Western Iraq Is Like The Bar From ‘Cheers,’ Marine Colonel Tells Reporters

Portrait of actors from the TV series, 'Cheers,' on the barroom set, 1983. L-R: Nicholas Colasanto (1924 - 1985), Rhea Perlman, Ted Danson and Shelley Long.
Photo by NBC Television/Fotos International/Getty Images.

It’s not often that western Iraq evokes memories of long-defunct 1980s sitcoms in warfighters, but when one Marine colonel considers Anbar province, his first thought is... “Cheers.” Yes, the TV show.

Col. Seth Folsom leads Task Force Lion, which is advising and assisting Iraqi security forces in western Anbar province near the Syrian border. Between September and November 2017, the Iraqis liberated the cities of Rihanna, Annah, Al Qaim, and Rawa from ISIS fighters, who either threw down their weapons or fled to Syria, Folsom told Pentagon reporters on Tuesday in a telephone news briefing.

With the end of fighting, thousands of Iraqis who’d left western Anbar province have begun to return — 20,000 have come back to Al Qaim district alone, Folsom said. Iraqi security forces are screening the returning refugees to try to detect possible ISIS sleeper cells, but the border forces are not using biometric technology as part of the process, he said.

Folsom then added that this part of Iraq is a tightly knit community... a bit like a fictional watering hole in Boston.

“Here’s the interesting thing about Al Anbar, especially western Anbar: It’s kind of like the bar at ‘Cheers,’ if anybody remembers that television show,” Folsom explained. “It’s a place where everybody knows your name.”

He continued:

In a place like Al Qaim, it’s very difficult for somebody to try to enter that city who is not from there. The fabric of western Anbar is composed of many different tribes, and within those tribes, everybody knows everybody. So if you are a malign actor who’s trying to infiltrate his way into the urban center, there’s a good chance that someone is going to figure you out.

Believe it or not, the Iraqis are actually a lot smarter than us in doing that kind of thing. We’ve been monitoring how they’ve been screening people. We’ve been reporting those numbers and so far we have not had a problem with it. It’s actually been a pretty impressive process.

The numbers that are coming in every day give us hope that a place like Al Qaim — which really was the last bastion of ISIS fighter — that it’s going to return to something like normal soon.

“Cheers,” a staple of NBC’s “Must-See Thursday” prime-time offerings, aired from 1982 to 1993. Its 11-season run is considered a high achievement for any sitcom.

The war in Iraq, on the other hand, just entered its 16th season, and is likely to be renewed into the foreseeable future.


Want to read more from Task & Purpose? Sign up for our daily newsletter »

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith (Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation's third highest award for valor this week for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.

Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, the service announced Monday.

Read More Show Less
Some dank nugs. (Flickr/Creative Commons/Dank Depot)

SARASOTA, Fla. — With data continuing to roll in that underscores the health benefits of cannabis, two Florida legislators aren't waiting for clarity in the national policy debates and are sponsoring bills designed to give medical marijuana cards to military veterans free of charge.

Read More Show Less

Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.

The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.

During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.

"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."

"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."

Read More Show Less
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011. (Reuters photo)

Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.

Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.

Read More Show Less
(Associated Press photo)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.

Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."

"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.

Read More Show Less