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The Washington Independent

What Is the Anbar Awakening?

Alberto Thompson
News
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Jul 29, 2008

AFP reported (thanks to reader TW) a few days ago that some of the Sunni ex-insurgents who comprise the Anbar Awakening are raising the price of their alliance of convenience with U.S. forces:

The Iraqi officer leading a U.S.-financed anti-jihadist group is in no mood for small talk — either the military gives him more money or he will pack his bags and rejoin the ranks of al-Qaeda.

“I’ll go back to al-Qaeda if you stop backing the Sahwa (Awakening) groups,” Col. Satar tells U.S. Lt. Matthew McKernon, as he tries to secure more funding for his men to help battle the anti-U.S. insurgents.

Now, it’s hard to argue that paying a dude who could be shooting you $300 not to shoot you is an ideal solution, but it’s also hard to argue that it’s worse than being shot at — even when conceding some of the long-term problems with the program. But for a really excellent soldiers-eye-view of the Awakening, check out Army of Dude, who coins the brilliant phrase “Enemies with Benefits” to describe it.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t take out the trash that easily. We grudingly worked with the 1920s as per our orders. We were moderately successful in tracking down al-Qaeda operatives (or possibly doing in-house cleaning) and caches. But the point isn’t the success of turning over a new leaf with insurgents, though. We traded in our values, our self reliance to get things done, for $300 a head. We did not destroy our enemy but rather aided them. We secured not only their future success, but the future instability with the Iraqi government. Maliki and his Shia government adamantly oppose the Sunni groups and have said in the past that they will never become a permanent part of Iraqi forces.

But they don’t pay the former insurgents, we do, as taxpayers. That’s why they’re trying to leverage the American military into giving them more money, the ol’ “pay me more or I’m going back to killing you” ruse. And for their part, they’ll probably be successful. Commanders know that they’re important not for killing al-Qaeda, but for **not **fighting us. They’re not allies, they’re enemies with benefits. And they’re holding the cards.

Alberto Thompson | I live in Vancouver, Canada, and work as a web developer and graphic designer. Back end programming (PHP, Django/Python, Ruby on Rails) to front end engineering (HTML, CSS, and jQuery/Javascript), digital usability, user interface, and graphic design are all areas of web development where I spend my days. I'm a huge fan of web creation and design in all of its forms, as well as assisting small businesses and artisans with their online presence.

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