Recent Attacks in Iraq: Al-Qaeda in Iraq or Special Groups?

Over the last month there has been an increase in coordinated, well-planned attacks. While Coalition Forces are still investigating the perpetrators of these attacks, others have been quick to credit al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Although AQI is still present in Iraq, their networks have been largely disrupted by aggressive operations by Coalition Forces and Sons of Iraq (SoI).  Since June 2007, the number of AQI attacks has decreased by eighty percent.1 Their recent activity has been limited to the use of female suicide bombers on soft targets.  It is unlikely that AQI has regenerated its forces and capabilities in such a short period of time.
However, these attacks do coincide with the return of Special Groups from Iran. They are not only a more capable enemy but have frequently conducted these types of complex attacks over the last year. Like AQI, Special Groups have strong motivations to undercut security improvements in order to maintain their operational capability and their criminal financing networks. It is not yet known who is responsible for these recent attacks and it is important to consider all possibilities before passing judgment.
If AQI is indeed responsible for these attacks, analysts must determine how they were able to regenerate their networks so quickly. Giving AQI credit for attacks of which they are not capable has serious consequences. This benefits Special Groups, AQI, and Shi’a sectarian political agendas, and is problematic for Coalition Forces and the SoI.
1 William Selby USN, “Increased Capacity of Iraqi Army Allows Coalition to Shift Focus,” American Forces Press Service, October 1, 2008.