Iraq: Al Qaeda’s Quagmire

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 4 months ago

After the turning of the tribes in Ramadi and the military defeat of the insurgents in Fallujah, coalition attention could be fully turned on al Qaeda with actionable intelligence.  The tempo of intelligence-driven operations is steady and effective.

  • On October 6, 2007,  Coalition forces killed two terrorists, captured one wanted individual and detained another six suspects during two coordinated operations near Samarra. The wanted individual is believed to be an associate of several Syrian-based network leaders that support the flow of foreign terrorists. As Coalition forces approached the target area, they observed one individual jump from the roof of a building, attempting to evade capture. The ground force engaged the fleeing terrorist, killing him. As the ground force entered the building, they discovered an armed terrorist and, responding in self-defense, killed the armed man. In addition to the wanted individual, Coalition forces detained five suspected terrorists on site. Also in Samarra, intelligence reports led Coalition forces to an area alleged to be a terrorist safe haven; one suspected terrorist was detained.  Coalition forces captured two wanted individuals and four suspected terrorists during coordinated operations in Kirkuk. During one operation, Coalition forces captured an al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leader believed to be involved in foreign terrorist facilitation in the al-Tamim province and detained four additional suspects. Nearby, the ground force captured the alleged leader of the al-Qaeda in Iraq media network in Kirkuk. The suspect is believed to have numerous ties to senior leaders operating in the province.
  • On October 6 & 7, 2007, operations against al Qaeda were conducted in the central and Northern parts of Iraq.  Coalition forces conducted an operation in Mosul targeting an associate of al-Qaeda in Iraq believed to be responsible for fuel distribution to the city’s terrorist network.  In Baghdad, Coalition forces captured a wanted individual reported to be involved in the planning and execution of numerous attacks against Iraqi civilians and security forces. The individual also has close ties to al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders operating a car-bombing network throughout Baghdad.  In an operation in Tikrit, Coalition forces targeted an associate of al-Qaeda in Iraq believed to be involved in kidnapping operations, weapons facilitation and the development of improvised explosive devices. The ground force detained five suspected terrorists on site without incident.  West of Samarra Saturday, Coalition forces conducted a precision operation targeting an associate of an al-Qaeda in Iraq leader involved in foreign terrorist facilitation in the Tigris River Valley. Time-sensitive intelligence led the ground force to a location where two suspected terrorists were detained.
  • On October 8, 2007, Iraqi Special Operations Forces conducted an early-morning raid to detain an al Qaeda in Iraq Amir for the Arab Jabour area who is suspected of being involved in small-arms fire, deeply buried and vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attacks, as well as extra-judicial killings.

Groups of so-called security volunteers or concerned citizens are developing throughout central, Western and Northern Iraq, having significant successes against terrorist operations.

  • Iraqi security volunteers uncovered a large weapons cache west of Hor Al Bosh, Iraq, Oct. 4.  While conducting door-to-door operations in neighborhoods near the village, the volunteers reported the find to Soldiers from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st “Ironhorse? Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, who perform operations in Hor Al Bosh.  After the Co. C Soldiers arrived on the scene, the Iraqi security volunteers turned the cache over to them.  The find yielded 5,000 rounds of various small arms ammunition; 53 mortar rounds; eight rockets; 20 heavy machine guns of various types to include PKC anti-aircraft guns; a mortar tube with base plate; one unknown rifle with silencer; a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with seven RPG rounds and various improvised explosive device-making materials among many other weapons.  “This is a major find that will keep weapons out of the hands of Al Qaeda extremists,? said Maj. Randall Baucom, a spokesperson for the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
  • Iraqi Army Soldiers and Coalition Forces, acting on tips provided by local Muradiyah citizens, discovered a large weapons cache in the village cemetery and detained two men during Operation Rock Drill in Muradiyah, south of Baqouba Oct. 5.  The cache, discovered by the 4th Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th IA Division, consisted of six automatic weapons, four two-way radios, two rocket-propelled grenades, two anti-tank mines, two rifles, large quantities of ammunition and both electronic and print al-Qaeda propaganda.  In addition, two IEDs were discovered nearby the cemetery.

Most of the indigenous insurgency has turned on al Qaeda, but al Qaeda may have recently lost its last big ally in Iraq.  “In a rather stunning development, the Iraqi Islamic militant faction known as Asaeb al-Iraq al-Jihadiya (a.k.a. “the Iraqi Jihad Union”) has issued a new statement dated October 5 suddenly accusing Al-Qaida’s “Islamic State of Iraq” of deliberately killing its fighters in Diyala province and mutilating their bodies: “To make things worse, they dug up their bodies from the graves, further mutilated them, beheaded them, and showed them off from their vehicles while driving through the towns. [The ISI] even killed our men’s wives and children.”  Less than three months ago, the very same organization was openly working in operational partnership with Al-Qaida, and was even rumored to be considering merging its forces with Al-Qaida’s “Islamic State.”

Finally, al Qaeda in Iraq has lost a significant foreign fighter facilitator in Syria.  Unknown gunmen murdered Muhammad Gul Aghasi – one of the key “theologians” of al Qaeda – at a mosque in northern Syria last month. Candidates for the fiery preacher’s killing include rivals within his own radical group, agents of the Americans – and his Syrian hosts. Whatever the truth, this is bad news for the already ailing al Qaeda.  By 2006, Aghasi claimed that his group had dispatched more than 2,000 jihadists from half-a-dozen Arab countries to Iraq and also boasted of providing jihadists in Iraq with safe havens inside Syria where they could rest, get medical care (even dental work!), retrain and even get married before returning to the battlefield.  Amir Taheri continues:

These are not happy days for the worldwide al Qaeda brand. Having focused most of its energies on fighting in Iraq, the movement has all but disappeared from the scene in other parts of the global jihad, notably the Caucasus, southern Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Kashmir and the Arabian Peninsula …

Even before Aghasi was gunned down, the flow of jihadists going to Iraq via Syria had slowed down. According to Iraqi official estimates, the number of foreign jihadists entering between January and July was down by almost 50 percent compared to the same period in 2006. This is, perhaps, one reason why the al Qaeda cyberspace is now full of desperate calls for more jihadists for Iraq. Despite the setbacks it has suffered, al Qaeda still sees Iraq as a make-or-break moment for its dream of world conquest.

Operation Iraqi Freedom has graduated from a battle against a combination of indigenous insurgents and foreign terrorists (al Qaeda) to one against al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda has made Iraq its watershed moment, and they are losing badly.  This transition of Iraq into al Qaeda’s quagmire is remarkable and momentous in world history, and is going largely unreported by the main stream media who is searching for the next flash-bang to report.

**** UPDATE ****

See also prior article Al Qaeda’s Miscalculation and from the Telegraph  People Rise Against al-Qa’eda:

In a town tucked tight against the Syrian border, US Marines pass softly along a darkened street as the crack of contact rings out. Instead of a panicked rush for cover, the leader of the patrol turns to cheer.

The familiar sound was not from the barrel of gun but the baize of an upstairs pool hall.

A transformation has swept western Iraq that allows Marines to walk through areas that a year ago were judged lost to radical Islam control and hear nothing more aggressive than a late-night game of pool … Footpatrols are hailed with cries of Salaam (Peace) and Habibi (Friend) in streets that were in no-go zones for the coalition a year ago. A ten-man unit of US Marines passes nightly along Husaybah’s market street and zig-zags down alleys into residential areas. As they walk out, the sounds of a town reviving fill the air.

  • fumento

    Remember your history. During the Tet COUNTER-offensive in 1968, we destroyed the Viet Cong as an institution. Nevertheless: 1) Walter Cronkite went there and came back declaring we couldn’t win and 2), the North Vietnamese simply took over the VC.

    NOW, if you want to say AQI was perhaps the worst terrorist group in Iraq so good riddance there, I’d agree. But the terror and the fighting would go on without them.

    Finally (I think) it could be argued that at least without AQI, AQ generally can’t use Iraq as a launch point. I think that’s probably the best thing to come of this in the long run. (Short run, we’re indeed seeing a lot less violence in Anbar.) Unfortunately, so long as they have safe haven in western Pakistan I’m not sure how much safe havens anywhere else, including Afghanistan, count.

  • Herschel Smith

    I agree, but would add several things. First, Vietnam was a counterinsurgency victory. Even with Tet, the VC were defeated and essentially gone from the scene. The naysayers like Walter Cronkite did what they did, Congress pulled funds and support, and the NVA regulars rolled in (partly due to our failure to shut the Ho Chi Minh trail).

    Thematically, I split again the definition of insurgents and terrorists (foreign fighters). In Anbar we initially fought both, with the insurgency being the most potent. Al Qaeda overplayed their hand, and we “encouraged” the insurgents to turn (e.g., we shut Sattar’s smuggling lines with kinetic operations and started talking to him and others). The insurgents turned, and now we are waging a war mainly against foreign fighters, who are losing. Yes, there will be the occassional insurgent left over from1920’s Brigade men who will not side with the coalition, but in the main, I believe it will be a war against Ansar al Sunna, Ansar al Islam, Al Qaeda and smaller groups, with AQ being the strongest, but still losing.

    Yes again, you and I both agree on the awful effects of leaving Sadr alive and allowing the Iran-biased Badr Brigade to bury themselves into main stream Iraqi politics.

    Finally, I suspect we are FAR from finished in Afghanistan.

  • jagcap

    In other words, Andrew Sullivan’s flypaper theory was correct… too bad he lacked the guts to hold to his position.

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  • rlaycock

    To: Jagcap

    Actually Andrew borrowed that theory from David Warren.

    If I recall (I actually read The Daily Dish back then) Andrew did properly link to Warren’s column.

    It finally does appear to be working now that the proper command is in place..


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This article is filed under the category(s) al Qaeda,Iraq and was published October 9th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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