U.S. Hands Back a Quieter Anbar
Though two years ago Iraq's Anbar Province was the most deadly place for US troops, today the US military is withdrawing from a transformed province. Today the US military is returning responsibility for the region's capital, Ramadi, to the Iraqi army. It remains to be seen whether the calm can be maintained by the Iraqis, or whether it was dependant on overwhelming US military force.
On Monday, following a parade on a freshly paved street, American commanders formally returned responsibility for keeping order in Anbar Province, once the heartland of the Sunni insurgency, to the Iraqi Army and police force. The ceremony capped one of the starkest turnabouts in the country since the war began five and a half years ago.
In the past two years, the number of insurgent attacks against Iraqis and Americans in Anbar Province has dropped by more than 90 percent. Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown Sunni Arab extremist group that American intelligence agencies have concluded is led by foreigners, has been severely degraded, if not crushed altogether. Since February, as the situation improved, American commanders have cut the number of marines and soldiers here by more than a third, they said.