Dealing with tribal systems has posed a continuing challenge to Al-Qaida as it operates in the Middle East and Africa, where a tribal environment is still an integral part of society in many of the countries. How Al-Qaida views and manages the tribal system within its individual areas of operation in many cases can mean the difference between success and failure, and the jihadist movement cannot ignore this issue, which has been a major factor affecting its prospects, especially in Iraq. This study examines Al-Qaida's experience dealing with the tribes in Iraq in terms of a triangular relationship involving the Sunni tribes, Al-Qaida, and the government (or the United States as the governing authority in the initial stages), with latter two entities often competing for the allegiance of the tribes.
As part of its anti-American insurgency in the Sunni areas, Al-Qaida's policy errors, characterized by an arrogant and uncompromising approach to tribal economic, social, and cultural interests, as well as the alienation of the existing tribal leadership, engendered considerable popular discontent and contributed to an eventual shifting of tribal alliances to the United States. The ensuing establishment of the Sahwa (Awakening) tribal forces and the combined campaign with U.S. and Iraqi government forces resulted in a major setback for Al-Qaida, both in terms of casualties and the abandonment of Al-Qaida by local allies. However, Al-Qaida was able to reassess and modify its policy, especially after the death of its field commander, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, in June 2006. Al-Qaida's new approach was characterized by an easing in ofthe implementation of strict Islamic practices, a reduced reliance on foreign personnel in leadership positions, a greater willingness to work with tribal leaders and to accept neutral tribes, and a more focused targeting to avoid collateral damage.
Introduction * Chapter 1: The Human Terrain: The Tribal Factor in Iraqi Society * Chapter 2: Al-Qaida Tackles the Tribes * Chapter 3: Al-Qaida Alienates the Tribes * Chapter 4: Mobilizing the Tribes Against Al-Qaida * Chapter 5: The U.S. Strategy Matures and the Awakening Develops * Chapter 6: The Shayks' Positions Assured * Chapter 7: The Tribal War Against Al-Qaida * Chapter 8: Al-Qaida Responds * Chapter 9: Al-Qaida Adapts * Chapter 10: The Tribes and the Iraqi Government: A Rocky Relationship * Chapter 11: The Evolving Tribal Environment * Chapter 12: Al-Qaida's Own Carrot-and-Stick Approach