Laying Down Arms in Iraq

The Daily Telegraph is running a series of reports from Anbar province by Damien McElroy. McElroy’s second installment was titled Iraq insurgency: People rise against al-Qa’eda. A few excerpts:

The popular uprising against al-Qa’eda by residents of Anbar Province turned former enemies into American allies earlier this year. The result was a dramatic restoration of stability across Iraq’s Sunni heartland. Husaybah bears the scars of the “terrorist” years – 2004 and 2005 – when al-Qa’eda and its local allies controlled the town.
Buildings stand half destroyed, roads remain torn up and almost half its population has fled. Much of the physical damage was inflicted in Operation Iron Curtain last year when Marine companies fought building by building to retake the town. Amid the ruins, relationships have been built by a softly-softly approach by American troops.
[Marine] [f]ootpatrols are hailed with cries of Salaam (Peace) and Habibi (Friend) in streets that were in no-go zones for the coalition a year ago. A ten-man unit of US Marines passes nightly along Husaybah’s market street and zig-zags down alleys into residential areas. As they walk out, the sounds of a town reviving fill the air.
Sweet shops are filled with customers, workshop churn out furniture. “It’s been a while since we hit any trouble,” said patrol leader, Corporal Kristian Bandy. “We get a lot of feedback from the locals now, they tell us where arms caches are and if anyone’s acting suspicious they turn him in.”
In the advanced field combat hospitals run by the Navy in Anbar province, there is suddenly nothing to do. Equipped to handle sudden rushes of dozens of gravely injured troops, the hospitals are empty.
“The conflict here was all caused by al-Qa’eda,” [Ghanim Mirdie Waleed] said. “We work and play as we like under the coalition security. There are jobs for people, shops are opened and we are very happy.”
With al-Qa’eda pushed out, Anbaris are even rallying to a new shared cause with America – a fight to secure the country against Iranian infiltration.

In today’s installment, McElroy describes Anbaris who are laying down their arms, abandoning al Qaeda and returning to their homes:

A unique tribal reconciliation process is allowing repentant former al-Qa’eda loyalists to return to homes and families free from the threat of arrest by coalition forces.
Following vetting the sheikh sponsor promises his peers the offender will maintain a record of good behaviour and that other members of the tribe will keep a watch on the returnee.
Sheikh Kurdi said the programme has built-in safeguards to ensure renegades aren’t tempted to start assisting terrorists again. “We give them jobs as contractors, drivers, cooks and carpenters to ensure they are not going to do the same old thing.”
Lieutenant-Colonel Jason Bohm who must approve each successful applicant based on the sheikhs recommendations said programme has become a model for other parts of Iraq where the tribes have joined the battle against al-Qa’eda.

I think it’s fair to say that few American newspapers have published similarly optimistic on-the-ground reports from Iraq.
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