This isn't news to blog readers. We've known about this for months. But the mainstream media is just beginning to catch on to the story.
The U.S. military is enlisting hundreds of fighters each day from tribal and insurgent groups in alliances aimed at countering al-Qaeda in Iraq, the top U.S. general in Baghdad said yesterday, calling it a "very positive development" but one that requires caution to ensure it works to promote security.
Maj Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commander of Multinational Division Baghdad, said U.S. and Iraqi troops control nearly half of the capital's neighborhoods, but that hard fighting remains as operations continue to clear out insurgents from the rest of the city. Overall attack levels in Baghdad remain constant, he said, but casualties have fallen among Iraqi civilians and Iraqi security forces and risen for U.S. troops as their operations and numbers intensify.
In the Abu Ghraib region outside Baghdad, about 1,500 fighters have agreed to renounce violence against U.S. and Iraqi government forces, and join the Iraqi police. About 300 are signing up each day, said Fil, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division. A similar program is underway in the western Baghdad district of Ghazaliyah, he said.
"Some of them, who have previously been fighting us, have come to us, . . . and they want to fight with us. They are tired of al-Qaeda and the influence of al-Qaeda in their tribes and in their neighborhoods, and they want them cleaned out," Fil said. "We're excited about it. But we are, frankly, being cautious."
Senior U.S. military and Pentagon officials have said negotiations with such groups have also progressed in Iraq's western province of Anbar as well as in northern Iraq, where they say a group of 130 tribal sheiks around the town of Tikrit have joined forces against the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. In some regions where such alliances exist, attacks have fallen and the number of roadside bombs discovered before they detonate has risen to as high as 80 percent -- about double the nationwide average, the officials said.
Even Al-Reuters is carrying the story.
But readers of the New York Times still don't have a clue about this development. Good news from Iraq remains unfit to print. One suspects that Lugar and Voinovich rely too much on the Times for their news.