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Tilting at Windmills

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September 6, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE MYTH OF AQI....Who's responsible for the violence in Iraq? According to George Bush, the most dramatic and destabilizing attacks come from al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group supposedly responsible for the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samara last year and for a spectacular truck bomb attack in Tal Afar five months ago. This view of AQI's unique lethality is widespread, but what if it's mistaken? What if AQI wasn't responsible for either of those attacks? And what if AQI is nowhere near as dangerous as everyone thinks?

Andrew Tilghman is a former reporter for Stars and Stripes who spent nine months embedded in Iraq in 2005-06. Since then he's been investigating the role of AQI and has come to the conclusion that both its size and the scope of its operations have been systematically exaggerated for political reasons. His story, "The Myth of AQI," is forthcoming in our October issue, but today we're offering a sneak preview:

What if official military estimates about the size and impact of al-Qaeda in Iraq are simply wrong? Indeed, interviews with numerous military and intelligence analysts, both inside and outside of government, suggest that the number of strikes the group has directed represent only a fraction of what official estimates claim. Further, al-Qaeda's presumed role in leading the violence through uniquely devastating attacks that catalyze further unrest may also be overstated.

....In a background briefing this July in Baghdad, military officials said that during the first half of this year AQI accounted for 15 percent of attacks in Iraq....Yet those who have worked on estimates inside the system take a more circumspect view....spectrum of estimates, ranging from 8 percent to 15 percent....But even the low estimate of 8 percent may be an overstatement.

....How big, then, is AQI? The most persuasive estimate I've heard comes from Malcolm Nance, the author of The Terrorists of Iraq and a twenty-year intelligence veteran and Arabic speaker who has worked with military and intelligence units tracking al-Qaeda inside Iraq. He believes AQI includes about 850 full-time fighters, comprising 2 percent to 5 percent of the Sunni insurgency. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq," according to Nance, "is a microscopic terrorist organization."

....The view that AQI is neither as big nor as lethal as commonly believed is widespread among working-level analysts and troops on the ground. A majority of those interviewed for this article believe that the military's AQI estimates are overblown to varying degrees. If such misgivings are common, why haven't doubts pricked the public debate?

Now, obviously AQI isn't literally a "myth." It exists. But amidst all the debate over violence levels, security benchmarks, and political progress in Iraq, the one thing that hasn't been questioned until now is the military portrayal of AQI's oversized, almost mythic role in sustaining the insurgency — as well as its political role as the last big argument for keeping U.S. troops in the country. Today Tilghman does just that. Read his whole piece to find out how and why it happened.

Kevin Drum 1:39 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

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Comments

First!

But do I have to actually read the post now?

Posted by: DH on September 6, 2007 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

That is an excellent article, thanks for flagging it Kevin.

As former analysts explain how "keep the boss happy" processes inflate AQI's seeming size and importance, I can't help but think the same is happening with Iran's supposed meddling.

Regards, C

Posted by: Cernig on September 6, 2007 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

What is disappointing is that throughout this war the Pentagon, generally, and the Iraq command structure in particular has been willing to dicker with intelligence and metrics for the administration.

Keep it to themselves if necessary but make it accurate and in touch with the reality otherwise we are fighting the war we hope to fight, not the one we have.

Of course, I don't actually believe we're at war, but you get my drift, I hope.

Posted by: notthere on September 6, 2007 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.
George Orwell

Posted by: Ya Know.... on September 6, 2007 at 3:04 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the link/article Kevin.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I can't help but think the same is happening with Iran's supposed meddling.-Cernig

I wonder as well, there is alot of conflicting information. The Casus Belli seems to be Irans nuclear centrifuge program amd not so much the meddling, so far. Kagan sees AQI as the main problem in link below.

This from June 2007, but still usable. Bartle Bull says hes seen Iranian goods, but Sadrs movement is not for sale.
Today, Sadr has called for a cease fire to stop infighting and remove possible Iranian infiltrators/meddling.
http://www.defenddemocracy.org/archive/archive_newsletter.htm?issue_id=3504

Posted by: Ya Know.... on September 6, 2007 at 3:38 AM | PERMALINK

Further, al-Qaeda's presumed role in leading the violence through uniquely devastating attacks that catalyze further unrest may also be overstated.

UM, Kevin. I think you miss the point why we're attacking Al-Qaeda. First, remember 9/11? Remember who attacked us on that date? It was AL-QAEDA. Even if Al-Qaeda causes only a miniscule portion of the violence in Iraq, we should still go after it because of the 3000 American deaths on 9/11.
Second, Al-Qaeda is a world-wide organization. Attacking Al-Qaeda in just one country like Iraq is like attacking the Mafia in just one street corner. Even if the Mafia only has a small influence in that one street corner, we should attack them nevertheless because of its pervasive influence in the many areas of the city. Similarly, attacking Al-Qaeda in just one country like Iraq is important becauses it minimizes Al-Qaeda's vast worldwide terrorist threat.
Third, since Al-Qaeda is worldwide, if we don't attack them in Iraq, Al-Qaeda will just attack us from somewhere else. Certainly it is better to wage war against Al-Qaeda in the streets of Baghdad rather than the streets of of Boston or Birmingham where American civilians could easily be killed.

Posted by: Al on September 6, 2007 at 4:11 AM | PERMALINK

The neoconservatives believe that elites should steer the peasants like oxen by creating myths.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,12780,1327904,00.html

The Power of Nightmares began as an investigation of something else, the rise of modern American conservatism. Curtis was interested in Leo Strauss, a political philosopher at the university of Chicago in the 50s who rejected the liberalism of postwar America as amoral and who thought that the country could be rescued by a revived belief in America's unique role to battle evil in the world. Strauss's certainty and his emphasis on the use of grand myths as a higher form of political propaganda created a group of influential disciples such as Paul Wolfowitz,...

Posted by: :Luther on September 6, 2007 at 4:42 AM | PERMALINK

Al: "I think you miss the point why we're attacking Al-Qaeda. First, remember 9/11?"

Talk about missing the point (let alone the point why)...

You know, just when you can't imagine Al saying anything stupider than what he's already laid down over the last year or so, he comes out with something so stupefyingly clueless, so spectacularly naff, you almost have to feel sorry for the guy, struggling valiantly to express himself from deep within a big bubble of dumb.

Posted by: Kenji on September 6, 2007 at 4:53 AM | PERMALINK

Fredo said "Our troops have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists every month since January of this year." 8/22/07

So, that would be well over 10,000 by now.

Posted by: Steve J. on September 6, 2007 at 5:10 AM | PERMALINK

Staying in Iraq now is all about Iran, not AQI.

The absurdity.

Posted by: Jimm on September 6, 2007 at 5:17 AM | PERMALINK

the one thing that hasn't been questioned until now is the military portrayal of AQI's oversized, almost mythic role in sustaining the insurgency

Huh? For over a year now, most of the sources overseas I've been reading have been saying AQI is only responsible for about 5% of the attacks and that there is no organizational connection between AQI and AQ; that they are about as connected as the United Fruit company and United Airlines, the Al Qaeda part of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia chosen for effect.

Posted by: snicker-snack on September 6, 2007 at 6:07 AM | PERMALINK

The NYT ran a story that's now hidden behind the paywall about the current population of Iraqis detained by US forces. As I recall, about 10% were suspected of connections to AQI. Since all the pressures from the top are to overestimate the AQI threat, 10% must be a solid upper bound.

Posted by: James Wimberley on September 6, 2007 at 6:22 AM | PERMALINK

Now, obviously AQI isn't literally a "myth."

—Kevin Drum

Don't be too sure. On the continuum that stretches from myth to reality, it is really, really close to the myth end point.

Morphing a civil war into a fight against AQI is much more serious -- and lethal -- than falsely claiming that the surge is "working." It is on a par with the original lie that Saddam ordered the 9/11 attack.

The MSM coverage now is all about AQI.

If our so-called leaders allow this cynical re-branding of the war to prevail, they don't deserve to get elected -- and they won't.

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 6, 2007 at 6:27 AM | PERMALINK

We're fighting them over there so we don't accidentally fire nuclear tipped missiles at targets on bombing ranges over here.

Posted by: B on September 6, 2007 at 7:14 AM | PERMALINK

Now, obviously AQI isn't literally a "myth."

Only in the sense that Zacharias Moussoui was a real dude. Remember when killing him (again) was going to fix Iraq?

And the why part is easy: it's a convenient lie to mollify US troops, US citizens, and world opinion.

Posted by: Boronx on September 6, 2007 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

Why bother countering the myth? Once AQI doesn't hold up anymore, it'll be another round for Muqtada as the Boogie Man of Messopotamia, or maybe they'll finally go mainstream with the wing nut notion that Iran is behind both the Shia militia *and* the Sunni insurgents.

The same idiots will nod their head for a few months before those insanities have been exposed, if they haven't used that time to attack Iran.

Posted by: Boronx on September 6, 2007 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

The entire al-Qaeda organization is a myth to keep people afraid. As I have posted here many times, everyone needs to get a copy of The Power of Nightmares, a BBC special that was broadcast several years ago. That video deflates the myth of al-Qaeda and explains that Islamic jihadism was on the wane until President Doorknob invaded and occupied Iraq. Bush is the best recruiter Osama bin Laden has. I hope he got a good bonus from him.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 6, 2007 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

"If such misgivings are common, why haven't doubts pricked the public debate?"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It is because the public and those informing the public are an ignorant, slovenly and incurious herd of sheep. Shear them for their usable parts while their alive and healthy and at the right moment lead them to slaughter for their remaining valuables.

Posted by: steve duncan on September 6, 2007 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Well, we got one on the Iraqis because I am sure the old US of A generates a lot more Al Queda here at home!

Posted by: Matt on September 6, 2007 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin sez: Now, obviously AQI isn't literally a "myth."

Just as the tooth fairy isn't exactly a myth either. I mean, let's face it: someone IS going around exchanging money for teeth under pillows. It just happens to be parents.

AQI is exactly the same. Bushco has told and encouraged a story about Al Qaeda (and not just in Iraq, if we're being honest with ourselves). The downside is that by telling this story, we've increased the value of the organization. We've potentially made the lie into reality.

Sadly, this type of miscalculated greed-driven incompetence is par for the course in this misbegotten administration.

Posted by: Govt Skeptic on September 6, 2007 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

If it were not so serious, it be like an episode on some Comedy Central show - Someone running for Mayor of Rumdumb, Ohio, on being asked why it was so difficult to repair potholes, replied, "Nine One One and al-Quada".

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 6, 2007 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

My military friend says that we're making a big mistake in arming the Iraqis so they can fight the almost mythical AQI. He says that will come back to haunt us later.

Posted by: Susan S on September 6, 2007 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Andrew Tilghman is a former reporter for Stars and Stripes who spent nine months embedded in Iraq in 2005-06.

Well, consider the source -- Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the United States Army, is a well-known anti-government liberal rag.....

Posted by: Stefan on September 6, 2007 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

My military friend says that we're making a big mistake in arming the Iraqis so they can fight the almost mythical AQI. He says that will come back to haunt us later.

I cannot imagine what could possibly go wrong with arming Sunni guerilla groups opposed to the central Iraqi government and dedicated to expelling the American invader, all in the midst of a civil war.....

Posted by: Stefan on September 6, 2007 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Don't worry, once the myth of AQI is known to all, the wingnuts have their next boogie man waiting around the corner...The Mexican!

Posted by: elmo on September 6, 2007 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, Stefan, feel free to let your imagination roam.

But, it was a nice touch to see Shrub travel to Gaul and meet with Julius.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 6, 2007 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Several comments:

The repeated use of the term AQI allows the continued conflation of AQ and Iraq.

The growth of AQI has only occurred through the actions of this administration.

The use of terms like AQI continues the myth of a controlling mastermind (Mr. Big) ensconced in a secret hideaway, planning the moves of minions by moving markers on a world map. The reality of the situation is that it is more diffuse, with multiple points of initiation for action. More like a gas, than a gun. This "controlling mastermind" viewpoint is the single largest obstacle to successful planning for the defeat of insurgency.

Posted by: Neal on September 6, 2007 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

This is a rich essay. Certainly the best I have read on AQI. The reality of AQI, its small size, its dependency on the larger resistance forces, betrays the state-side propaganda so wantonly disgorged by George Bush in the White House and Cheney's team in the Pentagon. Right-wing movements and conservative governments through the 20th century have relied on exaggerated enemies to consolidate their political power at home and realize their imperial ambitions abroad. It is such a usual theme in anti-liberal politics it hardly needs comment.

The reality in Iraq, a foreign culture under occupation, is hard to understand even for those who do their homework. The interesting bit is why the big lies that time shows to be untrue- WMDs, flowers in the street, mission accomplished, we are turning the corner, are simply forgotten. When reality contradicts propaganda or the new propaganda contradicts the old you expect confidence to wane but we simply move on to the next bag of lies and forget the past. It is really an amazing phenomenon that needs explanation and must have something to do the mystic of authority.

I like the idea of the US bribing its way to pacification and victory. Are they so stupid to trust the money and guns will not be used against US forces? Must be the mystic of authority.

Posted by: bellumregio on September 6, 2007 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

he's been investigating the role of AQI... both its size and the scope of its operations have been systematically exaggerated for political reasons.

How 'bout that? AQI and the real Al Qaeda have something in common after all.

Posted by: ckelly on September 6, 2007 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Read his whole piece

I'll do no such thing. I know saddam ordered 9/11 and osama lives in iraq.

Posted by: Al on September 6, 2007 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

The weird thing is, there had been a fair amount of AQI skepticism in even the MSM's coverage of the Iraq war up until late last year. But that's almost entirely disappeared in 2007.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on September 6, 2007 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

[sarcasm] Woah, what a surprise. [/sarcasm]

I'm cynical enough by now that I was already assuming AQI's influence had been exagarated. I would have been surprised if it wasn't; this is par for the course by now.

Posted by: Rick Taylor on September 6, 2007 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

bellumreggio makes excellent points - Bolshevik means majority, which that group was not when they overthrew Kerensky. But, the AQI, bin Laden wannabes, are not going up against an ill equipped, disarrayed Kerensky force. The various Iraqi groups will tear them, as they are doing to one another, apart.

Something apt about this becoming a "bottom-up" project, in that the "top down" was a complete failure - Shrub is so used to "bottoms up". Needs his Pampers changed.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 6, 2007 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

I hope the article makes a few lightbulbs pop on in those dim skulls out there, but I don't think that people who are likely to read articles in Washington Monthly are the ones making this mistake. There is a big, big disconnect out there.

bellumregio asks a fascinating question: " The interesting bit is why the big lies that time shows to be untrue...are simply forgotten. When reality contradicts propaganda or the new propaganda contradicts the old you expect confidence to wane but we simply move on to the next bag of lies and forget the past."

He/She proposes "the mystic of authority." Certainly some of the people can be fooled all of the time, and all of the people can be fooled some of the time. The US has never been led by lying con artists of quite this caliber, and they have the bully pulpit.

But I also think that some people want desperately to believe, but why? What is happening in US society that people prefer to believe dramatic lies than accept duller realities? What has happened to memory?

Is it a diet too high in beef? Too much TV? Food additives? Prosac in the water system?

Posted by: PTate in FR on September 6, 2007 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Exaggerating threats is standard operating procedure of the military industrial complex and demagoging politicians to their jingoistic followers. For decades, the threat of the Soviet Union was exaggerated and overblown in order to get funding for worthless military projects and useless armament systems. Without powerful enemies, wasting money on war profiteers would never sell. The stupid people might notice they have no security, no health insurance, their educational systems were being underfunded, you know, stuff like that.
Last year, the Bush administration began talking exclusively about al Qaeda in Iraq as the
major threat to the American occupation. This was noted at the time, because they were minor players and disliked by all the other Iraqi factions. This propaganda contiues

...Of course, I don't actually believe we're at war.... notthere at 2:43 AM
...September 6, 2007 BAGHDAD -- -- Eight U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks over two days, military authorities reported Wednesday, and 13 Iraqis died when a bomb exploded near a bus stop during the morning rush hour. Two soldiers working to capture militants in an eastern neighborhood of Baghdad were killed Wednesday, U.S. military officials said. Two others were killed the same day by an explosion while on patrol in Salahuddin province. A total of 3,752 U.S. troops have died in the Iraq theater since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, according to the website icasualties.org....

What is this then, cases of heat stroke from playing in the desert sand?

Posted by: Mike on September 6, 2007 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

From the linked WM article:

"...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."

and Col. Killcullen says:
"...But we should remember that this uprising against extremism belongs to the Iraqi people, not to us – it was their idea, they started it, they are leading it, it is happening on their terms and on their timeline..."


Cash-filled duffle bags? So much for the "Anbar Awakening" being an "accident". I doubt that one could say that "bribery works" is a revelation.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 6, 2007 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

And then there is that rarely discussed increase in suicides within the military in Iraq, as well as the increase in the number of troops sent back to the states with mental health issues.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on September 6, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Some time back - it may have been soon after the Sammara Mosque bombing - Juan Cole observed that EVERYONE (my emphasis) has an incentive to blame AQI for a large measure of the violence in that country. The Sunnis get to blame outsiders, the Shia and Kurds get to blame Sunnis, the Americans blame "foreign fighters who, once they win in Iraq, will follow us home," and Osama takes the credit for sticking it to Great Satan and the Infidels. Neat huh?

Posted by: semiot on September 6, 2007 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Al-Qaeda in Iraq"? I thought the real name of what ever that organization is is Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

I guess for US propaganda purposes, Mesopotamia is too confusing so they use AQI to drive home the point that some organization calling themselves Al-Qaeda (the people behind 9/11) is in Iraq and that is why we are fighting there.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on September 6, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

I have it on first hand evidence from an officer who served under Petraeus that the "bottom-up" duffle-bags-o-cash strategy is exactly what the general was doing in Mosul when he commanded the 101st there in 2003. It actually worked - at least until the Marines replace the Screaming Eagles and decided it was better to knock some heads instead.

The upshot, "The Petraeus Way" might have gained some traction in places other than Mosul - in 2003. Now, it hasn't got a snowball's chance in Baghdad of catching on nationally. That ship sailed long ago.

There's an old principle of dialectical materialism called "negation of a negation." It's like screwing in a wood screw: you make a hole, and even when the screw is removed, the hole remains. There is a big fat hole in the soul of Iraq, and unfortunately it is filled by resentment of America. Duffle bags o greenbacks just won't negate that negation.

Posted by: semiot on September 6, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Al Qaeda in Iraq" wouldn't even exist if President Bush hadn't avoided attacking Zarqawi on three occasions before the invasion.

Posted by: croatoan on September 6, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

If Al Qaeda in Iraq didn't exist, someone would have to invent it.

Posted by: semiot on September 6, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Duffle bags o greenbacks just won't negate that negation.
Posted by: semiot on September 6, 2007 at 12:29 PM

In the long run (i.e. 2009) it may not, but it just *might* work long enough to last until Nov 2008.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 6, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

"Cash-filled duffle bags? So much for the "Anbar Awakening" being an "accident". I doubt that one could say that "bribery works" is a revelation. "

Doc,

I almost commented on that 'lucky accident' description from yesterday. I can't find the excellent article I read a few days ago but here is its general thrust. Not only is the US giving tribal sheiks weapons to fight the exaggerated AQI force but the push for reconsruction of areas in Anbar (like markets) has led to an organized system of bribery. Every Iraqi contractor must take into account 'safe passage' money to allow materials to reach the construction site. In general this amounts to about 50% of the total cost. The US is pouring millions into this effort, with half going to insurgents who use the money to buy even more weapons.

Posted by: nepeta on September 6, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Nepeta, well let's just hope to God that we are at least smart enough to get the hell out of there when the Sunni decide to start taking some of their power back from the central government and that we don't take on the role of naive referee that we used in the beginning-maybe the GOP thinks that's what the Dems will do after they are out.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 6, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Only in the sense that Zacharias Moussoui was a real dude. Remember when killing him (again) was going to fix Iraq?

Well there you go. The obvious answer is to kill him again. One of these times of re-killing him, it will do its voodoo magic and bring peace and even more prosperity to the super-rich of the GOP. That's what it is all about isn't it?

Posted by: Praedor Atrebates on September 6, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Praedor Atrebates on September 6, 2007 at 3:02 PM:

The obvious answer is to kill him again.

Just great...Instead of just having terrorists, now we'll have zombie terrorists.

Posted by: grape_crush on September 6, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

This isn't a big surprise to people who pay attention to numbers. Even the Iraqi Study Group estimated only about two thousand AQ there. This didn't stop them, and everyone else, from blaming the violence on AQ.

Posted by: mcdruid on September 6, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

And if you remember far enough back. AQI is taking the place of Ansar al-Islam, who's pre-invasion estimated 600 fighters were supposedly responsible for all the insurgency in the early days of the occupation. I wonder what ever happened to them?

Posted by: mcdruid on September 6, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

When Osama bin Laden says that one way to end the war in Iraq is for their side "to escalate the fighting and killing against you."

What do you think he means by "escalate"? Idiot.

Posted by: Molon Labe on September 7, 2007 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

"How big, then, is AQI? The most persuasive estimate I've heard comes from Malcolm Nance, the author of The Terrorists of Iraq and a twenty-year intelligence veteran and Arabic speaker who has worked with military and intelligence units tracking al-Qaeda inside Iraq. He believes AQI includes about 850 full-time fighters, comprising 2 percent to 5 percent of the Sunni insurgency. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq," according to Nance, "is a microscopic terrorist organization."
________________________

Tricky things, quotes. Speaking of al Qaeda last year, Nance said,

"And then we have Iraq. And that is the mother of all new al-Qaeda organisations, if you want to put it that way...When you see what we call an SVBIED, a suicide vehicle born improvised explosive device, also known as a car bomb, when you see three of them blow up in the immediate vicinity of the Palestine hotel, one breaches the walls, another allows a big, cement mixture size truck with several hundred pounds of explosives come up and blow up in front of the press hotel, then you start thinking al-Qaeda in Iraq...They're killing Iraqi civilians, and that's where al-Qaeda gets its notoriety from."

http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2006/s1566485.htm

These Nance quotes and the use of his 850 number for active al Qaeda members in Iraq are not necessarily contradictory. As noted by David Kilcullen, Nance, and others, the real fighting power of al Qaeda comes mostly from the locals whom they can coopt into following them, either for similar cause or through personal connections, which is why al Qaeda attempts to link with tribes through marraige. If only a few score of the hundreds of foreign al Qaeda members in Iraq actually comprise their leadership cadre, then their connections with other insurgents multiplies their influence greatly. We see this in Afghanistan, where the number of actual al Qaeda leaders is very small compared to the local Taliban and Pushtan tribesmen who follow them. That's why the ongoing separation of al Qaeda from the Sunni tribes in Iraq is so important.

Using foreign zealots as suiciders, al Qaeda can keep killing Iraqi citizens almost indefinitely, obscuring any real change in the military situation in Iraq. But al Qaeda cannot hold towns and large areas without the cooperation of Sunni insurgents and that is what is happening. The separation from the Sunni tribes will, hopefully, continue to lower the heat on the insurgency in general. That should reduce American casualties (as it did in August) and, one prays, give the Iraqi leaders time to get their Sierra together.

Posted by: trashhauler on September 8, 2007 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK
....The separation from the Sunni tribes will...continue to lower the heat on the insurgency in general. That should reduce American casualties....give the Iraqi leaders time to get their Sierra together....trashhauler at 8:22 AM
As usual, your analysis is based more on illusion and misunderstanding the war you started than the facts on the ground.

Since the numbers of al Qaeda are minimal, their effect is minimal. Your attempts to whip up the power and influence of al Qaeda in Iraq were once contradicted by Bush during one of his rare moments of honesty.

...Bush’s latest attempt to whip up support for the US war in Iraq by invoking the al Qaeda bogeyman contradicts his own admission in a November 2005 speech at the US Naval Academy that the “terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda” were “the smallest” of the three “enemy” groups US troops faced in Iraq.
In that speech, Bush argued that the “enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group ...

The reduction of American casualties in August is solely due to the fudging of the numbers by war supporters who denigrate those who lost their lives for Bush's evil war but refusing to include all of them in the statistics.

There has been no serious attempt by the Maliki government to bring all Iraq interests together, nor will there be.

Your war is based on lies, propaganda, and misrepresentations that unfortunately is causing real misery, real death to Iraqis, and real destruction of Iraq.

Posted by: Mike on September 8, 2007 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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