Foreign Elements

The Marines are methodically pushing westward, conducting detailed searches in the towns along the Euphrates. The Marines are driving the insurgents and terrorists towards the blocking force of the Marines in the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Regiment in Qaim and the platoon(s) providing over watch along the ridge overlooking Rabit. Col. Bob Chase reports the local population is proving helpful; "We are getting a lot of information from the locals in the area and a very positive reception. They are giving up locations of where these people are hiding out, and each one drives another operation."

The Washington Post details the fierce fighting in Ubaydi. Three Marines are reported to have been killed in combat and many more were wounded. The report indicates that elements from the Marine's 3rd Battalion, 2nd Regiment and the 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment engaged in vicious house-to-house combat, and was surprised at the armaments and skills of the enemy. The weapons caches are reminiscent of what was found in Fallujah:

According to Hurley and others who recounted the fighting that followed, Lima Company's Marines searched each house they passed. They turned up weapons cache after weapons cache: bombs made to be dropped from airplanes, a bicycle with a seat made of explosives and an antenna for remote-control triggering, a vest rigged with explosives, a car rigged with bombs, mortar tubes, rocket launchers with new backpacks full of rockets, artillery shells.

The costly equipment, as well as body armor later recovered from the bodies of dead insurgents, suggested that the fighters were foreigners, the military said. Though the level of foreigners' involvement in the insurgency has been disputed for nearly two years, Muslim men have come to Iraq from neighboring countries such as Saudi Arabia and from as far away as Chechnya and Indonesia to fight the United States and its allies.

Col. Stephen Davis states the bulk of the fighters captured or killed in Operation Matador are foreign, not local Iraqi inhabitants:

"I've always been skeptical of the amount of foreign fighters said to be out here That skepticism is removed as of this operation."

Davis said his assessment was based on the examination of dead insurgents as well as the interrogations of captured fighters. Some, he said, wore white clothes favored by Yemeni or Saudi men, contrasted with the colorful garb favored by local Iraqis. One dead man wore a beard trimmed in a manner common to Saudi Arabia, compared to the Saddam Hussein-style mustaches seen among Iraqis.

During interrogations, many prisoners speak with foreign accents or use foreign phrases, said an interpreter who asked not to be identified. And some prisoners "just flat out admit" that they were from other countries, Davis said, without identifying the countries.

According to the Marines, the fighters also are employing different tactics - they are better equipped and better trained than the Iraqis the Marines have fought since arriving in Anbar province in February. "We mostly deal with Iraqis," Davis said. "These are different."

Evan Kohlmann documents the influx of foreign terrorists into Iraq (he estimates about 10,000 foreign jihadis are in country), and states Iraq has become an "engine for international terrorism", much like Chechnya and Kashmir, as fighters are entering Iraq and gaining experience in jihad. Mr. Kohlmann also states the likelihood of al Qaeda winning in Iraq is low, but warns that the real danger is these fighters escaping Iraq. They should be prevented from leaving so they do not carry their skills to their home countries and continue the jihad.

The estimate of the numbers of jihadis that passed through al Qaeda's training camps in the 1990's ranges upwards to a hundred thousand fighters. While Mr. Kohlmann is correct that Iraq provides al Qaeda the opportunity to hone their skills, Iraq also provides the American military the opportunity to engage al Qaeda in close combat, something that can not be done in Kashmir or Chechnya, or in the remote areas of Southeast and Central Asia. These hard core jihadis must be arrested or killed to defeat al Qaeda, and we are seeing this occur in Operation Matador.


The map previously used in this post has been removed, as the site was encountering bandwidth problems linking to this. Also, Chester and I felt the information was inaccurate based on recent news stories.

Also Read:

Wretchard follows up with further spot on thoughts on Evan Kohlmann's post about Iraq as an "engine for international terrorism".

Jack Kelly notes the death of one of our heros by a suicide bomber near Haditha. We must always remember the soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen and Coastguardsmen who fight daily for a better world.


READER COMMENTS: "Foreign Elements"

Posted by Chester at May 11, 2005 3:18 AM ET:


Kohlman has it backwards. It is our US forces which go to Iraq to gain valuable experience. The jihadists go to Iraq to die, and we are happy to kill them.

He is right though, we must keep them hermetically sealed off from the rest of the Middle East. This is a pretty complicated task. When we win, a few with experience will most definitely escape . . .

Posted by Bill Roggio at May 11, 2005 3:24 AM ET:

I mostly agree. This may be cynical, but a little spillover of jihadis into Saudi Arabia, Syria, etc. isn't so bad. It shows these countries the monster they have made, and turns the people against them. It shows them what terrorism really means when it isn't only for export. But terrroists eventually will make it to the west. But they did this anyway prior to Iraq, so what really is the difference?

Posted by Justin Capone at May 11, 2005 4:15 AM ET:


I wonder if the rest of the Muslim world is looking at Iraq and starting to question the whole terrorists as folk heros thing they have believed for so long. Zarqawi doesn't seem like the kind of folk hero the average person on the street can identify with.

Which reminds me I was watching the news a couple days ago and they said that al-Libbi is not on the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists unlike Bin Laden, Zawaherii, and Zarqawi, but I went to their website and Zarqawi was not on the list. I thought it might be that the FBI really doesn't care too much about their most wanted list and haven't updated it for years. Hell, some of them are on there on simple consperacy to commit murder. Or, it could be one of those turf wars where the CIA doesn't share much of their info with the FBI on ol'Zarq so the FBI doesn't put him on their list in spite. Do you have any ideas?

Regardless, the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorism list is worthless for seeing who is the actual most wanted terrorists by the US.

Posted by Bill Roggio at May 11, 2005 8:57 AM ET:

FBI only places terrorists ont he lists that have been indicted in federal court, this is why al_Libbi and Zawahiri are not on the list. Remember the FBI is part of the Justice Department.....

Posted by Just Asking at May 11, 2005 9:17 AM ET:

Ummmm. Do they have internet access in that town? Should people be posting detailed maps with Marine positions and descriptions of ongoing activities? Or is this info sufficiently dated to where we can be assured it is of no value to an already dead enemy?

Posted by Bill Roggio at May 11, 2005 9:20 AM ET:

Anyone can read these news accounts and put together a picture of what is going on. Our picture is speculative, based on news accounts, and we did not use any classified material, only open source news. The accounts are delayed/dated anyhow.

Posted by Marlin at May 11, 2005 12:23 PM ET:

I found this comment in a Knight-Ridder article about Operation Matador to be hopeful.

An Iraqi official said the offensive was triggered by local tribal leaders' complaints that about 300 foreign fighters had overtaken the town and were attacking residents who didn't offer them refuge.

"They said, `We are citizens of Qaim and we are now being attacked by non-Iraqi people coming from Syria. They are shelling us with mortars,'" Bruska Noori Shaways, the deputy Iraqi defense minister, said in an interview with Knight Ridder. "Until this time, they had never asked Iraqi or American forces to help them. It's a good sign."

I hope this is true, for if it is, it's a very good sign.

Posted by kbarrett at May 11, 2005 12:29 PM ET:

This looks a lot like the Jihadi tourism in Kashmir during the '90s. At that time, the Pakistanis were tolerating the movement of Jahadis through Kashmir on their way to going where they could kill Hindis.

It looks like Syria has started the same crap.

I think the Syrians may learn that they ain't dealing with the Indian Army if they aren't careful.

Posted by Bill Roggio at May 11, 2005 1:01 PM ET:


Thanks for the stear, it worked perfectly in the newly released post. You are a godsend.