The US military captured no prisoners on one particular raid in Balad, but instead captured the heartbreak of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The leader of the group had left behind a diary he kept through October, and the November push as part of the surge had overrun his position. The emir bitterly recounted the disintegration of his unit and the manner in which the Iraqi people had turned against them:
On Nov. 3, U.S. soldiers raided a safe house of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq near the northern city of Balad. Not a single combatant was captured, but inside the house they found something valuable: a diary and will written in neat Arabic script.
“I am Abu Tariq, Emir of al-Layin and al-Mashadah Sector,” it began.
Over 16 pages, the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader detailed the organization’s demise in his sector. He once had 600 men, but now his force was down to 20 or fewer, he wrote. They had lost weapons and allies. Abu Tariq focused his anger in particular on the Sunni fighters and tribesmen who have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and joined the U.S.-backed Sunni Sahwa, or “Awakening,” forces.
“We were mistreated, cheated and betrayed by some of our brothers,” Abu Tariq wrote. “We must not have mercy on those traitors until they come back to the right side or get eliminated completely in order to achieve victory at the end.”
The diary gave military intelligence quite a clear look at AQI — its finances, its interactions with allies, and its collapse in the face of American and Iraqi aggressiveness. They earned money by purchasing and stealing cars and trucks and selling them later. AQI must have conducted some of these transactions on credit, because Tariq complains about uncollected debts. He gives inventories of weapons and the people who hold them, and notes one person with over 2000 rockets who suddenly refused to let AQI have them back.
Most helpfully, Tariq listed all of the people collaborating with AQI and the identities of the AQI terrorists themselves. Among them are tribal leaders in the Balad area, which might have prompted some of these leaders to either make peace quickly with the US and Iraqi forces or find somewhere else to live even more quickly. Tariq also named those who had “betrayed” AQI,and exhorted his remaining forces to show no mercy towards them.
Desertions became a theme towards the end of the diary. In the end, he listed 38 people still on his muster list, but noted that a number of them had not been seen in days. He lost 95% of his original number before taking a powder himself, in too much of a rush to grab the diary with all of the critical information within it. In the end, Tariq proved himself the greatest traitor of all, betraying himself and what was left of his terrorist cell.
AQI is on the run. They are collapsing, and the momentum belongs to the US and Iraq. AQI certainly sees it that way. (via Michael Yon)