Control of what had been one of Iraq’s most turbulent provinces has been handed over from the US military to Baghdad. The US army suffered heavy losses in Anbar two years ago during an al Qaeda-led uprising by Sunni Arabs. More than a quarter of all American combat deaths in Iraq have happened there.
The situation changed in late 2006, when Sunni tribal leaders, angered by al Qaeda’s extreme tactics and puritanical brand of Islam, ended their support for the group. Their change of heart helped drive al Qaeda out of the region.
It proved to be a model for similar success across the country. Anbar has now become the eleventh of Iraq’s 18 provinces, and the first with a Sunni Arab majority, to be returned to Iraqi control since the US-led invasion of 2003.