McCaul: ISIS Linked to 29 Terror Plots, Attacks Against West Since Obama’s ‘JV Team’ Comments

jihadi-car-parade-videoshotBreitbart, by EDWIN MORA, March 24, 2015:

WASHINGTON, DC — The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has been linked to “29 terrorist plots or attacks” against the West nearly a year after President Obama called the jihadist group a “JV team,” revealed House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX).

As ISIS stormed Iraq in January 2014, President Obama dismissed the brutal jihadist organization as a junior varsity (“jayvee team”) terrorist group.

“A year after the president called ISIS the ‘JV team,’ the organization can draw on over 20,000 foreign fighters and has been linked to 29 terrorist plots or attacks targeting the West,” said Chairman McCaul in his opening remarks at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing today.  “And the day the president said the global war on terror was effectively over was the day al Baghdadi created ISIS.”

“ISIS now controls territory the size of Belgium, governs millions of people, draws on billions of dollars in revenue, and commands tens of thousands of foot soldiers,” he added. “Terrorist safe havens have spread across the Middle East and North Africa.”

The chairman went on to note that ISIS claimed responsibility for the deadly terrorist attack at a museum in Tunisia, which is located next to Libya where the jihadist group hasestablished a presence.

McCaul said, “The gunmen involved had received training in Libyan terror camps.”

Nearly 20 people were killed in the attack.

Furthermore, the Texas Republican pointed out that ISIS, a Sunni group, has also claimed to be behind the coordinated attack against two Shiite mosques in Yemen, which he said, “killed more than 150 people.”

“Yemen’s instability has led to the evacuation of our remaining forces and will further empower extremists,” he added. “This situation is alarming given that al Qaeda’s premier bomb-makers in [Yemen-based] AQAP [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] have been targeting the homeland and Western interests for years.”

“Over the past year, Islamist terrorists have struck Western cities, including Paris, Sydney, Ottawa, Copenhagen, and Brussels. We have witnessed the reach of extremists here at home as well,” noted McCaul. “An Ohio-based ISIS sympathizer was arrested in January for plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol. Last week, an ISIS-aligned hacking group posted the names, photos, and addresses of 100 American service members, calling their ‘brothers residing in America’ to attack these individuals.”

Today’s House panel hearing was titled, “A Global Battleground: The Fight Against Islamist Extremism at Home and Abroad.” [statement pdf’s available at hearing link]

Also see:

Report: ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram Training Together

AP Photo/Militant Website, Fil

AP Photo/Militant Website, Fil

Breitbart, by John Hayward, March 24, 2015:

According to Veryan Khan of the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, the great under-the-radar terror threat comes from an expanse of the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, where ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram are working together to train Western recruits for jihad, including terror attacks in Europe and North America.

“The situation in Mauritania is a powder keg very few people are talking about,” Khan told Fox News.

When the first stories about Boko Haram’s idolization of ISIS broke, some analysts were confident the two terror groups would never work together, because the Islamic State was supposedly too racist to cooperate with their African fan club. That analysis disintegrated completely over the past few months, as ISIS officially embraced Boko Haram as a franchise of their “caliphate.” Operational cooperation, especially in the form of tactical training badly needed by the enthusiastic but sloppy Boko Haram terrorists, would be the next logical step.

Khan’s organization has a source in Mauritania that says at least 80 trainees — including recruits from the U.S., Canada, and Europe — are quartered at the camps, which are located in the sparsely-populated desert interior of the country. “Signs in English can be seen in videos and photos obtained by TRAC inside one of the main camps at the Maatamoulana Mosque, providing unmistakable evidence of westerners’ presence,” writes Fox News.

The joint terrorist training project got a big shot in the arm when Mauritania’s government released five top terrorists following a prison riot in which they took two guards hostage and threatened to not only kill the hostages, but hunt down and slaughter their families as well.  The five were prominent members of al-Qaeda and one of its parent organizations, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.  Several of them have experience with jihadi recruitment and training.

It is not clear from the Fox News report if any of these five are thought to be actively participating in the Mauritania camps, or if their release was more of a morale-booster and propaganda coup for the camp management.  The article does run down a list of headline-grabbing terrorists who made trips to Mauritania, which offers little in the way of amenities for jihadis besides the desert training facility. Suspected veterans of the training program include three Canadians who joined al-Qaeda in a bloody attack on an Algerian gas plant in 2013, a Florida-based cleric who allegedly used his seminary to funnel terrorist recruits to Mauritania, and a French citizen involved in the execution of ISIS hostage Peter Kassig.

As for Boko Haram’s involvement, it is noted that the leader of the Nigerian gang has claimed some of his thugs were trained in Mauritania, and indeed Boko Haram’s ideology was incubated there. “There also are links between Mauritania and Boko Haram evident in its interaction with Al Qaeda for training and the supply lines for finance and weapons,” Khan told Fox News.  “In addition, there are recruitment centers and organized crime networks in Mauritania facilitating ISIS expansion in North and Central Africa.”

Mauritania has also arrested several suspected ISIS terrorists who bragged that the Islamic State was “on its way to that country,” and a major Mauritanian terrorist brigade recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.  It was not merely a rhetorical salute, as a couple of Mauritanian terrorists were subsequently arrested trying to smuggle a load of cash and weapons into Mali.

The Mauritanian terror gangs have been quite active, according to Fox News:

Within Mauritania, there have been several terrorism related incidents waged by jihadists since 2005, including the assassination of four French tourists in Aleg by Al Qaeda, attacks on the Israeli and French embassies, clashes between Al Qaeda members and Mauritanian forces in Tevragh Zeina, the beheading of 12 Mauritanian soldiers, the murder of Christopher Ervin Leggett, a U.S. citizen, the kidnapping of three Spanish citizens, the kidnapping of an Italian couple kidnapped and other embassy attacks that were prevented.

CNN recently ran a disturbing profile of African terrorism that cited Jane’s Defense Weekly’s description of Mauritania as “an aspirational target for jihadist groups due to its military co-operation with France and Algeria.” The World Policy blog proposed Mauritania as part of an urgently-needed African “security belt,” and wondered how al-Qaeda’s interests in Africa would respond to the encroachment of ISIS — “will AQ affiliates strengthen when challenged, or will they pledge bayat [allegiance] to IS like Boko Haram has done?”  If all three groups are cooperating at terror camps in Mauritania, we may have the beginnings of an answer to that question, and it’s not a good answer.

FNC’s Wallace Grills CIA Chief for Falsely Claiming Al Qaeda Was on the Run

cia-420x315Breitbart, by Pam Key, March 22, 2015:

On this weekend’s “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace quizzed CIA Director John Brennan over his 2012 claim al Qaeda was on the run during the 2012 presidential election.

After Wallace ran a clip of Brennan in 2012 saying this will be the decade al Qaeda’s demise he asked, “Director Brennan, weren’t you just flat wrong about that?”

Brennan shot back “No. When we look at al Qaeda and look what has happened to al Qaeda as the core of al Qaeda that was in the area of Afghanistan and Pakistan, they have taken some really big hits.”

Wallace continued, “But respectfully, sir, when you were saying this is the decade of al Qaeda’s demise, I don’t think most people thought there will be an offshoot called ISIS which spreads across the Middle East.”

Brennan countered by saying, “This phenomenon that Dash represents right now is a new one. It is one that has grown up in the past two years.”

Wallace inserted, “But it’s an offshoot against al Qaeda.”

Brennan continued, “We have pushed al Qaeda back and prevent their attacks, but there are these offshoots, as you say. This is a phenomenon that we have to deal with and I do think over the next decade this will be a long, hard fight.

Wallace asked, “I guess what I’m asking is didn’t you give the American people and the president give the American people a false sense of confidence back in 2012 about our fight against Islamic terrorists at a time perhaps not so coincidentally when the president was running for re-election.?”

Brennan concluded, “We said al Qaeda was on the run. We said that al Qaeda was really bloodied. It was not the same organization that it was at 9/11 as well as in the years after that. There was no sense that I think either I or the president or others gave to the American people that terrorism was going away. But we’ve made great progress against a lot of these groups that had plans in place to carry out attacks.”

TRANSCRIPT

Also see:

Analysis: Why AQAP quickly denied any connection to mosque attacks

aq3

LWJ, by Thomas Joscelyn, March 21, 2015:

Almost as quickly as the Islamic State’s branch in Yemen claimed responsibility for suicide attacks at mosques attended by Houthis in Sana’a earlier today, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) denied any connection to the coordinated bombings. There is a simple reason why: Such attacks are inconsistent with al Qaeda’s guidelines for waging jihad.

In its statement denying any ties to the bombings, AQAP stressed that it remains “committed to the guidelines” issued by Sheikh Ayman al Zawahiri. Those guidelines advise against “targeting mosques, markets, and public places out of concern for the lives of innocent Muslims, and to prioritize the paramount interests,” AQAP’s message reads, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The Islamic State and its followers have rejected Zawahiri’s approach, carrying on with indiscriminate attacks against civilians. Indeed, today’s bombings in Yemen are further evidence of the divide within the jihadist world. The disagreements between the al Qaeda axis and the Islamic State are not just about who is the jihadists’ rightful ruler. They have very different approaches to combating their enemies and building support for their efforts.

Today’s statement from AQAP did not reflect a sudden change in course. The group has long advocated in favor of Zawahiri’s guidelines, and has even apologized when its fighters violated them.

In an interview that was released in January, an AQAP official named Nasser bin Ali al Ansi explained his organization’s approach to fighting the Houthis. Al Ansi is not only one of AQAP’s most senior figures, he also serves in the upper echelon of al Qaeda’s global network. Based on documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound and other evidence, The Long War Journal has previously identified al Ansi as one of al Qaeda’s deputy general managers. [See LWJ report, Osama bin Laden’s Files: Al Qaeda’s deputy general manager in Yemen.]

Several of the questions addressed to al Ansi during the AQAP interview dealt with the Houthis. Al Ansi was asked about a “recent martyrdom-seeking operation in Sana’a that specifically targeted” the “rejectionists,” a derogatory term used for Shiites. The interviewer wanted to know why AQAP went through with the attack as it appeared to violate Zawahiri’s “instructions,” meaning the aforementioned guidelines.

“There is really no difference in our views,” al Ansi explained, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. The operation “did not target the demonstrators, but rather the security belt that surrounded them, composed of a large number of Houthis,” al Ansi claimed.

Al Ansi continued by explaining that Nasir al Wuhayshi, AQAP’s emir and al Qaeda’s general manager, “gave clear instructions to the operating cells to avoid attacking mixed gatherings and to focus on armed Houthis.” AQAP’s fighters are “abiding by this rule as far as we know.” According to al Ansi, AQAP has asked its “brothers” to “be careful” when targeting Houthi gatherings and to focus on “the ones where their military armed forces exist, their headquarters, and their other posts.” AQAP fighters are supposed to avoid “areas where common Muslims are found,” such as mosques.

The al Qaeda official warned Muslims to “stay away from Houthi gatherings and locations,” but his directions were clear. AQAP avoids attacks on Houthi civilians when possible.

And today’s attacks by the Islamic State’s fighters were the complete opposite of what al Qaeda wants.

When Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State, announced his organization’s expansion into Yemen and elsewhere last November, he deliberately sought to undermine AQAP’s legitimacy. If the Houthis had encountered real mujahideen, Baghdadi claimed, then their “their evil would not have festered.” In other words, the Islamic State would have stopped the Houthis’ advances.

Baghdadi’s words were carefully chosen, and part of propaganda campaign that portrays al Qaeda as being soft on the Houthis and other Shiites. The Islamic State’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al Adnani, has even gone so far as to argue that “Iran owes al Qaeda invaluably,” because the jihadists heeded Zawahiri’s directive to avoid attacks inside the mullahs’ country.

Baghdadi’s criticism was so pronounced that another AQAP official, Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari (who was subsequently killed in a US drone strike), was forced to responded. Less than two weeks after Baghdadi’s message, Nadhari said that he and others “were hurt by what Sheikh Abu Bakr al Baghdadi said, and it hurt the Muslims in the trench of Yemen, when he said that the Houthis found no monotheists to fight them.” This is false, Nadhari argued, and AQAP cannot believe “the likes of the Sheikh” would “say such a thing.”

But AQAP should believe that Baghdadi would make such a claim. Today’s attacks in Sana’a are part of the Islamic State’s strategy.

There is dissent within the jihadist community regarding al Qaeda’s policy regarding Shiites. And the Islamic State knows this. Many Sunni jihadists want to let the Shiites’ blood flow, and they do not want calibrate their attacks to avoid Shiite civilians. Al Qaeda believes that such attacks alienate much of the Muslim population in the long run. The Islamic State sees such operations as not only legitimate, but also as a tool for inciting further violence, thereby radicalizing more of the population for its cause.

AQAP’s interview with al Ansi in January highlighted this key difference. One questioner wanted to know why Zawahiri and al Qaeda “attribute only ignorance” to the Shiites instead of general disbelief. If Shiites were deemed infidels, of course, it would pave the way for unbridled violence against Houthi civilians.

Al Ansi responded by arguing that al Qaeda’s approach “has been the view of many elders and scholars,” including the medieval ideologue Ibn Taymiyyah, who remains a popular thinker among jihadists. Al Ansi cited “current jihadist scholars” such as Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri, Atiyah Abd al Rahman, and Abu Yahya al Libi as all being of the same view. (Rahman and al Libi served in al Qaeda’s management before being killed in US drone strikes.)

However, al Ansi conceded this “has been a controversial issue for years and all interpretation efforts are appreciated.” Thus, even AQAP’s man couldn’t say that his jihadist opponents were definitely wrong.

Still other questions during al Ansi’s interview implied that AQAP wasn’t doing enough to combat the Houthis. When asked why AQAP didn’t stop the Houthis from overtaking Sana’a, al Ansi responded by pointing out his group didn’t control the city at the time. Al Ansi also had to explain that AQAP couldn’t shell all of the Houthis’ positions as they often operate in areas whether other Muslims live. Thought the Houthis’ “headquarters” were fair game.

All of this is likely part of the reason that the Islamic State’s first major operation in Yemen focused on mosques visited by Houthis. AQAP attacks the Houthis frequently, but tries to keep its violence focused on military and security targets.

The Islamic State’s followers have no such bound on their terror.

Islamic State Rises in Libya

In this file image made from a video released Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015 by militants in Libya claiming loyalty to the Islamic State group purportedly shows Egyptian Coptic Christians in orange jumpsuits being led along a beach, each accompanied by a masked militant / AP

In this file image made from a video released Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015 by militants in Libya claiming loyalty to the Islamic State group purportedly shows Egyptian Coptic Christians in orange jumpsuits being led along a beach, each accompanied by a masked militant / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz, March 20, 2015:

The Islamic State terrorist group is expanding its operations in Libya with high-profile attacks following the recent beheadings of 21 Christians, according to a State Department security report.

In Libya, Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS or ISIL, formed out of existing al Qaeda-affiliated and Islamist extremist groups in early 2015. It is said to number between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters and has been exploiting the conflict between two Libyan groups fighting for control of the oil-rich North African state, Libya Dawn and Operation Dignity.

The Islamist and pro-al Qaeda Libya Dawn and the anti-Islamist Operation Dignity, headed by Lt Gen. Khalifa Haftar, have created rival parliaments and military forces and are said to receive foreign government support.

“Without an agreement between Operation Dignity and Libya Dawn and coordinated anti-ISIL efforts, we may see the group make more significant gains and attempts to control more territory in Libya,” the report said.

There is growing international concern in the region and among European states across the Mediterranean Sea over Libya’s decline into a failed state that is allowing groups like IS to expand their operations.

The European Union is considering greater involvement in stabilizing Libya but will only take steps in that direction if a unity government is achieved.

Three terrorist groups in Libya have pledged loyalty to Islamic State and are now operating inside the country. They are Islamic State Barqa Province, in the eastern region of Cyrenaica; Islamic State Fezzan Province, in the southwest; and Islamic State Tripoli, in the western region.

“An expanding security vacuum has given ISIL an opening to establish a legitimate foothold,” the report says. “ISIL is capitalizing on the conflict to conduct sophisticated attacks, but so far has made only limited territorial gains, and is already facing backlash from Libya Dawn,” one of two groups vying for power.

Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism specialist, said Islamic State’s growth in Libya is the greatest untold story outside of jihadist inroads in Egypt’s Sinai.

Islamic State in Libya is “following the same scenario that led to such success before,” said Gorka, the Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University.

The terrorists are exploiting the vacuum created by the lack of U.S. leadership and are leveraging the civil war in Libya to recruit fighters and provide its forces with real, in-theater experience and training, he said.

“The U.S. has again fallen into the trap of obsessing on the ‘shiniest’ and closest object of attention,” Gorka said. “For more than a decade all we cared about was al Qaeda, only to be surprised by the Islamic State. Now all we can focus on is ISIS, whilst the jihadist threat expands and grows stronger in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and elsewhere.”

The State Department report warned that increased violence in Libya had reached critical level in the past year. “But rise of ISIL in Libya marks a direct shift in which foreign nationals and western private-sector interests are being targeted specifically for ideological purposes.”

“The emergence of ISIL compounds an already severe threat environment,” the report said, noting that many U.S. businesses have evacuated or scaled back operations.

The report also warned that Libya’s government appears incapable of protecting many of Libya’s oil fields, some of which were attacked earlier this month by Islamic State militants.

The Libyan National Oil Company on March 4 declared a force majeure for 11 of its oil fields in central Libya as a result of Islamic State targeting of oil facilities. The declaration was designed to provide legal protections from claims against future disruptions. It followed a Libyan government announcement that it cannot protect the oil fields.

Reports from the region have provided limited information on how much territory the group controls.

IS Tripoli has carried out several attacks in the capital and is said to control the town of Nawfaliya in the central part of the country.

Islamic State groups also have been reported operating in Sirte, where they took over several buildings. Several television and radio stations the group has taken over have broadcast propaganda messages from Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani.

Last week, Libya Dawn militiamen fought Islamic State terrorists in Sirte in a bid to drive them from the city. The Libya Herald reported that a senior Tunisian Islamic State leader was killed in the fighting.

In Barqa province, Islamic State claimed to control the city of Derna, an Islamist extremist stronghold, but reports of its control were disputed by other terrorists.

In Derna, a group called the Islamic Youth Shura Council said it was pledging loyalty to Islamic State.

“ISIL Barqa Province continues to operate in the city, reportedly controlling a handful of neighborhoods and maintaining training camps just outside the city,” the report said, adding that about 800 ISIL fighters are in Derna.

Additionally, some Libyan fighters who went to Syria and Iraq to fight with IS appear to be returning to Libya, including some 300 fighters from the Islamic State’s Al Battar Brigade who have moved to the so-called Barqa province.

Islamic State’s Libya group gained international attention by releasing a shocking video Feb. 15 showing the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on a beach. The mass murders were used by the group to announce its presence in Libya.

The day after the video surfaced, Egyptian military forces conducted bombing raids against Derna, targeting weapons storage and training sites and killing approximately 40 militants.

The report, produced by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, said Islamic State’s success in Libya will depend on its ability to navigate local tensions.

“ISIL’s advance in Libya may be more similar to Syria, where the group can take advantage of a larger conflict to grow,” the March 18 report states.

“Similar to Syria, the Libya conflict is home to a number of local and regional groups with complex alliances, and ISIL may purposefully confront groups that will provide it strategic gains and permit its growth.”

Islamic State in Libya is targeting foreign facilities and critical infrastructure in a bid to prevent opposing forces from gaining control.

“Recent incidents have involved attacks on high-profile establishments utilized by foreign nationals and businesses, repeated targeting of energy infrastructure, and kidnapping of foreign nationals,” the report said.

Recent attacks included a Jan. 27 car bombing of a parking garage in Tripoli’s Corinthia Hotel and the subsequent storming of the hotel, where foreign and Libyan hostages were taken.

Following a standoff, the gunmen killed themselves with a grenade, killing five foreign nationals and five Libyans. The attack was carried out by IS Tripoli, which claimed it was retaliation for the U.S. capture of Abu Anas al-Libya, who recently died in U.S. custody.

Other attacks took place Feb. 3, Feb. 13, and Feb. 20.

The Feb. 3 operation was carried out against the Mabruk oil field, near Sirte, and killed nine guards. During the attack, the terrorists destroyed oil tanks and a control room. The strike is expected to disrupt production for a year.

The video of the massacre of Christians was released Feb. 15, and on Feb. 20, two suicide bombing attacks killed 40 people killed in Qubba near Derna. The bombings, for which IS Barqa claimed responsibility, were carried out by a Libyan and a Saudi.

On March 3, Islamic State terrorists attacked the Dahra oil field about 310 miles southeast of Tripoli and temporarily took control.

Three days later Islamic State terrorists struck the al-Ghani oil field, about 440 miles southeast of Tripoli. During the attack, militants beheaded eight guards and kidnapped nine foreign oil workers, who remain missing. The hostages include four Filipinos, an Austrian, two Bangladeshis, a Czech, and a Ghanaian.

The attackers also blew up the facilities’ largest oil storage tank.

Two other Islamic State attacks near Tripoli were carried out on March 12 and March 15.

The report stated that the March 15 bombing in Janzour coincided with a car bombing in Misrata the same day. Both locations are controlled by Libya Dawn and “may signal a growing confrontation between Libya Dawn and ISIL.”

The nature of the connection between the Islamic State groups in Libya and the mainline Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is not completely clear.

“While ISIL in Iraq and Syria has a clear hierarchy and structure, it is also believed to allow its regional and local leadership to operate with a high level of autonomy,” the report said.

“Unlike ISIL in Iraq and Syria, ISIL Libya Provinces does not control critical infrastructure or territory, and has not yet become a significant fighting force in the pre-existing domestic conflict.”

The report concludes that: “ISIL’s emergence in Libya is unsurprising given the country’s prolonged descent into chaos following the 2011 civil war.”

Libya’s decline into a failed state is one of the major consequences of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, which worked with the NATO alliance to provide military support to Libyan rebels who ousted the government of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Subsequent governing arrangements have been unable to maintain stability.

Foreign Policy Elite MEME OF THE WEEK: Accept ‘Moderate’ Al-Qaeda

By Patrick Poole:

As I’ve said here at PJ Media repeatedly, there are some ideas so profoundly stupid that they can only be taken seriously inside the political-media-academic bubble that stretches along the Washington, D.C.-New York-Boston corridor. These typically populate my annual year-end “National Security ‘Not Top 10′” review.

Such is the case with this week’s foreign policy “smart set” MEME OF THE WEEK: we need to accept “moderate” al-Qaeda in order to defeat “hardline” ISIS.

Understand, this is a continuation of a popular theme amongst the foreign policy “smart set.” See the “moderate Muslim Brotherhood,” which just a month ago declared all-out jihad on the Egyptian government. Or the New York Times, pitching “moderate” elements of the Iranian regime. Or current CIA director “Jihad” John Brennan calling for the U.S. to build up Hezbollah “moderates.” Or hapless academics proclaiming the “mellowing” of Hamas. Or the so-called “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel groups that, as I have reported here, regularly fight alongside ISIS and al-Qaeda and have even defected to those terror groups.

So why are the foreign policy elites now having to talk about engaging “moderate” al-Qaeda, of all things?

Because all of those previous “moderate” engagement efforts have ended in disaster. But rather than abandon the whole “moderate” theme, the foreign policy community seems intent to double-down on failure by continuing to move the “moderate” line.

First out of the gate this week was an article in Foreign Affairs by Harvard’s Barak Mendelsohn, “Accepting Al-Qaeda: The Enemy of the United States’ Enemy,” that argues:

Since 9/11, Washington has considered al-Qaeda the greatest threat to the United States, one that must be eliminated regardless of cost or time. After Washington killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, it made Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s new leader, its next number one target. But the instability in the Middle East following the Arab revolutions and the meteoric rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) require that Washington rethink its policy toward al-Qaeda, particularly its targeting of Zawahiri. Destabilizing al-Qaeda at this time may in fact work against U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS.

Here’s how Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, billed this conventional wisdom:

foreign affairs tweet

There are several problems with Mendelsohn’s thesis. One problem that he barely acknowledges is that al-Qaeda is still a declared enemy and an active threat to the United States. They have said repeatedly that they intend to kill U.S. citizens and have continued to plot to do so. The enemy of my enemy can still also be my enemy.

A second pragmatic problem with trying to use Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, as a tool against ISIS is that the relationship between the two groups is constantly evolving. Not long ago, ISIS and Nusra were comrades-in-arms. Despite their present falling-out, within recent months they still occasionally worked together: in August they joined forces to attack Lebanese border checkpoints; in September they were engaged in joint operations around Qalamoun. And Nusra appears more interested in wiping out the U.S.-backed “vetted moderate” groups and fighting the Assad regime than going head-to-head with ISIS.

Thus, it is considerably more likely that ISIS and al-Qaeda will engage in some form of reconciliation than al-Qaeda falling into the U.S. foreign policy orbit and serving as an anti-ISIS proxy in Syria.

So what drives the folly of the foreign policy “smart set”? Mostly it is the hubris that only they comprehend the vast and constantly changing complexity of international affairs, but also it is their added belief that their pals in the administration can harness this “smart set” omniscience to manipulate global events to a predicted end.

That rarely, if ever, happens. Just witness the Obama administration’s foreign policy disaster in Syria.

Mendelsohn has not been alone this week in calling for greater “acceptance” of al-Qaeda. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published Yaroslav Trofimov’s “Al-Qaeda a lesser evil? Syria war pulls U.S., Israel apart,” where he makes the following case:

MOUNT BENTAL, Golan Heights — This mountaintop on the edge of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights offers a unique vantage point into how the complexities of the Syrian war raging in the plains below are increasingly straining Israel’s ties with the U.S.

To the south of this overlook, from which United Nations and Israeli officers observe the fighting, are the positions of the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda that the U.S. has targeted with airstrikes.

Nusra Front, however, hasn’t bothered Israel since seizing the border area last summer — and some of its severely wounded fighters are regularly taken across the frontier fence to receive treatment in Israeli hospitals.

To the north of Mount Bental are the positions of the Syrian government forces and the pro-Iranian Shiite militias such as Hezbollah, along with Iranian advisers. Iran and these militias are indirectly allied with Washington in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq. But here in the Golan, they have been the target of a recent Israeli airstrike. Israel in recent months also shot down a Syrian warplane and attacked weapons convoys heading through Syria to Hezbollah.

It would be a stretch to say that the U.S. and Israel are backing different sides in this war. But there is clearly a growing divergence in U.S. and Israeli approaches over who represents the biggest danger — and who should be seen, if not as an ally, at least as a lesser evil in the regional crisis sparked by the dual implosion of Syria and Iraq.

Trofimov’s argument boils down to: “Accept al-Qaeda! See, the Israelis are doing it!!!”

Read more at PJ Media

Also see:

Islamic State spokesman publicly accepts Boko Haram’s allegiance

Screen-Shot-2015-03-13-at-11.16.00-AM-300x152LWJ, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | March 13th, 2015:

In a defiant new speech, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani claims that the “caliphate” is undaunted in the face of the multinational forces arrayed against it and remains on the path to victory. Adnani also publicly accepts the pledge of allegiance issued by Boko Haram’s leader, Abu Bakr Shekau, saying that recruits who cannot join the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere now have the option of traveling to West Africa.

Adnani’s audio speech, entitled “So They Kill and Are Killed,” was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The recording is nearly 30 minutes long.

“We give you glad tidings today about the expansion of the Caliphate to West Africa, for the Caliph, may Allah preserve him, accepted the pledge of allegiance of our brothers in Jama’at Ahl al-Sunnah Lil Dawa Wal Jihad [Boko Haram],” Adnani says, according to SITE’s translation.  “We congratulate the Muslims and our mujahideen brothers in West Africa for their pledge of allegiance, and we congratulate them for their joining the march of the Caliphate.”

Adnani goes on to say that those who are “unable to immigrate to Iraq, Sham, Yemen, the Peninsula, and Khorasan,” may not be “unable [to immigrate to] Africa.”

Earlier this month, Shekau became the highest-profile jihadist to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State thus far. [See LWJ report, Boko Haram leader pledges allegiance to the Islamic State.]

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi (“Caliph Ibrahim”) and his followers have pressed to garner the fealty of many existing jihadist groups, but failed to woo al Qaeda’s existing branches. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Shabaab in Somalia all remain openly loyal to al Qaeda’s senior leadership.

The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official arm in the Levant, has fought against the Islamic State in Syria. Contrary to claims made by jihadists in recent press reports and on social media, Al Nusrah remains a part of al Qaeda’s international network. Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) was established by Ayman al Zawahiri and other senior al Qaeda leaders in September 2014 and is staffed by al Qaeda loyalists.

Other parts of al Qaeda’s global operation, including the Islamic Caucasus Emirate (ICE), have rejected Baghdadi’s caliphate claim. Some of ICE’s commanders have defected to the Islamic State, but the overall group remains in al Qaeda’s camp. Numerous other al Qaeda-linked jihadist groups have declined to follow Baghdadi as well.

Still, the Islamic State’s own international network has been growing, especially in Libya and the Sinai. Baghdadi has also garnered the fealty of disgruntled al Qaeda and Taliban commanders in South Asia, giving the Islamic State some manpower in the region.

Shekau was arguably the first well-known jihadist leader to openly join Baghdadi. Boko Haram has longstanding ties to AQIM and other parts of al Qaeda, but that relationship will undoubtedly evolve further given Shekau’s public backing of Baghdadi.

Ansaru, a pro-al Qaeda group in Nigeria, has increasingly sought to distance itself from Boko Haram in recent months. Ansaru and Boko Haram have frequently cooperated in operations, but have distinctly different jihadist agendas. Ansaru, like other al Qaeda groups, is attempting to portray itself as a popular revolutionary force, as opposed to Boko Haram’s and the Islamic State’s top-down totalitarianism.

In its propaganda this past week, the Islamic State portrayed Boko Haram’s decision to join the self-declared “caliphate” as a major boost for the group. At a time when Baghdadi’s forces are taking on enemies from nearly every direction, Boko Haram’s announcement was seen as a major coup. Before Adnani’s speech was made public, the Islamic State released several videos from followers and members in Raqqa and elsewhere praising Shekau’s announcement. (A screen shot from one of the messages can be seen at the beginning of this article.)

Indeed, with Boko Haram in its camp, the Islamic State can now plausibly claim to control significant territory in both the heart of the Middle East and West Africa.

Adnani’s speech is devoted largely to the task of wooing new recruits. He preaches the supposed virtues of the Islamic State in the Middle East and West Africa.  In the lands of the caliphate, Adnani says, “monotheism is achieved” and “jihad in the cause of Allah” is the norm.

According to SITE’s translation, Adnani continues by saying there “is no polytheism or paganism or nationalism or patriotism or polytheist democracy or disbelieving secularism” in the caliphate. “There is no difference between an Arab and a non-Arab, nor between black and white. Here, the American fraternizes with the Arab, and the African with the European, and the Eastern with the Western.” Adnani promises would-be recruits that they will have the opportunity to live under sharia law if they join the Islamic State’s cause.

Adnani is also keen to portray the Islamic State’s setbacks in Kobane and elsewhere as merely tactical withdrawals, claiming that the the US-led coalition and Kurdish forces found it necessary to demolish these locations. This is a radically different message than the one the Islamic State released during the peak of the fighting in Kobane. At the time, Baghdadi’s group insisted that there were no opposition forces in the city and that the jihadists were in complete control. That was false.

Also see:

Osama bin Laden’s Files: The Pakistani government wanted to negotiate

osama-bin-laden1-e1425067707264BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | March 9th, 2015:

Recently released files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that parts of the Pakistani government made attempts to negotiate with al Qaeda in 2010. The letters were released as evidence in the trial of Abid Naseer, who was convicted on terrorism charges by a Brooklyn jury earlier this month.

One of the files is a letter written by Atiyah Abd al Rahman (“Mahmud”), who was then the general manager of al Qaeda, to Osama bin Laden (identified as Sheikh Abu Abdallah) in July 2010.  The letter reveals a complicated game involving al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, the brother of Pakistan’s current prime minister, and Pakistan’s intelligence service.

“Regarding the negotiations, dear Sheikh, I will give you an overview, may God support me in this,” Rahman wrote. “The Pakistani enemy has been corresponding with us and with Tahreek-i-Taliban (Hakeemullah) for a very short time, since the days of Hafiz, may God have mercy on him.” Hakeemullah Mehsud was the head of the Pakistani Taliban at the time. The “Hafiz” mentioned is Mustafa Abu Yazid (Sheikh Saeed al Masri), who served as al Qaeda’s general manager prior to his deathin May 2010. Rahman succeeded Yazid in that role.

“We discussed the matter internally, then we talked with Abu-Muhammad later once we were able to resume correspondence with him,” Rahman explained. “Abu-Muhammad” is the nom de guerre of Ayman al Zawahiri. As a result of these discussions, al Qaeda was willing to broker a deal in which the jihadists’ would ease off the Pakistanis so long as the military and intelligence services stopped fighting al Qaeda and its allies.

“Our decision was this: We are prepared to leave you be. Our battle is primarily against the Americans. You became part of the battle when you sided with the Americans,” Rahman wrote, explaining al Qaeda’s position towards the Pakistani government. “If you were to leave us and our affairs alone, we would leave you alone. If not, we are men, and you will be surprised by what you see; God is with us.”

Al Qaeda’s negotiating tactic was simple. Either the Pakistanis leave them alone, or they would suffer more terrorist attacks. Rahman’s letter reveals how bin Laden’s men sought to convey their message. They relied on Siraj Haqqani, the senior leader of the Haqqani Network, which has long been supported by the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment.

Rahman summarized al Qaeda’s plan thusly: “We let slip (through Siraj Haqqani, with the help of the brothers in Mas’ud and others; through their communications) information indicating that al Qaeda and Tahreek-i-Taliban [the Pakistani Taliban] have big, earth shaking operations in Pakistan, but that their leaders had halted those operations in an attempt to calm things down and relieve the American pressure.”

“But if Pakistan does any harm to the Mujahidin in Waziristan, the operations will go forward, including enormous operations ready in the heart of the country,” Rahman explained. This is the message al Qaeda “leaked out through several outlets.”

In response, “they, the intelligence people…started reaching out to” al Qaeda through Pakistani jihadist groups they “approve of.”

Read more at Long War Journal

Obama White House Covered Up Al Qaeda Threat in Bin Laden Docs

Obama-nostrategy-450x337Frontpage, March 6, 2015 by Daniel Greenfield:

Two obvious takeaways from this.

1. National security is such a mess because White House staffers are obsessively micromanaging everything with a political agenda in mind. Intel agencies, law enforcement and the military are given marching orders that make no sense and told to cover it all up.

2. We’re in this current mess because Obama needed a fake victory that was built on layers of lies which went unquestioned by the media. There will be a hell of a book in this someday, but considering how much more biased the media is, no one will read it.

This is how the Bin Laden intel files and documents seized from his compound were used.

In a speech commemorating the anniversary of the raid, John Brennan , Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and later his CIA director, predicted the imminent demise of al Qaeda. The next day, on May 1, 2012, Mr. Obama made a bold claim: “The goal that I set—to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.”

The White House provided 17 handpicked documents to the Combatting Terror Center at the West Point military academy, where a team of analysts reached the conclusion the Obama administration wanted. Bin Laden, they found, had been isolated and relatively powerless, a sad and lonely man sitting atop a crumbling terror network.

The White House was shaping the reports it wanted by shaping the evidence. This is the sort of thing the military brass usually gets accused of by the civilian leadership in wartime. Here it worked in reverse.

After a pitched bureaucratic battle, a small team of analysts from the Defense Intelligence Agency and Centcom was given time-limited, read-only access to the documents. The DIA team began producing analyses reflecting what they were seeing in the documents.

At precisely the time Mr. Obama was campaigning on the imminent death of al Qaeda, those with access to the bin Laden documents were seeing, in bin Laden’s own words, that the opposite was true. Says Lt. Gen. Flynn: “By that time, they probably had grown by about—I’d say close to doubling by that time. And we knew that.”

This wasn’t what the Obama White House wanted to hear. So the administration cut off DIA access to the documents and instructed DIA officials to stop producing analyses based on them.

Obama lied. Americans died.

And there were also things there that involved our “allies”.

According to one letter, dated July 2010, the brother of Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s current prime minister, sought to strike a peace deal with the jihadists.

Al Qaeda’s network in Iran is also described in bin Laden’s letters.

During the Arab uprisings in 2011, Obama administration officials argued that al Qaeda had been “sidelined” by the peaceful protests. Just weeks before he was killed, however, bin Laden’s men dispatched operatives to Libya and elsewhere to take advantage of the upheaval.

Nothing to see here.

Osama Bin Laden’s Files: The Arab revolutions

Anas Al-LibiLWJ, by Thomas Joscelyn, March 3rd, 2015:

As the so-called “Arab Spring” swept through the Muslim-majority world in 2011, some US officials and counterterrorism analysts proclaimed that al Qaeda had been left “on the sidelines.” However, the limited selection of publicly-available documents captured in Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011 tell a different story. The al Qaeda chieftain and his subordinates saw an opportunity.

Atiyah Abd al Rahman, who served as al Qaeda’s general manager, discussed the political upheaval in a letter written to bin Laden just weeks before the al Qaeda CEO was killed in his Abbottabad, Pakistan safe house. Rahman’s letter was introduced as evidence in the trial of Abid Naseer, who is alleged to have taken part in al Qaeda’s plotting in Europe and New York City. Just months after penning it, Rahman was killed in a US drone strike in northern Pakistan.

“We are currently following the Arab Revolutions and the changes taking place in Arab countries,” Rahman wrote. “We praise you, almighty God, for the demise of the tyrants in Tunisia and Egypt.”

Rahman mentions the “situation” in countries such as Libya, Syria, and Yemen, explaining that he has included “some of what” he “wrote to some of my brothers concerning these revolutions.”

“In general,” Rahman argued, “we think these changes are sweeping, and there is good in them, God willing.” Rahman wondered if bin Laden had considered putting out a speech on the uprisings, noting that al Qaeda’s CEO had “not made any statements as of now,” as “hopefully” bin Laden was “waiting for these revolutions to mature and reach stability.”

Rahman wrote that “it might be good for” Yunis al Mauritani, a key figure in al Qaeda’s “external operations” (or international terrorist operations) who was subsequently captured in Pakistan, to “send his brothers to Tunisia and Syria and other places.” Bin Laden’s general manager believed that the “Syrian brothers would have to wait a little for the revolution in Syria to succeed in taking down Bashar Assad’s regime, and for the country to become degenerated and chaotic.”

His conclusion proved to be wrong. Al Qaeda groomed an official branch in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front, to battle Assad’s government and its allies. And al Qaeda’s senior leadership later sent a cadre of officials to Syria to help guide this effort, as well as to plot attacks in the West.

The Tunisian with Yunis “could travel straight to Tunisia now,” as “he could easily enter the country, and then some of our people could travel there and get in,” Rahman wrote. The “three Syrians” will “hopefully” be able to get into their home country.  There is no clear indication of who these Syrians and the Tunisian are, or what happened to them. Some of Yunis’ men were eventually captured alongside him, while others likely remained free.

But the bin Laden files give some details with respect to Libya.

Read more

Also see:

US-Backed Syrian Group Disbands – But Were They Ever Truly “Moderate” to Begin With?

March 3, 2015 / /

Surprise, surprise, Harakat Hazm (HH) – one of the US government’s favorite factions challenging the Asad regime in Syria – has completely collapsed after being routed by al-Nusra at one of their last remaining bases in Atarib. After the group was routed and announced its dissolution, al-Nusra began taking inventory of the new toys they seized such as TOW anti-tank missiles, night-vision optics and anti-air missiles – all courtesy of the Obama administration. In the grand scheme of things it didn’t really matter since the group had been giving a lot of what they were receiving from the US to al-Nusra over the last 8 months. HH has been touted as being one of the last real “moderate” entities in the country. The problem with that is this statement is inaccurate, and only goes to show just how dangerously naive the Obama administration’s views are in this fight.

Syria: al-Qaeda Nusra Front ‘seizes’ hi-tech weapons after defeat of US-armed Harakat Hazm rebels
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/syria-us-armed-harakat-hazm-rebels-disband-al-qaeda-nusra-front-captures-base-weapons-1490075

Main U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Disbanding, Joining Islamists
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/01/main-u-s-backed-syrian-rebel-group-disbanding-joining-islamists.html?via=desktop&source=twitter

Obama wants $500M to train, equip Syrian rebels
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/white-house-release-money-train-syria-rebels.html

reuters

Source: Reuters

We first wrote about HH’s alliance over the past year with some less than “moderate” groups back in our 20 JUL 14 piece titled “This is Why We Need to Avoid Giving Weapons to Anti-Asad Rebels.” The not-so-convenient truth is that HH had been actively conducting joint-operations with al-Nusra and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF) and Islamic Army. HH, SRF and the Islamic Army were all established to put a “moderate” face on the Syrian rebels – although in actuality no such group exists. Over the past year HH had worked closely with SRF, whose leader, Jamal Marouf, has admitted to sharing weapons with al-Nusra and stated that “fighting al-Qaida (AQ) is not our problem.” Mutual ally and Islamic Front leader Zahran Aloush is a known Salafist who is all about waving the AQ flag on the battlefield. No, that man is not a “moderate,” and neither are any of the other groups we mentioned above. in fact, Aloush had participated in a joint-operation with al-Nusra in the attack on Adra in DEC 2013, which led to over 40 civilians being massacred. As for the Islamic Front, well, they were a subordinate organization under the al-Nusra banner but switched over to ISIS when the feud between the two jihadist organizations kicked into high-gear.

This is Why We Need to Avoid Giving Weapons to Anti-Asad Rebels
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=76

Islamists kill 15 Alawite and Druze civilians in Syria -activists
http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/12/12/syria-crisis-adra-idINDEE9BB0AR20131212

Chief of Syrian Revolutionaries Front says al Qaeda is ‘not our problem’
http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/04/chief_of_syrian_revolutionary.php

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 7.17.56 PM

Zahran Aloush: Syria’s biggest Hello Kitty fan
Source: kwout.com

The following excerpt from the LA Times article titled “Syria Rebels, Once Hopeful of U.S. Weapons, Lament Lack of Firepower” is quite revealing:

“Inside Syria we became labeled as secularists and feared Nusra Front was going to battle us,” Zeidan said, referring to an Al Qaeda-linked rebel group that has been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. Then he smiled and added, “But Nusra doesn’t fight us, we actually fight alongside them. We like Nusra.”

Syria rebels, once hopeful of U.S. weapons, lament lack of firepower
http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-harakat-hazm-20140907-story.html#page=1

By now some of our readers are probably thinking, “you can’t judge HH on what others do” – and you would be justified in those thoughts. Both the Obama administration and Senators John McCain and Lyndsey Graham have praised HH as being a “model for the type of group the US should be supporting.” Specifically, they’ve been praising HH as being a “secular” organization. However, the truth behind the group’s formation and history is very different than what has been sold to the msm and the American people. HH’s formation actually predates the Islamic Front and involves the establishment of the Harakat Zaman Muhammad (of which it was a part of) under the Quranic verse “And fight against disbelievers collectively. [9:36]” The effort involved the recreation of the al-Farouq Brigades (you know, the guys who force non-Muslims to pay the “jizya” or “tax” in the territories they seize) in a new form under new leadership for the purpose of uniting all Islamist groups in Syria at a later stage.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB – the Grandfather of the modern Sunni terrorist btw) put its full support behind the group, but the lack of a prominent face was an obstacle. The two individual who would fill this role are Aloush and Ahrar al-Sham Movement leader Hasan Aboud aka “Abu Abdullah al-Hamwi.” The idea at the time was for the movement to be “the lead” in the fight against the Asad regime and the Islamic State (IS) in Northern Syria. The Harakat Zaman Muhammad organization would later become what we know today as “HH” with Bilal Atar and Abdullah Awda as the “faces” of the organization to the west. The decision to change the name to “Harakat Hazm” was made by the MB leadership to give the entity a “secular” appearance so as to look more appealing to the west. In other words, the group wasn’t “secular” at all, and was really just the armed-wing of the MB that once again fooled a clueless Obama administration. Aside from the US, HH also received substantial assistance from Turkey and Qatar – who were likely the ones American weaponry were being funneled through.

Harakat Hazm: America’s new favorite jihadist group
http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/19874

The moderate rebels: A needle in a haystack
http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/moderate-rebels-needle-haystack

In addition to forcing non-Muslims to pay the jizya (which is pretty much protection money), HH’s friends the al-Farouq Brigades is also the organization that engages in eating the hearts of their enemies (doesn’t every moderate?):

 

It was sometime at the end of last summer that HH and al-Nusra had a falling out, which of course resulted in the group’s eventual disbandment. In SEP 14 HH began to show signs of moving towards the IS sphere of influence when they condemned US military airstrikes targeting IS positions in Northern Syria. By then, the group had started to experience mass defections to al-Nusra and IS. Here’s the official statement (from our friends at the Counter Jihad Report):

HH_statement

Lack of reliable partners in Syria poses daunting challenge to U.S.
http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-islamic-state-challenges-20140924-story.html

You can find more HH info on the Counter Jihad Report’s website:

http://counterjihadreport.com/tag/harakat-al-hazm/

The Obama administration’s support provided to HH is a damning indictment of the lack of competence in the foreign policy and national security-arenas endemic from top to bottom. Not one person in the administration fully understands the nature of the threat nor do the individuals considered “Middle East subject matter experts” appear to know the difference between a jihadist and an actual moderate. Ironically, the Asad regime is the most moderate faction in Syria. Most people don’t realize that Asad married a Sunni woman and that Sunnis and Christians are represented throughout the government. In fact, the reason Asad remains in power is due to the Sunnis – the real moderates – who remained loyal to the regime. The same can also be said for the US government’s failure to provide adequate support to other moderates such as Jordan, Egypt, Libyan GEN Khalifa Haftar and the Kurdish factions.

But we’re not advocating an alliance with Asad. Far from it. We’re saying that the current situation was created by an Obama administration that was clearly in over its head when it supported the “Arab Spring,” the Islamists/jihadists driving the movement and the “moderates” that would later rise in places like Libya, Egypt and Syria. Had the Obama administration not supported the Arab Spring or pulled out of Iraq when it did all this would have likely never materialized. Unfortunately, the administration’s current rudderless IS strategy has only led to the violence in the region escalating to the point where we’re now faced with an IS that is spreading into Gaza, North Africa and the AF/PAK region like a cancer metastasizing in a weakened body. Now we have no choice but to put boots on the ground with a lax ROE and the full support to do what’s necessary to defeat this enemy – and the longer we put it off, the worst its going to get for all involved. Especially for our military. The world is burning, and President Obama is doing his best impersonation of Nero…

Links to Other Related Articles:

Obama’s ISIS Strategy: Failed Before it Started

Another Reason Obama’s ISIS Strategy Has Already Failed

The Asad Stratagem

Syrian Army Takes Advantage of US Airstrikes in Counter-Offensive

Islamic State Strength Underestimated: Already Eclipsed Al Qaida As Primary Threat

Also see:

New Docs Reveal Osama bin Laden’s Secret Ties With Iran

osama_bin_ladenWeekly Standard, by Thomas Joscelyn, Feb. 29, 2015:

This week, prosecutors in New York introduced eight documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan as evidence in the trial of a terrorism suspect. The U.S. government accuses Abid Naseer of taking part in an al Qaeda’s scheme to attack targets in Europe and New York City. And prosecutors say the documents are essential for understanding the scope of al Qaeda’s plotting.

More than 1 million documents and files were captured by the Navy Seals who raided bin Laden’s safe house in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011. One year later, in May 2012, the Obama administration released just 17 of them.

While there is some overlap between the files introduced as evidence in Brooklyn and those that were previously made public in 2012, much of what is in the trial exhibits had never been made public before.

The files do not support the view, promoted by some in the Obama administration, that bin Laden was in “comfortable retirement,” “sidelined,” or “a lion in winter” in the months leading up to his death. On the contrary, bin Laden is asked to give his order on a host of issues, ranging from the handling of money to the movement of terrorist operatives.

Some of the key revelations in the newly-released bin Laden files relate to al Qaeda’s dealings with Iran and presence in Afghanistan.

A top al Qaeda operative asked bin Laden for permission to relocate to Iran in June 2010 as he plotted attacks around the world. That operative, Yunis al Mauritani, was a senior member of al Qaeda’s so-called “external operations” team, and plotted to launch Mumbai-style attacks in Europe.

As THE WEEKLY STANDARD first reported, the al Qaeda cell selected to take part in al Mauritani’s plot transited through Iran and some of its members received safe haven there after the planned attacks were thwarted.

In the memo to bin Laden, a top al Qaeda manager wrote, “Sheikh Yunis is ready to move and travel.” The file continues: “The destination, in principle, is Iran, and he has with him 6 to 8 brothers that he chose. I told him we are waiting for final complete confirmation from you to move, and agree on this destination (Iran). His plan is: stay around three months in Iran to train the brothers there then start moving them and distributing them in the world for their missions and specialties. He explained those to you in his report and plan.”

Bin Laden’s reply is apparently not included in the documents.

Other intelligence recovered in the raid on the al Qaeda master’s home show that al Qaeda and Iran were at odds in some ways. Iran detained a number of senior al Qaeda leaders and members of Osama bin Laden’s family. Al Qaeda forced Iran to release some of them by kidnapping an Iranian diplomat in Pakistan. Some of the newly-released files provide hints of these disagreements as well, including a suggestion that one of bin Laden’s sons may complain about the jihadists’ treatment in Iran once he was freed.

The same June 2010 memo to bin Laden that includes Yunis al Mauritani’s request also includes a section on the al Qaeda leaders who had returned to Pakistan from Iran. One of them is Abu Anas al Libi, a bin Laden lieutenant who was captured in Tripoli in 2013. Upon being freed, al Libi was reassigned to al Qaeda’s security committee and asked to move to Libya to take part in the anti-Qaddafi revolution. Al Qaeda granted al Libi’s request.

Although Iran and al Qaeda have had significant differences, there is much intelligence showing that the two continue to collude.

During President Obama’s administration, the Treasury and State Departments have repeatedly exposed the formerly “secret deal” between the Iranian regime and al Qaeda that allows the terrorist organization to shuttle operatives around the globe. Some of those operatives included Yunis al Mauritani’s men.

The June 2010 memo to bin Laden indicates that al Qaeda had a significant presence in Afghanistan at the time.

“Our groups inside Afghanistan are the same as for every season for many years now,” bin Laden’s subordinate wrote. “We have groups in Bactria, Bactica, Khost, Zabul, Ghazni and Warduk in addition to the battalion in Nuristan and Kunz.” (Bactria and Bactica may be transliterated incorrectly and actually reference other provinces.)

“We have very strong military activity in Afghanistan, many special operations, and the Americans and NATO are being hit hard,” the memo continues.

The author, who is likely Atiyyah Abd al Rahman (later killed in a U.S. drone strike), says that al Qaeda had recently cooperated with the Haqqani Network in a major operation in Bagram. “We cooperated with Siraj Haqqani and other commander down there (Kabul/Bagram),” Rahman writes to bin Laden. Siraj’s father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, was one of bin Laden’s closest allies. The Haqqani network and al Qaeda have fought side-by-side for years and the Haqqanis continue to provide shelter for al Qaeda’s men in northern Pakistan.

Al Qaeda’s description of its own presence in Afghanistan is directly at odds with the assessments made by U.S. military and intelligence officials, who have portrayed the group as having only a small number of fighters and being geographically isolated.

Other revelations include the following:

Senior al Qaeda leaders discussed potential negotiations with Al Jazeera over the copyrights for the jihadists’ propaganda films and footage. Al Qaeda also wanted to play a significant role in an upcoming documentary produced by the channel.

Al Qaeda believed the British were ready to cut a deal to get out of Afghanistan. If al Qaeda left the Brits alone, one file contends, the UK was willing to pull out from the country.

Al Qaeda was in direct contact with Al Tayyib Agha, a Taliban leader who has served as Mullah Omar’s emissary. The U.S. government has held direct talks with Agha in an attempt to broker a peace deal in Afghanistan. The Taliban has rejected the goals of those talks, however.

Al Qaeda was monitoring the situation in Libya, and noted that the “brothers” in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) were operating in Benghazi, Derna and elsewhere in eastern Libya. Members of the LIFG went on to help form Ansar al Sharia in Derna and other al Qaeda-linked groups, some of which took part in the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack.

Bin Laden advised his subordinates that they should contact Abu Mohammad al Maqdisi, a well-known jihadist ideologue, to see if Maqdisi would agree to have one of his books shortened before being more widely disseminated. Bin Laden’s words show how much respect he had for Maqdisi. The Jordanians have routinely imprisoned Maqdisi, but recently let him out of detention so that he could denounce the Islamic State, which has emerged as al Qaeda’s rival. This shows how al Qaeda is using the Islamic State to portray itself as being more moderate.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Also see:

What Is the Islamic State Trying to Accomplish?

(Image: ISIS video)

(Image: ISIS video)

National Review, By Andrew C. McCarthy, Feb. 7, 2015:

The Islamic State’s barbaric murder of Lieutenant Mouath al-Kasaebeh, the Jordanian air-force pilot the jihadists captured late last year, has naturally given rise to questions about the group’s objectives. Charles Krauthammer argues (here and here) that the Islamic State is trying to draw Jordan into a land war in Syria. It is no doubt correct that the terrorist group would like to destabilize Jordan — indeed, it is destabilizing Jordan. Its immediate aim, however, is more modest and attainable. The Islamic State wants to break up President Obama’s much trumpeted Islamic-American coalition.

As the administration proudly announced back in September, Jordan joined the U.S. coalition, along with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar. The only potential value of the coalition is symbolic: It has enabled the president to claim that Muslim countries were lining up with us against the Islamic State. Militarily, the coalition is of little use. These countries cannot defeat the Islamic State.

Moreover, even the symbolism is insignificant. Symbolism, after all, cuts both ways. As I pointed out when the administration breathlessly announced the coalition, our five Islamic partners have only been willing to conduct (extremely limited) aerial operations against the Islamic State. They would not attack al-Qaeda targets — i.e., the strongholds of al-Nusra (the local al-Qaeda franchise) and “Khorasan” (an al-Qaeda advisory council that operates within al-Nusra in Syria).

Obviously, if the relevance of the five Islamic countries’ willingness to fight the Islamic State is the implication that the Islamic State is not really Islamic, then their unwillingness to fight al-Qaeda equally implies their assessment that al-Qaeda is representative of Islam. The latter implication no doubt explains why the Saudis, Qatar, and the UAE have given so much funding over the years to al-Qaeda . . . the terror network from which the Islamic State originates and with which the Islamic State shares its sharia-supremacist ideology.

I’ll give the Saudis this: They don’t burn their prisoners alive in a cage. As previously recounted here, though, they routinely behead their prisoners. In fact, here’s another report from the British press just three weeks ago:

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have publicly beheaded a woman in Islam’s holy city of Mecca. . . . Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim, a Burmese woman who resided in Saudi Arabia, was executed by sword on Monday after being dragged through the street and held down by four police officers.

She was convicted of the sexual abuse and murder of her seven-year-old step-daughter.

A video showed how it took three blows to complete the execution, while the woman screamed “I did not kill. I did not kill.” It has now been removed by YouTube as part of its policy on “shocking and disgusting content”.

There are two ways to behead people according to Mohammed al-Saeedi, a human rights activist: “One way is to inject the prisoner with painkillers to numb the pain and the other is without the painkiller. . . . This woman was beheaded without painkillers — they wanted to make the pain more powerful for her.”

The Saudi Ministry of the Interior said in a statement that it believed the sentence was warranted due to the severity of the crime.

The beheading is part of an alarming trend, which has seen the kingdom execute seven people in the first two weeks of this year. In 2014 the number of executions rose to 87, from 78 in 2013.

Would that the president of the United States were more worried about the security of the United States than about how people in such repulsive countries perceive the United States.

In any event, the Islamic State is simply trying to blow up the coalition, which would be a useful propaganda victory. And the strategy is working. It appears at this point that only Jordan is participating in the airstrikes. While all eyes were on Jordan this week for a reaction to Lieutenant al-Kasaebeh’s immolation, the administration has quietly conceded that the UAE suspended its participation in bombing missions when the pilot was captured in December.

The explanation for this is obvious: The Islamic countries in the coalition know they can’t stop the Islamic State unless the United States joins the fight in earnest, and they know this president is not serious. The White House says the coalition has carried out a total of about 1,000 airstrikes in the last five months. In Desert Storm, we did 1,100 a day.

Seven strikes a day is not going to accomplish anything, especially with no troops on the ground, and thus no search-and-rescue capability in the event planes go down, as Lieutenant al-Kasaebeh’s did. With no prospect of winning, and with a high potential of losing pilots and agitating the rambunctious Islamists in their own populations, why would these countries continue to participate?

The Islamic State knows there is intense opposition to King Abdullah’s decision to join in the coalition. While the Islamic State’s sadistic method of killing the pilot has the king and his supporters talking tough about retaliation, millions of Jordanians are Islamist in orientation and thousands have crossed into Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. There will continue to be pressure on Jordan to withdraw. Without a real American commitment to the fight, this pressure will get harder for Abdullah to resist.

Jordan has no intention of getting into a land war the king knows he cannot win without U.S. forces leading the way. But the Islamic State does not need to lure Jordan into a land war in order to destabilize the country — it is already doing plenty of that by intensifying the Syrian refugee crisis, sending Jordanians back home from Syria as trained jihadists, and trying to assassinate Abdullah.

I will close by repeating the larger point I’ve argued several times before. We know from experience that when jihadists have safe havens, they attack the United States. They now have more safe havens than they’ve ever had before — not just because of what the Islamic State has accomplished in what used to be Syria and Iraq (the map of the Middle East needs updating) but because of what al-Qaeda has done there and in North Africa, what the Taliban and al-Qaeda are doing in Afghanistan, and so on.

If we understand, as we by now should, what these safe havens portend, then we must grasp that the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and the global jihad constitute a threat to American national security. That they also (and more immediately) threaten Arab Islamic countries is true, but it is not close to being our top concern. Ensuring our security is a concern that could not be responsibly delegated to other countries even if they had formidable armed forces — which the “coalition” countries do not.

The Islamic State and al-Qaeda are our problem.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

Al Qaeda Members List Recalls Inter-connectedness of Jihad

CSP, by Kyle Shideler, Jan. 29, 2015:

JustSecurity reports that Federal prosecutors have unveiled an Al Qaeda “members list” in the trial of Khaled al-Fawwaz, an Al Qaeda facilitator who dealt with the media, helping to facilitate fatwas, and arrange interviews, including the famous Bin Laden interview with Peter Arnett. The list has been in the hands of Law enforcement since 2001, but only recently made public.

Khalid al-Fawaaz

Khalid al-Fawaaz

Al-Fawwaz, who appears on the list under the alias Hamad al-Kuwaiti, played a role in acquiring the satellite phone used by Bin Laden during the African Embassy Bombings. That phone was in turn acquired for Al-Fawwaz by Tarik Hamdi. Hamdi was employed by World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), a front for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad run by convicted PIJ leader Sami Al-Arian, and seconded to the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a Muslim Brotherhood front.

Al-Fawwaz and Hamdi’s history reminds us that the tendency of counterterrorism analysts has been to focus on the differences between terrorist organizations, which can often be limiting, and separating violent jihadists from political islamists is a recipe for confusion. The reality is that individuals flow back and forth through groups associated with Islamic political activity and jihad terrorism, and frequently support or associate with multiple organizations even while their primary orientation of supporting what they describe as “The Islamic Movement” goes unchanged.

Wadih el-Hage

Wadih el-Hage

Another name on the Al Qaeda list which reminds of this reality is Wadih El-Hage. El-Hage served as an Al Qaeda facilitator and Bin Laden’s personal secretary. El-Hage was also implicated in the assassination of Imam Rashid Khalifa, in Tuscon, Arizona. Prosecutors connected El-Hage to the killing but he was never charged. The hit was carried out by home-grown jihad organization Jamaat Al-Fuqra. Al-Fuqra began as a Sufi Islamic offshoot of the African American Muslim group Darul-Islam, before breaking off and swearing allegiance to Sheik Mubarak Jilani. Jilani’s group was present in Sudan during the Pan-Arab and Islamic Congress meetings of the 1990s where Al Qaeda mingled with Hezbollah, the Iranian IRGC, the Muslim Brotherhood and others. Two Jamaat Al-Fuqra members would convicted for their involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing.

Ultimately, until we view the global jihad holistically, rather than as separate segments we are denying ourselves the whole picture of the threat. Al-Fawwaz and El-Hage are reminders that the focus of the administration that “We are at war with Al Qaeda…” and only Al Qaeda, is strategic blindness.

Yemen in chaos as U.S. warships move into position to evacuate embassy

American Thinker, by Rick Moran, Jan. 21, 2015:

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who overran the capital Saana three months ago, have now taken possession of the presidential residence and hold the enfeebled leader, Abd-Rabbu Mansour, a virtual hostage.

We welcome another Shia state to the Middle East, courtesy of American policy (or, in this case, a lack thereof).

Yemen?  You know, the country harboring al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  If that organization sounds vaguely familiar, could be because they were the terrorists who have claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.

And now, with Yemen a failed state in all but name, AQAP will be left relatively alone – with the exception of a U.S. drone strike now and again – to carry out whatever deadly plans they’ve made to attack the west.

The situation is so bad that the U.S. has moved warships closer to Yemen in order to evacuate embassy personnel should the need arise:

So far, there has been no decision to evacuate the embassy. The USS Iwo Jima and the USS Fort McHenry were moved “because they will be in the best position if asked,” by the State Department to evacuate the embassy, a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the planning tells CNN. So far there has been decision to evacuate the embassy, and no request from the State Department for military assistance.

If an evacuation is ordered, the first option would be to have embassy personnel drive to the commercial airport in Sanaa and fly out, the official said. But in the wake of an embassy car being fired Tuesday, the safety of the roads in the capital is now being constantly evaluated, the official said. If embassy workers did drive to the airport it is likely some sort of air cover would be provided, under the current plan.

Other detailed military planning for various options has been finalized, the official said. Those options would be used if a request for military assistance were made.

What do the Houthis want?  The minority tribe wants power – and lots of it:

After clashes at the president’s office and home on Tuesday, the Houthis’ leader threatened in a speech overnight to take further “measures” unless Hadi bows to his demand for constitutional changes that would increase Houthi power.

By early morning on Wednesday, Houthi fighters, accompanied by an armored vehicle, had replaced the guards at the president’s residence. Presidential guard sentry posts were initially empty, however a few guards later appeared and were permitted to take up positions.

“President Hadi is still in his home. There is no problem, he can leave,” Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Houthi politburo, told Reuters.

Yemeni military sources said the Houthis also seized the military aviation college located close to Hadi’s home, and the main missile base in Sanaa, without a fight.

In the south of the country, Hadi’s home region, local officials denounced what they called a coup against him and shut the air and sea ports of the south’s main city, Aden.

Yemen, an impoverished nation of 25 million, has been plagued by Islamist insurgency, separatist conflict, sectarian strife and economic crisis for years. An “Arab Spring” popular uprising in 2011 led to the downfall of long-ruling President Ali Abdullah Saleh, bringing more chaos.

The Houthis, rebels from the north drawn from a large Shi’ite minority that ruled a 1,000-year kingdom in Yemen until 1962, stormed into the capital in September but had mostly held back from directly challenging Hadi until last week, when they detained his chief of staff.

They accuse the president of seeking to bypass a power-sharing deal signed when they seized Sanaa in September, and say they are also working to protect state institutions from corrupt civil servants and officers trying to plunder state property.

The president couldn’t find the time in his State of the Union speech to mention Yemen – or just about any other foreign crisis precipitated by his incompetent leadership.  The liberal Guardian noticed the absence of foreign policy references, too:

Despite punishing US-led economic retaliation that Obama said left Moscow’s economy “in tatters”, Russia remains in Ukraine. Domestic opposition to closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility is growing. Congress is eager to destroy any nuclear deal Obama might reach with Iran, though a deal continues to be elusive, and Obama rejoinders with a vow to veto new sanctions. Just hours before the speech, Houthi rebels in Yemen assaulted the compound of one of Obama’s most critical counter-terrorism clients, Yemen president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, even as Obama has called Yemen a counter-terrorism model to export. Bashar al-Assad remains the dictator of Syria, though confusion reigns over whether his ouster remains US policy, and Obama’s policy of “supporting a moderate opposition” in Syria is barely off the ground. Obama barely referenced al-Qaida, even as his global counter-terrorism strikes persist. Libya, the scene of his claimed 2011 triumph, is a shambles. Notably, his speech did not unveil any new foreign initiatives.

Obama thinks that by ignoring foreign crises, people will forget how badly he’s botched things up.  There’s probably some truth to that; Americans are notoriously insular and care about foreign policy only when we have soldiers in harm’s way.

But we are likely to wake up sometime in the near future and realize that the threat against Americans is at our doorstep, and the president has done precious little to prevent that.

Also see: