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    Default Al Qaeda in Iraq

    SWJ Blog - Al Qaeda in Iraq – Heroes, Boogeymen or Puppets? By Malcolm Nance.

    Four years on in Iraq, the White House still portrays the war as a life and death struggle between the forces of good, the US led Multi-national forces, and the forces of evil, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

    With the advent of the new “surge” strategy, the media ledes have been triumphing the numerous coalition “anti-Al Qaeda” operations in Anbar province including the areas of Karmah, Baqubah and the Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad. These operations have the intent to secure Baghdad and other major urban areas from insurgent terrorism. The strategy writ simple is to deny the insurgents an urban sanctuary and killing ground as well as to secure the Iraqi population from their sectarian attacks through a series of wide-area operations. But are we fighting the right enemy?...
    Much more at the link...

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    Default Good discussion...

    ... at Lightfighter.

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    Default Two Blog Responses

    Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail – Al Qaeda and its Role in the Iraq Insurgency

    The attempts to minimize the role played by al Qaeda in Iraq in the larger Sunni insurgency took a significant step over the past week. Clark Hoyt, the public editor of the New York Times, claimed that the media had become complicit in the government's attempts to paint the entire Sunni insurgency with an al Qaeda brush. Also this week, Malcolm Nance published an article at the Small Wars Journal claiming al Qaeda is being given too much credit for the violence in Iraq. In the article, titled "Al Qaeda in Iraq--Heroes, Boogeymen or Puppets?," Nance claims al Qaeda is but a bit player in the Iraqi insurgency and is largely controlled by the Baathist remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime. To Nance, al Qaeda is both a U.S. Boogeyman and Baathist Puppet…
    Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard’s WorldWideWeekly.com - Al Qaeda in Iraq: Not Just a Boogeyman

    Roggio just posted what I think is the definitive takedown of the argument put forward earlier in the week by Small Wars Journal contributor Malcolm Nance. Nance's theory is that al Qaeda is basically a bit player in the insurgency--small, but lethal--and that the administration is trying to hype the threat the group poses in order to convince the American people that withdrawing from Iraq would be the equivalent of surrendering in the war on terror. Suffice to say, Roggio isn't buying it…

    Nance's essay strikes me as part of a larger, renewed push by the antiwar crowd to discredit the idea that the war in Iraq has any real connection to the war on terror--as Roggio points out, the New York Times put in its two cents last Sunday with a piece by the public editor declaring that "President Bush and the United States military in Baghdad are increasingly pointing to a single villain on the battlefield: Al Qaeda...

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    Default Malcolm's Response to Roggio

    at The Fourth Rail:

    Thanks for the entertaining response but in quickly and forcefully responding to my analysis, which preceded the recent media debate, you make numerous claims that I never made. In fact you posted what I actually said right under the errors. Perhaps thats an editing mistake.

    I recommend you read the blog entry a little more carefully and take the opportunity to read my book, the Terrorists of Iraq (www.terroristsofiraq.com).

    As I live in the theater of operations (not Washington), speak Arabic and work with the Iraqis who are risking their life for us - I am just as deeply invested in my field intelligence assessments being right as you are about your opinions, but my life and that of many others depends on it being exceptionally right all of the time so its not just a semantics debate for me. One thing is certain, I never underestimate the enemy in Iraq ... any of them -ever.

    Additionally, the excellent counter-insurgency & counter-terrorism experts at Small Wars Journal (www.smallwarsjournal.com) provide varied and scholarly opinions which may help clarify some facts.

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    Default One Thing Though

    Differences of opinion expressed through reasoned - and well sourced - debate is fine and that is what we are here for.

    That said, statements such as the one Goldfarb made in his WorldWideWeekly piece tend to irk me and smack of attempting to shut down or discredit an opposing view through "political labeling / stereotyping".

    Goldfarb:

    Nance's essay strikes me as part of a larger, renewed push by the antiwar crowd to discredit the idea that the war in Iraq has any real connection to the war on terror...

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default

    Nance's essay strikes me as part of a larger, renewed push by the antiwar crowd to discredit the idea that the war in Iraq has any real connection to the war on terror--as Roggio points out, the New York Times put in its two cents last Sunday with a piece by the public editor declaring that "President Bush and the United States military in Baghdad are increasingly pointing to a single villain on the battlefield: Al Qaeda...
    Dave,

    I picked up the same one. Sloppy labeling and equally sloppy analysis. I would bet that Goldfarb has never served a day in the US military but claims to be pro-war whatever that means. For him I have a response taken from the little kid on Meet the Fokkers....

    A$$ H@LE

    Tom

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    Default Malcomb Nance's article

    I think this is an excellent piece.

    Of the many resistance groups in Iraq how many are AQI - 5%? The purpose of morphing all of the resistance to "al-Qaeda" is political propaganda aimed at the American public. Support for the occupation is losing ground. This is merely an effort to fool the public in to relating the invasion and occupation of Iraq with 911. It's being pushed by the Bush administration and dutifully echoed by the corporate MSM in the US.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Dave,

    I picked up the same one. Sloppy labeling and equally sloppy analysis. I would bet that Goldfarb has never served a day in the US military but claims to be pro-war whatever that means.
    Hey let me translate ... "Oh You nasty liberal conspirators really get to me ... why don't you guys go join the military and fight a war sometime! ... oh, wait a minute, Small Wars what?"

    I have no idea who Bill Roggio or Michael Goldfarb are and really don't care. I am really too busy trying to get an Iraqi with a Steyr SSG sniper rifle to shoot zero on a new set of optics!

    We have a war to fight and I am in it and intend to get in it further and deeper than a stop at the Burger King on Camp Victory.

    Almost as if the gods were watching this analysis came out yesterday in the LA Times ... 0.7 percent of the captives in Iraq are foreign fighters. This all sounds .... soooo familiar! I think there is a book on it!

    Al Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliate groups number anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 individuals, the senior U.S. military officer said. Iraqis make up the majority of members, facilitating attacks, indoctrinating, fighting, but generally not blowing themselves up. Iraqis account for roughly 10% of suicide bombers, according to the U.S. military.

    Maybe we only fight the executve management:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-saudi15jul15,0,3818698,full.story?coll=la-home-world
    Putting Foot to Al Qaeda Ass Since 1993

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    Default

    Alas, Malcolm Nance needs no apologists or supporters to rally to his side, as he can easily hold his own in any discussion of things Iraqi.

    What grinds my gears is that there continues to be this amateurish high-brow sense of sniff, sniff "Oh yes my good boy. Unfortunately, it appears my analysis is better than your analysis." The grinding is worsened by my sense that Michael Goldfarb kicked off his slippers in his study, turned on his computer, and then proceeded to defecate out of his ears.

    He would have been better served by registering at Lightfighter and conducting a bit of research into just who Malcolm Nance is, what he has done, and what he continues to do to this day. He might have paused for a moment and thought differently about insuating that Nance's writing is easily lumped into arguments submitted by the antiwar crowd. We didn't get that depth of reasearch, and for that I find his dreamy admiration of Bill Roggio lacking.

    And as for Roggio himself, I am perplexed where his depth of analysis comes from. Is it from his vast embed experience and discussions with commanders and boots-on-the-ground troops? Is it from his lengthy briefings given by intelligence analysts and collectors (if so, by god they need to be kicked in the head)? Or perhaps it comes from his lengthy discussions with these "front groups" or local sheiks and imams he has met when off the FOB. I think it is solely the first group...and that's fine, but please don't belittle those of us with half a brain left. Roggio's claim vs. fact breakout is to me an exercise of the pot calling the kettle black because most of his facts are unsupported and sweeping generalizations. If you want to come at Nance, Roggio, you need to bring your A-game and spend some more time drafting a counterpoint article with some meat, depth, and supported facts so that I can truly decide.

    I am slightly amused by this blurb from the beginning of Roggio's post:

    Also this week, Malcolm Nance published an article at the Small Wars Journal claiming al Qaeda is being given too much credit for the violence in Iraq. In the article, titled "Al Qaeda in Iraq--Heroes, Boogeymen or Puppets?," Nance claims al Qaeda is but a bit player in the Iraqi insurgency and is largely controlled by the Baathist remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime. To Nance, al Qaeda is both a U.S. Boogeyman and Baathist Puppet.

    If taken seriously, these theories are likely to have a significant impact on the political battle over the war in Iraq as it is played out back here in the States. I took a look at the major points advanced by Nance and found his argument to be unpersuasive.
    C'mon Roggio...If you had followed the same advice I have for Goldfarb, you would have conducted some research and found out that Nance didn't just wake up one morning and say, "Gee, I think I should write a blog that attacks the administration's assumptions about AQI". You didn't and frankly, for this OIF veteran, your writing comes across as amateurish. Nance's analysis is so much deeper than that, and he forms this from a ton more time in the saddle...not while musing in his study. Do you really think he is trying to influence some political battle in the Beltway over Iraq? Do you really?

    Perhaps we are all still being duped about the nature of AQ (in and out of Iraq), and perhaps Osama Bin Laden is lounging on a beach in Cuba, sipping on a Mojito. When I do read commentary or opinion on Iraq, I tend to side with folks who have moved through Baghdad's dark back streets low-profile and ready to inflict extreme violence on bad guys who need it. Then again, that's just me.
    Last edited by jcustis; 07-16-2007 at 12:15 PM.

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    CSIS, 16 Jul 07: Iraq’s Sunni Insurgents: Looking Beyond Al Qa’ida
    ...The US naturally focuses on Al Qa’ida because of 9/11 and the fact it poses a serious international threat. So do some Iraqi leaders, but largely because it is easier for them, particularly if they are Shi’ite, to blame as many of Iraqi’s problems on foreigners and Sunnis as possible. The reality is far more complex....

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    Council Member Abu Buckwheat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    Wow well I got CSIS and Cordesman on my side

    ... now if only someone had written all of this up into a 412 page highly detailed open-source intelligence analysis and historical narrative from 2002 to 2007 that would be an ideal source on the insurgency ....
    Putting Foot to Al Qaeda Ass Since 1993

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Abu Buckwheat View Post
    ... now if only someone had written all of this up into a 412 page highly detailed open-source intelligence analysis and historical narrative from 2002 to 2007 that would be an ideal source on the insurgency ....
    Assuming they can actually read...

    Most would not read it because it is too long....

    But that would not stop them from saying it was incorrect

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    Default Al-Qaeda in Iraq Is Part Of Network, Bush Says

    25 July Washington Post - Al-Qaeda in Iraq Is Part Of Network, Bush Says by Michael Fletcher.

    President Bush argued anew Tuesday that the Sunni insurgent group known as al-Qaeda in Iraq is an integral part of the larger al-Qaeda terrorist network, as he attempted to rebut critics who say the war in Iraq has distracted the United States from a broader struggle against Islamic extremism.

    With public support for the war steadily declining, Bush told an audience of military personnel at an Air Force base here that many foreigners, including top lieutenants to Osama bin Laden, lead the Iraqi group. Some of them, he added, trained with the organization at its terrorist camps in Afghanistan or otherwise have deep ties with the network.

    "Some will tell you al-Qaeda in Iraq isn't really al-Qaeda -- and not really a threat to America," Bush said. "Well, that's like watching a man walk into a bank with a mask and a gun, and saying he's probably just there to cash a check. We are fighting bin Laden's al-Qaeda in Iraq."...
    25 July NY Times - President Links Qaeda of Iraq to Qaeda of 9/11 by Jim Ruttenberg and Mark Mazzetti.

    President Bush sought anew on Tuesday to draw connections between the Iraqi group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the terrorist network responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, and he sharply criticized those who contend that the groups are independent of each other.

    At a time when Mr. Bush is trying to beat back calls for withdrawal from Iraq, the speech at Charleston Air Force Base reflected concern at the White House over criticism that he is focusing on the wrong terrorist threat...
    White House transcript of President Bush's remarks.

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    NEFA Foundation - State of the Sunni Insurgency, Aug 2007 (pdf). A good summary of the development of AQI and its political wing, the Islamic State in Iraq, and its subsequent falling out with the Islamic Army in Iraq / Reform & Jihad Front.

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    The Myth of AQI - Andrew Tilghman, Washington Monthly. Our own Abu Buckwheat features prominently in this article. Raises some very interesting questions on the size and reach of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Some highlights:

    ...
    Even if the manpower and number of attacks attributed to AQI have been exaggerated—and they have—many observers maintain that what is uniquely dangerous about the group is not its numbers, but the spectacular nature of its strikes ... He points, as do many inside the administration, to the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samara, a revered Shiite shrine, as a paramount example of AQI's outsize influence. President Bush has laid unqualified blame for the Samara bombing on al-Qaeda, and described the infamous incident—and ensuing sectarian violence—as a fatal tipping point toward the current unrest.
    But is this view of AQI's vanguard role in destabilizing Iraq really true?

    ...

    it remains unclear whether the original Samara bombing was itself the work of AQI. The group never took credit for the attack, as it has many other high-profile incidents. The man who the military believe orchestrated the bombing, an Iraqi named Haitham al-Badri, was both a Samara native and a former high-ranking government official under Saddam Hussein. (His right-hand man, Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi, was also a former military intelligence officer in Saddam Hussein's army.) Key features of the bombing did not conform to the profile of an AQI attack. For example, the bombers did not target civilians, or even kill the Shiite Iraqi army soldiers guarding the mosque, both of which are trademark tactics of AQI. The planners also employed sophisticated explosive devices, suggesting formal military training common among former regime officers, rather than the more bluntly destructive tactics typical of AQI. Finally, Samara was the heart of Saddam's power base, where former regime fighters keep tight control over the insurgency. Frank "Greg" Ford, a retired counterintelligence agent for the Army Reserves, who worked with the Army in Samara before the 2006 bombing, says that the evidence points away from AQI and toward a different conclusion: "The Baathists directed that attack," says Ford.
    and ...

    ... The first group that profits from an outsize focus on AQI are former regime elements, and the tribal chiefs with whom they are often allied. These forces are able to carry out attacks against Shiites and Americans, but also to shift the blame if it suits their purposes. While the U.S. military has recently touted "news" that Sunni insurgents have turned against the al-Qaeda terrorists in Anbar Province, there is little evidence of actual clashes between these two groups. Sunni insurgents in Anbar have largely ceased attacks on Americans, but some observers suggest that this development has less to do with vanquishing AQI than with the fact that U.S. troops now routinely deliver cash-filled duffle bags to tribal sheiks serving as "lead contractors" on "reconstruction projects." The excuse of fighting AQI comes in handy. "Remember, Iraq is an honor society," explains Juan Cole, an Iraq expert and professor of modern Middle Eastern studies at the University of Michigan. "But if you say it wasn't us—it was al-Qaeda—then you don't lose face ..."

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    it remains unclear whether the original Samara bombing was itself the work of AQI. The group never took credit for the attack, as it has many other high-profile incidents. The man who the military believe orchestrated the bombing, an Iraqi named Haitham al-Badri, was both a Samara native and a former high-ranking government official under Saddam Hussein. (His right-hand man, Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi, was also a former military intelligence officer in Saddam Hussein's army.) Key features of the bombing did not conform to the profile of an AQI attack. For example, the bombers did not target civilians, or even kill the Shiite Iraqi army soldiers guarding the mosque, both of which are trademark tactics of AQI. The planners also employed sophisticated explosive devices, suggesting formal military training common among former regime officers, rather than the more bluntly destructive tactics typical of AQI. Finally, Samara was the heart of Saddam's power base, where former regime fighters keep tight control over the insurgency. Frank "Greg" Ford, a retired counterintelligence agent for the Army Reserves, who worked with the Army in Samara before the 2006 bombing, says that the evidence points away from AQI and toward a different conclusion: "The Baathists directed that attack," says Ford.
    hmmm that might indicate sectarian war and at the time, we were saying no civil war....

    Hat Tip, Tequilla and to you too, Abu Buckwheat!
    Tom

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    Default Al-Qaeda In Iraq Reported Crippled

    15 October Washington Post - Al-Qaeda In Iraq Reported Crippled by Tom Ricks and Karen DeYoung.

    The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group, which the Bush administration has long described as the most lethal U.S. adversary in Iraq.

    But as the White House and its military commanders plan the next phase of the war, other officials have cautioned against taking what they see as a premature step that could create strategic and political difficulties for the United States. Such a declaration could fuel criticism that the Iraq conflict has become a civil war in which U.S. combat forces should not be involved. At the same time, the intelligence community, and some in the military itself, worry about underestimating an enemy that has shown great resilience in the past...

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    I just finished reading "The Terrorists of Iraq" by Malcolm Nance, who I believe is also Abu Buckwheat. It was informative and the central arguement of the book, that Former Regime Loyalists (FRLs) are the majority (80-83%) and driving force of the insurgency with Iraqi Islamic Extremists (15-17%) and AQI (2-5%) making up the rest, was very convincing.

    With this and the recent "tribal revolt" phenomena some questions were raised in my mind.

    These revolts are all described as being against AQI, which I will take to mean AQI and the Iraqi Islamic Extremists.

    And, taking Ramadi as an example (I am depending here on Cavguy's long post about the events there), these "revolts" have involved hard fighting. The severity of the fighting seems to indicate that perhaps more than 20% of the insurgency is being revolted against. Again using Ramadi as an example, once the "revolt" succeeds, the insurgency mostly stops.

    Considering these things, here are my questions:

    1. Did AQI and the Iraqi Islamic Extremists grow in power to the extent they
    displaced the FRLs as the driving force in the insurgency?

    2. Are the "tribal revolts" against more than AQI, are they also against
    parts of the FRL insurgency?

    3. Are the FRLs still the relatively cohesive group Malcolm describes in his
    book?

    4. Have the FRLs, or some of them, given up pursuing the insurgency? If so, for how long and why?

    I am not trying to express a back door opinion here. The only thing I know from personal experience about Iraq is how long some of the runways are. These questions truly puzzle me.

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    Default No one knows

    Carl, having served in a couple of different regions in Iraq, and having been in all, the dynamics of the conflict(s) are different in each, so I don't think even someone who is a so called expert on Iraq can answer your questions with more than educated speculation.

    1. Did AQI and the Iraqi Islamic Extremists grow in power to the extent they
    displaced the FRLs as the driving force in the insurgency?
    This is a great question, but it is also possible that the FRLs are funding any Sunni group that is anti-coalition. While they may fight one another in the future, or even fight one another now, I wonder is FRLs expats are funding AQI?

    2. Are the "tribal revolts" against more than AQI, are they also against parts of the FRL insurgency?
    I have seen tribal revolts against JAM also (a Shi'a militia group).

    3. Are the FRLs still the relatively cohesive group Malcolm describes in his
    book?
    4. Have the FRLs, or some of them, given up pursuing the insurgency? If so, for how long and why?
    I don't know, but I wonder is the FRLs see the Shi'a as a greater threat to their objectives than the coalition forces?

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question Good Stuff

    Having just had the opportunity to read said posting I would have to agree with the presentation strictly from an analytic standpoint.

    This being said I think several questions come to mind which I would love direction in finding research materials to answer.

    1- When changes such as have begun in varying parts of Iraq reference new end games with possible outcomes not necessarily considered plausible by the populace in the past, how does this affect those who make up those very base of these FRL's.

    Considering the fact that they and their families are a part of the landscape which is Iraq.

    2- Even though many a well researched individual might be able to follow the line of thinking presented does it not seem wiser that when presenting the big picture within the context of information to the masses; that it be kept as simple and direct as possible.

    ( The bad guys are those who are shooting at us and / or the populous and they are against us so they are with the bad guy you know; AQ)

    3- The fact that AQ seems to be the fall guy for everything bad that happens is a bad idea why?

    ( It doesn't seem that many other shall we say organizations throughout the world have any problem with letting them be out there as the tip of the spear.)


    I just like to think that those who have worked so hard to encourage it's success will find themselves falling on that spear sooner or later.

    Call me an optimist KISS principle always worked for me

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