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Cablegate: Anbar Province -- Then and Now

VZCZCXRO4563
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #2494/01 2081630
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 271630Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2481
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BAGHDAD 002494

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV IZ
SUBJECT: ANBAR PROVINCE -- THEN AND NOW

1. (U) This is a PRT Anbar reporting cable.

2. (U) Summary. Provincial government officials re-opened
parts of the war-damaged Government Center in central Ramadi
on July 26 amid signs of continuing security improvements.
According to MNF-West records, there were 82 security
incidents in the province for the week ending July 25, the
lowest weekly tally since records began in January 2005. The
reduced level of violence compares to the 450-480 incidents
typically recorded on a weekly basis last summer and fall.
Today the city of Ramadi, a battlefield six months ago, is no
longer under insurgent control. Last summer and fall,
provincial and municipal governments were non-existent or in
disarray. Today, the Provincial Council has returned to
Ramadi, virtually every city and town has a mayor and a
functioning local council, there are more police recruits
than there are places to train them at the police academy,
tribal leaders have come off the fence and openly cooperate
with us, and public opinion has turned against Al-Qaeda.
There is a mood of rising expectations for the better
delivery of essential services. A missing piece in our
counter-insurgency strategy is the flow of GOI funds for
capital projects. Money is flowing, but not in amounts to
meet needs or satisfy expectations. End summary.

Return to Ramadi
----------------

3. (U) In a low key ceremony in Ramadi on July 26, Anbar
Governor Ma,amoun Sami Rasheed and Provincial Council
Chairman Abdulsalam Abdullah cut the ribbon on the reopening
of the Provincial Government Center, a complex of a dozen
war-damaged buildings in the center of the city. The event
marked the formal return of the provincial government to its
official seat of power. Provincial officials abandoned the
center in March 2006 amid insurgent violence. Members of the
Provincial Council fled to the relative safety of Baghdad and
many civil servants went underground. For much of the past
15 months, Gov. Ma,amoun has been virtually the sole
official to venture to the Government Center, and that was on
an irregular basis and while guarded by a company of US
Marines.

4. (U) However, with the recent improvement in Anbar,s
security, the functions of government have begun to return to
Ramadi. After a year,s absence, the Provincial Council
began meeting in the city last March, convening in rented
villas or at MNF-West,s Camp Blue Diamond on the city
outskirts. The directors general and other civil servants
re-emerged in May. In recent weeks, Gov. Ma,amoun has held
staff meetings attended by some 30 directors general. Such
meetings could not have been held six months ago.

5. (U) At the ribbon-cutting, Ma,amoun formally re-opened
the war-damaged governor,s office building, now partially
restored with MNF-West CERP funds. Plaster and a fresh coat
of paint hide the hole in his office ceiling caused by the
impact of an insurgent mortar shell last December. Later, PC
Chairman Abdulsalam cut the ribbon to the Provincial Council
temporary chambers, also renovated with CERP funds. USAID
contractor RTI purchased the furniture and equipment. Some
35 Council members were present as Abdulsalam called the body
to order for its inaugural session.

Decline in Violence
-------------------

6. (U) The rededication of the Government Center took place
against the backdrop of continuing improvements in Anbar,s
security. According to MNF-West records, there were 82
security incidents in the province for the week ending July
25, the lowest weekly tally since records began in January
2005. It was the second consecutive week in which incidents
fell into double digits, and compares to the 450-480 incident
rate typically recorded on a weekly basis last summer and
fall.

7. (SBU) The Ramadi area itself shows an even more dramatic
decline in violence than the province as a whole. The area
recorded only eight security incidents for same reporting
period, compared to the 130-180 weekly incidents last fall
and winter. Since June 1, there have been at least 14 days
in the Ramadi area where no security incidents were recorded
at all. Today the city of Ramadi, a battlefield six months
ago, is no longer under insurgent control.

Anbar Then and Now
------------------

7. (U) The decline in violence is only one indicator in the
generally favorable turn of events that has emerged in the
past six to twelve months.

BAGHDAD 00002494 002 OF 003

-- Last winter Anbar,s provincial and municipal governments
were non-existent or in disarray. Today the Provincial
Council has returned to the capital and virtually every city
and town has a mayor and functioning municipal council.

-- Last summer there were barely 4,000 police on the
provincial rolls, recruitment drives were lucky to attract
two dozen applicants, and several urban areas had no
functioning police force at all. Today, there are 21,000
police on the rolls, the number of police recruits exceeds
the available training slots, and every city and town has a
functioning police force.

-- Last summer many tribes were ambivalent towards the
Coalition or aligned against us. Today, tribal leaders
openly cooperate with us and support Iraqi police recruitment
drives. Local residents who previously shunned contact with
Coalition Forces today openly socialize with them.

-- For the past several years, the criminal courts judges had
ceased hearing major crimes cases because of insurgent
threats. But last month some 40 Anbari judges held an
unprecedented conference in Ramadi and secured approval from
Iraq,s chief judge to re-start major crimes trials.

-- In the past, there was little financial and policy support
from the central government. GOI funding for capital
projects was minimal or nil. Today normal ties are being
restored between Ramadi and Baghdad and ministerial spending
is beginning to flow. Anbar,s previous feelings of
estrangement from the national scene have given way to a more
pragmatic approach to dealing with Baghdad.

-- Eyewitnesses say that in the past, Ramadi mosques spewed
forth calls for insurrection. Today typical Friday sermons
dwell on traditional themes such as one,s religious beliefs
and personal conduct. The clerics have moderated their
message. In some cases, they took back mosques from radical
preachers.

Not Out of the Woods
--------------------

8. (SBU) Nothing in this positive trend suggests that it is
irreversible. Al-Qaeda is still a present danger. The enemy
is looking for an opening and can strike. In late June to
early July, a force of some 100 insurgents sought to
infiltrate the eastern part of the province, traveling from
Salah El-Din Province, through Karbala, and around the
southern edge of Lake Razazza. Their aim was to assassinate
tribal leaders and government officials in the Ramadi area.
They were intercepted and destroyed by CF and Iraqi forces.
Nonetheless, in general, the enemy has been pushed out of
Anbar,s urban areas. To the extent that Al-Qaeda is present
in numbers, it is in rural areas and in the wadis.

Comment
-------

9. (SBU) Anbar,s story line has been picked up by the
international press. Al-Qaeda is on the defensive. Public
opinion has turned against it. The tribes are mobilized to
fight it. Today Anbar is emerging from the long night of
battle into a messy and still-dangerous transition period.
But there is a mood of rising expectations. As the violence
abates, the public looks for the better delivery of essential
services. It wants jobs, economic recovery, and responsive
government. In a sense, those expectations themselves are
evidence that public opinion has shifted from estrangement to
getting on with the business of reconstruction.

10. (SBU) One feature of a successful counter-insurgency
strategy is that the public must be made to feel that victory
for the government side is inevitable and that the momentum
of positive trends is irreversible. The re-opening of the
Ramadi Government Center is another step in that process.
One key missing piece, however, is central government
support. The spigot of GOI capital spending has been turned
on, but the flow is a trickle. Funding is not flowing in
amounts sufficient to satisfy needs or to meet public
expectations. Team Anbar has made great progress in
brokering the reconnection of ties between Ramadi and
Baghdad. We are on it. Getting the GOI to spend money on
the recovery of a province that was recently a major
battlefield would shore up the gains on security and deal
another blow to Al-Qaeda,s dwindling power.

Butenis


BAGHDAD 00002494 003 OF 003

BUTENIS

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