They have also made significant inroads into the Sunni militias, dubbed "Sons of Iraq," created by the US military to fight AQI. While Petraeus said again Wednesday that these US-backed militias had "some former insurgents," the IAI's Abu Abdullah, who goes by a nickname, says he would not dream of moving around if it were not for help from these militias and Sunni elements inside government security forces.
Echoing concerns about the true allegiance of these US-funded militias, Sen. Joseph Biden (D) of Delaware raised the prospect in his remarks Tuesday that these groups may one day "turn their guns on us."
Requests to the US military in Iraq for comment on the activities of non-AQI insurgent groups have gone unanswered.
Insurgent's view of US presence
In an interview, Abu Abdullah revealed a complex picture of a Sunni insurgency that appears to support US efforts to diminish AQI's reign, yet is deeply opposed to the American-led effort here.
Abu Abdullah says that most attacks by his group, the IAI, focus on the US military. The IAI's website features an up-to-date list of all its purported attacks – most involving rocket or mortar fire and roadside bombings against US troops. Some attacks are also against Shiite militias and government forces. "We are fighting a battle for our existence," says Abu Abdullah.
He also maintains that while the US has succeeded in driving a wedge between AQI and Sunnis in Anbar Province, many of the tribesmen there who are now on the American payroll are still aiding IAI and other insurgent groups.
"Chasing out Al Qaeda has benefited us a lot," he says, explaining that AQI militants have largely been driven out of Anbar and Baghdad and are now concentrated in parts of Diyala, Nineveh, and Salaheddin provinces to the north. He says AQI used indiscriminate violence to subdue other Sunni insurgent groups. Petraeus has offered a similar assessment.