Bill Roggio's latest post at The Fourth Rail reads like a comprehensive intelligence briefing on the Anbar province. I highly recommend reading the whole piece if you want to understand why Sen Reid could not be more wrong when he says the war is lost.
When I got here in April of last year, the Anbar province was described in the media as the wild west of Iraq, the 'volatile Anbar province', and the base of operations for AQI. A Marine intel officer even filed a report saying the situation was dire. It was also the main route for foreign fighters sneaking into Iraq. Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police were unheard of outside of the large towns of Fallujah and Ramadi.
13 months later, Anbar is being hailed as a model for Coalition-tribal cooperation against AQI. What accounts for the huge turnaround? The Iraqis themselves, with support from the Coalition. From Bill's report-
Sahawah Al Anbar, or Anbar Awakening, the grouping of Anbari tribes and former insurgents opposed to al Qaeda's Taliban like rule, traces back to last year, when al Qaeda in Iraq conducted its campaign of murder and intimidation throughout Anbar province.
Originally formed to protect themselves from AQI, which was not only killing civilians for intimidation, but also kidnapping them for ransom, Anbar Awakening turned into a regional political force. Anbar Awakening now has 8 members on the 49 seat Provincial Security Council.
The Anbar tribes understand that the best defense is a good offense-
A critical aspect of the recent success in Anbar province on the security front is the ability of the Anbar Salvation Council to secure some of the most dangerous regions in the province with tribal levies. The early manifestations included groups like the Thuwara Al Anbar, small bands of tribal fighters and former insurgents that both hunted al Qaeda and worked with U.S. and Iraqi forces to identify al Qaeda cells in the cities and towns.
Now, as we are entering summer of 2007, the results are breathtaking.
The political and security developments have had a dramatic impact on the situation in Anbar. The success in Ramadi, which used to be the most deadly city in Iraq, has been well documented. Attacks, which averaged 25 a day last summer, and spiked to as much as 50 a day according to a U.S. military intelligence source, have been reduced to 4 per day. In AO Denver, the expanse of Anbar from Hit westward to Husaybah on the border, the entire region is averaging 5 attacks per day.
And just as I said to NRO last month, it's not just the number of attacks, it's the level of preparation and planning that goes into them.
“The quality of these attacks are generally poor,” said Colonel Koenig.
And possibly the best news is that the momentum of the Anbar Awakening is spreading it to other trouble spots in Iraq.
This spring the Anbar Awakening decided to change name to Iraqi Awakening, Or Sahawah Al Iraq, in an effort to nationalize the movement. "The Awakening has contacts in Salahadin and other provinces," said Col Koenig. Just this week, the Diyala Awakening was formed in the eastern province to counter al Qaeda's rise. Other Awakening movements are being formed throughout Iraq.
Critics will say that we have simply uprooted the terrorists, that they are now operating in Diyala and Baghdad, so we haven't really achieved anything. But AQI is now on the run. Where they once had safe houses, weapons stockpiles and an intimidated populace to hide amongst, the Anbar province is now hostile territory to them. Despite the media frenzy over every spectacular attack by AQI in Baghdad, security there is vastly improved since the beginning of the surge, and there is still another whole brigade yet to move into Baghdad. Together with the grass roots Iraqi Awakening movement, it is AQI that faces a dire situation.