Change in Tactics

CHANGE IN TACTICS….Amit Paley of the Washington Post reports that the terrorist group al-Qaeda in Iraq is (a) far smaller than it was a year ago and (b) working to turn that around:

From internal documents and interviews with members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a picture emerges of an organization in disarray but increasingly aware that its harsh policies — such as punishing women who don’t cover their heads — have eroded its popular support. Over the past year, the group has been driven out of many of its strongholds. The group’s leadership is now jettisoning some of its past tactics to refocus attacks on American troops, Sunnis cooperating closely with U.S. forces, and Iraq’s infrastructure.

….”We do not deny the difficulties we are facing right now,” said Riyadh al-Ogaidi, a senior leader, or emir, of al-Qaeda in Iraq in the Garma region of eastern Anbar province. “The Americans have not defeated us, but the turnaround of the Sunnis against us had made us lose a lot and suffer very painfully.”

….”We made many mistakes over the past year,” including the imposition of a strict interpretation of Islamic law, he told a Washington Post special correspondent. Al-Qaeda in Iraq followers broke the fingers of men who smoked, whipped those who imbibed alcohol and banned shops from selling shampoo bottles that displayed images of women — actions that turned Sunnis against the group.

Ogaidi said the total number of al-Qaeda in Iraq members across the country has plummeted from about 12,000 in June 2007 to about 3,500 today.

Fascinating. I wouldn’t be surprised if even that 3,500 number is exaggerated, but it appears that AQI and its fellow takfiris are nothing if not adaptable, even on the kind of core religious principles that supposedly they’d never compromise on. Apparently, if they need to compromise in order to step up recruitment of Sunni tribe members, then compromise they will. But will it work?