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Old 07-11-2007   #1
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Default Al Qaeda in Iraq

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

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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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Old 07-15-2007   #2
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Default Good discussion...

... at Lightfighter.
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Old 07-15-2007   #3
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Default Two Blog Responses

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

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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

Quote:
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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Old 07-15-2007   #4
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Default Malcolm's Response to Roggio

at The Fourth Rail:

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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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Old 07-15-2007   #5
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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:

Quote:
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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Old 07-15-2007   #6
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Quote:
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

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Old 07-16-2007   #7
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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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Old 07-16-2007   #8
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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!

Quote:
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
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Old 07-16-2007   #9
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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:

Quote:
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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Old 07-17-2007   #10
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CSIS, 16 Jul 07: Iraq’s Sunni Insurgents: Looking Beyond Al Qa’ida
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...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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Old 07-17-2007   #11
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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 ....
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Old 07-17-2007   #12
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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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Old 08-17-2007   #13
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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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Old 09-07-2007   #14
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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:

Quote:
...
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 ...

Quote:
... 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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Old 09-07-2007   #15
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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!
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Old 10-15-2007   #16
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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.

Quote:
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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Old 11-25-2007   #17
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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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Old 11-25-2007   #18
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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.

Quote:
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?

Quote:
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).

Quote:
3. Are the FRLs still the relatively cohesive group Malcolm describes in his
book?
Quote:
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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Old 11-26-2007   #19
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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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Old 11-26-2007   #20
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I always think these questions interesting.

First, in the beginning, AQI was in Iraq under different names as is their usual practice of multiple leaders recruiting their own forces, housing them and paying them. It took them some time to coalesce into an organized force.

Second, I recall (without referencing links, but having a decent memory) that the FRL and AQI (under whatever name they called their individual groups) were issuing statements attempting to assert their rightful leadership of the "resistance" or at least their legitimate claim to being in the fight at all. In some statements, they praised each other, but attempted to convince the other to follow their guidance in the matter. even in the beginning, their were questions about what targets were being attacked, the civilian death toll and other issues. They also, if I am not mistaken, occasionally exchanged fire with one another and accused the other of trying to injure their people and cause. All with flowery language still attempting to come to some sort of agreement for cooperation.

I don't think I am incorrect in these statements. I also believe that this was the first sign of how we would and should "divide and conquer". Aside from recent developments regarding the split, after several years of reading Iraqi blogs, it seems that Iraqis were rather xenophobic regarding outsiders. Particularly after Saddam had brought in large numbers of "Palestinians" whom he gave preferential treatment to including housing, money and education.

Which brings me to point number three: We are often too busy looking at the pronouncements of "AQI" from the point of view of a domestic audience. Which is interesting since we often talk of "strategic communications" in a "small war" that is global in nature (such as recruiting, funding and IO). Who was this information aimed at?

In which case, it seems rather important that we divide the insurgency into "local" and "foreign", assigning much of the atrocities to AQI. While it gave them the publicity they wanted for their global jihad and they were quite willing to take it, in the end it allowed for several actions. Basically, damaging their global standing as "defenders of Islam" while allowing the FRLs an "out" whenever they felt inclined to return to the political process. Obviously, they can and have blamed some of the worst episodes on the "foreigners", true or not.

Further, in regards to AQI "taking credit" willingly, they did everything in their power to assert their position of supremacy over this insurgency in order to stir support for their greater cause trans-nationally. Zarqawi beheading people on video and other propaganda from AQI cannot be dismissed. For quite some time, it was the strongest and most voluble propaganda coming out of Iraq. It colored all other pronouncements from all other groups within Iraq.

It is clear that even during 2005 and 2006, prior to the great "awakening" their was a serious split over agenda and power between these two groups. Who was the "largest" v. who had the "power" v. "end state" was always going to be a question with these groups. It's fairly obvious that there were significant numbers of indigent FRL or other anti-government organizations and people within Iraq, but leadership, power and organization are not always about who has the most people.

As Zarqawi once wrote to Zawahiri, it is about being "victorious" or perceived as such. Who has the strongest "sword arm" in his terminology. Clearly, AQI was, at least publicly, the "strong horse" in the arena. I believe that this led many smaller indigent organizations and individuals linking with AQI or affiliate "armies", enlarging their cadre and over all power. Eventually, leading to AQI becoming the governing force and organizer of the insurgency.

However, the "cracks" were apparent in 2005 when several letters were being written to Zawahiri directly, by passing Zarqawi, complaining of some of the leaders that were taking money from the "mujihadeen" who were arriving, leaving them with little food, sub-standard housing, demanding mostly martyrdom attacks and poor leadership all together. There were also complaints regarding the targeting of civilians and the atrocious beheading videos. Which I believe prompted Zawahiri to write a letter to Zarqawi telling him to tone it down and cautioning him against trying to debate or enforce any religious ideology when he was not "educated" in the matter.

Iraqi bloggers explained that AQI was generally Salafist Wahabi in nature while the Anbar tribes were largely from the Hanafi school of jurisprudence with a few other groups like Matridi, etc thrown in.

As important (or more so) as the religious orthodoxy, AQI and several indigent criminal or insurgent gangs duked it out in Al Qaim in 2005. Later reports indicated this was over control of the smuggling routes and other traditional methods of income for those tribes on the border. AQI was obviously trying to control these routes to smuggle in money, men and weapons, by passing the "middle man" while possibly bringing the area under their total control.

Of course, by cutting off the traditional money making methods of these tribes, they were cutting into the traditional power of the local sheiks and tribes. Which is why the Marines and other forces began providing money and jobs through the auspices of the local sheiks and other power structures within these tribal lands. All politics are local, as they say.

Recall also Zawahiri's letter requesting funds be sent to them in Afghanistan and bin Laden's recent plea for unity and money. Pleas that have been repeated more than once throughout this period.

Later, Zarqawi was relegated to the role of a "military commander" and an umbrella council was set up to manage the multiple connections with the other insurgent groups. This is one area that AQ in general was successful in the past. Recalling that Al Qaeda means "the base" and was essentially bin Laden's managerial and organizing skills that had lists of mujihadeen from the Afghan/Russo conflict who he contacted and began organizing for this current global conflict. They attempted to use these same managing and organizing skills in Iraq.

The umbrella council was essentially a response to complaints regarding the continued encroachment on these FRL organizations' power by AQI, Zarqawi's style and a belated realization that they needed to put an Iraqi face on the insurgency. That after we had labeled it largely AQI, blamed them for the worst of the worst and, through their own actions and our IO, gave the Iraqi people someone else to hate and blame for their misery. And, provided the backdrop for political reconciliation since the Shi'ites and other Iraqis were not going to feel too friendly towards the "insurgency" if it was all blamed on indigenous forces.

I think we'll see similar activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan by AQI. Take, for instance, the recent release on As Sahab (AQ media) of the Afghan Taliban leader asserting his leadership of the Afghan "insurgency" while declaring allegiance to bin Laden. Are the Pashtuns going to fight a war for a bunch of Saudi, Egyptian, Yemeni, Libyan, Uzbek, etc outsiders? Or, are they fighting for their own people and power?

They are apparently copying our own tactics by trying to assert some legitimate indigenous group as the having the "right" to legitimate resistance while simultaneously maintaining the facade of a global Islamic conflict. They were simply too late in doing that in Iraq. Zarqawi's ego, the zealous nature of the foreigners and their attempts to assert absolute control had already ruined that.

Back to the council and Zarqawi's demise as both a leader and literally. In Zawahiri's letter, he warned Zarqawi, not too subtly, either that his ego and inability to "get along" was going to get him killed by someone in the organization like a leader in Afghan (who was killed, some say, on the orders of Zawahiri for being "outside" of their control) or that he already had a traitor in his midst and that he should watch out. That is an interesting question since, not long after that letter, we nearly apprehended Zarqawi and he was severely wounded. Then, a few months later, we followed someone in his organization, eventually leading to Zarqawi's location and death.

Al Masri and AQI attempted to step back and become "the king makers" behind the FRLs, but the cracks were too great. Multiple denouncements and attempts at reconciliation were flying back and forth, eventually leading to al Junabi's insurgency media denouncing Omar al Baghdadi, the nominal "Iraqi face" of the council, as a fake. He said that the insurgency could not swear allegiance to someone without a face and whose father no one knew (considering the Arab/Muslim attachment to ancestors tracing back to Muhammed, that was a good indication of the FRLs contempt for that theatrics). All the while, the "awakening" was gaining power in the tribal lands.

Then we see the insurgency virtually collapse back on itself. Which view is correct? Do the numbers count or don't they?
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