Anbar had long been the leading stronghold of Al Qaida. In June 2008,
the U.S. military delayed formal transfer of security responsibility amid a
dispute among Sunni tribes.
"If we had said that we were going to hand over security responsibility
from the foreign troops to civilian authority, people would laugh at us,"
Iraqi national security advisor Mowaffaq Al Rubaie said. "Now I think it's a
Officials said the U.S. military would retain most of its troops in
Anbar through early 2009. They said Iraqi security forces in the province
would continue to require significant help against Al Qaida.
On Aug. 30, the U.S. military transferred a camp that contained
thousands of Iranian opposition forces and their families to the Baghdad
government. The Ashraf camp contained members of the Mujahadin Khalq, deemed
a terrorist organization by the State Department.
Despite numerous operations, Al Qaida was said to remain active in Anbar
and other Iraqi provinces. On Aug. 30, 26 Al Qaida suspects, including a
commander, were captured in northern Iraq.
"There are no safe havens in Iraq for AQI [Al Qaida in Iraq]," U.S. Col.
Jerry O'Hara, a
military spokesman, said. "Every cell taken down degrades their capability
and saves Iraqi lives."