AQAP publishes insider’s account of 9/11 plot

Screen-Shot-2016-02-10-at-7.35.56-AM-768x523Long War Journal, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN, February 10, 2016:

Sometime before his death in a US drone strike in June 2015, Nasir al Wuhayshi recorded an insider’s account of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. As the aide-de-camp to Osama bin Laden prior to the hijackings, Wuhayshi was well-placed to know such details. And al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which Wuhayshi led until his demise, has now published a version of his “untold story.”

A transcript of Wuhayshi’s discussion of the 9/11 plot was included in two editions of AQAP’s Al Masra newsletter. The first part was posted online on Jan. 31 and the second on Feb. 9. The summary below is based on the first half of Wuhayshi’s account.

Wuhayshi began by explaining al Qaeda’s rationale for attacking America. Prior to 9/11, the jihadists’ cause was not supported by the Muslim people, because the mujahideen’s “goals” were not widely understood. The jihadists were divided into many groups and fought “tit-for-tat” conflicts “with the tyrants.” (The “tyrants” were the dictators who ruled over many Muslim-majority countries.)

While the mujahideen had some successes, according to Wuhayshi, they were “besieged” by the tyrants until they found some breathing room in Afghanistan. The “sheikhs” studied this situation in meetings held in Kabul and Kandahar, because they wanted to understand why the jihadists were not victorious. And bin Laden concluded they should fight “the more manifest infidel enemy rather than the crueler infidel enemy,” according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. Wuhayshi explained that the former was the “Crusader-Zionist movement” and the latter were the “apostates” ruling over Muslims.

While waging war against the “apostate” rulers was not likely to engender widespread support, no “two people” would “disagree” with the necessity of fighting “the Jews and Christians.” If you fight the “apostate governments in your land,” Wuhayshi elaborated, then everyone – the Muslim people, Islamic movements, and even jihadists – would be against you because they all have their own “priorities.” Divisions within the jihadists’ ranks only exacerbated the crisis, as even the mujahideen in their home countries could refuse to fight.

Wuhayshi then cited Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, a prominent pro-al Qaeda ideologue, who warned that the “capability” to wage “combat” in Muslim-majority countries did “not yet exist.” So, for instance, if al Qaeda launched a “jihad against the House of Saud,” then “many jihadist movements” would oppose this decision. Al Qaeda’s fellow travelers would protest that they were “incapable” of defeating the Saudi government. And these jihadists would complain they did not want to “wage the battle prematurely,” or become entangled “in a difficult situation.”

For these reasons and more, according to Wuhayshi, bin Laden decided to “battle the more manifest enemy,” because “the people” would agree that the US “is an enemy” and this approach would not sow “discord and suspicion among the people.” Bin Laden believed that the “Islamic movement” would stand with al Qaeda “against the infidels.”

Wuhayshi’s explanation of bin Laden’s reasoning confirms that attacking the US was not al Qaeda’s end goal. It was a tactic, or a step, that bin Laden believed could unite the jihadists behind a common purpose and garner more popular support from “the people.”

Not all jihadists agreed with bin Laden’s strategy. In February 1998, bin Laden launched a “Global Islamic Front for Waging Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders.” Wuhayshi claimed that a “majority of the groups agreed to” the initiative, but some, like the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), opposed it. (However, some senior LIFG members were folded into al Qaeda.)

Gamaa Islamiya (IG), an Egyptian group, initially agreed to join the venture, but ultimately rejected it. As did other groups in the Arab Magreb, according to Wuhayshi. (Some senior IG leaders remained close to al Qaeda and eventually joined the organization.)

Although Wuhayshi claimed that a “majority” of jihadist organizations agreed with bin Laden’s proposal, only three ideologues joined bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri in signing the front’s infamous first fatwa.

In August 1998, just months after the “Global Islamic Front” was established, al Qaeda struck the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. According to Wuhayshi, bin Laden held a series of meetings around this time, as he sought to convince as many people as possible that attacking America was the right course. Some jihadists objected, believing it would ensnare them in a trap. But bin Laden pressed forward, telling those who didn’t agree that they wanted to fight “lackeys” without confronting “the father of the lackeys.” Al Qaeda’s path “will lead to a welcome conclusion,” Wuhayshi quoted bin Laden as saying.

The “initiative against the Crusaders continued” after the US Embassy bombings, Wuhayshi said, and the number of people who supported it increased “dramatically.” During this period, the “Global Islamic Front” launched operations against the “Crusaders” on the ground and at sea, but the idea to strike “from the air with planes” had not yet been conceived.

The origins of the 9/11 plot

Wuhayshi traced the genesis of the 9/11 plot to both Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), who would come to be known as the “mastermind” of the operation.

But he also credited Abdullah Azzam for popularizing the concept of martyrdom in the first place. Azzam was killed in 1989, but is still revered as the godfather of modern jihadism. After the mujahideen had defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan, they considered “hitting the Americans,” Wuhayshi claimed. Azzam “spoke harshly about the Western military camp.” Azzam also “introduced” the jihadists to a “new tactic.” Wuhayshi recommended that people listen to Azzam’s “final speech,” in which he reportedly said: “God gave me life in order to transform you into bombs.”

Years later, on Oct. 31, 1999, bin Laden watched as the co-pilot of EgyptAir Flight 990 crashed the jet into the Atlantic Ocean, killing more than 200 people on board. Bin Laden, according to Wuhayshi, wondered why the co-pilot didn’t fly the plane into buildings. After this, Wuhayshi claimed, the basic idea for 9/11 had been planted in bin Laden’s mind.

In reality, the EgyptAir crash came after the outline of the 9/11 plot had been already sketched. For instance, the 9/11 Commission found that KSM “presented a proposal for an operation that would involve training pilots who would crash planes into buildings in the United States” as early as 1996. “This proposal eventually would become the 9/11 operation.” In March or April 1999, according to the Commission’s final report, bin Laden “summoned KSM to Kandahar…to tell him that al Qaeda would support his proposal,” which was referred to as the “planes operation.”

Indeed, Wuhayshi recounted how KSM and his nephew, Ramzi Yousef, plotted to attack multiple airliners in the mid-1990s. In the so-called Bojinka plot, KSM and Yousef even conceived a plan to blow up as many as one dozen airliners. Wuhayshi recalled how Yousef placed a bomb on board one jet as part of a test run. Their plot failed and Yousef was later captured in Pakistan. Yousef has been incarcerated for two decades after being convicted by an American court for his role in Bojinka and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Wuhayshi prayed for his release.

Wuhayshi told a story that, if true, means KSM had dreamed of attacking the US since his youth. When he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait, KSM wrote a play in which a character “ponders how to down an American aircraft.” Wuhayshi claimed to have searched for this play online, but he and another “brother” failed to find it.

Still, Wuhayshi insisted that KSM wrote the play, showing he was already thinking of ways to strike America as a young man.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

From AQ to ISIS: The New Deadlier Face of Jihad

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Dr. Sebastian Gorka gave this excellent lecture to a Marine Corps audience in March 2015.

U.S. Conditions IS Libya Fight on Unity Government

US Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni (R) hold a bilateral meeting before a summit regarding Islamic State with the foreign ministers of 23 countries from Europe, the West and the region, as well as by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on February 2, 2016 in Rome. Reuters/Nicholas Kamm/Pool

US Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni (R) hold a bilateral meeting before a summit regarding Islamic State with the foreign ministers of 23 countries from Europe, the West and the region, as well as by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on February 2, 2016 in Rome. Reuters/Nicholas Kamm/Pool

CSP, by Kevin Samolsky, Feb. 2, 2016:

February 2, 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry met with officials from 23 nations in Rome to discuss combating IS. Secretary Kerry addressed his growing concerns of the Islamic State’s (IS) presence in Libya especially. The growing fear is that the terrorist organization will take advantage of the lack of stability to control oil fields to further finance its operations.

Libya has been in turmoil since the NATO-backed ousting of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011. The Libyan government is currently split between an internationally recognized government in Tobruk, the General National Congress (GNC), and an unofficial government in Tripoli led by the Islamist Libya Dawn faction. Libya Dawn was able to force the GNC out of the Tripoli in 2014, and the international community has been working ever since to unite the two governments.

Libya Dawn and the GNC signed a UN-brokered agreement to unify the government last December. However, it is unclear what Libya Dawn hopes to get out of the agreement, as it was their decision to attempt to seize power following election losses that led to the current fissure.

While the Libya Dawn government may claim they want to end hostilities and unite the government, it’s likely just a play to regain power.

Libya Dawn is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the enemy of the El-Sisi government in Egypt. This had led to the decision by Cairo to fully back the GNC and openly opposed any agreement that would return the Islamists to legitimate political power. Egypt has been the driving force behind Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s anti-Islamist “Operation Dignity” campaign which has seen battlefield gains against the Islamist factions.

IS has become a growing concern to North African nations. The Free Fire Blog recently discussed the growing connections between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and IS’s growing trade network with Hamas in Gaza. In Libya, IS has taken control of Sirte, a city that links east and west of Libya, and has launched numerous attacks around the country.

International Business Times reported last year of IS threatening to wage war on Libya Dawn, but those hostilities may subside while both sides are being targeted by Egyptian and UAE airstrikes.

Breitbart News reports on troubling news of possible cooperation  between IS, Al Qaeda (AQ), and the Muslim Brotherhood within Libya. This merger would threaten any chance Libya has at stability, and if the Brotherhood were to take over, it would further threaten the neighboring government of Egypt.

Libya’s hopes for stability are quickly fading, and the Obama Administration may be apart of the blame. The Obama Administration allowed for weapon shipments to be sent to armed rebel groups during the uprising against Qaddafi. Some of these weapons fell in the hands of jihadist groups which allowed them to fight for control of Libya once Qaddafi was killed.

While the U.S. initially armed rebel groups, it has taken a step back from Libya. Instead, the Obama Administration has harshly criticized those who take part in Libya’s issues through violence, especially the UAE and Egypt. It seems ironic for the Administration to criticize others for trying to stop terrorism when they were the ones who facilitated it.

Libya’s stability is crucial against the fight against terrorism. Terrorists have beensmuggling fighters through Libya to Europe and Syria. Libya is also an important connector between Islamic State’s home base in Syria and it’s efforts in West Africa. Without a stable government to prevent this, it will continue to threaten the stability of the region.

While Secretary Kerry may be worried about IS in Libya, there must be a greater focus on the wider Islamist threat to the country. The Muslim Brotherhood poses just as large a threat to Libyan stability as IS, and if they are given any political legitimacy it will only serve to expand jihadist activity in the country. Despite the Obama Administration’s insistence to the contrary, a GNC victory over Libyan Dawn would have a better impact on security than enforcing upon Libya a unity government that neither side really wants.

Ansar al Sharia Libya relies on al Qaeda ideologues to guide followers

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Feb. 2, 2016:

Jihadist groups around the globe denounced Saudi Arabia’s execution of more than 40 men in early January. Some of those sentenced to death had taken part in al Qaeda’s first campaign to disrupt the kingdom between 2003 and 2006. It was only natural, therefore, that al Qaeda, its regional branches and other affiliated groups would decry the House of Saud’s decision to follow through on the death sentences.

However, Ansar al Sharia Libya’s response was especially noteworthy. In a three-page statement released via Twitter on Jan. 15, the group compared those executed to senior al Qaeda leaders killed in America’s drone campaign.

“Al Salul [a derogatory reference to the Saudis] recognizes the importance of the true righteous scholars who control jihad with the correct provisions from the book of Allah Almighty and the sunna of His messenger, peace and blessing be upon him, and the impact of the absence of these scholars on the jihadist arena,” Ansar al Sharia Libya’s officials wrote, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal.

The jihadists claimed that the Saudis’ “message in this regard” is similar to “the acts of the head of global nonbelief, America, which has killed righteous scholars.”

Ansar al Sharia then listed eight such “scholars,” all of whom were al Qaeda leaders killed in US airstrikes: Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari, Ibrahim Rubaish, Anwar al Awlaki, Nasir al Wuhayshi, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Abu Yahya al Libi, Atiyah Abd al Rahman (referred to as “Atiyatallah”), and Khalid al Husainan.

The list is no accident. Ansar al Sharia regularly promotes sermons delivered by some of these same ideologues. Web banners used to advertise the speeches, which were first produced by al Qaeda, can be seen at the end of this article.

Throughout December and January, the organization’s radio station, Ather al Madinah, posted clips on social media of lectures by Nadhari and Rubaish, two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) clerics who were killed in 2015.

One of Nadhari’s talks was divided into seven parts. He covered various theological issues, including the concept of tawheed (or the oneness of Allah). Nadhari explained in another sermon why Muslims should answer the “call to jihad.”

Several lectures by Rubaish, a former Guantanamo detainee who became an influential AQAP theologian after he was released from US custody, covered similar themes. In one, Rubaish advised Muslims to avoid selling out their religion for the pleasures of this world. Still another featured Rubaish and Nadhari together.

Abu Yahya al Libi’s speeches have also been rebroadcast by Ather al Madinah. Al Libi blasted the supposed false “idol” of democracy in a talk disseminated online in December.

Al Libi was one of al Qaeda’s most prominent ideologues at the time of his death in June 2012. On Sept. 10 2012, al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri confirmed al Libi’s death in a video released online. Zawahiri also called on Libyans to avenge his fallen comrade. Ansar al Sharia Libya and other al Qaeda groupsattacked an American diplomatic mission and the CIA’s so-called Annex the following day.

Screen-Shot-2016-02-02-at-1.27.36-PM-300x168Ansar al Sharia continues to refer to the Benghazi assault in its propaganda. In a short video released in December, for instance, the group’s fighters are shown chanting: “O tell lowly America that we will free Abu Khattala.”

Abu Khattala is the lone suspect from the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi raids in American custody. A screen shot of the fighters who chanted in the video can be seen on the right. The video was shot at a training camp named after Mohammed al Zahawi, Ansar al Sharia’s first emir (or leader), who died as a result of injuries in either late 2014 or early 2015.

After Zahawi’s death was confirmed in January 2015, Nadhari released a eulogy for the slain jihadist. Nadhari explained that Zahawi had personally met with Osama bin Laden in the 1990s in Sudan and adopted al Qaeda’s methodology at that time.

Although Ansar al Sharia Libya was initially portrayed by some as purely a local jihadist group, it has been a part of the al Qaeda network since its inception in 2011. The Long War Journal has documented the organization’s ties to al Qaeda and its branch in North Africa, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), on multiple occasions.

And the group now openly promotes al Qaeda clerics to its followers on a regular basis.

Ansar al Sharia Libya’s banner ads promoting the lectures delivered by al Qaeda ideologues

Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari, an AQAP official killed in January 2015:

15-12-25-Nadhari-Ansar-al-Sharia-audio-768x277

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Ibrahim Rubaish, an ex-Guantanamo detainee who became an AQAP official and was killed in April 2015:

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Rubaish and Nadhari together:

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Abu Yahya al Libi was a senior al Qaeda ideologue until his death in June 2012:

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Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

LISTEN: Breitbart’s Klein Warns Shiite-Sunni Mega Confrontation ‘Coming’

Militant website via AP

Militant website via AP

Breitbart, by Aaron Klein, Jan. 28, 2016:

TEL AVIV – The Islamic State, Al-Qaida, and the Muslim Brotherhood are preparing for a major confrontation with Western-backed forces in Libya, Syria, and beyond, reported Breitbart Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein.

Speaking during his regular segment on John Batchelor’s popular nighttime radio program, Klein highlighted recent events that he said indicate a looming confrontation between Shiite and Sunni-armed forces.

Listen to Klein’s interview on Batchelor’s show here:

Klein pointed to a recent report at Breitbart Jerusalem indicting the Libyan branches of the Islamic State, Al-Qaida, and the Muslim Brotherhood are in discussions to complete a “mega merger” in the country.

Klein connected the merger prospects to a report claiming dozens of Russian, American, and British troops have been deployed to Libya ahead of an offensive there against the Islamic State.

Also, on Friday Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged decisive military action to halt the progress of IS in Libya, warning the global terrorist group was seeking to use the country as a regional headquarters and staging base.

And Klein discussed Breitbart Jerusalem reports of Iran arming regional terrorist organizations while competing for influence with the larger Saudi/Sunni axis.

Klein told Batchelor’s audience of the possible al-Qaida-Islamic State merger:

Aaron Klein audio

“They are reading the tea leaves. They are seeing the larger Sunni-Shiite divide, which has been escalating exponentially in recent weeks… They are seeing that there are no borders anymore.

There are no borders in Libya, there are no borders in Syria largely to speak of. The Turkish border is quite a mess. Yemen is in question.

So my analysis is that al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State and others are seeing some sort of coming confrontation, maybe not between the U.S. and Russia but between proxies backed by the Saudis on the one hand and backed by Iran on the other.

There is a lager confrontation that they understand is coming against them in Libya and then ultimately beyond in Yemen and in Syria.”

Report: Islamic State, Al-Qaida, Muslim Brotherhood Discuss ‘Mega-Merger’ in Libya

AFP

AFP

Breitbart, by AARON KLEIN AND ALI WAKED, Jan. 25, 2016:

TEL AVIV – The Libyan branches of the Islamic State, Al-Qaida, and the Muslim Brotherhood are in discussions to complete a “mega merger,” the London-based A Sharq al Awsat newspaper reported.

Leaked documents have revealed that Libya’s biggest Islamist organizations are considering an alliance and the establishment of a joint council of sages, the Arabic language daily reported.

The prospective move comes in the wake of reports of an imminent international effort to form a unity government that would bring Libya’s numerous parties and militias together.

The paper said the Muslim Brotherhood is considering a united Islamic front even though the movement is officially in favor of forming a unity government. However, sources within the movement told the paper that their support for the international endeavor is merely tactical, and they’re waiting for it to collapse.

Negotiations between the three Islamic groups began because of reports of a rapprochement between the internationally recognized government based in Tobruk and the unrecognized government in the capital Tripoli, the paper said.

The groups wish to send a message to the forces coalescing around a unity government that they are not opposed by IS alone, but “all the Islamist opposition elements speak in one voice and should be treated as such,” a source said.

According to the documents, Muslim Brotherhood leaders said that Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s regime “isn’t supported by the Americans because of his close relations with Russia. They can’t wait to see him leave the scene.”

The parties agreed to form a joint Shura (advisory) council and territories that are currently under Islamic control will be divided between them, echoing a similar agreement that is already underway in Benghazi.

Al-Qaida’s representative was quoted as saying that the move would inspire Islamists in Algeria and Egypt to follow suit.

This follows Breitbart Jerusalem’s own exclusive reporting on mediation efforts between the Muslim Brotherhood-aligned Hamas in Gaza and Salafists aligned with the Islamic State.

Breitbart Jerusalem previously reported that Shadi al-Menai, one of the leaders of Wilayat Sinai, the Islamic State branch in Sinai, visited Gaza in a bid to mediate between Hamas and local Salafi groups after clashes erupted, resulting in the arrests of dozens of jihadists by Hamas forces.

Earlier this month, a leading Salafi source revealed that Menai mediated a deal whereby Hamas would give the Gaza Salafi opposition groups more leeway in exchange for Wilayat Sinai’s help in bypassing the Egyptian army’s restrictions on smuggling rocket parts into Gaza

This is not the first report of Hamas-IS cooperation in arms smuggling.

A Middle East think tank charged last month that there is information Hamas has been paying off the Islamic State’s Sinai branch to smuggle weapons into Gaza. “Over the past two years, IS Sinai helped Hamas move weapons from Iran and Libya through the peninsula, taking a generous cut from each shipment,” stated a report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Despite the rapprochement between Hamas and IS-Sinai, tensions between the ruling faction and Salafi opposition groups in Gaza are rampant.

The Army of Islam, a Salafi group that aspires to become IS’s sole representative in Palestine, recently released an acerbic video in which it blames Hamas for straying from Sharia law and cooperating with anti-Islamic players, including Shi’ite Iran.

***

Also see:

Dr. Sebastian Gorka: How Islamic State ‘Outgrew the Mothership’ of Al-Qaeda

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Breitbart, by John  Hayward, Dec. 7, 2015:

The authorities have disclosed that San Bernardino jihadi Tashfeen Malik swore fealty to the Islamic State during her murder spree, but also that her husband Syed Farook was in contact with Syria’s Nusra Front and Somalia’s al-Shabaab – terrorist groups affiliated with the Islamic State’s rivals and progenitors, al-Qaeda.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a Breitbart National Security contributor and the Chair of Military Theory at Marine Corps University, explained this apparent ideological dissonance on Fox & Friends by noting that ISIS grew from al-Qaeda, and despite their current, occasionally violent rivalry, there is still ideological connective tissue between them.

gorka on f&f

“ISIS isn’t completely differentiated from al-Qaeda. ISIS came out of al-Qaeda,” Dr. Gorka said. “ISIS was originally al-Qaeda in Iraq, the organization run by Zarqawi, until we killed him. What’s happened in the last three or four years, it’s outgrown its mothership. It’s stolen the brand of jihad, and now ISIS is much more powerful than al-Qaeda.”

“These are all members of the same global jihadi movement, competing to be the lead brand,” he continued.  “But the connection is the same, whether it’s AQ, al-Nusra, al-Shabaab, or ISIS.  They’re all jihadis.”

Gorka said the Obama Administration was “living in a fantasyland, a bubble, where they have a pre-concocted narrative that terrorism is the result of economic hardship, political disenfranchisement… global warming, climate change is much more dangerous… the real jayvee team is ISIS, al-Qaeda is on the ropes… This is the narrative that they’ve spun themselves into for seven years, and anything that counters that, any shock of reality that goes against the White House meme, has to be ignored. So let’s talk about gun control. It’s incredible.”

Another persistent problem is the Left’s insistence on shoehorning terrorist attacks into their preferred victimhood narratives. As Gorka noted, there have been some efforts to portray the San Berardino jihadis as “oppressed,” their murderous rage an understandable response to verbal offense given by their victims, perhaps even by Farook’s employers holding a Christmas party.  Details of their family background have been searched for shopworn liberal excuses for crime and violence, such as a difficult home life.

“Who cares what his parents did to this man?” Gorka said about Syed Farook. “Did we talk about Hitler’s father being abusive to him? It’s not relevant.”

Gorka charged that the Administration is “allowing political correctness, and considerations of an ideological nature, to undermine the threat assessment work that needs to be done.”

“Let’s not talk about jihad, let’s not talk about why these people do it.  Let’s talk about gun control.  It’s like a bad SNL skit in my opinion,” he said, referring to the “Saturday Night Live” comedy show.

Gorka pointed to the San Bernardino attack as more obvious evidence that ISIS has arrived in America… but it’s hardly the first or only evidence, as a report he cited from the Threat Knowledge Group, written before the California attack, makes clear.

“The war is real.  The war is here,” he said.  “30 percent of the 82 people we’ve killed or arrested in America in the last two years [for ISIS involvement] didn’t want to go abroad to be jihadis. They wanted to kill Americans in America.  This is a war that is real and global.  Jihad has arrived at the shores of America.  9/11 isn’t history – it is now.

Gorka offered some safety advice for Americans, dismissing the Administration’s narrative about sudden radicalization and instant jihad to note that such attacks take careful preparation, and can be interrupted by alert citizens who keep their eyes open… if they disregard political correctness to report what they see.

He also dismissed the gun-control narrative to emphasize that individual American citizens must take responsibility for their own safety, and the safety of their loved ones.  “Do not expect Washington to save you when an attack occurs,” he warned.  “Dialing 911 is not gonna cut it. You have to take responsibility, you have to be aware, and if possible, fight back.”

“We need leadership that says one thing very clearly: we have an enemy – not global climate change, the enemy is global jihad, and these people are evil,” Gorka concluded.

Instead, we have leadership that stresses political correctness and refuses to admit the war is on, because they’re determined to push President Obama’s talking points about ISIS being “contained.”

“Tell that to the fourteen people dead in California,” Dr. Gorka suggested.

‘Jihad Olympics’ Take Two: Al-Qaeda Shows Its Muscle in Mali

Security forces rescues hostage in Mali (Photo: Video screenshot)

Security forces rescues hostage in Mali (Photo: Video screenshot)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Nov. 26, 2015:

When al-Qaeda struck a hotel in Mali exactly one week after the Islamic State’s attacks in Paris, it was another competition in what we’ve dubbed the “Jihad Olympics.” Al-Qaeda’s latest assault also doubled as an attack ad against the Islamic State (ISIS), contrasting its relative mercy towards Muslims with the Islamic State’s complete disregard for Muslim casualties.

Watch Clarion Project’s National Security Analyst, Prof. Ryan Mauro, on FOX News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom” as news broke of the attacks in Mali and the anchor noted our correct prediction of Al-Qaeda’s responsibility:

Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by two al-Qaeda branches: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al-Mourabitoun. The Macina Liberation Front, a group that has links to Al-Qaeda but has not formally sworn allegiance, later also took credit.

Aside from the obvious fact that al-Qaeda believes it is required by Allah to carry out attacks like what we saw in Mali, the timing strongly suggests it wanted—and desperately needed—to show it still has a pulse. Success is seen as Allah’s endorsement, so al-Qaeda’s decline since 2001 and the rise of the Islamic State since 2014 have potentially existential consequences for the group.

Success wins arguments between Islamists. There are lengthy debates between Islamists referencing Islamic scripture and legal rulings and scholars’ interpretations, but at the end of the day, there’s no stronger argument than success (a.k.a. Allah’s blessing).

Temporary setbacks may be shrugged off as tests of faith, but undeniable defeat will cause even the most confident-sounding jihadist to privately question how he has offended Allah. This can be seen in letters between senior al-Qaeda leaders and public criticism from former al-Qaeda supporters, including a mentor to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.

A second purpose of the Mali attacks was to serve as the jihadist equivalent of a political attack ad against the Islamic State. al-Qaeda made sure to release hostages who could recite verses from the Quran in order to minimize Muslim casualties, regardless of whether those Muslim hostages support the group or not.

Al-Qaeda supporters online immediately pointed this out. al-Qaeda derides the Islamic State as being equivalent to the Khawarij (or Kharijites), a puritanical Islamic sect that waged war against the ruling caliph and branded rival Muslims as apostates deserving of death. The comparison stings ISIS enough that its propaganda regularly addresses it.

Of course, the parallels can just as easily be seen with al-Qaeda and all the Muslim blood it has on its hands. The private communications of al-Qaeda leaders indicate they believe that its targeting of Muslims was frowned upon by Allah and so decided to calibrate their massacres. Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban’s condemnation of the Pakistani Taliban’s massacre of Muslim children in Peshawar is an example of this course correction.

The “Jihad Olympics” can produce the desired headlines, such as news that al-Qaeda has delivered a “severe blow” to the Islamic State in the Golan Heights area by suicide bombing the leadership of one of its militias (the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades). But the terrorist-on-terrorist violence comes with a price.

Attacks like those in Paris and Mali are benchmarks in the competition that each group must achieve, especially as its capabilities are doubted. The Islamic State attacked an Italian priest in Bangladesh not only because he is a legitimate target in their minds, but because Bangladesh is a focal point of a new al-Qaeda affiliate that attacked two publishers there only weeks earlier.

The competition and inter-jihadist bloodshed only raises the pressure on each group to attack Western targets. And the gold medal in this “Jihad Olympics” will unfortunately be won by whoever does the most damage inside Western countries, especially the United States.

Video: Stephen Coughlin unveils the dreadful lessons of ISIS’s Paris massacre

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We should expect to see large scale acts of terrorism culminating at the end of the year – Coughlin

JAMIE GLAZOV PRODUCTIONS, Nov. 25, 2015:

This special edition of The Glazov Gang was joined by Stephen Coughlin, the co-founder of UnconstrainedAnalytics.org and the author of the new book, Catastrophic Failure.

He came on the show to discuss The Dreadful Lessons of ISIS’s Paris Massacre, shedding troubling light on Jihadists’ dire warning to America.

[See also Stephen on the Glazov Gang special: How “Rules of Engagement” Get U.S. Soldiers Killed.]

Also see:

Jihadists storm Radisson hotel in Malian capital

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Long War Journal, by Caleb Weiss, Nov. 20, 2015:

Jihadist stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in downtown Bamako in the early morning today, killing at least three people and taking more than 170 hostage. Malian commandos have assaulted the hotel in an effort to end the siege. The counterattack is still underway.

The attack began when gunmen penetrated a security barrier outside the hotel. Quoting a witness, the BBC reports that “They [the jihadists] were in car with a diplomatic license plate. They were masked. At the gate of the hotel, the guard stopped them and they start firing.”

The jihadists then shot their way into the hotel. Once inside, the gunmen reportedly made their way through the hotel “floor by floor, room by room” according to Reuters. The attackers were heard yelling “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is greatest,” in Arabic while fanning out through the hotel.

An estimated 80 hostages were freed after they were able to correctly recite verses of the Koran. The tactic of separating Muslims from other hostages is one that is often used by al Qaeda to avoid killing Muslims.

Malian special forces are reported to have assaulted the building after cordoning off the area. Additionally, the French GIGN, the elite counterterrorism unit of the National Gendarmerie, are being deployed to Bamako to assist Mali in the hostage crisis. US Special Forces are reported to have rescued six US citizens.

The exact number of gunmen involved in the attack on the Radisson Blu is unclear, with reports varying between two and 13 fighters.

The Radisson Blu Hotel, which is US-owned, is popular with foreign nationals, including French tourists and businessmen. A number of French, Chinese, and Indian citizens were staying at the hotel when the attack began.

Al Murabitoon, an al Qaeda group led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed credit for the attack and demanded the release of jihadist prisoners as well as an end to French intervention in northern Mali. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda group claims credit for attack on hotel in Mali’s capital.]

The hostage crisis is the second to occur in Mali this year. The previous hostage crisis was executed in August, when jihadists from Al Murabitoon, stormed a hotel in the central Malian town of Sevare. The siege left at least 12 people dead. Al Murabitoon also targeted a nightclub in Bamako earlier this year.

Today’s attack took place just weeks after , the leader of Ansar Dine, released an audio statement calling for attacks on the French and their interests in Mali. Ghaly called for the increased targeting of French interests to avenge French intervention in the country.

“May your explosive belts respond to them, and your directed devices, and your loud car bombs,” he said. He ends his statement by saying that the Muslims must expel the “Crusaders” to “take revenge for honor of our noble Prophet.”

Ansar Dine, a front for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has also claimed several attacks in southern Mali this year, including two near the border with the Ivory Coast. One of the those attacks targeted a police station near the border, which left at least one Malian police officer dead. Additionally, the Macina Liberation Movement, which a front for Ansar Dine, has also been behind several attacks in southern and central Mali this year. [See map above for more information.]

Assaulting hotels is a common tactic of al Qaeda, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other jihadist groups. Many of the hotels targeted by jihadists are frequented by Western tourists, Western government officials, or are host to local government figures.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al Qaeda’s official branch in North Africa, has a history of kidnapping Westerners, many from Malian hotels. This includes the Swede Johan Gustofsson, South African Stephen McGowan, and the Dutchman Sjaak Rijke. The three, along with a German national, were kidnapped from a hotel in Timbuktu. Rijke has since been released, but Gustofsson and McGowan are still being held.

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Al Qaeda group claims credit for attack on hotel in Mali’s capital by Bill Roggio

Al Murabitoon, an al Qaeda group that operates in West Africa, has claimed responsibility for this morning’s suicide assault on a luxury hotel in Bamako, Mali. Al Murabitoon claimed it executed the hotel siege in conjunction with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al Qaeda’s official branch in North Africa.

The al Qaeda group claimed the Bamako attack in a statement that was sent to Al Jazeera. According to Al Murabitoon, the operation was carried “in coordination with the Sahara Emirate of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”

Al Murabitoon said its fighters would release hostages held at the hotel for “the liberation of the mujahideen in Bamako’s prisons.” Additionally, Al Murabitoon demanded that Malian and French forces stop “the oppression of the people of northern Mali.” The jihadists threatened to execute the hostages if its demands are not met and said it would release a complete statement on the attack at a later time.

Today’s attack began when jihadists, purportedly driving a vehicle with diplomatic plates, penetrated the Radisson Blu’s security perimeter and then shot their way into the hotel. Once inside, the gunmen are sad to have searched the hotel “floor by floor, room by room” according to Reuters. The attackers were heard yelling “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is greatest,” in Arabic while fanning out through the hotel.

The jihadists are said to have taken 170 hostages, including number of American, French, Chinese, and Indian citizens. An estimated 80 hostages were freed after they were able to correctly recite verses of the Koran. The tactic of separating Muslims from other hostages is one that is often used by al Qaeda to avoid killing Muslims.

Malian special forces as well as US Special forces are said to have assaulted the hotel in an effort to free the hostages. Six Americans are said to have been freed by US Special Forces.

Al Murabitoon is led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran African jihadist who is openly loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri and has denounced the Islamic State. Belmokhtar and Al Murabitoon have been behind several spectacular attacks in West Africa over the past several years, including the January 2013 suicide assault on the In Amenas gas facility in southeastern Algeria, and the May 2013 suicide assaults in Niger that targeted a military barracks and a uranium mine. Scores of people were killed in these attacks.

Belmokhtar and his unit are listed by the US as a specially designated global terrorist and a Foreign Terrorist Organization, respectively.

The Sahara branch of AQIM is led by Yahya Abu Hammam, who is listed by the US as a specially designated global terrorist for playing a “key role in the group’s ongoing terrorist activities in North Africa and Mali.”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

Al Qaeda’s Inspire Magazine May Answer Metrojet 9268 Questions

Hidden-bomb-article-display-bBy Brian Fairchild, Nov. 6, 2015:

There is currently much speculation as to whether Metrojet Flight 9268, downed over the Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015, was the victim of Islamic State terrorism, and if so, how the attack was conducted.  The Islamic State has claimed credit for the attack, and the US and UK governments report that there is reason to believe that the plane was destroyed by an on-board explosion.  The investigation appears to be focusing on the usual suspects, such as baggage handlers, catering company employees, or other back-room personnel.  Ironically, the Islamic State’s nemesis, al Qaeda, may well have provided the answer to these questions approximately 10 months ago when it published the thirteenth issue of Inspire magazine.

That issue, which went to press on Christmas day in 2014, provided step-by-step instructions on how to destroy passenger airliners by making a simple, yet powerful bomb in a private residence using readily available products from commercial stores.

All the products needed to build the bomb were painstakingly listed, and the authors provided detailed instructions, aided by photographs, text, and graphs, on how to extract the explosive chemicals from the commercial products, and then how to cobble them together to construct the main charge, the detonator, the quick burning fuse, and the explosive starter.

The section of the magazine dealing with the bomb was titled The Hidden Bomb, because the authors intended the device to be fashioned into a brassier, underwear, or hidden in male and/or female body cavities.  The device contains no metal parts and was specifically designed to defeat airport metal detectors, scent detectors (including dogs), and pat-downs by airport personnel.   The authors advised, however, that the bomb could be detected by body-imaging machines, and so warned jihadists to avoid airports that utilized this technology.

The al Qaeda bomb makers also advised jihadists to destroy the plane at the highest altitude, and to maximize the explosive properties of the bomb by detonating their devices over the wings where the gas tanks are located, or in the rear of the plane in order to destroy the tail section and the ability of the plane to be steered.

Thus far, the technical investigation of the incident indicates that the plane was destroyed at 31,000 feet in a sudden and catastrophic event.

Brian Fairchild was a career officer in CIA’s Clandestine Service.  He has served in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan.  Mr. Fairchild writes periodic intelligence analyses on topics of strategic importance.

The US Didn’t Create ISIS — Assad and Saddam Did

basharalassadonline-newsit2_1Frontpage, by Daniel Greenfield, Nov. 4, 2015:

The Russia-Iran-Assad axis and its useful idiots in the West claim that the United States created ISIS. Some of the loonier conspiracy sites that gleefully repost Russian propaganda allege that the Caliph of ISIS is a Jewish Mossad agent named Elliot Shimon or a CIA agent named Simon Elliot.

Elliot doesn’t exist, but ISIS’ Deputy Caliph Abu Ali al-Anbari, who was Saddam’s major general and a Baathist member, does. The Caliph’s right hand man, Abu Muslim al Turkmani, was also a Baathist and a lieutenant colonel in Saddam’s military intelligence organization before being killed by a drone strike.

Considering the history between Saddam and the USSR, it is likely that one or both of the Caliph’s deputies received training from Russian intelligence advisers during their careers. Turkmani’s DGMI in particular was closely entangled with the KGB. One of the reasons ISIS is much better than its Sunni Islamist opponents is that its top people had been trained by Soviet experts.

The ISIS blowback doesn’t lead to America, but in a completely different direction.

Before the Islamic State’s current incarnation, it was Al Qaeda in Iraq and its pipeline of suicide bombers ran through Syria with the cooperation of Assad’s government.

Assad and Al Qaeda in Iraq had a common enemy; the United States. Assad had a plan to kill two birds with one stone. Syrian Islamists, who might cause trouble at home, were instead pointed at Iraq. Al Qaeda got manpower and Assad disposed of Sunni Jihadists who might cause him trouble.

Meanwhile Al Qaeda openly operated out of Syria in alliance with the Baathists. While Syria’s regime was Shiite and Iraq’s Sunni, both governments were headed by Baathists.

The Al Nusrah Front, the current incarnation of Al Qaeda in the area ever since the terror group began feuding with ISIS, named one of its training camps, the ‘Abu Ghadiya Camp”. Abu Ghadiya had been chosen by Zarqawi, the former leader of the organization today known as ISIS, to move terroriststhrough Syria. This highway of terror killed more American soldiers than Saddam Hussein had.

The Al Qaeda presence in Syria was backed by Assad’s brother-in-lawAssef Shawkat, who had served as Director of Military Intelligence and Deputy Defense Minister.  His real job though was coordinating Islamic terrorist organizations. During the Iraq War, he added Al Qaeda to his portfolio.

Handling terrorists without being burned is a tricky business though and the blowback kicked in.

In 2008, a US raid into Syria finally took out Abu Ghadiya and some of his top people. A year later, General Petraeus warned that, “In time, these fighters will turn on their Syrian hosts and begin conducting attacks against Bashar al-Asad’s regime itself.”

Shawkat was killed by a suicide bomber three years later. Assad’s support for terrorists had hit home. Those Sunni Islamists he had sent on to Iraq who survived returned with training and skills that made them a grave danger to his regime.

Exactly as Petraeus had predicted.

Anti-American Leftists who claim that the US created ISIS were cheering on its early terror attacks as the work of a Baathist “Resistance”. ISIS these days is accompanied by top Baathists including General al-Douri, a close Saddam ally. The same outlets claiming that we created ISIS celebrated the “Resistance” campaign against NATO “neo-colonialism” when what they were really celebrating was ISIS.

Putin’s regime has claimed that it is fighting ISIS, but it was supporting Assad back when Syria was a conduit for ISIS to attack Americans. The Baathists in Syria and Iraq had both been Soviet clients and it was the USSR which turned international terrorism into a high art.

The United States has gotten plenty of the blame for supporting Mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the USSR, but the USSR had started the practice much earlier and had signed on to the Red-Green alliance. As Primakov, a top Soviet leader and KGB figure closely involved with the Muslim world, had said, the “Islamic movement” has a “radical trend which is strongly charged with anti-imperialism.”

It’s no coincidence that ISIS has thrived best in countries that were former Soviet clients whose governments attempted to fit Primakov’s definition by walking a fine line between Socialism and Islam. Nor is it a coincidence that in addition to its beheadings and sex slavery, ISIS plays up its free medicalcare and price controls. ISIS is still offering Socialism and Islam with a bigger emphasis on Islam.

While Baathism is often described as secular, it actually sought to blend Islam with its politics. It was a leftist Islamism that emphasized Socialism in contrast to the rightist Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood whose leaders were often businessmen and landowners with a more capitalistic bent.

These distinctions, which led the USSR to build ties with the Baathists while Western countries got involved with the Muslim Brotherhood, were more style than substance. The preference of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Turkish AKP for crony capitalism as the next best thing to a lost former feudalism did not make them friendly to the West. And the Baathists were tribal dictators who cloaked their clannish authoritarianism and familial feuds in a blend of hollow Socialist and Islamic platitudes.

Critics claim that there would be no ISIS if Saddam were still in power, but the Iraqi dictator helped create ISIS through his alliances with Islamists. ISIS did not suddenly rise out of the ruins of his regime. Instead it grew within Saddam’s regime as the dictator responded to his setbacks against Iran and Saudi Arabia, two Islamist states, by reinventing Iraq and Baathism as explicitly Islamist entities.

During the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam had begun building ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, hoping to bridge the old split between Baathists and Brotherhood and meet Shiite Islamism with Sunni Islamism.

After the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein went in a blatantly Islamist direction. The man in charge of his “Return to Faith” campaign was General Al-Douri, who would be the key ally that Al Qaeda used to move its people through Syria and who would live long enough to fight alongside ISIS as it retook Tikrit.

Allah Akbar was added to the Iraqi flag and Islamic education was embedded into the system from elementary schools to Islamic universities. It is likely that the Caliph of ISIS owes his own Islamic education to Saddam’s newfound interest in the Koran.

By the mid 90s, Saddam endorsed a Caliphate and implemented Sharia punishments such as chopping off the hands of thieves.  When ISIS amputates hands, it’s just restoring one of Saddam’s Sharia policies.

Everyone knows about Saddam’s palaces, but fewer know about his campaign to build the world’s biggest mosques. One of the biggest of these had a Koran written in Saddam’s own blood. This mosque would become a major center for ISIS allied operations run by a Muslim Brotherhood organization.

The Caliph of ISIS was recruited into the Muslim Brotherhood by his uncle. And like so many Jihadist leaders, he moved on to Al Qaeda. His own Baathist-Islamist background made him the perfect man to take Saddam’s vision of a Pan-Islamic state with Sharia and Socialism for all to the next level.

Saddam’s outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood helped create ISIS, just as Assad’s backing for Al Qaeda did and much as Gaddafi’s LIFG deal with the Brotherhood paved the way for his own overthrow.

Barzan, Saddam’s brother and the leader of his secret police, had warned him that his alliance with Islamists would lead to the overthrow of his regime. And that is what likely would have happened. American intervention changed the timetable, but not the outcome.

ISIS is a Baathist-Islamist hybrid that devours its creators, turning on Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, and at times even threatening its Baathist allies. Its hybrid of Socialism and an Islam so medieval and brutal that it even frightens Al Qaeda and the Brotherhood has its roots in Saddam’s Iraq. Televising new and more extreme tortures was a tactic that was more Saddam than Osama.

Even ISIS’ most revolutionary step, declaring its leader the Caliph, echoes Saddam’s effort to don the vestiges of the Abbasid Caliphate by linking himself to Caliph Al-Mansur. The difference between Saddam and ISIS is that it is willing to follow through on the symbolism.

For Saddam, Islam was a means. For ISIS it is an end. ISIS is Saddam’s Islamized Iraq without Saddam. It uses Saddam’s tactics and infrastructure for purely Islamic ends.

ISIS is blowback, but not against America. It’s the outcome of two Russian client states that climbed into bed with terrorists only to see the terrorists take over their countries. Saddam and Assad were both warned about the consequences of their alliance with Islamists.

Saddam aided the Muslim Brotherhood in trying to topple Assad’s father, yet learned no lessons from it. Assad aided the Al Qaeda attacks on Americans, but didn’t consider what would happen when Al Qaeda turned its attention to him. Both regimes sowed the Islamist seeds of their own destruction and made inevitable their transformation into Islamic terror states.

Al Qaeda chief calls for jihadist unity to ‘liberate Jerusalem’

Ayman al Zawahiri says the jihadists must strike the West and build states in the Levant and Egypt in order to “liberate” Jerusalem.

Ayman al Zawahiri says the jihadists must strike the West and build states in the Levant and Egypt in order to “liberate” Jerusalem.

The Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, November 2, 2015:

Al Qaeda has released a new audio message from Ayman al Zawahiri, who addresses recent events at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The audio speech is embedded in a video that is nearly 16 minutes long and features archival footage of Osama bin Laden, a still image of Zawahiri, and scrolling text throughout.

Zawahiri begins by alleging that “Muslims everywhere” are upset by the “Jews’ repeated attacks on the blessed Al Aqsa Mosque,” according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. He then praises the knife attacks that have been carried out against Jews, saying they are “a new epic of jihad,” in which people “defend Palestine and Al Aqsa with knives, cars, stones, and everything they own.” Zawahiri asks Allah “to bless these martyrdom-seekers who dare to stab the Jews even as they are almost certain that they will be killed at the Jews’ hands.”

The al Qaeda leader argues that two things are required to “liberate” Jerusalem. First, the jihadists must strike “the West, and especially America, in its heartland” and also attack Western interests everywhere they are found. Zawahiri cites a number of previous attacks in the West as part of his call for more terror, including the September 11, 2001 hijackings and the Boston Marathon bombings carried out by the “two Tsarnaev brothers.”

Second, Zawahiri says that Muslims must establish a “state” in Egypt and the Levant in order to “mobilize the ummah to liberate Palestine.” The al Qaeda chieftain uses this point to emphasize one of his key themes. Establishing such states, based on al Qaeda’s radical version of sharia law, “requires unity,” avoiding “disputes and ending “hostilities” between “the mujahideen.” This is a reference to the infighting between the Islamic State, led by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, and its jihadist rivals in Syria and elsewhere.

Therefore, Zawahiri once again calls for jihadist unity against the “mujahideen’s” common enemies. He does not endorse Baghdadi’s self-declared “caliphate.” He has already set forth his extensive critique of Baghdadi’s state in previous messages. And he takes a swipe against Baghdadi’s state again in his latest message, saying that al Qaeda is fighting to resurrect the caliphate based on the “prophetic method,” which requires shura (consultation). Baghdadi did not consult recognized jihadist authorities before declaring that his organization now rules over a “caliphate” covering large portions of Iraq and Syria.

But Zawahiri wants the fighters within Baghdadi’s ranks to stop fighting Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, and its allies, as well as jihadists elsewhere, so that they can focus on the supposed alliance between America, Europe, Russia, the “Rejectionists” [meaning Shiites and Iran], and the Nusayri [a derogatory reference to Bashar al Assad’s Alawite regime]. Zawahiri alleges that all these parties are “coordinating their war against us” in a joint alliance. He asks why the jihadists are not able to set aside their differences and “direct” all of their “efforts” against them.

Addressing jihadists “from every group” around the world, Zawahiri says that the Levant and Egypt are the “two historical gates of Jerusalem” and the battle in those two areas is a fight against the “Crusader-Rejectionist alliance.” The ummah [community of worldwide Muslims] must support this battle however it can, Zawahiri says, because it is a battle “to show” what it means for Muslims to wage an “acceptable jihad” that elevates Allah’s sharia and does “not empower the secularist and national regimes.”

Zawahiri wants to build popular support for the jihadists’ efforts, seeing this as key to their victory. “It is a political jihad battle so we could convince the ummah that our conduct is in line with what we call for and does not contradict it and does not drive away the Muslim people from the mujahideen,” Zawahiri says. Thus, the jihadists must “hone our conduct in order to convince our Muslim people that we are really keen to be ruled over by sharia if we are called to implement it” and do not label other Muslims as non-believers. The jihadists must convince Muslims that they “are the most merciful of people toward our people” and “do not seek to oppress Muslims.”

Al Qaeda’s bottom-up approach is, therefore, very different from the Islamic State’s. While they both want to build governments based on sharia law, al Qaeda is much more focused on building legitimacy for its ideological project in the hearts and minds of Muslims. Al Qaeda and its allies want to gradually implement sharia law and eventually resurrect a caliphate. Zawahiri’s organization has adopted this strategy, in part, because it knows that most Muslims are not pining for al Qaeda-style rule.

Through its top-down authoritarianism, the Islamic State seeks to convince Muslims that it is a caliphate today and that its version of sharia law, with its graphic executions and punishments, is divinely justified. (Al Qaeda generally avoids propaganda that focuses on its implementation of sharia’s penalties, whereas the Islamic State explicitly advertises its decapitations and amputations.) From the Islamic State’s perspective, Muslims who do not accept its legitimacy as a “caliphate” are to be terrorized into submission.

Zawahiri is not only critical of the Islamic State, with its hard stance, but also other Islamist groups that have adopted softer approaches to achieving their goals.

In this “political jihad battle,” Zawahiri says, the Muslim people should be shown that groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, salafists who support the Egyptian regime, and Rached Ghannouchi (a Tunisian Islamist who co-founded the Ennahda Movement in his home country) have erred by allying themselves with the secular governments and corrupt politicians who oppress Muslims. Zawahiri also accuses these Islamists of submitting themselves to agreements that recognize Israel’s legitimacy, “because they have realized that the price for reaching power is the acceptance of the secular constitutions and submission to Israel.”

The “mujahideen in Palestine” should fight to build an Islamic government, Zawahiri says, arguing that a “secular government that rejects sharia” in Jerusalem would be unacceptable.

Toward the end of his message, Zawahiri again ties Jerusalem to the jihadists’ efforts in the Levant and Egypt. “We must work to establish a Muslim government in the lands neighboring Israel,” he says, and the jihadists’ infighting distracts from this key mission.

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Archival footage of Osama bin Laden is included at the beginning and the end of the al Qaeda production. The clip at the end is used to emphasize that al Qaeda seeks to resurrect a caliphate. A common misconception in the West is that while the Islamic State seeks to conquer territory, al Qaeda only plots terrorist attacks.

“Today, praise be to Allah…we are redrawing the map of the Islamic world to make one state under the banner of the caliphate, Allah willing,” bin Laden says in the clip. From Zawahiri’s perspective, the jihadists’ battles in the Levant and Egypt are key to making this goal a reality.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

Also see:

Al Qaeda appears ‘moderate’ compared to Islamic State, veteran jihadist says

Screen-Shot-2015-10-25-at-10.45.16-AM-1024x724The second edition of Al Risalah magazine features an interview with Usama Hamza Australi, an al Qaeda veteran sent to Syria to train fighters for Al Nusrah Front.

(Jihadology: Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: al-Risālah Magazine #2)

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, October 25, 2015

Jihadists in Syria have released the second edition of Al Risalah, an English-language magazine. The publication, which was distributed via social media earlier today, is a thinly-veiled piece of al Qaeda propaganda. It isn’t officially published by the organization, but its al Qaeda messaging is obvious.

Al Risalah’s newest edition includes an interview with a jihadist known as Usama Hamza Australi, who is originally from Queensland, Australia. “I’ve been a member of Al Qaeda for approximately fourteen years – since mid-2001 until today,” Australi says. “I’m currently in Syria as a member of Al Qaeda Central (AQC), working on their behalf with [Al Nusrah Front].”

Al Qaeda’s decision to send veterans to Syria, where they help steer Al Nusrah Front, an official branch of the group, has been well-documented. Yet, not all of these experienced jihadists have been publicly identified. In the interview, Usama Hamza Australi reveals not only his own personal role, but also additional details about al Qaeda’s operations. And he confirms a point The Long War Journal hasrepeatedly made: Al Qaeda is using the Islamic State to reposition itself as a supposedly more “moderate” jihadist organization.

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“One of the greatest things about IS [Islamic State] its that before people saw al Qaeda and the Mujahideen (in general) as the extremists, and those that abstain from jihad as the normal ‘moderate’ Muslims (following the middle-way),” Australi explains. “But now the truth has come out — the Mujahideen are in fact upon the correct and ‘moderate’ path, with IS being the extremists.”

Australi concludes: “So I think that IS is a blessing in disguise for the Muslim Ummah [worldwide community of Muslims].”

Of course, al Qaeda’s end goals are similar to the Islamic State’s. Both want to build an Islamic caliphate based on their radical version of sharia law. Al Qaeda simply disagrees with the Islamic State’s methodology, believing that caliphate-building is a longer-term project that requires the approval of the broader jihadist community. (Al Qaeda ideologues criticize Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and the Islamic State for failing to win the approval of recognized jihadist authorities before declaring a caliphate over large parts of Iraq and Syria.) Al Qaeda also argues that sharia law should be implemented slowly in order to give Muslims, many of whom do not desire jihadist-style governance, the time to acclimate to laws they have not lived under.

Australi makes some of these arguments in his interview. It is “obligatory upon us to fight jihad and to establish an Islamic Caliphate, this being our ultimate goal,” he says. Al Qaeda will not “compromise” when it comes to the Quran and “will not stop until our goal is reached.” That goal is the “full” implementation of sharia law.

Australi continues: “But you have to understand there’s a way of implementing this – which is the way of the Prophet…and (then) you have the way of the Islamic State group.” The proper jihadist “ways can be corrupted, especially with the takfir methodology and ideology.”

By comparing themselves to the Islamic State, al Qaeda leaders have repeatedly portrayed themselves as representing a “correct” and “moderate” path, as Australi puts it. This helps al Qaeda attempt to build more popular support for its cause, while masking the true extent of its designs in Syria and elsewhere. Australi goes so far as to declare al Qaeda “merciful,” as compared to the Islamic State.

“I truly believe that al Qaeda’s methodology is the right way, the way of mercy, the way of forgiveness, the way of da’wah [proselytizing], the way of strength,” Australi says, “and strength is not just in killing.”

Al Qaeda’s guerilla warfare

Australi began his career in the Australian military before leaving for Afghanistan. Once there in mid-2001, he was taken in by the Taliban before joining al Qaeda’s ranks. He lavishes praise on the Taliban, arguing that the only real differences between the Taliban and al Qaeda were cultural and easily overcome. Australi fought in Afghanistan, including during the Battle of Tora Bora in late 2001, but says that he didn’t receive much military training at first. Instead, he was indoctrinated in al Qaeda’s ideology.

Over time, Australi did receive guerrilla warfare training and was taught Arabic. From 2003 to 2014, he worked for al Qaeda in Waziristan and Afghanistan. “We conducted operations from artillery (mortar) strikes, to ambushes, to assaults and raids on Afghani (apostate Northern Alliance and others of their like), American and NATO forces in Afghanistan,” he says. Australi became so trusted that he met with some of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders, including Abu Yahya al Libi, Sheikh Mahmood, Hafiz Sultan, and Mustafa Saeed. He eventually became a trainer himself.

Today, Australi works as a trainer for “Jaish Nusra,” which he says is a “purely military force (wing)” within the Al Nusrah Front “organization as a whole.”

“I was sent from AQC to assist with [Al Nusrah Front], I’m working with Jaish Nusra as a military trainer and advisor,” Australi says. He goes on to describe what this training entails. “Training tactically, working in small…I hate to use the word ‘Commandos’…high standard infantry tactics, long range patrols, reconnaissance patrols, ambushing, raids, sabotage, harassment behind enemy lines, reaction to combat, how to fight with the enemy in a guerrilla warfare scenario, targeting convoys, targeting installations behind enemy lines with no support, and so on.”

“These were some of the things I trained in for a number of years with the Australian military, and then experienced (in the battlefield) for almost fifteen years in Afghanistan (and here in Syria),” Australi explains. “I’m also involved in military operations…I’m a trainer who still lives to fight (smiles). Any chance I get to fight I’m certainly there, and any input, then I am certainly there.”

Although it is widely believed that al Qaeda is primarily a terrorist organization that is solely focused on attacking the West, the reality is that al Qaeda has devoted most of its resources to waging insurgencies. As the 9/11 Commission found, most of al Qaeda’s trainees from the mid-1990s on were trained in guerrilla warfare, just like Usama Hamza Australi. And the training Australi offers in Syria today, as his own description shows, is of the same variety.

“I insist that [Al Nusrah Front] trains the brothers in the highest standards of guerrilla warfare (tactics) because I believe that if they can handle the harshest, most difficult, and most intense military situations,” Australi says, “then they will be able to handle any other situation with more ease.”

As for the future, Australi believes Jaish Nusra “is going back to the old style of fighting that [Al Nusrah Front] first became renowned for in the beginning of the Syrian War.” This includes “very strong assaults, strong ‘shock and awe’ tactics” and hitting “the enemy with force.”

“We go into areas that the enemy doesn’t expect, and show the enemies of Allah that Jaish Nusra is here to stay,” Australi crows, “and if we enter into a battle we’re here to stay until it’s victory or Shahada [martyrdom].”

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

Also see:

Are we losing Afghanistan again?

Taliba-Paktia-e1445435515840Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn, Oct. 21, 2015:

Editor’s note: The following article was originally published at The New York Times Opinion Page on Oct. 21, 2015.

“ALLAH has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat,” Mullah Muhammad Omar, the first head of the Taliban, once said, “so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled.” When his colleagues admitted this summer that Mullah Omar had died, Al Qaeda and affiliated groups around the globe remembered those words — victory is a divine certainty — in their eulogies. And in Afghanistan today, though the majority of Afghans still do not identify with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, Mullah Omar’s bold defiance in the face of a superpower is beginning to look prescient

Since early September, the Taliban have swept through Afghanistan’s north, seizing numerous districts and even, briefly, the provincial capital Kunduz. The United Nations has determined that the Taliban threat to approximately half of the country’s 398 districts is either “high” or “extreme.” Indeed, by our count, more than 30 districts are already under Taliban control. And the insurgents are currently threatening provincial capitals in both northern and southern Afghanistan.

Confronted with this grim reality, President Obama has decided to keep 9,800 American troops in the country through much of 2016 and 5,500 thereafter. The president was right to change course, but it is difficult to see how much of a difference this small force can make. The United States troops currently in Afghanistan have not been able to thwart the Taliban’s advance. They were able to help push them out of Kunduz, but only after the Taliban’s two-week reign of terror. This suggests that additional troops are needed, not fewer.

When justifying his decision last week, the president explained that American troops would “remain engaged in two narrow but critical missions — training Afghan forces, and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda.” He added, “We’ve always known that we had to maintain a counterterrorism operation in that region in order to tamp down any re-emergence of active Al Qaeda networks.”

But the president has not explained the full scope of what is at stake. Al Qaeda has already re-emerged. Just two days before the president’s statement, the military announced that it led raids against two Qaeda training camps in the south, one of which was an astonishing 30 square miles in size. The operation lasted several days, and involved 63 airstrikes and more than 200 ground troops, including both Americans and Afghan commandos.

“We struck a major Al Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland,” Brig. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, a military spokesman, said. General Shoffner described it as “one of the largest joint ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan.” Other significant Qaeda facilities are already being identified in local press reporting.

Recently, Hossam Abdul Raouf, a chief lieutenant of the Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, confirmed in an audio message that Qaeda’s senior leadership has relocated out of northern Pakistan — no secret to the military and the C.I.A., which have been hunting senior Qaeda figures in Afghanistan and elsewhere throughout the year.

The Taliban are not hiding their continuing alliance with Al Qaeda. In August, Mr. Zawahri pledged his allegiance to Mullah Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. Within hours, Mullah Mansour publicly accepted the “esteemed” Mr. Zawahri’s oath of fealty. And Qaeda members are integrated into the Taliban’s chain of command. In fact, foreign fighters affiliated with Al Qaeda played a significant role in the Taliban-led assault on Kunduz.

The United States made many mistakes in the 9/11 wars. After routing the Taliban and Al Qaeda in late 2001, President George W. Bush did not dedicate the resources necessary to finish the fight. President Obama was right in December 2009 to announce a surge of forces in Afghanistan, but it was short-lived. Al Qaeda is not nearly as “decimated” in South Asia as Mr. Obama has claimed.

We don’t think 5,500 troops is enough. No one is calling for a full-scale occupation of the country. But a force of as many as 20,000 to 25,000 would far better support our local Afghan allies, helping them defend multiple provincial capitals at the same time and fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their strongholds.

While many believe that Al Qaeda is solely focused on attacking the West, it has devoted most of its efforts to waging insurgencies. This is the key to understanding how it has been able to regenerate repeatedly over the past 14 years. Al Qaeda draws would-be terrorists from the larger pool of paramilitary forces fighting to restore the Taliban to power in Afghanistan or to build radical nation-states elsewhere. Therefore, the mission of the United States is bigger than the one Mr. Obama envisions. Drones and select counterterrorism raids are not enough to end the threat.

Al Qaeda and like-minded groups were founded on the myth that the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan because of the mujahedeen’s faith in Allah alone. This helped spawn a generation of new wars and terrorist attacks, most of which have targeted Muslims. Should the Afghans suffer additional territorial losses, Mullah Omar’s words will appear prophetic. And a new myth, one that will feed the Taliban’s and Al Qaeda’s violence for years to come, will be born.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

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