An insurgent attack Thursday [in Baqubah] on a Sunni sheik who has cooperated with U.S. forces escalated into an extended street battle involving the sheik's militiamen, local villagers and Iraqi forces [...]The Post report does not source the statement that commanders are facing increased difficulty in persuading Sunni tribal leaders to fight Qaeda. So Pundita takes the statement with caution.
The attack underscores a key difficulty for U.S. forces in maintaining the support of Sunni militias, which generally oppose Iraq's Shiite-led government and whose long-term goals remain unclear. As more Sunni leaders are attacked, American commanders are finding it increasingly difficult to persuade others to join the effort.
[...] no American troops were in the area when the attack began in the early morning, but [...] commanders sent a unit to stabilize the situation later in the day.
But the bottom line is that Qaeda killed the sheik. The kind of attack Qaeda carried out in Baqubah village, which managed to fight off the attackers but at a high toll, would certainly cause many tribal leaders to think twice about affronting Qaeda.
So if this particular US counterstrategy is to hold onto gains, security has to be scared up from somewhere for the sheiks who side with US forces. Of course more US troops in Iraq would be a help. But maybe the security could be provided, at least short term, by contractors at US expense. That, until local security forces could be beefed up.