The Anbar tribes’ turn against al-Qaeda has developed significantly since the end of the Anbar Campaign late last year, which swept al-Qaeda and the insurgency from the major towns and cities west of Ramadi. Over the past year, the majority of the tribes have denounced al-Qaeda and formed alliances with the Iraqi government and U.S. forces operating in the region. Numerous ‘foreign fighters’ have been killed or captured by the tribes. The tribes are working to restore order, and are providing recruits for the police and Army, despite horrific suicide attacks on recruiting centers. These attacks have not deterred the recruiting, but in fact have motivated the tribes to fight al-Qaeda.

The Anbar tribes have also taken an active role in fighting al-Qaeda. In March, several tribes and Sunni insurgent groups formed the Anbar Revenge Brigades to hunt al-Qaeda operatives in western Iraq. At the end of the summer, 25 of the 31 Anbar tribes banded together and created the Anbar Salvation Council to openly fight al-Qaeda, and pledged “30,000 young men armed with assault rifles who were willing to confront and kill the insurgents and criminal gangs.”The Council has killed and captured numerous ‘foreign fighters’ and has provided hundreds of recruits for the police and Army, despite horrific attacks designed to terrorize new volunteers. . . . Lost in the current debate over Iraq – civil war or sectarian violence, success or failure, increasing troops or strategic redeployment, victory or defeat – is the sea-change occurring in western Iraq. The U.S. military has coaxed a large majority of the Sunnis of Anbar province, perhaps one of the most sympathetic groups to al-Qaeda in the Middle East, to turn on al-Qaeda. The choice wasn’t difficult after the tribes saw what al-Qaeda had to offer.

Read the whole thing.