The Chopping Block
The past month has been exceptionally hard on the upper management of al Qaeda in Iraq. The death of al Qaeda in Iraq's senior commander, Abdullah Abu Azzam, highlights this fact. Security Watchtower documents the heavy losses. In the Anbar and Diwana provinces, sixteen leaders, including six "emirs" , five senior facilitators and 5 brigade or cell leaders have been killed or captured. This list excludes the Coaliton's success in dismantling the al-Ahwal brigade in the city of Hit. The Lincoln Tribune provides the details, summarized below. Note the cascading effect of capturing a senior leader of the al-Ahwal brigade. Within two weeks the leadership is rounded up.
• On Aug. 13, Multinational forces raided a suspected terrorist location in Baghdad and captured Abu Ahmah, the second in command of the terrorist Al-Ahwal Brigade in Hit.
• On Aug. 24 Coalition forces raided a suspected terrorist location in the vicinity of Hit and captured Abu Yamana, a homemade- and car-bomb cell leader.
• On Aug. 25, multinational forces raided a suspected terrorist location near Hit and captured Abu Husayn, who led a media cell that filmed and photographed attacks, created fliers, posters and other extremist propaganda and distributed them to local citizens in Hit and other cities in the region.
• On Aug. 26 Multinational forces raided a suspected terrorist location in Baghdad and captured Abu Jafar or Abu Zaynab, the leader and primary financier of the Al-Ahwal Brigade.
• Also on Aug. 26 Mahmud Saynt, Jafar's military commander and closest friend and adviser, was killed when coalition forces attempted to capture him.
• On Aug. 27, forces raided a suspected terrorist location in Hit and captured Aby Sayf, who had been Mahmud Saynt's deputy and had just succeeded the slain Al-Ahwal Brigade military commander.
Yet another al Qaeda leader has been detained by the Coalition. Abdul Rahman Hasan Shahin, "one of the most wanted figures in Mosul" surrendered to local police. This is not the action of a jihadi leader with high morale. And his cowardice will filter down the ranks. But based on the Coalition's pounding of al Qaeda in northern Iraq, Shahin's surrender is understandable.
Wretchard drives home the impact of decapitating al Qaeda's middle and upper management, a point made here often.
But the worst of it is the wastage to cadres. Those who write that body counts are a meaningless metric to apply against the insurgency ignore the fact that formations which sustain heavy casualties lose their organizational memory while those who suffer lightly retain them. Lt. Col. Joseph L'Etoile is on his third and half of his men are on their second tours of Iraq . For Abu Nasir and many of his foreign fighters, the memory of what to avoid next time has been lost on this, their last tour of Iraq.
Image of al-Ahwal Brigade courtesy of CENTCOM.