southwest of Baghdad, 07 June.
In Amiriyah, the aim is to transform the "freedom fighters" into a local police force. In Anbar, the tribal levies of the Anbar Salvation Council have been incorporated as Provincial Security Forces, and are training in police academies. American forces have also insisted on gathering biometric data--to include both fingerprints and retinal scans--from members of the security forces, as well as the serial numbers of the weapons they carry. One way to gauge the effectiveness of the effort to turn Iraq's Sunni community against al Qaeda in Amiriyah, Anbar, Salahadin, Babil, and Diyala provinces is to watch al Qaeda's response. And thus far, al Qaeda appears to feel threatened. They have issued verbal attacks against the Sunnis--calling them traitors--and launched physical attacks against their leaders. In Baghdad and the surrounding provinces, al Qaeda has viciously attacked the local Awakening movements, which are modeled after the successful Anbar Salvation Council. Anti-al Qaeda clerics and tribal leaders have been targeted for assassination. In Anbar, al Qaeda has conducted a campaign against the local sheikhs and leaders of the Anbar Salvation Council. These recent developments can be viewed as a positive indicator of the still developing Baghdad Security Plan. While sectarian killings were reported to have increased during May, after falling significantly in the first four months of the year, the number reported is still half of what it was in December of 2006. The final U.S. combat brigade has just hit the ground and is still learning its area of operations. Despite this, some areas of Baghdad have seen a marked improvement in the security situation since the inception of the Baghdad Security Plan. The security in the Karkh district, which is in the heart of Baghdad and home to Haifa Street, has greatly improved. "During the month of May, there were 35 attacks in Karkh, a drop of 60 percent from January," said Colonel Bryan Roberts, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division, which is in charge of security in that area. "Even more impressive is the decrease in sectarian murders--four in the month of May, down 94 percent from January's 53." The completion of the Adhamiyah "wall"--the concrete barrier and fence designed to secure the neighborhood--has resulted in a significant reduction in violence. "Murders are down 61 percent in Adhamiyah between the beginning of April, when construction began, and May 28, when it ended," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. THE INCREASED SECURITY in Baghdad has forced al Qaeda in Iraq to take its fight to the surrounding provinces. The last five major attacks have all occurred in the provinces, as bigger, more complex attacks are now difficult to conduct inside the capital. As noted earlier, the attacks are taking place against Sunni sheikhs, clerics, and other leaders willing to oppose al Qaeda and its Islamic State. Attacks have also focused on other targets, particularly the Iraqi Security Forces. Iraqi police and Army outposts, as well as patrols and the officers who lead them, remain a primary target of al Qaeda's campaign of intimidation. Al Qaeda is attempting to break the morale in those units. Suicide bombers recently struck at an Iraqi Army base near Iskandariyah and a police station near Tikrit. Seventeen Iraqi Security Force personnel were killed and over 80 wounded in the two attacks. In the latest assault on the police, al Qaeda attacked the home of a police colonel in Diyala. Twelve policemen were killed, along with the colonel's wife and son; three others were kidnapped. The summer is almost certain to see more violence as U.S. and Iraqi forces take the fight to the "belts"--the portions of Diyala, Babil, Anbar, and Salahadin that border Baghdad. Al Qaeda will fight hard to keep the nascent Awakening movements from gaining popularity while simultaneously battling U.S. and Iraqi forces as they move into al Qaeda's safe havens. American and Iraqi casualties are expected to rise. And al Qaeda is well aware of the September timeframe set forth by General Petraeus for his report on the status of the Baghdad Security Plan. The terror group will pull out all the stops to raise the level of violence, but in the short-term, a rise in violence simply will not serve as an effective indicator of success or failure. The real indicator will be the long-term security of Baghdad and the surrounding regions. From the perspective of al Qaeda, though, defeating the Baghdad Security Plan is likely a secondary objective. For their purposes, merely creating the appearance of defeat would suffice.