Sunday, February 10, 2008

al-Qaeda in Iraq

This week, the Post published an interesting article about al-Qaeda in Iraq's (AQI) attempts to win back many of the disaffected Iraqi Sunnis who have risen in opposition to its harsh tactics. It provides a good overview of the plight of the terror group in recent months. A couple excerpts:
The Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq is telling its followers to soften their tactics in order to regain popular support in the western province of Anbar, where Sunni tribes have turned against the organization and begun working with U.S. forces, according to group leaders and American intelligence officials. The new approach was outlined last month in an internal communique that orders members to avoid killing Sunni civilians who have not sympathized with the U.S.-backed tribesmen or the government.

From internal documents and interviews with members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a picture emerges of an organization in disarray but increasingly aware that its harsh policies - such as punishing women who don't cover their heads - have eroded its popular support. Over the past year, the group has been driven out of many of its strongholds. The group's leadership is now jettisoning some of its past tactics to refocus attacks on American troops, Sunnis cooperating closely with U.S. forces, and Iraq's infrastructure.

The U.S. military says it destroyed much of the leadership of al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2007, killing 2,400 suspected members and capturing 8,800, while pushing the group almost completely out of Baghdad and Anbar province. Although U.S. officials and their Sunni allies caution that al-Qaeda in Iraq remains dangerous and could find ways to regenerate, they assert that the group now is largely a spent force.

By all accounts, the number of foreign fighters entering Iraq has plunged. The U.S. military said the number sneaking in from Syria has dropped from 110 a month in late summer to about 40 to 50 a month now. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a predominantly Iraqi group, but the U.S. military says it is led by Arabs from outside the country.

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