Desperate Terrorists

Al Qaeda has followed through on its plan to attack US bases on a larger scale. The Washington Post reports that Camp Gannon, a US post on the Syrian border, was attacked by a formation of al Qaeda fighters. As stated in last week in A Change in Tactics, direct assaults on American and Iraqi bases by platoon and company sized elements would not go well for al Qaeda. Attacks of this nature force the terrorists to expose themselves to the Coalition’s military strengths of training, leadership, firepower, armor, fortified positions, air-to-ground support, artillery support and surveillance:

The raid Monday was on Camp Gannon, a U.S. base at Husaybah, a few yards from the Syrian border near the Euphrates River. U.S. Cobra attack helicopters fired on the insurgents to repel simultaneous attacks by suicide bombers and armed fighters, officials said. A second car bomb exploded 15 minutes after the first assault, “at the same entrance, while the soldiers were busy rescuing the wounded,” Capt. Saad Abdul Fattah of the Iraqi army said.

The U.S. military said three Marines were wounded and at least three bombers were killed. Witnesses and a hospital spokesman reported 10 to 15 dead, including foreign and Iraqi insurgents.


The suicide bombers, driving a firetruck, a pickup truck and one other vehicle, “attempted to breach the perimeter of Camp Gannon,” the U.S. military said in a statement.

The bombs exploded prematurely, slightly damaging the camp defenses of concertina wire and barricades. A mosque and other surrounding buildings also sustained minor damage, the statement said.

Marines came under small-arms fire at the same time, the military said. A 25-year-old student who witnessed the attack said at least 40 Arab and Iraqi fighters took part in the assault.

Cobra attack helicopters fired on a vehicle carrying an unknown number of gunmen, destroying it, the military said.

Like the assault on Abu Ghraib, suicide vehicles are used in an attempt to distract the defenders as well as breach the walls. This tactic is proving ineffective. And there no chance for the drivers to learn the lessons of combat; there is no institutional memory among spent suicide bombers.

Al Qaeda dismisses the Coalition air advantage to their own peril, as the effect of the Cobras demonstrates. If the casualty numbers are correct, the percentage of the attacking force killed by the Marines is 25% to 40%, and does not include the wounded. These are staggeringly high casualty ratios that will quickly demoralize the rank and file and dissuade them from being convinced they can succeed in defeating the Coalition in direct confrontation.

Zarqawi’s Al-Qaeda Jihad Committee in Mesopotamia issued not one but three statements about this attack (translations with great thanks to Evan Kohlmann of Global Terror Alert). According to Zarqawi, they have “managed to cause the enemy grave damage“, “succeeded in killing Americans and destroying their broken and defeated army“, and “executed three courageous attacks on the headquarters of the Americans and managed to inflict severe damage“. The facts do not support their assertions and unlike the account of the Abu Ghraib assault there are no details of the attack. Zarqawi has followed up the Abu Ghraib raid with the fantastical assertion that over 150 prisoners were freed and 35 Americans were killed. One wonders if they are beginning to believe their own lies in order to continue the fight.

The flurry of propaganda coming from the Al-Qaeda Jihad Committee in Mesopotamia is an attempt to give the appearance of strength to local fighters, the foreign media and potential sympathetic supporters. Austin Bay refers to this as ‘The “Iraqi Tet” Fantasy’, an attempt to sway public opinion in the US against the war. The fighters of al Qaeda know the real score, the Iraqi citizens have rejected their depravity and the major media has moved on and views the insurgency as a lost cause.

Al Qaeda has tried its hand at classical subterfuge, terrorism and insurgency warfare, and was unable to influence the course of the election or the formation of the transitional government. Because of this they are trying a new tactic of directly assaulting US and Iraqi forces, and have failed spectacularly in each instance. Al Qaeda can continue to detonate bombs in markets, mosques and on the streets, but their violence is not achieving its desired effects – the ejection of the US forces and the transformation of Iraq in to a Taliban-styled Islamist state. Al Qaeda is now resorting to desperate tactics of direct confrontation with American forces and false propaganda to grant the appearance of strength. Neither of these tactics can hold up for long, and combined with the increasing fracturing of the insurgency, this does not bode well for the prospects of an al Qaeda victory in Iraq.

Also Read:

Arthur Chrenkoff reports that “Russia is suffering from Great Power Deprivation Syndrome”, and provides a brief diagnosis and possible cure.

Bill Rice and Wretchard look at the balance of forces in the Taiwan straits (much in line with the post The China Syndrome), and Bruce Chang looks at the state of Taiwanese Self-Defense Forces.

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


  • Ryan says:

    This does at least seem to be an accurate depiction. All the moderate Sunni insurgents seem to have either dropped their weapons completely or gone underground for a while. Attacks and casualties are way down. If the extremists have in fact been isolated, then this is a huge strategic victory which will probably lead to victory in the war in Iraq. It’s nowhere near over though and there may be other problems that emerge like Sadr for example who is becoming rowdy again. But the situation in Iraq right now seems much better than it was 3 or 4 months ago.

  • John Austin says:

    The terrorists are obviously desperate. This is great!

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Ryan, I agree, it is no where near over. And I want to be clear that al Qaeda will still remain a threat if the insurgency is indeed broken, they will not stop fighting because the Baathist elements quit. It will just be all the more difficult for them to be effective or to influence events. They will be forced to continue their harrassment attacks (already proven ineffective in the big picture), conduct more ineffective mass assaults, or go the way of the Algerian GIA (Armed Islamist Group) and conduct large scale attacks against soft targets (civilians, schools, mosques, etc.). We know the outcome of the first two options, and the third option would lead to further alienation in Iraq and the greater Arab world. Even al Qaeda withdrew its support from the GIA and asked members to splinter into the GSPC as the actions of the GIA horrified even the leadership of al Qaeda. Al Qaeda looks to be in a lose-lose situation right now in Iraq.

  • Marlin says:

    Pamela Hess from UPI has a nice complementary article about this in the Washington Times at
    Interestingly, both the Syrians and the Iraqis/Americans agree that the border entry point that existed in Husaybah until just before Fallujah will never open again. A new one will be built 25km south of Husaybah that should hopefully be beyond the reach of the local mafia.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Thanks, Marlin. I missed that one yesterday, great article. I had this post ready to publish yesterday morning but was waiting for the transcripts of al Qaeda in Iraq on the attacks before I went forward, as I wanted to see what they had to say.
    interesting aspect on the importance of Husaybah and the Syrians agreeing to help close the border.

  • mdmhvonpa says:

    This is too dysfunctional to believe. Is it a distraction of some sort. I can’t believe that they would throw all their resources (ppl/explosives) into the shredder like this. Bizzare.

  • DaveK says:

    With regard to the hyped battle reports coming from Zarqawi’s folks, it could well be that these are actually the reports he’s received from his lieutenants (those who remain, or have been suddenly bumped up in the pecking order).
    Making inflated claims to avoid losing face is a behavior that is all too arab.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I think Austin Bay has it right. They are hoping to overrun a base for political affect, as well as show they are not irrelevant. The problem is the more they are defeated, the more irrelevant they become. The media are not buying their propaganda releases so that gambit is not working.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    If so, then no one is checking his lieutenants’ claims for accuracy and he has a serious command problem. If Zarqawi actually thinks these attacks are successful, and keeps ordering more based on the faked reports of his lieutenants, then all the better. More meat for the grinder.

  • Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

    Over at the fourth rail, Bill Roggio has developed a subtle sense of humor in dealing with Al-Qaeda battle strategies:Like the assault on Abu Ghraib, suicide vehicles are used in an attempt to distract the defenders as well as breach

  • The other thing is that if they’re trying for another Tet they’ve failed miserably to get the press on board. Tet was, after all, a propaganda victory and a military defeat. I haven’t seen our press (most of it anyway) play along.

  • michael ledeen says:

    Driving into work this morning I listened some to Imus, who had a journalist on (never got his name)just back from Iraq. He — the journalist — said that he had gone to the Sunni triangle, he had expected to find bad morale among our troops, outright hostility from the Iraqi people, etc. etc. The quagmire, in short. Instead he found enthusiastic cooperation between our guys and the Iraqis, to the point where he had to totally revise his expectations. And he found sky-high morale among our troops. Their main complaint was that they were being held back from killing even more enemies.
    I cannot believe he is the only “reporter” who is seeing this, and I expect the picture will get clearer. Slowly, grudgingly, but relentlessly.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    HI Michael,
    I think if they would venture out from the Green Zone, they might see this. Some more enterprising and daring reporters are needed in Iraq.

  • Enigma says:

    I agree with you on all points, Ryan.
    Bill, if reporters start to venture out of the Green Zone, they’ll have to face reality…and some danger. I don’t think they are ready for either.

  • More Tet?

    Bill Roggio reports another overlooked suicide attack on a US position in Iraq. I’m reminded of the fact that the Al Qaeda crew welcomes death, while the US military still follows Patton’s orders to make the other son of a…

  • THE POST EXCHANGE: I’ve asked my fellow MilBloggers to submit “notable posts” they’ve written in the recent past for inclusion here, with a quick summary in their own words. I’ve taken the liberty of linking to some of their stuff…

  • Ryan says:

    Nobody really knows exactly what’s going on in the Sunni triangle for that reason. No reporters are willing to go there. I wonder how the economy is and if trade is improving in that area. Have there been any articles about the state of the Sunni triangle today?

  • Justin B says:

    I don’t think that there are nearly as many reporters in Iraq now since the election. There is no where near as much news coming out since the reporters only want to report bad news and there is less and less.

    Quite honestly, now that casualty numbers are dropping, the media has very little to say at all. I will be posting some information on casualty numbers for the last three months since the election shortly, but they are exceptionally encouraging.

    There just isn’t anything to report on. No News is Good News for those that want success.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    The terrorists are trying to create an “impression” of increasing violence.
    Sample –
    04/14/05 Reuters: Bombs kill 15 in surge of violence in Iraq
    An examination of casualty numbers shows that the “net” violence is dropping.(they now track iraqi deaths)
    As far as the Sunni triangle is concerned…it is an area where a lot of Sadam’s former henchmen live and they are none too happy about being unemployed. For them, it is financial. They are quite happy to arrange for mortar attacks and IED’s….they aren’t about to blow themselves up.

  • USMC_Vet says:

    A change in tactics…
    Why does one change tactics?
    Because the old tactics were failing.
    Therefor, the terrorists have changed tactics (desperately, as Bill notes) from their most comfortable to their least familiar.
    This is a sign that (sorry Ryan) the jig is up.
    It’s Downhill from here on out, especially as more and more indiginous (sp) Iraqi units take over responsibility.
    Great comment Ryan. You make me proud. You are thinking with your own noodle more and more. Cheers to you for that.
    Cheers all.

  • Thursday Winds of War: April 14/05

    Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday…

  • UNCoRRELATED says:

    More al Qaeda shooting galleries

    In what has to be a sign that al Qaeda is on its last legs in Iraq, approximately 40 terrorists attacked Camp Gannon in Iraq with “a firetruck, a pickup truck and another vehicle”. Were they successful? Not so much….

  • Mark Buehner says:

    Another idealogical victory that is bearing the Bush/Neocon doctrine out: We are killing a whole bunch of Al Qaeda terrorists, and even the MSM isnt denying that. Much better than bumbling around Afghanistan looking for them, and instead getting sniped by local shepherds, wouldnt you say? We have performed a classic military manuever on a grand scale, taken a peice of terrain the enemy must defend and goaded him into attacking us on it. Of course im sure no-one ever talked about this before the war right? Just like pushing democracy in the region was never discussed? The old memory hole routine.

  • HUTCH says:

    Sounds like Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf finally found work as Zarqawi’s publicist. Next thing you know, Jihad and Tiwad will be claiming that the Americans are not even in Baghdad any longer…


    As Iraq s insurgency diminishes in its ability to affect the transition to a democratic state, Al Qaeda in Iraq digs in for the long haul. Evan Kohlmann reports on the discovery of a new web site being built…

  • THE POST EXCHANGE: I’ve asked my fellow MilBloggers to submit “notable posts” they’ve written in the recent past for inclusion here, with a quick summary in their own words. I’ve taken the liberty of linking to some of their stuff…


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram