Wednesday, August 27, 2008

US is turning Anbar over to Iraq forces. Prematurely?

It's being widely reported now that the US is turning security responsibility in Anbar province over to Iraq government forces, evidently because the level of violence has dropped.

Here's the rub, though - or at least it seems to me.

The drop in violence is largely the result of the efforts of the Sunni Awakening forces, who teamed with the Americans against their erstwhile al-Qaeda in Iraq allies, both for the money and because AQI's indiscriminate killing and jihadist orientation had worn thin with the local tribespeople. But these same Sunni Awakening forces are now being targeted for disarming and disbanding (and worse) by Iraqi government forces, who are predominantly Shia, as is, of course, the dominant group (led by Prime Minister al-Maliki) in the Baghdad government.

So, what happens now? Are Shia government forces going to come in and keep the peace in what is a predominantly Sunni area? Are they going to continue to go after the Sunni Awakening militias in Anbar? Have the Baghdad government's troops indeed become so proficient that they can feel confident in taking charge of a Sunni province? Am I missing something?

Or, is the US perhaps in a rush to move Marines out of Iraq (Anbar, specifically) and get them into Afghanistan, where the situation seems to be worsening by the day? And consider also the political benefit to the Republican party if Bush can claim that Anbar is pacified, the insurgency is done . . . indeed, can claim that "victory" is now right around the corner . . . just as their convention comes together in Minneapolis and McCain prepares his acceptance speech.

But is Anbar truly pacified, or is it a bomb waiting to go off? I suppose the next few weeks will be telling quite a story there.

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