US: Top al-Qaida in Iraq Figure Captured.
Turns out that American forces have nabbed the highest-ranking Iraqi in the leadership of Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI). Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, also known as Abu Shahid, was captured in Mosul on July 4, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a military spokesman. Al-Mashhadani is a close associate of Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born terrorist who's run AQI since the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi last year.
According to U.S. officials, al-Mashhadani was not only the senior Iraqi in the terrorist organization, he was also the chief intermediary between group and Al Qaida's top leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. General Bergner indicated that communication between bin senior Al Qaida leaders and al-Masri frequently flowed through al-Mashhadani.
The arrest of al-Mashhadani is encouraging in several respects. First, his capture was kept secret for more than two weeks, allowing coalition forces to process intelligence, follow leads and (presumably) capture more terror leaders, or at least gain better information on their whereabouts and operating patterns. Secondly, as a key communications link between the "local" Al Qaida affiliate and its senior leaders in Waziristan, al-Mashhadani can shed new light on how the group transmits information to its Iraqi cell, and the degree of operational control exerted by bin Laden and Zawahiri.
Finally, as Bill Roggio observes, the capture of al-Mashhadani firmly debunks the "myth" of the Islamic State of Iraq. During interrogation, the Iraqi terrorst freely admitted that the Islamic State of Iraq was an Al Qaida creation, designed to put a "local face" on the insurgency.
But not only is the Islamic State of Iraq a contrived entity, its leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi is as well. “To further this myth [of the Islamic State of Iraq], al Masri created a fictional political head of ISI known as Omar al-Baghdadi,” said Brig. Gen Bergner. Al-Baghdadi is actually played by an actor named Abu Abdullah al Naima, and al Masri “maintains exclusive control over al Naima as he acts the part of the fictitious al-Baghdadi character.”
Mashhadani stated that al Qaeda in Iraq is operationally controlled by foreign fighters, not Iraqi insurgents. “Mashhadani confirms that al Masri and the foreign leaders with whom he surrounds himself, not Iraqis, make the operational decisions for AQI,” said Brig. Gen Bergner. “According to Mashhadani, in fact, al Masri increasingly relies only on foreigners, who make up the majority of the leadership of AQI. He does not seek or trust the advice of Iraqis in the organization.”
While foreign fighters remain a minority in Iraq, the interrogation of al-Mashhadani leaves little doubt about who's in charge, and who's behind the major terrorist attacks. Of course, those Democratic Senators who took part in Harry Reid's all-nighter would probably disagree, claiming that AQI is only a minor player in the grand scheme of things.
Al-Mashhadani's comments put a major nail in the coffin of that argument. But sadly, few in Washington--particularly on the Democratic side of the aisle--are paying attention.
ADDENDUM: Hot Air has more good news from the battle front. The chairman of the JCS, General Peter Pace, took a walking tour of Ramadi yesterday, the same city that was an Al Qaida safe haven just a few months ago. Pace was accompanied by a security detail, but it was far smaller than the contingent that protected Senator John McCain during his recent visit to a Baghdad market. CNN reporter Barbara Starr, who accompanied General Pace, described the progress in Ramadi as "extraordinary."
No wonder Harry Reid is in such a hurry to surrender.