Tribal leaders in the troubled province organize against al Qaeda
In March, we noted the successful model of the Anbar Salvation Council will very likely be replicated elsewhere in regions where al Qaeda has established bases of operation. We singled out Diyala in particular, as al Qaeda’s campaign of murder and intimidation was beginning to anger the tribes much as it did in Anbar province. Al Qaeda’s establishment of its Islamic State of Iraq, with its capital in Baqubah ade the province ripe for a major Coalition operation in the region. In early March, Al Sabaah reported the local sheikhs in Diyala were organizing against al Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq, “which [is] spreading corruption in the province districts.” Today, the speculation has become a reality, as “Arab tribesmen in Baqubah ave said they will form a tribal alliance to cleanse the Diyala province of foreign fighters and those of the al Qaeda terrorist network in Iraq.”
“Tribesman Sheikh Wameed al-Jabouri told al-Hayat that a number of tribes had signed a cooperation agreement to undertake this mission and to bring the city back to how ‘it used to be,'” notes DPA. “The agreement could be considered “a national charter” that proves their rejection of the actions of the terrorist groups, al-Jabouri said.”
The Diyala tribes have requested the U.S. military “not to interfere with their plans,” according to DPA. “The US forces committed fatal mistakes in handling the security situation in Baqubah ” said Sheikh Dari Fahd al-Assadi, the Deputy governor of Diyala. This resentment stems from the U.S. draw down of forces in Diyala last fall, and the handover of security to the Iraqi Police and Army. Mistakes by the Iraqi Security Forces were compounded by a concerted campaign by al Qaeda to destroy the security forces, particularly the police, and intimidate the local population.
Soldiers from the 5/20 Strykers conduct operations in Buhriz on March 20, 2007. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall. Click to view.
The reality is, absent a dramatic organization by the local tribes and a massive co opting of sympathetic insurgent groups, U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces will need to conduct major operation in Diyala to uproot al Qaeda and its Islamic State.
Diyala has become the main hub of al Qaeda’s operations. Al Qaeda in Iraq made Baqubah he capital of its rump Islamic State of Iraq. Since the inception of the Baghdad Security Plan in mid-February, the security situation, which was deteriorating after U.S. forces pulled back last fall, has markedly worsened. Al Qaeda has prepared fighting positions, supply bases, IED traps, bomb rigged buildings, and training camps in the province.
Over 2,000 hardened al Qaeda fighters fled Baghdad and are operating in Diyala. An American intelligence official and a U.S. military officer informs us that al Qaeda is operating along the lines of Hezbollah’s military structure in Lebanon. Recent al Qaeda attacks in the region bear this out. Al Qaeda is organized in small military units with infantry, mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft teams, as well as suicide and IED cells and the accompanying logistical nodes. Al Qaeda has been conducting a terror campaign to remove tribal leaders and others who oppose them, while waging a campaign of intimidation designed to cower the local population.
The U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces have preparing the battlefield in Diyala until the full compliment of U.S. forces are in theater and able to finish securing the Baghdad “belts” – the regions surrounding Baghdad. The Diyala Campaign is only is its opening phase, with U.S. and Iraqi forces conducting raids, search and destroy missions, establishing forward operating bases and logistic nodes in preparation for the full assault sometime early this summer. The establishment of the yet to be named Diyala Salvation Front is a crucial element to establishing local intelligence networks and an auxiliary force to hunt al Qaeda.
The influence of Sheikh Sattar al Rishawi and his Anbar Salvation Council cannot be underestimated in the formation of the anti al Qaeda tribal alliance in Diyala. The Anbar Salvation Council has been operating outside its provincial boundaries and has sent emissaries into Diyala, Salahadin, Ninewa and other provinces in an effort to expand his anti al Qaeda Awakening movement nationwide.