Al-Qaeda in Iraq: Not Done Yet

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A victim of a car bomb in Baquba is helped to a hospital, April 15, 2008.

The letter to insurgent leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri read almost like a corporate strategy memo. Apparently written by one of al-Masri's lieutenants, the missive captured by U.S. forces argues that al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) must work to sow disunity among the thousands of Sunni fighters who've turned against the insurgency and now work with the Americans. Iraq's economy must be hobbled and its oil and gas fields and electrical infrastructure attacked, urges the insurgent strategist who signs his name as Abu Safyan from Diyala. "We must always leave the economy in psychological conflict," Safyan wrote. "They can never have stability…so that they keep busy with themselves and not be able to unite against us."

U.S. troops found the letter early last month at a remote farmhouse insurgents had been using as a hideout northwest of Baghdad. A raid on the location had left three suspected insurgents dead and three others captured. A suicide vest, three computers, thumb drives, hard discs and a stack of other documents were also discovered, said Maj. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, the spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq. The stash represented a significant intelligence find for U.S. troops, who continue to battle Iraq's Sunni insurgents even as the battle with Shi'ite militiamen dominates the headlines. And it suggests that despite being under pressure, AQI is far from defeated, and plans to make a violent comeback.

"This document is just one man's articulation, one terrorist's views about instigating conflict and turning Iraqis against each other," Bergner told reporters in Baghdad. "But it is also quite consistent with the patterns of violence we see from AQI."

Indeed, those patterns were visible Tuesday, when suicide bombers left dozens dead in Ramadi and Baqubah, the capital of Diyala Province. Bergner said the military was still trying to determine whether the planning of those strikes was connected — which would indicate that insurgents still maintained a national network capable of tactical coordination. Whatever the answer to that question, the twin attacks brought a renewed sense of chaos to Iraq, as the ongoing fighting between U.S. and Iraqi forces and Shi'ite militias has much of Baghdad on edge.

While U.S. and Iraqi officials continue to insist that the security forces are asserting growing control, the day-to-day reality of firefights in the capital and suicide attacks in key outlying cities suggests the ground remains fertile for Safyan's vision of spreading chaos to allow AQI to once again thrive. And the New York Times/i> report of the desertion of an Iraqi army unit from its post on the frontline in Sadr City, following similar events during the recent clashes in Basra, doesn't bode well for the homegrown forces' ability to take over more responsibility for security.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was optimistic, Wednesday, when addressing the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee. "We are more confident than ever that we are close to a definitive victory over al-Qaeda and its lawless allies," Maliki said. The Prime Minister also claimed that the jihadist movement in Iraq was now in "total isolation" and finding "refuge beyond the borders."

Presumably "Abu Safyan" and the authors of the latest Ramadi and Baqubah bombings have other ideas.