“This will have consequences if it is not brought under control … if that push from Al Qaeda is not stopped,” says a resident of Fallujah, a key city in Iraq's western Anbar province, once renowned for its Sunni militancy and Al Qaeda presence, which the Sunni Awakening helped to subdue. “People are losing their lives, they are losing their sons… We are on the ground, we can see it. The fact is there is pushback from Al Qaeda, timed as the Americans leave. Al Qaeda is sending a message to families: ‘If you go after us, we will go after you.’”
US Vice President Joe Biden, speaking hours after Sunday’s attacks, said neither the lack of a new government nor the violence would halt the withdrawal, leaving just 50,000 support troops in Iraq after August.
The drawdown – from a peak of more than 170,000 American troops in late 2007 – “will not in any way affect the physical stability of Iraq,” Mr. Biden told ABC News.
But senior US and Iraqi officers say that Iraq is less susceptible today to renewed civil war, and that efforts by Al Qaeda and other militants to intimidate and reestablish control over former bastions such as Anbar province have so far been largely ineffective.
“We have days when there are spikes in attacks, but then we have quite a few days go by with little or nothing,” says Brig. Gen. Kenneth Tovo of the US Army 1st Armored Division, in charge of Anbar Province. Attacks are down to an average of two per day in the province.