02 September 2008

Change of the Guard in Anbar

Anbar Security Forces on Parade (from Matel in Iraq)

Anbar is still the province where the most Americans have lost their lives in Iraq the past 5 years, and it was considered "lost" by intelligence officials two years ago. The mainly Sunni province, once rife with insurgents, saw a huge turnaround when the Anbar awakening began working with coalition forces to expel Al-Qaeda in late 2006. USA Today puts in perspective today's transfer of the province to the Iraqi Security Forces:

After the U.S. invasion in 2003, Anbar witnessed some of the fiercest battles between U.S. forces and insurgents.

In 2006, Anbar had more attacks per day than any other province in Iraq. A Marine intelligence report at the time declared the province lost to al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda's violent tactics and strict enforcement of an extreme brand of Islam eventually triggered a grass-roots revolt among the patchwork of Sunni tribes who dominate Anbar.

The backlash, which became known as the Awakening, spread throughout the country and played a critical role in putting down the insurgency.

This is a big deal for the Marines, as they are primarily located in Anbar province. The Commandant wants more engagement in Afghanistan and less in Iraq, and it is because of the sacrifices of Americans and Iraqis that this is able to take place. Al-Qaeda once considered Ramadi their home base, terrifying the residents and coercing everyone into their bizarre ideology. The times certainly have changed. This was a major front in the war on terrorism, and while there will never be anything like V-E day in today's conflicts, this is pretty good news.