The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

What Does al-Qaeda in Iraq Look Like After al-Masri and al-Baghdadi’s Deaths?

Still lethal, if today’s coordinated bombings in Baghdad are any indication. But in the wake of last week’s surprise killings of AQI leaders Abu Ayyub al-Masri

Thomas Dixon
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Apr 23, 2010

Still lethal, if today’s coordinated bombings in Baghdad are any indication. But in the wake of last week’s surprise killings of AQI leaders Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, I asked Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, spokesman for the U.S. military command in Iraq, for a sense of what the extremist network in Iraq looks like after losing its leadership for the first time since 2006.

In the face of pressure from Iraqi and U.S. forces, AQI has “fractured,” Lanza said, into three component groups: opportunists looking for cash in the absence of better choices; nationalists who want to drive the U.S. out and overthrow the Iraqi government; and ideologues like the leadership who buy into al-Qaeda’s larger conspiratorial worldview. It’s now almost entirely an Iraqi phenomenon, as opposed to the pre-surge AQI that was augmented by foreign fighters traveling to Iraq to attack U.S. and Iraqi forces and civilians and receiving cash from al-Qaeda’s leadership in the Pakistani tribal areas. “We see not as many, and very few, foreign fighters compared to what we have seen a few years ago,” Lanza said on a blogger conference call. By contrast, in 2008, an aide to Gen. David Petraeus, then the commander in Iraq, described the typical adherent, or “Mr. AQI,” as a foreign fighter who came to Iraq after being radicalized through images of U.S. forces torturing detainees at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay.

The Iraqis that do join AQI rely on extortion to finance their attacks. “It’s through extortion, it’s through kidnapping, it’s through extortion of oil at the Baiji Oil Refinery and other facilities to get their money,” Lanza said. That’s a far cry from the days when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi wrote to Ayman al-Zawahiri for cash. It appears, Lanza said, that al-Qaeda Senior Leadership is moving resources to other franchises. (As we’ve seen with the rise of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.) That trend may accelerate now that al-Masri is dead. “They’re still looking for a way to expand they’re network, but he was their link outside of Iraq,” Lanza said.

AQI is still a capable force and has had recent high-profile successes in pulling off suicide car bombs in crowded areas. But its strategic objectives — plunging the country back into sectarian war — aren’t being achieved, and Iraq is down to levels of civilian violence comparable to January 2004. When I asked how many Iraqis support AQI, both as active fighters and as people who passively tolerate the extremists’ presence, Lanza said he couldn’t disaggregate that figure, but a rough estimate was between 1,500 and 2,000 Iraqis total. And that’s not so different from what the State Department’s intelligence branch pegged it at in 2007.

Thomas Dixon | He creates the ideal marketing experience by connecting online brands with their target audiences. He recently completed a research paper on consumer conversion and took part in a community project on SEO optimization. Thomas is working on his Bachelor of Arts in Communications and plans to intern in an online marketing department soon.


Rep. Paul Ryan to deliver SOTU response

Chairman of the House Budget Committee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union Tuesday, according to Mike Allen

Rep. Paulsen allies with medical device industry to relax FDA oversight

Source: Flickr; Republicanconference ( On the heels of the Minnesota Independent story last week about U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen’s cozy financial relationship with the medical device industry, the New York Times reported Tuesday that some health professionals are alarmed by Paulsen’s push to relax Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight

Rep. Paulsen touts balanced budget constitutional amendment

In a post for the conservative blog True North , U.S. Rep

Rep. Patrick McHenry: Please, Conservatives, Fill Out Your Census Forms!

The conservative congressman from North Carolina, a constant critic of the census -- one of the people who sounded the alarm about politicization when the

Rep. Paulsen, Karl Rove the latest to get ‘glittered’

Rep. Erik Paulsen and former Bush staffer Karl Rove were both showered with glitter at the Midwest Leadership Conference Friday

Rep. Perlmutter to hold constituent meet-up in grocery store

Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter will hold a Government in the Grocery constituent meet-up this evening from 5-7 at the Safeway at 38th and Wadsworth in Wheat Ridge. The address is 3900 Wadsworth. The meeting, where Perlmutter typically sits at a folding table and talks to whomever shows up, is free and open to the public

Rep. Perlmutter criticizes House measure that would eliminate 800K federal jobs

Congressman Ed Perlmutter today issued a scathing statement criticizing the House of Representatives for passing a spending bill that could put nearly a million federal employees out of work. The Colorado delegation voted strictly on party lines, with all four Republicans voting in favor of the bill and the three Democrats voting in opposition. Perlmutter’s statement: “My number one priority is to get people back to work because that’s the best thing we can do to pay our debt and move forward toward economic stability

Rep. Pete Stark Won’t Dignify Constituent by, er, Micturating Upon His Leg

In the tradition of Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), California Democratic Rep. Pete Stark revealed at a recent town hall gathering that there are limits to what

Rep. Peace, ACLU seek investigation of soldier’s allegations of racial discrimination in Afghanistan

Both Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) and the American Civil Liberties Union agree: There needs to be an investigation into Spc.

© Copyright 2021 The Washington Independent All Rights Reserved

Terms & Privacy |