Still in Al Qaeda’s Grip, Admiral Says
success securing Baghdad and Iraq’s Anbar province from
al Qaeda will need to be repeated in other parts of Iraq, a
spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq said. “There
are still villages and towns and regions that are completely
under the thumb of terrorism,” Navy Rear Adm. Gregory J.
forces still are embedded in an extended effort against insurgency
in Iraq, Smith told online journalists and “bloggers” in
a conference call.
Phantom Phoenix, which began just after the first of the year,
is a continuance of our activity associated with going after
al Qaeda and other extremists,” he said. “It’s
not the start of; it’s not the middle; it’s not
the end; it’s just part of a long effort that’s
been under way for obviously some years now.”
is focused on liberating Iraqi villages, mainly in the north,
where al Qaeda has moved in and is attempting to control populations
with terror, Smith explained. After removing insurgents, coalition
forces will remain in the villages to bring security and economic
development, as they have in Anbar and Baghdad, he said. Al
Qaeda fled north after being pushed out of central Iraq over
the course of 2007.
insurgent fighters is only half the battle in defeating al
Qaeda in Iraq, the admiral said. Breaking down al Qaeda’s
central nodes of operation — such as foreign access, finances
and communication — is also a crucial part of the fight, he
explained. “It’s not just … killing fighters,” he
said. “You could do that probably forever.”
foreign access is “a big one,” he said, because
multinational forces have found that nine out of 10 suicide
bombings in Iraq are conducted by foreign fighters. “If
you didn’t have the foreigners coming in, … you
would have reduced 90 percent of all the suicide attacks that
have occurred,” he said.
out that all of al Qaeda’s senior leaders in Iraq are
foreigners. “There are no really senior Iraqis that have
a position of significant authority in terms of the major inner-circle
players,” he said.
from sources outside Iraq and generated internally — is the
other key piece to go after. “The finances are a critical
component of insurgency, and that’s one thread of the
insurgency you’re going to take on,” Smith said.
al Qaeda was driven out of every major city in Iraq except
Mosul, he said, which has affected the terrorist organization’s
ability to raise funds inside Iraq through corruption and criminal
activity. “Much of their economic base, in terms of how
they would intimidate, kidnap, extort, and all the rest of
it, is less successful to them,” Smith explained.
removal of al Qaeda from Iraq’s economic centers also
cut off many of the terror organization’s most significant
communication avenues, Smith said. In 2006, al Qaeda had free-flowing
lines of communication from Mosul through Baghdad and virtually
all the way through the Syrian border, he said.
that, ultimately, the continued success of localized efforts
by coalition and Iraqi security forces and concerned citizens
groups to rebuild infrastructure, restart the economy and bring
back jobs will lead to the demise of insurgency in Iraq.
Qaeda brought nothing in a positive, constructive way,” he
said. “What the people are looking for is a change in
a positive direction. Beyond just the reduction of violence,
they’re also looking for an opportunity to get their