Why Adam Gadahn’s Killing Matters To Al-Qaeda

Adam Gadahn Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Adam Gadahn Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MEMRI, by Steven Stalinsky, April 24, 2015:

On April 23, 2015 the White House announced that Adam Gadahn, the first American to be charged with treason since World War II and the man known as Al-Qaeda’s American spokesman, had been killed inadvertently in a U.S. drone attack in January in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. It seems inconceivable that 35 years ago in California, a little-known Jewish psychedelic musician, himself the son of a prominent Zionist doctor, and his wife brought into the world a son, Adam Pearlman, who would become one of America’s most notorious traitors in the war on terror.

In 2004, at age 26, Gadahn made it to the FBI’s most wanted list. He trained in Afghanistan terrorist camps, and was asked by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Muhammad to join a plot for a suicide attack outside Baltimore. A sealed indictment dated September 8, 2006 accused Gadahn, aka Al-Qaeda operative “Azzam the American,” of helping the terror organization with communications and propaganda, serving as its English translator, and providing it with information about American culture and vulnerabilities. The following month, the U.S. government formally announced treason charges against him.

Adam Pearlman’s parents converted to Christianity and took the last name Gadahn. Adam’s first contact with Islam came when his father sold meat he had slaughtered to Muslim halal markets. As a pimply, head-banging 17-year-old, Adam embraced Islam at an Orange County mosque. Until the summer of 2006, the University of Southern California’s (USC) Muslim Student Association’s online compendium of Muslim texts included an essay by “Adam Pearlman” titled “Becoming Muslim,” which stated: “Having been around Muslims in my formative years, I knew well that they were not the bloodthirsty, barbaric terrorists that the news media and the televangelists paint them to be.”

His first Al-Qaeda video appearance was in October 2004; a masked Gadahn declared, “Allah willing, the streets of America will run red with blood.” In his next video, which aired on Al-Jazeera on September 12, 2005, he explained, again masked, that Al-Qaeda’s numerous post-9/11 audio and video recordings communiqués had been “released to explain and propound the nature and goals of the worldwide jihad against America and the Crusaders and convey our legitimate demands.”

Both Gadahn’s knowledge of American culture and his media skills played a significant role in the development of As-Sahab, the Al-Qaeda media company; he was one of its key officials. He also laid the groundwork for other homegrown terrorists and for the use of the Internet for cyber jihad. High-ranking members of the Al-Qaeda leadership – even leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri – told Americans to listen to his words.

In his next video appearance, on July 8, 2006, Gadahn, unmasked for the first time, warned, alongside footage of 7/7 London suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer and of Al-Zawahiri: “When we bomb their cities and civilians… no sane Muslim should shed tears for them.” In a subsequent video, released January 6, 2008, Gadahn renounced his U.S. citizenship as he ripped up his passport.

From 2004 onward, Gadahn starred in nearly two dozen Al-Qaeda videos, producing, narrating, and providing graphics for many more. In most of his appearances, he was seated at a desk, usually with a computer and a rifle; in 12 years, he appeared outdoors only once. Most of his early videos were in English, but over time he began speaking in Arabic.

While some government and counterterrorism analysts have debated Gadahn’s importance, the fact is that he was a trailblazer in inspiring and helping to recruit American youth to join Al-Qaeda. No other Westerner, let alone American, was ever as close to the leadership of Al-Qaeda, including its late leader Osama bin Laden, current leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and even 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad.

Gadahn’s importance within Al-Qaeda was confirmed by the May 2012 release of the Abbottabad documents found in the May 2011 raid on bin Laden’s compound; the documents revealed that he had been one of the few people in contact with bin Laden and had actively advised him before his death. One, a 21-page letter, was filled with both media advice and general advice about the future of Al-Qaeda and the direction it should take with respect to its affiliates and their actions.

Not only did Gadahn help Al-Qaeda reach a wider audience, but his appeal to prospective recruits resonated with those seeking a direction and attracted to radical Islam. His personal story showed that anyone in the West, even the grandson of a Jewish Zionist doctor, could become a global jihad leader. In particular, he was influential among the American converts with little Arabic who comprise some of the increasing number of Westerners joining and pledging loyalty to Al-Qaeda and, now, to ISIS; Gadahn recordings have been found on the computers of many Westerners arrested on terrorism charges.

Beginning in 2010, Gadahn, now under the alias of Abu Suhail, regularly provided articles and interviews to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP’s) English-language magazine for jihadis in the West, Inspire, reaching an entire new generation of recruits.

Gadahn last surfaced in October 2014, in the inaugural issue of Resurgence magazine – the Al-Qaeda media company As-Sahab’s English-language mouthpiece for the recently formed Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). In the cover story, “Besiege Them!” he called for the establishment of the Caliphate and focused on economic tactics for combatting the West, concluding with a call to Muslims worldwide to wage jihad and warning the West that Al-Qaeda’s war on it has only begun.

The killing of Adam Gadahn is a significant blow to Al-Qaeda. This is because he was a big part of Al-Qaeda’s media outreach efforts, in particular outreach to potential Western recruits. Following the emergence of ISIS and its proficiency at producing English-language content, including online magazines and videos, and at distributing them via social networks – efforts which far surpassed Al-Qaeda’s – Gadahn’s death will increase the already significant gap in the rivalry between the two organizations. However, like Osama bin Laden and Yemeni-American sheikh Anwar Al-Awlaki, his legacy will live on, on YouTube and other platforms and outlets where his videos are viewed every day by the increasing numbers of Westerners turning to jihad.

Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). He is the author of the upcoming book release: American Traitor – Inside the Mind of Adam Gadahn – Al-Qaeda’s U.S. Born Leader.

Also see:

Drone Strike Kills Two Hostages and Two American Al Qaeda Terrorists

drone-srtoke-victimsCSP, by Sean MacCormac, April 23, 2015:

President Obama made an open, heartfelt apology for the deaths of two hostages in an airstrike conducted in January on an Al Qaeda compound near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, taking full responsibility for the actions which lead to their deaths. The two hostages were Warren Weinstein, an American director for J.E. Austin Associates who was captured in Lahore, Pakistan by Al-Qaeda in 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian aid worker kidnapped in 2012. President Obama declassified the information about the attack, claiming transparency and the need for the families of the two hostages to know the information. Both hostages were not known to be in the area when the air strike, conducted via unmanned aerial vehicle, was carried out.

Adam Gadahn and Ahmed Farouq were two other Americans confirmed to have been killed in the two drone strikes, albeit these individuals were Al Qaeda terrorists. Neither were specifically targeted in the attack. Adam Gadahn was infamous for being the American mouthpiece for Al-Qaeda, having left for Pakistan to join Al Qaeda in 1998 after his conversion to Islam in 1995. After becoming estranged from his Christian parents in the mid 1990s, then-teenaged Gadahn left for his grandparents in Santa Ana, California where he started studying Islam at the Islamic Society of Orange County. The Islamic Society of Orange County once invited Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman to speak in 1992, and it was here that Gadahn fell in with a group of fundamentalists. This group grew displeased at the society’s president, Haitham Bundakji, and his interfaith outreach, referring to him as “Danny the Jew.” Adam Gadahn would later assault Bundakji, making his first trip to Pakistan a few months after being convicted. Though Ahmed Farouq is much less well known, sources indicate that he was a deputy emir of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. Farouq was killed in the same drone strike that killed the hostages, while Gadahn was killed in a separate drone strike in the same month.

Though the White House stated that it believed the drone strike was lawful, an investigation will be carried out in the hopes of making sure that errors such as the accidental killing of hostages will not occur again. Though the US military plans to draw down its operations in Afghanistan, the CIA wishes to keep several bases in Afghanistan active in order to gather intelligence for drone strikes in the tribal regions of Pakistan. Certainly, UAVs are an effective intelligence gathering and surgical strike tool, and will continue to be used as such for the foreseeable future.

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CSP’s Kyle Shideler appears on Newsmax’s American Forum to discuss the incident (at 3:30 in the video)

Also see:

ISIS Releases ‘Flames of War’ Feature Film to Intimidate West

A screen shot from 'Flames of War.' The American narrator of the film is on the far left.

A screen shot from ‘Flames of War.’ The American narrator of the film is on the far left.

After releasing the trailer last week, the Islamic State released the full film — a gory, bravado flick showcasing their ruthless tactics in Syria.

By Ryan Mauro:

True to its promise, the Islamic State terrorist group released a 55-minute video (see below) narrated by an operative in Syria with an American accent.  At the same time, Al-Qaeda has released a new video (see below) featuring an American recruit named Adam Gadahn calling on Muslims to pursue regime change in Pakistan.

The Islamic State video is far above the Al-Qaeda video in terms of production. The 55-minute film, titled Flames of War, is professionally edited and highlights the Islamic State’s seizure of the Syrian Army’s 17th Division base near Raqqah.

Footage is shown from the attack and then the film shows an Islamic State fighter near the base speaking in fluent English with an American accent. Captured Syrian soldiers are shown digging their own graves. One claims that 800 of Assad’s troops were at the base and were defeated by only 20-30 Islamic State members. The captives are then shot point blank and shown gruesomely falling in the ditches.

Flames of War uses the narrator to explain the Islamic state’s version of the events, namely, that they are merely trying to establish god’s law on earth but are being attacked by Assad, the Americans, the West and various other foes.

The film utilizes romantic imagery carefully crafted to appeal to dissatisfied and alienated young men, replete with explosions, tanks and self-described mujahedeen winning battles. Anti-American rhetoric provides the voice-over to stop motion and slow motion action sequences. The use of special effects such as bullet-time is interspersed with newsreel footage.

This up-to-date, sophisticated cinematography combined with the bloodthirsty message the film makes Flames of War reminiscent of Hitler propagandist Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 film, Triumph of the Will.

The film finishes with a written statement from Islamic State “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi referring to the U.S. as the “defender of the cross.” The message appears to indicate that the group believes U.S. combat forces will be sent to Iraq.

“As for the near future, you will be forced into a direct confrontation, with Allah’s permission, despite your reluctance. And the sons of Islam have prepared themselves for this day, so wait and see, for we too are also going to wait and see,” it says.

The new Al-Qaeda video with Adam Gadahn is simple and only features a lecture from him. The contrast between the two videos is a microcosm of how Al-Qaeda has faded into the background as the Islamic State has risen and is winning the next generation ofjihadists.

Read more at Clarion Project

View Flames of War, Full film:

 

View Pakistani Regime: The Agent of the Devil:

 

Also see:

Refreshing Candor on Islamist Violence in Congressional Report

American Jihadist Terrorism Combating a Complex Threatby IPT News: