An officer in the Marine Corps Reserves who completed a tour of duty in Iraq earlier this year told a Gainesville audience that saw firsthand that counterinsurgency strategy was working.
Maj. Kevin Jarrard was the featured speaker at a program Tuesday night sponsored by the Northeast Georgia History Center.
"The first step of counterinsurgency was to get out of those combat outposts and get back on the streets," Jarrard said. "I would give a young sergeant a couple of blocks in the city of Haditha and tell him that I wanted him to know everything about everybody who lives in those two blocks. I wanted him to eat supper with them, drink tea with the old men and make friends with them."
He said that procedure was put in place throughout the city of 90,000.
"We had pretty good success in implementing this strategy of winning the respect and cooperation of the Iraqi people," Jarrard said, adding that the city was flooded with Marines on patrol.
"Our goal was that no Iraqi on the streets of Haditha would go an hour, 24 hours a day, without seeing a U.S. Marine on patrol," he said. "We tried to give them some feeling of security that al-Qaida was not going to return and execute their leaders."
He said that in 2005 and 2006, before his tour began, more than 100 U.S. Marines died in Haditha in fighting with al-Qaida.
"In the beginning of my tour in the fall of 2007, there was still some skepticism on the part of the Iraqis," he said. "I would stop and visit with the shop owners and ask them to support the efforts we were trying to move forward."
The merchants were worried that the Marines would pull out. The Marine said that the Iraqi police and military are increasing their role of leadership for protecting areas, such as the Western border.
"The Iraqi security forces have no desire for al-Qaida to return," he said.
Jarrard said the entire Anbar province of Iraq is now under the control of the Iraqi government and its forces.
"The Marines are now there in an advisory role," he said.
Jarrard thanked local residents who provided financial support to help get a little Iraqi girl to Nashville for life-saving surgery.
"I had no idea this thing would be successful," he said. Afterwards, he said the little girl, Amenah, is continuing to do well in Iraq.
He also assisted two other children who needed surgery not available in Iraq.