Twitter and email info

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Everything you wanted to know about ISIS but (understandably) were afraid to ask.....

Anyone who spent the summers of 2003 and 2004 chasing intelligence in the wasteland that is Iraq is familiar with the group "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" (AQI), and its founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.  After arriving in Iraq following the successful capture of Baghdad, it was up to the various U.S. intel groups (military and otherwise) to chase down the folks on the most-wanted list (which also became a deck of cards, you might recall).  Saddam Hussein was number one on that list.  From Saddam on down the names became more and more unfamiliar, but it didn't take long for our joint efforts with the military to track down most of the list.  In reality, Saddam was not on everyone's mind. The terrorist group AQI had made its presence known, and its founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was a serious character.
Zarqawi was Jordanian by birth and spent his youth getting in trouble with the law.  After a particularly unpleasant stint in jail, he decided to focus his energy in a different direction.  In 1989 Zarqawi traveled to Afghanistan hoping to get in on the action against the Soviets.  But Abu Musab had just missed the bus.  The war between the U.S.-backed Mujahedeen and the Soviets was coming to an end.  But something monumental did occur in Zarqawi's life at this time.  He was introduced to Osama Bin-Laden.  Zarqawi left Afghanistan with a new focus and a clear mission: to overthrow the Hashemite Family in Jordan and create an Islamic State.  It is believed that at this time he created the al-Tawhid (doctrine of oneness, or "monotheism" . . . you can Google it if you are interested).  He was unable to avoid the attention of Jordanian authorities, and spent six years in prison for possession of illegal weapons.

Upon his release in 1999, he stepped up his activities.  He was involved in attempting to blow up The Radisson Hotel in Amman before relocating to Peshawar, Pakistan and then Herat, Afghanistan.  Zarqawi attempted to set up a training camp (with $200,000 provided by Bin-Laden) but his efforts were frustrated by successful Jordanian infiltration of his latest organization, Jund al-Sham (Soldiers of the Levant).  Zarqawi found himself back in Jordan in 2001 and was picked up by the police, but for some reason, he was released.  It was only after his release and subsequent disappearance that a warrant was issued for his arrest for involvement with the Radisson bombing.
Zarqawi and a few followers made their way back to Afghanistan in time to join the Taliban and Al-Qaeda efforts to  repel the U.S. invasion.  He was seriously injured and it is believed in convalesced in an Iranian hospital (the enemy of my enemy is my friend).  After recovering from his wounds, Zarqawi made his way to Iraq, and in 2004, after swearing allegiance to Bin-Laden, created AQI (also known by its longer and less sexy name, "The Organization of Jihad's Base in the Country of the Two Rivers").  During this time Zarqawi planned and participated in a number of very bloody attacks against U.S. military targets and also Iraqi Civil Administration.  Zarqawi also released a video of his participation in the beheadings of two U.S. citizens.  When it became apparent that the Shia religious leaders of Iraq were going to allow for the participation of Iraq's Shia population in Iraqi elections, Zarqawi began targeting Shia communities and gatherings.  Zarqawi was killed in 2006 during a targeted U.S. bombing raid on an AQI safehouse in Baqubah, Iraq.

I provided this background information on Zarqawi because I believe that ISIS/ISIL as it exists today is a direct reflection of Zarqawi, his tactics and his motivations.  In 2006, conflict began between AQI and some of the other Sunni militant organizations in Iraq.  There was a growing concern among these groups that Zarqawi and his gang were too quick to target civilians, and too bloody in their methods. This heralded a period of decline for AQI which continued until the beginning of U.S. troop withdrawals in 2009.  In 2010 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed leader of AQI, which was now calling itself the "Islamic State of Iraq" (ISI).  Attacks against Iraqi military and civilian targets increased, and volunteers, including persons from European nations and the United States, were welcomed.  In August 2011, Baghdadi, taking note of the growing insurgency in Syria, began sending ISI fighters to Syria to establish an ISI presence.  ISI immediately began recruiting members and establishing cells throughout Syria.  The ISI initiative in Syria declared itself the "Al-Nusra Front", and was fully supported by ISI.  Baghdadi ran afoul of Al-Qaeda leaders when he attempted to merge Al-Nusra and ISI. This schism resulted in Al-Qaeda actually repudiating ISI, its leaders and its activities.  The merged group was now known as either the "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham" (ISIS), or alternately the "Iraqi State of the Levant" (ISIL); hence the confusion between ISIS and ISIL.  In previous posts I have attempted to demonstrate the danger this group poses so forgive me for not repeating myself.  Suffice to say this group is well-funded, well-armed, and has no qualms with wholesale butchery.  As I have stressed previously, I believe the two keys to combating the growth of ISIS/ISIL is controlling the recruitment of trained individuals who can assist ISIS/ISIL in taking full advantage of the weaponry it has captured in both Syria (Migs for goodness sake) and Iraq, and controlling the resupply network.  With Russia taking this opportunity to be everyone's asshole, I can't say how successful we can expect to be controlling the northern border of ISIS/ISIL-occupied territory.  But by denying ISIS/ISIL the skill and the ammunition/parts it will inevitably need, it is possible to neutralize the damage done by the recent well-documented weapons hauls.

Bringing this post full circle, I think its obvious that ISIS/ISIL is exactly was Zarqawi would have wanted from an organization that traces its roots to his efforts.  All we need to do is remember the disturbing scene of Zarqawi beheading a non-combatant and refresh that horrible memory with the video of the beheading of non-combatant James Foley.  Hagel and General Dempsey are both absolutely correct when they state that ISIS/ISIL is the most dangerous terrorist group the United States, and the free world for that matter, has faced.  Another bit of bad news: Al-Qaeda, which seemed to be jealous of all the attention the new kid on the block was getting, appears to be mending fences with ISIS/ISIL.

No comments:

Post a Comment