Faced with this dilemma, many al Qaeda fighters have elected to leave their weapons behind, perhaps to join the increasing numbers of former al Qaeda who are returning to their homes to beg the forgiveness--and receive the justice--of their tribes. The American troops that flooded some 28 locations in the Diyala River Valley turned up an abandoned al Qaeda command post that had only recently been thrown together, with all its communications and other equipment; the clearing operation also netted a small facility to treat the wounded and hundreds of weapons and explosives.
But other fighters have not left their weapons behind. And some of those are now running from one hiding place to another in the farmland that lies east of the Baghdad-Baqubah highway, clinging to a small group of terrified women and children, with combat helicopters flying over head, heavily-armed Coalition troops on the move in every direction, and the end nearly upon them.
Mario Loyola is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is embedded with the Marine Expeditionary Force in western Iraq.