The Interior Ministry said that Iraqi troops are ready to begin operations in Diyala province as soon as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gives the signal. The Interior Ministry’s operations head, General Abdelkareem Khalaf said Diyala is one of four provinces that still has high levels of violence due to Al Qaeda in Iraq and criminal gangs. General Khalaf said he expected a tough fight to regain control of the province.
This is not the first anti-insurgent campaign in Diyala this year. In January 2008 U.S. and Iraqi forces launched Operation Iron Harvest to root out gunmen from rural areas that were being used as bases to launch attacks upon the provincial capitol Baquba and Baghdad. There are also on-going operations against Al Qaeda in Iraq and its umbrella organization the Islamic State of Iraq. On July 12, ten Al Qaeda in Iraq operatives, including three high-ranking officials, were arrested in a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid in the capitol Baquba. On July 10, a gunmen was killed and another arrested in a raid outside of Baquba aimed at Al Qaeda in Iraq. On the 9th, a Sons of Iraq unit captured an Al Qaeda leader responsible for a suicide bombing in Baquba in April of this year, and on July 8, the Iraqi Army captured the Islamic State of Iraq’s ministers of finance and agricultural in a raid in the provincial capitol. This all points to the large number of Al Qaeda figures in the province, one of the few that still has that problem.
Besides insurgents, Diyala also suffers from deep sectarian and ethnic divisions between Arabs and Kurds, and Sunnis and Shiites. Kurds have designs on portions of the province, and in early June, Arab tribes rejected a plan to annex a northern part of Diyala to Kurdistan. There have been problems as well between Sons of Iraq (SOI) and government forces such as in the beginning of June when there was a firefight between a SOI unit and police. Diyala could be the most difficult job yet for the Iraqi security forces. Since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced plans for the operation in June, many of the insurgent leaders can be expected to flee like they did prior to a government crackdown in Mosul earlier this year. It’s dealing with the other tensions in the province that will be a real challenge for Maliki.
Agence France Presse, “Iraq expects ‘tough’ fighting in Qaeda stronghold,” 7/13/08
Roggio, Bill, “Operation Iron Harvest targets al Qaeda in Miqdadiyah,” Long War Journal, 1/9/08
Al-Sabaah, “Arab tribes in Diyala reject Jalawla’ joining to Kurdistan,” 6/5/08
Voices of Iraq, “3 civilians killed, 1 wounded in Diala blasts,” 7/13/08
- “10 gunmen captured in airdrop near Baaquba,” 7/12/08
- “Armed group’s so –called ministers of finance, agriculture nabbed in Diala,” 7/8/08
- “Clashes leave child dead, three civilians wounded in Diala,” 6/1/08
- “Gunmen killed, another detained in Diala,” 7/10/08
- “Interior Ministry says awaiting PM’s go-ahead for Diala operations,” 7/13/08
- “Mastermind of suicide bombings in Diala arrested,” 7/9/08
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