Stretching the Chain

As Coalition forces scour Fallujah for weapons caches and terrorist hideouts, the extent of the Islamofascists’ logistical chain becomes apparent. Contrary to the laws of war, the terrorists have no compunction about using mosques as fighting positions, arsenals and bomb factories of jihad.

Military planners at U.S. Central Command said that every one of the 77 mosques encountered by Iraqi and coalition forces in Fallujah was used as a weapons storage facility or a fortress from which to launch attacks. On Wednesday, U.S. troops announced that they had recovered the largest weapons cache to date at a Fallujah mosque. American forces also found what they believe was a mobile bomb-making factory in the mosque compound.

The New York Times goes into detail about the findings in the mosque of Salafi cleric Abdullah Janabi, a main leader of the Fallujan insurgency, and friend and ally of al Qaeda’s Zarqawi. To the likes of Janabi and Zarqawi, Mosques are not places of worship exempt from war, but the starting point of jihad. The Islamofascists’ love of ruses even extends to disguising ice cream trucks as a resupply vehicle.

The mosque complex, in a residential area just north of Highway 10, the east-west artery, encompassed a dozen brick buildings packed with bombs, guns, rocket-propelled grenades and ammunition. In the street outside, a ship mine sat in a puddle.

Just inside the mosque compound was an aluminum shed full of mortars and TNT, the general said. Like many weapons depots in Falluja, it had been wired to explode, and had to be dismantled by an American explosives team. Inside was a document explaining how to destroy tanks using rocket-propelled grenades.

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In a caretaker’s hut were boxes of mortars and bullets, General Natonski said. On the mosque’s top floor were nine artillery shells. In the back of the compound was an ice cream truck, decorated with orange, red, and blue popsicles and packed with rocket propelled grenades and bomb-making materials. “This was probably a traveling I.E.D. factory,” General Natonski said, referring to “improvised explosive devices.”

Fallujah is not the only city where mosques are used to arm the Islamofascists. Sadr’s Mahdi Army used the Imam Ali mosque to fight against Coalition forces last summer, and also used the revered site to torture and execute those that opposed his brand of Islam. A recent raid in Baghdad by Iraqi commandos nets a huge cache of arms, including assembled car bombs and assorted bomb making materials.

Iraqi national guard forces raided the Sunni Muslim Al-Yassen Mosque in the southern Baghdad area of Abu Dshir on Saturday, said Gen. Saleh Sarhan of the Defense Ministry. In addition to the cars pre-rigged with explosives, the guardsmen found 30 rocket-propelled grenades, high-powered rifles, mortars and remote control detonators, Sarhan said. “The national guard arrested the imam of the mosque,” Sarhan said, and detained 18 others suspected of involvement in car-bomb attacks.

The usage of mosques as terror bases is no longer a surprise to Coalition forces, and it is now standard operating procedure for Coalition forces to cordon off and search suspected mosques on a routine basis. Coalition forces are also actively stepping up patrols in problem neighborhoods in an attempt to gain intelligence. The New York Time’s Richarch Oppel Jr. reports on how sweeps in the city are yielding results, and how the insurgents have been forced to change their mode of attacks. Direct assaults on American forces is a deadly game they are unlikely to survive, so the terrorists are forced to attack softer targets: Iraqis that support Coalition efforts.

The papers retrieved from the man in front of the cigarette stand, he said, were “minutes from some type of meeting of terrorist cells where they discussed money laundering, recruitment, weapons effectiveness and future operations.”

This is how it goes in the war against the insurgents in Mosul. Apparently having learned that direct attacks on American troops and their heavily armored vehicles are a difficult if not suicidal approach, insurgents often keep to the confines of sympathetic neighborhoods. They come out to try to pick off American troops patrolling the city or to launch mortars at American bases. But most of their efforts lately have been to kidnap, brutalize and kill young Iraqis who have joined the nation’s new security forces or who are thought to be helping the Americans.

A similar problem for the terrorists was encountered in Afghanistan. As Coalition forces denied basing and actively hunted al Qaeda and the Taliban while building up local Afghani security forces, the terrorists were increasingly unable to successfully engage Coalition forces in open combat. They shifted their attacks to softer targets, such as local police, humanitarian workers and Afghanis sympathetic to the new government. Attacks became less and less spectacular and their effectiveness degraded over time. Afghanistan was able to hold successful elections with little violence. Al Qaeda is livid over the failure to prevent elections and is asking for more foreign fighters to turn the tide of democracy.

Al-Qaeda is calling for recruits to come to Afghanistan to reverse momentum toward democracy and stem military victories by the U.S.-led coalition, a top U.S. military commander said. Maj. Gen. Rick Olson, second in command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said senior leaders of the Islamic terrorist group, including Osama bin Laden, are operating in northwest Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, giving direction to the Taliban and foreign fighters.

“Do not underestimate what is left of them,” Olson said. “They are still a viable organization.” Still, Olson said al Qaeda has been seriously disrupted and the Taliban that once ruled Afghanistan is splintering in the aftermath of the country’s first open election. “They have been dealt significant blows,” he said. “There is evidence that the Taliban has recognized they have suffered.

“(Intelligence) shows that they are very disappointed they could not stop the election. (They failed) to mount significant attacks that had a negative effect on the coalition or that had succeeded in intimidating the population of Afghanistan.” The result is “a number of reports that there is a lot of recrimination and finger-pointing about the failure to get something going, some kind of spectacular event,” Olson said.

General Olson concludes that “more insurgents now see Iraq as the preferred battleground” but “al Qaeda has not given up on Afghanistan” . The dispersal of al Qaeda after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan may have been mitigated by the invasion of Iraq, lending further credence to the “flypaper” theory. Coalition successes in Afghanistan are forcing al Qaeda to recall fighters from elsewhere, further depleting al Qaeda’s limited supply of arms, manpower and funds. This is in direct conflict with Zarqawi’s call for an influx in resources in Iraq after the Second Battle of Fallujah. While al Qaeda’s supply chain remains stretched between Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as among other less visible areas of operation), these assets are being redirected from potential attacks on the American homeland.

We are forcing al Qaeda to actively fight a multi-front war to prevent democracy from taking hold in the Muslim world, and it appears their resources are being strained in fighting a losing cause. Afghanistan has succumbed to elections and al Qaeda was powerless to stop them. Iraq will be next, and yet again al Qaeda’s weak horse will be on display, the case of colic growing ever more severe.

An Aside

Don’t miss Arthur Chrenkoff’s Good News from the Islamic World.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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5 Comments

  • Jamie Irons says:

    Thanks for your writing; I have very much enjoyed your posts on Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Jamie Irons

  • Beard says:

    The worst-case outcome for terrorists is not death, but impotence.
    It’s tempting to think that death brings impotence, but it’s not true. Martyrdom can make a leading figure even more potent than he was in life. So capture and imprisonment can be even more effective than death in stopping a terrorist.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Beard,
    I mostly agree. Capture of senior leaders is preferred, for reasons of intel gathering as well as the psychological effect of once powerful and feared men in chains. But if capture is not possible, death is definitely the next option. One downside of capture is that the imprisonment of a figurehead can lead to attempts to free him – terror campaigns, kidnappings, etc., all in an attempt to negotiate their release (The Israeli Palestinian conflict is the perfect example of this).
    Another possibility is to “disappear” these leaders, either after death or capture, so their whereabouts remain a mystery. Eventually they fade from memory, or perhaps reach an “Elvis” status. I personally am not comfortable with this option, I just wanted to throw it out there as it is an option.

  • Justin B says:

    The picture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is enough to prove Bill right. Post pictures of them in t-shirts looking like homeless folks with back hair after a night raid and they look more like fools than martyrs.

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