Tips, Infighting, and Strong Horses

The Iraqi people step up to the plate, and more Red-on-Red fighting

Further details emerge about the developing rifts between the native elements of the Iraqi insurgency and al Qaeda and their Islamist allies. Army Major General Rick Lynch, the spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, acknowledged the infighting has occurred in Anbar province; “Many times these citizens are urged by their local tribal leaders to rid the area of the insurgent influence… In Fallujah and Ramadi, citizens have established checkpoints to keep insurgents out and six al Qaeda leaders have been killed in the area since September.”

According to Maj. Gen. Lynch, the increase in tips from over a year ago has skyrocketed by 240 times the number reported last year. The Department of Defense reports “Iraqi civilians provided more than 1,300 tips to coalition and Iraqi Security Forces… That is a huge improvement from the 47 tips received in January 2005… Of all the valid calls received by the Ministry of Interior’s national tips hotline, 98 percent provided actionable intelligence… Most calls are about terrorist activity… but calls also come in about kidnapping, murder and other criminal activity.”

Knight Ridder Newspapers indicates that neighborhood watches are forming in the Baghdad neighborhood of Hai al-Salam, which consists of “Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Christians.” The increase in “kidnappings, assassinations and random violence” pushed the residents to band together across sectarian lines and defends their neighborhoods. When the Iraqi Army and police were unable to provide the security needed for the neighborhood, the residents of Hai al-Salam “erected roadblocks and checkpoints and put neighborhood men to work as guards.”

Omar at Iraq the Model reports the Karabala tribe is continuig to negotiate with the Iraqi government and U.S.; “This afternoon sheikh Usama al-Jada’an the chief sheikh of Karabla tribes said in a TV interview that they’re getting close to cut a deal with the US and Iraqi authorities; the deal includes gradual withdrawal of US forces from Anbar, freeing a certain number of Iraqi security detainees and rebuilding the police force of the province with recruits exclusively from the local population with a total of up to 11,300 men. In return the tribes will form teams of tribal fighters to deal with al Qaeda cells that are present inside the territories of Anbar as well as sealing the borders with Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.”

The Times Online provides further reasons for the rift between the insurgency and al Qaeda in Anbar, and states the murder of Sheikh Naser Abdul Karim al-Miklif and the suicide bombing against Iraqi police recruits in early January were critical in turning the Sunni tribes against al Qaeda (note that we mentioned the murder of Sheikh al-Miklif and three other prominent Anbar sheikhs, and the impact of the suicide bombing in Ramadi, in January).

While these events certainly played a large role in the finalization of the resistance to al Qaeda, there have been numerous incidents of infighting, or red-on-red, during the prior year. The native elements of the insurgency, while no great fan of the foreign militaries in Iraq, have grown tired of al Qaeda’s attempts to impose harsh Shariah law and cleanse the cities of the ‘unpure’ – Shiites who a re often friends and family of the Sunni populations. Nor are they fond of al Qaeda’s attempts to extort locally run criminal enterprises (a major source of income in along the western Euphrates River Valley), cutting the crime syndicate’s profits by over half. Intimidating and murdering tribal leaders crossed the line.

The fact that there are disagreements between al Qaeda and the insurgents and local tribal leaders shows the serious flaws in al Qaeda’s strategy in Iraq. The Sunnis in western Iraq should be al Qaeda’s ideal allies – they both want to expel the United States from Iraq and fear a Shiite-dominated central government. But al Qaeda, and Zarqawi in particular, assumed the mass slaughter of Iraqi, particularly Shiites, would create a civil war, and the imposition of the horrific band of Taliban like rule, would prove to be a winning strategy. Zarqawi has shown an unwillingness to move beyond his narrow version of Salafi Islam and make concessions to retain allies, and this is cost al Qaeda dearly.

The newly created Mujahedeen Shura Council, which is comprised of al Qaeda in Iraq and six small Islamist groups (Victorious Army Group, the Army of al-Sunnah Wal Jama’a, Ansar al-Tawhid Brigades, Islamic Jihad Brigades, the Strangers Brigades, and the Horrors Brigades) has made yet another appeal for the insurgency to unite under its banner. So far there are no new takers.

Osama bin Laden once said “when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” Zarqawi is by no means defeated in Iraq, and can still muster the strength to commit acts of terror, but it seems clear at this point his horse is viewed more like a nag than a thoroughbred.

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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  • Tom W. says:

    The real story that will be told years from now is how President Bush, our military, and the Iraqi people refused to back down, despite an unprecedented campaign by the global media and half of our political leaders to undermine the mission.
    It makes you appreciate the coming victory all the more.

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    The Times of London reports that the murder of Sheikh Naser Abdul Karim al-Miklif has caused Ramadi insurgents to turn on al-Qaeda. Three weeks ago, driving alone through the center of Ramadi after attending a wake, the sheikh was killed, riddled with …

  • PeterArgus says:

    Welcome back to the USA and to 4th Rail Bill. (Thanks for the picture of your lovely kids too!). I always enjoyed the commenting here and am glad the website is in full op again.
    Another good sign is continued slow but steady progress in the political realm. For example Omar cites that the goal of 25% of parliament being made up of women members has been met.
    Although there is obvious progress militarily, too, I am concerned by the continued steady mortality rate of our soldiers (about 2-2.5). One would expect that with the apparent decimation of the al Qaeda fighters there might have been a decrease. Does this mean the native insurgents have take up the slack by becoming effective or more numerous? Can you comment on our casuality rate in the future (Where is coming from? What type of casualities? Possible solutions?)?

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    The wounded numbers have been sub 100 per week for 11 weeks now. The last time they were sustained at less than 100/week te for more than 3 weeks was March ’04. The 4 week moving average on wounded has been declining for 16 weeks.
    January’s hostile deaths was the 3rd lowest Month since March ’04.
    While US Hostile Fatalities aren’t trending so well in February, ISF hostile fatalities are off by 50% to 3 per day.

  • Marlin says:

    The technique used in the Hai al-Salam neighborhood in Baghdad whereby neighborhood men are used to man checkpoints to keep the neighborhood safe is also being used in Ramadi and Fallujah.
    ‘Iraqis in certain areas of the country are taking their own action against insurgents, Lynch said. Many times these citizens are urged by their local tribal leaders to rid the area of the insurgent influence, he explained. In Fallujah and Ramadi, citizens have established checkpoints to keep insurgents out.’
    Dept. of Defense: Iraqis Fighting Terrorists, Cooperating With Coalition

  • Tom W. says:

    Soldier’s Dad:
    I heard on the radio (Captain Dale Dye, KFI 640 AM, Los Angeles) that the reason our KIA rate isn’t going down is because even though there are fewer IEDs, these are new Iranian devices that are are much more lethal. They include aerial IEDs to blow helicopters out of the sky.
    Wouldn’t it be great if we announced that starting next Monday, for every IED that went off in Iraq, two cruise missiles would hit downtown Damascus and Teheran? And after a week, it would be three for every IED, then five, then ten?
    *Sigh.* I can dream, can’t I?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Omar and Mohammed at Iraqi the Model do such a good job with the political analysis, I defer to them.
    The Helo-IEDs are false, there is no evidence of their existence or usage.
    Soldiers’ Dad has it right, the IEDs are the number one danger to troops. The we are discovering a higher percentage of IEDs before they detonate, its jsut the ones that get through are typically more lethal. You can only lose a war to a land mine if you choose to – if you choose to judge success by casualties.
    I mentioned this a while back, but the officers will tell you AQIZ’s biggest weapon is cash, and the ability to pay part time jihadis to lay an IED.
    I do not view casualty rates as a good marker of success/failure. We have had our most effetive months when on the offensive, which typically means going head-to-head with the enemy and taking casualties.

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  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Tom W,
    “I have a dream” as well!!! But yep, the “serious efforts” at producing casualties are getting better. The “half baked” efforts are getting worse.
    But then, if you were the Iranian or Syrian governments, wouldn’t you “experiment” with weapons that defeated US and British Armor.
    Personally, vaporized Iranian Mullah, covered in Mushroom cloud sauce, served on a Syrian and North Korean glass rice bowl would be my favored dish.
    Unfortunately, no one will pass me the keys to the ‘nuker’.

  • Elam says:

    Omar at Iraq the Model reports the Karabala tribe is continuig to negotiate with the Iraqi government and U.S.;

    Can someone put what a ‘tribe’ is into an American context? Are people who belong to a tribe genetically related? I’m always confused when I read this.

  • GK says:

    If the tip rate is increasing this much, than the insurgency/terrorist gangs would be mopped up pretty quickly. The only reason they dragged this asymmetrical war out for so long was that they had a lot of local sympathizers.
    An article about anti-Americanism, and the Iraq War being used as a tool for such, is here :

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “Can someone put what a ‘tribe’ is into an American context? ”
    Sioux, Chippawa etc etc. very much like how we describe subsets of “Indians”. We say “Chief”, they say “Shiek”.

  • Justin B says:

    Summarizing the information I have heard recently–attacks by IEDs are up, but detection is way up. We are finding more and more before they go off. Of the ones that are well placed, not discovered, and detonated, these IEDs happen to be far more lethal and larger. Iran is exporting money, weapons, bomb making expertise, and other soft assets to aid the insurgency in producing IEDs.
    So fewer casualties, but when bombs go off, expect a larger percentage of the casualties to be deaths as opposed to injuries than was the previous ratio. Even with better armor, the best defense against the IEDs is coming from Iraqis themselves in reporting tips and helping us find and deactivate IEDs before they go off. All the armor in the world does little to help because the insurgency is building bigger and more powerful IEDs. What helps is detecting IEDs before they go off.
    Sound pretty accurate?

  • Justin B says:

    So here is the deal–
    A bunch of foreigners keep planting bombs around your neighborhood, but a decent portion of the time, the bombs kill innocent neighbor kids just playing in their yard or hanging out. You have a choice when you see these guys planting a bomb:
    a. Just sit back and hope it isn’t you or your kids or family that happen to be in the area when it goes off and die as collateral damage
    b. Report it and have it deactivated before it is your family and friends that get killed
    You don’t have to like the US or want us their to phone in a tip. But the folks there recognize that it is not our presence that is killing innocents, but rather the foreign jihadis and the sooner they leave, the sooner we leave. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the insurgency is not going to last. Innocent civilians don’t die as martyrs and get 72 virgins. They just die. And who wants to be a bystander in this mess?

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Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram