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WP Admits Sunni Fighters Are Allying With US

From a deeply shocked Washington Post:

Sunni Fighters Find Strategic Benefits in Tentative Alliance With U.S.

By Ann Scott Tyson

Thursday, August 9, 2007; A01

BAQUBAH, Iraq — The Sunni insurgent leader lifted up his T-shirt, revealing a pistol stuck in his belt, and explained to a U.S. sergeant visiting his safe house why he’d stopped attacking Americans.

“Finally, we decided to cooperate with American forces and kick al-Qaeda out and have our own country,” said the tough-talking, confident 21-year-old, giving only his nom de guerre, Abu Lwat. Then he offered another motive: “In the future, we want to have someone in the government,” he said, holding his cigarette with a hand missing one finger.

Abu Lwat is one of a growing number of Sunni fighters working with U.S. forces in what American officers call a last-ditch effort to gain power and legitimacy under Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government. The tentative cooperation between the fighters and American forces is driven as much by political aspirations as by a rejection of the brutal methods of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, U.S. officers and onetime insurgents said.

“This is much less about al-Qaeda overstepping than about them [Sunnis] realizing that they’ve lost,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Ollivant, a planner for the U.S. military command in Baghdad. As a result, Sunni groups are now “desperately trying to cut deals with us,” he said. “This is all about the Sunnis’ ‘rightful’ place to rule” in a future Iraqi government, he said.

Across Iraq, a variety of Sunni insurgent groups, political parties and tribes are coming forward to help provide fighters for local policing efforts, with an estimated 5,000 having been rallied in Baghdad alone in recent months, according to Col. Rick Welch, head of reconciliation for the U.S. military command in the capital…

Former insurgents like Abu Lwat are making a push for influence in Baqubah, the capital of Diyala province. Sunni insurgent groups and Shiite militias have fought fiercely for territory here against each other and U.S. forces. But earlier this year, leaders of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, with an estimated several thousand fighters, started cooperating with U.S. forces.

Abu Lwat, who fought with the 1920 group, said he had grown disillusioned after seeing his community decimated. “When first al-Qaeda got here, they called themselves the mujaheddin and said they would fight for the country. All the people liked them,” Abu Lwat said. But what followed were executions and beheadings of local leaders, bans on smoking and mandatory veils for women that defied true Islamic values and “killed the life here,” he said.

“We have no people in government now, so we are trying to do as much as we can to tell people to join the army and police,” Abu Lwat said. “That way, they can control the area and government, and American forces can go back to their country.” …

So, soon after U.S. and Iraqi forces moved into western Baqubah recently to conduct a large-scale offensive designed to flush out insurgents, Abu Lwat came to the area with about 40 fighters.

Within two weeks, 400 to 500 fighters were encamped in groups of about a dozen at about 30 or 40 safe houses in western Baqubah, with several more joining every day. The fighters are loosely organized around leaders such as Abu Lwat, who recruit them, U.S. military officials said.

U.S. troops say the armed locals have moved quickly to help find roadside bombs and prevent insurgents from returning to the neighborhood, especially from al-Qaeda in Iraq and an umbrella group it is said to have founded, the Islamic State of Iraq. The former insurgents “knew where the caches were, they knew all the names of the al-Qaeda leaders,” said Capt. Zane Galvach, a platoon leader for the Army’s 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

Until the recent U.S. offensive, the Islamic State had a strong grip on western Baqubah, lacing the area with dozens of deeply buried bombs and houses rigged to explode.

In a sign that the Islamic State feels threatened by the local rebellion, leaflets bearing its name were dropped one night in mid-July at an intersection in Baqubah. One flier found by U.S. soldiers chastised residents for their “alliance with the ill-directed groups such as the 1920 Revolution Brigade” and warned that they and their families “will all be murdered.” …

That the Washington Post would run such an in-depth story on their front page shows that the improvements in Iraq from the “surge” are undeniable.

Not that this will keep them from denying them later.

But still, there it is.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, August 9th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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