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Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker
Devlin suggested that without the deployment of an additional U.S. military division -- 15,000 to 20,000 troops -- plus billions of dollars in aid to the province, "there is nothing" U.S. troops "can do to influence" the insurgency.
He described al-Qaeda in Iraq as the "dominate organization of influence in al-Anbar," surpassing all other groups, the Iraqi government and U.S. troops "in its ability to control the day-to-day life of the average Sunni."
Al-Qaeda itself, now an "integral part of the social fabric of western Iraq," has become so entrenched, autonomous and financially independent that U.S. forces no longer have the option "for a decapitating strike that would cripple the organization," the report says. That is why, it says, the death of al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June "had so little impact on the structure and capabilities of al-Qaeda," especially in Anbar province.
The senior intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work, said yesterday that he largely agrees with Devlin's assessment, except that he thinks it overstates the role of al-Qaeda in the province. "We argue that it is a major element in Anbar, but it is not the largest or most dominant group," he said.
In a final section of the report, titled "Way Ahead," Devlin outlined several possibilities for bringing stability to the area, including establishing a Sunni state in Anbar, creating a local paramilitary force to protect Sunnis and to offset Iranian influence, shifting local budget controls, and strengthening a committed Iraqi police force that has "proven remarkably resilient in most areas."
Devlin ended the assessment by saying that while violence has surged, the presence of U.S. troops in Anbar has had "a real suppressive effect on the insurgency." He said the suffering of "Anbar's citizens undoubtedly would be far worse now if it was not for the very effective efforts" of U.S. forces.
The Marine Corps headquarters had no comment on the August report or the updated assessment, Lt. Col. Scott J. Fazekas, a spokesman, said yesterday.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.