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2009 Country Reports on Terrorism - Iraq

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 5 August 2010
Cite as United States Department of State, 2009 Country Reports on Terrorism - Iraq, 5 August 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c63b63f2d.html [accessed 25 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Iraq remained a committed partner in counterterrorism efforts. As a result of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, Iraqi security forces assumed primary responsibility for the security and stability of Iraq, with support from Multi-National Forces-Iraq. Together, U.S. and Iraqi security forces continued to make progress in combating al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) and affiliated Sunni terrorist organizations, as well as Shiite militia elements engaged in terrorism. A significant reduction in the number of security incidents throughout much of Iraq, beginning in the last half of 2007, continued through 2009, with a steady downward trend in numbers of civilian casualties, enemy attacks, and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks.

Still, terrorist organizations and insurgent groups continued their attacks on Iraqi security forces, civilians, and government officials using IEDs, including vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), and suicide bombers. Although a scattering of small scale attacks continued to hamper the country's progress toward broad-based security, terrorist elements focused their efforts on high-profile and deadly attacks in Baghdad, as demonstrated by attacks on August 19, October 25, and December 8. The three sets of attacks targeted Iraqi government buildings with simultaneous, multiple suicide and/or remote-detonated VBIEDs in Baghdad. While AQI claimed responsibility for the violence, some Iraqi government officials publicly blamed Syrian-based individuals with alleged ties to the former Baath Party.

U.S. forces conducted full spectrum operations with the Iraqi forces to defeat the evolving threats employed by AQI. Their efforts to defeat AQI cells, in addition to an increasingly violence-weary Iraqi public, forced AQI elements to consolidate in Ninewa and Diyala provinces. Despite being limited to smaller bases of operation within Iraq, AQI retained networks in and around Baghdad and in eastern Anbar. In Ninewa, U.S. and Iraqi security forces focused efforts against AQI and other Sunni extremists through operations targeting warranted individuals and judicial detentions of senior leaders, and targeted the terrorists' operational support systems. AQI, whose apparent goal in 2009 was to discredit the Iraqi government and erode its security and governance capabilities, targeted primarily the Iraqi security forces, government infrastructure, Sons of Iraq (SOI) groups, and tribal awakening movement members. Despite the improved security environment, AQI, fueled in part by former detainees, still possessed the capacity to launch high-profile attacks against Iraqi civilians and infrastructure.

In addition to reducing the strength of AQI and Sunni extremists, Iraq made progress in containing other terrorist groups with differing motives, such as Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqah al-Naqshabandiyah (a Sunni nationalist insurgent group with links to the former Baath Party that advocates the removal of occupation forces from Iraq) and Kata'ib Hizballah (a Shia militant group with ideological ties to the militant wing of Hizballah).

The flow of foreign terrorists from North Africa and other Middle Eastern countries greatly diminished, although they continued to enter Iraq, predominantly through Syria. AQI and its Sunni extremist partners mainly used Iraqi nationals, including some females, as suicide bombers. Terrorist groups receiving weapons and training from Iran continued to endanger the security and stability of Iraq; however, incidents of such violence were lower than in previous years. Many of the groups receiving ideological and logistical support from Iran were based in Shia communities in central and southern Iraq.

Iraq, Turkey, and the United States continued their formal trilateral security dialogue as one element of ongoing cooperative efforts to counter the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Iraqi leaders, including those from the Kurdistan Regional Government, continued to publicly state that the PKK was a terrorist organization and would not be allowed a safe haven in Iraq. The trilateral discussions and other efforts continued through the end of the year, with a ministerial in late December.

The Iraqi government increased its efforts to garner regional and international support against terrorism. The Expanded Neighbors Process continued to provide a forum for Iraq and its neighbors to address Iraq's political and security challenges in a regional context. In October, the Iraqi government sent representatives to Egypt to participate in the sixth Neighbors Process working group on border security, in which the group sought ways to enhance and integrate border security systems in preparation for Iraq's 2010 parliamentary elections. Iraq also became a more active voice at the UN in 2009.

The Iraqi government pressed senior Iranian leaders to end support for lethal aid to Iraqi militias, and the Iraqi army carried out operations against extremists trained and equipped by Iran in Basra, Baghdad, and other areas. Although attacks by militants have sharply decreased, concerns remain that Iranian-supported Shia groups may be stockpiling weapons to influence the elections or the subsequent government formation. Shia militant groups' ties to Iran remained a diplomatic and security challenge and a threat to Iraq's long-term stability. National unity efforts to involve Iraqi Shia groups with Iranian ties, such as Asaib ahl al Haq (League of Righteousness) in the political process, decreased Shia-linked violence.

The Iraqi government faced internal and external pressure to relocate the Mujahadeen-e Khalq (MEK) organization, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, from the group's current location in eastern Iraq. The Iraqi government committed to act with respect for human rights in any efforts to relocate the group, and UN and international observers monitored the situation.

The Iraqi government attributed security gains to Iraqi security force capability and proficiency, as well as to increasing popular support for Iraqi government actions against AQI and other extremist groups. SOI and other groups provided U.S. and Iraqi forces with valuable information that helped disrupt terrorist operations and exposed large weapons caches. The SOI began integration into Iraqi security forces in 2008, and many more transitioned to non-security ministries throughout 2009. Sunni tribal awakening movements continued alliances with U.S. forces against AQI and extremist groups. AQI targeting of Christian and other minority churches, schools, and institutions indicated that AQI pursued strategies that required the least resources and yielded the highest payoff in the media and minds of Iraq's citizens. Despite this, ethno-sectarian violence continued to decline.

On June 30, U.S. combat troops pulled out of cities, villages, and localities, in accordance with the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement[1], and after that conducted all kinetic operations in partnership with Iraqi security forces. The focus of U.S. operations moved from urban to rural areas where international support will remain critical for the Iraqi government to build its capacity to fight terrorist organizations. All U.S. military operations are conducted with the agreement of and in partnership with Iraqi authorities.

Iraq's intelligence services continued to improve in both competency and confidence but will require ongoing support and legislative authority before they will be able to adequately identify and respond to internal and external terrorist threats.


[1] The Security Agreement is the legal basis for continued security cooperation to help Iraq build its capacity to fight terrorist organizations and establish formal mechanisms for joint security operations.

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