The establishment of the Iraqi government, after five long months of contentious negotiations, has dealt Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq’s efforts to derail the political process. As Zarqawi stated in his 2004 letter to Osama bin Laden, once the Iraqi people begin to take control of the political and and security responsibilities, al Qaeda’s foothold in Iraq will become tenuous. In Zarqawi’s own words, “If we fight them [the Iraqi government], that will be difficult because there will be a schism between us and the people of the region. How can we kill their cousins and sons, and under what pretext, after the Americans start withdrawing? The Americans will continue to control from their bases, but the sons of this land will be the authority. This is the democracy, we will have to pretext [to continue to fight].”
The Iraqi government is not yet fully formed, as the crucial ministries of Defense and Interior, and the National Security posting remain unfilled. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki plans to submit nominations by week’s end, and has committed to applying “maximum force” to subdue the insurgency and bring the militias under control. Baghdad and Ramadi remain two major areas of strength for the insurgency, and there is talk of conducting major operations to reestablish order in the cities.
As the Iraqi government takes shape, Coalition and Iraqi forces work to disrupt al Qaeda and insurgent cells and operations. Jordanian intelligence recently arrested Ziad al-Karbouli (a.k.a. Abu Houthiyfah), who was complicit in the kidnappings and murders of Arab diplomats last summer. al-Karbouli also was “a customs employee on the Iraqi border,” which would allow him to facilitate al Qaeda movement to and from Iraq. His confession was carried on Jordanian television.
Task Force 145 conducted several raids in Baghdad, Ramadi and Yusifiyah over the past week, resulting in over a dozen al Qaeda operatives killed or captured. The Ramadi strike resulted in six killed and three captured. The main target was an al Qaeda commander known as the “Prince of IEDs,” who is described as “a financier, an IED maker and a bomb facilitator for al-Qaida in Iraq in Ramadi.” An assortment of car and roadside bomb equipment was discovered in the safe house. Raids in Baghdad targeted Abu Ahad, who “managed foreign fighter facilitation and also provided a modicum of command and control between several terrorist cells operating throughout the vicinity of Fallujah, Baghdad , Yusifiyah, Taji and Mahmudiyah,” as well as an unnamed associate of Ahad. Yet another strike was carried out in Yusifiyah. Three al Qaeda were killed, and one was wearing a suicide vest. Yusifiyah has been an area of interest for Task Force 145 over the past few months, and numerous strikes have been carried out in the city.
Conventional U.S. and Iraqi forces struck at an insurgent training camp in the Jazeera desert region during Operation Iron Triangle and dismantled an insurgent cell in Muqdadiyah. A company of U.S. soldiers from 101st Airborne Division and and a company of Iraqi soldiers from the 4th Division conducted an air assault on the Muthanna State Establishment, a chemical weapons production facility under Saddam Hussien’s regime.
The Muthanna complex was identified as an insurgent training and staging facility. Over 200 suspected insurgents were detained, including ten members of Zarqawi’s Tawhid and Jihad terrorist organization. Last evening, in a follow on raid (likely by TAsk Force 145), two suspects were captured, and four killed, including a Yemeni. “The forces found Yemeni, Saudi Arabian, Tunisian, Sudanese and several Iraqi passports,” according to the Multinational Forces – Iraq press release. The Lake Thar Thar region where the Muthanna complex is located in a region where Baathists have settled, and numerous weapons caches were prepositioned in anticipation of the current insurgency. This is an ideal location as it is strategically located near Baghdad, Samarra, Balad, Ramadi and Fallujah. The Jazeera desert region has been the focus of numerous Coalition and Iraqi Army operations over the past half year, and the Iraqi Army has begun to conduct independent operations in this area.
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