USA Today gives an update on the effectiveness of the Anbar Salvation Council. 25,000 tribal members have quit the insurgency and joined the police force and neighborhood watch.

The number is very significant. It demonstrates a paradigmatic change in the Sunni region of Iraq. The insurgency is the weak horse and many are abandoning it and joining the government alternative.

US cooperation with the tribes is significant. The US is accepting former Ba’athists and former insurgents into the local provincial governments. It’s giving a greater role to cooperative tribal leaders.

This has lead to the great turn around in violence in the region as the insurgency is rolled up and evicted from the province.

More important than the security improvements is the fact that this is a political revolution.

“I think it is the most significant thing that’s happened in the past couple years,” said Marine Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, deputy chief of staff for strategy and plans for Multi-National Force-Iraq. “They actually have come to us saying, ‘We want to join you, we want to fight al-Qaeda.’ ”

Iraq’s Shiite-dominated central government has taken almost no legislative action to resolve differences with minority Sunnis and broaden support for the government. The U.S. military’s tribal strategy is an effort to build links with groups, many of them armed, at the local level and tap into their hostility toward al-Qaeda.

The central government is not a functional entity and won’t be for many years. Iraq must be constructed bottom-up. This strategy does exactly that.

Pragmatically, the American cooperation with the Iraqi Awakening movement represents de-facto amnesty and de-facto federalism. This requires little action by the stalemated central government except to recognize the fact that Iraq will be a Federal state.

Alliances with local fighters are not among the 18 benchmarks established by Congress to measure the effectiveness of a troop increase that bumped the U.S. military presence in Iraq from about 130,000 to 160,000 this year.

No of course not. Tribal alliances are the most important aspect of this entire war. How can we expect bureaucratic committees thousands of miles away to recognize that?

The great progress in Anbar is due to non-state actors and non-state diplomacy. Too many in Washington DC are trapped in the mind-set that only big centralized governments matter. They do not, not anymore.

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