Fallujah, the cradle of an insurgency that plunged Iraq into years of chaos and bloodshed, conjures up images of the brutal house-to-house fighting that occurred during the 2004 U.S. invasion of the iconic city. The violence peaked again two years later when American Marines and Iraqi government forces struggled with a reinvigorated insurgency and the prospect of premature withdrawal by U.S. forces.
One of the few books to recount events from both American and Iraqi perspectives, Fallujah Awakens tells the story of the remarkable turnaround that began to take place in 2006-2007. Journalist Bill Ardolino explains how local tribal leaders and U.S. Marines forged a surprising alliance that helped secure the famous battleground.
Based on more than 120 interviews with Iraqis and Americans, he explores how a company of Reservists, led by a medical equipment sales manager from Michigan, succeeded where previous efforts had stalled. Circumstance combined with smart leadership enabled Marines to build relationships with members of a Sunni tribe-once written off as dangerous and intractable-who pushed al Qaeda and other insurgents from their notoriously rebellious area.
Accidental killings, intertribal rivalries, insurgents, and intrigue all conspired to undo the tenuous alliance forged on Fallujah's peninsula. But the partnership was cemented after a Marine commander's risky decision to welcome nearly 100 injured civilians onto a secure American facility after a ruthless chemical attack by al Qaeda.
Ardolino's exhaustive documentation will prove valuable to military students, analysts, and historians and will help policy makers better understand what is and is not possible in counterinsurgency. Photographs and maps further enhance the reader's understanding of the struggle for Fallujah, from tribal dynamics to the geography of firefights.
Bill Ardolino is an associate editor of The Long War Journal. He was embedded with the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Army, the Iraqi Army, and the Iraqi police in Fallujah, Habbaniyah, and Baghdad in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and later with U.S. and Afghan forces in Kabul, Helmand, Nimroz, Khost, and Kandahar provinces in Afghanistan. His reports, columns, and photographs have received wide media exposure and have been cited in a number of academic publications.