In March of 2003, Abu Musab al-Zargawi was holed up in his mountain terrorist training camp in Eastern Iraq. He had already been fighting Americans for quite some time. He had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan in 2002 but managed to escape to Baghdad, where he was treated and brought back to health in an Iraqi hospital. Once recuperated, he established a terrorist training camp along the Iranian frontier. He selected a mountain perch that would be easy to defend and would also provide a quick escape route into Iran. His men controlled a 300 square kilometer finger of land that protruded into Iran, just east of the ghost town of Halabja.
I have been told, unofficially, that Abu-Musab al-Zargawi was under direct orders from Osama bin-Laden to establish his Iraqi camp to spread the violence of al-Qaeda. I was told this by a former S-2 (intelligence) officer for a brigade that was deployed in Northeastern Iraq. I believe he knows what he is talking about but, unfortunately, I cannot divulge his name as a source. Instead, let me direct you to the work of a well-known author, Robin Moore. Mr. Moore visited Iraq shortly after the invasion in 2003. He then wrote “Hunting Down Saddam,” St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2004.
In his book, Moore writes of Operation Viking Hammer, “perhaps the largest Special Operations assault in history.” When the Turkish government baulked, and did not allow American forces to attack Iraq from the north, a large Special Operations effort was initiated in Northern Iraq and Kurdistan. Kurdish pesh merga forces, assisted by American Special Forces teams moved toward, and eventually attacked Zargawi’s hideout, east of As-Sulaymaniyah. The battle is also recounted in Linda Robinson’s, “Masters of Chaos,” PublicAffairs, New York, 2004. Ms Robinson indicates that there was an association between Zargawi’s group, Ansar al-Islam, and al-Qaeda.
The battle to neutralize Ansar al-Islam in the Iraqi mountains raged for days and was one of the fiercest fights of the war. Finally, the pesh merga and American Special Forces routed or killed hundreds of Sargawi’s fanatic fighters to find the largest terrorist training camp in the world. You all may think that I am about to go on to claim that this was an al-Qaeda training camp, that al-Qaeda was in Iraq in 2003, and that Saddam was in cahoots with Zargawi (and thus al-Qaeda). Well, I am not. I will leave that research to the reader. What I am going to do is make a prediction.
I predict that al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) will beat a retreat to this same finger of land, or a similar border hideout in the same vicinity, in the near future. AQI is on the run in Anbar and Diyala Province. (According to the Multi-National Force-Iraq Public Affairs Office, “Eighteen paramount tribal leaders representing 14 of the major tribes in Diyala Province, Iraq, swore on the Koran and signed a peace agreement unifying the tribes in the battle against terrorism…on August 2nd.”) General Rick Lynch is running the enemy to ground, south of Baghdad. The Multi-National Division-North has made great strides in killing or capturing most all of the senior al-Qaeda leadership in Mosul. Soon, al-Qaeda’s only safe haven will be along the Iranian border. Soon, al-Qaeda will resort to the same tactics as they are using in Afghanistan.
The surge is working. Harry Reid – we are not losing in Iraq. General Petraeus’ forces are doing everything they can to keep al-Qaeda off the Iraqi population and, they won’t let up until they are all dead, in custody, or dug in to their last mountain hideout. We are far from victory in Iraq, but we are approaching a tipping point.
Richard S. Lowry is the author of “Marines in the Garden of Eden.” Visit www.marinesinthegardenofeden.com to read more.Read the full post and comments »