Iraqi insurgency

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Iraqi Insurgency
التمرد في العراق

The Iraqi insurgency is composed of a diverse mix of militias, foreign fighters, all Iraqi units or mixtures using violent measures against the United States-led Coalition in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi government, or by propaganda or money supportive thereof. The fighting appears both as armed conflict with the U.S. led military coalition, as well as sectarian violence among the different ethnic groups within the population. The insurgents are involved in asymmetric warfare and a war of attrition against the U.S.-supported Iraqi government and U.S. forces, while conducting coercive tactics against rivals or other militias.

The insurgency began shortly after the 2003 Coalition invasion of Iraq and before the establishment of a new Iraqi government. From at least 2004, and as of May 2007, the insurgency has primarily targeted Coalition armies[1] and, latterly, Iraqi security forces seen as collaborators with whom they consider the enemy. During this period, only 10% of significant attacks have targeted Iraqi civilians.[citation needed] These have, however, caused the largest number of victims[citation needed] (see Tactics of the Iraqi insurgency). Many militant attacks have been directed at the police and military forces of the new Iraqi government. They have continued during the transitional reconstruction of Iraq, as the new Iraqi government tries to establish itself. As in most guerrilla warfare, civilians on all sides bear the brunt of the violence. According to a February-March 2007 poll, 51% of the Iraqi population approve of the attacks on Coalition forces.[2] The same poll indicated that over 90% of Arab Sunnis in Iraq approve of the attacks.

Iraq's deep sectarian divides have been a major dynamic in the insurgency, with support for the insurgents varying amongst different segments of the population.


[edit] Composition

The Iraqi insurgency is composed of at least a dozen major organizations and perhaps as many as 40 distinct groups. These groups are subdivided into countless smaller cells. According to the Chief of the British General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, speaking in September 2007,

The militants (and I use the word deliberately because not all are insurgents, or terrorists, or criminals; they are a mixture of them all) are well armed – probably with outside help, and probably from Iran. By motivation, essentially, and with the exception of the Al Qaeda in Iraq element who have endeavoured to exploit the situation for their own ends, our opponents are Iraqi Nationalists, and are most concerned with their own needs – jobs, money, security – and the majority are not bad people.[3]

A roadside bombing in Iraq on August 3, 2005.

Because of its clandestine nature, the exact composition of the Iraqi insurgency is difficult to determine, but the main groupings are:

  • Ba'athists, the supporters of Saddam Hussein's former regime including army or intelligence officers, whose ideology is a variant of Pan-Arabism.
  • Nationalists, Iraqis who believe in a strong version of Iraqi self-determination. These policies may not necessarily espouse a Pan-Arab ideology, but rather advocate the country's territorial integrity including Kuwait and Khusestan. Historical figures of this movement include the pre-Ba'athist leader of Iraq Abd al-Karim Qasim and his government.
  • Iraqi Salafis Islamists, the indigenous armed followers of the Salafi movement, as well as any remnants of the Kurdish Ansar al-Islam: individuals with a Salafi-only policy opposed to non-Salafis though not aligned to one specific ethnic group. Though opposed to the US-led invasion, these groups are not wholly sympathetic towards the former Ba'ath Party as its members included non-Salafis. It is important to remember that the terms Salafi and Wahabi are often used synomously and indeed they are both typically from foreign nations (usually Saudi Arabia).
  • Shi'a militias, including the southern, Iran-linked Badr Organization, the Mahdi Army, and the central-Iraq followers of Muqtada al-Sadr. These groups have Shia religious theories and as such, neither advocate the dominance of a single ethnic group, nor the traditional ideologies behind the Iraqi state (eg. these particular Shi'ites do not support the capture of Khustestan or other border areas with Iran, but rather promote warm relations with Iran's Shi'ite government).
  • Foreign Islamist volunteers, including those often linked to al Qaeda and largely driven by the Salafi/Wahhabi doctrine (the two preceding categories are often lumped as "Jihadists");
  • At least one socialist revolutionaries (such as the Iraqi Armed Revolutionary Resistance).
  • Non-violent resistance groups and political parties (not part of the armed insurgency).

[edit] Arab Nationalist

[edit] Ba'athists

The Ba'athists include former Ba’ath Party officials, the Fedayeen Saddam, and some former agents of the Iraqi intelligence elements and security services, such as the Mukhabarat and the Special Security Organization. Their goal, at least before the capture of Saddam Hussein, was the restoration of the former Ba'athist regime to power. The pre-war organization of the Ba'ath Party and its militias as a cellular structure aided the continued pro-Saddam resistance after the fall of Baghdad, and Iraqi intelligence operatives may have developed a plan for guerrilla war following the toppling of Saddam Hussein from power. Following Saddam's capture, the Ba'athist movement largely faded; its surviving factions were increasingly shifting to either nationalist factions (Iraqi, though not Pan-Arab, such as the ideology of the pre-Ba'athist regime), or Islamist (Sunni or Shia, depending on the actual faith of the individual, though Ba'ath Party policy had been secular, and many of its members were atheist). As the goal of restoring the Ba'ath Party to power was seemingly out of reach, the alternative solution appeared to be to join forces with organisations who opposed the US-led invasion. Many former Ba'athists had adopted an Islamist façade in order to attract more credibility within the country, and perhaps gain support from outside Iraq. Others, especially following the January 2005 elections, became more interested in politics.

The fall of Baghdad effectively ended the existence of the Fedayeen Saddam as an organized paramilitary. Several of its members died during the war. A large number survived, however, and were willing to carry on the fight even after the fall of Saddam Hussein from power. Many former members joined guerrilla organizations that began to form to resist the U.S-led coalition in Iraq. By June, an insurgency was underway in the central and northern Iraq, especially in an area known as the Sunni Triangle. Some units of the Fedayeen also continued to operate independently of other insurgent organizations in the Sunni areas of Iraq. On November 30, 2003, a U.S. convoy traveling through the town of Samarra in the Sunni Triangle was ambushed by over 100 Iraqi guerillas, reportedly wearing trademark Fedayeen Saddam uniforms.

Following the execution of Saddam Hussein, Deputy Leader of the Iraqi Baath Party and former Vice President of Iraq Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri became a leading candidate to succeed him as Leader of the Iraqi Baath Party. Ad-Douri had taken over the running of the Iraqi Baath Party following Saddam Hussein's capture in 2003 and had been endorsed by a previously unknown group calling itself Baghdad Citizens Gathering.[4][5] On 3 January 2007 the website of the banned Iraqi Baath Party confirmed that he was new leader of the party.[6][7]

Increasing Syrian influence in the Iraqi Baath Party may well have a major effect on result in a fragmentation of Baathist parts of the resistance.[8]

[edit] Iraqi Nationalists

Iraqi nationalists are mostly drawn from the Arab regions. Their reasons for opposing the Coalition vary from a rejection of the Coalition presence as a matter of principle to the failure of the multinational forces to fully restore public services and to quickly restore complete sovereignty.

Some are individuals whose affinities lie with the pre-Ba'ath Party regime in Iraq.[citation needed] Some pursue the restoration of the power previously held by Arabs, especially from the Sunni minority, who controlled all previous Iraqi regimes since the departure of the British in the 1950s.[citation needed] One notable leader of the insurgency among nationalist Sunni is former aide to Saddam Hussein and a former Regional Baath Party Organiser Mohammed Younis al-Ahmed al-Muwali who has been crossing the border between Iraq and Syria disbursing funds, smuggling weaponry and organising much of the fighting in the central area of Iraq.[7][8]

One former minister in the interim government, Ayham al-Samarai, "launched a new political movement, saying he aimed to give a voice to figures from the legitimate Iraqi resistance.'The birth of this political bloc is to silence the skeptics who say there is no legitimate Iraqi resistance and that they cannot reveal their political face,' he told a news conference."[9]

[edit] Sunni Islamist

The Sunni Islamists are radical Salafis, some of whom belong to the Ikhwan movement, to the Wahabi movement, or, in particular, to the latter's offshoot the Salafi tendency. Salafis advocate a "return" to their understanding of "pure Islam" of the time of the Prophet Mohammed. They oppose any non-Muslim groups and influences, and regularly attack the Christian, Mandean and Yazidi communities of Iraq. Many also engage in attacks on Shia Muslims, considered apostates and therefore held in even lower regard than non-believers.

These groups, especially the Salafis, are distinct from the mainstream of the normative and spiritual Sunni Muslim population. Their theology mirrors that of Wahabi Islam and the terms Salafi and Wahabi are often used interchangeably.

Hard-line clerics and remaining underground cells of the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq have helped provide support for the indigenous militant Islamist movement.[10]

Supportive of this strand is the founder of the ultra-conservative and Wahabi Association of Muslim Scholars, Sheikh Hareth Al-Dhari.[citation needed]

[edit] Shia Islamist

The Shia militias have presented Nouri al-Maliki with perhaps the greatest conundrum of his administration given the capture of Amarah. American officials have pressed him hard to disarm the militias and rid the state security forces of their influence. Yet Mr. Maliki has hesitated to move against them, particularly the Mahdi Army and Badr Organization, for fear of alienating fundamentalist Shia leaders inside his fractious coalition.[11]

A 2008 report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point based on reports from the interrogations of dozens of captured Shia fighters described an Iranian-run network smuggling Shia fighters into Iran where they received training and weapons before returning to Iraq.[12][13]

[edit] Badr Organization

One major Shiite militia in Iraq is the Badr Organization, the military wing of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq. The group is currently based in Karbala, Iraq, and is also active in areas throughout southern Iraq. The group was formed by the Iranian Government to fight the Saddam Hussein-controlled Iraq during the Iraq-Iran War. Originally, the group consisted of Iraqi exiles who were banished from Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein. After the war ended in 1988, the organization remained in Iran until Saddam Hussein was overthrown during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Following the invasion, the brigade then moved into Iraq, became members of the new Iraq Army, and aided coalition forces in fighting other Iraqi insurgents.

In December 2005, the group and their leaders in the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq participated in parliament elections, under the pro-Shiite coalition known as the United Iraqi Alliance, and managed to get 36 members into the Iraqi Parliament.

The Badr organization supports the government of Nouri al-Maliki.

[edit] Muqtada al-Sadr

Supporters of the young Shi'a Islamist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are largely impoverished men from the Shi'a urban areas and slums in Baghdad and the southern Shi'a cities.[14] The Mahdi Army area of operation stretches from Basra in the south to the Sadr City section of Baghdad in central Iraq (some scattered Shi'a militia activity has also been reported in Baquba and Kirkuk, where Shi'a minorities exist).[citation needed]

Sadr was suspected by U.S. and Iraqi authorities of ordering the assassination of a returning moderate Shia cleric, Imam Abdul Majid al-Khoei, in Najaf on April 12, 2003.[15] On April 5, 2004, a warrant was issued for Sadr's arrest in connection with this killing; this, in addition to the closing of his newspaper al-Hawza on March 29, the arrest of one of his aides and other actions to suppress his movement, led to an armed attack by the Mahdi Army in April 2004. This initial attack in southern Iraq was suppressed by June. A second attack by his militia, centered in a mosque in Najaf, began in August; this was resolved in an agreement brokered by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Since that point, Sadr's opposition to

Mahdi Army fighters take up positions during the street fighting in Basra March 26, 2008.

the multinational occupation has been mainly in the realm of politics. Since the handover of sovereignty, the Mahdi Army has been maintained as an organized force. Sadr supporters also continue to engage in peaceful resistance such as the large protests in Baghdad on April 9, 2005.

Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr are driven by a variety of beliefs and grievances which combine both the nationalist and ultra-conservative religious tendencies of the movement. They believe that the U.S. and UK are foreign occupiers and oppressors, that they have failed to live up to their promises, and that Islamic law must eventually be established in Iraq. Al-Sadr's movement also opposes any breakup of Iraq along ethnic, religious, or other lines.

During his group's active militant phase, Al-Sadr enjoyed wide support from the Iraqi people. A poll by the Iraq Center for Research and Studies found that 32% of Iraqis "strongly supported" him and another 36% "somewhat supported" him, making him the second most popular man in Iraq, behind only Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.[citation needed] The Mahdi Army is believed to have around 60,000 members.[16][17]

After the December 2005 elections in Iraq, al-Sadr's party got 32 new seats giving him substantial political power in the divided Iraqi Parliament. In January 2006, he used these seats to swing the vote for prime minister to Ibrahim al-Jaafari, giving al-Sadr a legitimate stake in the new Iraqi government and allying al-Jaafari with the controversial cleric.

On November 27, 2006, a senior American intelligence official told reporters that the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah had been training members of the Mahdi Army. The official said that 1,000 to 2,000 fighters from the Mahdi Army and other Shia militias had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a small number of Hezbollah operatives have also visited Iraq to help with training. Iran has facilitated the link between Hezbollah and the Shia militias in Iraq, the official said. "There seems to have been a strategic decision taken sometime over late winter or early spring by Damascus, Tehran, along with their partners in ait Lebanese Hezbollah, to provide more support to Sadr to increase pressure on the U.S.," the American intelligence official said.[18]

[edit] Political

[edit] Marxists

On May 15, 2007, it was reported that a Communist insurgency group called the Iraqi Armed Revolutionary Resistance distributed leaflets in the Mid-Euphrates area around Najaf, Hilla and Karbala.[19]

The Iraqi Communist Party, however, supports the coalition government in Baghdad, having been a major victim of Baathist purges.

[edit] Foreign participants

When Saddam Hussein was captured in December 2003, several documents were found in his possession. One particular document, which was apparently written after he lost power, appeared to be a directive to his Ba'athist loyalists warning them to be wary of Islamist mujahideen and other foreign Arabs entering the country to join the insurgency. The directive supposedly shows Saddam having concerns that foreign fighters would not share the same objectives as Ba'ath loyalists (i.e. the eventual return of Saddam to power and the restoration of his regime). A US official commenting on the document stressed that while Saddam urged his followers to be cautious in their dealings with other Arab fighters, he did not order them to avoid contact or rule out co-operation. Bruce Hoffman, a Washington counter-terrorism expert stated that the existence of the document underscores the fact that "this is an insurgency cut of many different cloths...[and] everybody's jockeying for their position of power in the future Iraq." Many experts believe that fighters from other countries who have flocked to Iraq to join the insurgents are motivated by animosity toward the United States and the desire to install an Islamic state in place of the Ba'ath Party's secular regime.[20]

Foreign fighters are mostly of Arab fighters from neighboring countries, who have entered Iraq, primarily through the porous desert borders of Syria and Saudi Arabia, to assist the Iraqi insurgency. Many of these fighters are Wahhabi fundamentalists who see Iraq as the new "field of jihad" in the battle against U.S. forces. It is generally believed that most are freelance fighters, but a few members of Al-Qaeda and the related group Ansar al-Islam are suspected of infiltrating into the Sunni areas of Iraq through the mountainous northeastern border with Iran. The U.S. and its allies point to Jordanian-born Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as the key player in this group. Zarqawi was considered the head of an insurgent group called Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad ("Monotheism and Holy War") until his death on June 7, 2006, which according to U.S. estimates numbers in the low hundreds.

Usage of the term "foreign fighters" has received criticism as being Western-centric because, taken literally, the term would encompass all non-Iraqi forces, including Coalition forces.[21] Zarqawi himself has taken to taunting the American occupiers about the irony of the term: "Who is the foreigner, O cross worshippers? You are the ones who came to the land of the Muslims from your distant corrupt land." (Communiqué of 10 May 2005[22]). Zarqawi's group has since announced the formation of the Ansar platoon, a squad of Iraqi suicide bombers, which an AP writer called "an apparent bid to deflect criticism that most suicide bombers in Iraq are foreigners."[23]

While it is not known how many of those fighting the U.S. in Iraq are from outside the country, it is generally agreed that foreign fighters make up a very small percentage of the insurgency. Major General Joseph Taluto, head of the 42nd Infantry Division, said that "99.9 per cent" of captured Insurgents are Iraqi.[24] The estimate has been confirmed by the Pentagon's own figures; in one analysis of over 1000 insurgents captured in Fallujah, only 15 were non-Iraqi.[25] According to the Daily Telegraph, information from military commanders engaging in battles around Ramadi exposed the fact that out of 1300 suspected insurgents arrested in five months of 2005, none were non-Iraqi, although Colonel John Gronski stated that foreigners provided money and logistical support: "The foreign fighters are staying north of the [Euphrates] river, training and advising, like the Soviets were doing in Vietnam"[26] In September 2006, the Christian Science Monitor reported, "It's true that foreign fighters are in Iraq, such as the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But they are a small minority of the insurgents, say administration critics. Most Iraqi mujahideen are Sunnis who fear their interests will be ignored under Iraq's Shia-dominated government. They are fighting for concrete, local political goals - not the destruction of America." The paper quoted University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole: "If the Iraqi Sunni nationalists could take over their own territory, they would not put up with the few hundred foreign volunteers blowing things up, and would send them away or slit their throats."[27] In 2005, the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) concluded that foreign fighters accounted for less than 10% of the estimated 30,000 insurgents and argued that the US and Iraqi Governments were "feeding the myth" that they comprised the backbone of the insurgency.[28]

Despite the low numbers of foreign fighters their presence has been confirmed in several ways and Coalition forces believe the majority of suicide bombings are believed to be carried out by non-Iraqi foreigners. Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East expert with the Congressional Research Service[7], stated in June 2005: "I still think 80 percent of the Insurgents, the day to day activity, is Iraqi - the roadside bombings, mortars, direct weapons fire, rifle fire, automatic weapons fire...[but] the foreign fighters attract the headlines with the suicide bombings, no question."[29]

In September 2005, Iraqi and US forces conducted a counter-insurgency operation in the predominantly Turkmen town of Tal Afar. According to an AP, report, an Iraqi Army Captain claimed that Iraqi forces arrested 150 non-Iraqi Arabs (Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Jordan) in the operation;[30] the American army claimed 20% of arrests were foreign combatants,[31] while Donald Rumsfeld on PBS confirmed that foreign combatants were present.[32] However, not all accounts of the battle mention these arrests,[33] and U.S. Army commander Colonel H. R. McMaster said the "vast majority" of Insurgents captured there were "Iraqis and not foreigners."[34] Iraqi journalist Nasir Ali claimed that there were "very few foreign combatants" in Tal Afar and charged "Every time the US army and the Iraqi government want to destroy a specific city, they claim it hosts Arab fighters and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi."[34]

There are allegations that the U.S. government has attempted to inflate the number of foreign fighters in order to advance the theory that the insurgency is not a local movement.[citation needed] U.S. Army Specialist Tony Lagouranis spoke about his job identifying many of the bodies after the assault on Fallujah:

We had women and children, old men, young boys. So, you know, it’s hard to say. I think initially, the reason that we were doing this was they were trying to find foreign fighters. [U.S. commanders] were trying to prove that there were a lot of foreign fighters in Fallujah. So, mainly, that’s what we were going for, but most of them really didn’t have I.D.‘s but maybe half of them had I.D.’s. Very few of them had foreign I.D.’s. There were people working with me who would—in an effort to sort of cook the books, you know they would find a Koran on the guy and the Koran was printed in Algeria, and they would mark him down as an Algerian, or you know guys would come in with a black shirt and khaki pants and they would say, well, this is the Hezbollah uniform and they would mark him down as a Lebanese, which was ridiculous, but—you know... [AMY GOODMAN: So, what did you say?] Well, I was only a specialist, so actually, you know, I did say something to the staff sergeant, who was really in charge, and you know, I just got yelled down you know, shot down.[35]

[edit] Foreign fighter nationality distribution

In July 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa. 50% of all Saudi fighters in Iraq come as suicide bombers. In the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000 Iraqis.[36]

According to a U.S. military press briefing on October 20, 2005, 312 foreign nationals from 27 different countries had been captured in Iraq from April to October 2005.[37] This represents a component of the Iraqi resistance movement, which also includes a nationalist movement encompassing over 30 Shia and Sunni militias.

Foreign Insurgents captured in Iraq in the 7-month period April–October 2005:

Sorted by number of fighters captured
Nationality No.
 Egypt 78
 Syria 66
 Sudan 41
 Saudi Arabia 32
 Jordan 17
 United States 15
 Iran 13
 Palestine 12
 Tunisia 10
 Algeria 8
 Libya 7
 Turkey 6
 Lebanon 3
 India 2
 Qatar 2
 United Arab Emirates 2
 United Kingdom 2
 Denmark 1
 France 1
 Indonesia 1
 Ireland 1
 Israel 1
 Kuwait 1
 Republic of Macedonia 1
 Morocco 1
 Somalia 1
 Yemen 1
Total 619
Sorted alphabetically by nationality
Nationality No.
 Algeria 8
 Denmark 1
 Egypt 78
 France 1
 India 2
 Indonesia 1
 Ireland 1
 Iran 13
 Israel 1
 Jordan 17
 Kuwait 1
 Lebanon 3
 Libya 7
 Republic of Macedonia 1
 Morocco 1
 Palestine 12
 Qatar 2
 Saudi Arabia 32
 Somalia 1
 Sudan 41
 Syria 66
 Tunisia 10
 Turkey 6
 United Arab Emirates 2
 United Kingdom 2
 United States 15
 Yemen 1
Total 619

[edit] Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

The extent of Zarqawi's influence is a source of much controversy. Zarqawi was reported killed in action in March 2004 in "a statement signed by a dozen alleged insurgent groups".[38] His Jordanian family then held a funeral service on his behalf, although no body has been recovered and positively identified. Iraqi leaders have denied the presence of Zarqawi in Fallujah prior to the U.S. attack on that city in November 2004. Zarqawi's existence has even been questioned.[39] Actual involvement of Zarqawi in significant terrorist incidents is not usually proven, although his group often claims it perpetrated bombings. As al-Qaeda is an "opt-in" group (meaning that everyone who agrees to some basic Wahhabi moral tenets and the fundamental goals may consider himself a member), it is most likely that "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" is a loose association of largely independent cells united by a common strategy and vision, rather than a unified organization with a firm internal structure.[citation needed]

On June 8, 2006, Iraqi officials confirmed that Zarqawi was killed by two 500 lb laser guided bombs dropped from an F-16 the previous evening.[citation needed] Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian who was trained in Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan has taken his place.[citation needed]

A document [40] found in Zarqawi's safe house indicates that the guerrilla group was trying to provoke the U.S. to attack Iran in order to reinvigorate the resistance in Iraq and to weaken American forces in Iraq.[41] "The question remains, how to draw the Americans into fighting a war against Iran? It is not known whether American is serious in its animosity towards Iraq, because of the big support Iran is offering to America in its war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Hence, it is necessary first to exaggerate the Iranian danger and to convince America and the west in general, of the real danger coming from Iran...". The document then outlines 6 ways to incite war between the two nations. Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said the document, shows al-Qaeda in Iraq is in "pretty bad shape." He added that "we believe that this is the beginning of the end of al-Qaeda in Iraq."[citation needed]

Journalist Jill Carroll, detailing her captivity in Iraq, described how one of her captors, who identified himself as Abdullah Rashid and leader of the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq. He told her that "The Americans were constantly saying that the mujahideen in Iraq were led by foreigners... So, the Iraqi insurgents went to Zarqawi and insisted that an Iraqi be put in charge." She continued by stating: "But as I saw in coming weeks, Zarqawi remained the insurgents' hero, and the most influential member of their council, whatever Nour/Rashid's position... At various times, I heard my captors discussing changes in their plans because of directives from the council and Zarqawi."[42]

[edit] Schism between foreign fighters and Iraqi Resistance

Large-scale terrorist attacks against civilians carried out by foreign fighters, as well as the interpretation of Islam that they attempt to impose on the local population in areas under their control, have

An Iraqi insurgent in Al-Anbar in early 2004.

increasingly turned Iraqis against them, in some cases breaking out into open fighting between different groups in the insurgency.[43][44][45] There are signs that local Islamist insurgent groups have also increasingly caused the population to turn against them[46][47][48][49]

Opinions differ on how broad this schism is. Terrorism expert Jessica Stern warned that "in the run-up to the war, most Iraqis viewed the foreign volunteers who were rushing in to fight against America as troublemakers, and Saddam Hussein's forces reportedly killed many of them."[50] This opinion contradicts Iraqi scholar Mustapha Alani, who says that these foreigners are increasingly welcomed by the public, especially in the former Ba'athist strongholds north of Baghdad.[citation needed]

While some have noted an alliance of convenience that existed between the foreign fighters and the native Sunni resistance, there are signs that the foreign militants, especially those who follow Zarqawi, are increasingly unpopular among the native resistance. In the run-up to the December 2005 elections, Sunni fighters were warning al Qaeda members and foreign fighters not to attack polling stations. One former Ba'athist told Reuters, "Sunnis should vote to make political gains. We have sent leaflets telling al Qaeda that they will face us if they attack voters." And a Sunni resistance leader specifically commented on Zarqawi: "Zarqawi is an American, Israeli and Iranian agent who is trying to keep our country unstable so that the Sunnis will keep facing occupation."[51]

By early 2006, the split between the Sunni groups and the Zarqawi-led foreign fighters had grown dramatically, and Sunni forces began targeting al Qaeda forces for assassination. One senior intelligence official told the Telegraph that Zarqawi had fled to Iran as a result of the attacks.[52] In response to al Qaeda killings in Iraq, Sunni insurgents in al-Anbar province led by former Ba'athist intelligence officer Ahmed Ftaikhan formed an anti-al-Qaeda militia called the Anbar Revolutionaries. All of the militia's core members have relatives who have been killed by al-Qaeda in Iraq, and they have sought to prevent foreign jihadis from entering the country. The group "claims to have killed 20 foreign fighters and 33 Iraqi sympathizers.".[53] The schism became all the more apparent in when a tape claiming to be from the Mujahedeen Shura Council urged Osama Bin Laden to replace Al Qaida in Iraq's current head with an Iraqi national. The Mujahedeen Shura Council, however, issued a statement shortly afterwards denying the authenticity of this tape.

On July 19, 2007 seven domestic resistance groups informed journalists in Damascus that they were forming a united front independent of Al-Qaeda.[54]

[edit] Non-violent groups

Apart from the armed insurgents, there are important non-violent groups that go against the Coalition soldiers without using violence. The National Foundation Congress set up by Sheikh Jawad al-Khalisi includes a broad range of religious, ethnic, and political currents united by their opposition to the Coalition soldiers in Iraq. Although it does not reject armed resistance, which it regards as any nation's right, it favors non-violent politics and criticizes the formation of militias. It opposed institutions designed to implement American plans, such as the former Iyad Allawi government and the U.S.-organized national conference designed as the antecedent to a parliament.[55] Although the CPA enforced a 1987 law banning unions in public enterprises, trade unions such as the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) and Iraq's Union of the Unemployed have also mounted effective opposition to the Coalition.[56]

Trade unions, however, have themselves been subject to attacks from the insurgents. Hadi Saleh of the IFTU was assassinated under circumstances that pointed to a Ba'athist insurgent group on 3 January 2005. No trades unions support the armed Insurgents.[57]

Another union federation, the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE) opposes the Coalition forces in Iraq and calls for immediate withdrawal but was neutral on participation in the election. Whereas the GUOE wants all Coalition troops out immediately, both the IFTU and the Workers Councils' call for replacement of U.S. and British forces with neutral forces from the UN, the Arab League and other nations as a transition.[58] Many unions see the war as having two dimensions: military and economic. The GUOE has won strikes against both the Governing Council for pay raises and against Halliburton over the use of foreign workers.[citation needed]

[edit] Tactics

The tactics of the Iraqi insurgency vary widely. The majority of Jihadist elements use car bombs, kidnappings, hostage-taking, shootings and other types of attacks to target Iraqis and U.S. forces with little regard for civilian casualties.

An armed Iraqi interpreter on patrol with U.S. troops on the streets of Baghdad, Iraq (April 2005). They have become frequent targets of insurgents during the war.

[edit] Awareness of US public opinion

A single study has compared the number of insurgent attacks in Iraq to supposedly negative statements in the US media, release of public opinion polls, and geographic variations in access to international media by Iraqis. The purpose was to determine if there was a link between insurgent activity and media reports. The researchers' study suggested it may be possible that insurgent attacks spiked by 5 to 10% after increases in the number of negative reports of the war in the media. The authors believe this may possibly be an "emboldenment effect" and speculated that "insurgent groups respond rationally to expected probability of US withdrawal."[59]

[edit] Iraq public opinion

A series of several polls have been conducted to ascertain the position of the Iraqi public further on Al Qaeda in Iraq and the U.S. presence. Some polls have found the following:

  • Polls suggest the majority of Iraqis disapprove of the presence of Coalition forces.[60]
  • A majority of both Sunnis and Shi'as want an end to the U.S. presence as soon as possible, although Sunnis are opposed to the Coalition soldiers being there by greater margins.[61]

Polls conducted in June 2005 suggest that there is some sentiment towards Coalition armies being in Iraq. According to the Boston Globe (10 June 2005): "a recent internal poll conducted for the U.S.-led Coalition found that nearly 85 percent of the population supported the terrorist attacks, making accurate intelligence difficult to obtain. Only 15 percent of those polled said they strongly supported the U.S.-led coalition."[62] A later 2005 poll by British intelligence said that 45% of Iraqis support attacks against Coalition forces, rising to 65% in some areas, and that 82% are "strongly opposed" to the presence of Coalition troops.[63] Demands for U.S. withdrawal have also been signed on by one third of Iraq's Parliament.[64] These results are consistent with a January 2006 poll that found an overall 47% approval for attacks on US-led forces. That figure climbed to 88% among Sunnis. Attacks on Iraqi security forces and civilians, however, were approved of by only 7% and 12% of respondents respectively. 87% favored a U.S. withdrawal, but only 23% believe the U.S. would actually withdraw if asked. 80% believed the U.S. plans permanent bases in Iraq.[65]

A September 2006 poll of both Sunnis and Shias found that 71% of Iraqis wanted the U.S. to leave within a year, with 65% favoring an immediate pullout and 77% voicing suspicion that the U.S. wanted to keep permanent bases in Iraq.[66] 61% approved of attacks on U.S. forces.[60] A later[67] suggests the percentage of Iraqis who approve of attacks on Coalition forces has dropped to 51%.

U.S. and British forces tend to suffer fewer casualties in the Shia and Kurdish areas outside the "Sunni triangle." Many, however, especially in the Shia community, although supportive of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, are very unhappy with the coalition staying in Iraq.[citation needed] Farther north in the Kurdish areas, there is some pro-U.S. sentiment and a strong opposition to the insurgency.[citation needed]

Support for the insurgency is less strong in the Shi'a areas of the country than in the Sunni areas since the Shi'as, like the Kurds, did not dominate the ruling factions of the old regime. Shi'as have also been influenced by a moderate clerical establishment under Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that has advocated a political solution. However, Muqtada al-Sadr has drawn support from a portion of the Shi'a community, mainly young and unemployed men in urban areas. Sadr's support varies region by region; while likely not drawing considerable support in Najaf (a stronghold of the clerical establishment which was occupied by Sadr's militia and has been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting), some polls have indicated Sadr's support among the Shi'as of Baghdad may be as high as 50%.[citation needed] However, this support did not translate into direct electoral winnings for Sadr supporters during the January 2005 elections.

Spontaneous peaceful protests against the coalition forces have appeared in Shi'a areas.[citation needed] The Shi'a intellectuals and the upper classes, as well as the inhabitants of rural regions in the south and followers of more moderate clerics such as al-Sistani, tend to cooperate with the Coalition and the Iraqi interim government and eschew militant protest.[citation needed] Sistani's political pressure is largely credited with enabling the elections of January 2005.[citation needed]

The Shi'a and Kurdish populations of Iraq have had long histories of strained relations with past Iraqi regimes, which have long been dominated by the Sunni. Their favored status in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion is also a factor attributed to the fewer instances of attacks against Coalition forces in Shi'a and Kurdish regions of the country.[citation needed] This is in contrast to the more radical al-Sadr, who draws his support from the lower classes and much of the Shia urban population. Both united, however, on the United Iraqi Alliance ticket that brought in the largest share of the votes in the January 2005 elections.[citation needed]

[edit] Scope and size of the Insurgency

The most intense Sunni resistance activity takes place in the cities and countryside along the Euphrates River from the Syrian border town of al-Qaim through Ramadi and Fallujah to Baghdad, as well as along the Tigris river from Baghdad north to Tikrit. Heavy guerilla activity also takes place around the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar in the north, as well as the "Triangle of Death" south of Baghdad, which includes the "-iya" cities of Iskandariya, Mahmudiya, Latifiya, and Yusufiya. Lesser activity takes place in several other areas of the country. The insurgents are believed to maintain a key supply

Insurgents with a banner in Ramadi.

line stretching from Syria through al-Qaim and along the Euphrates to Baghdad and central Iraq, the Iraqi equivalent of the Ho Chi Minh trail. A second "ratline" ("rats" a common U.S. slur for Iraqis) runs from the Syrian border through Tal Afar to Mosul.

Provincial control of Iraq as of January 2007      Coalition control      Sunni insurgent control      Shiite militia influence      Contested provinces

Although estimates of the total number of Iraqi guerrillas varies by group and fluctuates under changing political climate, the latest assessments put the present number at between 100,000 and 130,000 fighters along with numerous supporters and facilitators throughout the Sunni Arab community.[citation needed] At various points U.S. forces provided estimates on the number of fighters in specific regions. A few are provided here (although these numbers almost certainly have fluctuated):

  • Fallujah (mid-2004): 2000-5000 (in a November 2004 operation, the Fallujah insurgency has been destroyed or dispersed, but has staged a comeback, albeit not to former strength, in the course of 2005)[citation needed]
  • Samarra (December 2003): 2000[citation needed]
  • Baquba (June 2004): 1000[citation needed]
  • Baghdad (December 2003): 1000 (this number may have increased by a significant amount)[citation needed]

Guerilla forces operate in many of the cities and towns of al-Anbar province, due to mostly ineffective Iraqi security forces in this area.[citation needed] There is extensive guerilla activity in Ramadi, the capital of the province, as well as al-Qaim, the first stop on an insurgent movement route between Iraq and Syria. In 2006, reports suggested that the Anbar capital Ramadi had largely fallen under insurgent control along with most of the Anbar region, as a result the US is sending an extra 3,500 marines to reestablish control of the region.[68][69] In the early part of 2007 the insurgency suffered serious setbacks in Ramadi. With the help of the Anbar Salvation Council, incidents fell from an average of 30 attacks per day in December 2006 to an average of fewer than four in April 2007.[70]

Baghdad is still one of the most contested regions of the country, even after the 2007 troop surge more than two thirds of Baghdad is under the control of various Sunni insurgent groups and the Shiite Mahdi Army.[71] Combatants are waging intense guerrilla warfare against the US Army and some Sunni neighborhoods such as Adhamiya are largely under insurgent control. Suicide attacks and car bombs are near daily occurrences in Baghdad. The road from Baghdad to the city airport is the most dangerous in the country, if not the world. Iraqi security and police forces had also been significantly built up in the capital and, despite being constantly targeted, had enjoyed some successes such as the pacification of Haifa Street, which however subsequently saw a massive surge of insurgent activity.[72] and after the failed Coalition Operation Together Forward fell under Sunni insurgent control.

As time passed the insurgent grasp on Mosul has strengthened and by mid-2007 insurgents had control of most neighborhoods on the west bank of the Tigris, with the exception of the few Coalition bases scattered throughout the city and their immediate surroundings. Kurdish peshmerga-forces are in control of the East bank neighborhoods, mostly populated by fellow Kurds.[73]

Recent intelligence suggests that the base of foreign paramilitary operations has moved from Anbar to the religiously- and ethnically-mixed Diyala province. By July 2007 Diyala had fallen under almost total Insurgent control, and had become the headquarters for the Sunni-dominated Islamic State of Iraq, which has issued a proclamation declaring the regional capital Baqubah its capital.

In response to a law allowing for the partitioning of Iraq into autonomous regions, members of the Mutayibeen Coalition (Khalf al-Mutayibeen[verification needed]), one of Iraq's largest Sunni insurgent groups, allegedly claimed the creation of an Islamic state encompassing parts of 6 of Iraq's 18 provinces on October 15.[74] Yet another show of defiance came on October 18 when Sunni resistance brazenly paraded in Ramadi. Similar parades were held two days later in several towns across western Iraq, two of which occurred within two miles of US military bases.

By October 2006, small radicalized militias had seemed to overshadow the larger and more organized Sunni groups which had composed the insurgency previously.[75] As disagreements emerged in pre-existing resistance groups for reason ranging from the rift in the Sunni forces between foreign and Iraqi fighters, competition between Mahdi Army and Badr Brigade, and anger over various decisions such as Muqtada al Sadr's agreement to join the political process, dozens of insurgency groups sprung up across the country, though particularly in Baghdad where the US army has listed 23 active militias. Residents have described the capital as being a patchwork of militia run fiefs.[citation needed] As a result of the insurgency’s splintering nature, many established leaders seemed to lose influence.[citation needed] This was particularly illustrated on October 19, when members of the Mahdi army briefly seized control of Amarah. The attack, while demonstrating the influence of the Madhi army, is believed to have originated as a result of contention between local units of the Madhi army and the allegedly Badr brigade run security forces, and the timing suggested that neither Al Sadr nor his top commanders had known or orchestrated the offensive.[76]

Insurgents in the streets of Mosul, November 2004 after a gunbattle with the U.S. and their Iraqi allies.

[edit] Effect of attacks and casualties

Insurgents reportedly launch hundreds of attacks each month against U.S. forces. Insurgency groups overtime have moved to more sophisticated methods such as shaped charges, which concentrate bomb attacks, and infrared lasers, which cannot be easily jammed. These attacks contribute to the rate of civilian casualties which in turn further the country's insecurity and limited supply of electricity, water and oil.[77]

As of January 29, 2009 4,235 U.S. soldiers, 178 British soldiers and 139 soldiers from other nations (allied with the coalition) have died in Iraq. 80,834 U.S. soldiers had been wounded.[78] With this, over 50,000 American soldiers have deserted since the beginning of the conflict in Iraq, as reported by The Pentagon.[79] Servicemen report desertion as being connected to the war with Iraq, though The Pentagon suggests the rate of desertion is below normal peace-time levels.[citation needed]

As of 2008, Iraqi forces reportedly lost more than 57,000 policemen and more than 48,000 soldiers killed, according to the Wikipedia count.

Since Coalition forces do not usually release death counts, it is difficult to determine the exact number of insurgents killed by the Coalition or Iraqi forces. Through September 2007 more than 19,000 insurgents were reported to have been killed in fighting with Coalition forces and tens of thousands were captured (including 25,000 detainees in U.S. military custody at the time), according to military statistics released for the first time.[80]

[edit] Iraqi Coalition counter-insurgency operations

Over 500 counter-insurgency operations have been undertaken by the US-led Coalition or the Iraqi government. These include Operation Option North and Operation Bayonet Lightning in Kirkuk, Operation Desert Thrust, Operation Abilene and Operation All American Tiger throughout Iraq, Operation Iron Hammer in Baghdad and Operation Ivy Blizzard in Samarra - all in 2003; Operation Market Sweep, Operation Vigilant Resolve and Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah in 2004; Operation Matador in Ambar, Operation Squeeze Play and Operation Lightning in Baghdad, Operation New Market near Haditha, Operation Spear in Karabillah and the Battle of Tal Afar - all in 2005; Operation Swarmer in Samarra and Operation Together Forward in Baghdad in 2006; and Operation Law and Order in Baghdad, Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Baqouba and Operation Phantom Strike throughout Iraq - all in 2007.

Sunni insurgents in 2007.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ "Meeting Resistance: New Doc Follows Iraqis Fighting U.S. Occupation of Their Country" |Democracy Now! | |Retrieved 01/08/08|"Know Thine Enemy" |New York Times|October 21, 2007|Retrieved 21/10/07: "Meeting Resistance is directed by acclaimed journalists Molly Bingham and Steve Connors. In a video op-ed for the New York Times published Wednesday, they cite Pentagon reports between 2004 and ’07 to claim 74% of attacks by Iraqi insurgents target US-led occupation forces. They also cite a recent BBC/ABC poll which found 100% of Iraqis polled disapproved of attacks on Iraqi civilians."
  2. ^ Poll: Iraqis pessimistic about war’s outcome, MSNBC, March 2007, 
  3. ^ "Address to the International Institute for Strategic Studies". UK Ministry of Defence. 2007-09-21. 
  4. ^ A group of Iraqi Baathists pledges allegiance to Saddam's fugitive deputy, naming him leader International Herald Tribune, 31 December 2006
  5. ^ Jordan Baathists pledge loyalty to Saddam deputy Jerusalem Post, 31 January 2006
  6. ^ Saddam aide is new Baath leader BBC News, 3 January 2007
  7. ^ a b Wanted: the iceman: the last of Saddam's inner circle still at liberty continues to taunt his would-be captors with frequent sightings and leads a ruthless band of Ba'athist resistance., Access My Library, 1 December 2006
  8. ^ a b Battle for New Leader Likely The Guardian, 1 January 2007
  9. ^ Iraqis Unhappy with the Bush vow to stay on. News archives
  10. ^ Iraqi Islamic Party
  11. ^ "Attack on Iraqi City Shows Militia’s Power". The New York Times. 2006-10-20. 
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Fairweather, Jack (2004-04-14). "Sadr City slum divided over firebrand cleric as calm returns". (Telegraph Group). Retrieved on 2006-10-06. 
  15. ^ "The moderate mullah who knew the Shias must change" The Guardian April 13, 2003; "Shiite groups call on forces to protect top clerics" USA Today 4/13/2003
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Michael R. Gordon, Dexter Filkins (November 27, 2006). "Hezbollah Said to Help Shia Army in Iraq". New York Times. 
  19. ^ Iraqi Marxist Resistance Group Declared, Iraq Slogger, May 17, 2007
  20. ^ Saddam warning on Islamist forces, The Age, January 16, 2004.
  21. ^ "This is a Resistance Movement, Whether We Like It or Not" by Robert Fisk. Democracy Now, 30 October 2003.
  22. ^ Communication for Al-qaeda's Jihad committee in Mesopotamia
  23. ^ Al Qaeda in Iraq to Recruit Locals for Attacks, Fox news, June 21, 2005.
  24. ^ Phil Sands, 'Good and honest' Iraqis fighting US forces September 6, 2005, 06:25 (UAE)
  25. ^ "The Sunni-Shi'ite power play", Pepe Escobar, Asian Times, November 20, 2004]
  26. ^ " US Army admits Iraqis outnumber foreign fighters as its main enemy" Telegraph 03/12/2005
  27. ^ Peter Grier, "Is war in Iraq a shield against attacks at home?" Christian Science Monitor (18 September 2006) p. 3.
  28. ^ Brian Whitaker and Ewen MacAskill|Report attacks 'myth' of foreign fighters|The Guardian|September 23, 2005|,2763,1576666,00.html|Retrieved 21/10/07
  29. ^ "Foreigners Blamed for Iraq Suicide Attacks" Las Vegas Sun June 30, 2005
  30. ^ AP report
  31. ^ "Iraq: Operation In Tal Afar A Success, But For How Long?", Radio Free Iraq
  32. ^ "Violence Escalates In Iraq", PBS, September 21, 2005
  33. ^ For example, this Washington Post report doesn't, although, this Washington Post report refers to foreign fighters amongst the insurgents in Tal Afar.
  34. ^ a b
  35. ^ Interview with U.S. Army Specialist Tony Lagouranis on Democracy Now!
  36. ^ Saudis' role in Iraq insurgency outlined, LATimes, July 2007, 
  37. ^ The National Origins of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, by Alan B. Krueger, Princeton University and NBER, 30 December 2006.
  38. ^ Rebels: Top Iraq Terrorist Dead, Statement Says Al-Zarqawi Not Behind Recent Bombings Or Letter - CBS News
  39. ^ Asia Times - Asia's most trusted news source for the Middle East
  40. ^ - Text of a document found in Zarqawi's safe house
  41. ^ - Iraqi leaders: Memo details al-Qaeda plans
  42. ^ Hostage: The Jill Carroll Story – Part 6 • Reciting Koranic verses |
  43. ^ Insurgent Alliance Is Fraying In Fallujah (
  44. ^ Arab world, Iraq and al-Qaeda | Unfamiliar questions in the Arab air |
  45. ^ W O R L D T H R E A T S - Foreign Fighters Now Reviled by Fallujah Residents
  46. ^ "Najaf is dying" - Page 2 -
  47. ^ Some in Najaf Protest Sadr (
  48. ^ [1][dead link]
  49. ^ The Scotsman
  50. ^ Jessica Stern in the New York Times: How America Created a Terrorist Haven
  51. ^
  52. ^ Insurgents turning against al-Qa'eda in Iraq - Telegraph
  53. ^ Sunni insurgents 'have al-Zarqawi running for cover' - Telegraph
  54. ^ Insurgents form political front to plan for US pullout | Iraq | Guardian Unlimited
  55. ^ Jonathan Steele, The Iraqi Leader Seeking a Peaceful Path to Liberation: A New Party unites Shi’as, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians. Guardian/UK, July 16, 2004.
  56. ^ David Bacon, Iraq's Labor Upsurge Wins Support from U.S. Unions. FPIF Commentary. July 28, 2004.
  57. ^ David Bacon, Murdered Iraqi Trade Unionist Trapped Between U.S. and Resistance. News Analysis, Pacific News Service, January 26, 2005.
  58. ^ USLAW Statement on the Iraqi Labor Solidarity Tour of U.S.
  59. ^ Radha Iyengar and Jonathan Monten, "Is There an "Emboldenment" Effect? Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq," National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 13839, March 2008 (free version at "Is There an “Emboldenment” Effect? Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq")
  60. ^ a b Poll: Iraqis Back Attacks on U.S. Troops -
  61. ^ Survey Finds Deep Divisions in Iraq; Sunni Arabs Overwhelmingly Reject Sunday Elections; Majority of Sunnis, Shias Favor U.S. Withdrawal, New Abu Dhabi TV / Zogby Poll Reveals. Zogby International, January 28, 2005.
  62. ^ Bryan Bender, [2] Resistance seen forcing change in Iraq strategy, New aim to bring Sunnis into fold. Globe Staff, June 10, 2005.
  63. ^ Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent, [3]
  64. ^ Abdel-Wahed Tohmeh, 83 MPs Ask al-Jaafari to Put a Timetable for the Withdrawal of Foreign Troops. June 22, 2005.
  65. ^ World Public Opinion
  66. ^ Most Iraqis Favor Immediate U.S. Pullout, Polls Show -
  67. ^ poll from March 2007
  68. ^ [4][dead link]
  69. ^ [5][dead link]
  70. ^ A ragtag solution with real results - Los Angeles Times
  71. ^ "Troop Drive Said Faltering in Iraq" ABC News 6/4/07
  72. ^ AT&T
  73. ^ YouTube - Iraqi Mujahideen in Control of Mosul
  74. ^ / In depth - Call for Sunni state in Iraq
  75. ^ Militias Splintering Into Radicalized Cells -
  76. ^ [6][dead link]
  77. ^ Fareed Zakaria (2005-08-22). "Don't Make Hollow Threats". 
  78. ^ Pat Kneisler, Michael White, and Evan D. (2007-01-29). "Operation Enduring Freedom Fatalities". Iraq coalition casualties count. Retrieved on 2007-09-23. 
  79. ^ Bill Nichols (2006-07-03). "8,000 desert during Iraq war". USA Today. Retrieved on 2007-09-25. 
  80. ^ 19,000 insurgents killed in Iraq since '03

[edit] External articles

[edit] General

[edit] Books

[edit] News articles

[edit] Supportive of the Resistance

[edit] Profiles of insurgent groups

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