Saturday, November 17, 2007

Between Iraq and a Hard Place

Baghdad and the belts are being cleansed of jihadis.

One place al Qaeda is running to is the Mosul region:

Meanwhile, the Kurds have another problem, as the remnants of al Qaeda gather in the Sunni Arab neighborhoods of northern Iraq. Many of these areas are the target of Kurdish attempts to drive the Sunni Arabs out. In the 1990s, Saddam began expelling Kurds from areas around the northern oil fields (where about half of Iraqi oil is), and bringing in Sunni Arabs from the south, to take over the Kurdish homes and lands. The Kurds were driven farther north. Now the Kurdish refugees are trying to reclaim their homes, but in many areas the Sunni Arabs have organized militias and are defending themselves. The government is under pressure to stop the ethnic cleansing, but the Kurds in the north generally agree with the policy of driving the Sunni Arabs out. Al Qaeda is welcome in these Sunni Arab neighborhoods, as long as all the terror attacks are against Kurds or government forces.

Al Qaeda can't go much further north since they run into the Kurdish provinces and would surely die if they flee there. So we will have a more intense fight in Mosul in the months ahead.

The same thing happened three years ago after we drove the jihadis from Fallujah. We killed a lot. Many escaped. And when these survivors arrived in Mosul they attacked, and I think every Iraqi police station in the city collapsed. Since then, we gradually restored order.

This time around, the Iraqi security forces should hold much better and the fight will be intense but surely much faster as the jihadis realize the city will not be a safe haven for them. And when the jihadis decide to run from the Mosul region, I'd like to think that 100,000 Turks along the Iraq border using real time intelligence that we are providing will be useful in constraining their movements and killing more of them.

And remember that the enemy could not flee west to Anbar after being driven from Baghdad because of the Awakening there. We smashed up jihadi efforts to reestablish their presence. Going south to the Shia regions was not going to happen. That's why al Qaeda went north.

So do the jihadis run for Iran once it gets too hot in Mosul? If so, you will see more action in the Kurdish regions (that the press will surely portray as a defeat for us rather than the result of bad guys running through previously quiet areas).

Do they fight to the death when they've been giving up when cornered for many months now when cornered?

We need to keep pursuing our enemies. And kill them, of course.

UPDATE: The military mentions the issue:

Despite a decline in violence in Iraq, northern Iraq has become more violent than other regions as al-Qaida and other militants move there to avoid coalition operations elsewhere, the region's top U.S. commander said Monday. Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling said al-Qaida cells still operate in all the key cities in the north.

"What you're seeing is the enemy shifting," Hertling told Pentagon reporters in a video conference from outside Tikrit in northern Iraq.

Hertling said militants have been pushed east to his area from Anbar by the so-called Awakening movement, in which local tribes have allied with the coalition against al-Qaida. Others have been pushed north to his area from the Baghdad region, where this year's U.S. troops escalation has made more operations possible.

Still, he said roadside bomb attacks last month were half of the June total. So with terrorist refugees from the south and east going to Mosul, just who has been knocked down to mean reduced numbers of attacks? Or are the terrorists just starting to show up this month?