Khalid Abdul Fatah Da”ud Mahmud al-Mashadani, also known as Abu Shahed and the top Iraqi member of al Qaeda in Iraq, was taken from his home July 4 in the northern city of Mosul by coalition forces. Al-Mashadani, who has been cooperating with the U.S. forces since his capture two weeks ago, played a crucial role in al Qaeda’s propaganda machine, said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith in a telephone call from Iraq yesterday with The Washington Times.
The capture of al-Mashadani was announced yesterday in Baghdad, one day after the administration released declassified portions of a new National Intelligence Estimate on the threat of terrorism, particularly from al Qaeda, against the U.S. homeland.
Al-Mashadani’s cooperation with U.S. officials stemmed from his “strong sense of nationalism” and “anger” that foreign al Qaeda operatives were creating a false front and using Iraq as a staging ground for their own gain, said Adm. Smith, who is deputy director of public relations with the U.S.-led coalition forces.
“One of the greatest weapons of al Qaeda is their propaganda machine,” Adm. Smith said. “He was their main propaganda machine. I think his capture has great significance inside Iraq. He was the most senior member with authority and taking him out will have impact.”
But his capture doesn’t necessarily mean someone else won’t take his place.
“Certainly, they’ve obviously been able to regenerate leadership,” Adm. Smith said. “Replacing a top official like al-Mashadani won’t be easy. But his capture is a blow to al Qaeda in Iraq. Over the past six months, coalition forces have been gathering intelligence and putting pressure on the insurgents. Al Qaeda in Pakistan is using Iraq to create energy for their broadest jihad movement.”
Over the past two months, U.S. forces have killed or captured 26 al Qaeda senior operatives, but every month, nearly 60 to 80 foreign insurgents enter the country, he added. Most foreign operatives in Iraq came from Saudi Arabia, with jihadists from Syria, Egypt and Pakistan also common.
The move by coalition forces to continue to put pressure on the al Qaeda network in Iraq is inhibiting the Islamist terrorist organization from developing a national movement from within the country, Adm. Smith said.
Army Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, spokesman for the Multinational Force in Iraq, said at a press conference in Baghdad yesterday that the information gathered from al-Mashadani revealed that he was the conduit between al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and non-Iraqi operatives in the country.
White House press secretary Tony Snow said that this month coalition forces have captured a top al Qaeda security man in Mosul and killed an al Qaeda cell leader, Abu Jurah, in Baghdad. He called those accomplishments “an example of the kind of intelligence we are beginning to get now from locals about al Qaeda activities.”
With the Iraq strategy dependent on the upcoming September report on how the surge is working, the White House is stepping up its public relations effort to tout successes such as captures and killings. Mr. Snow took time to repeat some of Gen. Bergner’s presentation at the daily White House press briefing.
“I’m not sure that the American public gets an opportunity to see a lot of this, and I think it’s important to do it,” he told reporters who wondered why the double-barreled approach.