BAGHDAD (AFP) – Documents captured during raids on Al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq indicate the jihadists have been hard hit by the rise of anti-insurgency volunteer groups, the US military said on Sunday.
One document was found among the effects of Abu Masara, senior advisor to Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masir, when he was killed by coalition forces near the city of Samarra on November 18, said military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith.
The 39-page document contains the assessment that “the Islamic State of Iraq (Al-Qaeda) is faced with an extraordinary crisis, especially in Anbar,” Smith told a media conference in Baghdad.
“We believe it was written in the summer of 2007 by a mid- to high-level Al-Qaeda emir and appears to have been a report to his superiors,” Smith said.
“It is a pessimistic assessment of Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s long-term prospects in Anbar,” he said, adding that it recommended foreign fighters be moved out of the province to other areas “where they may have greater freedom of movement.”
Anbar is where the first anti-Qaeda “Awakening” group was formed by tribal leaders in September 2006, spawning more than 100 other such movements across the country involving around 80,000 Iraqis — 80 percent of them Sunni and 20 percent Shiite.
The groups are credited by US commanders of being a major factor behind the 62-percent drop in attacks across Iraq since June and for putting Al-Qaeda to flight in most of their strongholds.
The document, according to Smith, bitterly derided the “traitors who are taking on Al-Qaeda.”
“The document does not suggest, nor do we suggest, that Al-Qaeda is defeated in Anbar or across Iraq,” he cautioned, however.
“Al-Qaeda remains a significant and dangerous threat in Iraq … but this document does show, in the words of one senior man … that in the summer of 2007 it was experiencing grave difficulties and serious setbacks especially in Anbar.”
The second document, a 16-page diary of an Al-Qaeda sector emir named Abu Tariq, was captured during a raid near the town of Balad, 75 kilometres (45 miles) north of Baghdad on November 3, the spokesman said.
“Abu Tariq’s diary provides clear and compelling evidence that the Iraq volunteer citizens’ groups are making the country safer by … restricting the terrorists’ freedom of movement,” said Smith.
“The diary shows that Al-Qaeda regards these groups as a grave threat and the terrorists are increasingly targeting them,” he added.
“The focus of Tariq’s diary is that Iraq’s volunteer citizens’ groups have severely undermined Al-Qaeda at least in the area around Balad.”
Smith said the emir in the diary complained that he once commanded nearly 600 fighters “but the tribes changed course” and his force had now been reduced to “just 20 or fewer terrorists”.