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The ceremony to mark the handover of Anbar provincial control to the Iraqi government has been delayed, U.S. officials said Friday.

Originally slated for Saturday, the ceremony "has been delayed due to forecasts of high winds and dust storms" in Anbar, U.S. military officials said. The process called "Provincial Iraqi Control" was to make Anbar the tenth of Iraq’s 18 provinces that have been returned to local government control.

"A new date will be announced as soon as it is made available," officials said.

The provinces of Karbala, Najaf, Muthanna, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Dahuk, Irbil, Sulaymaniyah and Basra have been returned to Iraqi control so far.

Anbar was once one of the most violent places in Iraq, with Sunni insurgents controlling cities such as Ramadi, Hit and Fallujah.

As late as November 2006, there were an average of around 40 attacks per day against U.S. and Iraqi troops in the province. Now, there are around two attacks per day.

The shift is attributed largely to a change in allegiance by Sunni tribes and their leaders. After al-Qaida in Iraq went too far in its campaign — imposing strict rules and killing local leaders — the tribes formed the "Awakening," which aligned with U.S. forces against the insurgents.

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, a 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.


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