Edited by David Martin Jones, Ann Lane and Paul Schulte
Chapter 6: How al-Qaeda Lost Iraq
6. How al-Qaeda lost Iraq* Andrew Phillips Al Qaeda in Iraq has become a hand that destroys the Sunnis. Many Sunnis have been killed by them. Al Qaeda in Iraq is a source of corruption . . . they always direct their weapons at innocent civilians.1 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.2 In February 2008, the US military released extracts from two intercepted letters purportedly written by al-Qaeda field commanders operating respectively in Balad, north of Baghdad, and in Anbar province in western Iraq. Bemoaning the recent split between al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and its erstwhile Sunni hosts, the first document recounts how Emir Abu-Tariq’s force of 600 operating in Balad was reduced to fewer than 20 in the face of a combined onslaught by Coalition troops and the tribal militias of the newly formed Awakening movement (Fletcher 2008). The second document echoes similarly bleak sentiments, with an unnamed al-Qaeda emir describing the organization as being in a state of ‘extraordinary crisis’ following the anti-al-Qaeda uprising of tribal militias in Anbar (Fletcher 2008). The timing of the documents’ release was undoubtedly fortuitous for an administration seeking to bolster the American public’s flagging enthusiasm for the Iraq War. Nevertheless, the ‘extraordinary crisis’ within al-Qaeda that the documents describe has been emphatically borne out in the organization’s declining fortunes in Iraq since late 2006. Following its attempt...
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