Illusions of Victory The Anbar Awakening and the Rise of the Islamic State By Carter Malkasian (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. 280 pages.)

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Grant Marthinsen



In late 2006 and then 2007 the Sunni Arab tribes in the Anbar province,
located in western Iraq, came together with the United States armed forces
positioned in the same province and conducted a grueling fight against
Al-Qaeda in Iraq, also known at the time as the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI,
as it shall be referred to hereafter). Their victory in this struggle has since
been held up as a shining example of counterinsurgency tactics, even if, as
author Carter Malkasian points out, the specific reasons that the movement
succeeded have been oversimplified and misidentified in accounts rendered
since the Awakening. After the brutal advance of the Islamic State in Iraq a
few years ago, however, the image of Anbar as a counterinsurgency example
has been the target of no small amount of doubt. Malkasian argues that
Anbar should be remembered not as an example of a successful counterinsurgency
strategy but instead as a warning to not engage in military interventions
without a better understanding of the local dynamics and politics
of a given country or wider region, nor without the willingness to commit
one’s forces for a much longer period than the US initially did in Iraq ...

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