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Al Qaeda in Iraq in disarray, say senior AQ leaders
09/12/2008 2:37 PM ET
Abu Nizar, the AQI leader in whose possession the letters were found - photo courtesy of LWJ
Yesterday in the Long War Journal, Center for Terrorism Research (CTR) adjunct fellow Bill Roggio posted a report about the series of letters between al-Qaeda leadership and al-Qaeda-allied groups in Iraq that had just been made available to LWJ. The communications were intercepted by Coalition forces in Baghdad on April 24, 2008, and are between al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri, and Islamic State of Iraq leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (thought by many to be a fictional character). Roggio provides analysis. “Al Qaeda's senior leadership has lost confidence in its commander in Iraq and views the situation in the country as dire,” he writes, and continues...
The series of letters highlights the divisions within al Qaeda in Iraq and highlights al Qaeda's senior leadership's questions about the leadership in Iraq. Al Masri is portrayed as an ineffective leader who is refusing to respond to questions by al Qaeda's senior leadership based in Pakistan. Leaders also criticize al Qaeda in Iraq's propaganda campaign, stating the group has intentionally deceived followers by releasing old footage and inflating enemy casualties.
Today, FDD (Foundation for Defense of Democracies) has posted an exclusive English translation of the documents by CTR (Center for Terrorism Research) research fellow Tony Badran. It is not a straight translation of the letters alone, but excerpts put into context with more analysis provided by Badran and Roggio, which can prove helpful. It is interesting reading, to say the least, and gives a glimpse into the manner in which the insurgent leaders communicated. Little tidbits like the following are fascinating.
The first letter the author reproduces, “in case it didn’t open,” is dated Monday, 9 Dhul Qi’da (November 19, 2007). In it, the author relates an urgent missive from “your joyous uncle informing you that the father says: ‘As for so and so (he mentioned your honorable name), let him gather information on the Halliburton company, as it has moved its headquarters to the United Arab Emirates and its owners must visit it after they exit the White House. So they and their headquarters should be dealt with as necessary while mindful of protecting the neighbors against the damages of the action.’ And he is asking what has been done on the first project (the al-sa’id project).”
See the pdf of the Arabic-language original here. aqi_leadership_letters_sept_08.pdf.
RI Pres: First Lady's Acknowledgement of Iraq's Displaced is a White House First
06/23/2008 9:16 PM ET
Mrs. Laura Bush speaks during a celebration of World Refugee Day Friday, June 20, 2008, at the White House.
White House photo.
Mrs. Laura Bush speaks during a celebration of World Refugee Day Friday, June 20, 2008, at the White House.

A recent blog post by the president of Refugees International (RI) claims that a commemoration of World Refugee Day hosted by First Lady Laura Bush on Friday marked the first time the White House has directly mentioned the Iraqi refugee problem.

According to RI's Ken Bacon, Mrs. Bush introduced three refugees at the White House ceremony, one of whom was identified as Zeyad Abdel Okhowa, an Iraqi who fled the country after his work with the US embassy in Hilla put him in danger.

"Thanks to Laura Bush, we now know that the White House is aware of the Iraqi refugee crisis," Bacon says.

"So far President Bush has said nothing in public to acknowledge the displacement, which has humanitarian and security implications for the entire Middle East," the refugees advocate explains.

After his write-up of the event, which he says he attended, Bacon closes with a jab at the president: "Maybe Mrs. Bush will fill him in."

Click here for the full text of Bacon's post, and here for the White House transcript of Mrs. Bush's remarks.

Daily Column
White House slaps back at ex-aide's tell-all; Iraqi optimism on the rise
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 05/29/2008 01:49 AM ET
It's day two of the Great Betrayal, and all the papers have pulled up seats for the Scott McClellan-Bush White House smack down. Meanwhile, only the Christian Science Monitor decides covering, you know, the actual war instead of some meta aspect of it is worth some space today.

Memoir meltdown
David Jackson and Richard Wolf of USA Today report that the White House finds McClellan's harsh depiction of President George W. Bush as a disengaged almost-liar "sad." Awww. Finally, though, someone thinks to ask why McClellan didn't air his charges earlier. Former Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta said the time to air differences was when policy was being implemented, not months after you've been shown the door.

After covering the story of McClellan's book yesterday, The New York Times turns loose Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who covers the reaction of the White House. As you would guess -- and as everyone else is reporting -- they ain't happy. This time, Stolberg writes that as press secretary, McClellan was part of the "swift, efficient and highly coordinated strategy" used by the White House to take on presidential critics. Now McClellan's getting a faceful of it:

The result was a kind of public excommunication of Mr. McClellan, waged by some of the people with whom he once worked most closely, among them Karl Rove, the political strategist; Frances Fragos Townsend, the former domestic security adviser; Ari Fleischer, Mr. Bush's first press secretary; and Dan Bartlett, the former counselor to the president.

Their cries of betrayal served as a stern warning to other potential turncoats that, despite some well-publicized cracks, the Bush inner circle remains tight. Their language was so similar that the collective reaction amounted to one big inside-the-Beltway echo chamber.

The line of defense seems to be that poor Scott McClellan has suffered an emotional meltdown and was snookered by liberal New York book editors.

Elisabeth Bumiller and Anahad O'Connor of the Times go into White House reaction a bit more deeply, but it's s ultimately a redundant story.

The Washington Post is more reserved in their coverage, offering only a reax story and a fact-check between press briefing transcripts and accounts in the book. Dan Eggen handles White House reaction, and the compare-and-contrast piece is unbylined. It's also by far the most interesting story in this whole McClellan feeding frenzy:

Press briefing (Nov. 14, 2002)

"The president seeks a peaceful resolution. War is a last resort. But the choice is Saddam Hussein's. And we don't want any game-playing, and we've made that abundantly clear."


"Though I sensed we were on the verge of war, I didn't fully appreciate how clearly yet subtly our messages demonstrated that Bush had been set on regime change from the earliest days of his decision to confront Iraq. ... President Bush managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option."

John D. McKinnon of the Wall Street Journal also has a story.

Finally, the Times wraps it all up with an editorial calling McClellan's book the most tedious kind of memoir, the "I Knew It Was a Terrible Mistake, but I Didn't Mention It Until I Got a Book Contract" kind. And the editorial does one good thing: It reminds us that the Senate Intelligence Committee under its former Republican chairman never released a report that was to compare what administration officials said about Iraq's WMD and Saddam Hussein's hyped up ties to al Qaeda with what they actually knew. The new, Democratic Chairman is expected to release it next week, and we should all be interested in seeing how McClellan comes out.

Over there
Whew. Enough book stories. And a bit of catch-up. Yesterday, Howard LaFranchi of the Christian Science Monitor reported on hi return to Iraq to report on the new spirit of optimism in the streets of Baghdad. There's even a picture of boys playing pool outside! His vignettes or normalcy are heartening. Apologies for missing this story.

Karen DeYoung of the Post writes that Iraq is looking for development partners, not handouts as it plans to exploit its water, oil and natural gas reserves in the coming years.

Sarah Abruzzese of the Times reports on the mental and spiritual stress that has fallen on military chaplains over the course of seven long years of warfare.

Political posturing
The Times's Jeff Zeleny reports that Sen. Barack Obama is considering a visit to Iraq to visit the troops. This story comes after Sen. John McCain complained that Obama had never been to Iraq so what business did he have criticizing the war. (I paraphrase.) Obama declined to go with McCain on a joint trip, saying he didn't want to be part of a political stunt, which was probably a wise call on his part.

Both the Times and the Post cover Bush's graduation speech at the Air Force Academy, in which he compared Iraq to World War II (in the Times) and said the U.S. was "learning as we go" (in the Post, by Michael Abramowitz.)

Exclusive: MND-North Commanding General Details Operation in Slogger Interview
By EASON JORDAN 05/19/2008 3:24 PM ET
Multi-National Division-North Commanding General Mark Hertling surveying the terrain near Tikrit.
Photo by Eason Jordan/IraqSlogger
Multi-National Division-North Commanding General Mark Hertling surveying the terrain near Tikrit.

Many "Tier-1" al Qaeda in Iraq leaders and foreign fighters are among the more than 1,100 suspects snagged by Iraqi and U.S. forces in a coalition sweep targeting al Qaeda in Iraq and its allies in the Mosul area, the top U.S. commander in northern Iraq tells IraqSlogger.

A key quote from the exclusive IraqSlogger interview today with Multi-National Division-North Commanding General Mark Hertling:

"Many of the (1,100+) individual captures are foreign and are involved with suicide bombings, IEDs, VBIEDs, foreign fighter flow, kidnapping/extortion or murder networks."
Here is the full transcript of the Hertling interview:

How many Iraqi and U.S. forces are involved in Operation Lion's Roar?

While not wanting to give the exact numbers, both Iraqi and Coalition forces that have been in the area have seen significantly reinforcements over the last several months to build for this campaign.

The Iraqi Security Forces have had two Iraqi Army Divisions in Ninewa province for several months, operating independently. In January, the GOI and MoD assigned LTG Riyadh as the head of the Ninewa Operations Command to coordinate actions of the IA, the Iraqi Police (IP), the Border Enforcement Police (Directorate of Border Enforcement, or DBE), and the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF). Recently, the Iraqis have also reinforced the area with National Police (NP) units out of Baghdad, additional ISOF and some Iraqi Air Force elements.

The US has had the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment Headquarters and several of their units in Ninewa, and they have been reinforced with another Maneuver Battalion, some additional engineer forces, significant Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance (ISR) assets, more Special Operations and Special Forces, and elements of a Military Intelligence Brigade.

How many suspected enemy forces have been rounded up thus far?

The official count since the start of Operation LION’S ROAR on 10 May (and which changed names to Operation Mother of Two Springs on 14 May) is over 1,100. Of those, over 150 were specific targets, and are believed to be upper tier fighters in AQI, ISI, Nasqabandi, or Ansar Al Sunna. Many of the individual captures are foreign, and are involved with auicide bombings, IEDs, VBIEDs, foreign fighter flow, kidnapping/extortion or murder networks. Many of the remaining 1,100 are either criminals or those who have supported the insurgency or criminal activity.

But the 1,100+ figure is – again – just what has been captured since 10 May. Prior to that period, both US and Iraqi forces were conducting time-sensitive raids and targeting, and there were a variety of AQI/ISI and AAS leaders who were killed or captured, and some of these were named as various Emirs in Ninewa Province or the City of Mosul.

How many of those captured suspects are believed to be members of Al Qaeda in Iraq?

While I can’t give the exact number for security reasons, it is significant, and we have been gathering intelligence that indicates the AQI network knows it has suffered some serious setbacks and is trying to adjust. Those who have been captured are in various stages of interrogation, and many of them are giving us more information about the network, individuals serving AQI in and out of the country, and the atmospherics of the organization.

Who are the most important enemy suspects captured thus far?

Due to intelligence associated with interrogations, I cannot give those names right now. But they range from Foreign Fighter facilitation network cell leaders, to higher level Provincial and City Emirs, Military Emirs, Financial Emirs and Shari’a justice emirs.

Some Iraqi officials and al Qaeda in Iraq spokesmen say many AQI members fled Mosul and Ninewa ahead of Operation Lion's Roar. Do you believe that? From a let's-defeat-the-enemy-standpoint, was it a right or a mistake for the Iraqi government to warn publicly for months of the coming offensive against AQI in Ninewa?

No, I don’t believe that. While I would expect an AQI spokesman to say that to continue the information propaganda that is based on lies (like they did in Diyala Province at the start of Operation Iron Harvest in December, which resulted in the complete disintegration of their AQI network in Muqtadiya), I would suggest that any Iraqi official who said that they don’t really know what’s going on in Ninewa and Mosul.

Prior to the attack we had information that AQI leadership was telling their fighters to go to Mosul and Ninewa in anticipation of a major battle there. And we tracked much, but not all, of that movement. We also saw a spike in violence and attacks throughout the months of January-May when insurgents were intent on attacking the Combat Outposts (COPS), traffic control points (TCPs) and IP and IA stations that were being built by extensive engineer efforts in Mosul to contribute to the security of the citizens. This was an attempt by AQI to maintain their freedom of maneuver and action throughout the city. It was our analysis that they were specifically attacking certain COPs and TCPs, and reinforcing their fighters to do this, as indicated by the number of attacks and significant activities recorded in the city. When the curfew was set on 10 May, that was a surprise to most of those in Mosul and the province, and we have intelligence evidence of that. Without the ability to move with vehicles, and the “Riyadh Line” being closed around the city, it would have been very difficult for anyone inside the city to leave.

It is our belief that the many extremists and criminals that are in the city are laying low for now, for two reasons: one is the extensive military and police operations continue to go on in every neighborhood, finding caches, weapons, and detaining targets; two, they do not know what to anticipate, and there is a fear that if they conduct attacks they will immediately be arrested or detained.

Do you believe the top AQI leadership remains in the Mosul area?

Yes, there are some top AQI leaders in the Mosul area. But they have also replaced a variety of Emirs with less competent individuals, and we have much intelligence that says there is infighting among the leadership within AQI and between AQI and AAS/ISI and Nasqabandi.

Does AQI's center of gravity remain in Ninewa or is it moving?

Using the true Clausewitzian definition of “Center of Gravity,” – which is defined as the item which gives a force its power and must be protected at all costs -- I would suggest that what remains in Ninewa and Mosul is a Decisive Point to the defeat of AQI, versus a center of gravity. AQI wants to maintain their grip on this city, and this province, for historical and philosophical reasons. If AQI loses the battle for Mosul, and they are displaced, they may remain defeated in this area but they are not destroyed. And for that reason, we will continue to pursue whatever remains. Their financial networks and arms networks – as well as other, smaller support cells throughout the country – must also be destroyed to ensure there is no reemergence of this threat to good Iraqi people an the Govt of Iraq.

How many enemy suspects have surrendered peacefully and been granted amnesty by the Iraqi government? Are any of those AQI suspects?

Not many. But some. Those that have are giving us some very good intelligence on the networks.

When the amnesty offer expires in a few days, what's next in Ninewa?

We will continue operations with the Iraqi Security Forces, in the Jazeera desert (west and south of Mosul), and in other key cities/towns where we believe the enemy is attempting to find safe-haven.

But also of critical interest is the Government of Iraq’s program to bring significant amount of aid to Ninewa and Mosul There is currently a team in Mosul – at the Direction of PM Maliki -- coordinating with provincial officials to distribute a significant amount of GOI funds to restore infrastructure in the province and repair war-damaged facilities, while also helping get people back to work. Additionally, the Minister of the Interior also allocated the funding for the recruitment and training of thousands of additional police forces, and the Minister of Defense has allocated spaces for plus ups in the Iraqi Army in the 2d and 3d IA Divisions, which are located in Ninewa.

What do you think explains the surge this year in female suicide bombing attacks?

We believe it is a specific recruitment drive for women who are wives or daughters of extremists and terrorists who have been killed in action. Over the last few months we have seen a total of 8 female suicide bombers – both SVEST and those driving cars – in the four northern provinces, and we have indications that four more have been recruited from one family. Additionally, there is a stigma with being a widow in Iraq – and this is especially true of being a widow of an terrorist – and we believe this contributes to the successful recruitment of these women. This weekend, we had two in wearing a vest (that was stopped by a Son of Iraq, when she was attempting to get into an area where a SOI meeting was being held), which was followed 5 minutes later by another female driving a Suicide Car bomb less than 400 meters away targeting first responders.

Here's Petraeus's PowerPoint Deck, Opening Statements by Petraeus and Crocker
04/08/2008 10:56 AM ET
One of the 12 slides in General Petraeus's PowerPoint presentation to Senate committees today.
One of the 12 slides in General Petraeus's PowerPoint presentation to Senate committees today.

Here is the 12-page PowerPoint deck General Petraeus is presenting in his opening statements in Senate committee hearings today: Testimony_Handout_Packet__07_1500_APR_08_.pdf

Here is General Petraeus's seven-page opening statement: General_Petraeus_Testimony_to_Congress_8_April_2008.pdf

Here is Ambassador Crocker's 15-page opening statement: Ambassador_Crocker___SASC_Testimony_8_April_2008.pdf


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