Continued violence over the weekend in Iraq again highlights that U.S. affiliated are at risk as the United States approaches withdrawal at the end of the year. The New York Times reports that a man disguised as a beggar detonated explosives in the Umm Al-Qura mosque after prayers on Sunday. While a connection to this and the idea that Iraqis who worked for the United States may be at risk may seem hard to reach, the mode in which al-Qaeda operates provide clues as to what may transpire as U.S. forces begin leaving the country for good.
Al-Qaeda and its affiliates are likely to target any person or group who espouses views or carries sympathies opposite their own. For instance, it is thought that the motivation for this attack may have been the fact that the mosque’s Imam was vehemently anti al-Qaeda and was part of the Sahwa movement which in the last few years worked to stem the violence which AQI and its affiliates seek to perpetrate.
Any Iraqi person or group with connections to the United States is a target. Iraqi government MP’s, army, police, all are under threat because they are seen to be associated with the U.S. presence in Iraq. Therefore it is not much of a jump to say Iraqis who worked directly under the U.S. military will be targeted. In fact, extremists have already promised to hunt down and kill these Iraqis. their promise of “nine bullets for the traitors” is not to be dismissed lightly.
This campaign to target Iraqis who worked with the U.S. will most likely be a campaign conducted in the shadows and take place over a long period of time. Silenced weapons in back alleys will be more likely to be used than bombs in markets. The perpetrators are more than willing to take their time in order to achieve their goals. It is therefore little wonder why Iraqis who have worked for the United States are increasingly anxious about withdrawal. They fear that the the show of strength by al-Qaeda in recent weeks is a harbinger of what will take place if they cannot escape the country.
If the United States government fails to act to protect these Iraqis, the results of our betrayal would be disastrous, not only for our moral standing in the world, but for all those Iraqis who have already sacrificed so much in their contribution to the United States’ mission in Iraq. With little over four months remaining until withdrawal it is imperative that these Iraqis get the help they need before it is too late.