US marines face 'challenge' in Iraq's Sunni bastion

September 12th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: US marines face 'challenge' in Iraq's Sunni bastion

Media: AFP
Byline: Jay Deshmukh
Date: 12 September 2006

BAGHDAD, Sept 12, 2006 (AFP) - Iraq's western province of Al-Anbar remains a
stiff challenge to US marines, a top US commander said Tuesday, but insisted
that the Sunni bastion was not lost to violent insurgency led by Al-Qaeda.

"We have found making the same progress politically and economically,
throughout all of Anbar, to be much more challenging," despite consistent
advances in security elsewhere, said Major General Richard Zilmer.

Zilmer was reacting to recent media reports quoting an internal study by the
marines that Iraq's most notorious province was under the control of
insurgents and not the military.

"Media reports fail to accurately capture the entirety and complexity of the
current situation in the Al-Anbar province of Iraq," Zilmer said in a

"The classified assessment, which has been referred to in these reports, was
intended to focus on the causes of the insurgency. It was not intended to
address the positive effects coalition and Iraqi forces have achieved on the
security environment over the past years."

A report in Washington Post on Monday said that a marine study had concluded
that the prospects of securing the Anbar province are "dim and there is
almost nothing the US military can do to improve the political and social
situation there."

Quoting officials who saw the report by Colonel Pete Delvin, chief of
intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq, the newspaper said it was the
first time that a top US military officer had filed so negative a report
from Iraq.

An army officer quoted the contents of Delvin's report saying that "there
are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum
that has been filled by the insurgent group Al-Qaeda in Iraq which has
become the province's most political force."

On Tuesday, the New York Times, quoting a militiary official familiar with
the report, said without the deployment of additional division "there is
nothing MNF-W (multinational force-west) can do to influence the motivation
of the Sunni to wage an insurgency."

It said there are about 30,000 marines, soldiers, airmen and sailors in
Anbar, a region that borders Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Zilmer accepted that the insurgency was "active" in Anbar.

"The enemy we face has no concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people, nor
any peaceful vision for their future," he said.

Zilmer said progress was seen in areas where there was a presence of Iraqi
security forces combined with effective local civil government.

"For lasting progress to take place, comparably effective advances must be
made in the development of governmental and economic institutions at the
local, provincial and national levels," Zilmer said.

Since the end of the invasion of March 2003, US forces have battled a raging
insurgency in the desert of Anbar, located west of Baghdad.

The province's capital Ramadi and its neighbouring city of Fallujah are the
symbolic hotbeds of Sunni insurgency against the coalition forces in Iraq,
while regions such as Haditha and Qaim have often seen battles between the
forces and rebels.

The bulk of US military's losses in Iraq since the invasion have been in the
Anbar province.

In the past few months the US marines have launched a massive operation in
Ramadi to gain control of the city, sometimes virtually cordoning it off
from rest of the country.

Fallujah -- the first epicentre of insurgency -- has been relatively quiet
in the past few months. The US forces regained control of Iraq's city of
mosques after a major assault in 2004.

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