Marine officials say they believe that threats, tribal ties and other influences led many of the soldiers to tacitly support the insurgents. The leaders of two National Guard battalions, which had been working with the Fallujah Brigade, were kidnapped. One was beheaded and the fate of the other is unknown. A video of the killing has circulated in Fallujah to dissuade people from working with security forces.
Eventually, the 800 AK-47 assault rifles, 27 pickup trucks and 50 radios the Marines gave the brigade wound up in the hands of the insurgents, according to Marine officers. Marines manning a checkpoint on the city's eastern fringe were shot at by gunmen wearing Fallujah Brigade uniforms.
Marine Lt. Gen. James T. Conway says the U.S.-led assault on Fallujah served to increase "the level of animosity" in the city.
Conway's chief of staff, Col. John Coleman, said he and other senior Marine officers did not foresee the challenges in getting people from Fallujah to police the city. "I'm not sure we fully understood the hardness of the city, the harshness of the elements operating inside," he said.
Conway insisted the brigade was an experiment. "The early success of the Fallujah Brigade was ultimately its downfall," he said. "You had to have a force that came from Fallujah in order for it to be accepted by the people of all. They're very xenophobic . . . but in the end those were the same things I think that dictated the demise of the Fallujah Brigade. Because they were from the local area, they were emasculated as far as their ability to do something very aggressive."
With no security forces in Fallujah now -- U.S. troops do not patrol inside the city limits -- the area has become a haven for insurgents, Marine officers said. Among the foreign-born fighters believed to be holed up in Fallujah is Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian who is alleged to have organized car bombings, kidnappings and other attacks targeting Americans and Iraqis.
Over the past week, U.S. warplanes have bombed suspected insurgent safe houses and other targets in the city. Coleman said those attacks have killed hundreds of insurgents.
Conway's successor, Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, suggested that another incursion into the city would require not just the approval of Iraq's interim prime minister but also likely would involve the joint participation of Iraqi army units. "When we approach it next time, we will approach it a little bit differently," he said.
But Sattler said he was unwilling to tolerate an insurgent-controlled city. "The status quo," he said, "is unacceptable."