Iraq Foreign Fighters Mostly Saudis and Libyans
Most of the foreign fighters in Iraq come from “allies” Saudi Arabia and Libya — but foreign fighters make up an incredibly tiny percentage of the insurgency, U.S. military intelligence reports.
Saudi Arabia and Libya, both considered allies by the United States in its fight against terrorism, were the source of about 60 percent of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks, according to senior American military officials.
The data come largely from a trove of documents and computers discovered in September, when American forces raided a tent camp in the desert near Sinjar, close to the Syrian border. The raid’s target was an insurgent cell believed to be responsible for smuggling the vast majority of foreign fighters into Iraq. The most significant discovery was a collection of biographical sketches that listed hometowns and other details for more than 700 fighters brought into Iraq since August 2006.
The records also underscore how the insurgency in Iraq remains both overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni. American officials now estimate that the flow of foreign fighters was 80 to 110 per month during the first half of this year and about 60 per month during the summer. The numbers fell sharply in October to no more than 40, partly as a result of the Sinjar raid, the American officials say.
Saudis accounted for the largest number of fighters listed on the records by far — 305, or 41 percent — American intelligence officers found as they combed through documents and computers in the weeks after the raid. The data show that despite increased efforts by Saudi Arabia to clamp down on would-be terrorists since Sept. 11, 2001, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, some Saudi fighters are still getting through. Libyans accounted for 137 foreign fighters, or 18 percent of the total, the senior American military officials said. They discussed the raid with the stipulation that they not be named because of the delicate nature of the issue.
United States officials have previously offered only rough estimates of the breakdown of foreign fighters inside Iraq. But the trove found in Sinjar is so vast and detailed that American officials believe that the patterns and percentages revealed by it offer for the first time a far more precise account of the personal circumstances of foreign fighters throughout the country.
Over the years, the Syrian border has been the principal entry point into Iraq for foreign insurgents, officials say. Many had come through Anbar Province, in west-central Iraq. But with the Sunni tribal revolt against extremist militants that began last year in Anbar, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other jihadists concentrated their smuggling efforts on the area north of the Euphrates River along the Syrian border, the officials said.
American military and diplomatic officials who discussed the flow of fighters from Saudi Arabia were careful to draw a distinction between the Saudi government and the charities and individuals who they said encouraged young Saudi men to fight in Iraq. After United States officials put pressure on Saudi leaders in the summer, the Saudi government took some steps that have begun to curb the flow of fighters, the officials said. Yet the senior American military officials said they also believed that Saudi citizens provided the majority of financing for Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. “They don’t want to see the Shias come to dominate in Iraq,” one American official said.
That last point is crucial: The insurgency is almost entirely domestic but it has been stoked and funded by a greater Islamist movement from outside.
via OTB News
Image source: International Institute for Counter-Terrorism