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The Importance of Foreign Terrorists to Iraq's Insurgency

By Steve Schippert | November 18, 2005

In a Washington Post article by Jonathan Finer (Among Insurgents in Iraq, Few Foreigners Are Found), the importance of foreign terrorists to the Iraq insurgency is wrongly minimized. The general tone of the article is that America is improperly hyping up and overstating the presence of foreign terrorists (or, according to Finer, 'foreign fighters') within the Iraq insurgency. This is wrong-minded at best. Buried within the article are two key points that are essentially dismissed in route to the Washington Post's desired message of 'The US is hyping and misleading'.

Point 1: Paragraph 5 quotes Col. H.R. McMaster, commander of the Army's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and veteran of the Tal Afar clear and hold operations:
"They trained indigenous terror cells and moved on somewhere else," he said.

This leadership role is absolutely essential to the effectiveness of the indigenous elements of the insurgency. Without organization and training, the insurgency would be completely flailing and major portions of it would likely fall apart of its own inertia. This training provides an invaluable sense of direction and confidence. The value of these aspects should not be under-estimated. Finer and the Washington Post fail to note this significance.

Point 2: Nearly completely and inexplicably dismissed is the force multiplying factor of foreign-supplied weapons increasing the deadliness of attacks. This was indirectly hinted at by a quote from Maj. Gen Rick Lynch in paragraph 10:
"We believe that the most lethal piece of the insurgency here is the terrorist and foreign fighters. And it's because of the level of violence they're willing to go to accomplish their objective, which is to derail the democratic process and discredit the Iraqi government."

That the foreign terrorists scurrying along the various ratlines in Iraq are the most motivated and violent should be a given. But what the article fails to fold into the equation is the influx of deadlier and deadlier weaponry from foreign sources (primarily Iran and Syria) via foreign terrorists. For instance, it is known that Iran has been supplying shaped charges for use in deadlier IED's, currently the most effective weapon and the top killer regularly encountered by Coalition forces in Iraq.

That said, there are some useful facts and figures within Finer's article.

But that the tone of the article tends to suggest the US and the Iraqi government are over-hyping the impact and importance of foreign terrorist (and their state sponsors') influence and impact in some sort of a 'Jedi Mind Trick' effort to 'pull one over' on the Iraqi people is simply off the mark and ill-advised.

2 Comments

The President of Iraq was quoted, in Germany, as saying tne foreigners were criminals, not part of the resistence.

If Mr Talabani is correct, it is his country after all, the Generals are overstating the foreigners influence.

How can it be that a handful of "foreign fighters" can have more influence over 20,000 or so Sunni Insurgents than 150,000 US troops have over 200,000 Federal Iraqi Military and Police?

I think what Mr. Talibani was alluding to was simply the distinction between foreign terrorists such as Zarqawi & AQ in Iraq and the indiginous Sunni-Batthist insurgency. They, of course, are not one and the same, though there is cooperation between them.