When large numbers of Sunnis decided to abandon their support for al-Qaida in favor of U.S. and Iraqi forces last year, it “created panic, fear, and the unwillingness to fight,” according to an al-Qaida leader's letter seized in a raid last year.
The U.S. military has released extracts from that letter, along with another seized in a November raid, that, according to Britain's Times newspaper, are described as "almost as startling" as the first letter.
In that "bitter 16-page testament" written last October by a local al-Qaida leader near Balad, north of Baghdad, the author, who identifies himself as "Abu-Tariq, emir of the al-Layin and al-Mashahdah sector," describes how his force of 600 shrank to fewer than 20.
“We were mistreated, cheated, and betrayed by some of our brothers,” he wrote. “Those people were nothing but hypocrites, liars, and traitors and were waiting for the right moment to switch sides with whoever pays them most.”
The letters provide rare insight into an organization thrown into turmoil by the rise of the Awakening movement, the Times noted, explaining that over 80,000 Sunnis have joined the tribal groups of “concerned local citizens” that have helped to eject al-Qaida from swaths of western and northern Iraq, including much of Baghdad.
The Anbar letter conceded that the “crusaders” — Americans — had gained the upper hand by persuading ordinary Sunnis that al-Qaida was responsible for their suffering and by exploiting their poverty to entice them into the security forces.
In an apparent reference to al-Qaida's brutal tactics, the author said of the Americans and their Sunni allies: “We helped them to unite against us . . . The Americans and the apostates launched their campaigns against us and we found ourselves in a circle not being able to move, organize, or conduct our operations.”
Of the loss of Anbar province he wrote: “This created weakness and psychological defeat. This also created panic, fear, and the unwillingness to fight. The morale of the fighters went down . . . There was a total collapse in the security structure of the organization.”
The emir also complained that the supply of foreign fighters had dwindled and that they found it increasingly hard to operate inside Iraq because they could not blend in, the Times reported. Foreign suicide bombers determined to kill “not less than 20 or 30 infidels” grew disillusioned because they were kept waiting, and were only given small operations. Some gave up and went home.
The emir lists 38 people still working for him but beside five of the names, he wrote comments like, “We have not seen him for 20 days” or “left us a week ago.”
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