In late April 2010 several thousand Iraqi soldiers and police, some supported by the U.S., launched two simultaneous operations against Al Qaeda in Iraq and insurgents in western and eastern Iraq. On April 23, Iraqi and U.S. forces moved into the Hamrin mountain range in eastern Diyala province. So far they have captured two Al Qaeda in Iraq leaders, and uncovered a Naqshibandi Group hideout that was allegedly linked to Saddam’s former Vice President Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, who leads one faction of the banned Baath Party. A few days later 26,000 security forces began a separate operation in western Anbar, concentrating on the cities of Ramadi, Fallujah, Hit, Haditha, and Qaim.
These two operations are likely taking advantage of the wealth of intelligence Iraqi forces recently came into possession of that led to the killing and capturing of Al Qaeda in Iraq’s leadership. This began with the March 11, 2010 arrest of Al Qaeda’s governor of Baghdad Manaf Abdul Rahim al-Rawi. Iraq’s National Security Affairs Minister Sharwan al-Waili claimed that his detention revealed the entire layout of his organization. A month later, Al Qaeda’s two leaders in Iraq, Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian head of the organization since 2006, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the ideological head of Al Qaeda’s front organization, the Islamic State of Iraq were killed in Anbar. Another operative recently eliminated was Ahmed al-Obeidi on April 20 in Mosul, the commander of Al Qaeda in Tamim, Ninewa, and Salahaddin governorates.
Al Qaeda in Iraq is a shadow of its former self. Most of the Sunni population has turned on it since 2005 with the Awakening and Sons of Iraq program. The U.S. military spokesman in Iraq recently said that the group only holds about 1,500-2,000 followers almost all of which are Iraqi, and has fractured into three groups: opportunists who are looking for money, nationalists that want to get rid of the U.S. and the government, and ideologues that follow Al Qaeda central in Afghanistan/Pakistan. As a result, they have been reduced to a terrorist group capable of launching spectacular attacks like those that recently occurred in Baghdad, but they are no longer a threat to the current status quo in the country. Whether the recent arrests and killings will be a strategic blow to the group or just a tactical victory is yet to be seen, but with their reduced numbers they’re unlikely to recover anytime soon.
Ackerman, Spencer, “What Does al-Qaeda in Iraq Look Like After al-Masri and al-Baghdadi’s Deaths?” Washington Independent, 4/23/10
AK News, “Diyala Operation Finds records of Qaeda members names,” 4/24/10
Alsumaria, “Iraq finds ex-Vice President hideout,” 4/26/10
- “Iraq Forces carry on Al Qaeda clampdown,” 4/26/10
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