Analysis of Al Qa'ida Foreign Fighters in Iraq

Analysis of The Sinjar Records

In October 2007, U.S. and coalition ground troops raided an Al-Qa’ida safe house near the city of Sinjar along the Syrian border of Iraq. They found a treasure trove of biographical sketches of nearly 700 foreign fighters in Iraq. Palantir was used by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point to analyze the records, which yielded many fascinating findings.

In November 2007, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point received the Sinjar records. They determined that Al-Qa’ida’s recruiters and affiliates in Iraq first the Mujahedeen Shura Council and later the Islamic State of Iraq had systematically collected and maintained these signups and survey sheets. Using Palantir Technologies’ powerful analytical platform, counterterrorism analysts at the center were able to sift through the detailed information on the foreign fighters – including fighters’ dates of birth, nationalities, routes into Iraq, names of recruiters, and willingness to commit suicide bombings to paint a multifaceted portrait of the people who are fueling the continued violence in Iraq.

The CTC has used the data to complete two detailed studies about the insurgency. The first report was released December 2007 and the second report was released July 2008. The reports paint a vivid and daunting portrait both of the strength and determination of the foreign fighters to attack U.S. and coalition troops, as well as Al-Qa’idas systematic recruiting efforts and organizational capabilities.

Here are some of the highlights of the CTCs findings:

Introduction (1 min 20 sec)

In October 2007, Coalition forces raided an Al-Qa’ida safe house near the city of Sinjar along the Syrian border of Iraq. Using the Palantir platform the

Combating Terrorism Center at West Point analyzed these records statistically, relationally, temporally, and geospatially.

Hometowns (2 min 14 sec)

About 18% of the foreign fighters in the Sinjar records identified themselves as Libyan. This is significantly greater than the estimates from all previous studies of foreign fighters in Iraq. Additionally, 239 of the 590 foreign fighters are Saudis.

Roles (1 min 13 sec)

Based on the Sinjar records, foreign fighters from Libya and Morocco are significantly more likely to become suicide bombers than are fighters from other countries.

Coordinator Introductions (1 min 55 sec)

The Sinjar Records indicate that recruitment of Foreign Fighters was a personal process, with the three most common techniques being “through a brother”, “through a friend”, and “through a relative”.

Arrival Events (4 min 9 sec)

The number of Libyan foreign fighters entering Iraq through Sinjar appeared to increase significantly and rapidly after a March 22nd, 2007 speech by Abu Yahya Al-Libi,

a senior ideologue in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). In his speech,

Al-Libi urges the LIFG to join Al-Qa’ida’s allies in Iraq. The LIFG officially joined Al-Qa’ida on November 3rd, 2007.

Syrian Coordinator Payments (2 min 17 sec)

Many of the Syrian coordinators responsible for smuggling foreign fighters into Iraq took large amounts of money for their services. Others appear to have been more ideologically minded and took smaller payments. Al-Qa’ida managers were keenly interested in their surveys of foreign fighters to know exactly how much payment Syrian coordinators took from the recruits in smuggling fees.

Contributions to Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI)(1 min 50 sec)

19 of the 20 largest payments from foreign fighters to Al-Qa’ida in Iraq came from fighters hailing from Saudi Arabia.

Analysis of Coordinator Relationships (2 min 15 sec)

Abu-‘Abdallah and Abu-Umar are Syrian coordinators that have been working together in the latter half of 2007. They worked together to bring in 11 foreign fighters into Iraq during that time.

Conclusion (47 sec)

Using Palantir’s analytical platform, the Combating Terrorism Center’s analyses of the Sinjar records offer deep insights into the personal profiles, social networks, and financial commitments of foreign fighters in Iraq.