WASHINGTON, Aug 9 (IPS) – In hailing what he has called an “almost breathtaking” turnaround in Anbar Province that has weakened al Qaeda as a triumph for his new military strategy in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus has put a favourable spin on a development which actually challenges the central rationale for continued U.S. military occupation of Iraq.
The dramatic change in Anbar, in which Sunnis have replaced
But the new situation in Anbar cannot be attributed to
In an interview with ABC News May 30, Petraeus admitted that the Sunnis “can figure out who al Qaeda is a heck of a lot better then we can.”
The apparent success of Petraeus’s shift from relying on U.S. military force to relying on Sunni troops to take care of al Qaeda could be used as an argument against continuation of the U.S. military presence in Anbar.
Recognition that there is a far more effective alternative to
It would also contradict the rationale for the Democratic Party leadership’s inclusion in troop withdrawal legislation of a major exception for
In several press interviews in recent months, Petraeus has described the new security arrangements as the result of Sunni tribal leaders’ change of heart. In a Jun. 8 CNN interview, he said that, in just a few months, “[T]tribes that turned a blind eye to what al Qaeda was doing in that province are now opposing al Qaeda very vigorously.”
But the background of the agreements reached in Anbar indicates that it was the Bush administration that was forced to adjust its policy. Several major Sunni armed groups, most of which are Arab nationalist in their ideological orientation, began to quarrel with the foreign-dominated al Qaeda organisation in
The leaders of the anti-al Qaeda Sunni armed groups have made repeated proposals to the
But Casey refused, on the ground that that would allow Sunni insurgents to take over the city. A Times of London story in September 2006 reported that Sunni leaders in Anbar were complaining that
The reason the
So it was Petraeus and the
Under the arrangements negotiated with Sunni tribal leaders, Sunni troops have been given de facto authority over local security, without any official status, meaning that they are unofficially approved Sunni militias. The same arrangements have now been extended to other Sunni provinces and to Sunni neighbourhoods in
Secretary of Defence Robert M. Gates denied Sunday that the
The U.S. commander in Baghdad’s Rasheed district, Col. Ricky D. Gibbs, met with “half a dozen influential Sunni leaders” to discuss the formation of “neighbourhood protection groups,” according to the story, and was handed a list of 250 names of Sunni residents willing to serve on the force.
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the Third Infantry Division, assured reporters in June that no support would be given to any Sunni group that had attacked
McClatchy’s Leila Fadel reported Jun. 7 that members of the anti-U.S. Islamic Army of Iraq are collaborating with
But Amariyah Abu Bilal, the Islamic Army cell leader, told Fadel he remains committed to expelling the “occupation” once al Qaeda has been defeated.
Fadel and Nancy A. Youssef reported for McClatchy Newspapers Jun. 17 that some military officers see the new policy as a dangerous reversal of the previous
Opponents of the programme argue, according to Youssef and Fadel, that supporting Sunni militias “reinforces the idea that U.S.-trained Iraqi forces cannot control their country,” according to the opponents. The McClatchy reporters interviewed six different
Only last December, the Bush administration was aghast at the idea that
Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in