US forces in Iraq killed or captured 40 Al Qaeda in Iraq fighters last month, including a high-value target, Abu Masari, an aide to AQ in Iraq leader Al Masri. From USA Today:
The U.S. military says 40 high-level members of al-Qaeda in Iraq were captured or killed last month, according to Reuters.
“There is no question that al-Qaeda in Iraq remains a dangerous and vicious threat to the Iraqi people and to the security forces and the coalition forces,” Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner tells reporters, adding: “we still have a tough fight ahead of us even amidst the progress.”
I agree – Al Qaeda in Iraq must be pursued to demolition, leaving zero room for re-constitution. With Iraqis flowing back into the country and the relative peace from the US surge, it’s an effort that must not be forsaken or let up on.
Update: more on this theme from Michael Yon
In new reports Strategy page and others indicate that the AQ strategy has shifted East to Afghanistan, something I pointed out last June.
Al Qaeda appears to be moving its main effort to Afghanistan, after operations in Iraq, North Africa, Somalia and Europe (not to mention North America) have all largely failed. But continued Taliban activity in Pakistan and Afghanistan has provided al Qaeda with one area where they might be able to have a little success. But that will require a change in methods. In the rest of the world, al Qaeda has caused itself lots of problems by using terror tactics against Moslems (who refused to support the terrorists). This approach worked, for a while, but eventually the Moslem victims had enough and turned on al Qaeda
Originally the intent was not just Afghanistan, but also Pakistan. Things have shifted in the tribal lands there, and the areas allowed to Al Qaeda in Pakistan by the tribes are narrowed. The rise of the Taliban in the frontiers is highly troublesome, but due to inter-tribal rivalries and splits I suspect there are areas where AQ foreign fighters would not be welcome. This doesn’t mean the areas are any more governable, it just means that there is a “Pakistan Taliban” interested in their own regional power over Al Qaeda’s aims.
One other thing worthy of note: Now that Bin Laden is releasing more tape, Zawahiri’s spate of tapes seems to have ended for the moment. This indicates to me that they swapped off agit-prop duties while they were each in transit, or that Bin Laden has re-asserted authority after some in-fighting.
Meanwhile three AQ terrorists in Germany were sentenced, and the recruitment efforts continue as Reuters reports that there are now 5,600 AQ websites worldwide.
RIYADH (Reuters) – There are now about 5,600 Web sites spreading al Qaeda’s ideology worldwide, and 900 more are appearing each year, a Saudi researcher told a national security conference on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has identified the Internet as a key battlefield with militants who launched a campaign to topple the U.S.-allied ruling royal family in 2003.
“Research shows there are more than 5,600 sites on the Internet promoting the ideology of al Qaeda,” Khaled al-Faram told the Information Technology and National Security conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
“There are some 900 news sites appearing every year, and despite the retreat of some media outlets specifically run by al Qaeda, extremist Web sites are constantly on the rise.”
He said it was difficult to track most of the sites, though hardcore al Qaeda sites often change addresses to avoid detection or start up again elsewhere once infiltrated.
Faram was addressing a conference organized by the Saudi intelligence agency to encourage the public to cooperate more with the government and share expertise on how to survey the Internet for militant activity.
The US also designated Abdelmalek Droukdel from Algeria as an AQ terrorist, and froze his assets.