Sunday, July 08, 2007

Zawahiri seems to think that al-Qaeda is fighting in Iraq

This is for those on the left who don't quite get that the war with al-Qaeda is being fought in Iraq. Al-Qaeda's number two seems to think they are fighting in Iraq:

A new video by al-Qaida's deputy leader Thursday left no doubt about what the terror network claims is at stake in Iraq - describing it as a centerpiece of its anti-American fight and insisting the Iraqi insurgency is under its direct leadership.

But the proclamations by Ayman al-Zawahiri carried another unintended message: reflecting the current troubles confronting the Sunni extremists in Iraq, experts said.

The Islamic State of Iraq, the insurgent umbrella group that is claimed by al-Qaida, has faced ideological criticism from some militants, and rival armed groups have joined U.S. battles against it. A U.S.-led offensive northwest of Baghdad - in one of the Islamic State's strongholds - may temporarily have disrupted and scattered insurgent forces.

"Some of the developments suggest that it [the Islamic State] is more fragile than it was before," said Bruce Hoffman, a Washington-based terrorism expert at the Rand Corp. think tank.

Al-Zawahiri "is trying to replenish the Islamic State brand," he said. "It's time to reassert its viability, but how connected to reality that is is another issue."

The Iraqi citizens seem to think that their enemy is al-Qaeda:

Since my reporting of the massacre at the al Hamari village, many readers at home have asked how anyone can know that al Qaeda actually performed the massacre. The question is a very good one, and one that I posed from the first hour to Iraqis and Americans while trying to ascertain facts about the killings.

No one can claim with certainty that it was al Qaeda, but the Iraqis here seem convinced of it. At a meeting today in Baqubah one Iraqi official I spoke with framed the al Qaeda infiltration and influence in the province. Although he spoke freely before a group of Iraqi and American commanders, including Staff Major General Abdul Kareem al Robai who commands Iraqi forces in Diyala, and LTC Fred Johnson, the deputy commander of 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, the Iraqi official asked that I withhold his identity from publication. His opinion, shared by others present, is that al Qaeda came to Baqubah and united many of the otherwise independent criminal gangs.

Speaking through an American interpreter, Lieutenant David Wallach who is a native Arabic speaker, the Iraqi official related how al Qaeda united these gangs who then became absorbed into “al Qaeda.” They recruited boys born during the years 1991, 92 and 93 who were each given weapons, including pistols, a bicycle and a phone (with phone cards paid) and a salary of $100 per month, all courtesy of al Qaeda. These boys were used for kidnapping, torturing and murdering people.

At first, he said, they would only target Shia, but over time the new al Qaeda directed attacks against Sunni, and then anyone who thought differently.

The troops fighting over there seem to think that they're fighting al-Qaeda:

Captain Ben Richards had been battling insurgents from Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia for three weeks when he received an unexpected visitor.

Abu Ali, a community leader in a white dishdasha, walked into the Americans' battle-scared combat outpost with an unusual proposal: He wanted their help in taking on Al Qaeda extremists who have taken over the area.

The April 7 meeting was the beginning of a new alliance and, American commanders hope, a portent of what is to come in the bitterly contested province of Diyala.

Using his Iraqi partners to pick out the insurgents and uncover the bombs they had seeded along the cratered roads, Richards's soldiers soon apprehended more than 100 suspected militants and several low-level emirs. The Iraqis called themselves the Local Committee. Richards has dubbed them the Kit Carson scouts.

"It is the only way that we can keep Al Qaeda out," said Richards, who operates from a former police station in the Buhritz sector of the city that still bears the sooty streaks from the day militants set it on fire last year.

Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a predominantly Iraqi organization with a small but significant foreign component, was deeply resented by many residents and other insurgent groups, people who live here said. Imposing a severe version of Islamic law, the group had installed its own clerics, established an Islamic court and banned the sale of cigarettes, which even this week were nowhere to be found in the humble shops in western Baquba.

But the left doesn't. Hmmm, who are we going to believe? The enemy, the people fighting or those who don't know what the heck is going on? You be the judge.