Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Anbar Model Spreading to Shiite Neighborhoods

The turnaround of cities like Ramadi and Fallujah in the province of Anbar has been well documented all over the place. The naysayers immediately cautioned on several things. First, they believed that Anbar was a unique area that could not be replicated, and second by arming the Sunni Sheiks all we were doing was arming the Sunnis in an eventual battle against the Shiite government. Furthermore, the Sunnis flipped because AQI was so brutal and vicious that no one could stand their brutality. Their methods included cutting off the two fingers of all smokers, raping and killing women that put the wrong types of vegetables in a bag together, and even inviting families to dinner and then serving their own child's head on a platter. For a full dispatch check out this Michael Yon piece. The Shia militias, while brutal, weren't quite this brutal and they directed their violence directed mostly at Sunnis.
Thus, I was heartened to find this piece in the Christian Science Monitor,

The violence has dropped dramatically, say US commanders, in the towns
surrounding this base in northern Babil Province, south of Baghdad.

In May, four improvised explosive device (IED) attacks targeted the
battalion; none in August, says Maj. Craig Whiteside, executive officer of the
1st Battalion of the 501st Infantry Regiment. Fewer undetonated IEDs have been
found – five in May and two in August. Indirect fire and small-arms violence
have also dropped from about a dozen incidents in May to less than three in

The reason, they say, is that the same approach that won success in Anbar
, where the Marines gained support of Sunni tribesmen against Al
Qaeda, is taking hold in mixed-sectarian areas. But here, Americans have
enlisted Shiites frustrated with extremists from such groups as the Mahdi Army, run
by Moqtada al-Sadr.

The naysayers and doubters had their doubts, but the coalition had a plan, and now we are watching that plan spreading all around the country. On a trip to Minnesota, a liberal friend of mine explained the problem as he saw it that the U.S. military faced in Iraq. He said it was the equivalent of him, an Illinoisian, showing up in Wisconsin and running for governor. I countered that what the U.S. military is doing is the same thing only the Illinoisian would show up with civic, business, and religious leaders who all were ready to throw their support behind this carpetbagger. That is what the coalition is doing. They are going to the most influential people and gaining their support, the sheiks. The sheiks are turning around and encouraging their tribes to sign up for the police force and it is working. The article continues...

Largely untrained and armed with weapons they already own, the citizens
wear armbands and monitor traffic along the roads, keeping watch to ensure no
outsiders or other extremist elements come through to bury roadside bombs. If
they fail to keep violence out, they could lose their monthly paycheck.
Ultimately, the idea is that they will become members of the Iraq security

"They are making their community safe," says Army Capt. Charles Levine, one
of the company commanders here. His battalion has recruited more than 1,300
participants since mid-September. A little less than half of them are Shiite.

The program offers Iraqis 90-day contracts. If it continues to be
successful, it could counter false perceptions that the US is arming Sunnis
against the Shiite government, as it attempts to install security among all
tribes, not just those in Sunni areas.

So, as the Anbar model spreads to other provinces like this one, Babil, much of the initial doubt goes away also. They are no longer operating in strictly Sunni areas where strictly AQI operates. They are no longer arming strictly Sunnis as the quote clearly points out. This is not an exact replica as the military explains...

The program in Babil Province is as much the same as the one in Anbar as it
is different.
There, Sunnis largely motivated by self-preservation are
signing up in droves, not only to protect themselves from extremists such as Al
Qaeda in Iraq but also for the empowerment it provides to Sunni tribes who feel
isolated from the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. Sunnis there are given a
one-time $150 payment; a bag of food; and a T-shirt.

Under a different command, the military here pays a daily rate to both
Sunni and Shiite. But among the Shiites, there is more concern about security
than central government indifference. Many simply want the work: At $10 a day,
it is an appealing jobs program in this agrarian area where date palms and
pomegranate trees outnumber buildings.

This new program is not without other risks of its own...

But the program comes with inherent risk and also indicates that the US
military can only do so much to sustain a secure environment before the
government of Iraq must accept that responsibility for itself.

While the hope is that these individuals will be folded into the Iraq
security forces, it's not clear if the political infighting that has crippled
the government of Iraq will allow that to happen right away. And if the 90-day
contracts expire, without renewal or without government sponsorship, and the
citizens lose their jobs, the paid-for loyalty could also lapse.

Colonel Balcavage says that won't happen initially because he will renew
the contracts if he has to. Ultimately, however, it will be up to the central
government to step up, according to military officials in Baghdad.

Of course, while many of us have some good confidence in localities and local governments, we are a lot less confident with the central government of Iraq. On that note, the central government is at least talking confidently

Iraq will take over security from British troops in Basra province within
two months, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters Tuesday after meeting
with Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said 1,000 more British troops
would be withdrawn from Iraq by year's end.

Brown was on an unannounced visit, which also was to include a session with
U.S. Commander David Petraeus before the British leader flies to Basra to meet
with his forces and military leaders in the oil-rich region in the deep south of

"We are prepared to take over security of Basra within two months and we
will," al-Maliki said, after the meeting in his Green Zone office. "Basra will
be one of the provinces where Iraqi forces will completely take over

Brown confirmed al-Maliki's plans and said, "as we move to overwatch.

Now, Maliki saying he will take over Basra security while sitting in the Green Zone is like me criticizing Rex Grossman for his plethora of interceptions while I sit on my couch. That said, the verdict on all of these stories is cautious optimism. The Anbar Model set everything in motion. It is spreading to other areas not only Sunni. As we have noted here, deaths were down dramatically in September in Iraq.

Ultimately, insurgency and counter insurgency comes down to a battle of wills. Which side will impose its will on the other, and since the beginning of June, it is our side imposing its will on the other. We aren't done, and as I have said ad nauseum, the terrorists will not lay down and die simply because we have a strategy that works. They will fight us until the last homicide bomber is dead and that is when we will have to continue fighting them.

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