“The fighters of Iraq’s ‘Sunni awakening’ have become as controversial as they’ve been successful. Nearly 80,000-strong, paid by the Pentagon, and independent of the Iraqi government, these Sunni ‘awakening councils’ are largely made up of former insurgents who have turned their guns on al Qaeda. ‘At the beginning, people saw it as an occupation which had to be resisted,’ said Abul Abed, leader of the Knights of Mesopotamia, speaking in Arabic. ‘But then, they saw that the Americans were working in the interest of the people. They saw al Qaeda doing terrible things.’ President Bush has called them the hope of the future Iraq. ‘In Anbar, you’re seeing firsthand the dramatic differences that can come when the Iraqis are more secure,’ Bush said during a visit to Anbar province in September. ‘You see Sunnis, who once fought side by side with al Qaeda against coalition troops, now fighting side by side with coalition troops against al Qaeda,’ Bush added.”

 – John Hendren, “‘Sunni Awakening’: Insurgents Are Now Allies,” ABC News, Dec. 23, 2007