One U.S. official Monday acknowledged “The security trends in Iraq are concerning,” noting that violence has spiked and al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq is resurgent. But this official also said, “The situation in Fallujah and Ramadi, however, remains fluid. Prime Minister Maliki and his government are doing their best to beat back al-Qaeda’s advances.”
Al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL) has focused much of its attentions recently on Syria, where its reclusive leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is believed by U.S. intelligence officials to reside. And it is in Syria that ISIL has recently lost ground.
As Baghdadi’s fighters were planting the black flags of al Qaeda in Fallujah, the group suffered major losses in its strongholds in northern Syria to other Islamist rebel groups.
“It’s far more significant for the future of (al Qaeda’s Iraq affiliate) that the Sunni Islamist groups are turning on them,” said Will McCants, the director of the project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution. “This could be a major set back for the organization. Until now, they have not played nicely with those groups.”