Why U.S. Should Avoid Sending Its Ground Troops to Fight ISIS

US Navy U.S. Army Sgt. Mark Phiffer on guard duty near a burning oil well in the Rumaylah Oil Fields in Southern Iraq in 2003

US Navy U.S. Army Sgt. Mark Phiffer on guard duty near a burning oil well in the Rumaylah Oil Fields in Southern Iraq in 2003

BY RYAN MAURO:

A new poll shows that 45% of Americans would support sending ground troops to Iraq to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) and 37% are opposed. Despite the majority opinion that  boots are needed on the ground to uproot ISIS, but there are grave dangers for a strategy where those boots are American.

President Obama has ruled out a combat role for U.S. soldiers in Iraq, but the question is what constitutes a “combat role.” The Deputy National Security Advisor says a combat role is “where Americans are on the ground leading the fight.”

About 1,600 American troops have already been sent to protect diplomatic facilities and to advise the Iraqi and Kurdish forces. As I wrote when Obama’s Islamic State strategy was first announced, there’s a realistic possibility that these non-combat troops will find themselves in a combat situation.

The White House is open to the possibility that American advisors could be in “forward-deployed positions” to help Iraqis in combat without engaging in combat themselves. President Obama is understandably hesitant to take that step.

He rejected the advice of General Lloyd Austin, who leads the military in the region as commander of Central Command. Austin wanted a “modest” amount of troops, mostly special operations forces, to become advisors in the battlefield.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey,testified to Congress that requests for U.S. advisors to join Iraqi soldiers in combat were denied. However, President Obama told him that he’d consider each individual request. Meaning, he has not did not ruled it out.

It is unclear if raids on high-value targets by the CIA or military special operators qualify as a forbidden “combat role.”  It is very possible that a target like the Islamic State’s “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, could be located and sharing the intelligence with Iraqis deemed too risky. If an airstrike is not possible, then a raid must commence.

The Obama Administration is right in its avoidance of a military role in Iraq similar to what existed before December 2011 when the withdrawal was completed.

From the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 to the ending of combat operations on August 31, 2010, a total of 4,409 U.S. troops and 13 Defense Department civilians were killed and 31,925 troops were injured.

Even after combat operations ended and Operation New Dawn took place from September 2010 to December 2011, 66 U.S. troops were killed and 295 were wounded. This does not count the psychological damage to the U.S. soldiers and the personal toll their families faced.

In addition to the prospective casualties, there are seven reasons to believe that such a role would not be worth the cost and could actually be counterproductive to the goal of destroying the Islamic State.

Read more at Clarion Project

Congress’ Support of Syrian Rebels Fraught With Danger

A free Syrian Army fighter runs to avoid sniper fire (Photo: © Reuters)

A free Syrian Army fighter runs to avoid sniper fire (Photo: © Reuters)

BY RYAN MAURO:

The U.S. Congress has approved the Obama Administration’s plan to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State terrorist group. The plan is fraught with danger and the Congress must ensure that five steps are taken to minimize its risks.

1. Create a Secular-Democratic Force

The U.S. must recognize that every existing rebel group, including the much-touted Free Syria Army, includes an Islamist component. It is against Western interests to support Islamist radicals and they are not worthy of American taxpayer money.

The bill “requires that opposition groups be vetted for associations with terrorist groups, Shia militias aligned with or supporting the government of Syria, and groups associated with the government of Iran, including, but not limited to: ISIL [the Islamic State]; Jabhat al Nusrah; other al-Qaeda related groups; and Hezbollah.”

The weak standard is that rebels must not be linked to the Assad regime (which Syrian rebels are not by definition) and Al-Qaeda affiliates, which presumably includes Ahrar al-Sham whose leadership has had high-level Al-Qaeda ties.

Over a dozen of Ahrar al-Sham’s leaders were killed in a suicide bombing recently, presumably carried out by the Islamic State. Leaders of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic Front, a coalition of Syrian Islamist rebels,  mourned them.  Its new leader previously led a Free Syria Army unit.

So who can the U.S. pick as an ally?

In April 2013, the New York Times reported, “Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.” As of June 2013, 10 of 12 rebel groups were Islamist.

The most obvious candidates are the Kurds who have proven so reliable and effective in Iraq. They have defeated Al-Nusra in battle. Kurds also fought Islamist Kurds aligned with Al-Qaeda (the Islamic Kurdish Front), Ahrar al-Sham and the Qatar-backed Ahfad al-Rasoul militia.

“We as Kurds are usually secularists, and the reason for that is the injustice that we suffered through Islamic history, and certainly we would be against any new Caliphate project,” said the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Syria.

Kurds are only about 10% of the Syrian population so their reach is limited. Other non-Kurdish groups must be assessed.

Read more at Clarion Project

The History and Capabilities of The Khorasan Group

AQ-2ISIS Study Group, Sep. 27, 2014:

There’s an article from the National Review written by Andrew McCarthy stating that the al-Qaida (AQ) cell known as the Khorasan Group (KG) “doesn’t exist.” We disagree with that on the grounds that many of our staff have served in Afghanistan’s RC-E battle space and have personally been involved in intelligence operations regarding this organization. Hundreds of other 35-series personnel and 18Fs have deployed to this part of Afghanistan and have been tracking the group since they first started to pop up in reporting in 2010 – not 2013 as Mr. McCarthy alleged.

The Khorasan Group Does Not Exist -

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/388990/khorosan-group-does-not-exist-andrew-c-mccarthy

This group is very much real, although their numbers are small with reporting that suggest their strength is between 50-100 personnel. KG started out as an intelligence apparatus for AQSL (Al Qaeda Senior Leadership) tasked with identifying individuals in the local populace suspected of being an asset for western intelligence services – even individuals within the AQ and Taliban ranks have been targeted if they were deemed “suspect.” This is made possible through the deep ties they’ve cultivated with the local tribes on both the Afghan and Pakistani sides of the border. It’s been implied that they may have a separate HUMINT network in the Middle East from members of the group that are of Arab ethnicity.

They eventually evolved into a special operations entity that refined IED TTPs (Techniques, Tactics and Procedures) for use in complex attacks. In fact, they reportedly trained the Taliban on the construction and implementation of 200-400 lbs explosive devices. That’s one of the reasons the Taliban (and Haqqani Network) became more effective in the P2K region, (Paktiya, Paktika and Khost Provinces) which was one of the primary areas KG operates in. Nangahar and Konar are other areas that have seen reporting of KG activity.

They’re greatest success has come in the form of performing a supporting role in joint operations with other jihadist groups such as the Haqqani Network (HQN) and Taliban (to include Pakistani Taliban or “TTP” [Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan]-not to be confused with Tactics, Techniques and Procedures). Despite the reporting we’ve seen throughout RC-E (Regional Command-East), the group was never very successful in their attempts at launching high-profile attacks themselves. Even with the assassinations, most of the incidents proved to have been the work of others. They’re a great support element, but as the main attraction? Not so much.

Indeed, we’ve been seeing open source reporting for some time on them over the years, although sporadic. It comes down to the American MSM not paying attention until the US government finally started talking about them sending personnel to Syria. Another thing to consider is that this particular AQ cell are supposed to be the “executioners,” so it shouldn’t surprise anybody that they’re not into propaganda videos. Truth is they’ve been sending personnel to Syria since last year for the purpose of assisting al-Nusra in identifying potential defectors to the Islamic State (IS) or western intelligence assets. They’re secondary task was to assist in the training of al-Nusra personnel on the above-mentioned TTPs in IEDs and executing complex attacks. At no time was this cell ever “absorbed” into al-Nusra. They remain to this day a separate entity that reports to the senior leadership in Pakistan.

It’s also important to note that this small cell is currently spread thin throughout Syria and the AF/PAK region. They’re in Syria to help identify the intelligence leaks and potential defectors to IS. In the AF/PAK region, they’re tasked with countering IS efforts at establishing a foothold in South Asia – which is AQSL’s back yard. The fact that the KG contingent sent to Syria is also reported to have experienced some defections themselves to IS has only further degraded their capabilities. The recent AQIS (Al Qaeda in South Asia) hijacking of the Pakistani warship – which in itself was an extremely bold operation – is an indicator of resources and personnel being stretched thin.

AQ remains a viable threat to the American people, but KG is primarily a threat to US military personnel stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. As stated previously, this group is not an “imminent threat” to the American people living inside the US. All the over hyping of the group that’s coming out of the Obama administration is the result of lazy analysis, failure to listen to the analysts on the ground and for simply being in over their heads. Remember, most of the people placed in DoS (Department of State) and in key positions in the Intelligence Community don’t have much experience outside of academia or whatever politically appointed position they had previously.

Read more

The Defense of Kobani

Published on Sep 27, 2014 by Carrie Allison

 

Gloria Center, By Johathon Spyer, Sep. 27, 2014:

Jerusalem Post, 27/9

This week witnessed the second determined attempt by Islamic State forces to destroy the Kurdish enclave around Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) city in northern Syria. Kobani is one of three autonomous enclaves maintained by the Kurds in Syria.

As of now, it appears that after initial lightning advances, the progress of the jihadis has been halted; they have not moved forward in the last 24 hours. The arrival of Kurdish forces from across the Turkish border is the key element in freezing the advance.

Yet Islamic State has captured around 60 Kurdish villages in this latest assault, and its advanced positions remain perilously close – around 14.5 km. – from Kobani city. Around 100,000 people have fled Kobani for Turkey, from the enclave’s total population of around 400,0000.

Islamic State employed tanks, artillery and Humvees in its assault, according to Kurdish sources. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have no comparable ordnance. However, their fighters were assisted by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas who crossed in from Turkey, and appear to have played a vital role in halting the advance.

Whether the current situation will hold is not yet clear. But the commencement of US and allied bombing on Islamic State in Syria probably means the jihadi forces will have more pressing issues to attend to for the moment.

The assault on Kobani indicates that Islamic State is turning its attention back to Syria. The Kurdish enclave has long been a thorn in the side of the jihadis; the Kurdish-controlled area interrupts the jihadis’ territorial contiguity, separating Tel Abyad from Jarabulus and making a large detour necessary from Islamic State’s capital in Raqqa city to the important border town of Jarabulus.

For this reason, the jihadis have long sought to conquer the area. Abu Omar al-Shishani, the much feared Chechen Islamic State military commander, is reputed to have made the conquest of Kobani a personal mission. With the weapons systems captured in Mosul now fully integrated, and with further progress in Iraq impeded by the presence of US air power, it appears Islamic State is now making its most serious effort to achieve this goal.

The Kobani enclave has long been an isolated, beleaguered space. This reporter visited there this past May; at the time, Islamic State was trying to block the supply of electricity and water into the city. Skirmishes along the borders were a daily occurrence.

Particularly notable also were the very strict border arrangements kept in place by the Turkish authorities to the north – in stark contrast to the much more lax regime maintained facing the areas of Arab population further west.

As of now, a determined Kurdish mobilization appears to have stemmed the jihadi advance. Unless the picture radically changes again, Kobani looks set to remain a thorn in the side of Islamic State.

Perwer Mohammed, 28, an activist close to the YPG in Kobani, sounded worried but hopeful when speaking from the city on Monday: “They are now on the outskirts of Girê Sipî [Tel Abyad].

But they will have to pass through our flesh to get to Kobani, and they are no longer advancing from the east.”

A variety of forces contributed to the mobilization; 1,500 PKK fighters arrived in Kobani city to reinforce the YPG there, according to Kurdish sources.

In addition, forces loyal to both the Kurdistan Regional Government of Massoud Barzani and to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are set to arrive in Kobani.

The PUK forces, according to the organization’s website, are currently on the Iraq-Syria border, waiting to deploy.

The YPG itself, meanwhile, is trying to push forces through from Ras al-Ain to Tel Abyad on the eastern edge of the enclave. A concerted Kurdish military effort is under way.

Suspicions remain regarding possible collusion between Turkish authorities and Islamic State. The Kurds have long maintained that at least in its initial phase, Islamic State was the beneficiary of Turkish support. Evidence has emerged of Turkish forces permitting Islamic State fighters to cross back and forth across the border during early clashes with the YPG.

The subsequent picture remains shrouded in ambiguity, as Turkey officially denies any relationship with Islamic State. But the release of 49 Turkish hostages by the terror movement this week under unclear circumstances has once more cast a spotlight on the possible complex connection between the two.

If the situation in Kobani holds, this will offer proof of the limitations of Islamic State forces. In Iraq, their advance has been stopped by the coordination of US air power with Iraqi and Kurdish forces. In Kobani, as of now at least, the jihadis appear to have been stalled by determined resistance on the ground alone. Yet the last chapter remains to be written.

Should Kobani fall, large-scale massacres of the type which befell the Yazidi communities in the Mount Sinjar area in August would inevitably follow; this is likely to result in a massive new refugee problem. Moreover, an Islamic State victory would consolidate the borders of the jihadi entity considerably.

The clash between Islamic State and the Kurdish autonomous areas also has broader ramifications than merely tactical military significance – it shows the extent to which “Iraq” and “Syria” have become little more than names.

In Kobani, two successor entities to these states are clashing. The Kurds have organized three autonomous cantons stretching east to west from the Syria-Iraq border to close to the Mediterranean coast. The Sunni jihadis, for their part, have organized their own “state,” going southeast to northwest.

Kobani is the point at which these two projects collide. Hence, the outcome of the current fight will indicate the relative strength of these two very different projects.

Yet the clash itself offers a broader lesson regarding the shape of things to come, in the ethnic/sectarian war now raging across what was once Iraq and Syria.

Also see:

Will Iran Sell Out Al Qaeda for Nukes?

1411638316752.cachedBy Josh Rogin and Eli Lake:

The Iranians want to make a deal with the U.S.: They help us fight terror in exchange for nuclear concessions. Tehran could start by giving up the al Qaeda leaders it’s harboring.
On Wednesday in New York, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offered to help the West fight terrorism—and play a more “active role” in the Middle East—as long as the West is willing to do it Iran’s way and also come to a deal on its nuclear program.

The Iranian offer has been widely been interpreted as one to fight ISIS alongside the U.S. After all, Iranian-backed militias and American airpower earlier this month helped drive ISIS out of the Iraqi town of Amerli.

But there’s a second possibility. Iran has long been harboring senior al Qaeda, al Nusra, and so-called Khorasan Group leaders as part of its complicated strategy to influence the region and keep itself off the terrorist target list, according the U.S. government, intelligence agencies, and terrorism experts.

Now, with a potential nuclear deal and rapprochement with the West in sight, the Shiite regime in Tehran could be looking to sell its Sunni terrorist friends down the river.

“The Iranians have kept a lot of these guys as a point of protection. They are explosive bargaining chips,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. “If they would have handed them over to the United States years ago without getting anything in return, they would have become a greater target for al Qaeda and they would have less cards to play with the U.S. now.”

U.S. officials have insisted all week that although U.S. and Iranian officials have been discussing the war on ISIS and Tehran’s nuclear program on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly this week, the two issues are not linked and never should be. But Iranian officials told Reuters that Iran would help the U.S. fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria only if the U.S. made concessions on Tehran’s nuclear program. The White House publicly rejected the offer.

On Wednesday, Rouhani connected the issues again and said that if only the U.S. struck a deal with Iran on the nuclear issue, Iran could really start to help on ISIS and other terrorist organizations.

“If Iran could reach a comprehensive deal on its nuclear program and leave sanctions behind, it would be able to assume a more active position on interregional dialogue in the Islamic world,” Rouhani told an audience at an event hosted by the New America Foundation.

“No one is justified in helping terrorists, whether they are taking action in Syria, or Iraq, or Lebanon, it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “Terrorism must be driven out and eradicated from the region.”

Washington experts often point out that Iran has more to lose than any country from the spread of ISIS and al Qaeda. The predominantly Shiite country is ideologically opposed to the Sunni terror groups, and ISIS threatens Iran’s dominance over neighboring Iraq. In 2003, Iranhanded over to the United Nations the names of hundreds of al Qaeda suspects.

Yet the relationship between the Shiite mullahs and the Sunni extremists isn’t that simple. The question now is whether Iran is willing to trade those bargaining chips in exchange for the ability to preserve its nuclear program.

“The Iranian regime has nurtured al Qaeda for many years. There are links, there are contacts, they know these people,” said Fouad Hamdan, executive director of the Netherlands-based Rule of Law Foundation, which funds Naame Shaam, an NGO focused on Iran’s role in Syria.

Naame Shaam has produced a 105-page report on Iran’s mischief inside Syria and its ties to al Qaeda, al Nusra, and ISIS. Al Qaeda and ISIS are under orders not to attack inside Iran in order to preserve their supply network there, the report states. The U.S. government concurs.

Read more at The Daily Beast

Also MUST see: (h/t Tom Wyld – @WyldDarkHeart)

 

Br’er Mahdi? Luring the US into Eschatological Quicksand in Syria

Mahdi Watch, by Timothy Furnish, September 23, 2014:

Last night the United States and several allied Arab nations began airstrikes on the Islamic State [IS], as well as on the al-Qa`ida/Jabhat al-Nusrah offshoot Khurasan (or Khorasan), in Syria.  I wonder if the American political and military leadership realizes that in so doing we are waging war to stave off the end of the world—at least, that’s the opinion of many of our targeted enemies. I have previously explicated the extant and evident End Times beliefs of the major Sunni players in Syria—notably ISIS/ISIL/IS and Jabhat al-Nusrah.  Now comes a new twist: according to, of all sources, an Iranian one, IS is disseminating photos of a one-eyed infant which the group claims is the  Dajjal—the “Deceiver,” or anti-Christ, of Islamic tradition.  The story quotes Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Dempsey from a few weeks ago to the effect that IS has “an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision.”  It also, interestingly, quotes me: “once the caliphate is firmly established, then the likelihood of a Mahdiyah being proclaimed increases.”  (Does this constitute damning with faint praise?  Although nice on my trip to Tehran in 2008, official Iranian outlets have written negatively about me since.)  It is curious, as well, that the Ahlul Bay [Ahl al-Bayt, “Family of the House (of the Prophet)”] News Agency would mock IS adducing the one-eyed Dajjal—since the idea is clearly found in both Sunni and Twelver Shi`i hadiths.  

Urdu book on the Dajjal.  Now where have I seen this one-eyed chap before? Perhaps some pipe-weed will clear my mind....

Urdu book on the Dajjal. Now where have I seen this one-eyed chap before? Perhaps some pipe-weed will clear my mind….

This goes hand-in-fist with the many eschatological references in IS’s three issues of “Dabiq” magazine—the very name of which refers to the major apocalyptic battle between Muslim and “Roman/Crusader” forces at that location in northwest Syria.  (Again, see my previous blogalyses on the topic.)   But Levantine eschatological fervor is almost certainly being further inflamed by this newly-revelaled Khurasan organization—which, according to US intelligence and military sources, was planning “imminent” attacks on Americans, probably airliners.  The region of Khurasan is, however, much more than merely “part of the old Islamic caliphate that included Afghanistan [as well as eastern Iran and parts of Central Asia].”  That eastern Islamic territory was considered to be the eschatological font, as it were. There are a number of (Sunni) hadiths which predict that the Mahdi will ride in, with his jihadist entourage, from Khurasan to deliver the Islamic world and subjugate its enemies.  Furthermore, the Mahdi’s forces will bear the (in)famous black flags so beloved of groups like IS and Boko Haram right now.   Knowing the eschatological penchant of Jabhat al-Nusrah, I thus doubt that its splinter group’s name is only a geographical reference.  

Khurasan--also known as Greater Stanistan.

Khurasan–also known as Greater Stanistan.

Finally, I sat through all 55:14 of the new IS video “Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun.”  Frankly, this bloody and boring film is simply a live-action version of “Dabiq” magazine—albeit in the latter one at least is not subjected to interminable, grating Arabic Islamic chants and mind-numbing repetitions of “allah akbar.”  The usual IS suspects are everywhere: jihad is a duty; the caliphate is back, and this time it’s personal Bush/Obama; watch us kill “Nusayris” (Syrian Alawis), “Safawis” (Iraqi soldiers—“Safavids,” referring to the Twelver Shi`i Persian empire of early modern times), “murtaddin” (“apostate”) Kurds, usually en masse.  (IS even makes some of them dig their own graves before shooting them all in the backs of their heads.)

One aspect of the IS propaganda was new, however;  speaking directly to the United States, the self-styled Caliph Ibrahim says “O defender of the cross…a proxy war won’t help you in Sham [Syria] just as it didn’t help you in Iraq….you will be forced into a direct confrontation…despite your reluctance…” [emphasis added].

Observations:

1) IS is not the only belligerent in the Middle East with an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision; Jabhat al-Nusrah has one, as well—as does, most likely, Khurasan.

2) Said eschatological paradigms are not “extremist” but very much in the Islamic mainstream (both Sunni and Shi`i)—and it would behoove analysts to consider them. 


3) Last month, in my break-down of the second issue of “Dabiq,” I wrote the following:  IS atrocities like the beheading of James Foley and the mass murders of Shi`is and Yazidis are, in effect, “bizarre rituals intended to bring about the end of the world“–or at least to spark the Mahdi’s coming.  I truly think that IS has passed into the realm of trying to hotwire the apocalypse.   “Caliph Ibrahim’s” latest warning to us—that the US is destined for direct conflict (meaning ground forces) with IS—clearly supports my contention.  IS leadership is firmly convinced, based on its literal reading of relevant hadiths, that a great force of “Romans/Crusaders” (Americans) will invade Syria and that a pious group of Muslims, the Islamic State, will defeat it.  Thus, I am convinced that Ibrahim and his ansar WANT massed American boots in Syria, the sooner the better—and are trying to goad us into providing them.

4) Finally, a very important point which no one in the analytical or journalistic community notices–or cares to admit: the new Caliph refers to the United States of America as “defender of the cross.”  Not “proponent of Ayn Rand,” “guardian  of the Enlightenment” or “warden of Jeffersonian democracy.”  The Islamic State’s leader forthrightly and inconveniently spells out exactly why they hate us: because, in the eyes of him and his Muslim followers, we are a Christian nation.   There are those who will dismiss this as a mere progagandistic trope.  But they would be wrong to do so.  IS, along with Boko Haram and al-Qa`ida and Jabhat al-Nusra and the Taliban (to name only a few), as well as the non-terrorist but Muslim fundamentalist strains such as Wahhabism and Deobandism and Salafism–all view the world through a simplistic but legitimately Islamic lens of Dar al-Islam v. Dar al-harb: the “house of Islam” v. the “house of war.”  And for 14 centuries the vanguard of the latter has been Christendom.  Some decry pointing this out as crass  “Crusaderism.”  But as that combat veteran J.R.R. Tolkien points outs, “it needs but one foe to breed a war”–and when that enemy declares its war on us in religious terms, should we pretend otherwise?

Retired Army Officer: Success Is ‘Acres and Acres of Dead Terrorists’

Published on Sep 24, 2014 by RightSightings2

By Susan Jones:

(CNSNews.com) – It’s great that President Obama “put together this miniature coalition of Sunni Arab States” to fight terrorists in Syria, but the analysts are missing something important: The measure of success should be “acres and acres of dead terrorists,” not “knocking out windows,” Retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters told Fox News’s Sean Hannity Tuesday night:

“These strikes (Monday) night were designed to limit terrorist casualties. These were not serious, meaningful strikes!

“And I’ll give you the evidence. Why did we go in at night? There was no air defense threat…If you wanted to kill terrorists, you would have hit those headquarters and compounds and logistics sites at 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning, when they were crowded with leaders, staff officers, flunkies, et cetera.

“Instead, we hit empty buildings at night! We knocked down antennas, we blew out windows!

“That is not the way to defeat terrorists who behead Americans! We should have gone in in the morning, gone in heavy, and killed — let me give you the measure of success in air strikes against ISIS. It is not knocking out windows. It is acres and acres of dead terrorists! That is tactical success!”

A Pentagon spokesman Admiral John Kirby said the U.S. is still assessing the effects of Monday night’s air strikes, but “we know we hit what we were aiming at.” Kirby  said the goal was to hit “hard targets” that affect the terrorists’ capabilities “to command and control, to sustain themselves, to train themselves, to recruit.”

Peters told Hannity he’s always glad when President Obama does anything to stop terrorism.

“But he wants to wage war by measuring it out in teaspoons. And the cardinal advantage of a superpower, for God’s sakes, is super power! If you’re going to go to war, you go to war to win! Small war, big war, doesn’t matter.

“But all this, you know, modulated responses and graduated buildups — no! If the United States goes to war, we should fight to win! And I’m sick of hearing pundits in Washington who never served in uniform saying, Oh, victory is impossible in the 21st century.

“Victory is always possible if you’re willing to pay the price, if you’re willing to be ruthless and ferocious and do what’s right for our security and win!

Peters, now a military analyst for Fox News, said the United States faces “truly evil opponents” and will have to fight them “for a long time.” He also said civilian casualties cannot be avoided if the job is going to be done right:

“And by the way, another thing we got to get over, this nonsense about there can’t be any civilian casualties! War is ugly, sloppy and messy, and sometimes there are civilian casualties, especially when your enemy uses human shields. If you’re going to go after ISIS, you got to suck it up and do what’s right. And by the way, civilian casualties — look what ISIS is doing, and it’s actually gaining them recruits as they slaughter civilians.”

U.S.-Backed Syrian Group Harakat al-Hazm Condemns U.S. Strikes on ISIS as ‘Attack on the Revolution’

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, Sep. 24, 2014:

Just days after Congress approved $500 million in support for “vetted moderate” Syrian rebels, one of those same “vetted moderate” rebel groups currently receiving heavy weaponry from the U.S. has condemned the U.S. for airstrikes on ISIS in Syria earlier this week.

Harakat al-Hazm, which was one of the first Syrian rebel groups to receive heavy weapons from the U.S. this year, issued a statement Tuesday denouncing the U.S. for the anti-ISIS attacks. Harakat al-Hazm has been hailed by the Washington, D.C. foreign policy establishment as “rebels worth supporting” and “a model candidate for greater U.S. and allied support, including lethal military assistance.”

As reported by the L.A. Times:

One of the administration’s favored moderate rebel factions, Harakat Hazm, part of the Free Syrian Army alliance and a recipient of U.S. missiles and training, issued a statement Tuesday denouncing the “external intervention” — that is, the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Syria — as “an attack on the revolution.”

The group said its main goal was toppling Assad. It is demanding “unconditional arming” of the Free Syrian Army, yet its members also acknowledge fighting alongside Al Nusra Front, the official Al Qaeda force in Syria.

Still, the country’s motley bands of fighters labeled as moderates may well be the White House’s best hope for now. It has few other options.

Here is a copy of the statement by Harakat al-Hazm:

ByPCk0yCIAExhvh

Harakat al-Hazm may sound familiar to PJ Media readers.

Earlier this month I reported that Hazm fighters admitted to an L.A. Times reporter that they were fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. I also noted that despite media claims that Harakat al-Hazm had released a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with Nusra, it signed a statement of alliance with Nusra to prevent the Assad regime from advancing into Aleppo.

The Obama administration billed the $500 million approved last week by Congress as aid to the rebel groups to help roll back gains by hardcore jihadist groups, including ISIS.

And now that one of the primary groups to which the U.S. is supplying heavy weapons in order to supposedly “roll back” ISIS gains has not only denounced the U.S. for this week’s airstrikes on ISIS, declaring them an “attack on the revolution,” but is also partnering with a U.S.-designated terrorist group, Jabhat al-Nusra, what hope is there really that the “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel groups are going to accomplish that goal?

And one final question: in light of this catastrophe, who is vetting the vetters?

Also see:

The “Khorasan Group”, New Name, Old Threat

khor1CSP, By Kyle Shideler:

Recent media coverage has been bombarded by revelations of a “new terror threat“, “more dangerous than ISIS”, the Khorasan Group.

Khorasan refers to the historical area under the Islamic Caliphate that corresponds to Iran/Afghanistan/Pakistan and the subcontinent, and the Khorasan Group, according to intelligence officials speaking to the media, consists of a relatively small (between fifty and a hundred) group of veteran Al Qaeda fighters from the Afghanistan/Pakistan region. These fighters are said to include a number of highly skilled bomb makers and other operatives, led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a native Kuwaiti, and long time Al Qaeda insider, who specializes in financing and facilitation. Jihadist social media is hinting that Al-Fadhli may have been killed in the first round of U.S. bombing.

Khorasan Group’s mission, supposedly, has been to find jihadists with western passports who have travelled to Syria, train them, and reinsert them into the West to conduct spectacular attacks of the kind that Al Qaeda is famous for.

Khorasan Group operates in and among Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, and there’s been lively debate in the counterterrorism community over whether its really worthwhile distinguishing between Jabhat al-Nusra and Khorasan group at all. This is significant because Jabhat al-Nusra, despite being Al Qaeda, is deeply intertwined with the Syrian rebels at-large, and they are widely supported by these rebels, including those that the Obama strategy calls for arming and training to fight ISIS. For their part, Jabhat al Nusra hasn’t made the distinction, claiming they were the recipient of U.S. bombings.

It’s entirely plausible that intelligence suggested that this Khorasan group was preparing an imminent attack, and even if they weren’t, they are definitely enemies of America and a legitimate target.

But the extra hype about this specific group, and separating them out as somehow different or more threatening than Jabhat al Nusra, and Al Qaeda proper, has more to do with attempting to limit the negative reaction from rebels within Syria, and to distract Americans from the reality that in Syria there really are few good guys, with a possible exception of the Kurdish forces, who aren’t really receiving support. That strategy has already failed, with multiple Syrian rebel groups complaining about the strikes against Jabhat al Nusra, including one group expected to be the core of the force the U.S. intends to train to send against ISIS.

There has been an attempt to try to separate out elements of Al Qaeda, into Core, and affiliates, and in the case of the Khorasan group, small units within affiliates. Or for that matter to disassociate ISIS from Al Qaeda, as ISIS being “too brutal”, when the reality is that ISIS hasn’t engaged in any tactic that Al Qaeda didn’t institute first.

This is a misguided attempt to convince people that what we face is a series of minor groups, and that the enemy who attacked us on 9/11 is broken, and/or on the run. The reality is we face an overarching enemy, a Global Islamic Movement-which is how they identify themselves- operating in accordance with a knowable strategic doctrine that we are not addressing.

That doctrine is Shariah law. It is the same law that ISIS is instituting in its territory, and the same one that Jabhat al Nusra and several of the other Syrian groups would institute in Syria if they prove successful in defeating Assad.

Our enemy knows that you can not defeat an opponent you do not name. They do not say that their war is with the U.S. Army,  the 75th Ranger Regiment, or the 5th Special Forces Group. They say plainly and openly, that their war is with America, and the allies of America, and more importantly, that it is an ideological war, based on a conflict between belief systems which are irreconcilable.

Until we are prepared to discuss the conflict in ideological terms, we will forever be playing “whack-a-mole” with a never ending series of “new” threats.

At War With Al Qaeda, Islamic State in Syria

800px-Barack_Obama_crossing_the_Cross_HallThe Weekly Standard, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN, SEP 23, 2014:

The U.S. launched airstrikes in Syria for the first time overnight. Much of the public discourse in the weeks leading up to the bombings focused on the Islamic State, a former branch of al Qaeda that has captured a significant amount territory across both Iraq and Syria. But the bombings are not just intended to weaken the Islamic State. U.S. bombers are also targeting positions controlled by Jabhat al Nusrah, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria.

This is the right course for the Obama administration to pursue.

With its stunningly effective military tactics and mass killings, the Islamic State has garnered most of the headlines since earlier this year. The recorded beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff played no small part in shaping the American public’s opinion that something must be done.

But Jabhat al Nusrah, which has been openly at odds with the Islamic State since last year, is also a threat.

Consider all of the following.

Al Qaeda operatives embedded within Jabhat al Nusrah are tasked with targeting the U.S. and Western interests. The Obama administration says they were plotting “imminent” attacks.

In recent days, U.S. officials openly worried about al Qaeda operatives, known as the “Khorasan group,” who had been dispatched to Syria by al Qaeda’s senior leaders to plan attacks against the West. The Khorasan group, which is named after al Qaeda’s Khorasan shura, or advisory, council is embedded within Jabhat al Nusrah.

A statement released by CENTCOM notes that the U.S. airstrikes in Syria targeted “a network of seasoned al Qaeda veterans – sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group – who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations.” The strikes are intended “to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests.”

In an interview with ABC News, Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby said, “We had very good indications that this group, which is a very dangerous group, was plotting and planning imminent attacks against Western targets to include the U.S. homeland and it was on that basis that we struck targets, Khorasan targets inside Syria.”

Kirby continued, “We believe that the individuals that were plotting and planning it have been eliminated and we’re going to continue… to assess the effectiveness of our strikes going through today.”

“Core” al Qaeda members are part of Jabhat al Nusrah and the “Khorasan group.”

U.S. intelligence officials often claim that there is a “core” of al Qaeda that is supposedly confined to the geography of South Asia. “Core al Qaeda” is imprecisely defined. But, in general, when President Obama and U.S. officials use this term they are invoking the idea that this part of al Qaeda was the most worrisome, as it was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and everything else in the jihadists’ world is necessarily less problematic. When President Obama speaks of “decimating” al Qaeda, he is referring to the idea of “core al Qaeda.”

This paradigm never fit the evidence. Core al Qaeda operatives are stationed in at least several countries, including Syria.

The head of the Khorasan group within Jabhat al Nusrah is a longtime al Qaeda operative known as Muhsin al Fadhli, who has been connected to international terrorist plots for more than a decade.

Other well-known al Qaeda leaders who have been operating in Syria include: Sanafi al Nasr (a strategist for Al Nusrah who runs his own al Qaeda committee), Abu Firas al Suri (who has served al Qaeda’s leaders since the 1980s and is Nusrah’s spokesman), Abu Sulayman al Muhajir (a senior sharia official in al Qaeda who relocated from Australia to Syria) and Abu Hammam al Suri, (until recently he was Nusrah’s senior military commander).

All of these jihadists are, by any reasonable definition, “core” al Qaeda members. It is well-established that other al Qaeda veterans have traveled from South Asia to Syria to join Nusrah’s ranks, including the “network of seasoned al Qaeda veterans” working with al Fadhli.

Jabhat al Nusrah is openly loyal to al Qaeda’s senior leadership.

At first, al Qaeda’s senior leaders attempted to hide the depth of their relationship with Jabhat al Nusrah. But after its disagreements with the Islamic State broke into the public, the emir of Nusrah, Abu Muhammad al Julani, revealed that he had sworn a bayat (oath of allegiance) to Ayman al Zawahiri. The group’s top sharia (Islamic law) official publicly reaffirmed the group’s allegiance to Zawahiri as recently as late July.

Thus, Jabhat al Nusrah is one of the five official regional branches of al Qaeda. The other four are: al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Shabaab in Somalia, and al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). They are all pursuing al Qaeda’s agenda, as are groups that al Qaeda has clandestinely spawned or allied with.

Despite their differences, Jabhat al Nusrah and the Islamic State share many of the same goals.

The overwhelming majority of Jabhat al Nusrah’s resources have been devoted to overthrowing Bashar al Assad’s regime. Nusrah has worked hard to embed itself with the Syrian rebellion. This is because Nusrah wants to establish an Islamic state in the areas “liberated” from Assad’s control. This state would be governed according to al Qaeda’s radical version of sharia law. Nusrah officials have repeatedly stated that this is their goal.

Of course, this is also the goal of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and his self-named Islamic State. Nusrah disagrees with the Islamic State over how to build an Islamic state. Baghdadi also believes that he is the top jihadist on the planet, but Nusrah and al Qaeda’s senior leaders disagree.

Many commentators and terrorism experts believe that al Qaeda is devoted solely to waging a “global jihad,” that is, attempting to strike in the West. “Local jihad,” or seeking to win territory in various unstable warzones, is supposedly the pursuit of other groups. This is a false dichotomy. Most of al Qaeda’s efforts inside Syria, via Jabhat al Nusrah and other groups, have been dedicated to winning power locally.

As can be seen with the Khorasan group, some part of the al Qaeda’s efforts will always be devoted to attacking the West.

However, al Qaeda has always had bigger plans and the U.S. should continue to factor this into any sustained bombing campaign.

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

 

US airstrikes target Al Nusrah Front, Islamic State in Syria

Long War Journal, By

The US-led bombing campaign in Syria is targeting the Al Nusrah Front, an official branch of al Qaeda, as well as the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that is one of Al Nusrah’s fiercest rivals.

Before they were launched, the air strikes were framed as being necessary to damage the Islamic State, a jihadist group that has seized large swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq. But in recent days US officials signaled that they were also concerned about al Qaeda’s presence in Syria, including the possibility that al Qaeda operatives would seek to use the country as a launching pad for attacks in the West.

Several well-connected online jihadists have posted pictures of the Al Nusrah Front positions struck in the bombings. They also claim that al Qaeda veterans dispatched from Afghanistan to Syria, all of whom were part of Al Nusrah, have been killed.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal confirmed that the Al Nusrah Front has been targeted in the operations, but could not verify any of the specific details reported on the jihadist sites.

d627c09d-5272-4f28-a862-d8e9a9d2771a_200_340Among the Al Nusrah Front positions targeted in the bombings are locations where members of the so-called “Khorasan group” are thought to be located. Ayman al Zawahiri, the emir of al Qaeda, sent the group to Syria specifically to plan attacks against the US and its interests. The group, which takes its name from al Qaeda’s Khorasan shura (or advisory) council, is reportedly led by Muhsin al Fadhli, an experienced al Qaeda operative who has been involved in planning international terrorist attacks for years.

Al Fadhli’s presence in Syria was first reported by the Arab Times in March. Shortly thereafter, The Long War Journal confirmed and expanded on this reporting. [See LWJ report, Former head of al Qaeda's network in Iran now operates in Syria.] The Long War Journal reported at the time that al Fadhli’s plans “were a significant cause for concern among counterterrorism authorities.”

The New York Times reported earlier this month that al Fadhli leads the Khorasan group in Syria.

Unconfirmed reports on jihadist social media sites say that al Fadhli was killed in the bombings. Neither US officials, nor al Qaeda has verified this reporting. The fog of war often makes it difficult to quickly confirm whether an individual jihadist has been killed, wounded, or survived unscathed. Initial reports should be treated with skepticism and there is no firm evidence yet that al Fadhli has been killed.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 8.01.44 AM-thumb-560x756-3767Jihadists claim that the man shown in the photo to the right is known as Abu Yusuf al Turki, an Al Nusrah “commander” who trained fighters how to become snipers. Al Turki fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and was supposedly killed in the US airstrikes.

One of the twitter feeds reporting al Turki’s death is associated with Sheikh Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini, a popular Saudi cleric who is closely tied to Al Nusrah. The feed, which has more than 250,000 followers, provides news on events inside Syria and is also used by the jihadists to raise funds for their efforts.

The feed has posted a series of updates since the bombing campaign began.

In addition to the photo of al Turki, the Twitter page tied to Muhaysini also posted a picture of a building that was reportedly controlled by Al Nusrah in Aleppo before being struck in the bombings. According to the feed, and others, dozens of Al Nusrah Front fighters and leaders have been killed.

Also see:

America is handing the region to Iran instead of arming the Kurds to defeat IS

kurdsI24 News, By SHERKOH ABBAS Sep. 22, 2014:

“You can lead them to water, but you can’t make them drink.” After having its “head” dunked in the truth of Islamism, the Obama Administration seems to prefer to drown in its failed anti-Bush pacifism.

Everyone knows the most reliably pro-American military in the Syria-Iraq region is the Peshmerga, yet American arms have not been provided to these Kurds, nor has their justified nationalist aspiration been acknowledged, let alone endorsed.

Instead, America is handing the region to Iran (enhancing its nuclear ambitions), accommodating resurrected Turkish dreams of a worldwide caliphate (transcending its “sultanate”), and failing to enlist necessary support from Wahhabist Saudi Arabia (reinforcing its ideological outreach). Indeed, America can’t find anyone to provide the “boots on the ground” that can begin to match the burgeoning Islamic Army, threatening to conquer the American Homeland… and everything in between.

Lame excuses for inaction advanced by Obama’s spokespeople are easily exposed; for example, they failed to ensure that the Continuing (Funding) Resolution passed last week would allow direct support for Erbil without first transiting Baghdad. Again, ideology (“We must not undermine the new ‘unity’ government”) shrouds intent and pays lip-service to the legitimate, urgent needs of one of the diminishing number of unabashedly pro-American fighting forces.

The vacuum displacing a relatively tranquil Pax Americana is predictably and rapidly being filled by both Sunni and Shiite Islamists, and Kurdistan finds itself in the cross fire.

Tehran wants to immortalize a Shiite Crescent (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon), Ankara wants to sever it with Sunnis (multi-national Arabs and non-Arab Ottomans), and Riyadh wants to stir the pot just enough to foment insurrection, but not enough to allow the Kingdom to be threatened. Geopolitical lines are thereby crossed as these aspirations are being fulfilled, while Kurdistan (joining Israel, to a degree) serves as an irritant, a stubborn target for those harboring far greater aspirations.

Each of these countries has attempted to manipulate Kurdistan via political alliances that serve only to undermine the legitimate aspirations of the populace – self-determination, either as an independent state or as a quasi-independent federated-region. In the mean time, 30-40 million Kurds struggle for survival.

Instead of helping Kurds, who are ready to do America’s bidding, Obama aspires to let the Free Syrian Army decide which “moderates” should receive armaments and year-long training in Saudi Arabia (costing American taxpayers $1 billion). Is Obama enamored of Saudi oil?

Instead of helping Kurds, who desperately need American support, Obama is acceding to Turkey’s rapprochement with the Islamic State, most recently having absented itself from America’s nascent “alliance of the unwilling” in return for release of 49 Turkish hostages. Is Obama pro-Brotherhood?

Instead of helping Kurds, after more than 60 villages and towns in Syrian Kurdistan have fallen to the Islamic State, Obama is receding from opposing Assad (propped up by Rouhani and Putin), hoping that Syrian air defenses (yet to be degraded) won’t block Allied bombers. Is Obama a genocide-appeaser?

Kurds eagerly and valiantly defend Western civilization against Muslims who continue fighting the Crusades; they may be a millennium remote chronologically, but they remain zealots hungry to avenge the 1683 defeat of Islam outside the gates of Vienna.

Demography is rapidly changing, as Kurds are increasingly subject to ethnic cleansing; if defeated, Kurds would be forcibly resettled out of Syria and thereby lose their distinctive identity for, already, a million refugees have relocated, replaced by pro-Assad Shi’ite/Alawite Arabs. Sporadic air-support (recalling the Yazidi plight) is grossly insufficient against the Islamic State. Yet, inexplicably, Obama has even failed to ensure other Arab nations (plus his Turkish pal, Erdoğan) and opposition groups (plus other countries, worldwide) condemn the Islamists’ anti-Kurd acts.

Political groups petitioning for support must have “clean hands.” Thus, elements of the Free Syrian Army seeking allied arms must pass the litmus-test of supporting Kurds, for most are allied with the Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaida. Unlike stateless-Kurdistan, pro- and anti-Assad entities are merely struggling for power. Therefore, America must provide military, political and humanitarian assistance to Kurdistan urgently, empowering it to lead a coalition of ignored minorities.

Dr. Sherkoh Abbas (President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria) and Dr. Robert Sklaroff (a physician-activist) have co-written essays during the past half-decade advocating for an independent Kurdistan.

Also see:

Airstrikes Move To Syria, Target More Than Just ISIS

A handout picture released by the U.S. Navy shows the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) launching a Tomahawk cruise missile against Islamic State targets in Syria on Tuesday. (EPA/Landov)

A handout picture released by the U.S. Navy shows the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) launching a Tomahawk cruise missile against Islamic State targets in Syria on Tuesday. (EPA/Landov)

NPR, By Scott Neuman:

In a major escalation of the air campaign against Islamic extremist groups, for the first time the U.S. and five Arab allies jointly hit targets inside Syria.

The New York Times says: “The intensity of the attacks struck a fierce opening blow against the jihadists of the Islamic State, scattering its forces and damaging the network of facilities it has built in Syria that helped fuel its seizure of a large part of Iraq this year.”

Who Took Part?

Besides the U.S., the Pentagon says Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates “participated in or supported” operations against targets associated with the self-declared Islamic State.

On Morning Edition, NPR’s Tom Bowman reports that Syria has said it received a letter from Secretary of State John Kerry via Iraq’s foreign minister informing Damascus that the U.S. and its allies planned to strike inside Syria.

Who Was Targeted?

– Islamic State in its Syrian-based headquarters of Raqqa

– The Al-Qaida affiliated Nusra Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra, in northwest Syria

– A shadowy group known as Khorasan that the U.S. says is planning an imminent attack against the United States and Western interests.

NPR’s Deborah Amos tells Morning Edition that Islamic State militants, also known as ISIS or ISIL, were a major focus of the attacks, which the Pentagon said “employed 47 [Tomahawk cruise missiles] launched from USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea operating from international waters in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf, as well as U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter, remotely piloted and bomber aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations.”

According to Deborah: “What is striking about this air campaign is that it was expanded to include the Nusra Front.

“Those strikes took place in northwest Syria. The Nusra Front is an al-Qaida affiliate and has been at odds with ISIS. In fact, some of al-Nusra’s fighters have been at war on the ground with ISIS, joining with more moderate groups against them.”

Tom says not much is known about the Khorasan group: “The Pentagon says they took this action to disrupt an imminent attack plotting against the United States by this group that’s made up of seasoned al-Qaida veterans. There were eight strikes around Aleppo targeting this group. [The Pentagon says] it had training camps, explosives and munitions productions facility, communications building and also command and control facilities.”

The U.S. reportedly conducted the strikes against the group on its own.

An unnamed U.S. official tells The New York Times that the Khorasan group is led by “Muhsin al-Fadhli, a senior Qaeda operative who, according to the State Department, was so close to Bin Laden that he was among a small group of people who knew about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks before they were launched.” The Times says:

“There is almost no public information about the Khorasan group, which was described by several intelligence, law enforcement and military officials as being made up of Qaeda operatives from across the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa. Members of the cell are said to be particularly interested in devising terror plots using concealed explosives. It is unclear who, besides Mr. Fadhli, is part of the Khorasan group.”

The Wall Street Journal reports: “So far, more than a dozen airstrikes have hit Islamic State military targets and administrative buildings in Aleppo and Raqqa provinces in the north as well as al Qaeda’s official arm in the country, al Nusra Front in the northwestern city of Idlib, the opposition said.”

What are the consequences?

Reuters, quotes a resident in Raqqa as saying there is an “exodus” from the city in the wake of the bombardment. “It started in the early hours of the day after the strikes. People are fleeing towards the countryside,” the resident tells Reuters.

The participation of the partners “gives the operation some legitimacy – more legitimacy in the region because Arab governments took part. There [are] political optics about this operation put together in Washington,” Deborah says, adding that the agreement to participate “changes the stakes” for the Arab partners.

The BBC’s Security correspondent Frank Gardner speculates says: “Islamic State will be enraged by this – it has no effective military answers to US air power – so those Arab countries that supported or took part in the action may well now be bracing themselves for possible reprisals.”

Speaking on MSNBC, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby, says the U.S. “is still assessing the effectiveness of these strikes.”

Islamist foreign fighters returning home and the threat to Europe

Editor’s note: Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.

Tom_Large (1)By

Chairman Rohrabacher, Ranking Member Keating and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the threat posed by Islamist foreign fighters returning home to Europe. We have been asked to answer the question, “How are European countries addressing the threat, and how can the US assist in those efforts to thwart future terrorist attacks?” I offer my thoughts in more detail below.

But I begin by recalling the 9/11 Commission’s warning with respect to failed states. “In the twentieth century,” the Commission’s final report reads, “strategists focused on the world’s great industrial heartlands.” In the twenty-first century, however, “the focus is in the opposite direction, toward remote regions and failing states.” A few sentences later, the Commission continues:

If, for example, Iraq becomes a failed state, it will go to the top of the list of places that are breeding grounds for attacks against Americans at home. Similarly, if we are paying insufficient attention to Afghanistan, the rule of the Taliban or warlords or narcotraffickers may reemerge and its countryside could once again offer refuge to al Qaeda, or its successor.

Those words were written more than a decade ago. Unfortunately, they still ring true today, not just for the US, but also for Europe. Except, we no longer have to worry about just Iraq becoming a failed state. We now have to contend with a failed state in Syria as well. And Syria is not “remote.” It is much easier for foreign fighters to travel to Syria today than it was for new jihadists to get to Afghanistan in the 1980s. This is one reason that there are likely more foreign fighters in Syria than there were in Afghanistan at the height of the jihad against the Soviets. Estimates vary, but the total number of foreign recruits in Syria easily tops 10,000. A CIA source recently told CNN “that more than 15,000 foreign fighters, including 2,000 Westerners, have gone to Syria.” They “come from more than 80 countries.”

This, of course, is an unprecedented security challenge and one that counterterrorism and intelligence officials will be dealing with for some time to come. It requires exceptional international cooperation to track the threats to Europe and elsewhere emerging out of Iraq and Syria. My thoughts below are focused on what I consider to be some of the key aspects of dealing with this threat.

At the moment, most people are understandably focused on the Islamic State (often called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, or ISIS). There is certainly a strong possibility that some foreign fighters will return from fighting in the Islamic State’s ranks to commit an act of terror at home, either on their own accord or under the direction of senior terrorists.

However, I also want to focus our attention today one of the other significant threat streams coming out of Syria. Al-Qaeda’s official branch in the country, Jabhat al-Nusrah, has experienced al-Qaeda veterans in its ranks. I think they pose more of a near-term threat when it comes to launching catastrophic attacks in the West than do their Islamic State counterparts. And even though al-Nusrah and the Islamic State have been at odds, we should not rule out the possibility that parts of each organization could come together against their common enemies in the West. Indeed, two of al-Qaeda’s leading branches are currently encouraging the jihadists in Syria to broker a truce, such that they focus their efforts against the US and its allies. There is also a large incentive for terrorists in both organizations to separately lash out at the West, portraying any such attacks as an act of retaliation for the American-led bombings.

Read more at Long War Journal

ALLEGED ISIS PHOTO CONTROVERSY ENGULFS SEN. JOHN MCCAIN

mccain-syria-rebelsBy Matthew Boyle:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his aides swear the Syrian “rebels” he was pictured last year with weren’t ISIS members or supporters, and the mainstream media is by and large buying the 2008 GOP presidential nominee’s story.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has endured brutal criticism—media fact checkers, reporters, and political figures have shredded him—for questioning just who McCain posed with.

But a closer look at the situation tells perhaps a different story than McCain’s office or the mainstream media have pushed.

The criticism of McCain centers around how the Arizona senator met with Syrian rebel leaders in May 2013 when he visited the country. McCain posed for photographs with those people, and since then rumors have sprouted up across the Internet that he met with ISIS or some other terrorist kidnappers or nefarious forces.

“The people in the pictures with Senator McCain in Syria included General Salim Idris, then-Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Command of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Mouaz Moustafa, the Executive Director of the DC-based Syrian Emergency Task Force (which supports the moderate opposition and helped arrange some of the trip), and fighters and commanders from the Northern Storm Brigade, a FSA-aligned group,” McCain’s spokesman Brian Rogers told Breitbart News.

Rogers said that the senator and his team aren’t naming the “fighters and commanders from the Northern Storm Brigade, a FSA-aligned group,” because “ISIS actually threatened to kill them all, and we don’t want to put their lives at risk.” Rogers provided Breitbart News with a link to the ISIS threat to those fighters.

“ISIS targeted the Northern Storm because ISIS considers them apostates and because Northern Storm met with Sen. McCain,” Rogers said. “ISIS actually wrote out a statement that accused Northern Storm of treachery for reasons including: ‘Meeting with U.S. Senator John McCain in the hangar and making a contract with him against the Islamists.’ The statement goes on to demand that Northern Storm surrender and repent to ISIS or be killed.”

“ISIS actually killed many Northern Storm members, and we’re not going to put them at any further risk by naming them,” Rogers added.

But there’s just one problem with McCain’s office’s story. Now, McCain’s team says the senator didn’t meet with any bad figures but declines to name them, for what seems to be a legitimate reason—although those who are publicly leading combat against ISIS and against Bashar Al-Assad’s regime are probably publicly known figures there.

Just last year, however, McCain’s office had no clue who the senator met. When allegations surfaced that the senator may have met with terrorists who kidnapped someone, Rogers—McCain’s communications director—went on the record to multiple media outlets to say he didn’t know who he was meeting with, and if he did meet with kidnapper terrorists, that would be regrettable.

“None of the individuals the senator planned to meet with was named Mohamad Nour or Abu Ibrahim,” Rogers told CNN in late May 2013, right after the trip. “A number of other Syrian commanders joined the meeting, but none of them identified himself as Mohamad Nour or Abu Ibrahim.”

Rogers added later in his statement to CNN that he and the senator did not know who he was meeting with.

“A number of the Syrians who greeted Senator McCain upon his arrival in Syria asked to take pictures with him, and, as always, the senator complied,” Rogers said. “If the individual photographed with Senator McCain is in fact Mohamed Nour, that is regrettable. But it would be ludicrous to suggest that the Senator in any way condones the kidnapping of Lebanese Shia pilgrims or has any communication with those responsible. Senator McCain condemns such heinous actions in the strongest possible terms.”

Of course it’s ludicrous to suggest that McCain would condone the act of kidnapping, and nobody serious is suggesting that. The point many critics of McCain’s policies—including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)—are making is that Americans have no way of knowing which team any one of these figures is on.

“Here’s the problem,” Paul said in an interview with The Daily Beast this week. “He [McCain] did meet with ISIS, and had his picture taken, and didn’t know it was happening at the time. That really shows you the quandary of determining who are the moderates and who aren’t. If you don’t speak Arabic, and you don’t understand that some people will lie to you—I really think that we don’t have a good handle on who are the moderates and who aren’t, and I think the objective evidence is that the ones doing most of the fighting and most of the battles among the rebels in Syria are the radical Islamists.”

Paul has been roundly criticized for the remarks, starting with the publication he made them to. The Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi wrote that Paul’s statement means he “repeated a thoroughly debunked rumor.” The Washington Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler gave Paul “Four Pinocchios,” its highest rating of dishonesty, for the statement. Kessler wrote that this story is one where he regrets “we are limited to just Four Pinocchios,” because there is “zero evidence that any of the men that McCain met with in Syria are linked to the Islamic State.”

Despite this pile-on by the media and political establishment, Paul has a serious point here, though. McCain really didn’t know who he was meeting with, and even if they were the supposedly “moderate” Free Syrian Army, who’s to know that they aren’t elements of the Free Syrian Army working alongside ISIS?

Patrick Poole, an esteemed national security reporter and expert on radical Islam for PJ Media, has reported that the Free Syrian Army’s commanders have admitted in public to working alongside ISIS. “As President Obama laid out his ‘strategy’ last night for dealing with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and as bipartisan leadership in Congress pushes to approve as much as $4 billion to arm Syrian ‘rebels,’ it should be noted that the keystone to his anti-Assad policy — the ‘vetted moderate’ Free Syrian Army (FSA) — is now admitting that they, too, are working with the Islamic State,” Poole wrote on Sept. 10.

Poole cites the Lebanese newspaper Daily Star, which quotes a Free Syrian Army brigade commander as saying he is working with the “Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate — both U.S.-designated terrorist organizations.”

Read more at Breitbart

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