The Diyala Salvation Front

Tribal leaders in the troubled province organize against al Qaeda

Map of southern Diyala. Click map to view.

In March, we noted the successful model of the Anbar Salvation Council will very likely be replicated elsewhere in regions where al Qaeda has established bases of operation. We singled out Diyala in particular, as al Qaeda’s campaign of murder and intimidation was beginning to anger the tribes much as it did in Anbar province. Al Qaeda’s establishment of its Islamic State of Iraq, with its capital in Baqubah ade the province ripe for a major Coalition operation in the region. In early March, Al Sabaah reported the local sheikhs in Diyala were organizing against al Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq, “which [is] spreading corruption in the province districts.” Today, the speculation has become a reality, as “Arab tribesmen in Baqubah ave said they will form a tribal alliance to cleanse the Diyala province of foreign fighters and those of the al Qaeda terrorist network in Iraq.”

“Tribesman Sheikh Wameed al-Jabouri told al-Hayat that a number of tribes had signed a cooperation agreement to undertake this mission and to bring the city back to how ‘it used to be,'” notes DPA. “The agreement could be considered “a national charter” that proves their rejection of the actions of the terrorist groups, al-Jabouri said.”

The Diyala tribes have requested the U.S. military “not to interfere with their plans,” according to DPA. “The US forces committed fatal mistakes in handling the security situation in Baqubah ” said Sheikh Dari Fahd al-Assadi, the Deputy governor of Diyala. This resentment stems from the U.S. draw down of forces in Diyala last fall, and the handover of security to the Iraqi Police and Army. Mistakes by the Iraqi Security Forces were compounded by a concerted campaign by al Qaeda to destroy the security forces, particularly the police, and intimidate the local population.

Soldiers from the 5/20 Strykers conduct operations in Buhriz on March 20, 2007. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall. Click to view.

The reality is, absent a dramatic organization by the local tribes and a massive co opting of sympathetic insurgent groups, U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces will need to conduct major operation in Diyala to uproot al Qaeda and its Islamic State.

Diyala has become the main hub of al Qaeda’s operations. Al Qaeda in Iraq made Baqubah he capital of its rump Islamic State of Iraq. Since the inception of the Baghdad Security Plan in mid-February, the security situation, which was deteriorating after U.S. forces pulled back last fall, has markedly worsened. Al Qaeda has prepared fighting positions, supply bases, IED traps, bomb rigged buildings, and training camps in the province.

Over 2,000 hardened al Qaeda fighters fled Baghdad and are operating in Diyala. An American intelligence official and a U.S. military officer informs us that al Qaeda is operating along the lines of Hezbollah’s military structure in Lebanon. Recent al Qaeda attacks in the region bear this out. Al Qaeda is organized in small military units with infantry, mortars, anti-tank and anti-aircraft teams, as well as suicide and IED cells and the accompanying logistical nodes. Al Qaeda has been conducting a terror campaign to remove tribal leaders and others who oppose them, while waging a campaign of intimidation designed to cower the local population.

The U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces have preparing the battlefield in Diyala until the full compliment of U.S. forces are in theater and able to finish securing the Baghdad “belts” – the regions surrounding Baghdad. The Diyala Campaign is only is its opening phase, with U.S. and Iraqi forces conducting raids, search and destroy missions, establishing forward operating bases and logistic nodes in preparation for the full assault sometime early this summer. The establishment of the yet to be named Diyala Salvation Front is a crucial element to establishing local intelligence networks and an auxiliary force to hunt al Qaeda.

The influence of Sheikh Sattar al Rishawi and his Anbar Salvation Council cannot be underestimated in the formation of the anti al Qaeda tribal alliance in Diyala. The Anbar Salvation Council has been operating outside its provincial boundaries and has sent emissaries into Diyala, Salahadin, Ninewa and other provinces in an effort to expand his anti al Qaeda Awakening movement nationwide.

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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  • Mike Rentner says:

    Bill, with every one of your columns I am left in utter dumbfoundment that the pillars of our first amendment rights to freedom of the press, the political machines that used to be news organizations, are comletely missing these important developments.
    Before the internet, where would we have learned any of this? We would have been spoonfed by the likes of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather and never known what was really happening in the world that is of such vital importance to us.
    Instead, we learn all about Britney Spears and the latest pop-trial case (jon benet, some bride that jilted someone for some reason, etc.), or whether some guy whose face is far too ugly to be anywhere but radio is making stupid statements about some unknown basketball team.
    Thank you for doing what you’re doing. Although I’m shocked that so few are doing real news like you are, I’m glad that at least I know as much of the truth as possible while Rome is burning.

  • Ron Airey says:

    Without going off topic, I couldn’t agree more. The only thing
    more important than articles like these is the fact, for the
    time being, most people will never have access to reports of
    such gravity as these.
    The Diyala tribes have requested the U.S. military “not to
    interfere with their plans,” according to DPA. “The US
    forces committed fatal mistakes in handling the security
    situation in Baqubah,” …
    Compared with what I assume is a good working cooperation between
    the Coalition forces and the Anbar Salvation Council, how do you
    see the above statement effecting the preperations and up-coming
    Diyala assault? Does this mean that the a “Diyala Salvation Council”
    would NOT want US forces be invloved in rooting out Al Qaeda
    from Diyala ?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I expect this is just a form of tribal lip service for street cred. There is always going to be a tension between the tribes and US forces, but money, weapons and the lure of government support goes a long way… The tribes have been going against al Qaeda and know they need the backing we can give them.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 05/10/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  • Neo andertal says:

    It’s a little difficult gauging how extensive these efforts are. The biggest indicator we seem to get is when AQI decides to fight back or interfere with recruiting. Sure sign that ASC is making inroads is when Al Quada blows up a recruiting line in some new place you previously thought was hostile to the Iraqi Army.
    I get the feeling there’s a whole lot going on underneath the radar on this one. Indications are that Special OPS guys are working closely with the ASC. I doubt we get much news on smaller clashes with Al Quada unless it involves casualties to larger US units. Not only is it customary to keep these sorts of operations under wraps but reporting anything beyond casualties has sadly become counterproductive for the military. The press now treats any engagement with the enemy as a loser without regard to the outcome.
    I’ve been looking for the first signs that these efforts have begun to move northward from Anbar. That’s why I was curious about the status of things North of the Euphrates and along lake Tharther. I know there’s a some irrigated farmland and sparse settlements south and east of the lake. If this area is already ASC controlled the road Samarra and North is open and the ASC could spread it’s efforts up the enemies western flank and behind them into Salah ad Din province. If the area of Anbar north of the Euphrates is still red though it might be a while before any efforts to push ACS activities northward can be contemplated.

  • Mike says:

    Neo andertal,
    If I remember correctly the Thar Thar Region has always been a AQI haven. Back in ’05 there were reports of a training camp there. I seem to remember Bill writing apbout clearing ops done there sometime last year. Hopefully more will come to light about this area.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Last OP in Thar Thar that I saw reported was elements of 1BCT-3ID out there end-March. One of the first of 3ID’s “Daily Bulldog” articles reported on the elements of 3ID detached and operating in Ramadi area.
    In other words, ASC’s Provicianal Security Force is not the only ones in Anbar crossing the border up there…

  • Matt R says:

    Mike, I wasn’t so sure about your comments so I put “Wameed al-Jabouri” into google news search and got just one reference (and not this web site.) So, I have to agree with you. What disappoints me is, now that things are looking at least possible, a lot of pundits have given up. My local paper hasn’t even mentioned the Anbar Awakening. They did mention Sadr’s call for revolt, but not the fact that little came of it. Actually, since there are lots of journalists in the Green Zone, why don’t we get more coverage of political doings? There are moderates. I’m sure something is going on. I just have no idea what.

  • Thanos says:

    This is heartening news, and I look forward to more of it, great job Bill. My ony worries in all of this was as I’ve stated in past: in US force build, preparation, and incumbent delays we telegraph too much our in advance.

  • Patrick says:

    I just read where the Iraqi Parliament has a majority of signees to ask the US to set a timetable to exit Iraq. Added to the exit momentum in the USA,we’re very short term for Iraq.
    I think these Sunnis have been mugged by reality,they’re fixing to be consumed by Al qaeda and Shiites.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    I would be careful about believing anything Moqtada’s mouthpiece claims.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    [Soldier’s Dad] is dead right, I’ll be posting on that shortly in today’s Iraq Report.

  • Max says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the posts on this page. It is really refreshing to see the actual nuts and bolts of what is going on over in Iraq rather than the drivel in the MSM media. Thanks for all you do, Bill.

  • Michael says:

    If its the AP article, it looked legit, til you read farther down. They have not submitted it for vote. The last bill was non-binding and meaningless. Its more silliness by Iranian puppet Sadr and his puppets. They’re very desparate now.
    It does appear they’re working thru the political process however, which is fairly interesting. Instead of murdering each other, they’re learning legal parliamentary maneuvers. Unlike Hezbollah, I don’t think they have enough power to paralize this government. Sistani holds power over the majority of Shia and Sadr still hides out.
    I think Sadr/Al Qaeda/Iranian/Syrian nexus is beginning to sweat it out. New leadership in France might add more heat on Syria via UN Hariri case(Sarkozy already met on this matter) and hopefully more on Iran.
    When Diyala representatives got upset over security in their area today. The Speaker rebuffed them. Paraphrazing he essentially said, “You caused all the murders and blood in Baghdad, now you don’t like it when it greets you at home” Or something like that. They walked out. Some will think this bad, but its good to see healthy debate is taking place, even if they’re shouting at times. None of this ever happened in the past. Saddam just murdered anyone. Now, the whole world sees their actions. Light shining in shows who is sincere and not. If it were not a war, you’d think it was similar to our Congress shouting back and forth.
    Pressures on and their feeling it, which is not always a bad thing.

  • serurier says:

    Marine still in Thar Thar ?

  • Sam says:

    BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — The U.S. military commander in charge of northern Iraqi operations on Friday said more troops are needed to stem rising insurgent violence in Diyala province.
    “I do not have enough soldiers right now in Diyala province to get that security situation moving,” said Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander of the 25th Infantry Division.
    We may need to bring the draft back to win.

  • Star says:

    My sister sent me the url for this site which I am really glad she did. Her son is over in Iraq for the 2nd time and being able to read your articles on here, at least gives us a better look at what he is going through. We already know it will be tough on him when he comes home but now I think we have even a better idea of what to expect from him. I really hate how the regular news covers up almost everything, thinking that the people can’t handle the truth. After everything the US has been through, I can’t see where we can’t handle the truth about what’s happening to our troops in Iraq or where ever they may be. Thank you & please keep up the great work!

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  • DJ Elliott says:

    They are not tribal Militias.
    They may have been encouraged by the tribal leaders to joint the ISF, but, they go thru the same hiring/screening etc as the rest of the IP/IA. They are maxing out the training facilities of the Iraqi Army as well as the Iraqi Police ATT.
    They are also payed by MoI/MoD.
    They are not tribal commanded…


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