Monday, January 30, 2006

Deadly Rift Grows Among Insurgents

"RAMADI, Iraq — Deadly fighting has erupted within Iraq's insurgency as home-grown guerrilla groups, increasingly resentful of foreign-led extremists, try to assert control over the fragmented anti-American campaign, U.S. and Iraqi officials say.

Yet there is no evidence that the split here in the Sunni Arab heartland has weakened the uprising, diminished Iraqis' sense of insecurity, or brought any relief to U.S. forces, the officials say.

Tit-for-tat killings among locals and followers of Jordanian militant Abu Musab Zarqawi have been reported across western Iraq in recent months, and some U.S. officials see the strife as a positive sign. They have been working to drive a wedge between Zarqawi's foreign Arab volunteers and Iraqi-led militant groups, and to bring Sunnis who have backed the uprising into Iraq's political process.

"There's an opportunity to divide the … insurgency, and we're starting to see breaks in that now," said Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mowaffak Rubaie, the Iraqi government's national security advisor, said a growing body of intelligence indicated that Iraqi-led groups were turning against Zarqawi's faction, Al Qaeda in Iraq, over a divergence of basic aims.

He believes the shift reflects Iraqis' growing resentment of a foreign-led force whose fundamentalist religious goals and calls for sectarian war against Iraq's Shiite majority run counter to Iraqi nationalist traditions.

But U.S. military officials concede that the guerrillas' ability to strike anywhere at any time is largely undiminished. They say the insurgency remains a stubborn, elusive and deadly collection of fighting groups that share the aim of ousting American forces.

Their attacks across Iraq averaged 75 per day in December, up from 52 a year earlier, driving the country's sectarian violence and contributing to a decline in its oil production. U.S. troops died at the same rate last year as in 2004, and most estimates of Iraqi civilian casualties rose.

Reports of clashes among the anti-American fighters began surfacing several months ago.

One outbreak of violence came in mid-January after U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George W. Casey, the top military commander in Iraq, visited this provincial capital to solidify a pact with tribal sheiks. Under the deal, young men from their tribes had been signing up for a municipal police force to replace the one the insurgents had destroyed.

A day after the meeting, one of the sheiks, Nasr Abdul Kareem, a 49-year-old physics professor thought to be an insurgent strategist, was shot dead in an ambush after dropping his sons off at school. Two other sheiks cooperating with U.S. forces here in Al Anbar province were slain the same week.

Outraged by the slayings, insurgents from their tribes have retaliated by killing at least a dozen Zarqawi followers, an Iraqi intelligence official said.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said six "major leaders" of Zarqawi's network had been killed since September by Iraq-led insurgent groups — "people saying, 'Get outta here, we've had enough!' "

"The local insurgents have become part of the solution," Lynch said."
Another story on the on-again, off-again, rift in the insurgency. I think it's becoming evident that something is going on, but what? It could be a turf war, or maybe the groups that have joined the government want to purge the foreigners from their ranks, or maybe the foreign element has grown stronger than the home grown. That might have happened because the foreign groups seem to target civilians, while they say that the hometown boys target our troops, a deadly affair indeed. So what exactly is going on is at this point anyone's guess. I will reserve judgment till I see something substantial on the ground.


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