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The Iraq Report III

The Anbar Awakening: Displacing al Qaeda from Its Stronghold in Western Iraq.

6:47 PM, Apr 5, 2007 • By KIMBERLY KAGAN
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For Americans, the war's most important events from August to December 2006 occurred in Baghdad. For al Qaeda and other Sunni Islamic extremist enemies in Iraq, equally important events in that same period occurred in Ramadi, the capital city of Anbar Province. Al Qaeda terrorism provoked many of Anbar's sheiks actively to cooperate with U.S. Forces, oppose all terrorists in the province, support the Iraqi Police and Army, form an effective city government and strengthen the provincial council. The sheiks called their movement "The Awakening." The hostility of the local population changed Ramadi from an al Qaeda stronghold into an area effectively contested by U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Editor's note: The Iraq Report will be published at www.weeklystandard.com approximately every two weeks and will chronicle and analyze ongoing coalition military operations both in Baghdad and throughout Iraq. This version of the Iraq Report does not contain the images and footnotes that can be found in the pdf. To read the full report in pdf click here
or on the image below.

Previous Iraq Reports:

Iraq Report I: From "New Way Forward" to New Commander, March 1, 2007

Iraq Report II: The Baghdad Security Plan begins., March 15, 2007

The presence of U.S. forces conducting counterinsurgency missions to secure the population made the local rejection of al Qaeda possible and effective. The leadership and example of the sheiks of Ramadi inspired other sheiks in neighboring cities to cooperate with U.S. and Iraqi forces. As a result of their efforts, especially in late 2006 and early 2007, al Qaeda no longer controlled Ramadi or Fallujah. By February 2007, U.S. and Iraqi forces were pushing the enemy from the other cities in the province. U.S. forces conducted deliberate counterinsurgency operations to secure the population from terrorism. Together with the Iraqi Security Forces, they cleared, controlled, and retained cities in the Euphrates River Valley. U.S. forces exploited opportunities created by the enemy and by the local population.

Al Qaeda's attacks, including suicide bombs and car bombs, did not aim at random targets. Often, these spectacular attacks occurred against very specific targets and conveyed very specific messages. Al Qaeda was trying to disrupt U.S. and Iraqi preparations for decisive operations in Baghdad and escalate the conflict by inciting sectarian violence in and around the capital. Al Qaeda was also trying to dissuade the population of the Euphrates River Valley from participating in the Awakening.

Cooperation among U.S. forces, Iraqi Security Forces, and many of Anbar's sheiks deprived the terrorist organization of its most secure base in Iraq. As U.S. and Iraqi efforts to clear, control, and retain Baghdad and the cities of Anbar progressed, al Qaeda faced the choices available to any hard-pressed enemy, conventional or unconventional: surrender, counterattack, or move operations elsewhere. Al Qaeda pursued two policies in February and March 2007: counterattacking in Baghdad and Ramadi, and shifting and moving its bases elsewhere in theater. Al Qaeda lashed out at specific targets in Ramadi and Fallujah in order to attempt to win back their bases in the western part of Anbar Province. Al Qaeda used bases in western Baghdad in order to foment violence against Shiite and mixed neighborhoods, and in order to link the violence in Fallujah with that in Baghdad. And some al Qaeda and Sunni extremists regrouped in Diyala Province. From there, the enemy launched attacks there and in northern Iraq to incite sectarian violence and undermine the ongoing security plan.