The Sunday Times has the story on how US forces are using cold hard cash to gain the upper hand on the Saudi jihadists (aka "Al Qaeda in Iraq") in Anbar province:
America forces are paying Sunni insurgents hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to switch sides and help them to defeat Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The Sunday Times has witnessed at first hand the enormous sums of cash changing hands. One sheikh in a town south of Baghdad was given $38,000 (£19,000) and promised a further $189,000 over three months to drive Al-Qaeda fighters from a nearby camp.
Not surprisingly, scant attention has been paid to this development in the American media primarily due to the fact that the military and the administration are doing their level best to downplay this aspect of the surge. Instead, they have consistently and loudly propagandized the turnaround in Anbar province that has been facilitated by the local Sunni tribes turning against Al Qaeda and agreeing to work with the Americans.
This is all well and good, and I am perfectly happy to see greenbacks being used to purchase security for our troops in the field. I am reasonably confident that the millions of dollars we are now doling out should result in fewer US casualties in that part of Iraq. This strategy worked wonders in Afghanistan where we essentially bought off local warlords one by one in return for their support in toppling the Taliban. One wonders why it took the administration so long to figure out that there was really no need for us to be fighting Iraq's Sunni population most of whom were only trying to protect their own interests in the new Shiite-dominated Iraq. Why did it take four years and 3,700 dead to finally realize that the Sunnis were our natural allies and that they could be fairly easily bought?
Even more important is the question of what this new strategy in Iraq has to do with the increased number of forces that is the centerpiece of the surge strategy. The answer is: nothing at all. It certainly doesn't require tens of thousands of additional troops to deliver the suitcases of cash that the Sunni tribal sheiks are eagerly collecting as protection money for US forces.
The increase in troop levels also certainly wasn't required to implement the effective ceasefire that we are now enjoying with a good segment of the Sunni insurgency that was bedeviling us for years. Both of these tactics: abandoning the fight with the Sunnis and purchasing their cooperation with cash could have easily been done with fewer forces. What's more, they could have been implemented four years ago.
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