While I was in Ramadi, a change in sentiment began to occur. That sentiment is coming substantially to fruition 18 months later.
More and more Iraqis in the Anbar province have had enough of al Qaeda's crap. Police and military forces are beefing up in Ramadi and other cities and towns, and they're working closely with American forces to "clear, hold and build". It seems, over the past two or three months, to be working.
Here's the story of Saif Sahed
As recently as two months ago, U.S. forces didn't dare stake out the Al Tash neighborhood of this insurgent stronghold in Al Anbar province. Enter 22-year-old Saif Sahed, a go-getter recruit for the Provincial Security Force, a new auxiliary police unit that offers hope for at least a bit of stability in the mean streets of Ramadi.
Sahed lives in Al Tash, the kind of neighborhood where everyone knows everyone and newcomers are immediately noticed — and in recent years often have been insurgents.
"If I find strangers or strange cars, I go to tell my officer. Last week we found some who were insurgents and they were detained," Sahed said matter-of-factly. "The important thing is to make my neighborhood safe."
Because Sahed is young and illiterate, he ordinarily would not qualify for the Iraqi army or police. But for the last several weeks, he and his ragtag cohorts, wearing castoff army fatigues and numbering about 2,200, have filled crucial intelligence-gathering, patrol and checkpoint functions in the new provincial force.
Local residents find people that don't belong there, and get rid of them. In the case of an American soldier who was injured in a bomb blast recently, it didn't take the Ramadians long to ferret out the insurgent who had caused the blast.
"We could have never developed that kind of actionable intelligence that fast," said Lt. Jimm Spannagel with the Army 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade. "The PSF [Provincial Security Force] speaks the same language, establishes rapport with the locals and inspires trust. It's allowing us to extend our reach."
Enlistments have grown, and the number of uniformed Iraqi police officers and provincial troops on Ramadi's streets has multiplied to 6,700 from only 200 in July. Security has improved correspondingly.
From an average of 30 insurgent attacks per day in December, such assaults had fallen to an average of fewer than four by last month,
Politics aside, I dream of the day when I can return to al Anbar in a time of peace. I pray each day that peace and liberty will succeed in Iraq. People like Saif Sahed and his friends are the ones that will make it happen.