Anbar is to be handed over to local Iraqi control in March, if all goes well.
Marine Maj. Gen. Walter E. Gaskin, commander of the roughly 35,000 Marine and Army forces in Anbar, said levels of violence have dropped so significantly - coupled with the growth and development of Iraqi security forces in the province - that Anbar is ready to be handed back to the Iraqis.The Bush administration eventually decided that there could be a distinction between insurgents and terrorists after all - and that it was really OK to negotiate with insurgents. (Which is what we defeatist Lefties told them all along, but that's conveniently forgotten.) The Anbaris have taken advantage of that to the full, and even convinced the US to pay them to not be insurgents any more as well as give them all the weapons they seize from the real terrorists (the linguistic gymnastics behind "we don't arm the Awakening" statements from the US military).
He said in a telephone interview that a provincial security committee under Anbar's governor has been established and has rehearsed procedures for handling any security crisis that might develop.
Under a plan accepted by the Iraqi government as well as the top two American authorities in Iraq - Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus - the U.S. military will transfer control of Anbar to provincial authorities in March, followed by a ceremony in April, Gaskin said.
Now, they'll have a Sunni local government and be well on their way to being a state within a state with its own well-armed militias, just in time for any heating up of the sub-rosa civil war. And the very people in the US who once described those militia members as "terrorist cockroaches" with whom there could never be a negotiated peace will now laud them as a sign of victory. That's some very smart manouvering and the Anbaris are to be congratulated on it.
Update Eric Martin, writing at American Footprints, has an excellent post looking at whether the US can manage to pay the insurgency to work for USA Inc instead of AQI Associates indefinitely - and cncludes that the Yankee Dollar is better spent with only some hope of a worthwhile return than is the American Soldier. Which, yet again, is something we Lefties have been saying all along. Will we be thanked for spotting the solution to Bush's quagmire far earlier than the oh-so-expert warhawks? Don't hold your breath.