June 11, 2006
Killing ZarqawiBy John B. Dwyer
Hibhib lies several miles northwest of Baquba, Iraq, which is about 40 miles north of Baghdad. As the reliable site Iraq the Model tells us 'Most of its people are from the Azzawi tribes,' and it is 'famous for producing some of the finest Arak in Iraq.' (Arak is a popular alcoholic beverage of the Middle East.)
But then Zarqawi and some of his terrorist pals came to town.
Then came the cold—blooded murder of 19 students just north of the town. In its reporting on Zarqawi's death, Iraq the Model stated
A New York Times article several days ago stated that Jordan's assistance in this historic event was vital — a mole, courtesy their intelligence service, inside Zarqawi's Al Qaeda in Iraq network. Since that story broke, some have suggested that there was no mole, that this is a psychological warfare gambit on the part of the coalition and its allies.
Meantime, the not always reliable DEBKAFile is reporting that a Jordanian sting operation captured one of of Zarqawi's partners in murderous thuggery, Abu Hufeiza. He not only named al Qaeda's operations chief and two other high ranking AQ officers, he provided the first clue for the location of Zarqawi's Hibhib unsafe house. Here is what Multi—National Force Iraq spokesman, Maj. General William Caldwell said about pinpointing Zarqawi's location yesterday:
It had been a painstaking effort
Prior to this time frame statement MG Caldwell said things had started coming together a month and—a—half ago. Let's look at what happened, based on MNF—Iraq press releases, available here. But first, let's establish the fact that Special Operations Task Force 145, tasked with killing or capturing Zarqawi and high level al Qaeda personnel, has been the point unit in these operations. As with TF 120, tasked with Saddam's capture, TF 145 works alone or with coalition forces. Here is the timeline:
Here is how Multi—National Force—Iraq described the 'Road to Zarqawi,' listing these high—level terrorists killed or captured since April 9:
(see slide here)
This then is the outline of snowballing, accumulating intelligence described by MG Caldwell that helped build the intelligence puzzle. The method used was probably similar to that employed by Task Force 1/22nd Infantry in their successful hunt for Saddam: data bases, link diagrams, prisoner interrogation and, most important, human intelligence. For the latter, it appears there was a mole inside Zarqawi's network. And there were, as PM Maliki stressed, tips from local residents of Hibhib, who wanted the homicidal thug and his accomplises out of their neighborhood.
Based on MG Caldwell's three week time frame when the hunt for Zarqawi heated up, and his statement that Al Rahman was identified 'through military sources from somebody inside Zarqawi's network' at that time, it could mean that one of the terrorists captured during the 13—14 May raids identified Al Rahman (see above). Or, it might mean that Abu Hufeiza, as reported by the DEBKAFile, gave Jordanian interrogators his name.
At 6:15 p.m. June 7, 2006 two Air Force F—16Cs dropped one 500 lb. bomb each on Zarqawi's unsafe house. One was a laser—guided GBU—12, the other, a GBU—38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). MG Caldwell made it clear that the operational commander on the ground made the decision to bomb the target because the target was isolated (no collateral damage) and because the surrounding terrain offered too much cover. He didn't want Zarqawi escaping again in the aftermath of a ground assault.
When Iraqi police arrived at the site, they found Zarqawi barely alive and put him on a stretcher. (see initially cited MG Caldwell transcript) US forces from the 4th ID (same unit that bagged Saddam) got there soon afterward. When they approached, Iraqis were loading Zarqawi into an ambulance. He was taken back down so US troops could employ life—saving measures, but it was too late. (reference Multi—National Force commander Gen. Casey's Fox News Sunday interview) Three men, one of them Al Rahman, and three women were also killed in the bomb attack. Positive identification, a 100% fingerprint match, revealed at 3:30 Wednesday morning, proved beyond doubt that it was Zarqawi.
Site exploitation revealed an intelligence bonanza that was immediately utilized. Seventeen raids in and around Baghdad were conducted, followed by an additional 39 operations throughout Iraq. Twenty—five personnel were detained and one killed. Among the items found in those raids: passports, ID cards, night scopes, Iraqi army uniforms, weapons, ammo, other munitions, bullet—proof vests and suicide belts.
You can bet that intel exploitation is continuing and more raids will be forthcoming, that al Qaeda cells in Iraq will continue to be eliminated.
John B. Dwyer is military historian and a frequent contributor.