Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Zarqawi termination: the importance of killing the veterans 

I am busy today, and will not be able to give the Zarqawi termination the attention that it is due. No matter -- I have little to add to the chorus.

There is one point, though, that I wish to hammer home: in a counterinsurgency -- and the war against al Qaeda is a global counterinsurgency -- it always helps to kill the veterans. Bill Roggio touched on this point in his excellent Zarkman post earlier today:

Despite the popular perception that killing or capturing al-Qaeda mid-level commanders is a game of "whack-a-mole", the reality is al-Qaeda in Iraq has limited resources and a finite pool of expertise. Over time, as less experienced leaders fill the positions of the more experienced, this impacts al-Qaeda's organization in effectiveness, leadership, ability to network and degrades operational security.

The death of Zarqawi will not end the insurgency or bury al-Qaeda in Iraq. The race is now on to find a suitable replacement to Zarqawi. His organization has been degraded over the past year, and Zarqawi's death will show the west the real status of the Mujahideen Shura Council.

To this I would add that every reshuffling of an insurgency's organization creates a new opportunity for infiltration. This was true in Canada last week, and it is true in Iraq this week. From my post on the measurement of victory conditions in the wider war:
Jihadis in al Qaeda’s networked war are embedded throughout the world, including in the West. Some of these jihadis were trained in Afghanistan during al Qaeda’s golden years, and others are locally recruited amateurs. Some jihadis are unrecruited amateur rogues who believe the ideology they hear from radical imams or read on the web and decide to act outside the network.

Al Qaeda and its followers are of greatly varying training and competence. A veteran of Afghanistan who can travel in the West is extremely dangerous. An untrained Dutch Muslim on the streets of Amsterdam can kill a few people, but probably cannot kill a great many people and certainly will not be trusted by the people in al Qaeda with that organization’s most precious secrets or assets.

It is therefore important to kill or capture al Qaeda veterans. Yes, others will spring up as long as the ideology remains sufficiently credible to attract new blood. But -- and this is a huge "but" -- the new recruits will take time to train (especially now that Afghanistan is interdicted) and an even longer time to earn the leadership's trust. Every new recruit is a potential spy, and will not soon be trusted with weapons of mass destruction ... even if the network acquires them in deployable form.

The humiliation of al Qaeda and its putative allies on the battlefield and in the streets of the West is necessary to destroy the credibility of its ideology. We will win only when the ideology is no longer credible. Al Qaeda bet that victory over the United States in Iraq would bolster its credibility in the Arab and Muslim world. It is losing that bet.


By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Thu Jun 08, 11:42:00 AM:

Killing Zarqawi was tantamount to killing a field general. A very big kill. During Afghanistan, we killed a fellow named Atef, as I recall, who was their 4 star operating commander. Zarqawi was the new Atef. When Robert E. Lee lost Stonewall Jackson, he was never the same. He was an effective leader on the field. Say what we will about Zarqawi and his atrocities, but he was effective at achieving his hideous goals.

It will become easier to erode AQI's effectiveness. Trust at senior levels is being eroded, as clearly Zarqawi was ratted out by perceived allies. Experience, ruthlessness, leadership, enforcement - all these things are lost. Plus, morale -- down already -- will be further damaged.

He will not be missed.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Thu Jun 08, 11:09:00 PM:

I'm glad you reprised Roggio on this.

Senior leadership is also jockeying for position. This isn't going to make that any easier for them.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jun 08, 11:43:00 PM:

FYI--here's an interesting analysis/discussion:

Thursday, June 08, 2006

It's a shame that this bastard has already succeeded in committing so much bloodshed and so much damage; and as the link above demonstrates, his "legacy" (so to speak) will continue to kill/destroy for at least some time.

Still, I suppose, "every little bit" helps (especially if it's "bit" that's actually kinda big).

IMSHO, methinks it a shame that he couldn't be captured and interrogated, but in this imperfect universe, I guess we gotta get what we can, eh?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jun 09, 07:38:00 AM:

Hell, I'm kinda happy we bumped him off instead of live capture so we don't have a damn trial.

Ideally, we'd capture him live, in secret, milk him for information by torturing the s*** out of him, then letting him slowly expire. Then we'd drop a bomb on an empty house and say we got him.

Whatever. Maybe that did happen. Either way, I'm just glad the scum is dead.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Fri Jun 09, 07:54:00 PM:

Maybe that's how we got the info for those other 17 raids. Hmm.

And a new conspiracy theory is born.  

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