This paper aims to analyze an enemy Al Qaeda document captured in 2005 and discuss three variables of the operational environment, namely political, military and social as elucidated in FM 3-0 (Department of Army 1-3) and their impact on the Al-Qaeda and own force operations in Iraq. Analysis of the document reveals that the enemy has a far more sophisticated understanding of geo-strategy, politics, military and social conditions that govern the Iraqi theatre and the region.
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An analysis from the political prism shows that the enemy has clear political aims that are not limited to just taking over Iraq but to establish an Islamic caliphate centered on the Levant and Egypt extending all over the Middle East.
For attainment of its aims, Al Qaeda has a clear operational strategy that aims first at defeating the American forces, then taking over control of Iraq followed by destabilizing the neighboring countries. The military analysis of the document shows that the enemy is aware of the overwhelming superiority of American capabilities and would try and balance that by maintaining a focus on targeting American forces and not frittering away scarce resources by targeting the Shia community.
In pursuit of their aims and military action, the document shows that the enemy is aware of the social dimension of fighting the war in Iraq, where support of the masses is crucial and that actions viewed as abhorrent to the Iraqis should be discouraged.
The paper concludes that should the advice of the enemy operative in the document be heeded by the Al Qaeda leadership, it would lead to increased attacks on US forces, loss of popular support for own forces and a possibility of fighting a losing battle in Iraq.
The war in Iraq poses a complex set of challenges for American and coalition forces striving to restore peace and stability in the country in the face of sectarian violence, terrorism and incipient insurgency being fomented in various parts of Iraq by state and non-state actors. A document captured from the enemy in Iraq during 2005 provides a fascinating glimpse into the minds of the adversary and this paper aims to discuss three variables of the operational environment, namely political, military and social as elucidated in FM 3-0 (Department of Army 1-3) and their impact on the Al-Qaeda and own force operations in Iraq.
At the outset, it must be realized that on reading the document it is evident that own forces are faced with a sophisticated adversary, a far cry from the often misrepresented picture of ‘mad mullahs’ running amok with jihad on their minds. The writer of this document displays a remarkable comprehension of the geopolitical, social and military dimensions of the war.
The writer clearly outlines the geostrategic importance of winning the war in Iraq by stating that the victory of Islam as envisioned by the Prophet would only be possible if an Islamic dispensation centered on the Levant and Egypt and spread across the Middle East and Iraq is established (C 432 2). The writer then provides a global environmental scan by stating that wars in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Bosnia were peripheral to the main battle for the control of the Middle East. The writer then provides a succinct political aim; “establishment of a caliphate in the manner of the Prophet (C 432 2)”. With such a clear political aim and comprehensive geostrategic vision, the impact on Al-Qaeda would be to further intensify its operations in Iraq and expand its operations to the areas and countries mentioned above. For the US, such a strategic philosophy would require a grand strategic review of options required to be put into place if the US is to maintain its primacy in the Middle East.
To execute the political aims, the writer of the document suggests certain clear military actions that Al Qaeda needs to take. Firstly, the writer calls for expelling the Americans as priority number one. Then he calls for establishing an Islamic state in Iraq followed by destabilization of neighboring countries and lastly destroying Israel (C 432 3). The ‘mission statement’ as per the writer is to continue fighting even after the Americans have been defeated to defeat secularists and traitors till the Islamic Caliphate is established. The writer displays a remarkable knowledge of ‘Principles of War’ when he questions the rationality of opening a second front against the Shia in Iraq “in addition to the front against the Americans and the government” (C 432 7). The writer is therefore urging that Al Qaeda should adhere to ‘selection and maintenance of aim’ and that the aim was first to expel the Americans and that by not adhering to this aim, ‘concentration of force’ was being diluted. This advice therefore points to the growing realization by the leaders that the military actions of the insurgents and terrorists were not helping them win the war against the Americans and that they were being frittered away and thus the need to concentrate back on the main task – attacking American and coalition forces. The impact on own forces is that there could be renewed attacks on own forces of greater lethality and frequency. The writer also provides a reality check as to the ‘comparison of forces’ when he states that “however far our capabilities reach, they will never be equal to one-thousandth of the capabilities of the kingdom of Satan that is waging war on us” (C 432 8). This could lead to adoption of more asymmetric means by Al Qaeda and for own forces to counter them.
In accomplishment of the political aims, the writer cautions that Al Qaeda’s military actions must take into account the social factors. The writer alludes to the fact that war in Iraq was winnable because of “popular support from the Muslim masses in Iraq, and the surrounding Muslim countries” (C 432 3) and that to succeed in a jihad there must exist some public support. The impact of this observation is that if true, then Al Qaeda could prolong the conflict indefinitely and that American forces had very little leverage in the country they are trying to stabilize. It also shows that Al Qaeda is equally engaged in a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign as the coalition is. The writer cautions against overt display of slaughter (C 432 8) as its social consequences might turn away ordinary Iraqi citizens. The writer urges postponing actions against the Shias in Iraq in recognition of the social and demographic realities of the community being the majority in Iraq. The impact on Al Qaeda operations, if heeded would be to reduce sectarian violence and focus on attacking American forces. Own forces would then be faced with growing attacks and a losing ‘battle of the minds’ in the Iraqi society.
It can be stated that the enemy document provides a rare insight into the sophistication of the enemy mind and their lucid comprehension of geo-strategy, political aims, military realities, and social conditions affecting the war in Iraq. The overall impact on Al Qaeda if the advice rendered in the document were to adhere would be that Al-Qaeda would have a clear war-winning strategy and that own forces could lose the battle for the ‘hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, leading to a withdrawal from Iraq without having achieved the desired end results.
- C 432. “Enemy Document Captured in Iraq During 2005.” Lesson C432: The Enemy: An Assessment Methodology. Army Staff College, 2005.
- Department of Army. Operations: Full Spectrum Operations, Post-DRAG Draft 04 (Student Review). Washington D.C.: Department of Army, n.d.