Intelligence: Talking to the Tribes

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February 6, 2006: Apparently, al Qaeda-in-Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi has had to flee from wherever it is he's been hiding, because members of the Sunni Arab Dulayni tribe are gunning for him. Worse, the tribesmen are suddenly passing on information to American troops and Iraqi police about the location of "foreign fighters" (al Qaeda members) in their territory west of Baghdad.

Until recently, the tribe has generally supported the terrorists and anti-government forces, but has kept its options with the government open. For example, one of the principal Dulayni sheiks has sometimes served as a go-between in kidnappings. Reportedly, al Qaeda, unhappy with the "loyalty" of the tribe, and decided to "teach them a lesson." Al Qaeda killed several members of the tribe in a car bombing in Ramadi early in January. Rather than "learn the lesson," the Dulayni have apparently decided to knock off Zarqawi. This has caused the al Qaeda leader much trouble, as the Iraqi Sunni Arabs are backing away from supporting al Qaeda, and anti-government activity in general. Having a tribe come gunning for you, sends the wrong kind of message. The tribal chiefs note the lack of success in overthrowing the government, the growing power of the army and police, and the lucrative opportunities for looting the government if tribal leaders take jobs with the government. It's time for a change.

The U.S. has been working this tribal intelligence angle for over three years. U.S. Special Forces, CIA and army intelligence contacts with the tribes have tried to keep open the possibility that the Dulayni, and other Sunni Arab tribes, would reconsider their support for al Qaeda, and anti-government groups. These discussions insured that the tribal leaders didn't miss the trends that emerged over the past three years. Sort of a counterbalance to the pro-terrorist coverage of al Jazeera. It worked. The tribes are switching sides, and there are Special Forces operators with the key tribal chiefs on speed dial.

 


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