QAIM, Iraq - U.S. Marines along the volatile Syrian border have largely abandoned big bases to fan out over a dozen smaller outposts within cities — part of a resurrected Vietnam-era strategy to live among civilians and mentor local soldiers.
Hundreds of Marines now live in 13 "battle positions" in five riverside cities, near where the Euphrates River enters Iraq from Syria. The new positioning allows them to launch more patrols — especially foot patrols — but also increases their exposure to attacks because they travel in smaller numbers.
The strategy, implemented after a large-scale U.S. and Iraqi offensive in the area last November, is in part a reaction against a common U.S. military tactic in Iraq of relying on patrols that depart from sprawling bases on the edges of cities.
"You've got to be in the towns, live among the people, eat with them ... until the people start telling you where the bad people are," said Lt. Col. Julian D. Alford. "If you live on the (bases) outside the city and come in for patrols, you're not going to win this."
But the new strategy also illustrates how the situation in Iraq varies dramatically from region to region. As opposed to most areas of Iraq where U.S. troops are starting to hand over bases to Iraqi troops, this majority Sunni far western portion of Anbar province lags behind — with sufficient numbers of U.S. and Iraqi troops having just arrived.
The generals in charge in Iraq, are Vietnam vets. They were platoon and company commanders. The only way they know how to fight an insugency is using Vietnam era tactics. It didn't work then and it's not going to work know.