Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Al Qaeda Staggers in Iraq

"US is logging gains against Al Qaeda in Iraq," sayz the csmonitor.com

The details:
n a succession of intelligence breaks, the US says it has killed two key members of Al Qaeda in Iraq in recent days, including the organization's No. 2 man who is suspected of orchestrating a series of suicide bombings in Baghdad since April.

According to American military officials, the US has either made key arrests or developed informants who have led to a cascade of actionable intelligence over the past month. Since the middle of August, the US has reported killing or capturing at least 16 members of Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

How big a blow this is to the insurgency in Iraq remains unclear. While US human intelligence has clearly improved, no one has a clear understanding of the internal workings of Mr. Zarqawi's network, which is thought to be only a small portion of Iraq's decentralized and highly complex insurgency.

"By itself these events don't do much to destroy Al Qaeda as much as undermine and undercut it. But this comes after some very successful operations in Tal Afar that wrapped up the Al Qaeda network there,'' says Anthony Cordesman, a former senior intelligence analyst for the US and now an expert on the Iraq insurgency at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The US says it killed the insurgent leader of the town of Karabilah at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, and Abdullah Abu Azzam, said to be the Al Qaeda leader (or emir) of Anbar Province, in a raid in Baghdad on Sunday. Meanwhile Gen. Kevin Bergner told reporters that in northern Iraq, where the US recently fought a major engagement in Tal Afar and where major operations have also been carried out in Mosul, the US has made inroads against the organization.

"We are probably at the point of impacting about 80 percent of that network in terms of detaining, capturing, killing the leadership, and disrupting their resources, and disrupting their support bases and neutralizing their capability,'' he said.

An Iraqi government spokesman said Abu Azzam, who's real name is Abdullah Najim Abdullah Mohamed al-Jawari, was an Iraqi. He was on a list of Iraq's 29 most-wanted insurgents issued by the US military in February and had a bounty of $50,000 on his head.

Mr. Cordesman says that Abu Azzam was a major figure in Al Qaeda in Iraq and his death followed recent improvements in US intelligence gathering and targeting of Al Qaeda leaders. But predicting the real dividends is difficult. "We don't know how many leaders there are, how many experienced cadres there are, how many replacements there are," he says.
Hurting Al Qaeda helps the Iraqis. Eliminating intransigent terrorists through effective intelligence and disciplined military engagement helps make Iraqis safer. Not to mention US Servicemen and we Joe-and-Jane Sixpacks. Fools will celebrate the loss of Al Zarqawi's second-in-command.

As the noose tightens, Zarqawi will find less and less able fighters to fill the position of his X-O. This will further disrupt his murderous campaign against Shia and Sunni Iraqis alike. Without his catastrophic influence driving extremists from both sides of the Iraqi Islamic divide to civil war, the cooler heads from both factions may work out an acceptable solution. Time will tell. One thing is certain: anything that complicates Al Zarqawi's life is a good thing! Kudos to the Coalition forces for their successful hunt!