As al-Qaeda Expands, Baghdad Is in the Crosshairs

Militants Control Major Highways Heading to Capital

First Fallujah and Ramadi and, in the past two days, Mosul and Tikrit, are all under control of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). In addition to being some of Iraq’s largest and most important cities, they are all on major highways leading to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

From the west, Highways 10 and 12 pretty much all AQI territory from deep in Syria to the town of Abu Ghraib, just 20 km outside of Baghdad. Highway 1, from the north is theirs as well, from Mosul to the area south of Tikrit. Fighters are moving southward, taking key oil refineries, and again leaving them a stone’s throw from Baghdad.

The indications are that the next big AQI target will be Kirkuk, and if that falls it cuts another highway link between Iraqi Kurdistan and the central government’s territory, and also gives them another straight shot to Baghdad.

The momentum is all going toward the militants now, and with several avenues of attack, Baghdad is actually starting to look vulnerable not only for hit-and-run terrorist strikes, but potentially a full scale invasion.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.