Most everyone by now has probably read Michael Yon's dramatic account of the arrest of an Iraqi general inside his own headquarters. The actual arrest was performed by LTC Crissman in a surprise move on Gen Hamid himself. But I want to highlight a few paragraphs in Yon's account of particular interest.
There was no plan whatsoever to arrest General Hamid that day. But events were unfolding, and the proto-neural communication network that our forces and the Iraqis have been establishing around the area was starting to work. Information was flowing about the heartbeat of the city of Hit, and the area, into the JCC (Joint Coordination Center, where our people have a headquarters with Iraqi police). And that information would force LTC Crissman’s hand because intelligence strongly indicated that Iraqi citizens were going to be killed if action wasn’t taken immediately. ...
Although I’ve been in many Iraqi police stations, this was the first time I can recall entering a station and having the distinct impression that for some reason a firefight might be imminent with the police. There are always concerns that one, or a few, police might do something, but I have always seen the police stations as semi-safe havens, except for how al Qaeda and other groups like to mortar IP stations or level them with truck bombs. Our guys seemed ready to fight the police, something I’d also never before seen.
Importantly, none of this was overt. Nobody was pointing weapons at each other or shouting; nothing like that. Nobody was threatening anyone. Unlike the loud ruckus earlier where men had cocked their weapons, and our guys on the roof were aiming just over my head at machine guns I had not seen (making me think one of our guys was aiming at me), I did not sense that a shootout was forthcoming that time. Yet this time there was no posturing whatsoever, but I could smell the danger as clearly as high voltage. ...
Moments earlier, as we rolled up and saw those seven Iraqi Police vehicles filled with men, Crissman had secretly called for a platoon-sized QRF (Quick Reaction Force) backup in Bradley vehicles. ... After about 15 minutes of discussion, we heard the Bradleys rumbling outside. I knew something was going down, but still had no idea what. As I watched Crissman deal with Hamid, I wasn’t getting any clues.
Read the whole thing. I've highlighted some of the paragraphs to illustrate two points. First, the entire decision to arrest General Hamid flowed from a fairly deep and detailed understanding of the political situation. Hamid was a competent officer and was once a hero, before he turned bad. Second, many of the actual tactical decisions made by LTC Crissman were extemporized based on a situational awareness that can only come from experience, extensive networks and practiced teamwork.
As I've often argued in other posts this institutional knowledge is the real weapons system that has been responsible for many of the recent successes in Iraq. Whatever the next Administration does, whether it be Democrat or Republican, the intelligence networks, expertise, etc that have been painstakingly built up should not be cast aside in the chaos of a precipitate retreat. It has cost too much to throw away. Back to the Yon article:
LTC Crissman, acting solely on his own and with no direct orders from above, saw that a bloodbath was about to be unleashed, and pulled a plan out of the sky. Yes, there had been a plan already afoot, but Crissman “fragged” it early, managing to arrest an entire police station without a shot being fired, and using me as a photo-op to distract a proud, some might say vain, general just long enough to disarm him.
These things are never learned from afar.