5 years, 5 months ago
Having been driven out of Anbar and with Baghdad being much more difficult terrain than a mere year ago, the loosely coupled and sometimes competing terrorist organizations al Qaeda, Ansar al Sunna and others, have headed to the North of Iraq to conduct operations. “Despite a decline in violence in Iraq, northern Iraq has become more violent than other regions as al-Qaida and other militants move there to avoid coalition operations elsewhere, the region’s top U.S. commander said Monday. Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling said al-Qaida cells still operate in all the key cities in the north. “What you’re seeing is the enemy shifting,” Hertling told Pentagon reporters in a video conference from outside Tikrit in northern Iraq.” In fact, the terrorists are claiming credit for a series of recent attacks in this region.
An al-Qaida-linked militant group has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks it says it had launched in northern Iraq, including a suicide bombing last week that killed six people and seriously wounded a top Kurdish policeman in the city of Kirkuk.
In claims of responsibility posted on militant Internet sites Sunday and Monday, Ansar al-Sunnah said it also was behind attacks in the cities of Tikrit and Mosul north of Baghdad.
Strictly speaking and contrary to this report, Ansar al Sunna is not affiliated with al Qaeda, but is in competition with them. Continuing:
Ansar al-Sunnah identified the Kurdish policeman in Kirkuk as Brig. Gen. Khattab Omar, saying he was the commander of the police’s “Quick Response Force” in the city. It said eight of his guards were killed in the suicide car bombing.
Police in Kirkuk, 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad, have said a suicide bomber rammed his car into a police patrol Nov. 15, killing six people and wounding more than 20 — many of them children walking to school. They said the bomber’s apparent target was Omar’s six-car convoy. Three of the commander’s officers were killed, along with three civilians, they said, but the commander survived with serious injuries to his chest and head.
Kirkuk has been seeing a spike in violence in recent weeks as tensions rise between the city’s Kurdish, Arab and Turkomen communities ahead of a possible referendum to decide the fate of the region. Iraq’s Kurds claim the city as their own and want to annex it to their self-rule region, but Kikruk’s Arab and Turkomen — ethnic Turks — dispute the Kurdish claim.
In another attack in Tikrit, Ansar al-Sunnah said it had used a “unique and unparalleled” technique when it bombed a police station Sunday by using a roadside bomb buried in a fake device. It gave no further details, but police in the city said a policeman was killed and two others, including a lieutenant colonel, when they tried to defuse a roadside bomb they took inside the city’s police forensic laboratory after retrieving it from the street outside …
In Mosul, it said its fighters on Nov. 4 attacked the headquarters of the city’s “Awakening Council” — the name given to the command of tribal forces which joined the U.S. and Iraqi forces in the fight against al-Qaida.
But rather than controlling regions (such as Anbar), cities (such as Ramadi or Fallujah) or thoroughfares, the terrorists are reduced to discussing individual attacks at great length in order to publicize their exploits. The standard has been lowered. Morever, Coalition forces are finding a target rich area in Tikrit where Operation Iron Hammer is underway.
Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Division – North Soldiers have made significant progress against al-Qaeda in four provinces in northern Iraq after two weeks of Operation Iron Hammer. The operation to disrupt al-Qaeda involves three U.S. brigade combat teams and four Iraqi Army divisions.
During the operation, Coalition Forces and ISF have undermined al-Qaeda operations and discovered more than 50 caches across the Multi-National Division-North area of operations. The caches have contained more than 500 mortar and artillery rounds, three tons of homemade explosives, countless IED-making materials, hundreds of anti-tank and personnel mines and more than 100 machine guns. Beyond the weapons found, CF and ISF discovered various documents and related information material. CF and ISF have also detained hundreds of suspected al-Qaeda members.
Operation Iron Hammer consists of three U.S. brigade combat teams and four Iraq Army divisions … as many as 200 insurgents have been detained in the provinces of Diyala, Kirkuk, Mosul and Salaheddin. Officials said Iraqi and U.S. troops retrieved Al Qaida documents that outlined the insurgency network. The operations have also netted some high value targets. “During operations In Mosul, Coalition forces killed a wanted individual believed to have been a senior leader in Mosul’s terrorist security network. Reports indicate the wanted individual planned attacks against Iraqi Security and Coalition forces, which included multiple suicide car-bombing attacks. Reports also indicate he purchased weapons and explosives for the terrorist network.”
Al Qaeda is about as far North as they can reasonably go. Kurdish territory will be extremely inhospitable to them, where the Peshmerga - the “first to die” – would quickly capture or kill them due to the lack of willingness of the Kurdish population to abide their presence (this is even true of Ansar al Sunna which has historical ties with the Kurds). At The Captain’s Journal we have discussed and strongly advocated payment to concerned citizens and neighborhood watch programs and even sheikhs as a means to assist heads of household to support their families. While some or even most of the foreign fighters in Iraq come for religious motivation from Africa, Chechnya and Western China, many of the locals fight for money to feed their family. But there is indication that the terrorist’s resources are drying up.
Abu Nawall, a captured al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, said he didn’t join the Sunni insurgent group here to kill Americans or to form a Muslim caliphate. He signed up for the cash.
“I was out of work and needed the money,” said Abu Nawall, the nom de guerre of an unemployed metal worker who was paid as much as $1,300 a month as an insurgent. He spoke in a phone interview from an Iraqi military base where he is being detained. “How else could I support my family?”
U.S. military commanders say that insurgents across the country are increasingly motivated more by money than ideology and that a growing number of insurgent cells, struggling to pay recruits, are turning to gangster-style racketeering operations.
U.S. military officials have responded by launching a major campaign to disrupt al-Qaeda in Iraq’s financial networks and spread propaganda that portrays its leaders as greedy thugs, an effort the officials describe as a key factor in their recent success beating down the insurgency.
“I tell a lot of my soldiers: A good way to prepare for operations in Iraq is to watch the sixth season of ‘The Sopranos,’ ” said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of U.S. forces in central Iraq, referring to the hit HBO series about the mob. “You’re seeing a lot of Mafioso kind of activity.”
In Mosul, a northern city of 2 million people that straddles the Tigris River, U.S. officials are also spending money to buoy the Iraqi economy — including handing out microgrants sometimes as small as several hundred dollars — to reduce the soaring unemployment that can turn young Iraqi men into insurgents-for-hire.
Col. Stephen Twitty, commander of U.S. forces in Mosul and surrounding Nineveh province, said the dismantling of insurgent financing networks is the primary reason that violent attacks here have dropped from about 18 a day last year to about eight a day now.
“We’re starting to hear a lot of chatter about the insurgents running out of money,” said Twitty, of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “They are not able to get money to pay people for operations.”
With the available hospitable terrain for al Qaeda and Ansar al Sunna decreasing along with the resources drying up, the ability to conduct major operations is decreasing due to such factors as the surge of U.S. forces, the tribal alliances to fight the terrorists, the expenditure of largesse by the coalition, and the return of functioning local and regional security apparatus. These are hard times for the terrorists in Iraq.