The inspiring story of one soldier in Iraq in 2006 determined to make peace with warring tribal factions.
Doyle energetically spotlights the daring, risky work of Cpt. Travis Patriquin, a U.S. Army commander from Missouri trained in Special Forces whose gift with foreign languages and genuine interest in Arab culture allowed him to win over Iraqi tribes in their mutual struggles against al-Qaeda. Posted in 2006 to Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province (and “de facto capital of the al-Qaeda caliphate in Iraq”), Patriquin was at the deadly epicenter of violence against the resented U.S. coalition forces, in the form of IEDs, grenades, snipers, etc., which killed Americans daily. Al-Qaeda had terrorized the local sheiks by kidnappings, intimidation of family members and torture, and used bribes of young fighters to set bombs for the U.S. troops. Patriquin and his commander, Col. Sean MacFarland, believed that the key in turning the tide was to befriend the local tribal bosses and try to build a loyal police force. One important leader proved to be Sheik Sattar abu Risha, “the Tony Soprano of western Iraq,” suspected smuggler and bandit, whom Patriquin advocated backing, despite the Army’s suspicions about him. Courting him with hours of “man-kissing” and tea drinking, Patriquin convinced him of the value of building a police recruiting effort, and the word spread from sheik to sheik: “It was time to switch sides and join the Iraqi police.” American forces sweetened the deal by offering security and cash rewards. This groundswell among the Iraqis is termed the Awakening, and Patriquin and his Arab-friendly skills were instrumental in bringing it about. With his death by IED in December 2006, the U.S. Army lost its own Lawrence of Arabia.
Impressive feats from an important soldier, but the book has the ring of an official military account.