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October 30, 2007

In Ramadi, "Al-Qaida simply is gone."

Another swipe from Liberty Pundit, who's just jacked with good stuff today.

Such a hopeful piece I'll have to test the limits of fair use on it.

For veterans of Ramadi, it seems like a different place and a different war.

Just last year, soldiers were breaking down doors, hunting insurgents and struggling to secure the city block by block. U.S. troops now are invited into the homes of sheiks for lunch.


"We came here with a very conventional [war-fighting] mind-set. We weren't expecting this. ... I joined the Marine Corps to be a point man on a patrol," chuckled the San Juan, N.M., native.


The decline of violence rests on a widening basis of trust. It's cultivated in handshakes, platters heaped with rice, chicken and lamb, cup after cup of sweet tea and clouds of cigarette smoke.


Last year, U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officials declared Anbar lost. "The social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" where U.S. and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency," according to a five-page report written in August 2006 by Col. Peter Devlin, a military intelligence officer with the Marine Expeditionary Force.

The Sunni insurgency had sunk roots so deep in Anbar that the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida front group, declared Ramadi its capital.

"These guys were ruthless," said Col. John W. Charlton of Spokane, Wash., the American commander responsible for Ramadi. "They would come in and cut young men's heads off and drag their bodies through the streets."

An important turning point was the founding late last year of the Anbar Awakening Council by the charismatic Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha. He united dozens of Sunni tribes against al-Qaida.

Fed up with the violence and eager for revenge against al-Qaida members who killed 10 family members, including his father, Abu Risha persuaded citizens to join the police force. They did — in droves — despite past attacks against recruits.


There are now 8,000 police officers and 14 police stations in Ramadi, according to the U.S. military. That's compares with fewer than 200 officers in spring 2006.

"Al-Qaida was just reeling," Charlton said. "They lost their capital. They lost all their good areas around there. ... We essentially made a gated community out of a city of 300,000 people."

But al-Qaida struck its own shocking blow — killing Abu Risha last month.

U.S. military leaders called the fatal bombing an inside job, organized by one of Abu Risha's bodyguards. All the alleged perpetrators were rounded up.

The sheik's death could easily have shattered the fragile peace.

Instead, Charlton said, the people declared Abu Risha a martyr. His image now appears on posters in the streets, on walls in offices and on placards in car windshields. A parade was held in his honor on Oct. 23. Schoolgirls, bunches of silk flowers in one hand, waved the yellow flag of the Anbar Awakening, now renamed the Iraqi Awakening.


Attacks, including those by small-arms fire, explosive devices, have decreased from about 30 a day in January to fewer than one a day now, according to the U.S. military. Last year, during the holy month of Ramadan, there were 442 incidents in the area; this year, there were four, the military said.

Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha has taken over the movement from his slain younger brother...

His brother embraced the spotlight, but Ahmed seems to shy from it. He's soft-spoken, friendly, but not extroverted. He said he meets about 300 people a day who come looking for jobs, offering advice, asking for help. He is now on his first visit to the U.S., and plans to meet with President Bush.

"We are the only movement that is supported by all the people," he told The Associated Press. "We are the only people who fought al-Qaida and won. We are good fighters and we are good builders and now we want to rebuild this country."

Well, I think he's grabbing a bit too much credit as the "only peoplel who fought al-Qaida and won," but I'm sure the soldiers and Marines there aren't going to sqawk too loudly about it.

digg this
posted by Ace at 02:34 PM

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