Iraqis are al Qaeda's new enemy

Fredrick Kagan writes an important piece in the LA Times about Iraq. Here’s a portion:

LAST MONTH, the Associated Press reported that residents of Amariya, one of the bastions of Al Qaeda control in Baghdad, turned on the terrorists and, with U.S. help, killed their leader and many of his followers. The fight is emblematic of a larger trend in Iraq.

The Iraqi government has long declared its determination to root out terrorists in the country, and its security forces have been fighting Al Qaeda for months. But now, ordinary Iraqis, most significantly Sunni Arabs in Al Anbar province (until now the chief supporters of the terrorists), are putting their lives on the line against Al Qaeda as well.

The story of the “Anbar Awakening” — the uniting of the province’s Sunni Arab tribes against Al Qaeda — is relatively well known. In mid-2006, a Marine intelligence officer in Al Anbar declared the situation hopeless and the province irretrievably lost. The Iraqi government was unable to recruit Anbaris into the local or national police or into the Iraqi army. But later that year, a combination of Al Qaeda atrocities and skillful counterinsurgency techniques by U.S. forces convinced Sunni tribal leaders that enough was enough.

Today, more than 12,500 Anbari recruits, the overwhelming majority of them Sunnis, are fighting or preparing to fight Al Qaeda despite ferocious counterattacks by the terrorists against them and their families. Tribal leaders are negotiating with the Iraqi government to rebuild their war-torn province. Violence in the provincial capital has dropped precipitately, from 108 deaths a week in mid-February to seven in the second week of May. Al Anbar has gone from hopeless to a beacon of hope and a signal of the turn of Iraq’s Sunnis against their erstwhile terrorist allies.

Now the movement against Al Qaeda is spreading. “Salvation councils” similar to the Anbar Awakening have been formed in mostly Sunni Salahuddin province (north of Baghdad),Shiite-Sunni mixed Diyala province (northeast of the capital) and mostly Shiite Babil province (south of Baghdad). In some cases, their coming together coincides with cease-fires between U.S. forces and non-Al Qaeda insurgent groups. All are striving to reestablish normal relations with the Iraqi government.

Read the rest. All is not lost in Iraq, as Harry Reid wants you to believe.

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