from washington post: Inside a brightly lit room, the walls adorned with memorials to 23 dead American soldiers, Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage stared at the three Sunni tribal leaders he wanted to recruit.
Their fighters had battled U.S. troops. Balcavage suspected they might have attacked some of his own men. The trio accused another sheik of having links to the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. That sheik, four days earlier, had promised the U.S. military to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq and protect a strategic road.
“Who do you trust? Who do you not trust?” said Balcavage… An hour later, he signed up some of America’s newest allies.
U.S. commanders are offering large sums to enlist, at breakneck pace, their former enemies, handing them broad security powers in a risky effort to tame this fractious area south of Baghdad in Babil province and, literally, buy time for national reconciliation.
American generals insist they are not creating militias… But in a land of sectarian fault lines and shifting tribal loyalties, the strategy raises concerns about the long-term implications of empowering groups that steadfastly oppose the Shiite-led government.
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