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Al Qaeda in Iraq: Not Just a Boogeyman

6:38 PM, Jul 13, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Roggio just posted what I think is the definitive takedown of the argument put forward earlier in the week by Small Wars Journal contributor Malcolm Nance. Nance's theory is that al Qaeda is basically a bit player in the insurgency--small, but lethal--and that the administration is trying to hype the threat the group poses in order to convince the American people that withdrawing from Iraq would be the equivalent of surrendering in the war on terror. Suffice to say, Roggio isn't buying it.

I took a look at the major points advanced by Nance and found his argument to be unpersuasive. Nance makes several factual errors and contradicts himself on several important points. And he fails to recognize the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq, the continually evolving nature of the Sunni insurgency and our understanding of it.

His theory that the insurgency is dominated by Baathist Former Regime Leaders (FRLs) was popular circa 2003-2004, and has long since been discredited. While Baathists and Former Regime Elements certainly play a role in the insurgency, their influence has diminished over time as al Qaeda and its puppet Islamic State of Iraq have coopted significant elements of the Sunni Insurgency.

Nance's essay strikes me as part of a larger, renewed push by the antiwar crowd to discredit the idea that the war in Iraq has any real connection to the war on terror--as Roggio points out, the New York Times put in its two cents last Sunday with a piece by the public editor declaring that "President Bush and the United States military in Baghdad are increasingly pointing to a single villain on the battlefield: Al Qaeda." The Times also saw this as some kind of fraud perpetrated in the name of sustaining support for the war. But Roggio's case is pretty persuasive...it's not just the Bush administration that sees al Qaeda around every corner in Iraq, it's just about everyone involved, "from the Pentagon to the PFC," as Nance concedes. Sort of an inconvenient truth for the bring-the-troops-home crowd.

Go read the whole thing...Roggio reports, you decide.