From the Times of London
Al-Qaeda in Iraq faces an “extraordinary crisis”. Last year’s mass defection of ordinary Sunnis from al-Qaeda to the US military “created panic, fear and the unwillingness to fight”. The terrorist group’s security structure suffered “total collapse”.
These are the words not of al-Qaeda’s enemies but of one of its own leaders in Anbar province — once the group’s stronghold. They were set down last summer in a 39-page letter seized during a US raid on an al-Qaeda base near Samarra in November.
The US military released extracts from that letter yesterday along with a second seized in another November raid that is almost as startling.
That second document is a bitter 16-page testament written last October by a local al-Qaeda leader near Balad, north of Baghdad. “I am Abu-Tariq, emir of the al-Layin and al-Mashahdah sector,” the author begins. He goes on to describe how his force of 600 shrank to fewer than 20.
“We were mistreated, cheated and betrayed by some of our brothers,” he says. “Those people were nothing but hypocrites, liars and traitors and were waiting for the right moment to switch sides with whoever pays them most.”
Assuming the two documents are authentic — and the US military insists that they are — they provide a rare insight into an organisation thrown into turmoil by the rise of the [anti-terrorist] Awakening movement. More than 80,000 Sunnis have joined the tribal groups of “concerned local citizens” [CLCs] that have helped to eject al-Qaeda from swaths of western and northern Iraq, including much of Baghdad.
US intelligence officials cautioned, however, that the documents were snapshots of two small areas and that al-Qaeda was far from a spent force.
The Anbar letter conceded that the “crusaders” — Americans — had gained the upper hand by persuading ordinary Sunnis that al-Qaeda was responsible for their suffering and by exploiting their poverty to entice them into the security forces. Al-Qaeda’s “Islamic State of Iraq is faced with an extraordinary crisis, especially in al-Anbar”, the unnamed emir admitted.
In an apparent reference to al-Qaeda’s brutal tactics, he said of the Americans and their Sunni allies: “We helped them to unite against us . . . The Americans and the apostates launched their campaigns against us and we found ourselves in a circle not being able to move, organise or conduct our operations.”
He said of the loss of Anbar province: “This created weakness and psychological defeat. This also created panic, fear and the unwillingness to fight. The morale of the fighters went down . . . There was a total collapse in the security structure of the organisation.” The emir complained that the supply of foreign fighters had dwindled and that they found it increasingly hard to operate inside Iraq because they could not blend in. Foreign suicide bombers determined to kill “not less than 20 or 30 infidels” grew disillusioned because they were kept hanging about and only given small operations. Some gave up and went home.
Finally the emir recommended rewards for killing apostates, using doctors to kill infidels and offering gifts to tribal leaders. He said al-Qaeda’s fighters should be sent to more promising areas such as Diyala province or Baghdad — which is exactly what happened.
Most of the first battalion’s fighters “betrayed us and joined al-Sahwah [the Awakening]”, he says. The leader of the second ran away and all but two of its 300 fighters joined the Awakening. The activities of the third were “frozen due to their present conditions”. Of the fourth he writes: “Most of its members are scoundrels, sectarians, non-believers”.
He lists 38 people still working for him but beside five names he has written comments like “We have not seen him for twenty days” or “left us a week ago”. He concludes, wistfully: “And that is the number of fighters left in my sector.”
‘WE WERE MISTREATED AND CHEATED’
Extracts from letters
Abu-Tariq, al-Qaeda leader
“There were almost 600 fighters in our sector before the tribes changed course 360 degrees . . . Many of our fighters quit and some of them joined the deserters . . . As a result of that the number of fighters dropped down to 20 or less.”
“We were mistreated, cheated and betrayed by some of our brothers who used to be part of the Jihadi movement, therefore we must not have mercy on those traitors until they come back to the right side or get eliminated completely.”
Unnamed emir, Anbar province
“The Islamic State of Iraq [al-Qaeda] is faced with an extraordinary crisis, especially in al-Anbar province. Al-Qaeda’s expulsion from Anbar created weakness and psychological defeat. This also created panic, fear and the unwillingness to fight.
“The morale of the fighters went down and they wanted to be transferred to administrative positions rather than be fighters. There was a total collapse in the security structure of the organisation.”
Labels: Al-Qaeda, Iraq War