Col. Wright served three tours of duty in the Iraq War, commanding the last active combat brigade to withdraw from Operation Iraqi Freedom. His book personalizes the broader operational conflict we’ve all heard so much about, giving us a previously unknown insider command perspective that will fundamentally change how our nation thinks of the war.
For Col Wright, the Iraq war was a good war fought well. In his new book, Iraq Full Circle, he offers a first-hand assessment of the US Army’s eight year war in Iraq.
As battalion operations officer for an infantry battalion from 2003-2004 operating in the dangerous and volatile Sunni Triangle, followed by a tour of duty as a Brigade Executive Officer from 2005-2006 in Baghdad, Wright witnessed some of the harshest fighting seen during the war. He saw the evolution from ‘shock and awe’ to the ‘clear-hold-build’ strategy during the height of sectarian violence and was on-hand for the transition to COIN followed by the handover of security operations to the Iraqi Security Forces. In August 2010, Wright, as a deputy brigade commander, was among the last combat soldiers to leave Iraq as part of President Obama’s draw-down of troops.
While Wright does not hesitate to criticize the political and military leadership that failed to foresee the insurgency, or the errors in judgment that led to the dismantling of the Iraqi Army in 2003, his overall assessment of the war is that the US Army achieved what it was asked to do by two Presidents. Calling upon his experience—and the examination of thousands of after action reports, combat operations orders, and over 100 interviews—Wright pieces together a compelling and cohesive narrative of the war. Readers will be surprised to learn:
· Wright had a strong hunch beginning in September 2001 that he would be deployed to Iraq; he and his fellow Army leaders began preparing for an invasion soon after the 9/11 attacks.
· Army leaders were already implementing much of the COIN doctrine in 2004 and 2005, well before the official change in doctrine and the publication of the new field manual on COIN.
· For Wright and most other leaders at his level, President Bush’s troop “surge” in November 2006 was completely uncontroversial and utterly inevitable. They knew that clear-hold-build was the right strategy and would work but that they did not have enough troops to make it stick.
In his closing chapters, Wright discusses the growth and evolution of the Iraqi Security Forces, from an abjectly corrupt and militarily useless cohort in 2004 to a well-trained and stable entity capable of securing Iraq and providing for (mostly) safe and open national elections in 2010. He finishes his narrative with his thoughts on the future of Iraq, understanding that sectarian divisions persist, but that the Iraqi Security Forces have been well-trained by the US Army to secure Iraq’s future.