Thursday, November 17, 2005

Foreign Fighters...Or Lack Thereof

There is much chest thumping from the administration about "foreign" insurgents such as Abu Musab Zarqawi acting as the driving force in the Iraqi insurgency. Conversely, there are also many reports and pundits disputing that claim, citing that the insurgency is primarily Sunni Iraqi's.

Finally there is some data on the dispute. Turns out that WaPo is reporting the results of interrogations after the U.S. military action in Tall Afar, located in Northern Iraq just 65 miles from the Syrian border:
When the air and ground operation wound down in mid-September, nearly 200 insurgents had been killed and close to 1,000 detained, the military said at the time. But interrogations and other analyses carried out in recent weeks showed that none of those captured was from outside Iraq. According to McMaster's staff, the 3rd Armored Cavalry last detained a foreign fighter in June.
None. Zip. Zero. Nada. But that doesn't stop military officials from continuing to make the "foreign fighters" claim:
In a recent interview, McMaster maintained that, before insurgents were driven from Tall Afar in September, foreigners were at least partly responsible for the "climate of fear" that pervaded the city -- a result of beheadings, suicide attacks and the abduction of young men to conscript them as fighters.

"They trained indigenous terror cells and moved on somewhere else," he said.
So, out of 1200 known insurgents in this military campaign, not one was from outside Iraq (by the military's own report). All those foreign evil doers who are key players in violently opposing American forces managed to avoid being killed or captured.

Gee, our guys are either lousy shots, or are really really good shots, able to pick out only Iraqi nationals amongst all those foreign fighters!

Let me ask you this. If you quickly recall media reports on the insurgency, what picture image do you conjure?

I come up with that full face picture of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Zarqawi.
In weekly briefings for reporters in Baghdad, Maj. Gen Rick Lynch regularly displays slides showing the face of Zarqawi, whose organization has asserted responsibility for many high-profile attacks. Mug shots of the Jordanian adorn virtually every barracks and checkpoint in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.
But local commanders still tell a different story:
In much of the country, including the north and center, commanders say, the insurgency is led and populated almost entirely by Iraqis, many of them former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, who do not work closely with Zarqawi's group. Commanders there say Iraqi insurgents are largely responsible for the roadside bombings, some involving armor-penetrating weapons, that have been responsible for roughly half of the U.S. combat deaths in recent months.
There are a number of propaganda reasons for having a face on a devil in Iraq. But how can the American public, the Iraq public, and the military fight the insurgency with any kind of effect if there's not an admission that this is a civil war, with the U.S. in the middle?

Having a boogie man with a face on a playing card might be good politics. But is it good strategy?


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