Thursday, October 13, 2005

Two Views of the Wari Part III: Quantrill's Raiders

In Part II of this review, we discussed "connectivity" and how certain individuals are direct reports to the Al Qaida organization, how Zarqawi fits into the picture and where the first part of the confusion comes in concerning how big or disparate the Islamist movement really is.

The eight green pentagon shapes surrounding Zarqawi represent what could be best described as adhoc irregular militias. These organizations were not created by Al Qaida nor did they directly recruit them or their members. Taking a lesson from the Afghan/Russian war, these groups formed up on specific leaders within Iraq. These leaders may have affiliation with Al Qaida, may have fought in Afghanistan alongside other mujihadeen either during the 2001 campaign or even as far back as the Afghan/Russian war. Some may have become leaders because they went to training camp with al Qaida in Afghanistan during the 90's. Many of the leaders were most likely known to al Qaida prior to Iraq. However, some of the leaders may also have been charismatic students, influential tribesmen, businessmen or even clerics.

I titled this post "Quantrill's Raiders" because the development of these separate brigades seems to be along the lines of how Quantrill was able to persuade young men to join his irregular militia. Firt there were the members that he had met and personally convinced and then his group grew as the media printed his exploits and stories (sometimes "legends") were filtered by word of mouth to others throughout the south and they came on their own accord to join this leader who, with his oratory skills, was able to convince the men to burn down towns, shoot men, women and children, rape, pillage and sometimes mutilate along with general raiding of property for provisions, horses and weapons. This same group eventually broke apart and spawned other smaller irregular units including one led by "Bloody Bill" Anderson.

The brigades noted on Kohlman's chart started outside of Iraq and may have even began developing their structure prior to the Iraq war, coming into Iraq at Saddam's invitation to create the fedeyeen. In 2002, bin Laden had issued a statement that it would be appropriate for mujihadeen to fight with the Godless, socialist Ba'athi regime against the infidel and that the socialist Ba'athi would be dealt with later. This prompted many bored mujihadeen who had been languishing in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries, unable to get to Afghanistan in time to contribute to the effort to resist the coalition, to make immediate efforts to go to Iraq. It was in these early stages prior to the actual invasion that some groups made contact with other devout Salafists in Iraq who gave them shelter and money and provided recruits from within Iraq to fill out these adhoc groups.

Zarqawi had been with the Ansar al Sunnah in 2002 and was greatly aided in his efforts to establish a jihadist movement in Iraq by al Qaida having already recruited from these organizations in Kurdish held northern Iraq. Some of the basis for his experienced brigades and technicians came from fighters who fled Afghanistan and returned to Iraq, particularly Ansar al Sunnah (the "group" or "army" of the sunnah).

Of interest is the comments by Zawahiri concerning making nice with the Iranians and the Shi'a or at least not killing them so indiscriminately and then announcing that it was on purpose. One can surmise that Zarqawi did receive the letter sometime in August considering his pronouncement against the Shi'a and for killing them and then back tracking to only include those that sided with the infidel (the United States).

In any event, the green colored brigades on the chart are individual groups who raised their own members and then came into Iraq, just prior to or after the invasion or were developed by returning leaders or fighters from the Afghanistan front. These groups' membership ebb and flow. Back in the home countries where these brigades originate from there is passive and active recruitment for members. Jihad propaganda is passed around including videos, magazines, directions to websites and sermons given at many mosques. The universities are also points of recruitment. In most Saudi universities, religious indoctrination or classes are mandatory and constitute something like 40% of the degrees given out. Here it is easy to convince young men to go on jihad.

The recruitment is relatively quiet. The men seeking jihad today generally "self select" and search out other men to talk to and get directions on hooking up with other jihadists in Iraq (or Afghanistan through Pakistan). These men then travel to intermediate countries where they are told to go to specific towns, mosques or other destinations and who they should ask for. There is no central recruiting station for these men. It is often the luck of the draw which organization (green pentagons) they end up serving. It may be that a particular Brigade is full of men from certain areas because that leader has tribal or other connections from there and that is where the most propaganda about their exploits is known and distributed. Other men seeking jihad may simply end up in the hands of any number of smugglers who will smuggle them across for a price and simply direct them towards a town where the jihadists are known to pool or select recruits. These men who end up in the "pool" without a direct recommendation are typically young, no jihad experience or unknown experience and can come from places as far away as Algeria, Sudan, Egypt, Indonesia, Yemen or as close as Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. There have been some reports of Chechens, Albanians and Kosovoans, though these are rare.

The green organizations do not have any direct report lines to Zarqawi. The fact that he is a defacto commander of the operations in Iraq simply means that he has the resources for the media, the money to provide offsetting funds for the organizations, he has the name of Al Qaida behind him with the psuedo blessing of bin Laden and Zawahiri and he has developed his own legend to attract followers. This is about name, fame and charisma. Zarqawi's role is part diplomat and part military commander. In order to keep these separate "green" organizations functioning, on message and in line with the general operations planning, he must be able to convince the individual brigade commanders of his plan and to cooperate with one another. In general, these organizations lead, plan and execute their own operations while Zarqawi tries to provide guidance. Al Qaida through Zarqawi most likely offers specialized training for members of these brigades.

With the number of IEDs set around the country and the car bombings, it's unlikely that a huge number of technicians were available at the beginning of the war to set this number of ordinance. Instead, al Qaida operated as the base and provided technicians to train members of the brigade or may have trained some of them prior to the Iraq war in Afghanistan. As information is gathered on the success or failure of attacks, new strategies and ordinance development are created. Whatever is successful is passed around on Islamist websites or through direct teaching by technicians who travel to the brigade areas and pass their knowledge along. The individual brigades in turn train many of their own men to do so since it is a dangerous job both from self inflicted damage and capture or kill by the coalition forces. A steady flow of recruits is required to constantly replace missing members.

These organizations may cooperate on any given day with one another as individual brigades or as part of the movement at large, particularly when many IEDs or car bombs are let off on the same day in different areas. But, for the most part, they operate on their own auspices.

Before November 2004, the mujihadeen shura or council met regularly in Fallujah. This meant that the commanders or representatives of these brigades met regularly to discuss and come to a joint agreement on operational issues including planning attacks, dividing funds, administering their areas, propaganda, the flow of jihadists and their distribution, etc. This is how they were able to operate and cooperate while being separate organizations without a direct chain of command structure.

Their funding comes from specific "charities" or tithes provided to the mosque in the area where they hail from or have sent emissaries to convince them of assistance. They also fund themselves through robbery, kidnapping, hijacking and other blackmarket activities. This most likely includes drugs and slavery since several websites have given scholarly answers on what Islam allows in the process of jihad.

Each of these brigades has also taken part of Iraq as their areas of operation. These were not assigned so much as where they ended up at because of cooperative citizens or institutions that provided them with their original base of area.

Like all organizational structures, there is a good and bad side. With al Qaida's disseminated leadership and the ad hoc militia structure, these organizations can function on their own and have their own support bases, funding, recruitment, safe houses and immediate leadership. The problem is that without the central leadership, like Zarqawi, able to continuously meet with and prompt these organizations and leaders on the appropriate operations and providing a center for ideology or morale, the success and even continuing existence of these organizations fall back to the strengths or weakdnesses of the specific leaders. As I discussed here there is reason to believe that not all of these brigades are led by competent, seasoned and respected leaders.

These leaders may also have a limited view of the war. Some may consider that their main goal is to expel the coalition from "Arab lands" and plan to go back to where they came from once the job is done or once they feel they are no longer able to create this outcome. Without Zarqawi able to keep them motivated and on the path of the general goals to "create the caliphate", like a summer army whose enlistment is over based on certain strategic points, al Qaida and the Islamist movement may be without a significant part of their army to conduct the additional battles outside of Iraq that they are planning. Zawahiri is concerned about this matter and makes a specific plea to Zarqawi to keep this from happening in his recent letter.

In general, the organization and consistency of these ad hoc irregular militia not being directly related to or part of the command structure of Al Qaida is a significant reason that people opposing the war in Iraq or demanding withdrawal suggest that "terrorists are made" by the action there.

There are a few problems with this theory, however, I will stress one obvious issue: many mujihadeen who had been trained by al Qaida camps or had been part of the Afghan/Russian war were planning on going to Afghanistan had that war lasted longer So, instead of Iraq, we would have faced these same forces in Afghanistan, fighting large contingents in the mountains or experiencing many more suicide and IED attacks there. The reality is that there is no question that these groups would have existed without Iraq. They would have simply been in Afghanistan and part of a long drawn out guerilla war there.

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