Al-Qaeda in Iraq


The northwestern Baghdad belt, stretching from Karmah west of Baghdad to Tarmiyah in the north, has been a sanctuary for al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) since January 2007, when the capital of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) was displaced from Diyala province to Tarmiyah.


The southwestern belt runs from Fallujah down the Euphrates River corridor, through Sadr al-Yusufiyah, Yusufiyah, east to Mahmudiyah and south to Iskandariyah.


The southeastern belt wraps around the capital in an arc running from Nahrawan east of Baghdad, south through Jisr Diyala down to Salman Pak, and east through Arab Jabour and Hawr Rajab to the city of Mahmudiyah. Most of the area is rural farmland, crisscrossed by irrigation canals that limit mobility and facilitate the creation of insurgent refuges.


The northeastern belt runs from the Tarmiyah area in the Tigris River Valley, east through Khalis and Baqubah and south to Nahrawan east of Baghdad. It controls the road networks that link Baghdad with the eastern shore of the Tigris River Valley, as well the Diyala River Valley and a key border crossing with Iran. Consequently, both al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), Jaysh al-Mahdi, and associated Iranian-backed Special Groups have competed to control the area.