“We’re essentially allying with al-Qaeda”
– Nafeez Ahmed
In September 2006, 30 tribes in the Anbar province formed the “Anbar Awakening”, an alliance
to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) militants. Despite initially accepting al-Qaeda in Iraq due to a
shared anti-occupation and anti-Shia agenda, AQI’s violently fanatic religious programme
ultimately encourages Sunni tribes to unite with US forces.
The collaboration successfully tested in Anbar province – once Iraq’s most violent – was adopted in other AQI-plagued regions, contributing to a dramatic removal of the Islamic State of Iraq’s insurgency.
It seemed like a winning strategy, but in a rapidly failing state, the line between ally and enemy was increasingly blurred.
One of the secrets of the surge was the US government, working with the Sunni tribes across provinces to put them on the payroll, give them a means of earning a living rather than throwing them to the wolves with Ba’athis and al-Qaeda. When we put them on the payroll, nearly 100,000 of them, we saw that with our support and our financing, our weapons, they were able to obliterate al-Qaeda within a span of really months.” – ALI KHEDERY
“Ironically some of these guys were the same guys that were already fighting alongside al-Qaeda in preceding years. ... we were allying with essentially al-Qaeda affiliated groups to fight al-Qaeda on the pretext that they weren’t actually al-Qaeda. But they were only al-Qaeda affiliated. And we were just pouring money into this.” – NAFEEZ AHMED
As the US' focus shifted to building ties with local tribes, the Maliki government was breaking promises made to their leaders.
General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker went into Prime Minister Maliki repeatedly and said, we have spent billions of dollars supporting them but now they’re Iraqi citizens, they are helping you maintain security and stability, you need to put them on your payroll, he refused, dragged his feet for years. And so when al-Qaeda or others came offering cash, they had no choice but to accept”. – ALI KHEDERY
By the end of 2007, after the death of almost 100,000 Iraqi civilians and over 4,000 coalition troops, the prevailing narrative was of a fatally weakened Islamic State of Iraq.
Failures of policy and foresight that had dogged the US occupation had supposedly been overcome. But at that same moment, they were being repeated at Camp Bucca.
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