Posted by: Lister | June 9, 2007

US arming insurgents against al-Qaeda

Sunnis fighting al-Qaeda goes back at least as far as 2005. But that was with their own weapons. They are now getting help from the US.

CNN reports a ‘rift in the insurgency’.

U.S. forces have begun arming nationalist guerrillas and former Saddam Hussein loyalists — and coordinating tactics — in a marriage of convenience against al Qaeda radicals in one of Iraq’s most violent provinces, senior U.S. commanders tell CNN.

This new alliance, a result of the deepening divisions among Iraqi insurgent factions, was on display earlier this week at a highway intersection in the town of Tahrir. There, a group of some 15 insurgents publicly chanted: “Death to al Qaeda.”

“The al Qaeda organization has dominated and humiliated Sunnis, Shiites and jihadis. It has forced people from their homes. They can’t get enough blood. They killed many honest scholars, preachers and loyal mujahedeen,” one of the group’s spokesmen read from a written manifesto.

[…] At the highway intersection in Tahrir, the insurgents said they had named their anti-al Qaeda alliance the United Jihad Council. They said the newly formed council was an umbrella organization of smaller insurgent units, including the 1920s Brigades, the Mujahedeen Army, Islamic Army and the Salaheddin Brigades.

Among the claims made by civilians against al-Qaeda are: the burning alive of a 7-year old child; the murder of women and children in villages around Baquba; the punishment of smoking by amputation and even the banning of Friday prayers. CNN was not able to confirm for itself any of those claims.

CNN quotes one of the key Iraqis in this co-operation, calling himself Abu Ali and reffering to himself as a former officer in Saddam’s intelligence unit.

Publicly, Abu Ali is grateful for the assistance he and his followers have received from the U.S. military. He predicts he can help clear the entire province of al Qaeda militants within six months if the U.S. Army provides more ammunition and supports insurgent operations with air cover and help from tanks and armored personnel carriers.

But while the marriage of convenience may be successful for now, Abu Ali and his followers seem to have no intention of making a lasting commitment to the Americans.

“After we are done with al Qaeda,” Abu Ali says, “we will ask the Americans to withdraw from Iraq. … If they do not withdraw, there will be violations and the American army will be harmed.”

He adds, “Especially after the help the U.S. Army has provided us, we would like them to go home as our friend, not enemy.”

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