Undercutting the middle management of terrorist groups is an important tool in disrupting the leadership and operations of the organization. In Org Chart we looked at the effect Coalition operations have had on al Qaeda in Iraq’s leadership. While the senior-most leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq (Zarqawi, his deputy, media and military commanders, as well as his brigade commanders) have not been killed or captured, the organization’s middle management has been decimated, with well over 66% of Zarqawi’s lieutenants either killed or captured. This means less experienced operatives will take their place, weakening the effectiveness of the organization over time.

Other important elements that need to be eliminated from al Qaeda’s organization are those who report directly to the senior lieutenants; the bomb makers, cell leaders and financiers who run the day-to-day operations. Bomb makers are a particularly attractive target as their skills are in demand, particularly with the depraved strategy of al Qaeda to inflict mass casualties on soldiers and civilians alike. A good bomb manufacturer is a valuable asset. This is highly dangerous and skillful work, where “work accidents” occur frequently.

The Counterterrorism Blog reports on one such capture, that of terrorist bomb maker Abu Daoud:

Security Forces conducted a raid in Mosul May 13 resulting in the capture of Salim Yussef Ghafif Huseyn, aka Abu Daoud. Abu Daoud is the chief facilitator of the majority of terrorist suicide car bombings in Mosul, for the terrorist group of Abu Talha associated with Zarqawi terrorist network. Intelligence sources have placed Abu Daoud as a very close confidant and terrorist cell leader of Abu Talha [Zarqawi’s lieutenant in charge of Mosul – see Al-Qaida leadership chart]; together they are directly responsible for numerous attacks against innocent Iraqi citizens. Abu Daoud was responsible for obtaining vehicles and converting them into car bombs by packing them full of explosives. In previous incident, Security Forces have captured in April Abu Fateh, a financier for Abu Talha.

Abu Talha, Al Qaeda’s commander in Mosul has now seen his financier and chief bomb maker captured. These are two men who can provide valuable intelligence if they can be induced to talk. They will have intimate knowledge of al Qaeda’s operations in Mosul, who is supplying money to the cells, where explosive materials are obtained, how bombs are manufactured and the methods used to deploy them.

Capturing mid-level operatives has a chilling affect on the confidence of al Qaeda’s leadership. After the arrest of two of his lieutenants, Abu Daoud must be looking upon his organization with suspicion, wondering if he has an informant in his midst, or if he is being watched directly. Zarqawi, if he isn’t already dead, will be having similar thoughts when he needs to utilize or communicate with his Mosul network. While many desire the death of these operatives, the value of detaining these middlemen far exceeds the value of viewing them in a pine box. Save that for later.

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


  • socialism_is_error says:

    “The Counterterrorism Blog reports on one such capture, that of terrorist bomb maker Abu Daoud:”

    “Abu Daoud, Al Qaeda’s commander in Mosul has now seen his financier and chief bomb maker captured.”
    Something is out-of-whack, Bill, unless Abu Daoud is the name of both the Mosul commander and his bomb-maker.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Only thing wrong is my typing. The commander in Mosul is Abu Talha, and the post has been corrected. I need all of the editors I can get.

  • yet another rice alum says:

    for the effect of depleting the middle tier of a command structure, i’d recommend Lee’s Lieutenants (D. S. Freeman). if you’re pressed for time, you can probably just read the last few chapters of the third volume.
    i’d still like to find a similar study of the command structure of other armies….

  • Mixed Humor says:

    There’s probably a few hundred Ted Kaczynski’s embedded in the Sunni triangle, with their basements renovated into bomb factories. It’s next to impossible to prevent materials (ie. artillery shells, fuses, etc) from falling into the hands of these bombmakers, as Iraq is one big ammo dump. There is no shortage of Saudi fanatics coming over to act as the delivery system either. The only option is to aggresively go after the bomb makers themselves and their factories of death. This requires solid intelligence and tips from the Iraqi people. The midnight raid of Paul Revere will yeild some results as well.

  • Kenneth says:

    The US is following a proven counter-insurgency strategy by taking out the middle-management layer. This cuts off the leadership from the foot soldiers, reducing their command & control while generating resentment among the lower ranks.
    One particular tactic, uncommented on in the media, is to intentionally allow “safe areas” for the terrorists to operate. The presence of these towns, (eg. Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosel & Qaim) which the media calls no-go areas for US forces, are used as examples of the failure of US tactics. In fact they are part of the US counter-insurgency strategy. It works like this: the insurgents are hard pressed in most areas, but a few safe areas are intentionally left untouched. The insurgents gravitate to these areas, and set up command centres there. The US/INA forces then attack these centers, killing large numbers of insurgents who have conveniently gathered together there. Repeat a few times and the insurgents are decimated. A secondary side effect of this tactic is the growing hostility of the local population to these circulating bands of terrorists.

  • Marlin says:

    This is off topic somewhat, but it was interesting to read a Knight-Ridder article about the al Qaim area after the conclusion of Operation Matador. In the article some of the local tribal chiefs acknowledge asking the Iraqi government and US forces to come and help them (because they were losing to the foreign fighters), but then were aghast at the damage done during the fighting. You have to wonder how much of the damage they did prior to the Americans arriving, but the article never addresses that question. They also seem to be upset that they weren’t involved in the fighting by the Americans, but to me it is self-evident why the Americans wouldn’t trust them.

  • marlin says:

    One question I have had since the end of Operation Matador was whether or not any Iraqi security infrastructure was left behind in the al Qaim area when the US forces pulled out.
    StrategyPage, in its May 11 Iraq entry states “UAVs, spies and a few informers made it clear that parts of the Syrian border, and villages on the Iraqi side, were hot spots for terrorist activity. Once the hot spots are cooled off, the Iraqi border guards will be moved in. Most of the border is already covered by the border guards, who are building several hundred fortified bases along all the borders. But in places like western Iraq, you have to run the heavily armed gangs out first.”
    I haven’t read anything about this in the MSM and am just wondering what is to keep these towns from immediately reverting back to tribal warfare until the border guards arrive.
    Today in the Kuwaiti press there was an article stating that three corpses of Iraqi soldiers were found in al Qaim. I’m wondering how they came to be there. Home on leave? Part of a unit left in place by Americans to control the situation until the border guards take over?

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