The Coalition continues to dismantle Al Qaeda’s network in northern Iraq. Yesterday Col. Robert Brown described the degradation of al Qaeda in the north, summarized here; “Eighty percent of the network has been killed or captured. Sixty to seventy percent of the terrorist killed were foreigners. Most terrorists are now in their mid-teens, and inexperienced. Mortar attacks are down from three hundred a month to six.”
Today, Multinational Forces-Iraq stated that three more senior al Qaeda commanders in the Mosul region have been detained, based on intelligence from local Iraqi citizens. Captured were Abu Muhammad, “a terrorist battalion commander for Al-Qaeda in Iraq in Mosul” ; Abu Shayma, “a cell leader under Abu Muhammad” ; and Abu Abd al Karim. Karim was the driver for the recently killed Abu Zayd, the former Emir of al Qaeda in Mosul, who succeeded Abu Talha (the commander of Ansar al-Islam prior to its official merger with al Qaeda), after he was captured by the Coalition. The succession is dizzying.
Another interesting fact about Karim is that he was elevated from Zayd’s driver to a terrorist cell leader in Mosul. This highlights the continuous vacuum that needs to be filled due to the relentless assault on al Qaeda’s network up north. Promotions occur at a furious pace; drivers to promoted cell leaders, cell leaders to battalion leaders, battalion leaders to Emirs. Inexperience quickly moves up the ranks, degrading the network’s effectiveness.
There is no better way to dismantle a terrorist organization than by striking at the middle managers. The Coalition is quite effective at this in the north. It has been effective because of tips from local Iraqis, the continuous presence of the Coalition and the application of this intelligence onto successful operations designed to kill or capture the most deadly leaders of the local networks.
The model being used up north will be applied to the local networks along the Euphrates ratline when the time is right. Coalition commanders are certain that al Qaeda’s attacks on Baghdad emanate from the river region. According to an unnamed senior Central Command officer; “We believe these attacks were spawned in the west, then the bombs migrated from the Euphrates River valley the heart of Zarqawi’s network is not in Baghdad, we’re quite confident of that In a corridor from Syria to Baghdad is where he’s nested right now.” Gen. John Abizaid, CENTCOM commander, concurs; “The insurgency is much more pushed to the west in Iraq this year than it was in the previous years I actually regard that as a sign that the insurgency is having a hard time getting established elsewhere.”
The question that remains is if the time to forcefully move into Anbar has come. The human loss and political fallout from al Qaeda’s bloody attacks may necessitate the acceleration of the timeline to push westward along the Euphrates River.