Its truly amazing what a year can do to a place. Look at your major city and you may not see a major change. Look at Iraq and you see a major change since the US pulled out. Many wonder how it got this way in such a short time. Those that think or ask that are not the ones that were there fighting the war. They were not the ones kicking in doors and storming cities.

No, they are the ones that watch and heard about the war there just as they are hearing about the Afghanistan war. Those that were there knew that once we left the entire place would eventually return back to the way it was before we rolled it and big surprise it has. Time for a C-Gar

December 30: A Sunni insurgency in Anbar has begun. Prime Minister Maliki confronted Anbari tribal leaders at the Ramadi protest site on December 30 and forced its evacuation. Violent clashes occur between Anbari tribal militias and Iraqi Security Forces in Ramadi and Fallujah as a result.


December 31:  Amidst the violence, Maliki promises to withdraw the Iraqi Army from the cities.


January 1: In the wake of the Army's withdrawal, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) leads an attack upon multiple police stations across Ramadi and Fallujah.


January 2: The Iraqi Army  attempts to return to the cities, but is blocked by unidentified gunmen at the periphery. A three-way contest for control of Anbar is underway between Iraqi federal forces, AQI, and tribal militias aligned with Iraqi police. Iraqi Federal Forces can become a flash point within urban areas as tribal militias or local forces mobilize. Iraq's urban areas are highly vulnerable to escalation attempts by AQI.


Read more about the events that precipitated the stand-off: Iraq Update #41: Showdown in Anbar


January 3: Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) announces an Islamic state in Fallujah and detains 75 members of the Iraqi Army. Reportedly, an AQI commander addressed a crowd at major Friday prayers and announced that the group is in Fallujah to "to defend Sunnis from the government." AQI  increases its presence in Fallujah while the Iraqi Army calls up reinforcements outside the city and begins a bombardment of suspected enemy positions. These events produce a humanitarian crisis in Fallujah with at least hundreds of families fleeing the city. Meanwhile, a political standoff has renewed between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives (COR), Osama al-Nujaifi.


January 4: The situation in Fallujah worsens; a security official stated that Fallujah had fallen under AQI control. Other media reports indicated that "AQI is in complete control of Fallujah after the withdrawal of security forces."


Read Iraq Update #42: Al-Qaeda in Iraq Patrols Fallujah; Aims for Ramadi, Mosul, Baghdad


January 5: The Iraqi Security Forces announce preparations to retake Fallujah city. The Iraqi Army, SWAT, and the Iraqi Special Forces will likely participate. The operation calls for the evacuation of the city's population ahead of an assault scheduled to last a number of days.


Evacuation measures by the ISF are unlikely to be effective, because an assault upon Fallujah by Shi'a-dominated security forces is itself a threat to the city's Sunni residents. The ISF operation in Fallujah will therefore result in civilian casualties and possibly invoke other violent tribal responses. It is too early to tell how effective the ISF will be against AQI in Fallujah, or what resources will be expended. Meanwhile, AQI may be well-positioned to attack in other provinces, such as Ninewa and Salah ad-Din.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced support for the Iraqi government in countering AQI, but stated that this is Iraq's fight and Prime Minister Maliki has vowed to eliminate AQI from the province. While Maliki is likely aiming to achieve a significant military victory ahead of elections, it is important to recognize that AQI cannot be decisively defeated in Anbar. The ISF presence in Anbar is therefore likely to be long-term, which increases the opportunities for AQI to exert control elsewhere in Iraq, and also increases the threat of a Sunni backlash against the ISF. It also increases the likelihood that elections will not be held on time in April.


Read Update on Situation in Fallujah-January 5


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