Insurgency in retreat in Anbar

NY Times:

Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat.

“Many people are challenging the insurgents,” said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, “We know we haven’t eliminated the threat 100 percent.”

Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders’ encouragement, thousands of local residents have joined the police force. About 10,000 police officers are now in Anbar, up from several thousand a year ago. During the same period, the police force here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, has grown from fewer than 200 to about 4,500, American military officials say.

At the same time, American and Iraqi forces have been conducting sweeps of insurgent strongholds, particularly in and around Ramadi, leaving behind a network of police stations and military garrisons, a strategy that is also being used in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, as part of its new security plan.

...

And it remains unclear whether any of the gains in Anbar will transfer to other troubled areas of Iraq — like Baghdad, Diyala Province, Mosul and Kirkuk, where violence rages and the ethnic and sectarian landscape is far more complicated.

Still, the progress has inspired an optimism in the American command that, among some officials, borders on giddiness. It comes after years of fruitless efforts to drive a wedge between moderate resistance fighters and those, like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who seem beyond compromise.

“There are some people who would say we’ve won the war out here,” said Col. John. A. Koenig, a planning officer for the Marines who oversees governing and economic development issues in Anbar. “I’m cautiously optimistic as we’re going forward.”

For most of the past few years, the Government Center in downtown Ramadi, the seat of the provincial government, was under near-continual siege by insurgents, who reduced it to little more than a bullet-ridden bunker of broken concrete, sandbags and trapped marines. Entering meant sprinting from an armored vehicle to the front door of the building to evade snipers’ bullets.

Now, however, the compound and nearby buildings are being renovated to create offices for the provincial administration, council and governor. Hotels are being built next door for the waves of visitors the government expects once it is back in business.

...

Violence has fallen swiftly throughout Ramadi and its sprawling rural environs, residents and American and Iraqi officials said. Last summer, the American military recorded as many as 25 violent acts a day in the Ramadi region, ranging from shootings and kidnappings to roadside bombs and suicide attacks. In the past several weeks, the average has dropped to four acts of violence a day, American military officials said.

...

There is much more. The Times puts in its dose of pessimism, but it can't hide the fact that things are improving. Now that the story is in the NY Times perhaps the Democrats will even notice. When they do, they will have to contend with this good news and what it means to their strategy for defeat in Iraq. I think al Qaeda is on the run from Anbar and is making its last stand in Diyala.

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