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Al Qaeda in Iraq!

Interesting Article: As US exits Iraq, a top general's warning by SCOTT PETERSON / Baghdad published Monday, November 21, 2011


Interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor spoke about Gen. Lloyd Austin's warning to the Iraqi government about dangers from Al Qaeda in Iraq, as well as Iran-backed Shiite insurgent groups. Gen. Lloyd Austin told journalists on Monday that troops "worked as hard as we could for as long as we could" to train Iraqi military and security forces for a "historic transition" that will see all remaining US units gone by the end of the year. He added, "as we leave, you can expect to see some turbulence in security initially, and that's because you'll see various elements try to increase their freedom of movement and freedom of action". "Al Qaeda will be one of those elements". "We expect that Al Qaeda will continue to do what it's done in the past, we expect it's possible they could even increase in inner capability," depending on "how effectively the Iraqi security forces and the government of Iraq are able to focus on that network," said Austin. He also warned that the Iraqi government – with defense, interior, and intelligence ministries heavily dominated by Shiites – also had to take on Shiite militants of Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and the Promised Day Brigades. Austin also listed three "Iran-backed" Shiite militias that primarily target US troops, as well as Sunni extremists of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which once routinely used spectacular suicide bombings to target civilians, the Shiite-led government, and Shiite shrines. So who is heading up al Qaeda in Iraq?

 Before going into who al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is, I want to highlight some other items Gen. Austin said. On Monday he added that Shiite groups are "focused on creating a Lebanese Hezbollah kind of organization in this country, a government-within-a-government, and those elements would have their own militia," Austin stated. "As we leave, if these elements are left unchecked, they will then eventually turn on the [Iraqi] government. And they should be concerned about that." Those Iran-supported groups increased their attacks in the first half of 2011, according to official tabulations and reports, and oversaw a "sharp increase" in munitions crossing the border from Iran. Austin said the "stream of lethal accelerants from Iran" such as rockets and specialty roadside bombs was continuing, but that US and Iraqi interdiction efforts had "some success." The US has spent more than $50 billion on infrastructure and other projects in Iraq – many of them unknown to average Iraqis as American-funded efforts, their US money masked to avoid security problems. But Iraqis are still plagued by lack of regular electricity, clean water, and other key services giving room for Iran to be a power player in that region using the populations need for basic government services. It is those types of needs that will be exploited by AQI and Iran. AQI was founded in 2003 and first led by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who declared allegiance to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in October 2004. since 2004 its official name is Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (QJBR) ("Organization of Jihad's Base in the Country of the Two Rivers"). Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (killed in 2006) and a combination of foreigners and local Islamist sympathizers, largely Kurdish started AQI. The group's spiritual advisor and deputy leader was the Palestinian cleric Abu Anas al-Shami (killed in 2004). Zarqawi was a Jordanian Salafi who had traveled to Afghanistan to fight in the Soviet-Afghan War, but he arrived after the departure of the Soviet troops and soon returned to his homeland. He eventually returned to Afghanistan, running an Islamic militant training camp near Herat. Originally, Zarqawi started the network with the intention of overthrowing the kingdom of Jordan, which he considered to be un-Islamic in the fundamentalist sense, and for this purpose developed a large number of contacts and affiliates in several countries. His network may have been involved in the late 1999 plot to bomb the Millennium celebrations in the United States and Jordan. Zarqawi's operatives were also responsible for the assassination of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Jordan in 2002. Following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, Zarqawi moved westward into Iraq, where he reportedly received medical treatment in Baghdad for an injured leg. It is believed that he developed extensive ties in Iraq with Ansar al-Islam ("Partisans of Islam"), a Kurdish Islamist militant group based in the extreme northeast of the country. Allegedly, Ansar had ties to Iraqi Intelligence; Saddam Hussein's motivation would have been to use Ansar as a surrogate force to repress the secular Kurds fighting for independence of Kurdistan. Following the 2003 U.S-led invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi developed his organization into an expanding militant network including some of the remnants of Ansar al-Islam and a growing number of foreign fighters, with the purpose of resisting the coalition occupation forces and their Iraqi allies. Many foreign fighters arriving in Iraq were initially not associated with the group, but once in the country they became dependent on Zarqawi's local contacts. The stated goals of Zarqawi's organization were to force a withdrawal of U.S-led forces from Iraq, to topple the Iraqi interim government, to assassinate collaborators with the occupation, to marginalize the Shia population and defeat its militias, and to subsequently establish a pure Islamic state. The group's strength is unknown, with estimates that ranged from just 850 to several thousand full-time fighters in 2007. In 2006, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research estimated that AQI’s core membership was "more than 1,000. The group officially pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in a letter in October 2004. AQI-aligned insurgent's former safe havens were Diyala and Al Anbar Governorates and the embattled capital of Baghdad to the area of the northern city of Mosul, the latest of the Iraq War's major battlegrounds. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has long raised money through various activities like kidnapping for ransom, car theft (sometimes killing drivers in the process), and hijacking fuel trucks, that would bring them tens of millions of dollars. According to U.S. military intelligence sources, in 2008 the group resembled a "Mafia-esque criminal gang". U.S. and Iraqi officials have for many years worried that AQI of trying to slide Iraq into a full-scale civil war between Iraq's majority Shiites and minority Sunni Arabs with an orchestrated campaign of civilian massacres and a number of provocative attacks against high-profile religious targets. But recently, during August and October 2009, AQI asserted responsibility for four bombings targeting five government buildings in Baghdad, including attacks that killed 101 at the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Finance in August and 155 at the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works in September; these were the deadliest attacks directed at the new government in more than six years of war. These attacks represented a shift from the group's previous efforts to incite sectarian violence, although a series of suicide attacks in April targeted mostly Iranian Shia pilgrims, killing 76, and in June a mosque bombing in Taza killed at least 73 Shi'ites from the Turkmen ethnic minority. According to the commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, AQI "has transformed significantly in the last two years. What once was dominated by foreign individuals has now become more and more dominated by Iraqi citizens." Odierno's comments reinforce accusations by the government of Nuri al-Maliki that al-Qaeda and ex-Ba'athists were working together to undermine improved security and sabotage the planned Iraqi parliamentary elections in 2010. As of June 2010, 80% of the group's 42 leaders, including recruiters and financiers, have been killed or captured with only eight remaining at large, according to Odierno. He said they are cut off from their leaders in Pakistan, and improved intelligence allowed for the successful mission in April that led to the killing of the two AQI top commanders; in addition, the number of attacks and casualty figures in the first five months of 2010 has been the lowest yet since 2003. The group is currently led by Abu Dua (also known as Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri), who was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on 4 October 2011 by the US State Department with an announced reward of $10 million for information leading to his capture or death. Abu Dua is in charge of running all AQI activity in Iraq, and is responsible for managing and directing large-scale operations such as the 28 August 2011 attack on the Umm al-Qura mosque in Baghdad that killed prominent Sunni lawmaker Khalid al-Fahdawi. Between March and April 2011, AQI claimed 23 other attacks south of Baghdad, all of which are alleged to have been carried out under Dua's command. On 15 August 2011, a wave of AQI suicide attacks beginning in Mosul resulted in 70 deaths. Shortly thereafter, AQI pledged on its website to carry out 100 attacks across Iraq in retaliation for bin Laden's death. The statement claimed the campaign would feature various methods of attack including raids, suicide attacks, roadside bombs and small arms attacks in all cities and rural areas across the country. Before coming into the leadership role, he was identified as a "senior al-Qaeda in Iraq figure" who was part of a network of AQI operatives based in a string of towns along the Syrian border northwest of Baghdad; Dua's personal role was that of a facilitator in the smuggling of Syrian and Saudi Arabian militants into Iraq. What is not easy to say is what will happen after the death of Dua, clearly another leader is waiting to take the reins of AQI, but who will be successful will be up to the Iraqi government. By providing much needed security and basic necessities to its population, only then can Iraq hope to rid itself from actors looking to disrupt a nation on its way to democracy.


References:
Terrorist Designation of Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri. United States Department of State. 4 October 2011
"IRAQ: U.S. offers $10-million reward for Al Qaeda in Iraq leader". Los Angeles Times. 7 October 2011.
"US launches airstrike near Syrian border". Jerusalem Post. 26 October 2005.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq", GlobalSecurity.org (U.S. State Department, 'Country Reports on Terrorism', 2005)
Middle East and North Africa Overview, Country Reports on Terrorism, U.S. State Department, 28 April 2006
"The Enemy of My Enemy: The odd link between Ansar al-Islam, Iraq and Iran" (PDF). The Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies.
-Qaeda leaders have proclaimed Iraq a major front in their global terrorist campaign. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, July 9, 2005
Emily Hunt (November 15, 2005). "Zarqawi's 'Total War' on Iraqi Shiites Exposes a Divide among Sunni Jihadists
DeYoung, Karen/Pincus, Walter. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq May Not Be Threat Here", The Washington Post, 18 March 2007
Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi (October 18, 2004). "Zarqawi's pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda". Jamestown Foundation. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
Targeting al Qaeda in Iraq's Network, The Weekly Standard, 11/13/2007
Klein, Joe. "Is al-Qaeda on the Run in Iraq?", TIME, 23 May 2007
Mohammed, Muhanad (8 May 2011). "Al Qaeda leader and 17 others killed in Iraq jail clash". uk.reuters.com. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
Terrorist Designation of Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri". United States Department of State. 4 October 2011

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