While the media and many news sites cover the violence in Mali and Syria, it bears mentioning that there are still al-Qaeda and other fundamentalist groups operating within Iraq itself.  Violence increased with the withdrawal of US troops last year, and the al-Qaeda involvement in the Syrian civil war has highlighted the fact that the organization we fought for almost nine years is far from dead.

On March 11, a suicide bomber in Dibis, northwest of Kirkuk, killed three people and wounded 165, mostly school children at a nearby girls’ school.  On the 7th, two gunmen and an Iraqi policeman were killed in a firefight in Ramadi.  A third gunman, suspected to be al-Qaeda, was arrested.  The three had planted an IED on the road to Anbar University, and had two more in their possession.

On March 4, a convoy of Syrian soldiers fleeing from the war and under escort by elements of the Iraqi Army, was ambushed in western Al Anbar, en route to Baghdad.  48 Syrians and nine Iraqi soldiers were killed.  While it was believed that AQI was involved, on the 11th, the Islamic State of Iraq, AQI’s political arm, announced that they had sprung the ambush, while praising the efforts of “the brothers” in wiping out the “apostates” in Syria.

With US forces withdrawn completely, there isn’t much of a counter to AQI anymore.  We don’t have access to the Sunni tribes in Al Anbar, the same tribes whose formation of the Awakening militias turned the tide in 2007-2008.  There are reports of the CIA moving back into Iraq to attempt to take up the slack.