In speaking with Pajamas Media the military intelligence officer supplied several new details of the al Qaeda retreat.
The apparent evacuation of Baghdad by al Qaeda forces comes from direct orders issued by al-Masri, the former soldier who took control of the Iraqi wing of al Qaeda following the June 2006 bombing death of Zarqawi.
Initially, the intelligence officer informed Pajamas, the Baghdad-based AQ fighters did not want to leave. Al-Masri had to send unequivocal orders for their retreat, adding that one of the lessons from the Fallujah campaign was that Americans have learned how to prevail in house-to-house fighting. Masri said that remaining in Baghdad was a ‘no-win situation’ for the terrorists.
“In more than ten years of reading al Qaeda intercepts, I’ve never seen language like this,” the intelligence officer said. Usually, al Qaeda communications are full of bravado and false confidence, he added.
Al-Masri’s evacuation order – assuming that it is authentic – reveals that al Qaeda in Iraq leader has a good grasp of a tactical situation. “He is far more formidable than Zarqawi was,” the intelligence officer said, because of his training at Soviet special warfare schools.
Al-Masri has ordered al Qaeda forces to regroup in the Diyala province. This might be an attempt to lure American troops away from the Iraqi capital, forcing America to hunt al Qaeda in the province while the terrorists slowly slip behind them and return to Baghdad, he said.
Baqubah in the Diyala province was the city near which Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was tracked down and killed last year.
This last situation is perhaps the reason behind several intense US/Iraqi combined military operations in Diyala over the past week. Reuters reported this morning that
Hundreds of people have been trying to flee the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, close to the Iraqi-Iranian border, following a recent offensive by US and Iraqi troops in the area.
The operations combine ground forces and airstrikes.
U.S. commanders are well-aware that a trap may be set for them. Even with the raids in Diyala in progress, there are no plans to deploy large numbers of the “surge” forces outside Baghdad. Instead it will be the job of the Iraqi army to chase down militants, assisted by U.S. aerial reconnaissance and predator spy planes