This phase technically began in August 2006, but only starting taking effect in January 2007.
Tribes are the dominant military force in network-based warfare. If they have sufficient motive and materials, they can outfight most other network insurgents, including Islamists. The Anbar Tribes rose against Al-Qaeda in Iraq and is moving to secure Anbar Province and encourage other tribal awakenings. This effectively destroyed Al-Qaeda’s center of gravity in Iraq.
In August of 2006, 25 of the 31 Anbar tribes meet. The Tribal sheiks decide to join the Iraqi government and oppose the insurgency. They form a new political organization, the Anbar Salvation Front with the Anbar Salvation Council to govern this new confederation. The Anbar Tribes create a new National Party – the Iraqi Awakening Party, which will run for elections in 2008. Orthodox Sunni ulema form their own council and work alongside the tribes. The religious leaders of Anbar denounce al-Qaeda and their terror campaign. By May 2007, the Anbar Tribes sent 20,000 of their men to join the Iraqi police while tribal militias engaged the insurgency. Tribal “Awakening” movement spread to Diyala, Saladin, Babil Provinces. This is a turning point in the war.
The US changed strategies and prepared the ground for a new Counterinsurgency strategy led by Gen. Petraeus. US forces engaged the Anbar tribes and helped consolidate the Awakening movement.
The Tribes are the most legitimate authority in the region. When the war first started, the tribes opposed the US and provided the bulk of financial and population resources for the insurgency. Their change of allegiance is based on a number of factors, but it is decisive. The tribes are more capable warriors than the insurgents and deny them resources needed to operate. Starting in August 2006, the war in Anbar turned around, unbeknownst to the rest of the world who assumed it would remain hopeless.
The Islamic State of Iraq is not recognized by any principle players in the region. Al-Qaeda’s attempt to form a rival government fails.
The Anbar Tribes are joined by the majority of the 1920 Revolution Brigades and elements of the Islamic Army in Iraq. The nationalist insurgents opposed al-Qaeda’s terror campaign against Muslims and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Sunnis. Al-Qaeda responded by assassinating the 1920 Brigade’s leader. The 1920 brigades split in two, and the majority of nationalists working with the Anbar Salvation Front. The remaining extremists realigned themselves with al-Qaeda.
Insurgents no longer politically control any territory in Iraq. They have been ejected from Anbar and Diyala Province and are losing ground rapidly in Baghdad neighborhoods.
Iraqi Government Strategy
-Offered Amnesty to Nationalist Insurgents in exhange for ceasefires. The Iraqi Government is willing to work with 80% of the Sunni insurgency to destroy Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
-Allowed Sunni Tribes to organize into confederations and supply local police officers for their regions. These police can better locate insurgents and cooperate with the National Army
-Iraqi Security Forces take the lead in nearly all of Iraq except Anbar. 7 Iraqi Provinces are under full Iraqi Control.
-The number of attacks on American and Iraqi forces in Anbar Province declined dramatically. There were over 300 attacks a day on coalition forces in Ramadi in late 2006. By June 2007, the number dropped to less than 4 a day.
-Insurgents have been routed from Ramadi, Fallujah, and Baqouba.
-Iraqi Army and local police units are actually “holding” territory and engaging the population, unlike previous years.
The Sunni Insurgency fragments
-The Islamic State of Iraq (Al-Qaeda’s shadow government) alienated the Sunni populated. Al-Qaeda could not rule with their strict Taliban-esque implementation of Sharia Law.
-The Nationalists groups, Sunni Islamic Army in Iraq and the Mujahideen Army formed the “The Reformation and Jihad Front” (RJF). The RJF opposes Al-Qaeda’s murdering of civilians and cruel rule over Sunnis. The RJF recently cooperated with American Forces in Baghdad and Diyala against Al-Qaeda insurgents. This included joint patrols.
-Elements of the 1920 Revolutionary Brigades are actively working with American and Iraqi forces against al-Qaeda
-The Mutayibeen Coalition, the Six Anbar tribes who supported the Islamic State, collapses. One tribe joins the Anbar Salvation Front. Two others are divided in their loyalties. The “Sinister Six” becames something like The Three.
The Tribal Iraqi Awakening movement prepares the field for the 7th Phase of the War – the American COIN strategy, which should be implemented this summer.
US/Iraqi Forces realize that population-centric tactics outperform enemy-centric tactics in this type of insurgency. They need to engage and secure the population to deny territory and material capabilities to the insurgency.
This strategy has a secondary effect of targetting rampant crime in Iraq. This will improve law and order and strengthen the Iraqi government.
This is a “Bottom-up” strategy that acknowledges the real political power is held by tribes and clerics, not national politicians in Baghdad. This could backfire if the tribes refuse to obey the National Government. So far, they are cooperating.