SURGE Coming Apart?
As Gen. Petraeus, Bushie's "surge" planner and designated scapegoat
Iraq prepares to take over command of NATO this summer, the very
Islamic factions U.S. forces are paying to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq and
other insurgents are now deserting in large numbers.
Sunni tribal and regional groups, which have helped stem violence in
parts of Iraq, claim both the U.S. and the Iraq Shiite-dominated
"government" are: Failing to consider Sunnis for government police
and other jobs; not giving recognition for the security gains they've
achieved; taking lethal fire from their U.S. comrades in arms!
Thus, it seems, the seeds of the long-predicted Shiite-Sunni civil
are being sowed, even as Iraqi legislators this week rejected a law
mandating national elections be held by this fall, and even as the
U.S. prepares for its announced force drawdown.
Will your Nincompoop-In-Chief -- and John McCain -- call for a "re-
"Sunni Forces Losing Patience With U.S."
"Citing Lack of Support, Frustrated Iraqi Volunteers Are Abandoning
By Sudarsan Raghavan and Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, February 28, 2008; A01
BAGHDAD, Feb. 27 -- U.S.-backed Sunni volunteer forces, which have
played a vital role in reducing violence in Iraq, are increasingly
frustrated with the American military and the Iraqi government over
what they see as a lack of recognition of their growing political
clout and insufficient U.S. support.
Since Feb. 8, thousands of fighters in restive Diyala province have
left their posts in order to pressure the government and its American
backers to replace the province's Shiite police chief. On Wednesday,
their leaders warned that they would disband completely if their
demands were not met. In Babil province, south of Baghdad, fighters
have refused to man their checkpoints after U.S. soldiers killed
several comrades in mid-February in circumstances that remain in
Some force leaders and ground commanders also reject a U.S.-initiated
plan that they say offers too few Sunni fighters the opportunity to
join Iraq's army and police, and warn that low salaries and late
payments are pushing experienced members to quit.
The predominantly Sunni Awakening forces, referred to by the U.S.
military as the Sons of Iraq or Concerned Local Citizens, are made up
mostly of former insurgents who have turned against extremists
of their harsh tactics and interpretation of Islam. The U.S. military
pays many fighters roughly $10 a day to guard and patrol their areas.
Thousands more unpaid volunteers have joined out of tribal and
U.S. efforts to manage this fast-growing movement of about 80,000
armed men are still largely effective, but in some key areas the
control is fraying. The tensions are the most serious since the
Awakening was launched in Anbar province in late 2006, according to
Iraqi officials, U.S. commanders and 20 Awakening leaders across
Some U.S. military officials say they are growing concerned that the
Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq has infiltrated Awakening
forces in some areas.
"Now, there is no cooperation with the Americans," said Haider
al-Kaisy, an Awakening commander in Baqubah, the capital of Diyala
province, an insurgent stronghold that U.S. and Iraqi forces are
struggling to control. "We have stopped fighting al-Qaeda."
U.S. military officials and commanders say they are seeking to defuse
the rising tensions before hard-won U.S. gains are jeopardized.
"Despite some of the frustrations, the frictions and the attacks on
the Sons of Iraq, they are continuing to volunteer. As an interim
solution, it seems to be working well," said Col. Bill Buckner, a
senior U.S. military spokesman. "It's clear Iraq remains a fragile
security environment. We want to address many of their concerns as
best as we can, so that they continue to be part of the solution to
the security situation in Iraq."
Awakening leaders say threats against their fighters are rising.
Attacks against Awakening members went from 26 in October to 100 in
January, according to a U.S. military official, who added that
February's numbers are on track to be nearly as high as January's.
But the growing threats have not been matched with added resources.
Rafah Kassim, 37, an Awakening leader in the oil-producing city of
Baiji, lost two fighters in mid-February when gunmen ambushed their
car. Speaking at their funeral, Kassim said he did not expect the
Shiite-led Iraqi government, which fears the Awakening movement could
one day turn against it, to embrace his fighters. He had applied six
times to join the Iraqi army and police, he said, but was never
accepted. He said he expected his new ally, the U.S. military, to
his struggle. Instead, he said, U.S. commanders have limited his
to 40 fighters when he needs at least 100 to protect his area of 2.7
"They should make me stronger. They should not weaken me," said
Kassim, a former commander in the Islamic Army, an insurgent group.
"We need weapons. We need vehicles. We do not even have gas for the
few cars we have. When we joined, the Americans promised to provide
all necessities. Now we know those were only words."
In the past two months, he said, 20 of his fighters have quit. Many
felt their monthly salary was no longer worth the risk of fighting
Qaeda in Iraq. His men also have not received their salaries in two
months, he said. "We'll all be patient for another two months. If
nothing changes, then we'll suspend and quit," Kassim said. "Then
we'll go back to fighting the Americans."
'Why Am I Standing There?'
Inadvertent U.S. killings of Awakening fighters -- five such
have occurred in the past three weeks -- are adding to the
frustrations. In the southern town of Jurf al-Sakr, U.S. soldiers
killed three fighters Feb. 15. U.S. commanders said that the men had
fired upon the soldiers first and that the troops acted in self-
Within hours, more than 1,000 fighters walked away from their posts.
Sabah al-Janabi, who heads the Awakening in the area, publicly
criticized the U.S. military, alleging it had killed 19 of his men in
the past 45 days, which U.S. commanders deny.
"Now, I have fighters who refuse to go back to their positions," said
Fadhil Youssef, another Awakening leader in the area. "They are
saying, 'I am standing on road, securing my neighborhood, and
Americans come and kill me. So why am I standing there?' "
In the village of Zaab, west of the northern city of Kirkuk, police
officials and witnesses said U.S. forces on Feb. 14 killed six
relatives of an Awakening leader, Issa Muhsin al-Jubouri, and
him and others. In an interview last week, after his release, he said
U.S. soldiers had "raised their weapons in my face and shouted at me,
'Confess or I will shoot you.'
"They beat me and cursed me and made me face the wall, saying to me,
'You have exploited the Awakening to support the terrorists,' "
Jubouri said. "I kept saying, 'You are mistaken, because I and my
family have been victims of terrorists.' "
U.S. military officials confirmed that six people, including two
women, were killed, among them several Awakening members, and that a
dozen were detained. But the officials said U.S. troops were
al-Qaeda in Iraq and acted in self-defense after being fired upon.
When asked about Jubouri's allegations, Maj. Brad Leighton, a U.S.
military spokesman, replied: "It's combat. I would not expect our
to be gentle when conducting an operation on a place where we suspect
there are terrorists."
The incidents illustrate a vexing problem for the American military:
The Awakening movement has grown so fast that it has become difficult
for U.S. commanders to monitor the fighters and their loyalties.
"It's clear there are extremist groups that have penetrated the
Concerned Local Citizens, that there may be in fact al-Qaeda amongst
the Concerned Local Citizens," said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, a
senior military spokesman.
Jubouri said his 800 fighters had taken huge risks to ally with the
U.S. military and faced allegations that they are "agents for the
"If there is no apology, or no compensation, or failure to produce
informers before us, we will carry arms against the Americans,"
Demands in Diyala
Nowhere are the tensions more serious than in Diyala, one of the
battlegrounds in the U.S. fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Awakening
groups, also known here as Popular Committees, are demanding the
resignation of the Shiite provincial police chief, Maj. Gen. Ghanem
Qureishi. They accuse him of running death squads and torturing
Sunnis, allegations that Qureishi denied in an interview. The
Awakening leaders are also seeking recognition as an official force.
On Wednesday, they vowed to dissolve the committees if their demands
were not met. "In the last 10 months, we haven't received any kind of
assistance or help from Americans or Iraqi government," said Abu
Talib, a top Awakening leader. "On the contrary, the police started
hunt us down."
Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani said that Qureishi was highly
and that such "good men" would be protected. "An accusation does not
mean the crime actually took place," Bolani said.
The U.S. military acknowledges that it is caught in the middle of a
political struggle. "Yes, they are frustrated," said Lt. Col. Ricardo
Love, commander of the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, who
works in Baqubah, the provincial capital. "They think we can make the
government of Iraq do anything. We tell them we don't control the
government. But they think we are the mighty power."
"The position of Americans is hesitation," said Abu Imad al-Zuhaidi,
another Awakening official in Baqubah. "They don't have any
independent opinion, despite the fact they know it is the Awakening
who restored order."
U.S. commanders said the Awakening's strike has not affected
but Love and others are concerned about fighters who may be tempted,
or forced, to rejoin the insurgency.
"AQI and JAM will take advantage of the situation," he said, using
military abbreviations for al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Mahdi Army, the
country's largest Shiite militia, which is loyal to anti-American
cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
In Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, concern is mounting over a U.S.
proposal that calls for about 20 percent of the volunteer forces to
integrated into the nation's army and police. The rest would be
provided with civilian jobs and vocational training.
"The Sunnis were always the leaders of the country. Is it reasonable
that they are turned into service workers and garbage collectors?"
said Khalid Jiyad Abed, an Awakening leader in the city of Latifiyah
and an engineer. "We had not anticipated this from the American
forces. Of course we will not accept that," Abed added.
Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who for the past 14 months was the
ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said only 20 to 30 percent of the
Awakening fighters could pass physical and written exams to enter
Iraq's security forces.
"Overall, you will never satisfy everybody," Odierno said, adding
10,000 fighters had been accepted so far.
But Awakening leaders view the plan as an attempt by the Iraqi
government to marginalize them.
"This is a big failure -- either they take us all in or this is not
going to work," said Brig. Gen. Shija al-Adhami, who heads the
Awakening force in Baghdad's Ghazaliya neighborhood.
Sami al-Askari, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said
recruiting too many Awakening fighters would allow al-Qaeda in Iraq
infiltrate the security forces, in much the same way Shiite militias
have. But Sunni leaders warn that without the Awakening's help in
securing the country, Iraq's future will be grim.
"You need these people," said Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a
Sunni. "What sort of risk are you going to take if this 100 percent
stripped to 20? We cannot afford to lose all this success, which is
paid by the blood of the people."
[Special correspondents Zaid Sabah, Saad al-Izzi and K.I. Ibrahim in
Baghdad and Washington Post staff in Diyala province, Anbar province,
Najaf, Tikrit, Baiji, Kirkuk and Mosul contributed to this report.]