Thursday, June 14, 2007

Perspective: Arms deal with Iraqi tribes could spell success... or disaster

Above: Police recruits in Anbar province culled from the local tribes. The anti-al-Qaeda tribal movement known as 'The Awakening' has been splintering in recent days.

FALLUJAH, ANBAR PROVINCE Iraq - Marine Sgt. Tony Storey doesn't like to think about what-ifs as he watches the young Iraqis he's helping to train take target practice. He recalls one man who was a natural with his AK-47.

"Where'd you learn to shoot like that?" Storey asked.

"Insurgent," the man said with a smile.

"Was he joking?" Storey asked, surveying the 50 men from the Albu Issa tribe lying in the dirt firing their weapons - bang, bang, bang - at a distant target. "I don't know."

For the men of Regimental Combat Team 6 who are training members of Anbar province's tribes to fight al-Qaida, Storey's questioning of his charge's shooting skills isn't simple curiosity. Less than a year ago, the tribes viewed al-Qaida in Iraq as an ally in their effort to push the Americans out of Anbar.

Now, the tribes see al-Qaida as a threat to their society and their businesses - many of them dependent on illegal smuggling - and they've turned for help to the U.S. military, which has been only too happy to help after years of frustrating fighting in Anbar.

But will the tribes, so recently allied with al-Qaida, be dependable long-term allies?

Read the rest at the News Press