We learned quickly when I was in Fallujah in 2003 that jihadists were infiltrating into Iraq from Syria. As early as June 2003, we were capturing jihadists claiming to have be from the Arab nation. Throughout 2003 and into 2004, these terrorists built a base in the Al Anbar Province cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
This led to a major military operation to root out these dug in forces, costing many American lives. It was the perfect storm of a heavy influx of foreign fighters and a new “hands-off” policy that removed military patrols through the neighborhoods.
It seemed at the time that the Syrian government wasn’t doing anything to stem the tide. If anything, we felt like they were condoning the exportation of these fighters to de-legitimize our efforts. Early intelligence immediately following the March 20th invasion indicated that Saddam had moved at least some of his WMD efforts into the country.
It seems now that Syria is getting what it deserves for contributing to the American and Iraqi death toll:
Al-Qaeda fighters are crossing from Iraq to Syria to carry out attacks there, Iraq’s foreign minister said on Thursday, as Syrian activists accused regime loyalists of committing atrocities in an opposition stronghold just outside Damascus.
Hoshyar Zebari said he had “solid information” about the movement of terrorist operatives into Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have launched fresh offensives against residential areas amid rising military casualties.
The author (center, holding map) and his team during a pre-mission briefing into Fallujah.