Al Qaeda in Iraq continues its steady decline. General David Petraeus told the Associated Press on July 19 that Al Qaeda central was changing its focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. On July 8, the Gulf News reported that Al Qaeda fighters were being diverted away from Iraq to places like Sudan and Somalia. These statements, follower earlier ones at the end of May when U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Charles Crocker and CIA chief Admiral Michael Hayden said that Al Qaeda in Iraq was near defeat.
The group's undoing began in 2005 when Sunni tribes and other insurgents turned against its harsh tactics, strict interpretation of Islam, attempts to move in on domestic businesses, and assert themselves as the leaders of the insurgency. Al Qaeda in Iraq was largely able to carry out these policies under the harsh and ruthless leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi also kept his distance from Al Qaeda central in Afghanistan/Pakistan, attempting to create his own independent organization. Zaraqawi’s successor, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, is much closer to Al Qaeda central, and has been widely criticized for not being able to keep the organization together. Masri is an Egyptian and a disciple of Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s number two. While Zarqawi tended to ignore bin Laden’s and Zawahiri’s suggestions, Masri has aligned his groups message and tactics with Al Qaeda central.
Today, Al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run. Its funding sources within Iraq are drying up, the number of foreign fighters joining the group are dwindling, and it has been pushed out of its last urban center in Mosul. While the group is not finished, and is still a threat, it has become less of a factor within Iraq. Ambassador Crocker told the Associated Press yesterday, July 24, that the insurgency overall has lost much of its relevancy. Political conflicts and the inter-Shiite power struggle are much more pressing issues in the country today. When a nation moves on to other issues is always a good sign that a terrorist group such as Al Qaeda in Iraq is fading from the scene.
Adas, Basil, “Al Qaida groups ‘leaving Iraq for Sudan, Somalia,’” Gulf News, 7/8/08
Agence France Presse, “Al-Qaeda near defeat in Iraq, on defensive globally: CIA chief,” 5/30/08
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