During Saddam’s time, the city of Mosul was known as “Saddam’s Sword.” Meaning, as my Iraqi translator explained, that it had the reputation for breeding the roughest and toughest and most loyal members of Saddam’s security apparatus. Since the U.S. invasion, there’s been a fairly active insurgency there, with highs and lows over the past six years. In recent months the city has seen a significant level of violence: 42 attacks a week before the U.S. pullout, which dropped to 29 attacks per week since July 1.
But it seems Saddam’s Sword has been passed to Al Qaeda. According to the Major General Robert Caslen, the U.S. commander in Mosul, the attacks lately have been bigger and deadlier and Al Qaeda is to blame. They’re using Mosul as their home. The terrorist network’s leadership is heavily concentrated in the city, he says. Quoteth Reuters: “[Al Qaeda and its allies] still have the capability and they remain, I would say, a resilient force that has a capability to regenerate their combat power if necessary.”
Over the past few months, I’ve received a few emails written by U.S. military folks in Mosul. The picture painted has been less than optimistic. The fear is that when we do leave, the Kurds and the Arabs are going to really go at it. And, as the Reuters story ominiously notes, the tensions between Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan “over land and has come dangerously close to all-out war.” Now, it looks like Al Qaeda is exploiting the ethnic tensions between the Kurds and the Arabs and trying its best to ensure that all out war is the outcome.