Aug 20 2013
By Mohammed al-Salehi
Azzaman, August 20, 2013
The surge in attacks mounted by al-Qaeda recently has prompted the government to ask tribal chieftains and their men to join in fight against the terror group.
Iraqi Sunni tribes were instrumental in helping U.S. invasion troops winning the upper hand in their struggles against al-Qaeda particularly in the predominantly Sunni areas of central Iraq.
The U.S. supplied them with arms, logistics and financial assistance. More than 180,000 Iraqi tribesmen fought alongside U.S. troops to flush out al-Qaeda from their areas, reinstating relative quiet across the country three years ago.
But there has been a resurgence of al-Qaeda with daring attacks targeting key centers of power in the capital Baghdad.
Government sources say Iraqi land troops have opened channels with the tribesmen in the hope of mobilizing as many gunmen as possible to fight along their side.
The army wants first to spread its control over the neighborhoods in the outskirts of Baghdad, where reports say al-Qaeda has an upper hand.
Major tribes in the area were once part of the so-called Awakening Forces – a euphemism the U.S. use in reference to Sunni tribesmen fighting on its side.
It is not clear why the government abandoned the force or at least part of it, but the source said leaders of “the Awakening Forces have responded positively to a request by the army to enter into the fight against al-Qaeda once again.”
Discussions, the source said, were currently confined to tribal leaders in the district of Abu Ghraib where al-Qaeda last month stormed a heavily fortified prison and succeed in freeing hundreds of militants including senior leaders.
Under U.S. supervision, the tribesmen of Abu Ghraib had succeeded to clear their areas of al-Qaeda.
The largest tribal force was commanded by Sheikh Abu Maaroof who currently tops the list of al-Qaed’s wanted men in Iraq.
Abu Maaroof has reportedly agreed to deploy his tribe against the group but first would like the government to drop the charge of human rights violation against him.
The government had dumped Maaroof because of the charge, leading to a security vacuum in the strategically important district of Abu Ghraib, site of Iraq’s largest prison and bordering Baghdad from the west.
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