Anbar to be turned over to Iraqis on Saturday
June 25, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. — Once the most violent place in Iraq, Anbar province will come under Provincial Iraqi Control on Saturday, a senior military official said Monday.
So far, nine Iraqi provinces are under Provincial Iraqi Control, or PIC, in which Iraqi security forces perform day-to-day operations and U.S. troops provide assistance as needed, the military official told reporters.
"When you PIC a province, the coalition force goes into what we call an operational overwatch: They’re there, essentially as a security blanket," the official said.
Anbar province is home to Fallujah, the site of some of the fiercest fighting of the war in 2004 and which averaged about 41 attacks per day against U.S. and Iraqi forces in November 2006, the highest in any of Iraq’s 18 provinces at the time.
Local Sunnis initially fought alongside Al-Qaida in Iraq to drive U.S. troops out of Iraq, but when al-Qaida targeted Sunni clans to take control of the insurgency, local sheiks formed an alliance to run the terrorists out of town.
The Pentagon’s most recent progress report on Iraq listed only two attacks per day against U.S. troops, Iraqi security forces, Iraqi civilians, infrastructure and government organizations.
In April, the commander of a Marine regimental combat team in the province said security had improved to the point that two of his five battalions would not be replaced when they redeployed.
Al-Qaida in Iraq has been forced to move north, but it is trying to come back to the Euphrates River Valley, the congressionally mandated progress report said.
"The Iraqi Army has handed over security responsibilities in most of Anbar’s population centers to the Iraqi Police, allowing the Army to concentrate its efforts on driving AQI [Al-Qaida in Iraq] from hideouts in remote locations," the report said.