[On Oct. 3, at least 15 people were killed in an Iraq Army operation to
free hostages taken by Al Qaida-aligned cells in the Anbar province, Middle East Newsline reported. At one
point, the insurgents, said to include up to seven suicide bombers, captured
a police station and a government complex.]
In a briefing on Sept. 29, Perkins said AQI was turning into a mafia.
The general, based in the northern city of Tikrit, said the network was
splintering into rival criminal gangs that competed for revenue.
"It's devolving more into almost gang mafia-type activities," Perkins
said. "And so they are starting to, in some instances, turn against each
other, which from our point of view is a good sign."
Officials said AQI has been harmed by a severe reduction in funding from
outside Iraq as well as the loss of much of its command structure. They said
many AQI fighters have relocated to Syria in an attempt to topple the regime
of President Bashar Assad.
Perkins said the flight of money and fighters have hurt AQI operations.
But he acknowledged that AQI was still capable of mass-casualty strikes,
particularly through car bombings.
"We see now more vehicle-borne explosive devices that are parked and
detonated versus being driven and detonated, which means they're having a
hard time getting people who are true believers to actually be the suicide
folks." Perkins said.
The 4th Infantry Division has overseen operations by 5,000 U.S. soldiers
in northern Iraq. Officials said almost all of the troops would be withdrawn
in October 2011.
Perkins also reported an improvement in Iraqi security operations. The
general said Iraqi soldiers, bolstered by intelligence data, were capturing
Al Qaida fighters sent from Syria.
"We've seen a dramatic drop off in the foreign fighter flow," Perkins