"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

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Iraqi Chief of Staff Asks Al-Sistani for Fatwa in Support of Security


Iraqi Chief of General Staff General Babaker Zibari called on senior Shi'te cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani to issue a fatwa [religious edict] calling on Iraqis to support security and stability.

Zibari, a Kurd, also asked Al-Sistani to encourage Iraqis to join the armed forces. The request is the first of its kind in Iraq.

It is assumed that Zibari, who is the second most senior army senior officer under Prime Minister Al-Maliki, who is commander-in-chief, has acted at the behest of Al-Maliki, who may have been reluctant for political reasons to approach Al-Sistani directly.

It will be interesting if Sistani delivers the fatwa asked for.

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Iraq civilian, U.S. troop deaths fall in September

From Reuters via Yahoo.

The number of civilians killed in Iraq last month more than halved to 359 compared to a year ago, Iraqi government figures showed, and the number of U.S. troops killed in action also fell dramatically.

U.S. combat deaths fell to eight in September, down from 12 last month and vastly reduced from 43 in September last year, statistics from independent Web site http://icasualties.org/oif/ showed.

I found this article interesting for a few reasons.

First, 25 US Servicemen died in September 2008. However, only 8 were combat related. Seventeen were from non-combat related incidents. To put another way, two times as many deaths were from non-hostile incidents as were from hostile incidents.

Second, in September 2007, there was 45 deaths from hostile action (not the 43 sited above) which was almost two times as high as the non-hostile deaths.

Third, other than May 2003 and September 2008, the amount of hostile deaths has always been greater than the non-hostile deaths. These two months are the only two months where non-hostile deaths have been greater than hostile deaths.

Finally, the Reuters article notes civilian deaths for September 2008 were 359, down from September 2007 of 884. What the article does not state, but the IBC site does, is beginning December 2007, IBC started to use single source incidents as valid. Therefore, it is expected that the September 2008 number of 359 is high compared to the the same standard applied from September 2007 number. From IBC,

These single-sourced incidents comprise a small proportion of overall incidents and an even smaller proportion of deaths (since these incidents mainly involve smaller numbers killed - two, on average). Such small incidents are rarely misreported: inconsistent reporting mostly applies to very large incidents where the exact death toll is difficult to determine. Further, these single-source reports stem from the same reputable media and primary sources which provide most of IBC's fully-corroborated data, and many of them are subsequently corroborated through later-released official cumulative totals.

While I concur, to some extent, with the paragragh from IBC when it was written in 2007, I do not necessarily concur with that statement now. Many of the current deaths now involve "small numbers" compared to the spectacular and deadly attacks in 2007 in which scored died vice a relatively small number of small attacks in which an average of two died. While I have not correlated the numbers, I would suspect a majority of the attacks now involve "small numbers", possibly inflating the September 2008 numbers when compared to the same 2007 standard. In fact, the number of civilian casualties in September 2008 reported at icasualties.org was 268. But, it is also noteworthy that icasualties.org September 2007 number was also 752, about a 130 less than IBC.

It would be nice to compare apples to apple here vice possibly comparing apples to oranges to get true relative data.

However, it is noteworthly that combat related deaths are now in the single digits, at 8. This has only occurred in three months since OIF began May 2003, July 2008, and September 2008. May 2003 was before the insurgency started. It appears, at least from these numbers, July 2008 is possibly the month the insurgency ended. Just a thought.

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Iraqi Officials Say 22 Troops Killed in Ambush Northeast of Baghdad

From FOX News.

Gunmen ambushed Iraqi forces raiding a Sunni village northeast of Baghdad on Wednesday, killing 22 policemen and U.S.-allied fighters, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

The attackers in the insurgent stronghold of Othmaniyah apparently had been tipped off about the raid and were waiting for the Iraqi forces to arrive, officials said.

For a full read, click here.

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Al-Qaeda attack networks impaired (Bayji, Kirkuk)

From MNF-I.

Iraqi and Coalition forces killed two terrorists and detained 13 suspected terrorists during operations to degrade al-Qaeda in Iraq attack capabilities around the country Thursday and Friday.

Thursday, Coalition forces captured an alleged AQI leader in Bayji, about 160 km south of Mosul. The alleged leader is believed to oversee all terrorist attacks in Bayji, including an attack Sep. 8 that killed two Iraqi policemen and wounded another four. During a separate operation in Bayji on Thursday, Coalition forces captured a wanted man suspected of working in the AQI bombing network that extends through the Tigris River Valley. Five additional suspects were detained in the two operations.

A man who identified himself to Iraqi and Coalition forces as the leader of AQI bombing operations in Kirkuk was captured Friday in the city. As part of his self-proclaimed role of overseeing bombing attacks, the man is assessed to be responsible for suicide and roadside bombings from Kirkuk to Hawijah. He also reportedly has ties to senior AQI leadership in Tamim province.

In a remote area near Qara Tappa, about 130 km northeast of Baghdad, Coalition forces targeted two terrorists Friday, one of whom is a known AQI cell leader in the area. Surveillance teams positively identified the two terrorists and called for supporting aircraft to engage them. Both terrorists were killed. The cell leader was part of an AQI network in the Hamrin Mountains region that operates terrorist training camps and recruits female suicide bombers to conduct attacks against civilians and security forces.

A targeted individual believed to be part of the AQI network that brings foreign terrorists into Iraq identified himself to Coalition forces during an operation south of Baghdad Friday. Two additional suspected terrorists were detained.

Coalition forces in Ramadi, about 100 km west of Baghdad, targeted members of an extremist group aligned with AQI and detained five suspected terrorists Friday.

Articles like these are the predominate news coming out of Iraq these days. An interesting change in this article is AQI members are coming forward and identifying themselves to Coalition and US forces. One has to wonder how low morale is among AQI members to freely offer themselves up to Coalition and Iraqi forces knowing they will very well spend a long time in prison. These self-disclosures are not indicative of an organization which is waiting in the wings until a US withdraw.

It appears the back of AQI is broken by the surge of US and Iraqi forces last year, the increase in ISF capabilities, and the coming provincial elections. While all these factors brought about the defeat of AQI, key leaders turning themselves in will bring the distruction of the entire network in Iraq.

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Two senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders captured in Baghdad

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

Coalition forces captured two senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders behind some of the deadliest violence over the past several years. Both men were detained during the past two weeks in raids by Task Force 88, the hunter-killer special operations teams assigned to dismantle al Qaeda's networks in Iraq.

The special operations teams captured Salim 'Abdallah Ashur al Shujayri during an operation on Aug. 11. Six days later, Ali Rash Nasir Jiyad al Shammari was captured. The locations of the raids were not disclosed by Multinational Forces-Iraq.

Mr. Roggio notes that Shujayri and Shammari stayed behind in Iraq to continue Al Qaeda's operations there while many other Al Qaeda leaders have fled to Pakistan.

Al Masri and other senior al Qaeda leaders are believed to have left Iraq for al Qaeda's more secure sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. Al Masri is an Egyptian. By leaving, al Qaeda's foreign leadership has abandoned the Iraqis who signed on to wage jihad against the West.

Shujayri and Shammari, both Iraqis, stayed behind to continue the fight. Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll, the US military spokesman in Iraq, said Shujayri and Shammari are "two of the few remaining experienced leaders" in al Qaeda's network.

This statement brings up a couple of questions.

1. Why would Al Masri and other senior Al Qaeda leaders leave Iraq?

2. Why would Al Masri and other senior Al Qaeda leaders move to Pakistan?

The rejection of Al Qaeda's gruesome tactics by Sunnis left Al Qaeda without the tacit support needed to maintain an insurgency. In addition, Al Qaeda's senior leadership left Iraq because of the surge of American forces not only hunted them down but bought time for Iraqi forces to build capacity. Upon building capacity, Iraqi forces not only went after Al Qaeda elements but also lately Shia insurgents. Iraqi security and political forces are not open to peace treaties as were leadership in Pakistan. Finally, Pakistan represents the last unassailable base for Al Qaeda.

This unassailble base is now being assailed as Pakistani forces have begun attacks in the FATA and NWFP regions. In short Al Qaeda has lost Iraq, have attempted to expand in Afghanistan, and are now being attacked in their heartland, the FATA/NWFP region. Pakistan's new leadership tried a peace treaty, but have since changed their position and have rejected future peace treaties.

What is the cause for this rejection? Simply, the US surge when all seemed lost turned around conditions in Iraq. Other nations, noting the success of the surge, are now more apt to battle vice negotiate with terrorists on their soil.

One has to wonder what today would be like had President Bush listened to doomsayers and began to pull out vice surge forces in June 2007. Al Qaeda would be pushing forces into vice away from Iraq possibly causing it to fracture into three parts, Kurdistan, the Sunni Central, and the Shia Southern giving Iran access to the Mediterranean. Pakistan too would probably be negotiating with Al Qaeda vice battling them in earnest now in the FATA/NWFP regions. NATO forces would be isolated in Afghanistan under pressure to withdraw by their respective leaders.

A simple lesson has been relearned which has been true ever since man began to walk upright. You either confront the bully or become under the bully's control. Thank God, President Bush had the intestinal fortitude to confront the bully. Not only are we safer today, but so will our children be safer in the future.

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Iraqi Sunnis outraged over Diyala raids, arrests

From Yahoo via AFP.

Iraq's largest Sunni party accused government security forces of sectarian bias Tuesday after soldiers arrested a Sunni university president and a Sunni provincial council member northeast of Baghdad.

The raids in Diyala province follow an Iraqi crackdown there against U.S.-backed Sunni Arab volunteers who turned against al-Qaida and joined the fight against the terror movement.

Yesterday, Iraqi troops raided the Provincial Governor's office, who is a Shiite, but arrested a Sunni Provincial Council member, who is a Sunni.

The troops stormed the office of the provincial governor, Raad Rashid al-Tamimi, triggering a gunfight that killed his secretary and wounded four of his guards, police said.

The Sunni head of the provincial council's security committee, Hussein al-Zubaidi, was arrested, police said.

Apparently, Iraqi troops had arrest warrants.

However, a senior Iraqi army officer who took part in the raid said troops carried arrest warrants for both the university president and the head of the security committee.

As more and more Al Qaeda in Iraq are arrested, they are undoubtedly turning up evidence implicating other members. Hopefully, these arrests are legitimate and not sectarian related.

For a full read, click here.

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Musharraf quits; suspense mounts on his next move

From the Times of India.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's decision to resign on Monday brings to an end a tumultuous nine-year reign that thrived with US backing, but succumbed under impeachment threat following the first free and fair elections he conducted after grabbing power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

During his resignation speech, Musharraf said,

"I don't want anything from anybody. I have no interest. I leave my future in the hands of the nation and people," he said. One main coalition party, that of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif whom Musharraf ousted in 1999, has insisted he face trial for treason. Bhutto's party says parliament should decide. Musharraf ended his final address as president with the words: "May God protect Pakistan, may God protect you all. Long live Pakistan forever."

Given the current situation in Pakistan, this was the smartest move for Musharraf. His resignation will take away a major issue within the newly elected government and decrease Al Qaeda's/the Taliban's ability to use Musharraf's continued presence as a political tool.

However, with Musharraf out of the way, it will be seen whether the coalition between PPP and PML-N can survive or whether infighting between these two disparate parties will break out. In addition, it will be interesting to see if these parties can now band together to meet the Al Qaeda/Taliban threat in the FATA region.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq cracks down on US-backed fighters

From the International Herald Tribune.

The Shiite-led government is cracking down on U.S.-backed Sunni fighters in one of Iraq's most turbulent regions, arresting some leaders, disarming scores and banning them from manning checkpoints except alongside security forces.

Moves against the fighters in Diyala province reflect mixed views on a movement which began in 2007 among Sunni tribes in western Iraq that revolted against al-Qaida in Iraq and joined the Americans in the fight against the terror network.

The Iraqi government is extremely resistent to bring Sunni Son's of Iraq members into the security forces.

A top Iraqi security official with access to classified information said authorities were especially suspicious of the Diyala groups because many of their estimated 14,000 fighters had been members of al-Qaida in Iraq.

But moving against the Sunni movements could alienate the once-dominant minority Sunni Arabs at a time when overtures to them appear to be making headway.

"We fought the Americans for four years and we fought al-Qaida too," said al-Safi, a former Iraqi army commando and a veteran of the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war. "We are an experienced armed group. We are fully capable of bringing the house down."

This situation is extremely touchy. PM Maliki's successes in Basra, Sadr City, Mosul, and now Diyala make him feel he does not need to integrate the Son's of Iraq, a predominant Sunni group. The US military, on the otherhand, does not want to alienate fighters who have now switched sides and are fighting against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

A review of past insurgencies show that a country's military must be integrated and representative of all parties within the country which is why the US is pushing for the Son's of Iraq integration. PM Maliki's position is also understandable, but in direct violation of counter-insurgency principles and the reconciliation the country needs to continue to grow as a democracy. However, a review of our policies after the civil war will show not much difference between the Union's position to the South.

PM Maliki is testing fate here. Whether or not his military forces are strong enough to prevent a resurgent insurgency is to be seen. In addition, his failure to establish a SOFA with US forces may also put past successes in question. Finally, Iran is a wild card which PM Maliki cannot control.

This situation needs to be monitored closely for signs of a resurgent insurgency which Iraqi forces are unable to quell.

For a full read, click here.

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AQI Bombing Networks disabled (Baqubah, Tikrit)

From MNF-I.

Coalition forces detained 33 suspected terrorists Saturday and Sunday during operations targeting al-Qaeda‘s terrorism and facilitation networks around Iraq.

What this story does not tell is how integrated intelligence suppored by SoIz and ISF presence coupled with multiple and successive prior detentions of AQI insurgents has put AQI on the run and incapable of mounting a coordinated offensive. They are hiding out in safe houses planning their own survival instead of planning operations against Iraqis.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq: Police arrest senior al-Qaeda members

From AKI.

Two senior members of the Islamic State of Iraq extremist group have been arrested, according to police in Diyala province, north-east of the capital, Baghdad.

The Islamic State of Iraq is the umbrella name adopted by al-Qaeda groups in the country.

"On Sunday our battalion carried out a raid with the US forces in the area of Buhroz, arresting 29 terrorists," said the chief of police, according to a report in London-based Al-Hayat newspaper.

"Among those captured were nine local emirs of al-Qaeda."

If true, this raid and subsequent capture marks another significant blow to Al Qaeda in Iraq. An insurgency cannot maintain itself if it continues to lose Tier 1 and 2 insurgents at the rate which is happening during operation "Mother of Two Springs".

For a full read, click here.

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Gates: US endgame now close in Iraq

From Alsumaria.

While security forces are pursuing their fight against terrorism and outlaws, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates considered that the “endgame” is now close in Iraq stressing that withdrawal of US Forces will be carried out along a slow process. Yet, he warned of the costly consequences of an early pullout.

Gates made the comments in a speech delivered to US special operations forces at their headquarters in Tampa, Florida, recalling the past failures when security was handed over to Iraqi forces before they were ready based on overly optimistic predictions that didn’t necessarily conform to reality.

“We must be realistic about the challenges still facing Iraq: al Qaeda remains a lethal force always looking to metastasize and regenerate; armed militias still undermine the rule of law; and the government, while making great strides, still has a lot to learn about how to deliver basic services and security to its people,” he said.

The strategic goal in Iraq is a unified democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror.

In order to be a unified democratic federal Iraq, it first and foremost must be secure. Security can be provided by US forces, but it is better provided by Iraqi forces. Iraqi forces have now proved they can enter and secure the three largest population centers in Iraq - Basra, Sadr City, and Mosul. In short, it can defend itself.

In order to be a unified democratic federal Iraq, it must provide basic services to its population. This capacity has been built up in Iraq since day one and is currently being built up to a greater extent in Iraq now that the security situation is improving. Security improvements will lead to providing essential services in a democracy. If it doesn't, leaders will not win re-election.

As military capacity and governance increases, Iraq will be able to sustain itself in due course. This is why we must be cautious of a rapid withdraw of US forces. The surge made great strides in Iraq, not only militarily, but also politically, economically, and informationally. A gradual withdraw will ensure these strides are not reverse, but in fact continue forward.

Iraq is proving it is an ally in the war on terror as it is the central front in the war on terror. Our two biggest enemies, Al Qaeda and Iran are being defeated and/or contained in the region. The democratically elected government in Iraq does not want to be controlled by Iran nor does it want to be subjected to the violence that Al Qaeda offers.

The National Command Authorities strategic objectives are close to being fully realized in Iraq. Once these strategic objectives cannot be compromised can we begin to withdraw forces from the region. Timetables have never worked in war or nation building. Benchmarks have been set and are being met, but Iraqis will meet them on their own timeline. Our operational mission as a military is to continue to push them towards accomplishment and assist with security so they can continue to pursue these benchmarks. Tactically, this comes down to defeating Al Qaeda and other militants in the region and assisting the government with providing essential services.

It has taken awhile in Iraq for all parties to come online to pursue the same strategic, operational, and tactical objective, but pursuing they are all doing now. With enemy's of these objectives in full retreat we will see rapid expansion and resolution of our, now combined, objectives.

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Iraqi Troops Welcomed In Sadr City

From the Washington Post.

Iraqi soldiers moved unhindered through Baghdad's vast Sadr City district on Wednesday as Shiite militiamen who have long controlled the area faded from view and schools and businesses began to reopen after weeks of strife.

The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is pursuing an increasingly successful effort to contain the militias of his Shiite rivals and to exercise authority over areas where Iraqi forces were once unwelcome. The strategy has won Maliki admiration from Sunni politicians and from U.S. and British officials, who credit him with exerting some of the political will necessary to achieve reconciliation.

Residents of Sadr City not only welcomed Iraqi Troops but gave them flowers and Korans. Iraqi troops have greatly increased in capacity in the last year thanks to the surge of US forces in the country. What does one Iraqi Soldier think?

Sayah said he was relieved that U.S. troops were not playing a central role in the operation, which would have provoked the militias. He said U.S. forces should leave Iraq. "I think it's time," he said. "The Iraqi army has proven itself."

Almost one year after the official start of the surge of US forces, the Iraqi Army now has the capacity to move into militia onclaves in Basra, Sadr City, and Mosul. Iraqi forces are now controlling their country. Al Qaeda is for all practical purposes defeated. Sadr's militia is standing down. Those elements which rise up against Iraqi forces are quickly killed or detained.

I agree with Sayah. I would now be appropriate to begin contemplating a slow and methodical withdraw of US forces from Iraq as capacity of Iraqi forces increases. Notice I did not say a withdraw of US forces should begin right now. But now, the US military is in a position to begin transitioning security more and more to Iraqi forces. As Iraqi forces prove they can maintain the peace in their country, US forces should begin to come home and not be replaced.

If we would have withdrawn one short year ago, trust in US forces in the Middle East would have been severely shakened. Now, one year later, having defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq and subdued Sadr's militia, US forces can begin a methodical withdraw knowing that the blood of over 4000 Soldiers has not been in vain. A vibrant democracy is taking hold in Iraq which is protected by a strong, robust Iraqi military.

For a full read, click here.

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Commander: Al-Qaida in Iraq is at its weakest

From Yahoo via AP.

The al-Qaida terror group in Iraq appears to be at its weakest state since it gained an initial foothold in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion five years ago, the acting commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Wednesday in an Associated Press interview.

The story continues with,

"Our forces and the Iraqi forces have certainly disrupted al-Qaida, probably to a level that we haven't seen at any time in my experience," said Dempsey, who served in Iraq in the initial stages as a division commander and later as head of the military organization in charge of training Iraqi security forces.

LTG Dempsey was in Iraq in command of 1AD and later trained Iraqi Security Forces. He has seen their capacity grow to the extent that PM Maliki can now maneuver his forces into Basra and subdue Special Groups and Mahdi Army, maneuver his forces in Sadr City and make the Mahdi Army stand down, and finally his latest battle in Mosul where over 1000 insurgents were captured in less than a week.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi Government Launches Operation to Expel al-Qaeda from Mosul

From The Jamestown Foundation.

After four days of a preparatory operation code-named Za’eer al-Asad (The Lion’s Roar), Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki arrived in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul to supervise a new military operation against al-Qaeda in Ninawa (Nineveh) province (al-Jazeera, May 14). Al-Maliki was accompanied by Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Qadir al-Obaidi and a group of Iraqi military commanders. General Abdul Karim Khalaf, the spokesman of the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, announced that Iraqi forces had started operation Umm al-Rabi’ain (The Mother of Two Springs) to chase al-Qaeda and the extremists affiliated with it out of Mosul. General Khalaf said “a second operation with the name Umm al-Rabi’ain (the nickname of Mosul, known for its long spring season) has started targeting those who committed crimes against Iraqi security forces and civilians in Mosul.”

Fadhil Ali goes on to state,

In fact, the major leaders of the insurgent groups appear to have left Mosul two months before the operation (Azzaman, May 17; Almalafpress.net, May 16). The repeated early announcements of the operations offered a chance for the insurgents to take precautions and move out of the region. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is known for avoiding major combat confrontations—its tactics rely mainly on fighting with small groups only. It is clear that the Iraqi government could not achieve a decisive victory with two quick military operations against al-Qaeda in Ninawa province.

However, Bill Roggio, at The Long War Journal quotes MND-N Commander, MG Hertling as stating,

Of those captured, "just under 200" Tier 1 and Tier 2 al Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq operatives have been detained, said Major General Mark Hertling, the commander of Multinational Division North said during a briefing on May 15.

There have been some very big fishes caught," Hertling said. Tier 1 operatives are operational leaders. Tier 2 operatives are foreign fighters or weapons facilitators, bomb makers, and cell leaders

One article states key leaders fled prior to the battle. Another states just under 200 Tier 1 and 2 terrorists have been captured. Both articles quote a little over 1000 insurgents have been captured. I tend to believe the MND-N Commander, MG Hertling. 200 Tier 1 and 2 Al Qaeda members captured is indeed significant. Since this article, more Al Qaeda members have been captured.

Iraqi and US security forces continue to roll up al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq’s network in Mosul and great Ninewa province. The military said it captured an additional 56 “wanted men” during operations over the past two days. On May 16, the Iraqi military said it captured 1,068 suspects.

The US military reported 11 additional al Qaeda fighters and leaders were captured over the weekend. On May 17, Iraqi and Coalition forces captured a weapons facilitator for senior al Qaeda leaders in Mosul. On May 18, Coalition special operations teams captured eight al Qaeda operatives. Today, Coalition special operations teams captured two al Qaeda operatives.

More importantly,

Few of those captured have been released at this time, according to the Iraqi military. Of the 1135 insurgents captured in Ninewa, only 151 have been released, a police source told Voices of Iraq.

Major operations are ongoing in Mosul. Significant high level terrorists have been captured, somewhere in the neighborhood of 200. 1153 insurgents have been captured in about a week. Only 151 have been released.

The significance of this operation is clear in and of itself. However, it is more significant when looked at strategically in conjunction with other operations ongoing. Iraqi forces have taken control of Basra and continue to pursue Special Groups and Mahdi forces in this region. Sadr signed a ceasefire and Iraqi troops are moving into the heart of Sadr City. Now Mosul is offering up over 1000 insurgents.

From 25 March 2008 to 20 May 2008, PM Maliki and his Iraqi Army cleared and secured the cities of Hillah, Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Amarah, Kut, and Nasiriyah. He then moved into Sadr City. After a peace intitiative signed by Sadr, the Iraqi Army is now moving wholesale into Sadr City to clear and secure it. Now PM Maliki's forces have captured 1153 insurgents in Mosul, of which about 200 are Tier 1 and Tier 2.

Say what you want, but PM Maliki is showing his muscle and the ability of the Iraqi Army to secure its country. His forces have assumed control of the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth largest cities in Iraq which are under contention (not counting Kurdish north). Major areas under contention (Basra, Sadr City, and Mosul) have fallen or are in the process of falling out of insurgent control.

Absolutely stunning, to say the least. In two months, his forces have taken down all major threats from the three groups challenging democracy in Iraq, Al Qaeda, Special Groups, and the Mahdi Army.

Yet, the MSM is not covering this unprecedented victory.

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Fascinating: The Jihadists Admit Defeat in Iraq

From Nibras Kazimi at the Talisman Gate.

Furthermore, I want to point out something even more critical: this defeat is not only a tactical one for the jihadists; this defeat is strategic in essence since it snuffs out their dream of resurrecting the caliphate, the raison d’être of modern jihad.

Mr. Kazimi points out the reduction of Al Qaeda attacks (from their own website).

He demonstrated that while Al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq could claim 334 operations in Nov. 06 and 292 in May 07, their violent output dropped to 25 in Nov. 07 and 16 so far in May 08. Keep in mind that these assessments are based on Al-Qaeda's own numbers.

From 334 to 16 in May 08. Mr. Kazimi point out the that this defeat is not only tactical, but strategic due to Iraq being central to Al Qaeda's fulfillment of the caliphate.

For a full read, click here.

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Are Sadr and al-Qaeda Teaming Up in Iraq?

From Omar Fadhil.

A few days ago, there were two suspiciously coordinated statements emerging from Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr made open-war threats followed immediately by a similar threat from al-Qaeda.

As they say, there is usually no smoke without fire.

For a full read, click here.

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Gap opens between Al Qaeda and allies

From Josh Meyer writing for the LA Times.

Al Qaeda increasingly faces sharp criticism from once-loyal sympathizers who openly question its ideology and tactics, including attacks that kill innocent Muslims, according to U.S. intelligence officials, counter-terrorism experts and the group's own communications.

A litany of complaints target Osama bin Laden's network and its affiliates for their actions in Iraq and North Africa, emphasis on suicide bombings instead of political action and tepid support for, or outright antagonism toward, militant groups pressing the Palestinian cause.

These complaints show the increasing "intellectual turbulence" occurring within the extremist Muslim community. This phenomenon is discussed in detail here, here, and here.

Zawahiri is attempting to limit this "intellectual turbulence" with his Q & A sessions. It is this rift between extremists which Coalition forces must use and exploit as an information operation as part of the instruments of national power to defeat Al Qaeda.

There already exists speculation that Al Qaeda is having a hard time sustaining recruitment to continue its war in Afghanistan and Iraq. With lower recruitment, some comes lower economic support. In addition, Al Qaeda's popularity is waning in Pakistan as it has in Iraq as citizens are seeing the extreme violence which Al Qaeda perpetuates.

It appears this rift is expanding as more and more Muslims, to include past extremists, are asking tough questions and not getting good answers from the Al Qaeda leadership.

The surge of American forces in Iraq not only allowed the Al Anbar Awakening to rise and spread across Iraq, but it also allowed this "intellectual turbulence" spread outside of Al Anbar into the rest of Iraq and now take center stage among Al Qaeda extremists worldwide.

As Iraq continues to prosper and increase the wealth of its citizens through freedom and democracy, many Muslims are beginning to question Al Qaeda's motives more and more while questioning American's motives less and less.

It is difficult to say the US invaded Iraq for oil when Iraqis are passing oil laws and negotiating contracts with many oil companies not of American origin.

It is difficult to keep recruitment and revenues up when Al Qaeda in Iraq's spectacular bombings are killing 20, 30, 0r 40 or more Muslims at a time, to include defenseless women and children.

It is difficult to suppress anti-Al Qaeda feelings when the popular Bhutto was gunned down in cold blood by extremists. It was well known the US worked within the Pakistani government to allow not only her return but also the chance for her to run again for Prime Minister, only to be gunned down by extremists. The assassination of Bhutto was truly a highly visible symbol of extremists killing innocent women and children across the Muslim world.

Al Qaeda's message of violent jihad is beginning to fall more and more on deaf ears. The Great Satan is not so evil anymore as it has brought freedom and prosperity to not only Shiites, but also to Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq. These three major groups are seeing Americans not as an occupier, but as a builder of countries and societies. American is clearly seen as a just arbiter in Iraq between these three groups.

If we had cut and run a year ago, Al Qaeda's crescent in northern and western Iraq would be growing right now. Iran's crescent would have control over all of central Iraq. Instead, President Bush showed Muslims he will stick with them to allow a democracy to foster and grow in the heart of the Middle East. Al Qaeda only got more violent. Both actions, working in tandem, created the "intellectual turbulence" we see today.

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Coalition Forces Continue To Go After AQI

From MNF-I.

Even while Iraqi Security Forces are continuing to battle insurgents in Basra and Sadr City, Coalition forces are still going after AQI elements in Iraq with increasing persistence.

Coalition forces captured a reported al-Qaeda in Iraq leader and detained three additional suspected terrorists during operations in Mosul Tuesday.

In a precision operation in Mosul, Coalition forces captured an alleged AQI leader. The suspect is believed to be in charge of an illegal terrorist court system in the area, and is also suspected of involvement in a local bombing cell.

In the Tigris River Valley, Coalition forces also struck at AQI targets.

Coalition forces detained 18 suspected terrorists Monday and Tuesday during operations targeting the al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network in the Tigris River Valley and northern part of the country.

Coalition forces analyzed intelligence from several sources to develop a series of operations targeting key links in the AQI network west of Samarra. Ground forces conducted eight missions there Monday and Tuesday and detained 12 suspected terrorists.

And further south in Baghdad, Coalition forces detained more AQI individuals.

Coalition forces killed one terrorist and detained 14 suspected terrorists while targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq’s senior leaders and criminal operations Sunday and Monday.

In eastern Baghdad Sunday, Coalition forces used information from an operation Feb. 7 to target a senior leader in the Baghdad AQI propaganda network. When the ground force entered the building, one man drew a weapon. Coalition forces responded to the hostile threat by engaging and killing the armed man. One suspected terrorist was detained, and Coalition forces gathered information that led them to a second target in the area where they detained an additional suspect.

And today, 13 more AQI were detained.

Coalition forces detained 13 suspected terrorists during operations Tuesday and Wednesday targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq networks in the Tigris River Valley and northwest Iraq.

Coalition forces captured two suspected terrorists Tuesday during an operation west of Samarra, including an alleged close associate of a regional AQI leader. Intelligence gathered Tuesday also led the ground force to another target Wednesday morning, where they detained two more suspected associates of the AQI leader.

All typical Americans will read about is a VBIED kills 36, wounds 67 in Baquba or car bomb wounds 11 in central Baghdad. If one wants the whole truth, go to the MNF-I page.

Upon going to the MNF-I page, one thing become very clear. While AQI can still engage in spectacular attacks, its last remaining elements are being killed, wounded, or detained at an alarming rate. In just a few days, well over 50 AQI individuals have been killed or detained according to press releases above and other releases on the MNF-I page not cited specifically here.

Coalition forces are providing security in Central Iraq and taking down Al Qaeda elements at an alarming rate. Kurdish forces are providing security in Northern Iraq. Iraqi Security Forces are providing security in Southern Iraq and have begun to clear the streets in Sadr City.

In sum, what we are witnessing now in Iraq is Iraqi forces are on the offensive, attacking insurgents, moving into terrain that until recently has been in the hands of insurgents or militias, and providing security for their citizens. They are attacking and taking down insurgent strongholds whether they be Shiite militia or Al Qaeda in Iraq safehavens.

This new found capacity in Iraqi Security Forces, namely to be moved from place to place to battle insurgents and militia marks a new phase in Iraq. The Government of Iraq is establishing the rule of law within the country and is starting to look outward at its neighbors saying in effect, "Don't support criminal elements in Iraq." The recent battle in Basra showed this clearly to the Iranians.

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Port City is Open for Business

From MNF-I.

UmQasr, a port city southeast of Basra, is filled with daily activities, as Iraqi workers load export and unload imports last week.

“The estimated flow of goods into Iraq is 60,000 tons with 15,000 passing through UmQsar,” said Todd Stratton, Task Force to Support Business and Stability Operations in Iraq.

“The single largest commodity is food such as wheat, rice, sugar and other food items,” Stratton said. “The port is a critical gateway to supply the Iraqi nation with food imports.”

Why is MNF-I telling the story of Um Qsar being opened for business? It could be the same reason General Petraeus reported to Congress the port of Um Qasr is now under the control of Iraqi Security Forces.

Meanwhile, anti-insurgent operations in Basra continue, Petraeus reported, noting Iraqi security forces now have control of the city of Um Qasr, the country’s main port. Um Qasr is a major conduit for the smuggling of weapons and contraband into Iraq, the general said.

The major reason for the story is a little talked about victory in Basra. The port, which used to be under control of Sadr's forces backed by Special Groups from Iran, is now under control of the Iraqi Government. This means two things. Smuggling is now most assuredly way down -- smuggling which directly benefited Sadr's Mahdi Army. In addition, the Iraqi Government is now getting imports directly instead of Sadr.

Make no doubt about it, the recent battle in Basra was a major tactical and operational success for PM Maliki and the Iraqi Government. It was not executed perfectly, but it was and still is being executed well enough.

Reports are confirming that approximately 1300 Soldiers and police refused to fight the Sadr militia and Special Groups in Basra and other southern cities. These 1300 traitors are now identified and fired. The remaining 28,700 Soldiers PM Maliki has pushed into the southern region are completely loyal to him and the Iraqi Government. It is these loyal forces which are now in control of the port of Um Qasr, ensuring the Iraqi Government has control of all the supplies coming into and going out of Iraq. More importantly, it assures the Qods forces and Sadr's Mahdi Army are no longer able to smuggle these supplies into the country for economic benefit for their forces, nor more importantly, smuggle oil out of the country. These elements have just lost a major source of revenue.

PM Maliki used military force to regain control of southern Iraq. In turn, his tactical and operational victory has allowed him to gain control of the economies of this region. Politically, he is introducing legislation which will outlaw militias and prevent members from running for Parliament who maintain militias. Finally, if one hasn't noticed, he is on many international and national programs touting the success in the south. He is expertly using all the instruments on Iraqi National Power to reduce the influence of Sadr and Iranian-sponsored Special Groups in Iraq.

I stated before in this blog. The Kurds haved secured the North. The Americans have secured the Central part of Iraq to include Baghdad, the center of gravity in Iraq. PM Maliki is securing the South.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is reduced down to at most 2000 remaining individuals who are hiding, but yet are still getting captured or killed daily. Sunnis, who have joined the Sons of Iraq, are now being screened for military/police service. The Sons of Iraq are, in addition, developing into a political party just in time for October Provincial Elections and National Elections in 2009. PM Maliki is no longer seen as a puppet of the Iranian government by Kurds and Sunnis. He is now seen as an secular Iraqi leader who will fight against Shiites for the betterment of Iraq. Sadr is politically isolated, he and his militia is in hiding in Iraq, and the head of the Sadr block in Iraq has just been assassinated. Iran, who attempted to exert political, economic, and military control in the South, now has to begin its carefully laid plans all over again after years of detailed planning. Finally, the Iraqi Security Forces have been independently tried and tested in the South and were victorious. In addition, 1300 traitors have been identified and expelled from the force to make it completely loyal to the government.

Not a bad month for the Government of Iraq. Not a bad month indeed.

The battle of Basra completely changed the political/diplomatic, informational, military, and economic landscape of Iraq. It solidified PM Maliki's power in Parliament. It will allow for reconciliation with Sunnis and Kurds. It completely isolated Sadr and highlighted Tehran/Qods' force efforts in Iraq. It has opened the way for free and fair elections in the south.

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The Press Botches Basra

From The Weekly Standard written by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Bill Roggio.

Both of these gentlemen point out differences in reporting coming out of Basrah versus the facts of all the articles combined. While headlines and text hailed Sadr's strength and resilience, facts show something completely different. Mr. Gartenstein-Ross and Roggio explain it best in these paragraph.

To be sure, the Iraqi security forces' performance in Basra is best described as mixed. However, they did not run into a wall. The Iraqi military was able to clear one Mahdi Army-controlled neighborhood in Basra and was in the process of clearing another when Sadr issued his ceasefire. The ceasefire came on March 30, after six days of fighting, and was seemingly unilateral in the sense that the Iraqi government made no apparent concessions in return. By that time, 571 Mahdi Army fighters had been killed, 881 wounded, 490 captured, and 30 had surrendered countrywide, according to numbers tabulated by The Long War Journal. Thus, an estimated 95 Mahdi Army fighters were killed per day during the six days of fighting. In contrast, al Qaeda in Iraq did not incur such intense casualties even during the height of the surge.

The Iraqi security forces were at their best in the smaller cities in Iraq's south. The Mahdi Army suffered major setbacks in Hillah, Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Amarah, Kut, and Nasiriyah. The security forces drove the Mahdi Army off the streets in those cities within days. The casualties taken by the Mahdi Army in Baghdad, Basra, and the wider south surely played a role in Sadr's tactical decision to call a ceasefire. An American military officer serving in southern Iraq told us, "Whatever gains [the Mahdi Army] has made in the field [in Basrah], they were running short of ammunition, food, and water. In short, [the Mahdi Army] had no ability to sustain the effort." Time's sources in Basra paint a similar picture. "There has been a large-scale retreat of the Mahdi Army in the oil-rich Iraqi port city because of low morale and because ammunition is low due to the closure of the Iranian border," the magazine reported on March 30.

Both gentlemen go on to point out that Sadr unilaterally issued a ceasefire. PM Maliki accepted Sadr's ceasefire, but did not stop operations nor did he agree to Sadr's terms. In fact, reinforcements were sent to Basrah and raids are still being conducted to this day.

But the fact is that the Maliki government did not agree to the nine-point terms for a truce that Sadr issued, nor did it sue for peace or promise that operations would cease. Instead the Iraqi government called Sadr's order for his fighters to pull off the streets a "positive step," and insisted that operations would continue. "The armed groups who refuse al Sadr's announcement and the pardon we offered will be targets, especially those in possession of heavy weapons," Maliki said, referring to the ten-day amnesty period for militias to turn in heavy and medium weapons. "Security operations
in Basra will continue to stop all the terrorist and criminal activities along with the organized gangs targeting people."

Subsequent to the ceasefire, the Iraqi military announced it was moving reinforcements to Basra, and the next day pushed forces into the ports of Khour al Zubair and Umm Qasr. Iraqi special operations forces and special police units have conducted several raids inside Basra since then, while an Iraqi brigade marched into the heart of a Mahdi-controlled Basra neighborhood on April 2. And two days after Sadr called for a ceasefire, the government maintained a curfew in Sadr City and other Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad. None of this would be happening had Maliki simply caved to Sadr.

In addition, the press reported an emergency session of Parliament was called to end Maliki's push into Basrah. However, again the facts show what actually happened.

Maliki's governing coalition did not revolt over this operation. When the Iraqi opposition held an emergency session of parliament to oppose the Basra operations, only 54 of the 275 lawmakers attended. AFP reported, "The two main parliamentary blocs--Shiite United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdish Alliance--were not present for the session which was attended by lawmakers from radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc, the small Shiite Fadhila Party, the secular Iraqi National List and the Sunni National Dialogue Council." The fact that the major political blocs in Iraq's parliament ignored the emergency session is politically significant, and no evidence suggests that Maliki's governing coalition has been jeopardized since then.

Finally, both of these gentlemen paraphrase what a military officer told them. For me, this provides the correct perspective.

As an American military officer serving in southern Iraq told us, "Claiming a 'victory' and then withdrawing from the battlefield is the tactic of someone that is losing."

Combine this with the Kagan article and a lot of questions remain. However, one thing is certain. PM Maliki security operation was far from a failure it was portrayed to be in the media. While not a resounding tactical success, one has to ask, did it accomplish its strategic goals.

PM Maliki was attempting to secure his nation's oil wealth. He did as Iraqi Army units now control the port cities of Khour al Zubair and Umm Qasr.

PM Maliki was attempting to break up and defeat criminal elements which continue to bring violence to his country. Killing 95 fighters a day for six days is significant. The killed, captured, wounded, and surrendered numbers come out to 329 per day or 1,972 Madhi forces total for six days. In addition, The Mahdi Army suffered major setbacks in Hillah, Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Amarah, Kut, and Nasiriyah. The security forces drove the Mahdi Army off the streets in those cities within days, as noted. In addition, his forces now control the port cities of Khour al Zubair and Umm Qasr as previously noted. This is hardly a defeat for PM Maliki.

Finally, PM Maliki stated he wanted to defeat Sadr's militia as the operation continues. This action requires considerable more time and will not be realized in six days. Hence, operations are still ongoing.

Politically, this operation did not hurt him as only 54 of 275 members of Parliament showed up for an emergency session with nobody attending from major parties. Politically, he obviously no longer enjoys the support of Sadr, who's 30 seats guarenteed his leadership of the country, but there are at least well over 200 members of Parliament who at least tacitly supported his operations in southern Iraq.

Militarily, the battle is still ongoing with 9 of 10 southern cities are now controlled by Iraqi Security Forces where they were at best contested beforehand. Militarily, almost 2000 insurgents were taken off the streets in six days. Militarily, Maliki was able to successfully move Iraqi Army units from one part of the country to another and logistically support them.

Looking at the facts, I would consider the battle in Southern Iraq to be completely successful with many strategic objectives accomplished or in the process of being accomplished. The battle of Basrah is ongoing. His military is capable of clearing and securing the south, the center, and is currently clearing Mosul.

Not a bad position to be in when you are uncertain if the US military will begin a wholesale withdraw from Iraq 10 months from today. This very concern is why PM Maliki may have decided to go it alone in the southern part of the country and why he is also providing the majority of forces in Mosul. He has two insurgencies who are vying for power in Iraq. His forces are taking them on, mostly on their own. He might as well test his military now, because 10 months from now, he may very well be going it alone.

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Al-Qaeda weapons'' cache doscovered in Samarra

From KUNA.

Iraqi security forces said on Saturday that they found a large Al-Qaeda weapons' cache in one of the small islands on the Tigris River, close to the city of Samarra in Saladdin province, north of Baghdad....

The weapons' cache was dug underground in one of small the islands on the Tigris River. Four rooms in the cache were stuffed with weapons, important documents, names of Al-Qaeda leaders, as well as some families who had been exploited.

The brigadier said that they also found a message from Abu Ayub Al-Masri, one of the Al-Qaeda leaders, along with formal requests for funding and freezing combatants and the deployment of others in Samarra. [emphasis added]

This cache is undoubtedly a treasure trove of data for the Coalition intel community.

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An Iraqi Insurgent Tell-All: Al-Qaida Is To Blame For "Killing Sunnis" And "Demolishing Their Homes, Mosques, and Their Hospitals"

From Evan Kohlmann writing for the Counterterrorism Blog. The article cites an interview with an unnamed Hamas commander in Iraq.

During the interview, the unnamed Hamas commander sharply condemned the "criminal actions launched by the Al-Qaida network targeting innocent civilians and... other jihad movements...

Some highlights follow:

Among the highlights of the interview:

- "...We apologize for those who have stepped beyond the boundaries of good Muslim behavior… after a series of criminal actions launched by the Al-Qaida network targeting innocent civilians and, separately, other jihad movements. We have sought to find solutions to stop the harm and unify the ranks of the mujahideen—yet, neither our efforts nor those of others have yielded anything but betrayal and a lack of reciprocation by the Al-Qaida network. Ansar al-Islam knows quite well that, from the very beginning, we asked for their commander to be the mediator between us and [Al-Qaida], but they refused to do so.”

- "The occupying forces were unable to enter many districts and villages of Diyala until Al-Qaida paved the way for them when they began killing the Sunnis and demolishing their homes, mosques, and their hospitals. They did what the sectarian militias loyal to Iran could not do, and they finished off the job for them."

- "Anyone who has followed the impact of Al-Qaida in the Diyala province will generally find that wherever they go, they cripple daily life. We can summarize their actions in the Diyala province as follows: demolishing mosques (as what befell the Kanaan Mosque) and interrupting prayers; stealing the salaries of deserving retirees; preventing rations from reaching the people of Diyala for allegedly supporting the Iraqi Ministry of Trade; stealing livestock, especially from the families of martyrs from the mujahideen; killing women and children, and mutilating their bodies, as what befell our brothers from Asaeb al-Iraq al-Jihadiya and some of our mujahideen in Kanaan and Bahraz; shuttering hospitals and stealing many valuable pieces of medical equipment, destroying them or else exporting them to unknown locations."

For a full read, click here.

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The Surge in Iraq: One Year Later

From Lt. Gen. Raymond T Odierno writing for The Heritage Foundation.

Stories in the press described the situation in Iraq as spiraling out of control. One Los Angeles Times arti­cle discussed the rising level of sectarian violence in Baghdad and how this violence seemed to feed on itself. Placing his account in context, the writer men­tioned that al-Qaeda had detonated a bomb in the Shia neighborhood of Sadr City the previous week, killing over 200 people. This was the latest in a steady run of high-profile attacks since the Golden Mosque bomb­ing of February 2006 in Samarra. And for at least one Shiite living in Baghdad, it was the last straw.

LTG Odierno descibes the political situation in Iraq.

In late 2006, the progress we can observe now was unthinkable. In short, we could hardly expect successful transition or meaningful reconciliation without basic security. Establishing security for the population was a prerequisite for further progress. It was essential. And to make a decisive impact, we needed more combat power and a change in approach.

What helped turn Iraq around?

However, it is important that I mention one other factor that informed our planning and deci­sion-making process. On December 19, 2006, we captured some mid-level al-Qaeda leaders just north of Baghdad. Upon them was a map that clearly depicted al-Qaeda's strategy for the total and unyielding dominance of Baghdad, betting that control of Iraq's capital and its millions of cit­izens would give them free rein to export their twisted ideology and terror.

This map can be found at the Institute for the Study of War. This map was significant in that it described how Al Qaeda in Iraq used the belts around Baghdad to execute terrorists acts in Baghdad. It also showed the disposition of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The map confirmed the American military what had just been written in its new Counterinsurgency doctrine, namely, the decisive point in Iraq was Baghdad and overarching goal of coalition forces should be to protect and secure the population.

It meant changing our mindset as we secured the people where they worked and slept and where their children played. It meant developing new tac­tics, techniques, and procedures in order to imple­ment this concept. We began to establish Joint Security Stations and Combat Outposts throughout Baghdad. We erected protective barriers and estab­lished checkpoints to create "safe neighborhoods" and "safe markets," improving security for Iraqis as they went about their daily lives.

To secure the population, American forces established Joint Security Stations in and around the people to ensure their security and protection. They also increased the operational capacity of Iraqi Security Forces to be able to hold ground, freeing up American forces to continue to attack and keep pressure on Al Qaeda in Iraq (Sunni terrorists) and Special Groups (Shiite terrorists).

This multipronged approach resulted in enhanced economic activitiy as the population now begin to go back to markets. This translated into Iraqis giving American forces more tips to sustain their new security and economic actitivity. Partnering up with Iraqi Forces put them in harms way, made them more proficient, and allowed more pairing up with US forces. In the long run, many Iraqi Army units begin to take the lead in fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq and Special Groups.

The complete turn around in Al Anbar provided US forces a model by which to convert insurgents to work for vice against the Iraqi Government and American military. In turn, people were now protected by Sons of Iraq, locals paired with local police, supplemented by Iraqi Security Forces. Al Qaeda in Iraq could now not move back into regions cleared by American forces. They began to flee causing American forces to be able to find them quicker. The situation spiraled out of control for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

In turn, the populous now experienced substantial economic growth and development and begin to turn wholesale against extremists, whether Sunni or Shia. The surge produced hope for the Iraqi people. As hope increases so does anti-extremism. This hope continues to grow and is now present all over Iraq and is beginning to flow out of Iraq to other neighboring countries.

Precisely right when many were proposing we accept defeat in Iraq, we now see almost a complete rout of Al Qaeda in Iraq and to a certain extent a rout of Special Groups. Many times in war, hope is all that is needed to turn the tables on the enemy. We gave not only Iraqis hope but many other people hope in the Middle East. This hope would not have been there if we had pulled out forces in 2007. Instead we surged forces, routed Al Qaeda in Iraq, and gave people of the region hope for freedom and democracy in their future.

For a full read, click here.

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Iran's Fear - Iraq's Chance

From Amir Taheri.

'I HAVE lost hope of liberating Iraq and turning it into an Is lamic society." So said Muqtada al-Sadr in an open letter to his followers published last week.

The young Shiite mullah once claimed he would lead Iraq "back to true Islam," but he has been in Iran for at least the last six months. He had been expected to announce an end to the cease-fire observed by his Mahdi Army since 2007. Instead, he voiced a litany of woes that ended with an implicit pledge not to reactivate his death squads.

The exodus of Sadr from Iraqi politics came as a shock to many observers, including this one. But, as always the questions must be asked, why? The answer lies in his exodus speech.

Muqtada blamed members of his entourage and unnamed mullahs and Shiite notables for having "undermined the struggle" for "worldly reasons" and for having succumbed to the temptation of wealth and power presented to them by the Iraqi government. [Emphasis Added]

There exists two characteristics of a young democracy.

First, it brings a weak federal government. A weak central government is a result of a constitution which is overly cautious of tyranny. A weak central government is plaqued with a series of checks and balances buttressed by extreme partisanship which hinders its ability to serve the people. In addition, new democratic leadership is still focused on the old power (the wealthy) vice the new power (the people). We are seeing this phenomenon in Iraq currently.

Secondly, as a result of the weak central government's inability to serve the people, local power brokers arise. These power brokers arise as a result of the need of the people to be served. In Iraq, this niche is being filled by tribal leaders and political parties.

Sadr, early on, represented an old power and hence became a power broker at the local level. He lost the support of the people because of a third phenonoma of a young democracy, namely the violent, mafia-style ruling of local power brokers. Specifically, his organization side-stepped the new rule of law established in the democracy and begin to extort vice protect the people.

It was not the people in Iraq who "succumbed to the temptation of wealth and power". Instead, it was his organization itself that succumbed to this temptation.

Thus, Sadr withdrew from politics, at least in the near term.

Iraq is not only maturing as a young democracy, but also has external influences thrust upon it (Al Qaeda, Syria, and Iran) which have stymied its maturation. The bad side of this external influence is typically violence as the opposing powers seeks influence in the new state. The good side of this external influence is violence accelerates the learning process of a new democracy.

Whereas the US went through several stages of robber barons and mafia control in relative safety due to its geographic isolation, Iraq is going through these stages with antagonists on its immediate borders. The main power broker in the region, Iran, still seeks to make Iraq into a puppet state. However, Iran has recently realized something as a result of the surge.

In recent months, Tehran policymakers have begun to understand a crucial fact about Iraq: Any weakening of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government now could persuade the United States to throw its support behind an alternative, anti-Iranian coalition of Arab Sunnis, Kurds and secular Shiites openly hostile to Iran. [Emphasis Added]

Thus, Tehran and Washington have a joint interest in keeping al-Maliki's coalition in power - at least until next year's Iraqi general election.

As such, Iran, being the theocracy it is, is gravitating to what it knows, namely schooling Sadr to become a full fledge ayatollah to replace the aging Sistani, who many Iranians (and Shiite Lebanese for that matter) still look upon as the spiritual leader of Shiism.

Iranians are looking long term in Iraq, which is why they are risking taking Sadr out of the mix for 5 to 10 years. However, Iraqis are also looking long term and are realizing what all young democratic people realize, namely extremism (whether political or religious)brings factionalization resulting in war which hinders growth and economic prosperity.

Iraqis have shunned extremists. It first happened in Al Anbar when the Sunni tribes kicked Al Qaeda in Iraq out of the province. It happened with Sadr's Madhi Army which was forced into a ceasefire in August 2007 after the violence it perpetuated in Karbala. It more recently happened south of Baghdad in the triangle of death region. It is currently happening in the religiously mixed area of the Diyala and the city of Mosul.

So where does this leave Iraq, Iran, and the US. The US has a few major factors going for it. First, it is impartial and is not taking sides among extremists. Secondly, it brought forth and continues to bring freedom and democracy to the region. Thirdly, it is assisting the people. These three factors are why the US is the major power in the region.

Iraq, attempting to model the instruments of power the US wields is establishing a strong, mostly secular Army that is going after all extremists, whether Sunni or Shia. The government is attempting to bring economic prosperity to its people. It is allowing free press which tells of its achievements and its failings. Finally, it is diplomatically pursuing external relationships among its fellow nations, including Iran.

Iran, unfortunately for them, gravitates only to what it knows, namely theocratic rule and suppression. Democracy has been brought to Iraq. Iraqis have fought for and are still fighting for the freedom that democracy brings. Iran, with it sectarian ways, continues to alienate fellow Iraqis who only want freedom and democracy.

If Sadr had real power, his position as an ayatollah would not matter. Iran believes it does matter and is taking Sadr out of the mix to increase his theocratic power. However, by the time he returns, Iraq (the most secular nation in the middle east prior to 2003) will grow more secular and be more distrustful of theocratic powers.

The only thing the US needs to continue to do is maintain its nonpartisanship presence in the region. It needs to support the duly elected powers in Iraq and continue to push for a transparent, democratic government. Upon new elected powers, it needs to support the new government as long as they maintain the rule of law and continue to pursue a tranparent democracy.

Iraqis want freedom and democracy. The US has given it to them. Iraqis have fought for and won their freedom and are continuing to build a democracy which every day is learning better to serve the people that brought it into power. Upcoming provincial and national elections are important, as Mr. Taheri points out, because it will continue to bring in new local power brokers to the federal government. If wanting to stay in power, these now national level, local power brokers will have to legislate for the people.

Iran is operating under the wrong paradigm. As such, it will fail to achieve its objective as long as the US maintains a fair, nonpartisan presence in the country. Al Qaeda never learned this lesson and was expelled from Al Anbar because of it. It is currently being expelled wholesale from Iraq. As Iraqs continue to experiment with democracy and the democracy grows to serve the people, Iran, and other neighbors, will continue to by stymied in all attempts to pursuade the Iraqi government to adopt its principles.

What no nation in the region understands is the transformation taking place in Iraq. It is transforming from a feudal, tribal society to a federalist democracy. Iraqiness is becoming more important than anyting because of the blood that has been spilled to maintain a unified Iraq.

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Looking to the Levant: Internationalizing the Iraqi Insurgency

From the Jamestown Foundation.

A number of Iraqi insurgents are increasingly turning their guns outward—rhetorically at least—toward the Levant (Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank, Israel and Lebanon) in general and Israel in particular. It is no secret that Osama bin Laden has renewed calls for the destruction of Israel and the liberation of Palestine, and has also stepped up efforts to set up bases of operations around the Levant in its attempt to restore the Caliphate over every former territory of Islam, from Spain to Iraq. At a time when al-Qaeda is enhancing its Israeli-Palestinian agit-prop and is developing networks in Lebanon and Palestine, the rhetoric of Iraqi insurgents—whether involuntarily or by design—might play into the hands of al-Qaeda’s master plan for the region

For a full read, click here.

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The Rejected

From Paul McLeary writing for the Columbia Journalism Review.

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. For many of the journalists who have covered it, it has been the story of their lifetime, but we’ve nevertheless seen coverage of the war slip off the front pages over the last few months. While there are still plenty of reporters risking their lives doing great work in Iraq, much of the political, social, and economic complexity of today’s war seems to be getting lost in the election-year crush, even as the war continues to be a major issue in the campaign. This series is CJR’s attempt to add a little bit of context to the whole, while digging into stories that don’t always make it into our morning newspapers.

Mr. McLeary writes of his embed with Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 21st Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, part of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. In this article, he writes of Captain Glenn Helberg'as meeting with sheik Munder. During the meeating, the power went out. Mr. McLeary explains.

Power failures are so common that the sheik just kept talking; mostly about the dark days just a few months ago when al Qaeda ran the area, of the family members killed, how his sons had to drop out of school. He joked that he was thinking of renaming his tribe “The Rejected,” since that’s what al Qaeda used to call Shia.

This article is very interesting as it writes about the "strategic corporal", the "three-block war", and cultivating relationships with Iraqis which are all tenets of counterinsrugency doctrine. It is a first in a series of planned articles about how all these tenets are affecting the war in Iraq, where we are in our counterinsurgency fight, and where we and the Iraqi government have to go.

For a full read, click here.

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Two Saudi al Qaeda operatives killed in Mosul

MNF-I reports the following today.

The terrorists killed during an operation Wednesday [27 February] in Mosul have been positively identified as Jar Allah, also known as Abu Yasir al-Saudi, and Hamdan.

Abu Yasir al-Saudi was the Southeast Mosul Emir for al-Qaeda in Iraq and led a foreign terrorist facilitation network in the city....

Hamdan was involved in coordinating the movement of foreign terrorists into Mosul, and led a regional anti-aircraft ring.

While The Jamestown Foundation reports the following.

On January 28, a jihadist internet forum member nicknamed “al-Battar al-Salafi” posted a set of instructions entitled: "Urgent: How to migrate to Iraq and reach al-Qaim and Mosul provinces; Migration road."

One wonders whether there is a connection here or not. First, Hamdan, who coordinated movement of foreign terrorists was killed on Wednesday and then on Thursday Jihadist post an "Urgent: How to migrate to Iraq..." message. This linkage makes one wonder if Abu Yasir al-Saudi was just the Southeast Mosul Emir for al-Qaeda in Iraq or somebody more important. Likewise was Hamdan one of several foreign terrorists movement facilitators or the main guy for moving foreign terrorists?

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Islamic State of Iraq Gives Advice on Infiltration Routes into Iraq

From the Jamestown Foundation.

In the last issue of Terrorism Focus (February 20), we examined the attempt by Iraq’s Islamist insurgents to recruit trained professionals for jihad in Iraq. In this follow-up, we examine the use of jihadist internet forums to present would-be jihadis with safe routes to infiltrate into Iraq (al-ekhlaas.net, January 28). Maps, orthophotos and other materials are included on the website. The orthophotos are aerial photographs that have had normal photographic distortions removed while being geometrically corrected for use as highly accurate maps.

A few items are interesting about these route postings:

1. All three routes end in Mosul. This jihadist forum supports the contention that Al Qaeda has been flushed out of all other areas and Mosul is their the last safe haven.

2. The forum discusses expenses incurred by jihadists coming to Iraq. I find this situation interesting in that Al Qaeda is not paying for jihadist to come to Iraq. Does this show that Al Qaeda in Iraq is short of funding?

3. Finally, the fact that Al Qaeda in Iraq is posting transit routes on an open internet forum may show how needy they are for recruits in Iraq.

All these facts taken together show just how desperate the situation in Iraq has become for Al Qaeda.

For a full read, click here.

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U.S. Soldiers, Iraqi Army Discover Huge Weapons Cache

From MNF-I.

In total, the three caches yielded one complete improvised explosive device, 190 pounds of unknown bulk explosive, 40 pounds of dynamite, (74) 82 mm mortar rounds, (18) 122 mm artillery rounds, (38) 60 mm mortar rounds, 400 additional projectiles between 23 mm and 155 mm, hundreds of assorted munitions pieces, several radios and documents.

More significant than the munitions is the documents found which will inevitably lead to more caches discovered and more insurgents detained.

For a full read, click here.

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Petraeus to Seek to Limit Pause in Pullout to 6 Weeks

From The New York Times.

The top American military commander in Iraq will recommend that President Bush order a brief pause in troop reductions from Iraq this summer, but the White House expects that the withdrawals will resume before Mr. Bush leaves office, a senior administration official said Friday.

General Petraeus want to temporarily pause troop reductions to let the "dust to settle" and to allow time to evaluate what effect troop reduction are having in Iraq.

General Petraeus has indicated that he would favor a pause, though he has not been specific about the timetable, and Mr. Bush has said he is likely to go along with the general’s recommendation. Earlier this week, the commander of American forces in the Middle East, Adm. William J. Fallon, said in an interview that any halt in the troop drawdown should be temporary and brief — just long enough to allow “all the dust to settle.”

For a full read, click here.

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The Other Surge

From Talisman Gate.

Nevermind that Iraqis are doing most of the dying and sustaining most of the damage to their economy; the "blame-the-Iraqis" crowd--y'know, the ones who keep saying "the Iraqis should be doing more of this and more of that"--need to keep these numbers in mind (Arabic):

Total number of military personnel: 250,000 (in 14 Divisions)

Total number of police: 450,000

Increase in weekly operations by Iraqi security forces since the Maliki government took over: 1000 percent

Increase in number of patrols: 270 percent

Increase in security spending in the 2008 budget: 26 percent

Nibras Kazimi notes the MSM is stating it will all fall apart as American troops redeploy to pre-surge levels noting the Sunnis are rearming and the Sadrists are fuming. However, he confidently states it will not fall apart. When asked if making Iraq a democracy was worth it, he states.

They certainly won't tell about the strategic and moral implications of a successful Iraq; a new Iraq saved from Saddam and on its way to becoming the closest approximation of Sweden in its neighborhood; a strong Iraq that may have to do all the dirty work of cleaning up a very messy Middle East so that you can heat your homes and go to cinemas without fearing that some zealot has left a ticking surprise for you; yeah, you can bet your ass it's worth it.

It is worth noting Mr. Kazimi predicted the Al Anbar tribes turning against Al Qaeda in early 2006, several months before they actually turned sides. It is also worth noting he predicted this turning would sweep across the country. Let's hope his latest prediction is also correct.

For a full read, click here.

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Jihadists and Progressives: An Affair to Remember

From American Thinker.

General Douglas Macarthur once quipped that it was "...fatal to enter any war without the will to win it". Few epithets more accurately reflect the prevailing default setting of the majority of this country's Democrat contingent, arguably more than two thirds of the mainstream media, and anyone who even remotely identifies with the progressive agenda.

In fact, as depressing as it may sound, the left is not merely devoid of the will to win the war in Iraq; they are irrevocably committed to the pursuit of a global exposé of their own country's moral, political, and military failure, with a passion that is rivaled only by our jihadist adversaries with whom we are presently engaged.

Miguel A. Guanipa continues to point out the realities on the ground are getting hard to escape as noted from a recently captured Al Qaeda in Iraq document.

This discrepancy between what actually happens on the ground, and the image to which the media continues to subscribe -- with the full assent from the progressive block -- was most notably exposed in recently released documents that included a 16-page Diary written last October by a local al-Qaeda leader north of Baghdad.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi, Coalition security forces detain 27, discover 4 caches in recent operations in Mosul

From MNF-I.

Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces detained 27 suspects and discovered four weapons caches in the Ninewa Province in recent joint operations.

During these operations joint forces also rescued a hostage from an underground prison. These operations are part of Multi-National Division – North’s continuing pursuit of criminals in the area.

“Now is the time for everyone, ISF, Coalition Forces and the people of Mosul to stand together in a united front against these monsters in order to end their wave of violence against the innocent,” said Maj. Daniel J. Meyers, spokesman for Task Force Iron.

The Battle for Mosul is heating up.

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Two Winnable Wars

From Anthony H. Cordesman writing for the Washington Post.

No one can return from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, as I recently did, without believing that these are wars that can still be won. They are also clearly wars that can still be lost, but visits to the battlefield show that these conflicts are very different from the wars being described in American political campaigns and most of the debates outside the United States.

These conflicts involve far more than combat between the United States and its allies against insurgent movements such as al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban. Meaningful victory can come only if tactical military victories end in ideological and political victories and in successful governance and development. Dollars are as important as bullets, and so are political accommodation, effective government services and clear demonstrations that there is a future that does not need to be built on Islamist extremism.

He ends with,

Any American political leader who cannot face these realities, now or in the future, will ensure defeat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Any Congress that insists on instant victory or success will do the same. We either need long-term commitments, effective long-term resources and strategic patience -- or we do not need enemies. We will defeat ourselves

The choice is our America. We can only defeat ourselves in both of these wars.

For a full read, click here.

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Reports of Reconciliation

From Deroy Murdock at NRO.

Though largely dismissed by the Democratic Left, America’s “surge” policy is paying attractive dividends. Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is in retreat, violence is down, and political reconciliation is up.

In a 16-page letter that U.S. soldiers found last October near Baghdad, AQI leader Abu Tariq complained that his 600-man force had dwindled to 20 terrorists.

Mr. Murdock continues with,

This far-brighter security climate is depriving the Democratic Left of its last anti-surge talking point. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D – California) told CNN February 10, “The gains have not produced the desired effect, which is the reconciliation of Iraq. This is a failure. This is a failure.

”Either Pelosi is self-deluded, or she spoke prematurely. On February 13, the Iraqi parliament scored a trifecta. It adopted a $48 billion budget, scheduled provincial elections for October 1 within the context of new rules governing central, regional, and local authorities, and passed an amnesty measure that could free thousands of mainly Sunni detainees not accused of serious crimes. Legislators embraced these bills unanimously.

“Today is a wedding for Iraq’s parliament,” said speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani. “We have proved that Iraqis are just one bloc.”

For a full read, click here.

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Senior al Qaeda in Iraq intel officer killed in Diyala

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

Multinational Forces Iraq has confirmed it killed a senior intelligence officer of al Qaeda in Iraq’s network in Diyala. Arkan Khalaf Khudayyir, also known as Karrar, was killed during a raid by “Coalition forces” in Khan Bani Sa’ad on February 17. Multinational Forces Iraq uses the generic term Coalition forces to describe Task Force 88, the special operations hunter-killer teams tasked with dismantling al Qaeda in Iraq’s senior leaders and wider network.

Karrar was described as a senior intelligence leader for al Qaeda in Iraq’s network in Baqubah. Karrar facilitated suicide bombing attacks in the Diyala River Valley. This network also has been responsible for attacks in Baghdad, “to include attacks by female suicide bombers.” (emphasis added)

One can only hope we have destroyed this network. Further on in the article, he notes,

While the region has not been named, Multinational Forces Iraq has reported numerous raids against al Qaeda in Iraq’s networks in the Hamrin Mountain region. The Hamrin Mountains, which span Diyala, Salahadin, and Tamin provinces, are believed to be a major fallback position for al Qaeda in Iraq and allied insurgent groups.

We have discussed the Hamrin Mountain region previously in this blog. It is believed to be a training area for insurgents in Iraq. Between Mosul and Hamrin, these are the last bastions of security for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

For a full read, click here.

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Dwindling Insurgent Forces Target of Operation Marne Grand Slam

From MNF-I.

Coalition forces began pursuit of remaining insurgent elements near Salman Pak Feb. 15 with the kickoff of Operation Marne Grand Slam.
The operation is designed to terminally disable the dwindling number of al-Qaeda in Iraq operatives remaining in the region southeast of Baghdad.

The first phase of Grand Slam involves clearing a peninsula that stretches into the Tigris River, directly south of the city of Salman Pak. In addition to targeting the terrorist network there, Coalition forces will go after AQI’s infrastructure of safe houses, weapon caches and firing points.

For a full read, click here.

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US troops build forts in Al Qaeda’s stronghold

From Dawn.

US military engineers are defying nightly attacks in a race to build forts in devastated districts of downtown Mosul ahead of what has been billed as the next key battle against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

As night fell over the war-torn city on Saturday a huge convoy of dump trucks escorted by American tanks and armoured personnel carriers flowed out from Mosul’s main US base towards one of the city’s most violent districts.

The battle for Mosul continues as US and Iraqi forces continue to establish more of a presence in the city.

For a full read, click here.

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Al-Qaeda fighters flee cities, head for desert or out of Iraq -- report

From KUNA. An update on the current situation of Al Qaeda in Iraq in the MND-N region.

A surge in military operations and a shift in local support in northern Iraq has driven many Al-Qaeda fighters out of cities that once provided them safe haven and into the desert, or even out of the country, said a report by the Multi-National Force (NMF), quoting a commander in the region.

Citizens in the four-province region of Multi-National Division - North have begun shifting their support to Coalition and Iraqi forces in "droves," and security gains are increasingly putting extremists on the run with no clear place to go to be safe, said Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commander of Multi-National Division - North and the U.S. Armys 1st Armored Division.

Just how successful has Operation Iron Harvest been?

In Iron Harvest operations over the past 45 days, Coalition and Iraqi security forces there have conducted 74 missions. They have captured or killed more than 70 high-value individuals, and "hundreds" of enemy fighters, the general said.

They found more than 430 caches with tons of explosives and weapons, he added, and they have cleared 653 homemade bombs, 42 house bombs, 35 car bombs and three bomb factories.

For a full read, click here.

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US, Iraq begin operations against Al Qaeda

From Alsumaria.

More than 1,000 US and Iraqi Forces have begun operations against Al Qaeda in Mosul paving the way for what Iraqi officials say will be a decisive strike, the US military said. Extra Iraqi troops, backed by helicopters and tanks, have been sent to Mosul in order to fight insurgents there. “As of right now there are 1,000 plus Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces conducting the operation,” said Maj. Gary Dangerfield, a spokesman for US Forces. For his part, US Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of troops in northern Iraq, said Al Qaeda fighters were being rooted out of northern cities into more remote areas. Hertling noted in a video link from the US Defense Department headquarters in Iraq that some fighters were leaving with plans to return. Therefore, he added, borders are being monitored closely. “Some of them we have seen specifically leaving to Syria, some of them are going back to Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” he said.

The interesting part of this article notes that Al Qaeda insurgetns are fleeing Mosul and attempting to get into Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar with plans to return.

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Lawmakers pass provincial election law

From Yahoo via AP.

Parliament cleared the way Wednesday for provincial elections this year that could give Sunnis a stronger voice and usher in vast changes to Iraq's power structure.

The new law — which set the vote for Oct. 1 — is one of the most sweeping reforms pushed by the Bush administration and signals that Iraq's politicians finally, if grudgingly, may be ready for small steps toward reconciliation.

Iraqis are set to vote once again.

For a full read, click here.

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Diary of an Insurgent In Retreat

From the Washington Post.

On Nov. 3, U.S. soldiers raided a safe house of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq near the northern city of Balad. Not a single combatant was captured, but inside the house they found something valuable: a diary and will written in neat Arabic script.

"I am Abu Tariq, Emir of al-Layin and al-Mashadah Sector," it began.
Over 16 pages, the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader detailed the organization's demise in his sector. He once had 600 men, but now his force was down to 20 or fewer, he wrote. They had lost weapons and allies. Abu Tariq focused his anger in particular on the Sunni fighters and tribesmen who have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and joined the U.S.-backed Sunni Sahwa, or "Awakening," forces.

Abu Tariq went from 600 to 20 Al Qaeda fighters in the October 2007 timeframe. According to the article, he was the religious emir of an area stretching from Taji to south of Balad. The area marks the center of the famous "Sunni Triangle" along the Tigris River Valley. More importantly,

He provided details of what appears to be one of the ways his group financed its activities -- buying and selling trucks and cars, which he called "spoils." He recorded incomplete transactions, including details of money still owed to his group.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, has been decimated according to a diary from one of their own leaders who has now fled to Mosul. The diary speaks of desertions, dismantled battalions, and money woes of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is on its last leg due to The Surge of US forces in Iraq. They have consolidated their forces in Mosul in the hopes of regrouping; however, they are encircled by Iraqi Security and US Forces. January 2007 was a time in which many members of the US Government and MSM were saying all hope for victory in Iraq was lost. Just one year later, the cards have completely turned and it now seems all hope is lost for Al Qaeda in Iraq and Al Qaeda in general.

One wonders what Iraq and Al Qaeda would be like today if we had listened to defeatist forces in the US Government and the MSM and began the withdraw of forces last year instead of surging them.

For a full read, click here.

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Muslim Backing Of Al-Qaeda Wanes

From the Washington Post.

The violent attacks by al-Qaeda and by the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq have led people and religious groups in the Muslim world to reduce their financial support for Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and to question its leadership, senior U.S. intelligence officials told Congress yesterday.

The article continues with the major issue Al Qaeda has within the Sunni community.

Al-Qaeda's leaders are "being forced to enter into a frankly open dialogue . . . with the body of believers."

This fact alone is what is proving difficult for Al Qaeda in maintaining populuar support where-ever it plants itself and begins an insurgency. It is difficult at best to explain how it is proper to use innocent down syndrome females as "suicide" bombers to kill innocent Iraqis shopping at a pet bazaar in Baghdad. These techniques are indefensible, not only for Christians, but also for Muslims.

For a full read, click here.

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Shift in Tactics Aims to Revive Struggling Insurgency

From the Washington Post.

The Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq is telling its followers to soften their tactics in order to regain popular support in the western province of Anbar, where Sunni tribes have turned against the organization and begun working with U.S. forces, according to group leaders and American intelligence officials.

The article continues with how disenchanted Al Qaeda in Iraq fighters have become.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq's change in tactics comes in response to the turmoil and self-doubt that arose among its members as they lost the support of Sunni tribesmen, a process vividly described in a letter by an unnamed al-Qaeda in Iraq emir that the U.S. military said it seized last November.

What caused this disenchantment? In a captured Al Qaeda in Iraq document,

the emir said the difficulty in assigning tasks to potential suicide bombers was caused by increases in U.S. military operations and the formation of U.S.-backed Sunni tribal groups, known as Awakening councils, to fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

"We found ourselves in a circle not being able to move, organize or conduct our operations," he wrote. "There was a total collapse in the security structure of the organization."

For a full read, click here.

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Al-Qaida's ISI Reponds to Ongoing Events in Mosul

Counterterrorism Blog reports the NEFA Foundation has released the latest ISI communique. In it, Al Qaeda denies being behind the recent large explosion in Mosul. However, more interesting is this statement.

the battle is now in its final stages, and it will be a energizing victory for the Muslims, Allah willing. The enemy has begun to stagger, and now has reached its final page, so do not let the opportunity to participate in that historic battle pass you by. In the name of Allah, this battle is of critical importance.... and it will collapse the American strategy in Iraq and elsewhere across the fields of jihad in the Muslim world. (emphasis added)

Maliki also called it a decisive battle.

"It is time to launch a decisive battle against terrorism," Maliki said after Saturday's meeting attended by US commander in Iraq General David Petraeus and Iraq's national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie.

"The battle that our armed forces will launch will destroy terrorism and the criminal gangs and outlaws in Nineveh," he said.

American commanders also believe the battle for Mosul is of strategic importance for the ISI.

"Coalition forces recognise the strategic importance of Mosul to Al-Qaeda in Iraq and our operations will continue in the area," said Commander Scott Rye, a US military spokesman.

"This is not a new plan but part of a larger, comprehensive effort to root out Al-Qaeda and disrupt its networks throughout Iraq... We will continue to coordinate closely with the government of Iraq and Iraqi security forces in our efforts to free all areas of Iraq from Al-Qaeda," Rye told AFP. (emphasis added)

The most interesting point of these quotes is both sides believe this will be the decisive battle. Given recent news reports of how Al Qaeda is on the run and making an apparently last stand in Mosul, I do not believe coalition forces are beginning to stagger as the ISI communique states but it is the ISI itself which is beginning to stagger.

In addition, the the ISI communique clearly lays out the importance of holding out in Mosul if the ISI is to have any possibility of continuing activities in Iraq, noting three times the importance of Mosul, "final stages", "historic battle", "critical importance". While two other references are pointed at Coalition forces ("final page" and "collapse"), it seems the ISI is predicting its own collapse in Iraq if it loses this battle.

What is even more telling is the the last line quoted,

and it will collapse the American strategy in Iraq and elsewhere across the fields of jihad in the Muslim world. (emphasis added)

It seems more realistic to substitute the acronym "ISI" for "American" in this quote. The ISI commander who put this communique believes a loss in Mosul will be a loss for not only Al Qaeda in Iraq, but the entire ISI movement in Iraq and jihadist activities across the world.

Al Qaeda called Iraq its central front in its stuggle to build a caliphate which would eventually encompass the world. While small pockets of Al Qaeda still exist in Iraq, Mosul is the last area where Al Qaeda in Iraq forces have concentrated. Destruction of their forces in Mosul will signal the death of the ISI both as a fighting force and a movement in Iraq. Loss of Mosul will be the final, organized battle for the ISI if it loses (and it surely will lose this battle).

While terrorist attacks will undoubtedly continue for months and possibly years to come, it appears Mosul will be the complete collapse of all organized resistance in Iraq from the ISI perspective. The commander of this communique also believes it will be the complete collapse of jihadist worldwide. Let's hope his predictions are correct in this aspect.

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US, Iraqi troops kill 11, capture 64 suspects in raids across central, northern Iraq

From the International Herald Tribune.

U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 11 suspected militants and captured 64 others in two days of raids across central and northern Iraq, officials said Sunday.

Iraqi troops killed eight suspects and arrested 28 overnight in Salman Pak, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraqi police said. They also seized weapons, explosives and some vehicles in the raid, including a Humvee that was apparently stolen from the Iraqi army, police said.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces killed three suspects and detained 36 others in operations targeting al-Qaida in Iraq, the military said Sunday in a statement.

For a full read, click here.

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Why the Surge Worked

From Time.

Like many retail districts in downtown Baghdad, al-Kindy Street has lately had little to offer shoppers but a fine assortment of fear, blood and death. Shootings and regular bombings have shuttered many of al-Kindy's stores, where some of Baghdad's wealthiest residents once bought everything from eggplants to area rugs. At this time last year, al-Kindy was deteriorating into just another bombed-out corner of a city spiraling out of control.

Then came the surge—President George W. Bush's controversial deployment, beginning last January, of an additional 30,000 U.S. troops, that seemed as tactically bold as it was politically unpopular. With his approval ratings ebbing and a bipartisan group of wise elders urging him to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, Bush went in the other direction. Overcoming the opposition of the Joint Chiefs, Bush sent five additional combat brigades to secure the capital, hunt down al-Qaeda in Iraq in the countryside and, at least in theory, stop the violence long enough for the country's Sunnis and Shi'ites to find common ground on power-sharing.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq vows to "crush terrorists" after 99 killed

From Yahoo via Reuters.

Iraq's prime minister vowed on Saturday that improved security would not be derailed after two female bombers killed 99 people in the deadliest attacks in Baghdad since last April.

Nuri al-Maliki said Friday's bombings at popular pet markets in the capital would not herald a return to the savage violence that took Iraq to the brink of all-out sectarian civil war. The U.S. military blamed al Qaeda in Iraq for the attacks.

"I swear on the blood (of the victims), we will achieve all our goals in securing a stable Iraq. We will continue to ... crush the terrorists and target their strongholds," Maliki said in a statement.

Two items are of particular note in this article.

1. The Prime Minister, not US Commanders, is being quoted. Until recently, the Maliki government was seen as ineffectual and powerless, yet with more capable Iraqi troops on the ground and a less visible US presence, (relative to Iraqi forces), reporters more and more are quoting the leader of the government.

2. While Maliki is most likely talking about crushing Al Qaeda, he also is moving away from Shiite terrorists, like Sadr and his militia, because over time he has realized whether Sunni or Shia, terrorism is terrorism. The only way Iraq will survive, grow, and florish as a democracy is to have a non-secular, national unity government representative of Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurd. Terrorists (whether Al Qaeda or the Mahdi Army) have no place in Iraq.

It is interesting how several muslim leaders, whether it is Maliki in Iraq, Musharraf in Pakistan, Karzai in Afghanistan, Siniora in Lebanon, Mubarak in Egypt, Yudhoyono in Indonesia, Bouteflika in Algeria, Saleh in Yemen, or Gül in Turkey are all moving to either crush, defeat, or contain radical Islamists and pursue democracy more and more.

The Bush Doctrine is by no means dead. In fact, it is flourishing precisely where it was meant to flourish. It is flourishing not only in our country, but also in several countries in the "Non-Integrating Gap."

Its three basic tenets are being adhered to by all the leaders and nations listed above.

The Threat: political and religious extremists.

The Response: irregular forces require anticipatory self-defense using all instruments of National Power (Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic)

The Process: support and pursue democratic reform.

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Troop buildup in Mosul in preparation for big offensive

From Earth Times.

The Iraqi army was gathering troops and military equipment in the northern city of Mosul Thursday in preparation for a big offensive against al-Qaeda militants expected to be launched within hours, local media reported. "All necessary steps have been taken for a successful implementation of the military campaign, which will be backed by air support from the coalition forces," Mosul police chief General Wathik al-Hamdani told the state-owned al-Sabah newspaper.

"The target is to enable security forces to take command of hot spots that are the bases of terrorist elements, such al-Qaeda and other loyal groups," the general said.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Friday a "decisive battle" would be fought against al-Qaeda insurgents in Mosul, the country's third largest city.

The Iraqiness of this upcoming operation is stunning. This is not a US force operation with support from the Iraqi Army nor is it US forces putiing an Iraqi face on the operation. This ooperation is a Maliki led operation with his army against some of the last remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq which will be supported by US forces. This operation would have been unheard of just one short year ago.

For a full read, click here.

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The Mosul Offensive

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

Just over one year after the surge officially began Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to pursue al Qaeda in Iraq. After al Qaeda has been driven from its havens in Baghdad and the surrounding belts regions, and most recently in Diyala, the city of Mosul has emerged as the latest battleground....

"We have formed an operations centre in Ninewa (province) for a final war against Al-Qaeda and the remnants of the former (Saddam Hussein) regime," Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said on Jan. 25. "Today our forces are moving towards Mosul. What we have planned in Ninewa will be final. It will be a decisive battle."

Mr. Roggio expertly evaluates the significance of Iraqi forces movement to Mosul to battle Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The Mosul deployment highlights the growing capacity of the Iraqi command to plan, deploy, and support its forces on short notice. This is a capacity that was nearly nonexistent just one year ago when the surge began, and represents the future of operations in Iraq as US forces begin to draw down.

Iraqi Security Forces are becoming more and more capable and are able to lead from the front and execute complex operations against Al Qaeda. As U.S. Forces draw down, Iraqi Security Forces will continue to build capability to eventually defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq.

For a full read, click here.

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The Funny Files

From Iraq Pundit.

Those who believe fearful Iraqis have locked themselves in, and are barely surviving a civil war might be surprised to learn that my fellow countrymen have managed to blend the newest technology with dark-edge humour. They are using the novelty of YouTube as a vehicle for expression and entertainment, mocking Iraq's firebrand buffoons and having a little fun at the expense of Western soldiers.

Iraq Pundit continues with,

High stress situations, sure. But "oppressive environments" doesn't apply here. Under the Baathists, we whispered jokes only to close family. Nobody could have made this kind of parody of the penguins under Saddam Hussein, nor could anyone make this clip while al-Qaeda and the Mahdi militia roamed the streets. Those who have no experienced that kind of fear, cannot appreciate what it means to be able to make such video clips.

It may not seem like much to you, but to us it's another step in the right direction.

For a full read, click here.

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U.S. to Expand Outposts Across Baghdad by 30%

From the Wahington Post.

The U.S. military plans to boost the number of neighborhood outposts across the capital by more than 30 percent this year even as American forces begin to withdraw, the new commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad said Tuesday.

During a luncheon with reporters in the heavily fortified Green Zone, Maj. Gen. Jeffery W. Hammond said he would increase the number of garrisons in the city from 75 to 99 by June to "push ourselves into locations where maybe in the past we didn't go before."

For a full read, click here.

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MND-North Soldiers uncover large caches west of Bayji

From MNF-I.

In the desert area west of Bayji Multi-National Division – North Soldiers uncovered two large caches after a helicopter spotted multiple white bags being covered by tarps and blankets Jan. 25.

When Soldiers arrived at the location, they discovered two different sites where tarps were being used to cover the caches. The first contained approximately 60, 50- kilogram bags of a substance used in the making of homemade explosives and the other had nine of the 50-kilogram bags. The other site also housed various types of plastic explosives, anti-tank mines, an improvised platter charge, a suicide vest packed with TNT and miscellaneous detonation wire and remote detonation devices.

“This is a huge find. There was enough explosive material to fill up half a dump truck,” said Maj. David Jones, 1-327th operations officer. “There is no telling how many lives were saved by taking this cache away from the enemy extremists.”

Military explosive experts destroyed all the munitions at both sites. After detonating the bags, the result of the hole was much larger than the EOD personnel had calculated. According to the EOD personnel, this may have been a result of more bags being buried underneath the discovered cache.

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The Final Mission, Part I

From Michael Totten at the Middle East Journal reporting from Fallujah.

At the end of 2006 there were 3,000 Marines in Fallujah. Despite what you might expect during a surge of troops to Iraq, that number has been reduced by 90 percent. All Iraqi Army soldiers have likewise redeployed from the city. A skeleton crew of a mere 250 Marines is all that remains as the United States wraps up its final mission in what was once Iraq's most violent city.

Mr. Totten noted a Marine officer instructing his men,

"What do the Iraqi Police watch?" the officer said. "What are they looking at on a daily basis?"

"Us," said several Marines in unison.

"They will emulate you, gents," the officer said. "They. Will. Emulate you. Why? Because we came over here twice and kicked their ass. I do not trust the Iraqi Police today. Our job is to get them up to speed. They don't need to be up to the standard of Americans. But they do need to be better than they are right now."

Fallujah, once the hotbed of the insurgency and a safehaven for Al Qaeda in Iraq is now being policed by Iraqis and a small 250-man contingent of Marines.

Why were we successful in Fallujah? Not only because we "kicked their ass" as the senior Marine who's intent was to rally his men, but because we took the moral high ground and stayed to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq. The Marines fought tenaciously, but always maintained the honor of the Marine Corps. Foreign armies and people respect this fact about American Soldiers and Marines. They also respect that when the fight got tougher, we surged forces to the region and quelled the insurgency.

As Michael Totten states, we are the power brokers in Fallujah because we are fair, morally respected, trained to deliver justice swiftly, and most importantly, stayed to finish the job. This fact is why we won the hearts and minds in Fallujah. This fact is why we are winning in Iraq. This fact is why the Iraqi Army, emulating American Forces, is sending its forces into Mosul right now. This fact is why we will win in Afghanistan. This fact is why the Taliban and Al Qaeda are divided in Pakistan.

Say what you want about The Surge, but I find it difficult to believe that Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan would all be positioned right now on the verge of a democratic revolution if we had pulled out forces from Iraq as defeatist liberals wanted us to early 2007.

If we had pulled out, this senior Marine would not be saying we "kicked their ass", but instead believe we had gotten ours handed to us, along with the people of Fallujah and with all the people of Iraq. Instead, we surged forces and have all but eliminated Al Qaeda from Iraq.

As the quote at the top of this blog states, "Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid". Thank you President Reagan for reminding us of this fact. Thank you President Bush for being unafraid and surging forces precisely when defeatist liberals were trying to force you to withdraw troops. I am sure the people of Iraq are saying thank you too. Soon, the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan will be saying thank you too.

For a full read of Michael Trotten's article, click here.

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Iraqi forces mass outside Mosul

From The Columbus Dispatch.

Iraqi army reinforcements moved yesterday into positions near the northern city of Mosul, ready to strike al-Qaida in Iraq targets in the militant group's last urban stronghold, a top Iraqi officer said.

Maj. Gen. Riyad Jalal, a senior officer in the Mosul region, said the additional forces would open an offensive against al-Qaida fighters "immediately after all the added troops arrive."

The significance of the upcoming battle in Mosul is discussed later in the story.

The U.S. military does not plan to send additional forces to Mosul, which a military spokesman said this month was the last urban safe haven for al-Qaida-led insurgents.

The United States has said Iraqi security forces will take the lead in Mosul -- a major test of Washington's plan to shrink its force and ultimately leave it as backup for Iraqi security forces.

Iraqi Forces are taking the lead in the battle in Mosul. American Forces are still tied up in Diyala and Tigris River Valley. PM Maliki independently moved Iraqi Forces to Mosul to secure the city. While definitely being assisted by U.S. Forces in the form of Rangers and attack aircraft, the battle of Mosul, where the last significant amount of Al Qaeda in Iraq forces are holed up, will be dealt with by Iraqi Forces. This battle will not have Iraqi Forces being led by U.S. Forces, but Iraqi Forces planning, preparing, and executing the fight.

Combat actions have tested Iraqi Forces. They clearly past all tests. Now, they will be taking their final exam, so to speak. That final exam is Mosul.

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Iraq to go after al-Qaida in Mosul

From Yahoo/AP.

Iraq's prime minister announced Friday that the government was launching a major offensive against al-Qaida in the northern city of Mosul after two days of deadly bombings that killed nearly 40 people.

He promised the fight "will be decisive."

The announcement by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came after warnings by the U.S. military that Mosul was the last major city where al-Qaida maintains a strong presence after largely being driven from Baghdad and other major population centers.

Al-Maliki said the government was sending troops to Mosul and an operations room had been established to fight the insurgents.

This move by Maliki is significant in that he does not mention U.S. forces. He only mentions Iraqi Army forces. While U.S. Forces are already in Mosul, there numbers are small. While Iraqi Army Forces will undoubtedly link up with U.S. Forces, it appears that Maliki wants this fight to be mainly an Iraqi Army fight.

It will be interesting to see how far Iraqi Army forces have come. Can they clear and secure an ethnically diverse city such as Mosul while maintaining support from the populous in this religiously mixed city?

For a full read, click here.

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Attacks imperil U.S.-backed militias in Iraq

From International Herald Tribune.

American-backed Sunni militias who have fought Sunni extremists to a standstill in some of Iraq's bloodiest battlegrounds are being hit with a wave of assassinations and bomb attacks, threatening a fragile linchpin of the military's strategy to pacify the nation.

Al Qaeda is targeting "Awakening" groups.

Officials say that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia has a two-pronged strategy: directing strikes against Awakening members to intimidate and punish them for cooperating with the Americans, and infiltrating the groups to glean intelligence and discredit the movement in the eyes of an already wary Shiite-led government. "Al Qaeda is trying to assassinate all the Awakening members that support the government, but I believe that criminal militias are also doing this," Bolani said during a recent interview in Taji.

For a full read, click here.

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Suicide bomber kills Mosul police chief

From Yahoo/Reuters.

A suicide bomber in police uniform killed the police chief of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Thursday as he toured the scene of a blast a day earlier in which at least 20 people died, police said.

Rescuers were still digging through the rubble of Wednesday's explosion in search of survivors when the attacker blew up next to Mosul police Brigadier-General Salih Mohammed Hasan and his bodyguards, the army said.

Mosul is unique in that it lies along several historic trade routes, has a ethinically diverse population, and straddles the Tigris River.

U.S. commanders have identified Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, as al Qaeda's last major urban stronghold in Iraq after its fighters were driven out of western Anbar province and from around Baghdad during security crackdowns last year.

For a full read, click here.

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Al Qaeda's Isolation and Freedom's Expansion

From U.S. News & World Report.

The remaining top al Qaeda leaders are increasingly isolated and have growing difficulty directing plots, according to Dell Dailey, a retired lieutenant general who serves as the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator.

"We see them with much, much less central authority and much, much less capability to reach out," Dailey told a group of defense reporters this morning. "They can't centrally plan aspects from where they are located, whether it's Pakistan or not, and their franchise folks aren't very good."

Dailey credited the response from the United States and other nations for taking out key al Qaeda leaders and disrupting their ability to plan, finance, and carry out attacks. According to Dailey, most of al Qaeda's recent activity has been carried out by franchises, using supporters already in place in countries like the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

"The one area where al Qaeda has this centralized reach capability is in the media," he said. "They have not been able to build back their centralized, core strike capability."

Dailey did say that al Qaeda's recent alliance with the Algerian-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (which has been renamed al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) is troubling. But he also said that the groups miscalculated with their recent attack on a United Nations office in Algeria. "For al Qaeda, taking on the U.N. is a bad move." {emphasis added)

A few things which LTG (Ret) Dell Dailey states are key. But we need to first get back to the basics about fighting an insurgency. For basics, one needs to go back to T. E. Lawrence and The Mind of the Insurgent. This article discusses the six principles of fighting an insurgency taken from Lawrence's time battling an insurgency in WWI.

1. A successful guerrilla movement must have an unassailable base.

2.The guerrilla must have a technologically sophisticated enemy.

3. The enemy must be sufficiently weak in numbers so as to be unable to occupy the disputed territory in depth with a system of interlocking fortified posts.

4. The guerrilla must have at least the passive support of the populace, if not its full involvement.

5. The irregular force must have the fundamental qualities of speed, endurance, presence and logistical independence.

6. The irregular must be sufficiently advanced in weaponry to strike at the enemy's logistics and signals vulnerabilities.

The three most enduring principle which T. E. Lawrence espoused is an insurgency needs to have an unassailable base, passive support of the population, and presence in the population. On the counterinsurgent's side, they must be sufficiently weak in numbers so as to be unable to occupy the disputed territory.

In this context, let's examine LTG (Ret) Dailey's comments.

1. Key leaders are isolated: Al Qaeda (whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or elsewhere) are isolated for several reasons. First, because of their extremism and indescriminate killing of fellow Muslims, in many areas where they had/have a presence they are losing the passive support of the population. At a microcosm level, this is what happened Al Anbar with the "Awakening" movement of Sunni tribes. This "Awakenig" movement pushed them out of Al Anbar, their unassailable base in Iraq to such an extent that Al Qaeda in Iraq no longer has a significant presence in this region from which to terrorize and subdue the population, hence causing a loss of passive support.

This same dynamic is seen in Afghanistan to a lesser extent and is most notable in Mula Qasa, the town which was recently liberated by the Afghan National Army and Coaltion forces. In addition, the ex-Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Salaam, became disfranchised with Al Qaeda and is now in charge of the district. In Mula Qasa, Al Qaeda has lost an unassailable base, the passive support of the population, and its presence.

Finally, this same dynamic is becoming more prevalent in Al Qaeda's largest unassailable base, the FATA region in Pakistan. With the recent assassination of Bhutto and the ongoing suppression and killing of fellow Muslims, Al Qaeda (and the Taliban) are losing the support of the population. The Pakistani Army has recently established a presence in the region, limiting Al Qaeda's (and the Taliban's) presence in the region.

What used to be a region squarely under Al Qaeda's control from which it could launch operations worldwide is now threatened which brings us to another back to LTG (Ret) Dailey's comments.

2. "They can't centrally plan aspects from where they are located."

For all the reasons noted above, Al Qaeda's ability to centrally plan operations is extremely limited. Their presence in Iraq has been signifcantly degraded. In Afghanistan last year alone, 4500 militants were killed Several more were wounded, effectively taking them out of the fight. Strategically significant towns, such as Mula Qasa with its huge cache of refined opium (cash for the insurgent), have been lost. Loss of key terrain is also seen in Somalia and Indonesia. With the attack on the UN in Algeria, Al Qaeda repeated the same mistake it made in all other areas and will lose support in this region. Now, their last unassailable base, the FATA region in Pakistan, is under attack. It is hard to focus on operations outside your area of operations when your area of operations is under attack. Similarly, it is hard to gather support when your operations have at best resulted in the status quo and at the worst, a complete rout of your forces which bring us to the third significant comment from LTG (Ret) Dailey.

3. "Their franchise folks aren't very good." Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Taliban, or the Islamic Courts all have a habit of disenfranchising the very population they need support from, which causes them to lose their passive support, loss of presence in these regions, and finally their unassailable base as the population with help from military forces expel them from their stronghold. While the cycle is in different stages in all these areas, the cycle is the same and stems from Al Qaeda wanting to create a single Caliphate in a world in which people associate themselves as Iraqis, Algerians, Afghanistanis, Somalis, or Pakistanis. In addition, while these people are Muslim, they all have different aspect of beliefs within the Muslim religion and most do not share the extremist views espoused by Al Qaeda.

4. We finally go to LTG (Ret) Dailey's last comment. "Dailey credited the response from the United States and other nations for taking out key al Qaeda leaders and disrupting their ability to plan, finance, and carry out attacks." This comment ties in with T. E. Lawrence's last principle above. On the counterinsurgent's side, they must be sufficiently weak in numbers so as to be unable to occupy the disputed territory. Established nations, such as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Phillipines, have enacted systems and rules which significantly limits Al Qaeda's activities and freedom of action. Politically changed nations, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, are rebuilding armys and taking the fight to Al Qaeda directly. Other established nations, such as Pakistan, now see Al Qaeda as the threat that it is and are putting forces against it to counter its influence.

Al Qaeda's ability to occupy disputed territory has been significantly decreased since 9/11. Nations across the globe have seen what Al Qaeda does when it occupies a region or a state. They see it everyday in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Algeria. No nation wants Al Qaeda within its borders disrupting it society and decreasing its political and economic stability.

This leads us back to LTG (Ret) Dailey's orginal comment and T. E. Lawrence's principles. "The remaining top al Qaeda leaders are increasingly isolated and have growing difficulty directing plots." Whereever Al Qaeda occupies a region, they enact Sharia law, initially welcomed by the population resulting in passive support. Later they begin to terrorize the populous as stricter forms of Sharia law are enacted. In turn, the populous, whom Al Qaeda depends on for passive support, withdraws this support. This action by the populous causes Al Qaeda to increase it reign of terror, killing innocent Muslims. Over time, populations, typically with outside military assistance, rise up and kick Al Qaeda out of their region. Al Qaeda loses presence and hence influence in the region (unassailable base). These "Awakening" groups, Concerned Local Citizens (CLCs), tribes, peoples, or governments band together to increase the counterinsurgents numbers and decrease the disputed territories Al Qaeda can occury in the future.

It is for these reason that Al Qaeda in Iraq is being/or is defeated. It is for these reasons that the Taliban cannot retake Afghanistan and in fact are losing ground and support. It is for these reasons why Al Qaeda and the Taliban are facing hundreds of thousand of regular army troops and frontier corpsmen in the FATA region of Pakistan. It is for these regions why Ethiopia stepped into Somalia.

Al Qaeda is on the wane. Freedom is on the march.

Muslims the world over, once intent on helping Al Qaeda with support, an unassailable base, and presence in their states against what they considered a imperialistic United States are beginning to see firsthand what the Iraqis in Al Anbar saw two years ago. Al Qaeda is nothing but a bunch of unholy, sadistic extremists who violate Islamic principles by killing innocent Muslims as they enact stricter and stricter Sharia law on the populous.

Due to the Long War, Muslims the world over are seeing Americans firsthand and not the America portrayed on SITCOMs and in movies. Muslims are seeing America's greatest ambassadors, young American Soldiers and Marines who embody a warrior ethos respected in this region and the world over. These warriors are dying while battling Al Qaeda to spread to the rest of the world those unalienable rights written down by our founding fathers more than 200 years ago, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Al Qaeda only delivers, Death, Subjugation, and Despair.

Far from America being further branded as an imperial power seeking to control the world, America is becoming the savior of many peoples and nations delivering freedom and in some cases democracy through its young ambassadors, Soldiers and Marines. President Bush's bold move to plant the seeds of democracy in the center of Middle East and in Asia are having and will continue to have far reaching consequences. Namely, it will result in the decline of tyranny in "Non-Integrating Gap" countries. In time, these countries will move closer to democracy and therefore freedom. Given more freedom, individuals in these countries will increase their standards of living and begin to contribute to the world economy. Instead of being destructive members of society, they will become productive members of society and share in those unalienable rights given to all men and women by their Creator

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[Diyala] After Al Qaeda

From Newsweek discussing Diyala Province two weeks after the start of operations to clear it.

This time the sound of Stryker personnel carriers rolling into the town of Himbus had a triumphal rumble to it. Two weeks after launching an offensive to drive Al Qaeda in Iraq from its stronghold in Diyala province, American soldiers were back, arriving in broad daylight in a trio of provincial towns to see townsfolk cautiously venturing into streets they had once avoided and interacting openly with Iraqi security forces.

Platoons watched as residents lined up for fleece jackets and rice being distributed by Iraqi soldiers in the hamlet of Abu Musa. Soldiers mingled with people receiving medical care for the first time in weeks at a clinic in Himbus. And they stood guard while men, women and children filled jugs of kerosene from a tanker truck in Taiha.

"Iraq forces now have control of the bread basket, announced Lt. Col. Rod Coffey, commander of the 3rd Squadron of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. "The facts on the ground are we have freedom of movement and the insurgents do not."

How secure is it?

The soldiers' drive back to Warhorse base after their visit to Himbus, Tahia and Abu Musa did offer one measure of Operation Bread Basket's success in rousting Qaeda cadres from their embeds. Three Strykers drove over an IED on a stretch of road the Americans call Route Ann. It did not go off. "There was no triggerman," said Coffey. "With our forces around, they cannot get into position [to detonate their bombs]."

Diyala, once the stronghold of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the capital of Islamic State of Iraq is being returned to its citizens.

For a full read, click here.

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Papers Paint New Portrait of Iraq's Foreign Insurgents

From the Washington Post.

Muhammad Ayn-al-Nas, a 26-year-old Moroccan, started his journey in Casablanca. After flying to Turkey and then to Damascus, he reached his destination in a small Iraqi border town on Jan. 31, 2007. He was an economics student back home, he told the al-Qaeda clerk who interviewed him on arrival. Asked what sort of work he hoped to do in Iraq, Nas replied: "Martyr."

This article details the records kept by Al Qaeda in Iraq on 606 insurgents who came to Iraq to fight the Coalition between August of 2006 and 2007.

Based on the Sinjar records, U.S. military officials in Iraq said they now think that nine out of 10 suicide bombers have been foreigners, compared with earlier estimates of 75 percent. Similarly, they assess that 90 percent of foreign fighters entering Iraq during the one-year period ending in August came via Syria, a greater proportion than previously believed.

For a full read, click here.

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Al Qaeda's 2008 Outlook - Iran's Future

From Yahoo/AP.

This Yahoo article has a good roll up of recent battlefield activities in Iraq and while at the end of the article, it sums up Operation Phantom Pheonix with the following.

He [Rear Adm. Gregory Smith] said 121 militants were killed, including 92 so-called "high-value targets" and 1,023 detained since the most recent operation against them began on Jan. 8.

Since 08 January 2008, when Operation Phantom Pheonix began, 121 militants were killed, 92 of which were high-value targets (HVTs - which means they were cell leaders, financiers, recruiters, organizers, and/or operators), and 1,023 were detained. The significance of these numbers must be viewed with another number. McClatchy Newspapers also reports today via Kansas City Star on the number of foreign fighters entering Iraq.

[Rear Adm. Gregory] Smith also said that most foreign insurgents in Iraq come from Saudi Arabia, which President Bush visited on his trip. Other foreign fighters have come from Libya, Yemen, Syria, and even a few from France, Smith said.

In the last year, improved border enforcement by Syria and increased profiling by Saudi officials of single men traveling to Iraq have helped cut the number of foreign fighters entering Iraq in half, Smith said. Between 40 and 50 a month are thought to be entering Iraq now, he said.

Between 50 and 60 percent of those become suicide bombers, and 90 percent of the suicide bombers are thought to be foreigners. (ephasis added)

So, in 13 days (since Operation Phantom Pheonix began), 1144 insurgents have been killed or detained. In this same time, insurgents have received approximately 22 replacements (given 50 enter Iraq monthly). These numbers are hardly a winning strategy and show how desparate the situation for Al Qaeda in Iraq has become. While this just shows what has happened during the last 13 days, The Surge has produced similar numbers for the seven months it has fully been in effect.

In addition and much more significant, 92 HVTs were killed in the past 13 days. Ninety-two leaders, with specific leadership knowledge, skills and abilities, will no longer be able to hand down their expertise to incoming recruits. This sobering fact is clearly demonstrated in the two recently failed suicide attacks in Anbar. Four suicide bombers were not able to kill corresponding Awakening leaders in Anbar. What we see is Coaliton and Awakening leadership exponentially developing while at the same time Al Qaeda leadership exponentially being eliminated, in some case permanently.

In addition, several other leaders who were detained (although precise numbers are not given in these articles) are now giving up Al Qaeda's secrets to Coalition forces which will lead to further reduction in Al Qaeda in Iraq's overall numbers and leaders in particular.

The Yahoo/AP article also notes the following.

[Rear Adm. Gregory] Smith, the U.S. military spokesman, said the military had al-Qaida on the run with recent operations. But he warned the group remains a force in eastern Anbar, northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province, in areas surrounding the northern city of Kirkuk, "in small numbers to the south of Baghdad" and in the northern city of Mosul.

"Mosul will continue to be a center of influence for, a center of gravity for al-Qaida because of its key network of facilitation — both financing and foreign fighters," he said.

A few things are significant about this statement. The first is the region which is not listed, namely Baghdad. In fact, a recent USA Today article cited that 75% of Baghdad is secured compared to 8% in the same month last year. The USA Today article also states,

The 310 neighborhoods in the "control" category are secure, but depend on U.S. and Iraqi military forces to maintain the peace. The 46 areas in the "retain" category have reached a level where Iraqi police and security forces can maintain order, a more permanent fix. The remaining areas have fewer security forces based there, though they are not necessarily violent. (emphasis added)

Therefore, in Baghdad, the center of gravity in this war, 75% of the neighborhoods have seen enemy activity mostly eliminated and normal economic activity resuming. The other 25% of the neighborhoods are "not necessarily violent", but neither are they secured by Coalition forces.

Despite a recent killing of a US Marine in Anbar (which has not occurred since 08 October 2007) and the two recent failed suicide attacks, Anbar is also secure, enemy activity has been mostly elminated and normal economic activity is resuming. Finally, the entire southern part of Iraq and the northern Kurdish part of Iraq continue to be secure.

The US Military now has two divisions (the 1st Armored Division and the 3rd Infantry Division respectively) along with several Iraqi Divisions focusing on securing north of Baghdad to Kirkuk and Mosul (focused in the Sunni Triangle region) and south immediately south of Baghdad (focused in the Triangle of Death region).

The success of The Surge overall and Operation Phantom Pheonix lately can be found thoughout this blog.

  • 1144 insurgents killed or detained in the past 13 days
  • Insurgent replacements of approximately 22 in the past 13 days
  • 92 leaders killed in the past 13 days
  • An unspecified number of leaders detained in the past 13 days
  • 50% reduction in foreign insurgents entering Iraq
  • 75% of Baghdad secured
  • 25% of rest of Baghdad not necessarily violent
  • 100% of Anbar secured
  • 100% of Kurdish north secured
  • 100% of Shiite south secured
Finally, the three most important items of all:

1. Al Qaeda is clearly losing wholesale in Iraq, which Bin Laden himself called the central front in his war against the west. Like Hitler losing Paris or failing to defeat Great Britain, Bin Laden has lost Iraq. Even though Al Qaeda, like Nazi Germany, may be able to surge, the facts speak for themselves. It is now just a matter of time until the complete destruction of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

2. Al Qaeda has been unable to defeat the democratic government in Afghanistan. In fact, approximately 4500 Taliban have been killed in 2007 alone. The number of wounded is probably twice this number. Again, like Nazi Germany against Russia, this endeavor has just wasted precious resources for absolutely no gain militarily.

3. Due to his significant losses in Iraq and no appreciable gain in Afghanistan, Bin Laden has been forced to turn inward to Pakistan, once a safe haven for Al Qaeda. To wage the fight in Pakistan, Musharraf has repositioned 100,000 Regular Army troop from Kashmir to the FATA and NWFP regions in addition to the tens of thousand Frontier Corps already in the region. While shaping operations are already underway, decisive operations will begin shortly after the 18 February parlimentary elections.

Just like Hitler, holed up in an underground bunker in Berlin in the final days of the war, knowing that the 1000 year reign of the Third Reich had come to an abrupt, permature end, Bin Laden also sees his grand plan to establish a caliphate from Spain to China crumble as Coalition forces ever so slowly close in on him.

For all its outrageous and boisterous rhetoric, Iran is not unlike Japan in WWII. Coalition forces have island hopped to surround the theocratic leader of Iran in the Persian Gulf, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and shortly in Pakistan. While not part of the coalition in this war, Turkey is a member of NATO and is pressuring Iran from the north, similar to China's and Russia's pressure on Japan in WWII.

For Iran's sake, it may want to surrender or it may see some of its major cities completely obliterated.

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Second Suicide Attack in Two Days in Al Anbar

On Saturday, 19 January, Dawn reported that five Anbar police officers were killed and 10 wounded by three suicide bombers. The police were able to kill one suicide bomber without incident, but the other two managed to get close enough to kill five police officers.

Now, a day later on Sunday, 20 Janurary, Yahoo/AP is reporting another attack in Al Anbar.

Meanwhile, a suicide bombing killed six people in western Iraq, the second such strike in as many days in Anbar province, where U.S.-backed Sunni tribes were said to have routed al-Qaida in Iraq last year. The attack near the city of Fallujah missed its target: a local tribal leader who is organizing resistance to the terror group.

The attack targeted a sheik, Aeifan al-Issawi, who is a leading member of the Anbar Awakening Council. He was unhurt, but

In Sunday's bombing in Anbar province, meanwhile, the bomber detonated explosives in his belt after four guards stopped him at the checkpoint leading to the sheik's farm near Fallujah. The attack killed the four guards and two civilians and injured four people, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals.

I speculated in an earlier blog that Al Qaeda was trying to show its resurgence in Al Anbar. I also commented that it failed since three suicide bombers only managed to kill five people. Nor did I believe Al Qaeda would try a similar attack. However, they now have.

Again, this operation appears a failure as the intended target was not killed or injured.

In addition, these attacks appear rather foolhardy. While the first one should have gone over well given that Al Anbar has not been attacked in several months, this latest one was attempted with outposts and checkpoints definitely on alert.

This situation needs to be monitored for continual action and further analysis.

It could be a last ditched effort by a remaining suicide cell or it could be a resurgence of Al Qaeda in the Al Anbar province.

Either way, all four attempts were generally a failure from a strategic perspective in that no leaders were killed and attempts were thwarted prior to major catastrophies occcurred.

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Suicide attack kills 5 police officers in Iraqi city of Ramadi

From Dawn.

Three suicide bombers attacked a police station west of Baghdad on Saturday, killing five police officers and wounding 10, police said.The attack took place in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.Police shot and killed one of the attackers at the entrance of the station, but the two others managed to detonate their explosives.

Two things are very interesting in this article.

1. An attack happened in Ramadi, which has not experienced Al Qaeda activity for several months.

2. Three suicide bombers caused the deaths of five policemen.


Al Qaeda is trying to show its resurgence in Ramadi. It failed. Three suicide bombers died to kill five policemen. This is hardly a good trade off, nor spectacular, except given the fact it happened in Ramadi.

Three suicide bomber undoubtedly expected to not only kill several Ramadi police officers, but more emergency personnel and cvilians that responded to the scene of the initial carnage. This did not happen. This fact indicates it was not rehearsed or planned well.

Given the reduction of Al Qaeda's freedom of operations, hence, its ability to rehearse, coupled with the fact that Al Qaeda has been removed from Al Anbar, this attack shows the weakness of Al Qaeda in Iraq vice its strength.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is defeated, plain and simple.

In addition, given the fact that Ramadi police were able to kill one of the attackers, I do not believe Al Qaeda in Iraq will attempt a similar operation in the future. Three Al Qaeda dead. Five Iraqis dead. This trade off is hardly acceptable to Al Qaeda in Iraq.

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Al Qaeda in Iraq's shrinking area of operations

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

Nearly one year to the day of the announcement of the "surge" of US forces to Iraq and the change in counterinsurgency plan, Iraqi and Coalition forces have shrunk al Qaeda's ability to conduct operations inside Iraq, a senior US commander said.

During a press briefing in Baghdad, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the Commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, said al Qaeda in Iraq has been ejected from its strongholds in the cities to the rural regions of Iraq.

It is interesting to see the areas where Al Qaeda has lost influence in the year since the surge was announce. It is quite significant.

For a full read, click here.

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Senior al Qaeda in Iraq leader killed in Miqdadiyah

From Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

As Operation Phantom Phoenix and its subordinate operations progress in central and northern Iraq, Coalition forces confirmed killing a senior al Qaeda in Iraq leader in Diyala province. Coalition force killed Abu Layla al Suri, who is also known as Abu Abd al Rahman, during an intelligence-driven raid in the city of Miqdadiyah in Diyala province, where al Qaeda has established a safe haven.

Al Suri, which translates to "the Syrian," was leader in Diyala, the province al Qaeda claimed as the capital of its Islamic State of Iraq during late 2006. Multinational Forces Iraq did not respond to an inquiry from The Long War Journal about al Suri's nationality. He was "intricately involved in the terrorist network operating in the Diyala River Valley region since October 2006, and was closely associated with several al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders," Multinational Forces Iraq reported.

Abu Maysara, a member of the inner circle of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al Masri who served as a senior adviser providing spiritual guidance to wage a terror campaign, was among al Suri's associates. US forces killed Maysara, a Syrian national, in November 2007. Al Suri also "had ties to the al-Qaeda in Iraq propaganda cell leaders in Baghdad, due to his involvement in terrorist media and propaganda operations in Diyala."

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq crackdowns take hold of Al Qaeda

From Alsumaria - Another Al Qaeda Emir killed.

Iraqi police killed Hamid Ukab, one of Al Qaeda Emirs in Salah Din Province, in crackdown operations in Al Shirqat District in northern the capital. In kirkuk, security forces found documents relevant to the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and arrested six gunmen.

In a separate incident, head of police unit in Al Fadel region was killed with six others in clashed with gunmen while six civilians were killed including two policemen due to a roadside bomb explosion near the national theatre in Karrada.A second bomb exploded when a police force arrived to the blast scene wounding two policemen.

What is most impressive about the death of this emir is the fact the crackdown operations were taken by Iraqi Police with no apparent involvement of Iraqi or US Army forces.

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Raid shows risks in new tactic to hunt al-Qaeda

USA Today has a great article about how US Army Rangers killed 1o terrorists in Mosul during a raid recently on 25 December 2007. The article is great in that it shows how US forces are closing in and defeating Al Qaeda who use women and children as human shields. While the article has its typical negatives the MSM is known for, it does show how US forces deal with tough situations vice how terrorists indescriminately use civilians to shield behind.

When the two Army Rangers slipped inside the house of suspected assassins in the dark on Christmas morning in Mosul, they expected a fight. They got one.

Two gunmen, using an 11-year-old boy as a shield, confronted the soldiers. One, a Ranger staff sergeant, shot them dead with his rifle. The boy was unharmed, according to an Army document that outlined the assault.

That clash — recounted to USA TODAY by four of the Rangers involved and confirmed by the military command in Baghdad — kicked off what U.S. military officials say was a 17-hour firefight that resulted in the deaths of 10 al-Qaeda in Iraq insurgents, including the head of an assassination cell, a financier and a military leader. At least one fighter was from Saudi Arabia, according to the military account of the raid. Intelligence gleaned from the fight led to 10 follow-up operations, the Rangers' commander said.

For a full read, click here.

What the writer of this article fails to understand is what I highlighted above. It is raids like this that lead to follow-up operations. This particular one not only resulted in 10 insurgents being killed, but also led to 10 follow-up operations not discussed in this article.

Similarly this author misses another important point. Even with a million troops in Iraq, we cannot be everywhere all the time. This fact is why it is necessary to builid Iraqi Army capacity and to ensure these force are in/around the population providing for their security. The population can be our eyes and ears, as is evident in this article where a tip from the population led to this raid.

General Petreous fully understands this fact which is why special forces go after terrorist cells like the one in this article. Regular US and Iraqi forces simultaneously clear towns of insurgents. Iraqi Army forces are left behind to secure the population. These forces are assisted by CLCs. All forces in towns report to Joint Security Stations (JSSs). We then move on to other cells and clear other towns of insurgents in classical attrition warfare.

Everyday, more and more terrorists cells are destroyed. Everyday, more and more towns are cleared. Everyday, more and more of the population is secured. Everyday, more and more CLCs are helping to protect their communities. When Al Qaeda attempts to reinfiltrate, the populous and CLCs point them out.

Al Qaeda is in a losing battle and is being routed in Iraq. Make not mistake about it, the tide is on our side, the side of freedom precisely because of encounters like those faced by the Rangers in Mosul on 25 December 2007. The terrorists hide behind innocent women and children. We protect these same people and are giving them freedom for the first time in three decades. This fact is why they are turning on Al Qaeda and chosing to side with Americans.

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Freedom and Democracy

MEMRI has translated excerpts from Syrian sheikh 'Abd Al-Mun'im Mustafa Halima, who is also known as Abu Baseer Al-Tartousi, from his article, "On the Jihad in Iraq" posted on his website on 23 NOvember 2007.

In the article, he condemned the ease with which Sunni jihad groups accuse one another of heresy and collaboration with the enemy, and he wrote that these groups ultimately reach the point of killing one another, thus violating the strict prohibition in Islam against spilling Muslim blood. Al-Tartousi called on the jihad groups in Iraq to join ranks and to base their activity on the principle of shura (consultation) - thus implicitly criticizing Al-Qaeda's attempts to impose its control on other jihad movements. At the same time, he unequivocally condemned those collaborating with the Americans, stating that nothing could justify such an act. Finally, he warned against the phenomenon of blind admiration for certain contemporary jihad leaders, which has spread in certain circles. This admiration, he said, causes them to direct "ideological and psychological terrorism" at any cleric or preacher who gives them advice that they dislike or that they deem offensive to the object of their admiration. (emphasis added)

Al-Tartousi discusses three points (highlighted above) which has caused the jihad in Iraq to suffer.

1. Exaggerate the Sins of Rival Groups

"The worst and most dangerous [mistake] is to accuse other [Muslims] of heresy on the basis of conjecture, suspicions, probabilities, and unfounded notions [based on one's] interpretation [of the facts]."

2. Use of force to settle disagreement among Jihad Groups

"If one group disdains the principle of shura and imposes itself and its decisions on another, the result is inevitably mutual strife, war, division and the unlawful spilling of blood. This is happening today, and it is [precisely] what the enemy wants..."

3. Blindly following extremists

Lately, we have [indeed] observed in a number of people the phenomenon of zealously following certain contemporary jihadi [figures], to the extent that they reject any criticism or advice [regarding these figures], or any claim that [their mentors] are making a mistake. Anyone who offers such advice... is immediately considered suspect and accused of treason... even if he has an [impeccable] reputation for expertise, knowledge and jihad...

These mistakes are exactly the mistakes made by Al Qaeda in Iraq. They continue to be made as Al Qaeda in Iraq targets awakening members, most notable, Sheikh Risha in Al Anbar who started the Anbar Awakening. Al Qaeda is continuing to target CLC and Awakening leaders which will further alienate them from the population.

The two things I find interesting about this article are:

1. It contradictory nature. Al-Tartousi, and Bin Laden before him are eseentially telling a lion to quit being a lion. Do not exaggerate the sins of rival groups. Do not use force against rival individuals or groups. Do not blindly follow extremists. However, this is what Bin Laden preaches for Al Qaeda preaches and what Al Qaeda in Iraq executes on a daily basis. It is precisely why they have alienated the population of Iraq and are why they have lost the active and tacit support of the populous in Iraq, which is essential for a successful insurgency.

Side Note: What is interesting about any government, leader, or ruler, whether elected or not, is they need at least the tacit approval of the population. This tacit support can be gained by military force to prevent tacit approval from becoming active disapproval. Otherwise, they would be overthrown. This fact is as true now as it was in feudal societies in the ancient world.

2.The fixes suggested are being done by Awakening groups, but they are denounced in this article as heresy. The fix for exaggerating the sins of rival groups is to "sit down with the enemy and negotiate with him, or even [sign] a hudna or reconciliation agreement" This is precisely what Awakening groups in Iraq are doing with the Iraqi government. Instead of using force against rival groups, jihad forces must unify and execute a shura. The unity government that is being established in Iraq is an example of this principle as is the recently passed reconciliation law. I presume the problem with this shura or consultation which is happening is that it is based on a popularly elected democracy. Instead of blindly following extremists, one should seek spiritual leadership. Rival groups are seeking spiritual advice, most notably from Sistani who has been visited by both Sunnis and Shiites leaders alike for his guidance in Iraqi matters.

If I was a jihad fighter, I would be thoroughly confused by the contradictions being espoused by Al-Tartousi and in the earlier speech by Bin Laden. I presume this is precisely why fighters for Al Qaeda in Iraq are becoming disenchanted and disillusioned. It is also presumably why Iraqis are flocking to Awakening groups and CLCs and seeking reconciliation with the Iraqi government. Moving to these groups is perfectly in line with what is being stated by both of these individuals.

The problem both of these individuals have is the freely elected democracy in Iraq, the fact that this freely elected democracy has a Shiite majority, and possibly the most important, is this freely elected democracy was created by an infidel, the United States. The reason this freely elected democracy will prevail over Al Qaeda is precisely that it upholds the Muslim principles of shura (consultation) and hudna (reconciliation) and is enforcing the sharia (higher religious law) regardless of how Al-Tartousi attempts to twist the facts.

The problem is Iraq is not extreme enough which brings us to the third contradiction expoused by Al-Tartousi. Without stating it himself, Al-Tartousi's major issue is expressed several times above. He and Bin Laden do not like the freely elected democracy being established in Iraq.

Freedom and democracy is what they fear most. Freedom and democracy is what Bin Laden attacked and attempted to destroy on 9/11. Freedom and democracy is why they made Iraq their central front of terror. Freedom and democracy is why Al Qaeda went to Lebanon immediately after Hamas was elected. Freedom and democracy is why he and the Taliban assassinated Bhutto. Freedom and democracy is why he and the Taliban have brought the battle back to Pakistan.

An individual's desire for freedom and democracy is why evil groups, such as Al Qaeda, will ultimately fail. Freedom and democracy is why they haved failed in Iraq. Freedom and democracy is why they are failing in Afghanistan. Freedom and democracy is why they will ultimately fail in Pakistan.

Freedom and democracy will solve the Israel-Palestinian crisis as soon as the Palestinians realize three things.

1. Do not exaggerate the sins of rival groups.

2. Do not use force against rival individuals or groups.

3. Do not blindly follow extremists.

Thank you Al-Tartousi. You have put all these issues completely in perspective.

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Iraq and al-Qaeda, Victory and Caution

From Steve Schippert at Threats Watch.

There is an understandable temptation to declare victory over al-Qaeda in Iraq. And while Iraqi and American forces have teamed to drive them from every sanctuary al-Qaeda had carved - including now the “Triangle of Death” south of Baghdad - and deliver a decisive blow to the terrorists, the state of the terrorist fighters in Iraq is not permanent or final considering the sources of their foreign origins and outside support.

From a symposium panel at FrontPage Magazine,

Those improvements are indeed occurring, but as my colleagues capably point out, it is too early to declare AQI’s defeat. I spoke with a military intelligence officer who recently returned from Iraq, and spoke of AQI’s resilience. Part of the reason for this is that AQI draws its support from a broader transnational movement: AQI can be completely crushed inside Iraq yet still regenerate based on the support it draws from beyond the country’s borders. Recent events clearly demonstrate the links between AQI and the broader al-Qaeda movement. For example, the recently captured Khalid Al Mashadani, who was considered the most senior Iraqi in AQI’s network, had served as an intermediary between AQI leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Key al-Qaeda leaders have made it clear that they view Iraq as a central front in their war against the U.S. And when U.S. and Iraqi forces recently killed an al-Qaeda financier named Muthanna (described as the emir of the Iraq and Syrian border area), they uncovered a list of 143 al-Qaeda fighters who were en route to Iraq. These fighters came from all over, including Algeria, Belgium, Egypt, France, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and Yemen. This emphasizes the human resources that AQI can draw upon to replenish its ranks.

From Michael Ledeen at National Review.

If you read down to the small print, you will find that the most important Treasury target, Brigadier General Ahmed Foruzandeh of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, also works with Sunnis.

In early April 2007, Foruzandeh provided ($25,000 U.SD) to two men claiming to be members of a Sunni terrorist organization in Iraq, promising…additional funds if they would deliver videos of attacks against Coalition Forces.

A very well informed person in the intelligence community tells me that the “Sunni terrorist organization in Iraq” is a big deal, is in many ways coextensive with al-Qaeda in Iraq, and clearly shows what I and others have been arguing for a long time: Iran supports al-Qaeda. To have discovered that the Revolutionary Guards are in cahoots with al-Qaeda in Iraq is enormously important, because it reminds us once again that we are engaged in a broad war in the Middle East, of which Iraq is simply one front. And it shows once again that the considerable efforts by many in Washington to gainsay Iranian support for the terror war against us are misplaced, and potentially very dangerous for our troops on the ground.

These points are critical to remember. Al Qaeda is drawing support from many external partners from which it can replenish its forces. While Al Qaeda is trying to start another front of its Terror War in Pakistan, Iraq is and will continue to be its central front so that it can build it caliphate from Iraq and spread to the rest of the Middle East.

Finally, while we think that a Shiite dominated Iran would not support a Sunni terror organization, both have the ultimate goal of reducing US influence in the region. Without the US presence in Iraq, for decades to come, a great battle would unfold in Iraq between these forces for control.

We literally have three players in the war in Iraq. Ourselves and the Iraqis, who wish to establish a strong, vibrant democracy which will become the symbol for other countries in the Middle East (and therefore is not greatly supported by its neighbors for fear that their own citizens will be in awe of this democracy). The Iranians, who hope to establish a Shiite Crescent from Iran to Lebanon in order to destroy Israel. And finally, Al Qaeda with goals of reestablishing the Caliphate from Iraq to the entire Middle East and beyond.

For a full read, click here.

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At least four killed, 63 suspects arrested in Iraq - Update

From Earth Times.

In the Diyala province, some 60 kilometres north of Baghdad, a dozen of suspects of al-Qaeda terrorist network were killed and 63 were arrested during the joint US-Iraqi military operation given the code name "Operation Iron Harvest."

The operation was launched last Tuesday targeting al-Qaeda militants in the Iraqi province.

Earlier this week, at least 20 militant suspects have been killed and 10 were detained during this operation.

It will be difficult for Al Qaeda in Iraq to continue to suffer loses like these.

For a full read, click here.

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US must stay, says Iraq tribe fighting Al Qaeda

From the Khaleej Times.

An early pullout of US troops would spark a return of savage sectarian violence and be ”disastrous” for Iraq, a tribal leader fighting Al Qaeda in a province once fiercely anti-American told AFP.

Sheikh Ahmed Abu Reesha, leader of the “Anbar Awakening” that has ended much of Al Qaeda’s hold over western Iraq, warned that improvements in the security situation would be lost if the United States withdrew troops.

He added,

“The province used to be a place for terrorists and criminals, but our strong co-operation with coalition forces and Iraqi security forces changed this.

“We are pushing the wheel forward,” he said. “Schools and universities are back with full classes. We are now looking for companies from all over the world to come here and do business.”

For a full read, click here.

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