General Tariq Youssef Dulaimi was Anbar’s former provincial police chief. He originally served as a border guard under Saddam Hussein from the 1980s to the 1990s. In 1992 he was court martialed and sentenced to death, which led him to flee the province. He did not return until 2003 when he re-joined the border police, and went on to the regular police where he eventually took charge of the entire governorate. Dulaimi became an opponent of the insurgency, and worked closely with the Anbar Awakening, while holding a feud with the Iraqi Islamic Party that ran the province. The general’s story highlights not only how the Anbar turned against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), but the deep political divisions that still exist there to this day.
|General Dulaimi (Newmatique)|
Dulaimi believed that American mistakes and the lack of local security forces was what led to the growth of the insurgency in Anbar after the U.S. invasion. In 2003 Dulaimi was able to return to his old job with the border guard. He believed that things were relatively quite in the governorate from 2003 to early 2004. Then the two battles of Fallujah showed how Anbar had become a center of resistance to the U.S. occupation. He blamed the United States for this saying that they came as liberators, but then became occupiers. The Americans didn’t understand Iraq, and their raids and searches angered the local people. Insurgents exploited those incidents to gain support and fighters. At the same time, the Anbar police fell apart due to criminals and infiltration by militants. Dulaimi claimed one police general was corrupt and let gangs and others into the force. Together the missteps of the U.S., and the collapse of the Anbar police allowed the insurgency to take hold of the governorate.
Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) quickly became the strongest of the many insurgent groups in the province, and its excesses were its undoing. Dulaimi claimed that all of the major AQI leaders from 2004-2006 were foreigners from Lebanon, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia. Each emir in the organization was given control of an area, and worked independently in a cell structure to protect the senior leadership. At the same time, after AQI was established it began beheading and killing people that stood in its way. One special target were the local police who were not only killed, but their families were as well. Dulaimi felt like the entire province was living in terror and were afraid to congregate out of fear of being attacked. Many sheikhs, politicians, and other notables in Anbar said the exact same thing about AQI. Its use of terror against Iraqis made the locals go from seeing the group as allies in the fight against the Americans to a major threat to the stability of the province and its people. That was what led to the Anbar uprising.
General Dulaimi became an early opponent of AQI, but felt like he was alone at first. At the end of 2005 the general was attacked, which made him publicly come out against the insurgency. In 2006 he worked with the U.S. to try to rebuild the provincial police force. The Americans set up a training program in neighboring Jordan so that recruits could be brought into the force in relative safety before they had to go on duty and face militants. At first, Dulaimi was skeptical of the program, and wondered whether any of his men would survive. The Al Jazeera police station was opened in May 2006 with some of the first returnees from Jordan, and it became an immediate target of insurgents. A gasoline bomb killed many officers there. Eventually the number of new policemen increased and they were able to open up more and more stations, but they were still at a disadvantage. Police are not supposed to be the main force in a counterinsurgency war, but in Iraq there was little else at that time as the Iraqi army was still being put together itself. Most U.S. units during this period were also more concerned with protecting themselves rather than beating the insurgency. Washington’s policy was also to withdraw as soon as enough Iraqis could be put out in the field, so many Americans were all too happy to see the police fight militants.
In 2006, the tide starting turning against the insurgency when the tribes joined the struggle, but that also brought up political divisions. After the Anbar Awakening was formed General Dulaimi began working with them, and using their fighters to staff the police. In Ramadi for example, each major sheikh had his own police station manned by his tribesmen. This eventually got the support of Baghdad as well, who began working with the Awakening too. The government agreed to form three emergency response battalions, which were placed under the command of Dulaimi. This caused great jealousy with then Governor Mamoun Alwani and his Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) that ruled Anbar. They wanted the attention of the central government and were extremely angry that the tribes were receiving it. Dualimi even claimed that Alwani and the IIP would not publicly come out against AQI and gave moral support to the insurgency as an “honorable” resistance to the Americans. The opinion of the Islamic Party dropped even more in the eyes of Dulaimi when after Ramadi had been cleared the council refused to come back to the provincial capital preferring to stay in Baghdad. When they finally did return it was on an American helicopter, which took them to an American base for a meeting, and then they went right back to Baghdad. IIP members in parliament also opposed the Awakening and Governor Alwani tried to take over the newly constituted police force by appointing their own police chief. General Dulaimi was eventually given that position however much to the consternation of the Islamic Party. The IIP had reason to worry about the emergence of the Awakening because many of its leaders like Sheikh Abu Risha wanted to not only take over Anbar, but establish themselves in Baghdad as well. This challenged the position of the Islamic Party who were at the time claiming to stand for not only the province, but Sunnis in general. This would later cause the dissolution of the Awakening too as each sheikh went his own way when it came to politics.
General Dualimi went from a lowly border guard to the head of the entire Anbar police force as he was one of the few to initially stand up to Al Qaeda in Iraq. Along the way he allied with the Americans and the sheikhs in the tribal revolt against the insurgency, while becoming a target of not only AQI but the Iraqi Islamic Party as well. The general had a very low opinion of those latter two believing that Al Qaeda was out to destroy Anbar, and the IIP was a short-sighted and parochial party more concerned with holding onto power than fighting insurgents. The Anbar sheikhs would prove to be no better however as after they secured the governorate the major leaders began bickering with each other, and broke apart into many smaller factions, which still exist to this day. That’s seen during the current fighting in the province where some sheikhs have aligned with Baghdad, some are against Baghdad and the insurgency, some are against Baghdad and just the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), while still others have now rejoined the militants. This complicates the common narrative about Iraq that there is a homogenous Sunni constituency in the country. That could have been discerned years ago by paying attention to stories like General Dulaimi’s and others who witnessed the deep divisions in Anbar years ago.
McWilliams, Chief Warrant Officer-4 Timothy, and Wheeler, Lieutenant Colonel Kurtis, ed., Al-Anbar Awakening Volume II, Iraqi Perspectives, From Insurgency to Counterinsurgency in Iraq, 2004-2009, Virginia: Marine Corps University, 2009