Three weeks after initially suggesting the U.S.-created
"Fallujah Brigade" had long since served its purpose, and one week
after a clash between Brigade members and U.S. Marines left four Iraqis dead,
American and Iraqi officials announced the official dissolution of the controversial
unit Saturday, the LA
Times reports. But as U.S. pilots continue to bombard areas of Fallujah,
reports suggest the city is still very much in rebel control possibly
reinvigorated by the dispersal of the controversial Brigade.
After four months in operation, apparently enjoying effective autonomy from
U.S. and Iraqi government command, the Brigade has been deemed more trouble
than it was worth.
According to some Brigade members, though, the trouble is just beginning. Many
of them now reportedly plan to fight openly against U.S. occupation forces and
Iraqi security personnel, using U.S.-supplied weapons against U.S. Marines if
the latter are ordered to re-invade Fallujah, as many expect.
The Fallujah Brigade was officially inaugurated on April 30, at the end of
a month-long siege by U.S. Marines of the rebellious Sunni Muslim city 60 km
(37 mi.) west of Baghdad. The Brigade's formation was part of a truce negotiated
between the U.S. military and resistance leaders. Under the terms of the agreement,
the Brigade which was hurriedly equipped, armed, trained and salaried
by the United States was to patrol the tumultuous city of Fallujah alongside
Iraqi Police and National Guardsmen.
However, most members of the Fallujah Brigade were former Saddam loyalists;
and among them, many had also been involved in the previous month's defense
of Fallujah against U.S. forces. According to numerous accounts, some Brigade
members almost immediately integrated themselves among the various mujahideen
resistance outfits that dominate the city to this day, collecting paychecks
from the U.S. military all the while.
One Brigade leader expressed exasperation at the disbanding of the unit. "We
don't know where to go now after this dismissal by the American troops and the
Iraqi interim government," Brig. Gen. Tayseer Latief told the Times.
"They leave us no other option but to join the resistance."
Many members of the Brigade saw their role outlined by the Fallujah truce arrangement
as providing for peace between Fallujans, with whom they sympathized, and the
U.S. occupation forces. Even though they were nominally aligned with the Marines,
their allegiance to the people of Fallujah was never a secret.
Another Fallujah Brigade officer, Maj. Abed Abaas, echoed Latief's disappointment.
"This was a great violation to the members of the brigade by the American
forces and the Iraqi interim government," Abaas told the Times.
"Dissolving the Fallujah Brigade, they broke the truce agreed upon last
In reality, the largest change for many of the Brigade's members originally
1,600 strong will not be which side they are on, but rather the impending
absence of a steady, substantial salary supplied by the occupiers against whom
they were already fighting. Numerous journalists have reported observing Fallujah
Brigade members, Iraqi Policemen and Iraqi National Guardsmen (formerly the
Iraqi Civil Defense Corps) working in open collusion with mujahideen throughout
The U.S. military has provided the Brigade with assault rifles, vehicles and
even a base. Col. Jerry L. Durrant of the U.S. Marine Corps, who oversees relations
with Iraqi forces, doubted the value of trying to recover equipment already
distributed to Fallujah Brigade members, many of whom have reportedly long since
discarded their U.S.-supplied uniforms in favor of Saddam-era battle dress.
Durrant, speaking to the Times, called the Fallujah Brigade experiment
a "fiasco" and accused its members of having already stolen air conditioners
provided them by the U.S.
On Aug. 14, United Press International reported
that U.S. commanders planned on dissolving the renegade unit one week later,
on the 21st, after it had become obvious the Fallujah Brigade was in total disarray.
Fallujah Brigade personnel were also suspected of involvement in the murder
of an Iraqi National Guard commander as well as several kidnappings.
But at least some Brigade posts were still staffed as late as Sept. 3, when
the UK Press Association reported
U.S. tanks shelled a checkpoint manned by Brigade members, killing four Iraqis
and wounding six others. U.S. officials later told reporters that Iraqi personnel
provoked the skirmish by first opening fire on Marines. Fallujah hospital officials
reported that two of the dead and four of the injured in that incident were
In a previous incident, U.S. helicopters flying over the now-abandoned Fallujah
Brigade base sustained heavy ground fire, which hit one pilot in the face, according
to Maj. Durrant.
Fallujah was the first of a handful of cities in the so-called "Sunni
Triangle" to win relative if temporary autonomy from U.S. occupation forces.
Resistance fighters in other localities have since followed suit, including
Ramadi, Samarra and Baquba. U.S. troops have been unable to enter Fallujah since
May 1, except while escorted by Iraqi security forces.
American pilots have struck the city of 300,000 more than a dozen times since
ground forces pulled out last spring, however. In fact, they have bombed the
city nightly for the better part of the past week, each time striking what U.S.
military officials say are terrorist "safehouses." On nearly every
such occasion, hospital officials have said the strikes killed or wounded women,
children and others presumed to be noncombatants.
New doubt was recently cast on the validity of U.S. targets by an unusual source:
In a video the UK Guardian
says is being distributed in markets all over Fallujah, unidentified captors
reportedly execute an Egyptian man who says his name is Muhammad Fauzi Abdul
Aíal Mutwali. Before he is beheaded, Mutwali confesses to having been
offered $150 apiece to plant homing devices in the houses of suspected insurgents
around the city, to be used to help U.S. pilots hit specific targets in the
In the past, the tactic of using paid informants to determine targets has received
criticism for its arbitrary nature and its potential for abuse by competing
parties on the ground. This is especially applicable in cases where damage cannot
be assessed by the military, and thus informants cannot be held accountable
for providing invalid targets.
While the U.S. military enjoys unbridled control of the skies above Fallujah,
the streets appear to belong exclusively to a cabal of some 20 militias whose
leaders have begun to meet and coordinate defense of the brazen city, the Guardian
One of the most prominent critics of the strategy U.S. commanders have used
against Fallujah is a local businessman named Muhammad Hassan Al-Balwa, who
used to head the city council before resigning in protest over the Marines'
April assault. Quoted in the Guardian, Al-Balwa said disparate militia
organizations run the entire city in concert with the various security forces.
"Nobody can say they are controlling Fallujah," he said. "There
are many sectors of power and there is nothing in common between their aims
and their slogans."
According to Al-Balwa, reports the Guardian, the resistance factions
fit into one of three categories: Islamic fundamentalists, Saddam loyalists
and tribal nationalists. Together, though, the groups reportedly rule Fallujah
under an extremist interpretation of Islamic law and mete out severe punishments
for various crimes ranging from theft to collaborating with the enemy.
Al-Balwa further claims to have warned the U.S. such a scenario would come
to pass if occupation forces did not change their approach to Fallujah. "I
told the Americans, 'If the people do not see any change, then the resistance
will become bigger and stronger.'"