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Al Qaeda in Iraq: Self-sufficient or splintering?
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, April 07, 2007

According to MG Gaskin, al Qaeda in Iraq has become "self-sufficient" which, he feels, explains why border infiltration from Syria, Nancy Pelosi's new best friend, is down:
Visiting this remote outpost, Marine Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin said the change has made persistent infiltration of men, weapons and money less of a concern to U.S. forces. But it also suggests a troubling maturation of al-Qaida in Iraq, the main terrorist organization targeted by American troops.

"Al-Qaida has become self-sufficient inside the country," Gaskin said.
Now, self-sufficient can mean a number of things. It could mean that the AQ network is fully manned, robust and has independent support that requires little if any outside help or aid. It could also mean that AQ in Iraq has become a mostly Iraqi movement, thus requiring fewer and fewer foreign fighters. It could mean a bit of both. But, reading the Counterterrorism Blog, I'm not sure if MG Gaskin's assessment is correct. Evan Kohlmann reports:
For months, there has been vigorous ongoing debate over the current state of Al-Qaida and its "Islamic State" in Iraq—its popularity, its brutality, and its longterm sustainability. The discussion has grown more complex in recent weeks as other Sunni insurgent groups—such as the Iraqi Islamic Resistance Front (JAAMI)—have begun to loudly complain about Al-Qaida's ISI aggressively muscling in on their territory and resources. Add to this the sudden break-up of the 1920 Revolution Brigades into two factions, one Sunni nationalist and one pro-ISI. The split itself was sparked by the assassination of the former leader of the 1920 Brigades, apparently at the hands of Al-Qaida.
A little "red on red" is an obvious indication that all is not well in terrorist land. And what you're seeing is splits in nominally AQ organizations between what would be considered nationalist insurgents and pure Islamic terrorists. One faction sees the fight as one for the nation of Iraq and their future in it. The other sees the fight as one against the great Satan and its proxies and hopes to use Iraq as a base for training and spreading the fight for the eventual establishment of the Caliphate. Said another way, one group has at least some level of concern about brutalizing Iraqis and the other has none.

The thing that has held these organizations with different goals together in the past has been a shared hate of the "occupier". As you read the Counterterrorism Blog report, you'll note that much of the disagreement has to do with who's done more to attack US forces.

Unsaid in both reports, however, but reported recently, is the fact that various key Sunni tribes, especially in Anbar, have been turning against AQ and lending their support and fighters to the government effort to stamp the group out. That is a significant change and may be the reason that you see AQ splintering between nationalist and terrorist. Right now, the effort is against all of AQ's groups, whether nominally nationalist or not.

Another interesting aspect of the Counterterrorism Blog report is its discussion of a major Sunni militant organization, the Islamic Army of Iraq or IAI (ISI is AQs front organization for Iraq).
Now, the quarreling has moved out in the open, with an angry letter today issued from the media wing of the prominent Sunni militant organization known as the Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI). To be fair, the IAI is hardly an innocent spectator in the insurgency. It has, at various times, worked closely with Al-Qaida in Iraq and it has claimed responsibility for or been implicated in a litany of brutal acts, including kidnapping and murder. Yet, dropping all pretenses towards brotherly unity, the IAI has suddenly fired off a volley of sullen contempt for Al-Qaida, its Islamic State, and its leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi—accusing the ISI of spreading "unfair, false accusations" about its would-be connections to the Baath party, threatening other insurgents with death if they refuse to swear allegiance to the ISI, and the fratricide of at least thirty fellow Sunni militants from other groups (such as the 1920 Revolution Brigades, the Mujahideen Army, and Ansar al-Sunnah). The IAI took particular exception to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi's challenge to other insurgents to justify their existence by attacking American military bases: "Oh, forgive us Allah, does this era need further evidence? ...the Islamic Army has executed dozens of raids on bases and military barracks...[including] in the year 2003 before the Al-Qaida network in Iraq was even founded." The IAI even directed an appeal straight to Al-Qaida leader Usama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, urging him to personally look into these allegations and "correct the path" of Al-Qaida's leaders in Iraq.
Whether or not this apparent rift will structurally weaken AQ in Iraq remains to be seen, but it does again highlight a particular persistent problem with AQ. That of intentional, unnecessary and widespread brutality as a consistent tactic. It seems at some point, more nationalistic organizations which have allied themselves with ISI become disgusted and disenchanted with AQ for that reason. Obviously they accept as necessary a level of killing and mayhem. But they accept it as a means to a particular goal, that of an independent Iraq in which they have a role to play. AQ, on the other hand, simply commits brutal acts at random with the only purpose of using Iraq and Iraqis as pawns in their desire to establish a world-wide Caliphate. It is these differences in goals and how to accomplish them which may work to make the split permanent.

This isn't the first time that Iraqi insurgent groups have complained about AQ's brutality. In fact, AQ leadership outside of Iraq has cautioned that local leadership in Iraq that it was alienating factions which could be helpful. Apparently that problem continues.

AQ is far from done in Iraq, but it appears that its support continues to erode. This is an opportunity for the government of Iraq if it can find a way to exploit it. In the end, given these sorts of public fights, my guess is AQ's brutal tactics will eventually be its undoing.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

threatening other insurgents with death if they refuse to swear allegiance

I always thought that this was part and parcel to any kind of insurgency, so it seems so read a bit whiny.
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
The only thing keeping the insurgents and the jihadists from full-out warfare is... they’re busy with us.

The thing that has held these organizations with different goals together in the past has been a shared hate of the "occupier".

You can change the past tense to the present tense.

The ’political’ track, is, of course, supposed to be about getting the nationalist splitters to give us a break and kill AQ instead.. but nationalists continue to hold out for our departure. So, the choke-hold continues.
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Was it Erb who was claiming that once we left Al Qaeda in Iraq would be driven out by the Iraqis?

LOL. Looks like they have enough local support to not only exist but to kill off their "allies."
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
There are other possibilities. The Syrians could be taking a more active role in suppressing AQ in Syria. AQ could be getting support from other routes into Iraq.
Written By: unaha-closp

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