“Headlines trumpeted the 2004 Battle of Fallujah, when Marines defeated Iraqi insurgents and al-Qaeda fighters in brutal urban battle, but few reports noted that rebels soon returned and resumed their attacks. An embedded reporter at the time, Ardolino (associate editor of the Long War Journal) delivers a brilliant, detailed description of events in 2007, when Marines, tribal leaders, and local Iraqis worked together to again eject the insurgents—hopefully, this time, permanently. The author is wise to remind readers that al-Qaeda was never terribly popular in Iraq; it espoused a form of Islam considered violent and unfamiliar, ‘even by conservative Fallujan standards,’ and its success required vicious retaliation against uncooperative Iraqis. Even so, many refused to help the radical group, opting instead to side with American forces for a variety of personal and political reasons. Ardolino describes one Marine battalion near Fallujah that achieved remarkable success by enlisting the aid of an ambitious young sheikh nicknamed ‘Dark.’ Combining eye-witness accounts of political frustrations, the dangers of the ‘irrepressible and deadly creativity’ of insurgents, and sympathetic portraits of the locals, Ardolino’s is an outstanding account of the winding down of a resoundingly unpopular war.”
—Publishers Weekly “Starred” review ~
The cradle of an insurgency that plunged Iraq into years of chaos and bloodshed, Fallujah conjures up images of the brutal house-to-house fighting that occurred during the 2004 U.S. invasion of the iconic city. But attacks in the area actually peaked two years later, when American and Iraqi government forces struggled with a reinvigorated insurgency and the prospect of premature withdrawal by U.S. forces. Fallujah Awakens tells the story of the remarkable turnaround that followed. Journalist Bill Ardolino explains how local tribal leaders and U.S. Marines forged a surprising alliance that helped secure the famous battleground. It is one of the few books to recount events from both American and Iraqi perspectives.
Based on more than 120 interviews with Iraqis and U.S. Marines, Ardolino describes how a company of reservists, led by a medical equipment sales manager from Michigan, succeeded where previous efforts had stalled. Circumstance combined with smart, charismatic leadership enabled Americans 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 between the Americans and tribesmen 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.
The book’s gripping storyline will appeal to readers of historical nonfiction. Its exhaustive documentation will prove valuable to military students, analysts, and historians and will help policy makers better understand what is possible in counterinsurgency. Photographs and maps further enhance the reader’s understanding of everything 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 and Khost provinces in Afghanistan. His reports, columns, and photographs have received wide media exposure and have been cited in a number of academic publications. He lives in Washington, DC.
100% of the author’s proceeds from the first edition of Fallujah Awakens will be donated to the Semper Fi Fund to benefit injured service members.
~ Praise for Fallujah Awakens ~
“Bill Ardolino goes beyond where others have left off after the first and second battles to subdue the ‘City of Mosques’ and examines the crucial role played by Fallujah in the fight against al Qaeda. His vivid account fills a gap in our understanding of the counterinsurgency strategy that turned the tide against al Qaeda terrorists. In this engrossing book, Ardolino demonstrates that personalities mattered, not just abstract principles of war. His volume is essential reading for students of COIN and the Iraq War.”
— Thomas H. Henriksen, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution and the U.S. Joint Special Operations University
“Bill Ardolino masterfully crafts a narrative that illustrates the challenges faced by U.S. Marines during one of the most dangerous battles in the Iraq War. Fallujah Awakens captures their struggle to be both warriors, and sometimes social workers, while combating a cagey and elusive enemy. Their strategy in Fallujah—both its successes and failures—will be studied by military leaders and war history enthusiasts for generations to come.”
—Carmen Gentile, conflict correspondent for USA Today
“A powerful account of courageous decisions and bold actions made by Americans and Iraqis alike in Anbar’s darkest city at the most uncertain and critical time in the entire campaign. His writing took me back to the nervous emotions experienced even only while driving through the city’s infamous ‘cloverleaf’ en route to engage al Qaeda in the deeper province. The author takes you on patrol throughout the most dangerous peninsula and artfully weaves in Iraq’s tribal complexities, cultural nuances, and our own political theater in a way that I have never before encountered. This should be required reading for anyone tasked with fighting, or studying, a war of counterinsurgency—or any reader interested in a tale of war hard fought, told incredibly well.”
—Capt. Alexander S. Martin, USMCR, USNA Class of 2004, is an infantry officer who has served as a platoon commander in infantry, recon and force recon units; Founder and CEO of Arbroath Capital