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    Middle East
     Sep 7, 2006
US military 'loses control' of key Iraqi province
By Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

RAMADI, Iraq - The US military has lost control over volatile al-Anbar province, Iraqi police and residents say. The area to the west of Baghdad includes Fallujah, Ramadi and other towns that have seen the worst of military occupation, and the strongest resistance.

Despite massive military operations that destroyed most of Fallujah and much of cities such as Haditha, al-Qa'im and Ramadi, real control of the city now seems to be in the hands of

local resistance fighters.

In losing control of this province, the United States will have lost control over much of Iraq. "We are talking about nearly a third of the area of Iraq," said Ahmed Salman, a historian from Fallujah. "Al-Anbar borders Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia, and the resistance there will never stop as long as there are American soldiers on the ground."

Salman said the US military is working against itself. "Their actions ruin their goal because they use these huge, violent military operations which kill so many civilians, and make it impossible to calm down the people of al-Anbar."

The resistance appears to be in control of the province now. "No government official can do anything without contacting the resistance first," said a government official in Ramadi. "Even the governor used to [get] their approval for everything. When he stopped doing so, they issued a death sentence against him, and now he cannot move without American protection."

Recent weeks have brought countless attacks on US troops in Haditha, Ramadi and Fallujah and on the Baghdad-Amman highway. Several armored vehicles have been destroyed and dozens of US soldiers killed in al-Anbar province, according to Iraqi witnesses and the US Department of Defense.

Long stretches of the 550-kilometer Baghdad-Amman highway, which crosses al-Anbar, are now controlled by resistance groups. Other parts are targeted by highway looters.

"If we import any supplies for the US Army or Iraqi government, the fighters will take it from us and sell it in the local market," said trader Hayder al-Mussawi. "And if we import for the local market, the robbers will take it."

Witnesses in Ramadi say many of the attacks are taking place within their city. They say the US military recently asked citizens in al-Anbar to stop targeting them, and promised to withdraw to its bases in Haditha and Habaniyah (near Fallujah) soon, leaving the cities for Iraqi security forces to patrol.

"I do not think that is possible," said retired Iraqi police Brigadier-General Kahtan al-Dulaimi. "I believe no local unit could stand the severe resistance of al-Anbar, and it will be the last province to be handed over to Iraqi security forces."

According to the group Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, 964 coalition soldiers have been killed in al-Anbar, more than in any other Iraqi province.. Baghdad is second, with 665 coalition deaths.

Residents of Ramadi said the US military has knocked down several buildings near the government center in the city, the capital of the province.

In an apparent move to secure their offices, US Army and Marine Corps engineers have started to level a 500-meter stretch of lowrise buildings opposite the center. Abandoned buildings in this area have been used repeatedly to launch attacks on the government complex.

"They are trying to create a separation area between the offices of the puppet government and the buildings the resistance are using to attack them," a Ramadi resident said. "But now the Americans are making us all angry because they are destroying our city."

US troops have acknowledged their own difficulties in doing this. "We're used to taking down walls, doors and windows, but eight city blocks is something new to us," marine First Lieutenant Ben Klay, 24, said in the US Department of Defense newspaper Stars and Stripes.

In nearby Fallujah, residents are reporting daily clashes between Iraqi-US security forces and the resistance.

"The local police force, which used to be out of the conflict, is now being attacked," said resident Abu Mohammed. "Hundreds of local policemen have quit the force after seeing that they are considered a legitimate target by fighters."

The US forces seem to have no clear policy in the face of the sustained resistance.

"The US Army seems so confused in handling the security situation in Anbar," said historian Salman. "Attacks are conducted from al-Qa'im on the Syrian border to Abu Ghraib west of Baghdad, all the way through Haditha, Hit, Ramadi and Fallujah, on a daily basis."

He added: "A contributing factor to the instability of the province is the endless misery of the civilians, who live with no services, no infrastructure, random shootings and so many wrongful detentions."

According to the new Pentagon quarterly report "Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq", Iraqi casualties rose 51% in recent months. The report says the Sunni-based insurgency is "potent and viable".

The report says that in a period since the establishment of the new Iraqi government, between May 20 and August 11 this year, the average number of weekly attacks rose to nearly 800, almost double the number of attacks in early 2004.

Casualties among Iraqi civilians and security forces averaged nearly 120 a day during the period, up from 80 a day noted in the previous quarterly report. Two years ago they were averaging roughly 30 a day.

Last Thursday, the Pentagon announced that it was increasing the number of US troops in Iraq to 140,000, which is 13,000 more than the number five weeks ago.

At least 65 US soldiers were killed in August, with 36 of the deaths reported in al-Anbar. That brought the total number killed to at least 2,642.

(Inter Press Service)

'Misunderestimating' Bush's Iraq (Aug 19, '06)

Britain takes a misstep in Iraq (Aug 30, '06)


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