A series of raids in the last
three months has crippled the al Qaeda operation that smuggled suicide bombers
into Iraq. As a result of all this, suicide bombings are down over 80 percent
from earlier in the year.
Years of playing detective and "CSI:
Baghdad" in Sunni Arab Central Iraq paid off when one tip led to a
terrorist leaders hard drive, and then another, another and another. By the end
of September, the smuggling pipeline that had been bringing over a thousand
suicide bombers into Iraq each year, was in tatters. Many gigabytes of data was
recovered from terrorist computers, providing many details of al Qaeda
There were several key findings from this trove of
information. First, al Qaeda is driven largely by the recruiting and fund
raising performed by radical clergy, particularly in Saudi Arabia. This is
apparently why Saudi Arabia has been cracking down harder on their radical
clergy in the past few months. The Saudis have also been leaning on wealthy
citizens believed to be major contributors to "Islamic charities" that are
basically fronts for al Qaeda.
The source of most of the suicide bombers was
interesting, with 80 percent of them coming from Saudi Arabia (41 percent) and
North Africa (mainly Libya and Algeria.) That's interesting because all three
of those countries have become very hostile to al Qaeda since the invasion of
Iraq. Actually, Algeria had been suffering Islamic terrorist violence since the
early 1990s, but Saudi Arabia and Libya had long been hospitable to Islamic
radicals (as long as they did not criticize their hosts). While al Qaeda has
been hostile to Saudi Arabia since the 1990s, the government left al Qaeda
supporters alone if they did not participate in overt anti-government activity.
While the Saudis won't admit it, they don't mind the fact that several thousand
of their most rabidly Islamic young men have gone off to Iraq to get killed.
But as Iraqi Sunni Arabs turned against al Qaeda and its relentless slaughter
of civilians, the Saudi government tried to keep its young men out of Iraq. Not
too successful with that, but once the Americans presented all those detailed
al Qaeda records, which kept mentioning the same Saudi clerics who acted as
recruiters and cheerleaders for al Qaeda, it became clear something had to be
While the U.S. Army has been successful in
identifying, locating and shutting down terrorist operations in Iraq, these new
techniques have not become a part of the official doctrine (the detailed
protocols of how things are done). That's because the army got a lot of
unofficial help from Special Forces, the Israelis and reservists who were cops
and detectives in their regular jobs. Many army officers see this kind of
"police work" as something the army will encounter again, and want it
incorporated into official doctrine, so that it becomes a part of the "official
memory." While this knowledge is retained by the reservists (informally) and
Special Forces (as semi-official doctrine), the details of how this police type
investigating and analysis is done by army units is important. Without making
all this stuff part of doctrine, those critical details will largely be lost.
Most likely, this police type work will be featured
in the histories of the Iraq war. But you shouldn't have to read a history book
to find the details of how to fight a war.