US gets quicker on the draw

The US didn’t take very long in finding two al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders who killed five American soldiers in a blast five weeks ago. Both died in an attack on their vehicle in Mosul Wednesday, after a guided missile attack. It demonstrates that US and Iraqi intelligence has improved in the last area where AQI still exercises any cohesiveness:

A U.S. military helicopter fired a guided missile to kill a wanted Saudi Arabian al-Qaida in Iraq leader who was believed responsible for the bombing deaths of five American soldiers, a spokesman said Monday.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said Jar Allah, also known as Abu Yasir al-Saudi, and another Saudi known only as Hamdan, were both killed Wednesday in Mosul. Al-Saudi headed up the al-Qaida network in southeast Mosul, an insurgent hotbed where U.S forces wage daily battles against the group.

According to the military, al-Saudi conducted numerous attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces, including a Jan. 28 bombing that killed the five U.S. soldiers.

In that attack, insurgents blasted a U.S. patrol with a roadside bomb and showered survivors with gunfire from a mosque. The soldiers died in the explosion — the deadliest on American forces since six soldiers perished Jan. 9 in a booby-trapped house north of Baghdad.

Local intelligence told the US where to look for al-Saudi and Hamdan. In fact, the US found out quite a bit about the man in the four weeks before his death. He came to Iraq in August 2007 with a contingent of foreign fighters, dispatched by al-Qaeda from Afghanistan, apparently to help AQI leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri regain some control over the organization. Like the rest of AQI, they got pushed into Mosul after losing ground over the rest of Iraq.

Their arrival from the front in Afghanistan shows once again how critical AQ itself believes Iraq to be. They want to defeat us on this front very badly — and if we withdraw, they will flood Iraq with their terrorists. A loss destroys their argument that they have guidance from Allah, and they get revealed as nothing more than a band of lunatics.

The quick turnaround shows that Petraeus has gained ground in the area where his strategy and tactics first showed success. The Iraqis launched their own series of attacks on known AQI posts in February and have made their own military progress. Residents appear to have gained confidence in the coalition’s ability to defeat AQI, and just as in other areas of the country, Iraqis have responded with more and better intelligence to bring victory more quickly.

AQI got a message today: their days in Mosul are numbered. The only place left to them will be Iraqi Kurdistan, and the Kurds will tear them to pieces if they show their faces there.

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