For a while, part of the administration’s war policy in Iraq was disarming sectarian militias. Now, U.S. forces are trying a different tack — the opposite tack.
The US military has embarked on a new and risky strategy in Iraq by arming Sunni insurgents in the hope that they will tackle the extremist al-Qaida in Iraq.
The US high command this month gave permission to its officers on the ground to negotiate arms deals with local leaders. Arms, ammunition, body armour and other equipment, as well as cash, pick-up trucks and fuel, have already been handed over in return for promises to turn on al-Qaida and not attack US troops.
Apparently, U.S. forces have not only aligned themselves with dozens of Sunni militiamen, we’re now cooperating with sectarian militias, working outside the Iraqi security forces, that include insurgents that have attacked Americans in the past. What’s more, we’re allowing them to procure weapons and we’re granting them the power to arrest other Iraqis.
“We have made a deal with the devil,” said an intelligence officer in the battalion.
The dynamic is not without complications. Joshua Partlow's report explained that "fighters on both sides appeared nearly identical," using the same weapons and wearing similar clothes. "Now we've got kind of a mess on our hands," a leader of a U.S. Stryker team remembered thinking. "Because we've got a lot of armed guys running all over the place, and it's making it very hard for us to identify which side is which."
Might these militias turn on the U.S. sometime soon? No one knows. Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman, a Sunni militia leader said, "Let's be honest, the enemy now is not the Americans, for the time being." (emphasis added)
What could possibly go wrong?