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Thursday, September 1, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Iraq official admits: Al Qaida demonstrating 'tremendous level of capability'

BAGHDAD — Iraq has quietly acknowledged major security gaps that enable Al Qaida to conduct mass-casualty strikes.


Security sources said Al Qaida has demonstrated a capability to conduct numerous and near-simultaneous bombings throughout Iraq. They said Al Qaida has shown extraordinary skills in recruitment, planning, coordination and bomb-making.

"We have seen a tremendous level of capability of the terrorists," a senior security source said.

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On Aug. 15, nearly 100 people were killed and more than 200 injured in 17 Al Qaida bombings throughout Iraq. The attacks targeted eight cities— from Kirkuk in the north to Kut in the south.

The sources said the Interior Ministry had determined that Al Qaida was preparing a series of mass-casualty bombings during the Muslim fast month of Ramadan. But they acknowledged that Iraqi intelligence failed to detect Al Qaida preparations in any of the towns or cities targeted.

"This was due to the unprofessional and inefficient senior officials in the Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry," parliamentarian Qassem Araji, a member of the Defense and Security Committee, said. "The fact that all these bombings took place in one day shows the coordination between terrorist group and their ability to move weapons throughout the provinces."

A key problem, the sources said, was the failure to operate a data base to gather and distribute intelligence alerts. They said that neither the Defense Ministry nor the Interior Ministry was able to effectively gather or distribute real-time data on Al Qaida.

"Often a unit or an agency will obtain important information, but refuse to share it, mostly because of prestige," the source said. "There are problems in a range of areas, including intelligence, training and chain of command."

The sources acknowledged that years of U.S. military training have not significantly enhanced the security culture in Iraq, set by 40 years of Baathist rule. They said both the military and security forces have opposed a common data base as well as autonomy for mid-level field commanders.

"Any decision that is important has to go to the top of the chain of command, and that has hurt us badly," the source said.

The sources said Al Qaida has been enhanced by an alliance with Sunni tribes and former Baathist military and security commanders. They said the alliance was based on undermining the Shi'ite led government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, believed to be aligned with neighboring Iran.

Al Qaida, however, was also believed to have been recruiting Shi'ites for operations in cities in southern Iraq. The sources said Baathist elements linked to Al Qaida were organizing and financing sleeper cells in such cities as Karbala, Kut and Najaf.

"Al Qaida and the Baathist organizations have been attracting Shi'ite fighters and building cells in the south," Iraq Army [Ret.] Gen. Ismail Al Mashkouri, a military analyst, said. "This [attacks] was a message [by Al Qaida] that says 'We are everywhere and nobody can stop us.'"

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