Friday, Mar. 19, 2010

September 2008
Provincial Progress

"The people are not afraid of the terrorists anymore."

Hikmat al-Gaaod, mayor of Hit, in Anbar, after coalition troops handed over security control of the once strife-torn province to local police

On Sept. 1, local Iraqi police take over security control of the nation's Anbar province, once the center of the country's Sunni insurgency and now home to 25,000 U.S. troops. (At one point, 1 out of every 3 American fatalities occurred there). President George W. Bush hails the milestone as a major victory against al-Qaeda extremists ousted by the region's Sunni sheikhs, who had recently established "Awakening Councils" and community police forces to work with the U.S. to quell the violence. Though Anbar is the 11th of 18th provinces returned to local authorities, it is the first predominately Sunni province to be handed over. Still, Gen. David Petraeus hesitates to use the word "victory" to describe such progress, telling the BBC: "This is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade." Two weeks later, Petraeus — who had engineered the troop surge in Iraq — relinquishes his command there to Gen. Ray Odierno in a government ceremony presided by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. In his first comments as Iraq's commander, Odierno echoes Petraeus' caution: "We must realize that these gains are fragile and reversible, and our work here is far from done."