The Coalition remains quite active along the Syrian border in the area of Qaim. In Husaybah, multiple airstrikes were conducted on al Qaeda safe houses and resulted in the destruction of an IED cell and the death of yet another al Qaeda facilitator, Abu Asim.
The death of Asim highlights both the success of Operations Iron Fist and River Gate in creating the conditions to engage al Qaeda and the insurgency, and the attrition of al Qaeda facilitators and leaders in western Iraq. The CENTCOM press release on the recent western operations states Asim was brought in to replace others who were killed in the region; “Asim was a senior al Qaeda in Iraq foreign fighter facilitator who was recently brought in to replace another facilitator thought to have been killed by Coalition Forces. Sources report that Asim had contacts across the border in Syria, who would arrange the smuggling of foreign fighters and suicide bombers into the Husaybah and al Qaim region.”
Over the past week, four al Qaeda facilitators and leaders in western Iraq have been removed from the scene: Abu Dua, the “emir of Rawah” and facilitator of foreign fighters (October 26); Abu Mahmud, a Saudi facilitator and terror brigade commander responsible for multiple terror cells (October 28); Abu Sa’ud, another Saudi facilitator and brigade commander, who incidentally was also brought in to plug holes in western Anbar (October 29);; and now Abu Asim (November 2).
These are senior leaders with connections, knowledge and experience that are not easily replaced. And the death of leaders, particularly over such a short time, has a negative effect on the rank & file. Experience, trust, command style and other issues must be addressed before a commander can become effective. While it is difficult to rate their value in Western military terms, al Qaeda’s losses may be analogous to losing four colonels or generals in the period of one week.
Their deaths do not spell the end of al Qaeda in western Iraq. No doubt al Qaeda is attempting to replace these commanders with capable leaders. The have to, as the Qaim entry point is a vital lifeline for foreign fighters.
But the supply of experienced al Qaeda leaders is not limitless, and the attrition rate of the newly frocked commanders may give some pause about taking on such a thankless and dangerous task. in the near future, those volunteering to be “emir for the week” (or less) may not be the cream of al Qaeda’s crop.
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