Osama bin Laden's latest call for Iraqi insurgents to unite against Americans fell on deaf ears this week in Ramadi, the city that al-Qaeda leaders once declared the seat of a new Islamic caliphate and capital of the Iraqi insurgency. Rather than rise up against them, the people of Ramadi Tuesday invited U.S. forces to watch a massive parade — albeit one so tightly secured that no pedestrian traffic got close to it. The almost surreal, two-hour martial procession was led by the city's children to commemorate the martyred leader of a tribal revolt that has virtually silenced al-Qaeda in Anbar Province.Insha'allah, indeed.
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Marines and soldiers who work in the region every day said they've witnessed a sea change and welcomed the celebration. "I've seen the full transformation of Iraq," said Marine Warrant Officer Bobby Garza, who works on a team of 40 U.S. advisers helping train a 9,000-man Iraqi Army battalion near Ramadi. Garza said he's working on the second half of his fourth tour in Iraq. "It's a beautiful thing," he said from his spot on a wall outside Government Center, which was the focus of al-Qaeda attacks for most of the last four years. "We wouldn't have been sitting here doing this in January. No way," he said. "But just in a blink of an eye you could see this place change. The people just switched and wouldn't let [al-Qaeda] back into their communities. It's wild."
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"Al-Qaeda never wanted to see the sons of Anbar to unite and form security forces. Now I think we have broken their back by building the police and security force," he [Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha] said, adding that he was not afraid of meeting the same fate as his younger brother Sattar. "Let them come forward and show their faces.... Let them come out, we will fight them," he said with a certain swagger before leaving. His younger brother had said something similar several days before he was killed in September. But al-Qaeda's presence has dwindled dramatically since then, officials say. "Insha'allah" — God willing — an Army captain said.
Hat tip: Hot Air headlines