Al Qaeda's response to offensive in Iraq

The Belmont Club discusses how al Qaeda has attempted to stay relevant during the operations in Iraq that are trapping many of its operatives.

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That al-Qaeda is alive to the danger of the strategy being employed against it is indicated by their counterattacks and plan of maneuver. In a report entitled "al Qaeda Strikes at the Seams", Bill Roggio describes attacks on Coalition forces outside of Baquba. "As Iraqi and Coalition forces press forward with Operation Phantom Thunder in the Baghdad Belts, al Qaeda conducted its first coordinated counter attack. Five separate suicide strikes Baghdad, Babil and in the north resulted in up to 45 deaths. The most effective strike targeted members of the Anbar Salvation Council who were meeting in Baghdad." These counterattacks are obviously intended to produce two effects. First, create space for maneuver by forcing Coalition forces into defensive actions and second, send the message that they too can strike the forces that are attacking them. As the AQI go fluid they have to turn every now and again to keep the pursuers off their backs.
This is pretty typical of al Qaeda's response under pressure. It responded to the original Afghan campaign with attacks in India designed to draw Pakistan's attention and lessen its cooperation. Later there were attacks in Bali, and North Africa all designed to divert attention and focus. While they are creating new enemies they attempt to expand the battlefield. They have been thwarted in attempts to create spectacular attacks in Europe for the most part with the exception of the London bombings. From a military stand point they all have one thing in common. They are insignificant. They are noise to fill the media strategy with its "violence" metric.

The only attack of any significance in al Qaeda's Iraq campaign is the attempted decapitation attack on the sheiks who are now opposing them. What ever success they had in this effort is not going to have the results al Qaeda wanted within the tribes these men led. If anything it will redouble their desire for revenge against al Qaeda. This has been one of al Qaeda's major misjudgments in Iraq which led to the creation of the Anbar Salvation council to begin with. The tribal culture requires revenge and not the submission al Qaeda seeks. From a strategic stand point the attack will be a disaster for al Qaeda.

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