I recently heard Joe Biden say this on a radio broadcast:
"The President also continues to play the American people for fools -- conflating the terrorists of 9/11 with Al Qaeda in Iraq today. Al Qaeda in Iraq didn't exist before we invaded -- it is a Bush fulfilling prophecy."
It would be incorrect to state that al Qaeda did not exist in Iraq before the war. And to argue that by the above statement Biden simply meant the name "Al Qaeda in Iraq" did not exist before the war is hair-splitting to some degree. It's common knowledge that Al Qaeda was in Iraq before the US invasion, although its formal name might not have been "Al Qaeda in Iraq." Regardless of what one thinks about the war, this point should be clear.
To read more on this, see French terrorism prosecutor and former secret service agent Jean-Charles Brisard's excellent book, "Zarqawi: The New Face of al Qaeda". (All of the following material is taken directly from Brisard's research. And it should be noted that Brisard did not agree with the American invasion of Iraq).
In July 2001 several hundred Kurdish Islamists traveled to Afghanistan to be trained in Zarqawi's camp at Herat. In August a meeting of his leaders decided to establish a permanent base in Kurdistan, including training camps and the return of Afghan Arabs and recruitment of Jordanians. "They also planned to train members of the network in the handling of chemical and bacteriological weapons."
Jund Al-Islam (Soldiers of Islam) was founded on September 1, 2001, at Tawileh, Iraq . The leader of the group, Warya Salih Abdallah had recieved approval of Osama bin Laden himself, according to a press release put out by the group. Bin Laden is said to have given the group $300,000 at this time. The funds came via 2 intermediaries in London, Abu Musab Suri and Abu Basir. There are other connections to al Qaeda that can be explored in Brisard's research.
The group declared jihad on 'wayward' folks and rival parites in Iraqi Kurdistan on September 10, 2001. Attacks began in September 2001 and were carried out by Afghan Arabs who had fought in Afghanistan. "The group's forces, approximately five hundred armed men, are said to have been joined by at least the same number of al Qaeda members at that time. The group said it was accompanied by "the lord of Osama [bin Laden]" and officially claimed relations with "Iran, Iraq and Osama bin Laden" who were called "enemies of the Americans."
In November and December the infamous Mullah Krekar begins to show up as active with the group. His ties to al Qaeda have been known for a long time. According to European intelligence testimony Krekar met Zawahiri in Tehran in 2000 and admitted to meeting with bin Laden and al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan in 2002. Elsewhere he said his first meeting with bin Laden was in 1998. The group became (and was planned to be) a retreat base for jihadists fleeing Afghanistan after 9/11. Jund Al-Islam continued attacks (including a suicide bombings) on infidel Iraqis. The fighters were trained by al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Brisard also notes that according to Jordanian intelligence, Zarqawi met with Krekar in 2002 in Kurdistan, when they formed an alliance and combined their weaponry. In a signed note by Krekar, he recorded:
"We have a 155 cannon, approximately 1000 bombs of Iranian manufacture that we have bought at low price, as well as other bombs recovered after the last conflict between Iraq and Iran...We have also built tunnels and caves to protect ourselves from possible air raids...should there be attacks by the American-British coalition."
Brisard reports that Zarqawi's men were trained in the Halabjah area of Iraq, near the Iranian border.
"[I]n this same year the camp was transformed into a site for experimentation with and production of chemical weapons. The military training was provided by the Jordanian Ahmad Mahmud Salih Al-Riyati, who would be arrested in March 2003 by American forces and handed over to the Jordanian authorities. The chemical laboratory at the camp was under the supervision of Abdel Hadi Daghlas."(See Brisard's footnotes for his sources).
He also writes: "In late 2002 Zarqawi and his partisans kept moving continually between Baghdad and the border area with Iran. This aroused the suspicion of the Iraqi authorities, who finally arrested three of Zarqawi's lieutenants between the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003, releasing only one of them before the American offensive."
He summarizes:"Since the end of 2001, Ansar al-Islam has been under the de facto control of Zarqawi, who procures most of its financial and military resources as well as its recruits and supervisory staff."
In addition, he notes that in July 1989 the Islamist magazine Al-Bunyan Al-Marsus (The Impenetrable Edifice), said to be close to leadership of al Qaeda and run by friends of Abdallah Azzam himself, announced the real aims of al Qaeda: for every Muslim to fulfill the goals of jihad until America is reached and liberated. The head of this publication recruited young Zarqawi, who would later swear to the destruction of all unbelievers.