Jihadis Seek to Cleanse Pakistan of Christians

by Raymond Ibrahim
PJ Media
March 21, 2015

Originally published under the title, “Jihadis Cleansing Pakistan of Christians.”

Pakistani Christians mourn the victims of two March 15 suicide bombings of churches in Lahore.

Pakistani Christians mourn the victims of two March 15 suicide bombings of churches in Lahore.

The two churches (located in Youhanabad, Lahore’s Christian quarter) were St. John’s Catholic Church and Christ Church (Protestant).On Sunday, March 15, as Christian churches around the world were celebrating morning mass, two churches in Pakistan were attacked by Islamic suicide bombers. At least 17 people were killed and over 70 were wounded.

The Taliban claimed responsibility. It is believed that the group had hoped for much greater death tolls, as there were almost 2,000 people in both churches at the time of the explosions.

According to eyewitnesses, two suicide bombers approached the gates of the two churches and tried to enter them. When they were stopped — including by a 15-year-old Christian who blocked them with his body — they self-detonated. Witnesses saw “body parts flying through the air.”

Thus did the jihadis “kill and be killed,” in the words of Koran 9:111, the verse most often cited to justify suicide attacks.

According to an official statement of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan, despite all the threats received by the churches, authorities only provided “minimal” security:

Agents present at the time of the attack were busy watching the cricket match on TV, instead of carrying out their duty to protect churches. As a result of this neglect, many Christians have lost their lives.

The statement further urged:

the government to adopt strong measures to protect churches and other religious minorities in Pakistan [since] the Christian community of Pakistan was targeted by extremists in the past.

Nearly 90 Christian worshippers were killed in the September 2013 suicide bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar.

Nearly 90 Christian worshippers were killed in the September 2013 suicide bombing of All Saints Church in Peshawar.

One parishioner recalled how “human remains were strewn all over the church.” (For an idea of the aftermath of suicide attacks on churches, see these graphic pictures.)Less than a year-and-a-half earlier, on September 22, 2013, in Peshawar, suicide bombers entered the All Saints Church right after Sunday mass and blew themselves up in the midst of approximately 550 congregants, killing nearly 90 worshippers. Many were Sunday school children, women, and choir members. At least 120 were injured.

In 2001, Islamic gunmen stormed St. Dominic’s Protestant Church, opening fire on the congregants and killing at least 16 worshippers, mostly women and children.

Less dramatic attacks on churches occur with great frequency. Days before last Sunday’s twin attacks,three armed men entered Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Kasur district, Punjab, and took church personnel, the assistant parish priest, and congregation hostage. Before leaving the premises, the terrorists stole mobile telephones, cameras, and a computer.

Earlier, Father Leopold, the ailing parish priest, was robbed by thieves:

[They] pretended to be ordinary members of the faithful wanting to enroll some children at the parish school. Then they suddenly pulled out guns.

Christmas season is an especially dangerous time for Christians meeting in churches. On lastDecember 25:

Heavy contingents of police were deployed in and around the churches … citizens were allowed only after [a] thorough body search … while the entry points leading to the churches had been closed by placing cemented blocks and barbed wire.

During another Christmas, the following attack came in response to fatwas condemning Christmas celebrations:

When Christian worshipers were coming out of different churches after performing Christmas prayers, more than one hundred Muslim extremists equipped with automatic rifles, pistols and sticks attacked the Christian women, children and men.

There have also been general attacks on Christians, especially in the context of accusing them of “blaspheming” against Islam. Last November, a mob — not the “Taliban,” and not “terrorists” — consisting of at least 1,200 Muslims tortured and burned to death a young Christian couple (the wife was pregnant) in an industrial kiln in Pakistan. Someone had accused the Christian couple of desecrating the Koran.

Even when not in church and not accused of blasphemy, Christian minorities are always in danger. Last December, Elisabeth Bibi, a 28-year-old pregnant Christian mother of four, was “beaten, scorned and humiliated, deprived of her dignity [and] forced to walk naked through the town” by two Muslim brothers — the pregnant woman’s employers — following an argument. In the ordeal, she lost her baby. Rights activists say the attack “was motivated because of Bibi’s [Christian] religious beliefs.”

Speaking last Sunday from Rome, Pope Francis said:

It’s with pain, much pain that I was told of the terrorist attacks against two Christian churches in Lahore in Pakistan, which have caused numerous deaths and injuries. These are Christian churches and Christians are persecuted, our Christian brothers are spilling their blood simply because they are Christians. I implore God … that this persecution against Christians — that the world seeks to hide — comes to an end and that there is peace.

Pope Francis is often criticized for his apologetic approach towards Islam. Even here, he does not note who is persecuting these Christians, leading to confusing assertions (“our Christian brothers are spilling their blood” sounds like Christians are killing Christians). But the pope is forthright as to why Christians are being killed: “simply because they are Christians.”

Others, such as the U.S. government, will not even concede that much. When the world heard and saw how 21 Coptic Christians had their heads sawed off by Islamic jihadis in Libya, the White House issued a statement condemning the beheadings — but referred to the beheaded only as “Egyptian citizens.” Not Christians, or even Copts, even though that is the sole reason they were slaughteredaccording to statements issued by their executioners.

Such obfuscation ensures the Muslim persecution of Christians “that the world seeks to hide” will continue indefinitely.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author ofCrucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007).

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

ISIS Eyes Iran in AF/PAK Expansion Effort, Targets Mullah Omar in IO Campaign

February 22, 2015 / /

Reporting over the last couple of weeks suggests that the Islamic State’s (IS) Khorasan Regional Command or “Khorasan Shura” has stepped up their efforts to further inflame internal divisions within the Taliban (TB) in the hopes it would lead to more defections. The IO campaign they’ve been waging in the AF/PAK region has called into question Mullah Omar’s fitness to be a leader in the global jihadist movement and whether he’s even alive. In early-JAN 15 TB Shura Chief Akhtar Muhammad Mansur and other Shura members are reported to have met with two IS representatives who threatened to increase their operations in two months if the TB couldn’t prove that Mullah Omar was still alive. Our sources have also informed us that Pakistani Taliban (TTP) Emir Maulawi Fazlullah remains loyal to Omar, but may defect to IS if his death is confirmed. Apparently the question of whether or not Omar is alive has been a big subject of debate, with other TTP commanders wondering if Fazlullah has even been in contact with him. As it stands right now, Omar’s current status remains a mystery. Having said that, IS directly challenging Omar’s legitimacy and suggesting that he’s dead appears to be having an effect in at least planting the seeds of further internal unrest among the ranks.

ISIS Reportedly Begins Targeting Taliban Commanders Loyal to al-Qaida
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4593

ISIS Formally Establishes an Affiliate for the AF/PAK Region
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4578

The terrifying rise of ISIS: Map that shows how terror group’s tentacles now reach from Algeria to Afghanistan
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2960463/The-terrifying-rise-ISIS-Map-shows-terror-group-s-tentacles-reach-Algeria-Afghanistan.html

How ISIS Has Expanded Beyond Its Syrian Stronghold
http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2015/02/18/387149112/how-isis-has-expanded-beyond-its-syrian-stronghold

ISIS vs. the Taliban: The Battle for Hearts and Minds
http://www.vocativ.com/world/afghanistan-world/isis-vs-taliban/

The Coming Fight for Khorasan: IS Gearing up Against the Taliban
https://news.siteintelgroup.com/blog/index.php/entry/362-the-coming-fight-for-khorasan-is-gearing-up-against-the-taliban

US Afghan commander: Reports of ISIS recruiting
http://thehill.com/policy/defense/229783-us-afghan-commander-reports-of-isis-recruiting

ISIS trying to expand its influence in Pakistan, distributes pamphlets
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/ISIS-trying-to-expand-its-influence-in-Pakistan-distributes-pamphlets/articleshow/41618755.cms

Taliban Supreme leader Mullah Omar has possibly died
http://www.khaama.com/taliban-supreme-leader-mullah-omar-has-possibly-died-8778

Mullah Omar’s whereabouts – and very existence – shrouded in mystery
http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/pakistan-articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2014/09/30/feature-01

mullah Fazlullah

Mullah Fazlullah
Source: SITE Intelligence Group

mullah omar

Mullah Omar: Dead or Alive?
Source: tribune.com.pk

One of the figures who played a key role in establishing the IS foothold in the region is a former TB commander Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, who served as the Shadow Governor of Uruzgan Province from 2007 – 2009 and did a stint in Guantanamo Bay (GITMO). After his release from GITMO, he had a falling out with TB leadership that led to his marginalization within the terror organization and subsequent defection to IS. He was a key player in the IS expansion efforts currently underway in Helmand Province and led the charge in the red-on-red fight against the TB’s Helmand Shadow Governor Mullah Ahmed Shah. The US government claims to have killed Khadim in a drone strike earlier this month, but we have not yet seen confirmation either way. However, whether he’s dead or not is irrelevant as he wasn’t a member of the Khorasan Shura – which remains largely intact.

ISIS recruiter, once freed from Gitmo by U.S., killed in drone strike in Afghanistan
http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/09/world/afghanistan-violence/

Capture the Flag in Afghanistan
http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/22/capture-the-flag-in-afghanistan/

Islamic State Appoints Leaders of “Khorasan Province,” Issues Veiled Threat to Afghan Taliban
http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/01/islamic_state_appoin.php

khorasan shura

Breakdown of the Khorasan Shura
Source: The Long War Journal

In our Inside Iran’s Middle East Series piece titled, “Inside Iran’s Middle East: The Southeast Insurgency,” we stated that either al-Qaida (AQ) or IS may attempt to use the Afghanistan and Pakistan as support nodes for a new front opened up in Southeast Iran to force the regime into diverting resources from the Syrian war effort back to home. IS’ expansion efforts in Afghanistan’s Southern provinces adds weight to this assessment as those locations all fall within known routes used to smuggle opium and weapons between Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Keep in mind that AQ’s Khorasan Group (KG) has a great deal of experience in fighting the IRGC inside Iran that resulted in forging relationships with Baloch groups such as Jundallah. More importantly, some of KG’s personnel that deployed to Syria are reported to have defected to IS.

We assess some of those personnel are part of the training support package that was sent to Afghanistan in the DEC 14/JAN 15 time frame or possibly earlier. The training cadre sent to the country are likely still in the assess-mode taking note of each loyal faction’s strength’s and weaknesses to draw up the training plan that will probably take effect by the end of this month. During this year’s fighting season Afghanistan’s Hazara Shia population may begin to experience the same level of targeting that they received prior to 9-11 as a means of getting Iran’s attention and building notoriety. Red on red violence will also pick up. By AUG the IS affiliates will be fully trained with recruits gaining much-needed experience. We could very well well see former KG members who defected to IS leading the engagement efforts reaching out to Jundallah (and other Baloch groups in Iran) by the end of the year. Jundallah – like everybody else in that part of the world – will likely flip to IS’ side after being offered money, weapons and manpower to accelerate their regenerative process. The leadership of the various Baloch groups may not approve of IS’ ideology or even the legitimacy of Baghdadi’s “Caliphate” – to them it would be a marriage of convenience. However, this will be a project that will take at least another year to fully manifest itself. If you think this will be easier for US troops stationed in Afghanistan, think again, because both IS and TB factions loyal to AQ will be competing for the title of who can launch the more high-profile attacks. Needless to say, this year’s fighting season looks to be one of the worst. Keep an eye on this one…

Inside Iran’s Middle East: The Southeast Insurgency
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2689

ISIS (Daesh) start operations in Helmand, residents claim
http://www.khaama.com/isis-daesh-start-operations-in-helmand-residents-claim

ISIS expansion map

The graphic above depicts IS’ expansion from the Maghreb to Afghanistan and Pakistan
Source: UK Daily Mail

Links to Other Related Articles:

Afghanistan Update – Yes, Things Are Getting Worse Contrary To US Government Claims

Afghanistan: A Case Against a Residual US Military Presence

The History and Capabilities of the Khorasan Group

The Khorasan Group: Threat to US Homeland?

US Government: Syria-Based al-Qaida Cell Bigger Threat Than ISIS

Islamic State appoints leaders of ‘Khorasan province,’ issues veiled threat to Afghan Taliban

Khorassan Shura_Org-thumb-560x420-5469

An organizational overview of the Khorasan Shura. The Islamic State has appointed Hafez Saeed Khan as the Governor of Khorasan province.

By

Abu Muhammad al Adnani, a spokesman for the Islamic State, announced the group’s “expansion” into the lands of “Khorasan” — modern day Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of the surrounding countries — and declared former Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan or TTP) commander Hafez Saeed Khan as the “governor” of Khorasan province. Khan had previously served as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s emir for the tribal agency of Arakzai.

Adnani made his announcement in a nearly seven minute audio taped speech titled, “Say, Die in Your Rage!” which was published on Jan. 26 2015 by the Islamic State’s Al Furqan media outlet. [For a translation of the speech, by Pieter Van Ostaeyen, see ‘Audio Statement by IS Spokesman Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani as-Shami.’]

The declaration comes only a few weeks after a conglomeration of former TTP officials formed the Khorasan Shura and pledged bayat, or allegiance, to the Islamic State. [See Long War Journal report, Pakistani Taliban splinter group again pledges allegiance to Islamic State.]

The Islamic State spokesman acknowledged Khan’s pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as Commander of the Faithful and the Caliph of Muslims, and claimed that Baghdadi had accepted the pledge and appointed Khan as the province’s governor and Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim as the deputy governor. Khadim, a former Guantanamo detainee and former senior Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan, has reportedly been operating in Helmand province on behalf of the Islamic State. [See Long War Journal report, Ex-Gitmo detainee leads contingent of Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.]

Adnani further urged the “mujahideen in Khorasan” to come forth and obey the commands of Khan and Khadim. Notably, Adnani also urged caution in his call to arms, noting that “the factions will assemble against you and the rifles and bayonets fixed against you will multiply.” He encouraged the mujahideen to stand firm against “factionalism and disunity” and to meet these challenges by “unsheathing your swords and spears.” Although not clearly stated, Adnani was issuing a veiled threat to the Taliban factions, both Afghan and Pakistani, that opposed the creation of the Khorasan Shura and who were opposed to the Islamic State.

The Afghan Taliban movement has been consistent in avoiding recognizing the Islamic State and its Caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi since the reclusive leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, has previously held the title of Commander of the Faithful position since 1996.

Adnani’s declaration and Baghdadi’s reported approval for the Islamic State to expand into Afghanistan and Pakistan could incite divisions within the various Taliban factions operating in both countries. The cohesion of many Taliban factions has been compromised over the past few years, mostly due to attrition and leadership decapitations, as well as ideological differences and personal feuds.

Exclusive: Terror Org. Harbored by Pakistani Gov’t Now Backs ISIS

Hafiz Saeed, leader of the Jamaat-ut-Dawa terror network has a $10 million bounty on his head issued by the U.S. government.

Hafiz Saeed, leader of the Jamaat-ut-Dawa terror network has a $10 million bounty on his head issued by the U.S. government.

BY RYAN MAURO:

The Clarion Project has learned from a first-hand source in Pakistan that the leader of Jamaat-ut-Dawa, a major terrorist group harbored by the Pakistani government, expressed support for the Islamic State in a recent sermon.

The story breaks as Pakistani embassy is condemning the television show Homeland for depicting Pakistani government officials as complicit in terrorism.

The Clarion Project’s source, whose identity has been verified and will be referred to as “Aamir,” recently attended a public sermon by Jamaat-ut-Dawa (JUD) leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed at the group’s Jamia Markaz al-Qadsi headquarters in Lahore. JUD is a rebranding of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET). The group is best known for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India that killed over 150 innocents.

The U.S. State Department lists JUD/LET as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and says it has links to Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami in Bangladesh, the Indian Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammed. The U.S. Treasury Department says it works with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network and targets U.S. and Afghan forces.

The event was heavily guarded with Saeed’s own security team equipped with assault rifles. The bulk of the sermon was dedicated to promoting jihad against the U.S. and India in order to “save Islam.” Saeed explicitly told attendees to donate to jihad and even recommended registering at a website to fight. Other reports have confirmed the placement of donation boxes for jihad at his events.

Saeed said that the current jihad against America is the same one that was waged against the Soviet Union and that the U.S. is already showing it will suffer the same fate. He boasted that America is so intimidated by him that it is even afraid of his name. Attendees responded with chants of jihad.

Aamir’s report matches Saeed’s bravado. After the U.S. announced a $10 million award for his information leading to his arrest, he held a public rally next to a Pakistani base that is only 40 minutes from the U.S. embassy.

“America should give that reward money to me,” Saeed joked. “I am here. I am visible.”

According to Aamir, Saeed explicitly endorsed jihad against the U.S. in Afghanistan, against India in Kashmir and against the U.S. in Iraq, where American forces are battling the Islamic State.

Saeed’s group is taking a similar stance as other Al-Qaeda-linked groups in endorsing the Islamic State as a group but stopping short of granting legitimacy to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a caliph.

However, Saeed is also on record as criticizing the Islamic State for massacring Muslims as “apostates” and suggested it should focus on destroying Israel. Earlier this month, he said he’d say to the Islamic State, “I invite you, you are sitting near the Israel boarder, go and destroy the Israeli Jewish [sic].”

What Saeed said to an attendee indicates he is privately more supportive of the Islamic State than his public speeches reveal. Someone from the audience approached Saeed about his implied declaration of the Islamic State as an ally and asked about the group’s presence in Pakistan.

The source was shocked at Saeed’s answer. He said that the Islamic State represents pure Islam and predicted that it would take over Pakistan and seize its nuclear weapons. Saeed emphasized that the Islamic State means no harm towards Sunnis and so it should not be feared.

Read more at Clarion Project

Pakistan Massacre Organizer Vows More Killings

A screengrab from a Taliban video shows Khalifa Omar Mansoor, named by the Pakistani Taliban as the organizer of the attack on a Peshawar school attended by children of military personnel, promising more such attacks.

A screengrab from a Taliban video shows Khalifa Omar Mansoor, named by the Pakistani Taliban as the organizer of the attack on a Peshawar school attended by children of military personnel, promising more such attacks.

By SYED SHOAIB HASAN:

KARACHI, Pakistan—The self-proclaimed organizer of the assault that killed 132 schoolchildren this week in the Pakistani city of Peshawar vowed in a video Thursday that his fighters would attack more schools and other civilian targets.

Khalifa Omar Mansoor, named by the Pakistani Taliban as the man who organized the attack, appeared in a short video that was uploaded to a site used by the militants for distributing propaganda videos.

Mr. Mansoor said the group would continue to strike civilians in revenge for Pakistani military operations under way in the country’s North Waziristan tribal area to destroy al Qaeda and Taliban havens. He said that ordinary Pakistanis have disregarded the plight of residents there.

Pakistan’s security forces say they are focused on taking out the Taliban, but some civilian casualties are inevitable. They deny there have been large-scale civilian casualties

“This is something we cannot accept anymore, and if you continue to target our women and children, then your children will not be safe anymore,” he said Mr. Mansoor. “We announce that we will not discriminate in our attacks any longer, and will be as unconcerned as you are.”

The Pakistani military began its North Waziristan offensive in June. It is the last of the tribal areas being cleared by the Pakistani army, and the operation has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.According to Pakistani security experts, Mr. Mansoor is the head of the Pakistani Taliban chapter that originates from the tribal region of Darra Adam Khel, in northwestern Pakistan. The group grabbed international headlines in 2009 when it beheaded a kidnapped Polish engineer.

The attack in Peshawar, which claimed 148 lives, was on the city’s Army Public School. The school served the children of army personnel as well as the children of civilians. Pakistan has 146 Army Public Schools around the country, and many other schools administered by other arms of the military.

Mr. Mansoor threatened to target similar institutions around the country.

“I want to tell the Pakistan government, and the directors, teachers and students of the army’s affiliated institutions, that you are the ones strengthening this un-Islamic democratic system,” he said. “It is these institutions that graduate future generals, brigadiers and majors, who then kill Taliban and innocent tribal people.”

Read more at WSJ

Also see:

Pakistani Taliban assault military high school in Peshawar

Pakistani army personnel patrol the streets following an attack by Taliban gunmen on a school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. – AFP

Pakistani army personnel patrol the streets following an attack by Taliban gunmen on a school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. – AFP

LWJ, By

A suicide assault team from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (or Pakistani Taliban) stormed a military high school in Peshawar today. It is one of the deadliest jihadist attacks in the country’s history. According to initial reporting, the attackers have killed more than 130 people, including dozens of children.

At least six Taliban fighters armed with assault weapons and suicide vests entered the Army Public School in Peshawar, the capital of the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, this morning. The fighters fanned out through the school and killed everyone in their path, according to press reports.

Shahrukh Khan, a child who survived the attack by feigning death after being shot in both legs, told Agence France Presse (AFP) that the Taliban fighters were instructed to kill the students. The terrorists deliberately executed students who were already wounded.

“There are so many children beneath the benches, go and get them,” one Taliban fighter told another, according to Khan.

“The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again,” Khan stated. The fighters shouted “Allahu Akbar,” or Allah is greatest, as they executed the children.

Pakistani officials have stated that 131 people have been killed, including more than 100 students, but warned that the death toll may rise.

At least 15 explosions were heard during the fighting, Dawn reported. Pakistani security forces surrounded the building and assaulted as the Taliban continued to execute students and staff. The military claimed it killed six Taliban fighters, but more may have been involved in the attack. Troops are still searching the building for Taliban fighters and survivors.

Muhammad Khurasani, the official spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, claimed the gruesome assault and admitted that his fighters intentionally targeted civilians.

“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” Khurasani said, according to Reuters. “We want them to feel the pain.” Khurasani is referring to the current Pakistani military operation in the tribal agencies of North Waziristan and Khyber, which are adjacent to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Pakistani military is targeting the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and jihadist organizations such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, but is leaving groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group alone.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has targeted military high school students in the past. In 2009, the jihadist group kidnapped hundreds of students as they fled their military school in Ramzak, North Waziristan. The Taliban ultimately released the students as part of a prisoner exchange.

The Taliban has also launched numerous attacks on soft targets such as churches, mosques, shrines, markets, hotels, and even hospitals. Thousands of civilians have been killed in those attacks since the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan was formed in late 2006.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has also targeted the US. In an email first sent to The Long War Journal, the group claimed responsibility for the May 2010 attempted bombing in New York City’s Times Square. [See LWJ report, Pakistani Taliban claim credit for failed NYC Times Square car bombing.]

The US has targeted the organization’s top commanders as part of its drone campaign. Baitullah Mehsud, the group’s founder and first leader, was killed by an American missile in August 2009. In late 2013, Baitullah’s successor, Hakeemullah Mehsud, was also killed in an American airstrike. Hakeemullah had gloated over the failed Times Square attack in the group’s propaganda prior to his demise.

Hakeemullah was replaced by Mullah Fazlullah, but his appointment as emir of the Pakistani Taliban proved to be unpopular within the terrorist group’s ranks. Earlier this year, key constituencies that were part of Baitullah’s original coalition began peeling away to go on their own. Much of the group founded by Baitullah no longer answers to Fazlullah. One of the larger blocs to break away from Fazlullah’s leadership has rebranded itself as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. Other commanders have reportedly pledged their allegiance to Islamic State emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

[For more on the dissolution of the original Pakistani Taliban alliance, see LWJ report: Discord dissolves Pakistani Taliban coalition.]

Lady al Qaeda: The World’s Most Wanted Woman

siddiqui1_1

The Taliban wanted to trade Bergdahl for her. The Islamic State offered to swap Foley. Why does every jihadi group want the U.S. to free Aafia Siddiqui? 

BY SHANE HARRIS:

Two years ago, a group of senior U.S. national security officials received a tantalizing proposal from officials in Pakistan. If the United States would release a Pakistani woman serving a lengthy prison sentence in Texas for attempted murder, Islamabad would try to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been missing since 2009 and was thought to be held in Pakistan by Taliban forces.

According to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the proposal, President Barack Obama’s national security advisors swiftly rejected the offer. To free the prisoner, Aafia Siddiqui, who’s linked to al Qaeda and was convicted in 2010 of attempting to kill Americans in Afghanistan, would violate the administration’s policy of not granting concessions to terrorist groups, the officials concluded. It would also put a potentially dangerous fighter back on the street. Siddiqui, 42, who’s known in counterterrorism circles as “Lady al Qaeda,” has been linked to 9/11 ringleader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and was once on the FBI’s most-wanted terrorists list. Educated in the United States — she studied at M.I.T. and received a doctorate from Brandeis — Siddiqui was arrested in 2008 in Afghanistan carrying sodium cyanide, as well as documents describing how to make chemical weapons and dirty bombs and how to weaponize Ebola. When FBI and military officials tried to question Siddiqui, she grabbed a weapon left on the table in her interrogation room and fired upon them.

Although U.S. officials never seriously considered trading Siddiqui, she has been a perennial bargaining chip for terrorists and Islamist militants who’ve made her release a condition for freeing a number of American and European prisoners over the years. The militants had repeatedly threatened to execute Bergdahl if Siddiqui wasn’t set free. And the

Islamic State terrorists who murdered American journalist James Foley last week had demanded Siddiqui’s release to spare his life.

On Tuesday, the Islamic State again demanded her freedom, this time in exchange for a 26-year-old American woman kidnapped last year in Syria while working with humanitarian aid groups. Officials believe the Islamic State is holding at least four American prisoners, including journalist Steven Sotloff. The militants have also insisted upon a $6.6 million ransom for the young American woman, whose family doesn’t want her identified. The Islamic State’s demands were first reported by ABC News.

While the White House has steadfastly refused to put Siddiqui’s release on the table in negotiating for American prisoners, a team inside the Defense Department has proposed trading her for American captives, according to a U.S. lawmaker.

“We are aware of at least one entity in the Defense Department that has developed possible options to trade Siddiqui. And we can say with certainty that the option was weighed for Bergdahl and several others in captivity,” said Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.-Calif.), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and a former Marine who has criticized the Obama administration for not doing more to free American prisoners.

A heated debate over whether the U.S. government should pay ransoms or conduct prisoner swaps in order to free American captives erupted after Foley’s murder. The United States, unlike many European countries, doesn’t pay ransoms. Some terrorism experts say that Americans are less likely to be kidnapped as a result. But some former prisoners and their families want the government to pony up if doing so will free Americans.

Kasper said the Siddiqui option in Bergdahl’s case never reached Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “That’s a real shame, because right or wrong on trading Siddiqui, all valid options should be explored and exhausted,” he said.

Read more at Foreign Policy

Also see:

‘Honor’ Killings: A New Kind of American Tragedy

Amina-Ajmal-Honor-Killing-Evidence-Photoby Dr. Phyllis Chesler:

A new kind of American tragedy is taking place in a Brooklyn Federal Courthouse.

Both the defendant, standing trial for conspiracy to commit murder abroad in Pakistan, and the main witness against him, his daughter Amina, wept when they first saw each other. Amina’s extended family stared at her with hostility. As she testified, Amina paused, hesitated, and sobbed. She and her father had been very close until he decided that she had become too “Americanized.”

This Pakistani-American father of five, a widower, worked seven days a week driving a cab in order to support his children; this included sending his daughter, Amina, to Brooklyn College.

This is a successful American immigrant story—and yet, it is also a unique and unprecedented story as well, one which demands that Western law prevail over murderously misogynistic tribal honor codes.

At some point, Mohammad Ajmal Choudry sent Amina to Pakistan so that she might re-connect with her “roots”—but he had her held hostage there for three years. During that time, Amina, an American citizen, was forced into an arranged marriage, ostensibly to her first cousin, who probably expected this marriage to lead to his American citizenship. Such arranged marriages, and arranged specifically for this purpose, are routine. They are also factors in a number of high profile honor killing cases in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

For example, the Texas born and raised Said sisters, Aminah and Sarah, refused to marry Egyptian men as their Egyptian cab-driver father Yasir wanted them to do and he killed them for it. Canadian-Indian, Jaswinder Kaur, refused to marry the man her mother had chosen for her and instead married someone she loved. Her widowed mother and maternal uncle had her killed in India. They have been fighting extradition from Canada for more than a decade.

Amina, who grew up in New York from the time she was nine years old, did not want to be held hostage to this marriage. Indeed, Amina had found a man whom she loved and wished to marry.

Plucky Americanized Amina fled the arranged marriage within a month. With the help of a relative, the U.S. State Department, and ultimately, the Department of Homeland Security, Amina left Pakistan and went into hiding in the United States.

She had to. Her father had threatened to kill her if she did not return to her husband, give up her boyfriend, or return to her father. Mohammad may have pledged Amina’s hand without her knowledge, long, long ago.

A female relative’s sexual and reproductive activities are assets that belong to her father’s family, her tribe, her religion. They are not seen as individual rights.

Acting as if one is “free” to choose whom to marry and whom not to marry means that a woman has become too Westernized, or, in Amina’s case, too “Americanized.” This is a capital crime.

From Mohammad’s point of view, his beloved daughter had betrayed and dishonored him. She had “un-manned” him before his family. The desire to marry whom you want or to leave a violent marriage are viewed as filthy and selfish desires. Many Muslims in the Arab and Muslim world; Hindus and Muslims in India; and Muslims and, to a lesser extent, Sikhs in the West share this view and accordingly, perpetrate “honor killings.”

I do not like this phrase. An honor killing is dishonorable and it is also murder, plain and simple. It is a form of human sacrifice. It is also femicide–although sometimes boys and men are also murdered. I would like to call them “horror” murders.

Read more at Breitbart

 

Assault on Pakistan Airport Signals Taliban’s Reach and Resilience

Relatives and colleagues of airport security personnel killed in the attack on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, gathered near the coffins after funeral prayers. ATHAR HUSSAIN / REUTERS

Relatives and colleagues of airport security personnel killed in the attack on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, gathered near the coffins after funeral prayers.
ATHAR HUSSAIN / REUTERS

By DECLAN WALSH:

London –  Only a week ago the Pakistani taliban appeared to be on the ropes. Violent rivalries had split the insurgency in two. Peace talks with the government had collapsed. Military jets had pounded militant hide-outs in the tribal belt.

A squad of militant commandos, disguised as government security forces, stormed Karachi’s international airport after dark. They carried food, water and ammunition, apparently in preparation for a long siege, and big ambitions: perhaps to hijack a commercial airliner, government officials said Monday, or to blow up an oil depot, or to destroy airplanes on the tarmac.

The 10 attackers were dead five hours later, shot by soldiers or blown up by their own suicide vests. Yet the audacious nature of the assault shook Pakistan to its core, offering a violent reminder that for all its divisions, the Taliban remain an astonishingly resilient force.

It has kept a reach far beyond its tribal redoubt along the Afghan border, with an ability to penetrate the country’s busiest airport in the largest city. And the discovery that Uzbek jihadis were among the attackers underscores how, even in splinters, the Taliban can draw on an international militant network to conduct sophisticated attacks — which means trouble not just for Pakistan’s government and military, but for American interests in Afghanistan.

The determined attack seems to bear out earlier warnings by counterterrorism experts that the Taliban split two weeks ago was unlikely to erode the group’s capacity for mayhem.

“It’s become a hydra-headed monster,” said Najmuddin Shaikh, a retired head of Pakistan’s foreign service. “They had limited success in Karachi, but maybe that was just our good luck.”

Key to the Taliban’s strength is the web of alliances it has cultivated with fellow militant groups in North Waziristan, the tribal district along the Afghan border that since 2001 has evolved into a vibrant global hub of jihadi money, ideology and fighters — Punjabis, Chechens, Arabs, Central Asians, Afghan Taliban and a smattering of Westerners.

The Taliban’s major ally is the Haqqani network, a formidable force in the Afghan insurgency that held the American soldier Bowe Bergdahl hostage for five years until his release on May 31. But they have other allies too — fighters whose militancy was born elsewhere, but who have joined in the Taliban fight.

Chief among them are the Uzbeks, hard-bitten fighters who followed Osama bin Laden into Pakistan after September 2001, and who have since become an important element of the Taliban insurgency, offering Pakistan fighters what experts call a deep bench of militant training and expertise.

Read more at New York Times

Al Qaeda remains in Afghanistan despite drawdown plans

Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

LWJ, By 

Eli Lake’s report at The Daily Beast, titled “As Obama Draws Down, Al Qaeda Grows in Afghanistan,” is today’s must read article. A quick excerpt:

As President Obama outlines what he promises to be the end of the war in Afghanistan, new U.S. intelligence assessments are warning that al Qaeda is beginning to re-establish itself there.Specifically, the concern for now is that al Qaeda has created a haven in the northeast regions of Kunar and Nuristan and is able to freely operate along Afghanistan’s only major highway–Route One, which connects the airports of Kandahar and Kabul.

“There is no doubt they have a significant presence in northeast Afghanistan,” Mac Thornberry, the Republican vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told The Daily Beast. “It’s a lot of speculation about exact numbers, but again part of the question is what are their numbers going to be and what are there activities going to be when the pressure lets up.”

If Thornberry’s warnings prove correct, then Obama is faced with two bad choices. He either breaks his promise to end America’s longest war or he ends up losing that war by withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan too soon, allowing al Qaeda to re-establish a base of operations in the country from which it launched 9/11.

For years, the official intelligence community estimate was that a little more than 100 al Qaeda fighters remained in Kunar Province, a foreboding territory of imposing mountains and a local population in the mountains at least that largely agrees with al Qaeda’s ascetic Salafist philosophy.

But recent estimates from the military and the U.S. intelligence community have determined that al Qaeda’s presence has expanded to nearby Nuristan and that the group coordinates its operations and activities with allies like the Pakistan-based Taliban and Haqqani Network.

 

Read the whole thing. Long War Journal readers will know that for years we have reported on al Qaeda’s extensive presence in Afghanistan; al Qaeda’s collusion with the Taliban, Haqqani Network, the Pakistani Taliban, and other groups; and US and Coalition efforts to dismantle the network using targeted raids.

And we’ve repeatedly criticized the often-repeated meme that al Qaeda has just 50-100 fighters in Afghanistan. Using press reports, press releases from the International Security Assistance Force, and al Qaeda’s own statements, we have detected the presence of al Qaeda and allied groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, and Lashkar-e-Taiba in 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Sadly, in June 2013 ISAF stopped issuing press releases on its raids that targeted al Qaeda, cutting off one important source of information that detailed al Qaeda’s presence.

Now, I’d argue that al Qaeda isn’t expanding into Kunar and Nuristan, but has merely capitalized on the US pullback from Kunar that took place beginning in 2009 [see this report from 2011 for some background on the withdrawal]. Keep in mind that the US began this withdrawal even as special operations forces were actively targeting what ISAF identified as al Qaeda “camps” in the province. For more on this, see LWJ report, ISAF captures al Qaeda’s top Kunar commander, from April 2011.

It seems that some US officials are finally starting to come around to the analysis of al Qaeda’s presence that has long been provided by The Long War Journal. Unfortunately, that may be too little and too late, as President Obama has set the stage for the US to exit Afghanistan and significantly reduce, if not end, its capacity to target al Qaeda and allied groups in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Horror in Pakistan: Pregnant Woman Stoned by Family

 02-450x337by Arnold Ahlert:

Those looking for the real war on women–as opposed to the one promoted by the American left and their media enablers—should focus their attention on Pakistan and Sudan. In the former nation, a 25-year-old pregnant woman has been stoned to death by members of her own family, with her father dubbing the atrocity an “honor killing.” In the latter nation, a 27-year-old woman has been sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. She was also pregnant, and has given birth while awaiting her sentence to be carried out. The common thread in both cases is as predictable as it is disturbing: the religion of Islam and the endemic mistreatment of women practiced by far too many of its followers.

Farzana Parveen was killed in broad daylight by nearly 20 members of her family before a crowd of onlookers outside the High Court in the eastern city of Lahore, Pakistan. As she walked up to the court’s main gate with her husband Mohammad Iqbal, relatives waiting for the couple’s arrival fired shots in the air and attempted to snatch her away. When she resisted, the attackers, who included her father, two brothers and her former fiancé, started beating her and her husband, before escalating the attack with bricks obtained from a nearby construction site.

Parveen subsequently sustained severe head injuries and was pronounced dead at the hospital, according to police.

All of the attackers but her father, Mohammad Azeem, escaped. He surrendered to the police and admitted taking part in the killing. He had no remorse. “I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it,” the father was quoted as saying by police investigator Rana Mujahid.

Parveen had been engaged to her cousin, but married Iqbal instead, following an engagement of several years. In response, her family registered an abduction case against Iqbal, and Parzeen was to appear in court to argue that she had married him of her own free will, according to her lawyer Mustafa Kharal. Arranged marriages are the norm among conservative Pakistanis. Marrying for love is a transgression that ostensibly dishonors the family.

Iqbal, who started seeing Parveen following the death of his former wife with whom he had five children, claimed the couple was “in love.” He further alleged that her family wanted to extract money from him before allowing the marriage to take place. Instead, “I simply took her to court and registered a marriage,” Iqbal explained.

Parveen’s murder is hardly an anomaly. According to Pakistani rights group the Aurat Foundation, as many as 1,000 Pakistani women are killed every yearby their families in such honor killings. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan released a report last month revealing that 869 women were murdered in honor killings in 2013, but the Aurat Foundation insists the number could be far higher because the totals are based solely on newspaper reports. The Pakistani government does not compile any honor killing statistics.

Read more at Front Page

Also see:

Wave of Blasphemy Arrests, Riots Against Christians in Pakistan

police in PakistanBY RYAN MAURO:

Prosecutions based on blasphemy laws continue to skyrocket in Pakistan. Four evangelical Christians have just been arrested, shortly following the pressing of blasphemy charges against 86 lawyers. These incidents come after the May 7 murder of a defense attorney whose client was charged with blasphemy.

International Christian Concern reports that the four Christians, consisting of three women and a pastor, were arrested on May 18 after they distributed religious material at a railway station. A group of radical Muslims confronted them, at which point the police intervened and arrested the Christians and charged them with blasphemy.

An eyewitness says that hundreds of Islamists assembled after the Christians were taken away and “attacked” the local Christians in the city of Mirpus Kas. They also staged protests demanding their prosecution and that the police transfer custody to the “faithful” to be dealt with.

The complaint was filed by a leader of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat,another name for Sipah-e-Sahabah, which is formally banned in Pakistan. The group has carried out dozens of attacks on Shiites and is linked to Al Qaeda, but is still permitted to participate in elections and its leader even won a seat in parliament.

The charges stem from a protest by the lawyers against a senior police official named Umar Daraz earlier this month. The lawyers were upset because seven police officers were arrested for illegally arresting one of their colleagues and physically abusing him, but Daraz was left unscathed.

During the protest, the lawyers called Daraz a dog and referred to him by his first name, Umar. Again, a member of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, exploited Pakistan’s blasphemy law. He said that the lawyers defamed Islam by using Daraz’s first name because it is also the first name of the Second Caliph. As ridiculous as that is, charges were filed on May 13.

Read more at Clarion Project

CNN: U.S. Facing a ‘Triple Threat from Al Qaeda’

BY: Washington Free Beacon Staff
May 20, 2014 5:47 pm

CNN’s Pentagon corespondent Barbara Starr reported Tuesday on a “triple threat from al Qaeda” the United States faces in Pakistan, Syria and Yemen.

Syria has become a “hot bed” for training camps and planning of external attacks, and a “growing threat” from al Qaeda exists in Yemen. Starr said there is a concern al Qaeda there are capable of attacking the U.S. embassy in Yemen, as well as inside the U.S. itself.

Also, an American-born terrorist known as Abdullah al-Shami is essentially the head of al Qaeda’s external planning operations in Pakistan and is being closely monitored by American intelligence.

“This is not al Qaeda on the run,” Starr said. “This is someone they’re watching very closely.”

Al Qaeda in Afghanistan And Pakistan: An enduring threat

By 

Editor’s note: Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the House Committee of Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade on al Qaeda’s network in Africa and the threat it poses to the US.

Chairman Poe, Ranking Member Sherman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the enduring threat posed by al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is widely assumed that al Qaeda’s presence in South Asia does not, in fact, pose an enduring threat to American interests. The slaying of top al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, and more than a decade of war and other counterterrorism operations have supposedly hobbled the organization. However, while I have no doubt that al Qaeda has sustained heavy losses, I do not think that bin Laden’s heirs are a spent force. On the contrary, al Qaeda lives.

In the hearing today I am going to build on my previous testimony before this subcommittee last July. During that hearing (“Global Al Qaeda: Affiliates, Objectives, and Future Challenges”), we discussed the structure of al Qaeda and the challenges we face in the future. Today, I wish to emphasize five main points:

1. Al Qaeda is an international network that is comprised of a “general command,” regional branches, as well as various other organizations and personalities.

It may seem odd, but more than a dozen years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there is no commonly accepted definition of al Qaeda. The term “core” al Qaeda is often used, but this concept is a Western invention and imprecisely defined. And the way it is employed does not accurately convey how al Qaeda is structured. When analysts and officials speak of the “core” of al Qaeda, they are generally referring to Ayman al Zawahiri and the lieutenants who surround him in South Asia. Some go even further, arguing that Zawahiri is the only “core” al Qaeda leader left. Such arguments are not based on evidence.

Al Qaeda operates what it calls a “general command,” which consists of the organization’s senior leadership and their lieutenants, several committees, a Shura (advisory) council of the group’s most trusted advisers, as well as a supporting staff that includes, for example, couriers. We regularly see statements issued by al Qaeda’s “general command,” but few stop to ask what al Qaeda means by this. The “general command” performs various administrative functions, in addition to overseeing the organization’s international operations. For instance, al Qaeda’s amniyat is part of the group’s internal security and counterintelligence apparatus. The amniyat in northern Pakistan is notorious for hunting down suspected spies.

 Nasir al Wuhayshi,

Nasir al Wuhayshi,

This cohesive organization is not confined to South Asia. Jihadists who are, by any reasonable definition, “core” al Qaeda members are dispersed throughout the world. For example, Nasir al Wuhayshi, who heads al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is as “core” as they come, having served as Osama bin Laden’s protégé and aide-de-camp. In addition to serving as the emir of AQAP, Wuhayshi is the general manager of al Qaeda, which is a “core” function in al Qaeda’s hierarchy, that is, within the “general command.” The general manager of al Qaeda is given broad powers to oversee the organization’s operations.

The “general command” of al Qaeda has designated several regions for waging jihad, and an emir is appointed to oversee the organization’s efforts in each of these regions. The emir of each region has much latitude in deciding how to organize his group’s day-to-day efforts, but he swears bayat, an oath of allegiance, to al Qaeda’s overall emir (currently Zawahiri). The emirs of each region report to al Qaeda’s senior leadership, including the general manager. What many refer to as al Qaeda’s formal “affiliates” are really branches of al Qaeda that have been assigned to fight in these regions. The formal branches of al Qaeda, each designated its own region, are: al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), AQAP, the Al Nusrah Front in Syria, and Al Shabaab. All of them have sworn loyalty to Ayman al Zawahiri. In addition to these regions, al Qaeda also maintains facilitation networks in countries such as Iran.

Thus, the brief sketch of al Qaeda I have drawn here is one of a much more cohesive international organization than is often assumed. Like all other human organizations, however, al Qaeda has faced obstacles in trying to hold this network together. For instance, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS) was al Qaeda’s branch inside Iraq, but the group’s emir had repeatedly disobeyed orders from the “general command.” This led to ISIS being disowned by the group. ISIS is currently fighting the Al Nusrah Front and its allies in Syria.

In addition to the formal branches of al Qaeda, there are other organizations that are part of al Qaeda’s international network even though they have not publicly sworn bayat to the leadership. Indeed, al Qaeda has often hidden its precise organizational relationship with groups that are being groomed for an alliance. Both the Al Nusrah Front and Al Shabaab, now formal branches of al Qaeda, did not make their operational connections to al Qaeda’s senior leadership known at first. Al Qaeda also employs multiple brands so as to obfuscate the extent of its influence. In Yemen, for instance, AQAP adopted the name “Ansar al Sharia.” This brand name was intended to convey the idea that the group is the true protector and enforcer of sharia law. Other groups calling themselves Ansar al Sharia have been established in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. There are still other groups that have adopted al Qaeda’s ideology, but are probably not operationally connected to the “general command” or al Qaeda’s branches.

I begin with this overview because the enduring threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan extends far outside of the region.

2. Al Qaeda is, at its heart, a clandestine organization, but careful analysis reveals that it has a deep bench of talent from which it draws.

Since its founding in 1988, the organization has attempted to conceal its operations. This has made it difficult to assess some very basic aspects of al Qaeda. The group does not, for instance, publish an organizational chart or make its total roster known. If you watch al Qaeda carefully enough, however, you can see that the group has consistently replaced top leaders lost in the 9/11 wars. In some cases these replacements are not as competent, while in other cases they may even surpass their fallen comrades.

Nasir al Wuhayshi, the aforementioned general manager of al Qaeda, is a seasoned veteran who replaced others in that role after they were killed or captured. Wuhayshi is, by all appearances, an all too competent leader. Still, the American-led counterterrorism effort has certainly disrupted al Qaeda’s international network, delivering severe setbacks in some areas. Al Qaeda’s problems with ISIS stem, to a large degree, from the fact that the U.S. and its allies took out its predecessor organization’s top leadership in 2010. The leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) were loyal to al Qaeda’s “general command” but were replaced with leaders who had not been vetted by al Qaeda’s senior leaders.

Read more at Long War Journal