Sunday, August 12, 2007

Working With Former Insurgents: Keep an Open Mind

Tentative Alliance with Sunni 1920 Brigade in Diwaniyah

U.S. soldiers and commanders voiced wariness over the intentions of the former insurgents. "Some of them want to be reintegrated back in society, they want to push al-Qaeda out. Others want to be the next thug group that goes around and demands electricity payments. We're watching them closely," said Capt. Mike Edwards, an intelligence officer with the 3rd Brigade.

Overlooking western Baqubah from a small U.S. outpost set up in an abandoned house, Sgt. 1st Class Eric Beck said he is uneasy about cooperating with former insurgents, calling them "the best of two evils."

"I think they want control of the area," said Beck, of San Bernardino, Calif., whose platoon has spent the past year combating insurgents and Shiite militias in and around Baghdad. "How will the Iraqi army deal with them once we leave? Will they be able to control them like we are?" he asked. "They are good for a quick fix, but in the end, it could backfire."

Actually, I just saw a report talking about parts of the Mahdi Army having infiltrated the security forces and now, with limited control from Sadr, they operate like the mafia controlling food, water and other services. Frankly, I think Sadr has always had a mixed bag of control and we will need to stop looking at the Shi'ites as one big block and start working with them like the Sunnis: parting out those that will and those that won't work with us when we get the Sunni a little more stabilized. Kind of reminds me of that circus act where the guy would balance four plates on sticks, running back and forth spinning them to keep them balanced until the act was over.

Oh..I think Sadr's control is not as significant as people believe because I still remember Najaf in 2004 when various "spokesmen" for his movement were issuing contradictory statements. Some were conciliatory, some were inflammatory. Sometimes they were issued almost on top of each other. So, I think there are factions inside his group just like the rest that could be exploited if we needed to.

But, back to working with the Sunni Nationalist 1920 Brigade:

Beyond the day-to-day risks of dealing with the new groups of armed irregulars, U.S. troops must remain coolheaded in the company of men who not long ago tried to kill Americans.

"I assume they . . . have killed some of us," Townsend said. "We have killed a lot of them. If they are willing to move forward with us, I'm willing to keep an open mind."

"We have killed a lot of them."

Sooner or later people pick out the strong man in the race.

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