Cleric Journeys From al-Qaeda to US Ally

Sunni leader gives up on 'bankrupt' insurgency
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jan 13, 2009 11:10 AM CST
A statue of Saddam Hussein is pulled down by US soldiers and Iraqi civilians in downtown Bagdhad in this April 9, 2003 photo.   (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
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(Newser) – A young man who holds sway over one Iraqi town embodies the country’s transition from dictatorship through insurgency to today’s “murkier contest,” the Washington Post reports. Sunni cleric Nadhim Khalil often slammed Saddam Hussein’s government when it was in power. But when it fell, he joined the insurgency, calling for the occupation “to be removed.” Now, he works with Americans to improve his domain.

Khalil has been a target for both the US—which jailed him twice—and al-Qaeda in Iraq, whose destruction he eventually demanded in an about-face. The 30-year-old sees his efforts in business terms: “That company went bankrupt,” he says of insurgency methods. “We didn't achieve anything.” Today he leads a division of US-backed former insurgents and works to improve local infrastructure; he’s also eying a political run.