Anbar Province and the Iraq Study Group Report
Iraqi Politicians and Tribal Sheihks are concerned about the implications of the Iraq Study Group report
FALLUJAH, IRAQ: The release of the Iraq Study Group report, a 79 point plan to address Iraq, created by a blue ribbon panel lead by former Secretary of State James Baker and Representative Lee Hamilton, has implications far beyond domestic U.S. politics. I've been asked numerous times how this report has effected the U.S. troops serving in Iraq. The answer is very little. Most shrug their shoulders at the news reports, and haven't had time to digest the recommendations of the voluminous document. But the Iraqis of Anbar province are certainly paying attention, as the Iraq Study Group report directly affects them.
Last year, while I was embedded with the the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines (the Teufelhunden) in Husaybah, I attended several meetings between the U.S and Iraqi militaries, and the tribal sheikhs and politicians of the Qaim region. One of the major concerns expressed by the sheikhs and politicians was a fear of a rapid withdrawal by U.S. forces. At this point in time, Representative John Murtha was advocating a rapid "strategic redeployment" of U.S. force to locations outside of Iraq.
I specifically asked the tribal leaders if they watch the news coming out of the United states, and if the news impacts their decision making process. The answer in every case was yes, absolutely. The sheikhs' primary concern was the U.S. would withdraw from the region, and those who collaborated with the U.S. and Iraqi forces would fall prey to al Qaeda.
The situation in Anbar province has not changed, and the tribal sheikhs and politicians still watch the Western media. Today, the release and implications Iraq Study Group report is their main concern. Last week, I attended the Fallujah city council meeting and the Anbar province mayor's meeting. The Iraq Study Group report was the main topic of concern at the Fallujah city council meeting, and a primary topic at the Anbar province mayor's meeting.
A sidebar at the Anbar mayors meeting in Fallujah. Maamoun Sami Rashid al-Awani, the governor of Anbar (far left). Click image to view.
During the Fallujah city council meeting, John Kael Weston, the representative from the U.S. State Department for Anbar province, addressed the town council meeting to assured the Fallujah politicians and police chiefs that the Iraq Study Group report was just a "document that discusses policy, and is not yet the policy of the U.S. government... the policy is set by the government and not the Iraq Study Group."A Marine general made similar remarks at the Anbar mayor's meeting.
The politicians and tribal leaders are very concerned that the Iraq Study Group report spells the end of the U.S. presence in western Iraq. These men have risked their own lives and the lives of their families by working with the Iraqi government and U.S. forces.
The establishment of the Anbar Salvation Council, a group of tribal leaders who have vowed to hunt al Qaeda, the beginnings of a political process in the region, and the latest recruiting drive that brought in 1,115 police recruits throughout Anbar could not take place without a U.S. military presence. While the Iraqi Army is making strides towards tactical independence, it still relies on the U.S. in this dangerous province. The tribal sheikhs and politicians understand this.