An update on public enemies one and two in Iraq
By Charles Bird Posted in War — Comments (5) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
General Petraeus referred al Qaeda as public enemy number one, so who is number two? To me, it's Iran. More specifically, the Quds forces, but more on that downthread.
As for al Qaeda, I think we can it say it now with confidence: al Qaeda is losing in Iraq. The pictures tell the part of the story:
One month does not a trend make, but there are other factors which point to reduced levels of killing. As seen in the first graph, al Qaeda started its own surge campaign in 2007, with casualties peaking in August when they mass-slaughtered over 250 Yezidis. In September, the number of murders plummeted to its lowest level since March 2006. Al Qaeda could again get away with mass-casualty bombings, but as I see it, their days are truly numbered. Iraqi natives and Sunni insurgents are rejecting these terrorists and, because of this, coalition forces are gutting al Qaeda cells. Omar explains how al Qaeda attacks on the villages are backfiring, and these failures have forced them to change tactics. Starting on Ramadan, they launched an assassination campaign against Sunni tribal and military leaders. Instead of intimidating and cowing those leaders, I expect those attacks will blow back against al Qaeda. Last week, Bill Roggio reported the following:
Bergner highlighted the killing "Muthanna," al Qaeda's the emir of the Iraq/Syrian border. "During this operation, we also captured multiple documents and electronic files that provided insight into al Qaeda’s foreign terrorist operations, not only in Iraq but throughout the region," Bergner said. "They detail the larger al-Qaeda effort to organize, coordinate, and transport foreign terrorists into Iraq and other places."
"Muthanna was the emir of Iraq and Syrian border area and he was a key facility of the movement of foreign terrorists once they crossed into Iraq from Syria," Bergner said. "He worked closely with Syrian-based al Qaeda foreign terrorist facilitators."
Bergner said several documents were found with Muthanna, including a list of 500 al Qaeda fighters from "a range of foreign countries that included Libya, Morocco, Syria, Algeria, Oman, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom."
Other documents found in Muthanna's possession include a "pledge of a martyr," which is signed by foreign fighters inside Syria. and an expense report. The pledge signed by the recruited suicide bomber requires the terrorist provide a photograph and passport, and states the recruit must enroll in a "security course" in Syria. The expense report is tallied in US dollars, Syrian lira, and Iraqi dinars, includes items such as clothing, food, fuel, mobile phone cards, weapons, salaries, "sheep purchased," furniture, spare parts for vehicles and other items.
Muthanna's killing in early September is but one of 29 al Qaeda high value targets killed or detained by Task Force 88, Multinational Forces Iraq's hunter-killer teams assigned to target senior al Qaeda leaders and operatives. Five al Qaeda operatives have been killed and 24 captured during September.
• 5 Emirs at the city level or higher in the AQI leadership structure.
• 9 geographical or functional cell leaders.
• 11 facilitators who supported foreign terrorist and weapons movements.
In addition to Muthanna, four of the senior al Qaeda leaders killed during the month of September include:
• Abu Usama al Tunisi: The Tunisian born leader who is believed to be the successor to Abu Ayyub al Masri.
• Yaqub al Masri: The Egyptian-born leader who was in the inner circle with Zarqawi and then also in the inner circle of Abu Ayyub al Masri. He was a close associate of Ayman al Zawahiri.
• Muhammad al Afari: The Emir of Sinjar, who led the barbaric bombings of the Yazidis in northern Iraq.
• Abu Taghrid: The Emir of the Rusafa car bomb network.
Also captured during the month of September was Ali Fayyad Abuyd Ali. "Fayyad is the father in law of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al Masri," said Colonel David Bacon, the Chief of Strategy and Plans, Strategic Communications, at Multinational Forces Iraq. Fayyad is a senior advisor to senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders, including al Masri.
The day after Muthanna was killed, the coalition captured an al Qaeda financier. Ansar al Islam, the Kurdish terrorist group, did us favor. According to Michael Totten, they renamed themselves al Qaeda in Kurdistan.
As for the Quds forces, General Petraeus called it as he saw it:
The U.S. military commander in Iraq stepped up accusations over the weekend that Iran was inciting violence there and said Tehran's ambassador to Baghdad was a member of the Revolutionary Guards Qods force.
General David Petraeus, speaking at a U.S. military base about 30 km (20 miles) from the Iranian border on Saturday, said Iran was giving militia groups advanced weaponry and guidance.
"They are responsible for providing the weapons, the training, the funding and in some cases the direction for operations that have indeed killed U.S. soldiers," Petraeus told a group of reporters when asked if the Iranian government was responsible for killing U.S. troops.
More from Roggio here. The coalition appears to be putting more emphasis on Quds forces and Special Groups, and why not. Iranian-imported weapons are killing American soldiers. Last week, the coalition confirmed that the man they captured on September 20th is a "commander of one of the three Iranian commands inside Iraq."
"Farhadi was the officer-in-charge of the Zafr Command, one of three units subordinate to the Ramazan Corps of the Qods Force," said Bergner. "This Corps is responsible for most of the Qods Force operations in Iraq. As the Zafr Commander, he was responsible for all Qods Force operations in north-central Iraq that included cross-border transfers of weapons, people and money."
Farhadi has been independently identified by outside intelligence sources, and has a long history of operations inside Iraq. "Multiple sources implicate Farhadi in providing weapons to Iraqi criminal elements and surrogates of Iran," said Bergner. "We also know that for more than a decade, he was involved in Iranian intelligence operations in Iraq."
Farhadi is one of the most senior officers in Iran's Qods Force captured in Iraq, Colonel David Bacon, the Chief of Strategy and Plans, Strategic Communications, at Multinational Forces Iraq, told the Long War Journal during an press conference on Wednesday morning. "But I'd have to check on the 'Irbil Five," Bacon noted, referring to the Iranian Qods Force officers captured in January 2007. Bacon did not identify the names of the two other sub-commands in the Zafr Command.
Also week, the coalition focused on going after the Iranian-supported Special Groups, killing 25 in a strike. The coalition is making distinctions between Special Groups and Mahdi militias.
As the intelligence picture of the Special Groups becomes clearer, Multinational Forces Iraq has gone some distance to separate Muqtada al Sadr and his Mahdi Army from the Special Groups and Iran. The Special Groups encompasses a significant element of Sadr’s Mahdi Army, as over 3,000 Mahdi fighters have been trained, armed, and equipped by Iran. Multinational Forces Iraq also refers to Mahdi Army fighters that break the Sadr-ordered cease-fire as "rogue."
But Multinational Forces Iraq has made repeated warnings to Sadr that his militia are on a short leash. Today’s press release contained a not-so-subtle warning to Sadr and his militia to keep the peace:
"We continue to support the Government of Iraq in welcoming the commitment by Muqtada al-Sadr to stop attacks and we will continue to show restraint in dealing with those who honor his pledge. We will not show the same restraint against those criminals who dishonor this pledge by attacking security forces and Iraqi citizens," said Maj. Anton Alston, MNF-I spokesman. "Coalition forces will take the necessary action against these criminals to protect the Iraqi people against future terrorist acts."
Of course, none of this means that Iraq has turned the corner or that we're winning. Even without the foreign influences, getting the native groups to compromise is a tough nut. Political progress is going to take some hard diplomacy, negotiation, and time.