Thursday, January 24, 2008

You Can't Go Home Again

The surge campaign for Baghdad has driven much of al Qaeda in Iraq from the city and the belts around the city where they staged bomb attacks into the city.

The success in Anbar to the west in getting the Sunni Arab population to turn on the jihadis meant that the jihadis could not find sanctuary in their former stronghold. With the equivalent of another Marine regiment as part of the surge, this meant the Marines and soldiers in Anbar were an anvil that they risked being shattered against if they ran west.

Going south into Shia areas wasn't going to help them find sanctuary.

So they had to go north and east.

In the north, Mosul is seeing violence from fleeing jihadis:

Brig. Gen. Saleh Muhammad Hassan al-Jubouri is the second Iraqi provincial police chief to be killed in less than two months and his death underscores the fragility of the security situation in northern Iraq which has seen numerous attacks in recent weeks. Al Qaeda-linked insurgents have fled to this area from Baghdad and Anbar Province to the south and are targeting new citizen militias, US officials say.

Al Qaeda in Iraq's "first choice [as a base of operations] was Anbar, and Mosul is the best substitute for Anbar," says Mustafa al-Ani, an analyst with the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.

Yet as I understand it, it isn't so much that al Qaeda has increased violence in the area as much as it has sustained it at past levels even as violence in the rest of Iraq declines. And I don't think that the Mosul region is terribly great for the jihadis. They can't go further north since the Kurds and Turks represent an anvil of hard resistance to their movement. And as Iraqi security forces increase in strength, this hammer will shatter the jihadis in Mosul.

It seems that more jihadis have headed for Diyala where operation Phantom Phoenix has targetted these fleeing jihadis:

Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to press the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq in the northeastern province of Diyala, where the terror group maintains small pockets. In the latest series of raids as part of Operation Raider Harvest, Iraqi and US forces killed 30 al Qaeda operatives and captured 21, including a senior al Qaeda leader, during raids and operations.

So we will fight the jihadis as they keep moving. What is most interesting is where the enemy moves next.

The enemy in Mosul might find that its only avenue to retreat is west toward Syria. What happens when these jihadis try to seek safety inside Syria?

The enemy in Diyala might find that its only avenue to retreat is east toward Iran. What happens when these jihadis try to seek safety inside Iran?

The jihadis will find that their friends in Iran and Syria are not so friendly that they want to see the jihadis come back home. When the jihadis were sent off with the order to conquer Iraq or die, that choice was all they had.

UPDATE: This article states that violence levels are steady while much of the rest of the country shows declining violence. The problem is that Mosul is a place where foreign jihadis go and where al Qaeda in Iraq has chosen to stand. The Iraqis pledge to send additional forces to Mosul to fight the jihadis. If the Iraqis, with our help, can isolate the city (using a trench around the city as the initial article mentioned to restrict and control access) and kill the enemy within the city, this will constitute a major defeat for the enemy. Or will the enemy run west toward the source of their foreign fighters? Either way, the enemy is running out of places inside Iraq to run. Will their sponsors bar the door to them when the jihadis come knocking?