Rolling up al Qaeda's media warriors in Iraq
At their core, most al Qaeda operations in Iraq should be described as media operations designed to promote stories in the US media about our inability to stop the violence. Now that we have had more success at stopping their operations these media battle space warriors have had less to work with too. Al Qaeda has said half the war is in the media battle space. IT si good to see theat they are having trouble in that space too.
Coalition and Iraqi special operations forces continue to target al Qaeda's propaganda capabilities. Over the summer, US forces scored a major victory with the capture of Khalid Abdul Fatah Da’ud Mahmud al Mashadani, also known as Abu Shahed. Mashadani was al Qaeda's minister of information and served as the go between for al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al Masri and Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri. The capture of Mashadani has shed light on al Qaeda's media operations, and has allowed Multinational Forces Iraq to roll up al Qaeda's media cells throughout Iraq.
"Since the surge began, we’ve uncovered eight separate al Qaeda media offices and cells, have captured or killed 24 al Qaeda propaganda cell members and have discovered 23 terabytes of information," said Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, the chief Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Forces Iraq in a press briefing. Most recently, four members of al Qaeda's al Furqan media cell in Mosul were captured, "including the media emir of Mosul, the former head of Mosul’s media cell who had established the al Qaeda communications hub in Baghdad, a foreign terrorist from Saudi Arabia who is proficient in video editing and special effects, and a computer graphics specialist," the Armed Forces Press Service reported. Cells have also been broken up in Baghdad, Diyala, Tarmiyah, Samarra and Karma.
The Mosul cell members echoed recent statements made by Osama bin Laden on the dire situation in Iraq. "(They) have indicated that al Qaeda propaganda efforts have been degraded in recent months,” Smith said. "There is almost nothing left of (al Qaeda in Iraq)."
The video editor and graphics technician are the lowest ranking and most easily replaceable members of the media cells, according to Nick Grace, the host of Global Crisis Watch and an expert on al Qaeda's media operations in an interview with The Long War Journal. "The cell members are entry level positions in al Qaeda's media wing, and start off in the field with al Furqan or al Fajr," said Grace. "If they show skills they may then graduate to work for As Sahab, al Qaeda's parent media organization, and work in Pakistan." Grace also noted the effort al Qaeda put into its propaganda programs, and likened the city cells to local television news stations subordinate to US television networks.
US forces also found "a sampling of other propaganda documents: a letter that gives instructions on how to use the media to get out the al Qaeda message most effectively; an al Qaeda activity report highlighting car bomb, suicide, missile, mortar, sniping and IED attacks; a propaganda poster that encourages filming and distributing videos, showing al Qaeda attacks on coalition forces; and a pamphlet and a CD cover of their sniper school."