An Anbar Update

The status of the insurgency in the province formerly known as the “Wild West”

Iraq’s Anbar province has been, along with Baghdad, one of the most violent in Iraq. Over one-quarter of Coalition deaths originated in the cities and towns along the Euphrates River, from Fallujah in the east to Husaybah on the Syrian border. The yearlong campaign to establish a permanent U.S. and Iraqi security presence in the province, which began in Fallujah during Operation Dawn and culminated in Operations Rivergate in the Triad and Steel Curtain in the Qaim region, has made a dramatic impact on the region. Iraqi and Coalition forces are now shifting from overt military operations to counterinsurgency and civil-military operations.

Over the spring, summer and fall of 2005, large scale offensives of battalion sized units or greater were the norm, while today, they are the exception. The past week’s operations are indicative of this trend. A large weapons cache is found west of Fallujah during sustained patrols by Task Force Blackhawk, which is made up of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group and the Illinois National Guard. In Hit, four insurgents are killed and three captured after they attacked a joint Iraqi & U.S. Marine patrol during Operation Smokewagon, a weapons cache sweep. One of those captured “was found to be wearing a suicide vest,” a clear indication of al Qaeda membership. The prior operation in Hit was Koa Canyon, another of the counterinsurgency variety. In Ramadi, an Iraqi Army raid recently arrested an al Qaeda cell of eleven Syrians and for Iraqi terrorists.

While Iraqi and Coalition forces continue with the maintaining a security presence and denying the insurgency and al Qaeda to opportunity to regroup in force, the local tribes begin to turn to the government for support. About 250 police recruits from Anbar have left for training. They are from all over Anbar; “Approximately 100 were recruited from the provincial capital of Ar Ramadi. Ninety candidates are from the western Iraqi city of Husaybah and the remaining 60 are from Fallujah.” This is the second groups of Anbar recruits to be trained, and their participation is unlikely to have occurred without the cooperation of the tribal leaders. The Christian Science Monitor’s Charles Levinson reports on the continuing rifts between the tribal sheikhs of Anbar and al Qaeda, and reinforces this point.

The provincial leaders made a number of demands in return for their cooperation, Mr. Askaree says. They asked for weapons to fight the terrorists with, but the minister refused. Instead the minister agreed to step up recruitment of Anbar residents to the Iraqi Security Forces. “If you want to participate in attacking the terrorists, you have no choice but to send your sons to volunteer for the Army and give the Army information on the terrorists,” Askaree says the minister of defense told the gathered Anbar notables.

Strategy Page reports Zarqawi is now being hunted by the Dulami tribe, and contact and negotiations between tribal leaders and U.S. Special Forces and intelligence have been ongoing for three years; “the tribesmen are suddenly passing on information to American troops and Iraqi police about the location of ‘foreign fighters’ (al Qaeda members) in their territory west of Baghdad.”

Reuters states “Sunni Arabs have formed their own militia to counter Shi’ite and Kurdish forces as part of an attempt to regain influence they lost after Saddam.” This misses the mark by miles, as the Sunnis have always possessed armed militias. It’s called “the insurgency.”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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1 Comment

  • pedestrian says:

    Iraq’s Anbar province has been, along with Baghdad, one of the most violent in Iraq.
    Has been? I feel there are still violence around Fallujah and Ramadi, but it could be at the stage to say it “was” one of the most violent in Iraq. Well, it depends on how much violence you would consider as one of the worst. I would guess Baghdad and Salahadin are the worst today. At least I have not heard any deaths of service members reported around the border area of Anbar for months.

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