Attrition: Al Qaeda Recruiter Blues


March 23,2008: The sharp drop in suicide bombings in Iraq is partly due to the decline in foreign al Qaeda volunteers coming into Iraq. The recruiting, mostly in Saudi Arabia and North Africa, preys on the unique social conditions in those areas. Namely, high birth rates and high unemployment. This produces a lot of younger sons who are unemployed, unmarried and face a dim future. So the al Qaeda recruiter, often working out of a local mosque, makes a free trip to Iraq, ending in a glorious death for the cause, sound like a solution. But over the last year, the number of such volunteers has declined from 120 a month, to about 40. The main reason for this is bad news, and some survivors, coming back from Iraq. Not many of these losers make it back, but the word gets on to the Internet, and this has caused quite a commotion on pro-terrorist web sites and message boards. There's also been a sharp drop in pro-terrorist combat videos coming out of Iraq. This is largely due to the death or capture of the people responsible for getting those videos onto the Internet.

No one there wants to admit that al Qaeda has been beaten in Iraq, but the more first-hand accounts that show up, the more convincing the stories are. The truth is this. The al Qaeda volunteers have long been enticed by the prospect of killing American soldiers. That rarely happens, and survivor accounts always make that point, and the fact that al Qaeda is mostly killing Iraqis. Last year, most of the Sunni Arabs turned on al Qaeda, and this has been most difficult for the al Qaeda recruiters to deal with.

Some of the volunteers get no farther than Syria, where they find that you can't always get across the border, or that the contacts on the other side are not up to the task of delivering the foreigners to operational al Qaeda units in the interior. U.S. and Iraqi forces have been hammering the smugglers for several years, which leaves a lot of the al Qaeda volunteers stranded. Some of these guys have become so lost and despondent that they surrender to the Iraqi police. In any event, the majority of the foreign al Qaeda volunteers are used as cannon fodder. These fellows usually don't have any military experience, so they get minimal training with an AK-47, and often are useless in a firefight. Even against Iraqi police and soldiers, the foreign volunteers are only effective if in the company of a lot of experienced locals. For most of the last four years, the al Qaeda volunteers would go to Iraq and "die a glorious death." Now the trip tends to end in despair and humiliation. The word is getting around, and the recruiters don't like it.




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