Jihadis shift attention to war in Afghanistan
Afghan and NATO officials are seeing a rise in numbers of foreign fighters in Afghanistan at the same time US officials say attacks by Al Qaeda in Iraq have sharply dropped.
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He noted that the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq "has been reduced very substantially," from a peak of 80 to 100 per month to about 20. AQI attacks have dropped since late spring 2007, from more than 120 per month to less than 40 per month during the past three months, according to a Multi-National Forces in Iraq (MNF-I) spokesperson in Baghdad.Skip to next paragraph
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The spokesperson said in an e-mail that AQI's networks could no longer take in new recruits as before, "causing a backup or stovepipe of foreign fighters attempting to enter Iraq." The spokesperson added that MNF-I "has no indications" that Al Qaeda's leadership "is making a strategic shift in resources." Instead, it sees "a tactical shift in where these terrorists go to fight, thus allowing these terrorists a better opportunity to enter the fight sooner rather than later."
In Afghanistan, Western and Afghan officials report an increase in foreign fighters in the Taliban's fight. But officials are reluctant to disclose nationalities. "Last week, we arrested a group of fighters in the south and there was not a single Afghan amongst them," says Mohammad Zaher Azimi.
Brig. Gen. Richard Blanchette, spokesman for NATO'S 40-nation International Security Assistance Force, said that "it is clear that there is an increase in foreign fighters behind the insurgency in Afghanistan, facilitated by the porous border with Pakistan. This has made the current fighting season a tough one."
General Blanchette added that the ISAF "has no evidence to suggest there is increased movement of insurgents from Iraq to Afghanistan as of now."
Williams, who did research in Afghanistan last year, says that "US and Afghan Army troops have found documents on dead Arab fighters on many occasions across Afghanistan." He estimated that "several hundred Arabs" operate in "the most dangerous" Afghan province of Kunar under the leadership of an Egyptian. Others are operating under the patronage of Jalaludin Haqqani, an Arabic-speaking Afghan guerrilla.
The total number of Arabs fighting in Afghanistan is not huge – Williams estimates between 1,000 to 1,500. But he says that they have introduced nefarious tactics such as suicide bombings.
In May, an Al Qaeda-linked website announced the death of two of its fighters in Afghanistan, including one who had played a prominent role in AQI: Abu Suleiman al-Oteibi. Both he and the second man, Abu Dejana al-Qahtani, were later identified as Saudis.
Gen. Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry, doubts that many Saudis are going to Afghanistan because of "more awareness now among young Saudis that what is going on [in these places] is not real jihad."