Frederick Kagan: Al Qaeda in Iraq



[from The Weekly Standard]

Al Qaeda in Iraq is part of the global al Qaeda movement. AQI, as the U.S. military calls it, is around 90 percent Iraqi. Foreign fighters, however, predominate in the leadership and among the suicide bombers, of whom they comprise up to 90 percent, U.S. commanders say. The leader of AQI is Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian. His predecessor, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, was a Jordanian.

Because the members of AQI are overwhelmingly Iraqis–often thugs and misfits recruited or dragooned into the organization (along with some clerics and more educated leaders)–it is argued that AQI is not really part of the global al Qaeda movement. Therefore, it is said, the war in Iraq is not part of the global war on terror: The “real” al Qaeda–Osama bin Laden’s band, off in its safe havens in the Pakistani tribal areas of Waziristan and Baluchistan–is the group to fight. Furthermore, argue critics of this persuasion, we should be doing this fighting through precise, intelligence-driven airstrikes or Special Forces attacks on key leaders, not the deployment of large conventional forces, which only stirs resentment in Muslim countries and creates more terrorists.

Over the past four years, the war in Iraq has provided abundant evidence to dispute these assertions.


Al Qaeda is an organization pursuing an ideology. Both the organization and the ideology must be defeated. Just as, in the Cold War, the contest between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its captive nations was the real-world manifestation of an ideological struggle, so today, the global war on terror is a real-world contest between the United States and its allies and al Qaeda and its enablers. We can hope to defeat the ideology only by defeating its champion, al Qaeda.

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