a concerned, mortally wounded animal. The global media had overlooked the region which had served as a relative sanctuary where AQI could thrive and grow over the course of Operation Iraqi Freedom. But, with nowhere else to flee to and ravage, AQI transformed the Triad into a theatre for its last, desperate gasps for survival just as 2/3 arrived.

Yet the terrorists of Al-Qaeda in Iraq didn’t lash out against the battalion in large, concerted efforts. Ed Darack says that the enemy hid among the terrorized locals and had threatened them into submission and silence. They melted into the beaten populace and under and among the shadows of the labyrinthine alleyways and back streets of the city. Then they struck – knowing that members of the battalion could rarely hit back with their traditionally overwhelming force because the Marines of 2/3 held the safety of the locals as their highest priority. AQI indiscriminately killed and maimed innocent local men, women, children, Iraqi national forces, and, members of 2/3, who had come to fight for the Iraqi people and their county’s security and growth. For all members of the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Maine Regiment, their Iraqi tour would prove the toughest, most brutal fight of their lives. Despite the circumstances, despite the viciousness of an enemy desperately striking them and the local populace, despite the losses, despite the absolute necessity of restraint, and despite the crushing demands of their higher commend, the members of the battalion would ultimately see their toil and sacrifice yield success — absolute, unmitigated victory.

The Warriors of Anbar is a story of unmatched bravery and sacrifices and horrors which led to America’s victory against AQI. Ed Darack tells us how the US Marines showed unmatched bravery in their war on the AQI and they were not ready leave before crushing the enemy. This informed account of America’s recent military history is meticulously researched and beautifully written. Ed Darack is veritably a superb military historian. He tells us how the US Marines improvised their strategy and tactics as the war on AQI progressed. The Warriors of Anbar is as engrossing as a war novel can be although it is a true and scholarly story. Both students and experts of war on terror will find it full of new insights and perspectives.

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