Montgomery Meigs: Abizaid and Casey Flipped Iraq’s Sunni Tribes

At a New America sponsored discussion yesterday on IEDs in Afghanistan, retired general Montgomery Meigs, chief of the Pentagon’s counter IED task force during the ugliest years in Iraq, gave credit for the big turnaround there in 2007 to two unsung generals: John Abizaid and George Casey.

He said one of the big reasons IED and other attacks dropped so dramatically in Iraq in 2007 was because the Sunni insurgency largely left the battlefield, “the Sunnis stopped putting IEDs out.” Meigs credited Abizaid and Casey’s work with the Sunni tribes in 2006 for the “Awakening” movement and getting the Sunnis to switch sides.

The dramatic drop off in violence in Iraq in 2007 is attributed to a number of factors, including Muqtada-al Sadr’s decision to keep his Shiite fighters sidelined. I think some people also forget that the Sunni insurgents by and large stepped to the sidelines on their own volition long before the “surge” troops arrived in 2007.

— Greg

  • Brian


    Can you post some links to read, or are we doomed to only reading your digested version?

  • JanZizka

    Wrong….casualty trend down started down beginning in June.

    Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
    2007 86 85 82 117 131 108 89 88 70 40 40 25

  • TMB

    Aren’t these the same two that told Congress towards the end of 2006 that the war wasn’t going to get better and more troops wouldn’t help - just before they were replaced?

    • A C


  • kristian

    Will not argue that the Anbar Awakening was beginning in 2006 or that substantial progress was made in forging an understanding between Sunni militants and coalition forces was ongoing in early 2007. Fact of the matter is the surge troops starting arriving in the first few months of 2007 (deployed Jan-May 2007) and the worst six month period for US casualties in Iraq was April - Sept 2007. The noticable decline in KIA and WIA was felt in Oct - Dec 2007 and continued on into 2008 and until today. Saying that Sunni's stepping off to the sidelines BEFORE the troops arrived in 2007 led to the dramatic decline in casualties does not square with the facts as casualties in fact went up through most of 2007 and 2007 was in fact the bloodiest year of the war for US forces.

  • Andrew Lubin

    This is spurious Army re-writing of history.

    The Awakening was Sheik Sattar working with (then) MajGen Richard Zilmer, USMC, CG of 1MEF who controlled Anbar in Summer-Fall 2006, (then) Col Sean McFarland, US Army, and (then) LtCol William Jurney, 1st Bn, 6th Marines. These 4 working together got the Awakening up and running in Ramadi, which then spread quickly thru Anbar. Casey and Abazaid had ZERO to do with the Awakening; they were too busy testifying to an incredulous Congress who the war was going well.

    Meigs should know better ,but as his ineffective tenure at JIEDDO illustrates, he prefers fiction and fantasy over facts

    • kristian


      The model for the Anbar awakening predates the work the 1MEF did in Summer-Fall 2006. McMasters and 3ACR showed how it should be done in Ramadi 2005. Unfortunately, took a long time for that model to take hold.

      • kristian

        Lubin: excuse me, that should have read Tal Afar. I have Ramadi on the brain.

  • Andrew Lubin

    Sorry, no. Granted Tal Afar was quieter than other part of Iraq, but it was nothing like the success story of Ramadi. It was Sattar-Zilmer-McFarland-Jurney who got it done - and frankly mostly due Sattar’s courage to come forward and engage.

    For Meig’s to claim Ramadi-Anbar’s success was due to Casey-Abazaid is lunancy; to extend Meig’s faulty reasoning would men he also gives those 2 credit for Petraeus”s surge, which is clearly equally incorrect.

  • Blight

    Is there anything worth saying about Falluja post Phantom Fury?

  • Benjamin

    The USMC and the Army units that served out in Anbar province deserve 99.99% of all the credit. I was there from Feb 05-Feb 06 and saw the sentiment of the people who lived in the city of Falluja changing from pro-insurgent to the Anbar Awakening Councils. From what I remember Gen. Casey made only one trip to the government center inside the city of Falluja. I would routinely see senior Marines, local Army officers and state Dept personnel while I was there.

  • Phil

    The surge was a response to the Sunni Awakening. It attempted to build on an organic movement, where the Sunni’s broke with the foreign terrorists. Pres. Bush announced numerous personnel changes on 5-Jan-2007, including the replacement of Casey and Abizaid, then formally announced the surge on 10-Jan-2007 and at the SOTU speech on 20-Jan-2007. I don’t think the timing was coincidental.

  • Andrew Lubin

    @ Phil - the timing was totally coincidental; NO ARMY surge troops were sent to Ramadi / Anbar. In fact the Marines and Ramadi citizens put on the Ramadi 5-K race in Sept 2007 - when Petraeus still had Army surge troops still sitting in the US still not sent to Iraq.

    • Phil

      As I said, the Anbar Awakening was an organic event, where the Anbar area Sunni’s finally turned on the foreign fighters as a result of their heavy-handed terrorist tactics. Remember, in Arab culture, anyone who comes to your house is welcomed as a guest, including a terrorist. Much hard work by our troops between 2003-2006 helped to lay the groundwork, but the Sunni’s had to decide for themselves that our way was better. The surge was merely an attempt to capitalize on that momentum.

      The point is that Casey and Abizaid were replaced just at the moment that things events on the ground started to turn in our favor.

  • IronV

    i call absolute bull****! Multiple factors of equal weight contributed to the at present pacification of Iraq. But it was the surge that gave it any real stability and longevity.