Author Topic: US to arm Sunni insurgents in Iraq  (Read 63 times)


  • Guest
US to arm Sunni insurgents in Iraq
« on: June 13, 2007, 08:10:53 PM »
Divide and a few years, the US can get the Sunnis to start attacking Iran. 

US to arm Sunni insurgents in Iraq
Anne Davies, Washington and John Burns, Baghdad
June 12, 2007

WITH the four-month-old "surge" showing only modest success in curbing insurgent attacks, United States commanders are turning to another strategy fraught with risk: arming Sunni Arab groups that have promised to fight al-Qaeda-linked militants who have been their allies in the past.

News of the move came as a suicide car bomb brought down a section of highway bridge at al-Iskandariya, 40 kilometres south of Baghdad, killing three US soldiers and wounding six more at a checkpoint on Iraq's main north-south artery, which was blocked by debris from the overpass.

US commanders say they have successfully approached Sunni groups in Anbar province and have held talks with insurgent groups suspected of assaults on American units, or of links to groups that have attacked Americans, in at least four other areas.

In some cases, the commanders say, these groups have been provided, usually through Iraqi military units, with arms, cash, fuel and other supplies.

US officials who have engaged in what they call "outreach" to the Sunni Arab groups say they are mostly ones disillusioned with al-Qaeda's extreme tactics, particularly suicide bombings that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. In exchange for American backing, these officials say, the Sunni groups have agreed to halt attacks on American units.

Commanders who have undertaken these negotiations say that in some cases Sunni groups have agreed to alert US troops to the location of roadside bombs.

But critics of the strategy, including some US officers, say it could amount to arming both sides in a future civil war.

The US has spent more than $US15 billion ($A17.8 billion) in building up Iraq's new army and police, whose manpower of 350,000 are mainly Shiite. With an American troop withdrawal increasingly likely in the coming year, and little sign of a political accommodation in Baghdad, there is a strong prospect that any weapons given to Sunni Arab groups will eventually be used against Shiites.

US field commanders met this month in Baghdad with General David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, to discuss the conditions Sunni groups would have to meet to win US assistance.

Senior officers who attended the meeting said that General Petraeus and the operational commander, Lieutenant-General Raymond Odierno, gave cautious approval to negotiations with Sunni groups. One commander who attended the meeting said that despite the risks, the potential gains were too great to be missed.

The strategy rethink comes as the US military plans for a long-term presence in Iraq even if there is a major withdrawal later this year or early next year.

White House spokesman Tony Snow declined to comment on reports in The Washington Post over the weekend, outlining a Pentagon plan for a post-occupation force of around 40,000 soldiers.

The report said the military were working on a withdrawal starting in the middle of next year, with two-thirds of the current force of 150,000 out by late 2008 or early 2009.

The guiding mantra, according to two officials cited in the report, is that the US should leave Iraq "more intelligently" than it entered.

According to the Post's military correspondent, Thomas Ricks, the remaining force would have four components: a 20,000-strong mechanised infantry division, assigned to guarantee the security of the Iraqi Government; a training force of 10,000 troops to work with the Iraqi military and police; a small special operations unit; and finally a command and logistics unit of about 10,000 troops.

"We're not going to go from where we're at now to zero overnight," General Odierno said.