Winning: Iraqi Al Qaeda Devolves

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November 11,2008: Al Qaeda recruited heavily inside Iraq during the last five years, and most of those recruits have remained. Most of the foreigners have fled, either to their home countries, Western Europe or Afghanistan. Nearly all the al Qaeda leadership in Iraq is now Iraqi, and most of the best ones have been killed or captured this year. Much of this is due to tips from civilians, many of whom are now prosperous enough to have cell phones. Much useful information also comes from captured documents. Most of this data is kept secret, because it often involves information on the internal workings of al Qaeda that will still have value for a while, if the enemy doesn't know the other side has it.

Aside from discussions of who should do what in these documents, there are also many proposals for new tactics and techniques. It's been suggested that utilities (water, sanitation and electricity) become a target once more, and this has led to attacks on the water supply and electricity distribution. Iraqi security forces guard these facilities now, and since Iraqis depend most on these services, there is a built-in incentive to thwart the attacks, or at least repair the damage quickly. Thus the recent terror attacks on water and power have not had an impact commensurate with the people the terrorists have lost. One suggestion that has been implemented recently is for suicide bombing attacks on the growing number of hospitals and clinics that are being established. In several recent attacks, al Qaeda has used women suicide bombers (wearing explosives crammed vests) to enter hospitals or stand outside and kill as many patients and staff as possible. These attacks have not been as bloody as they could be because the bombs are of low quality, and the bombers poorly trained and supervised. This is a direct result of the losses among experienced al Qaeda personnel in the past year.

Al Qaeda has had little success in attacking the oil production and transportation facilities. These assets have been heavily guarded for some years now, and are more concentrated that oil, sanitation and electricity targets. Al Qaeda plans to poison the water supply never got anywhere. A captured al Qaeda document from earlier this year suggested that this be done with nitric acid. But the needed supply of acid was never obtained.

Al Qaeda is having supply problems. Cars, explosives and people capable of building suicide bombs are scarce. Most have been killed, captured, or compelled to seek other means of employment. But there are still plenty of guns out there, which explains the increased interest in kidnapping (for intimidation or cash) and assassination (for intimidation or just to make a political point).

Many al Qaeda operatives are only into terror part time. Criminal activities, to raise money, are demanding more and more effort. You cannot run a terror operation on hand outs. At least not in Iraq. It's cash-and-carry, especially if you are al Qaeda (still the most hated outfit in the country). Iraqi security forces are shifting resources to criminal gangs, believing that squeezing common criminals will provide lots of leads to the remaining, and very hard core, al Qaeda operators.

 


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