Zarqawi's death represented a victory for intelligence efforts in Iraq by the U.S. and its allies. Officials in Jordan, which suffered a string of hotel bombings last year for which Zarqawi took responsibility, said they played a key role in the manhunt....U.S. officials declined to reveal further details about how they tracked down the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, citing their concern for operational integrity for future strikes against the militant group. But interviews with officials in Washington, Baghdad, Jerusalem and Amman, Jordan, indicate that the raid occurred after a lengthy multinational intelligence effort utilizing interrogations, informants and reporting by U.S. forces. In the last month, several suspected key Al Qaeda operatives in and around Iraq had been arrested and interrogated. Among them was Kassim Ani, a Zarqawi aide believed to be behind some of the deadliest attacks in Baghdad, who was captured there by Iraqi security forces late last month. Days earlier, Al Qaeda operative Ziad Khalaf Raja Karbouly was detained in Jordan, where he confessed on television to kidnapping Moroccan Embassy workers and killing a Jordanian truck driver on Zarqawi's orders. A Jordanian official speaking on condition of anonymity said Thursday that intelligence his country provided to American officials played a decisive role in the Zarqawi raid by helping them identify Rahman, known in Iraq as the mufti of the militant group." Yes, this was part of our ongoing efforts to share information with the U.S. about Zarqawi and Al Qaeda," the official said. U.S. spokesman Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV said Thursday that many countries had provided useful information to American forces combating Al Qaeda in Iraq, but singled out Jordan's efforts for special praise." Jordan is an extremely good friend and partner and a good friend of the Iraqis as they fight this war on terrorism," he said. Al Qaeda's targeting of Arab governments that are friendly with the U.S., including Jordan and Egypt, had spurred those countries to target Zarqawi, said Raanan Gissin, an official in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office. Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the deaths of at least 60 people in the nearly simultaneous bombings of three luxury hotels in Amman, the Jordanian capital, in November.The Washingpost Post provides additional information on how the U.S. tracked down the Sunni Arab terrorist:
For years, Zarqawi and his top aides have been hunted by an elite and highly secretive team of U.S. Special Forces personnel known as Task Force 77. They nearly apprehended Zarqawi on several occasions, most recently in April during a series of raids near the southern city of Yusufiyah, according to a defense official familiar with the Zarqawi hunt. A crucial breakthrough in the hunt came last month when Jordanian intelligence officers captured one of Zarqawi's mid-level operatives near the Iraqi border, according to the official. Employed by the Iraqi government as a customs clearance officer in Rutbah, along the main road from Amman to Baghdad, the operative identified himself as Ziad Khalaf al-Kerbouly. Kerbouly said in a statement broadcast by Jordanian television on May 23 that he used his position to help Zarqawi smuggle cash and materiel for the insurgency. Under questioning, Kerbouly told Jordanian interrogators something that they did not broadcast: the identity and contacts for Zarqawi's new "spiritual adviser," Sheik Abdel Rahman. Task Force 77 located Abdel Rahman, kept him under surveillance and learned that there was "a very high probability" he would meet Zarqawi at the house on Wednesday. According to a U.S. intelligence source, Abdel Rahman served as Zarqawi's liaison to Muslim clerics across Iraq, gathering recruits, funding and popular support for the insurgency. Unlike Zarqawi's previous spiritual adviser, Abdullah Janabi, Abdel Rahman -- a Sunni Muslim, as was Zarqawi -- supported al-Qaeda in Iraq's campaign of attacks against Iraq's majority Shiite population. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, a U.S. military spokesman, declined to comment on specific Jordanian help. By his account, the capture or killing of several top al-Qaeda lieutenants in recent weeks, beginning with a cell leader in Yusufiyah on April 6, brought critical intelligence about the leader.This Washington Post article raises questions about Zarqawi's legacy and the direction of the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq:
The slaying of the Jordanian-born guerrilla leader eliminated the biggest advocate of the extreme violence against civilians that has made the Iraq war so grisly. Zarqawi and his radical Sunni Arab group, al-Qaeda in Iraq, carried out suicide attacks that could kill 100 or more passersby in a flash of light and videotaped the last gasps of foreign hostages being decapitated. But other crucial questions, analysts say, are thrown completely up into the air: whether other foreign fighters will show themselves equally eager to slaughter civilians, whether the Sunni insurgency will split into fragments or broaden its base and, above all, whether the Shiite-Sunni killing that Zarqawi's attacks helped unleash can be reined in. " The immediate aftermath of this will probably be an upsurge of violence" as Sunni insurgents hurry to show that Zarqawi's killing has not broken the resistance, said Michael Clarke, an expert on terrorism at the International Policy Institute of King's College London. "In the medium term, in the next month or two, it will probably help to downgrade sectarianism," Clarke said by telephone. "But the dynamic of sectarian violence is probably past the point of no return."The lead editorial from The Wall Street Journal also wisely cautions about the continued challenges in Iraq in the months ahead:
In a war on terror without conventional battle lines, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death Wednesday in a U.S. airstrike near Baqubah is about as big a victory as you get. Only 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheihk Mohamed rivals Zarqawi in importance among the al Qaeda leaders who've been captured or killed. No single terrorist has more innocent blood on his hands. Yet as important as his death is, no one should be overconfident that this is the turning point for Iraq. It is, as President Bush remarked yesterday, "an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide of this struggle." But it is only that: an opportunity. And unless Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Coalition partners seize this chance to revise and revamp what has been a failing security strategy, it's an opportunity that could pass quickly. While Zarqawi's Islamic radicals are the most ruthless "insurgents," the remnants of the old regime--Saddam's intelligence service and fedayeen--are more numerous. They've also grown more brazen, threatening thousands of Iraqis with torture or death if they or their families cooperate with the new government. At least 13 Iraqis were killed in another car bombing yesterday.Also at The Wall Street Journal today, Daniel Henninger stresses America's moral victory in the Zarqawi killing:
If nothing else, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi understood that the effect on people of unrelenting mass murder in the global village would be corrosive. As with September 11's second falling tower, Zarqawi knew that he could force everyone in the dazed world community to participate via information electronics in every beheading, in every bombing of Iraqi police stations or open-air markets, and in every homicidal IED (improvised explosive device) detonated beneath American troops....Now he has been killed, and this should rightly be called a moral victory.The editorials at the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times also stressed the good news out of Iraq, recognizing the consequential importance of the finalization of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's cabinet.