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More Fallujah chaos — this is “mission accomplished”? We’ve got the Iraqis we’ve trained to take over security fighting the Marines, side by side with insurgents. Brilliant tactics, W. It’s all coming undone. (WP):

The outgoing U.S. Marine Corps general in charge of western Iraq said Sunday he opposed a Marine assault on militants in the volatile city of Fallujah in April and the subsequent decision to withdraw from the city and turn over control to a security force of former Iraqi soldiers.

The comments by Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, made shortly after he relinquished command of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force on Sunday, amounted to a stinging broadside against top U.S. military and civilian leaders who ordered the Fallujah invasion and withdrawal.

That security force, known as the Fallujah Brigade, was formally disbanded last week. Not only did the brigade fail to combat militants, it actively aided them, surrendering weapons, vehicles and radios to the insurgents, according to senior Marine officers. Some brigade members even participated in attacks on Marines ringing the city, the officers said.

Conway’s chief of staff, Col. John Coleman, said he and other senior Marine officers did not foresee the challenges in getting people from Fallujah to police the city. “I’m not sure we fully understood the hardness of the city, the harshness of the elements operating inside,” he said.

Conway insisted the brigade was an experiment. “The early success of the Fallujah Brigade was ultimately its downfall,” he said. “You had to have a force that came from Fallujah in order for it to be accepted by the people of all. They’re very xenophobic . . . but in the end those were the same things I think that dictated the demise of the Fallujah Brigade. Because they were from the local area, they were emasculated as far as their ability to do something very aggressive.”

With no security forces in Fallujah now — U.S. troops do not patrol inside the city limits — the area has become a haven for insurgents, Marine officers said.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding