We Are Our Own Obstacle in Fighting al Qaeda

Army Magazine, By Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, U.S. Army retired: (h/t Fortuna’s Corner)

The U.S. and others have been fighting al Qaeda and their ilk for going on 15 years. After countless drone strikes, special operations raids and two invasions, we have killed Osama bin Laden and scores of other key leaders. Our enemy may be disrupted periodically, but they are far from being dismantled or defeated. Why is that? Partly, it’s because they have proven to be more resilient and adaptive than we expected, but it is also partly because we are our own obstacle to taking effective counteraction. We still don’t understand the kind of war we’re in, haven’t structured a proper strategy to prevail and remain institutionally misaligned. Our self-imposed obstacles are three: intellectual, organizational and institutional.

Intellectually, our model for understanding war remains a conventional one: armies facing armies. We treat everything else as “not war” or “pseudo-war.” If we acknowledged we were at war, for example, we would identify a proper set of aims, ones that were neither expansive and unachievable, given the means available, nor so restrictive that achieving them accomplishes nothing worth the sacrifice. Then we would identify a set of military and nonmilitary strategies, policies and campaigns, all of which would contribute to attaining those aims. We would create the necessary set of organizations to make sure our decisions, and those of our allies and partners, could be translated into properly coordinated plans, executed in a coherent way and adapted quickly enough to address the uncertainties of war as it unfolds. We would see evidence of these behaviors if we were waging a war, but no objective assessment of the past decade and a half would conclude that this description fits our actual behavior. Rather, the more reasonable conclusion is that we are not really waging a war.

A decade and a half of fighting has been insufficient to move us from our default setting. Sometimes, the language our senior political and military leaders use is war language; at other times, it’s the language of law enforcement. We have yet to understand that, as Carl von Clausewitz says, “war is more than a true chameleon.” We have yet to follow his first principle: “The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish … the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature.” It’s no wonder, therefore, that we have been more successful tactically than we have been strategically.

When will we finally conclude that the enemies we face are waging some form of a global insurgency, a revolutionary war that seeks to seize the territory from those they call apostate governments and replace those “apostates” with a caliphate? Perhaps it was difficult to see this clearly at the start, but after 15 years of watching our enemies attempt to overthrow the government in Iraq, weaken Pakistan’s government, retake Afghanistan, create an Islamic state out of parts of Syria and Iraq, expand their influence in Somalia and other African states, and seize Yemen and Libya, the patterns of their war should be clearer. While they do not form a monolith, there is a pattern.

If we can put our intellectual bias behind us, perhaps we will be able to see reality as it is and set ourselves and our allies on a better strategic path. As long as our enemies wage some form of an insurgency or revolutionary war and we respond with a mixture of either a counterterrorist leadership decapitation and law-enforcement approach or an invade-and-rebuild approach—the two strategies that have gotten us to where we are—the strategic advantage will stay with our enemies.

Organizationally, we seem locked in a model that limits understanding organizational behavior as hierarchical: the higher-ups directing the underlings through echelons of leaders—the chain of command. The enemies we are fighting also have chains of command and sometimes work that way. An operation is planned, prepared and supported by “central al Qaeda” or the “headquarters” of an affiliate or spinoff. Then the attack is executed using the tools, money, training and equipment provided by the higher-ups. There are other forms of organizational behavior at play, however.

Discipleship is another way to understand how individual members of a group act on behalf of that group. In this model, individual members or small groups are inspired to take action by the power of the group’s narrative and belief in the group’s ideology. They don’t have to be directed to do anything; they act on the strength of their belief. Their commitment to their beliefs encourages them to act—even drives them to act in some cases—because not to do something would be a manifestation of the weakness of their beliefs. This kind of behavior is hardly “lone wolf”; rather, it is inspired by the pack. Often, there are no hierarchical command-and-control dots to connect in these kinds of cases other than the dots that create and grow a belief strong enough to form a determined and dedicated disciple.

Over 60 years ago, Eric Hoffer, when analyzing mass movements in The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, said that “many who join a rising revolutionary movement are attracted by the prospect of sudden and spectacular change in their conditions of life.” He goes on to say that the chief preoccupation of the leaders of a mass revolutionary movement, therefore, is to “kindle and fan an extravagant hope” and “foster, perfect, and perpetuate a facility for united action and self-sacrifice”; that is, they seek to create disciples, true believers, who will act—even alone, if necessary—to advance the cause.

Disciples and true believers are connected by “dots,” just not in the same way that conventional hierarchies are connected. Disciples and true believers still need motivation, leadership or inspiration, and they still need money, supplies, equipment or training. Some of these dots are vague and are often not clear except in retrospect, after an attack of some sort. We’re seeing this phenomenon in the wake of the Paris attacks. All too often, even if partially detected beforehand, the connection is insufficient for probable cause, let alone arrest. Even when disciples or true believers are arrested, the available evidence may not be strong enough to hold them very long. No crime has been committed. Therein we return to the first obstacle: Are we waging a war or fighting crime?

The intellectual model we select has practical consequences. If we are waging war, then the threshold for action is actionable intelligence, but if we are fighting crime, the threshold is sufficient evidence, which may never emerge. The difference between actionable intelligence and sufficient evidence is real. This leads to the last self-imposed obstacle: institutional.

We have separate, stovepiped institutions to deal with crime and war. This separateness rests upon an important understanding of the balance between civil liberties and common good. Departments or ministers of defense and intelligence agencies deal with war; departments or ministers of interior or justice and police agencies attend to crime. We also have another level of institutions that we hold responsible for our common safety and security: sovereign states. Such separation normally serves a democracy well.

The global insurgents or revolutionaries that we are fighting, however, like so many before them, slip back and forth from using criminal action, low-level terrorism, insurgency and formal military action, depending upon which tactic is most useful to attain their political aim. They operate in the institutional space between war and crime, using this gap to their advantage. They weave criminal and military action into one coherent whole. Our law enforcement, military and intelligence agencies—and those of our allies—have done yeoman’s work trying to stitch this gap, balancing the protection of their nation’s citizens with individual civil rights, but the gap remains.

If we were fighting a war, the stitching would be less ad hoc both internally to our nation and externally among the set of nations that face a common threat. We would have formed a real coalition or alliance, one in which the members of the alliance have a voice in the creation and execution of a long-term strategy, not one in which members are treated as if they were a posse going after bad guys with a U.S. sheriff. In addition, we would have sought to establish the kind of robust conventions, authorities and coordinative bodies that would facilitate coherent transnational action among allies. We would have conducted a counternarrative campaign aimed to erode the attractiveness of the insurgents’ motivational ideology. Finally, we would have educated the American people beyond bumper-sticker slogans.

Over the past 15 years, all of us have seen the common threat grow—not just in size, but also in modus operandi. How many more Paris-style attacks are necessary to convince us that we are at war and our mutual enemies are more than just criminals, even if they are not conventional soldiers? While the insurgency we face is not an existential threat to the U.S. in one sense, who can argue that their actions have not already altered the way we live at home and especially abroad? Who doubts that if they create the world they envision, it would be counter to the security and economic interests of the U.S. and our allies?

We have gotten better at killing those whom we identify as an enemy and uncovering some plots before they are hatched, but we have not yet reached “good enough”—not for ourselves as individual nations or as a set of sovereign bodies. Until we heed Clausewitz’ advice to fully adapt to the form of war that has been thrust upon us, we will continue to be our own impediment to effectively countering our enemies, thus allowing them to expand their influence and grow even stronger.

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Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, USA Ret., is a former commander of Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq and a senior fellow of AUSA’s Institute of Land Warfare.

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

AP Photo/Militant Website, Fil

AP Photo/Militant Website, Fil

Breitbart, by John Hayward, March 24, 2015:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRANSCRIPT

Also see:

Analysis: Why AQAP quickly denied any connection to mosque attacks

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LWJ, by Thomas Joscelyn, March 21, 2015:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Islamic State Rises in Libya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subsequent governing arrangements have been unable to maintain stability.

To Topple the Throne: Islamic State Sets Its Sights on Saudi Arabia

saudiarabiaFortuna’s Corner, by R.C. Porter, March 15, 2015:

In light of this weekend’s heightened terrorist threat to the U.S. embassy and personnel in Saudi Arabia, The Jamestown Foundation has a timely article about the threat posed to the kingdom by the radical Islamic group — the Islamic State.  Chris Zambelis, had a March 6, 2015 article, “To Topple The Throne:  Islamic State Sets Its Sights On Saudi Arabia,” examines the threat the radical Islamic group poses to the kingdom.  Mr. Zambelis writes, “the Islamic State today represents the largest and potentially most complex set of challenges to Saudi Arabia, which had previously drawn the ire of al Qaeda, and its regional affiliates — al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

     The Islamic State’s leader (and self-styled caliph) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, singled out Saudi Arabia in an audio statement titled, “Even If The Disbelievers Despise Such,” released by the group’s al-Furqan Media Foundation on November 13, 2014 in his statement  al-Baghdadi extolled what he describes as the purported expansion of the Islamic State to the “lands of al-Haramein” (two holy places) in addition to Yemen, Egypt, Libya and Algeria, through its acceptance of oaths of allegiance sworn by local militants to the self-styled caliphate.  Al Baghdadi’s mention of al-Haramein is notable in that it reflects the radical Islamic proclivity for avoiding any reference to Saudi Arabia by name, and by implication, any indirect recognition of legitimacy of the Saudi royal family, instead…highlighting Islam’s two holiest sights at Mecca and Mdeina.  Al-Baghdadi also proclaimed the appointment of regional governors to represent the Islamic State; and, called on all followers in Saudi Arabia and beyond, to to recognize and follow their leadership.  Al Baghdadi issued a categorical call to arms:  He referred to the Saudi royal family as “the serpent’s head,” and the “stronghold of disease,’ and implored his Saudi subjects to attack the “al Saloul,” and “their soldiers.”  The reference to al-Saloul represents a derogatory distortion of the al-Saud family name: in Islamic tradition, the al-Saloul family guarded the then pagan holy site of the Kaaba at Mecca, during the pre-Islamic period.  He also implored his followers to attack the polytheists and rafidah (rejectionists), an inflammatory label, often assigned to Shia Muslims by extreme Salafists and other hard-line Sunni Islamists, in apparent reference to the Kingdom’s substantial Shi’a majority population.  Al Baghdadi then issued an appeal for “patience,” and reassured his followers in the Kingdom that the “vanguards of the Islamic State are on their way” (al-Furqan Media Foundation, November 13, 2014).

     Mr. Zambelis writes that “the subsequent release of the fifth edition of the Dabiq, the Islamic State’s official magazine in November 2014 by its affiliated al-Hayat Media Center, followed up al-Baghdadi’s earlier de facto declaration of war against the House of Saud.  The cover of the magazine is emblazoned with a photograph of the Kaaba at Mecca, while the forward proclaims the Islamic State’s flag will “fly over Mecca and Medina.”  It is also emphasized that Saudi militants should take up arms at home and avoid traveling to battlefields abroad.  A section devoted to Saudi Arabia exalts the efforts of earlier generations of militants who resisted and attacked the monarchy, including al-Qaeda and its regional affiliate AQAP, while at the same time lamenting their failure to achieve their objectives.  Equally important, the Islamic State declares its opposition to Saudi’s fellow Persian Gulf monarchies in an apparent declaration of war against Saudi Arabia’s allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).  A section of rhe magazine dedicated to the group’s activities in Yemen emphasizes the proximity between Saudi- and Yemen-based Islamic State loyalists, and their potential to cooperate in launching attacks in the Arabian Peninsula (Dabiq, November 2014).”

     Mr. Zambelis warns that “an incursion by militants who had infiltrated Saudi Arabia’s northeastern town of Arar, located in the Northern Borders province that sits adjacent to Iraq’s southern border, on January 5, underlines the potential threat the Islamic State poses to the Kingdom (al-Jazeera, January 5).  While details surrounding the event remain murky, a band of Iraq-based insurgents reportedly associated with the Islamic State is said to have penetrated Saudi territory and engaged Saudi border police post.  The attackers are said to have employed small unit ambush tactics and a suicide bomber, who detonated his explosive-laden vest, while offering to surrender to a senior Saudi security officer, killing himself and the officer.  The ensuing incident left three border officers and four militants dead (Saudi Press Agency, January 5).  The Northern Borders province is located alongside Iraq’s Anbar Province, a key focus of support for the Islamic State that is hotly contested between the Islamic State and Iraqi security forces (Reuters, February 12).  The Saudi authorities have also linked the November 2014 murder of a Danish national in the capital, Riyadh..following the release of a video purportedly recorder by the perpetrator’s who claimed responsibility for the attack (The National [Abu Dhabi,] Dec. 2, 2014).  An attack that targeted Shi’a worshippers, who had gathered to commemorate Ashura, in al-Hasa, in the Kingdom’s Eastern province has also been attributed to the Islamic State (al Jazeera, November 25, 2014).  Saudi authorities are also reported to have disrupted numerous militant cells linked to the Islamic State (al-Arabiya [Dubai], August 28, 2014).

     Mr. Zambelis says that the Islamic State, “despises the Saudi royal family, for what they see as its pervasive corruption, strategic relationship with the United States, and illegitimate position as the custodian of Mecca and Medina.  In this regard, the Islamic State, much like al-Qaeda, views the Saudi royal family as an agent of U.S. imperialism that is bent on the domination and subjugation of the Arab and Islamic world.  Its status as the world’s largest exporter of oil, and second largest producer, adds another layer of complexity that is surely not lost on the Islamic State.  In this regard, Mr. Zambeis notes, al Qaeda’s earlier targeting of strategic energy infrastructure, including its February 2006 operation against the Abqaiq oil refinery — one of the world’s largest — may provide valuable insights into the Islamic State’s calculus with respect to prospective targets inside the Kingdom (al Jazeera, February 27, 2006).  The circumstances surrounding the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, by militants, led by Juhayman al-Qtabi, who were violently opposed to the Saudi monarchy, may also offer a glimpse into the Islamic State';s plans for the Kingdom (al-Majalla [London], November, 2009).”

     The threat to the U.S. embassy and its personnel — from either a kidnapping and/or car bomb, is very serious; and. likely to remain that way for the indefinite future — unless and until the Islamic State is eradicated from existence.  V/R, RCP

Also see:

Crash Course in Islam

declaration of war

Published on Mar 15, 2015 by Eric Allen Bell

The enemy of Islamic brutality is information, shared on social media. Carpet bomb the internet with this information. Spread it far and spread it wide. Spread it like Napalm. – Eric Allen Bell

Blueprint for Islamic caliphate by 2020

WND, by Pamela Geller, March 15, 2015:

Back in 2005, Jordanian journalist Fouad Hussein published al-Qaida’s manifesto. In his book, he outlined al-Qaida’s seven-point plan over a 20-year period: “An Islamic Caliphate in Seven Easy Steps.” Ten years later, we can see how al-Qaida and other Islamic jihad groups have followed this plan to the letter – with remarkable success, thanks to the weakness, fecklessness and willful ignorance of Western leaders.

Journalist Yassin Musharbash wrote about Hussein and his book in the German publication Der Spiegel on Aug. 12, 2005, in an article entitled, “The Future of Terrorism: What al-Qaida Really Wants.” Musharbash wrote, “[W]hat this small, slim man has to report is nothing less than the world’s most dangerous terrorist network’s plan of action: al-Qaida’s strategy for the next two decades. It is both frightening and absurd, a lunatic plan conceived by fanatics who live in their own world.”

Der Spiegel appears to be laughing at the plan in this article. But read it now – 10 years on. Who’s laughing now? From Sept. 11 to “the awakening,” the focus on Syria, the overthrow of secular Arab regimes, the declaration of the Caliphate – it’s all there. The article declares it “unworkable” at the time – as well as “both frightening and absurd, a lunatic plan.”

Musharbash wrote: “And not to mention the terrorist agenda is simply unworkable: The idea that al-Qaida could set up a caliphate in the entire Islamic world is absurd. The 20-year plan is based mainly on religious ideas. It hardly has anything to do with reality.”

Has anyone contacted Yassin Musharbash, read that passage to him, and asked him what he thinks of the Islamic State’s declaration of the caliphate, and of the tens of thousands of Muslims from all over the world who take that declaration seriously enough to travel to Iraq and Syria to live and wage jihad in the caliphate?

It’s the delusionists who can’t reconcile reality. Virtually everything has happened as opponents of jihad have predicted for years. My decade-long warnings at my website, Atlas Shrugs (PamelaGeller.com), and in my books and articles were met with scorn, derision and defamation. But I was right. The Islamic jihadists have achieved what they set out to do. The Islamic State is an al-Qaida spinoff.

Hussein’s book was not the work of a fantasist. Musharbash noted that “he has not only spent time in prison with al-Zarqawi, but has also managed make contact with many of the network’s leaders. Based on correspondence with these sources, he has now brought out a book detailing the organization’s master plan.”

Hussein himself explained: “I interviewed a whole range of al-Qaida members with different ideologies to get an idea of how the war between the terrorists and Washington would develop in the future.” The first of the seven steps to the caliphate was “the awakening” – Musharbash explained that “this has already been carried out and was supposed to have lasted from 2000 to 2003, or more precisely from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York and Washington to the fall of Baghdad in 2003. The aim of the attacks of 9/11 was to provoke the U.S. into declaring war on the Islamic world and thereby ‘awakening’ Muslims. ‘The first phase was judged by the strategists and masterminds behind al-Qaida as very successful,’ writes Hussein.”

Sept. 11 was to wake up the world to Islam. Did it not do just that? Didn’t the Ground Zero Mosque imam Faisal Abdul Rauf say as much in 2010 when the vicious fight over that mosque was underway? “9/11,” he declared, “was a watershed, was a major milestone, and a major catalytic force in, in catalyzing the attention toward the issue of Islam, its presence in the West, and it brought into much greater prominence our work and the importance of our work.”

After that was to come “Opening Eyes,” a phase that was to last until 2006, during which “al-Qaida wants an organization to develop into a movement.” This was to be followed by “Arising and Standing Up” from 2007 to 2010, during which, according to Hussein, “There will be a focus on Syria.”

During the fourth phase, from 2010 to 2013, “Hussein writes that al-Qaida will aim to bring about the collapse of the hated Arabic governments.” Right on schedule, Mubarak was toppled in Egypt, Gadhafi in Libya and Ben Ali in Tunisia, with Assad facing an ongoing civil war in Syria. Then during the fifth phase, an “Islamic state, or caliphate,” would actually be declared. Musharbash wrote: “The plan is that by this time, between 2013 and 2016, Western influence in the Islamic world will be so reduced and Israel weakened so much, that resistance will not be feared.”

Here we are. All this has unfolded just as they said: the awakening of the ummah is illustrated by the Western Muslims flocking to wage jihad in the Middle East. And the focus on Syria is also exactly as predicted. It’s amazing.

So what is to follow? Musharbash wrote: “Hussein believes that from 2016 onward there will be a period of ‘total confrontation.’As soon as the caliphate has been declared the ‘Islamic army’ it will instigate the ‘fight between the believers and the non-believers’ which has so often been predicted by Osama bin Laden.”

After that, the “final stage is described as ‘definitive victory.’ Hussein writes that in the terrorists’ eyes, because the rest of the world will be so beaten down by the ‘one-and-a-half billion Muslims,’ the caliphate will undoubtedly succeed. This phase should be completed by 2020, although the war shouldn’t last longer than two years.”

Read Musharbash’s entire piece. It’s chilling. It also coincides with the Muslim Brotherhood’s stated goal, according to a captured internal document written in the early 1990s, of “eliminating and destroying the Western Civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over other religions.” According to a U.S. government memorandum, “shortly after Hamas was founded in 1987, as an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood … the International Muslim Brotherhood ordered the Muslim Brotherhood chapters throughout the world to create Palestine Committees, whose job it was to support Hamas with ‘media, money and men.’” To accomplish this, the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S. created the U.S. Palestine Committee, which the foremost Muslim group in the U.S., the Hamas-tied Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, later joined. Since then, CAIR has worked to undermine every counter-terror measure that has ever been proposed or implemented.

Al-Qaida and the Brotherhood sketched out a plan that was neither absurd nor crazy, and the jihadists have followed it precisely. They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, with their influence now reaching into the White House. All this vividly illustrates that those of us who have been sounding the alarm about Islamic jihad all these years have been absolutely right. Ignore us at your own peril.

Media wishing to interview Pamela Geller, please contact media@wnd.com.

Also see:

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

By Patrick Poole:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

foreign affairs tweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at PJ Media

Also see:

Islamic State spokesman publicly accepts Boko Haram’s allegiance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also see:

How Arab Spring Opened the Door to Terrorism’s Ugly March

ISIS Al-Qaeda Militants Fighting Syrian Civil WarDaily Signal, Sharyl Attkisson,  March 12, 2015:

It’s not your imagination. Global terrorism, dominated by Muslim extremist groups, is by far the worst it’s been in modern times.

In the past six years, the United States has added 21 names to its list of foreign terrorist organizations: all but one of them radical Muslim groups. That’s more than the previous 10 years combined.

At the same time, the number of terrorist acts has shattered previous records. Experts predict data for 2014, which is still being compiled, will likely reflect more than 15,000 terrorist attacks: a vast increase over 2013—which was already the deadliest year for global terrorism since data was first collected in 1970.

The Institute for Economics and Peace reported 10,000 terrorist incidents killed 18,000 people in 2013. Nine countries were added to the list of nations where more than 50 lives were lost to terrorist attacks in a single year.

Hundreds of people in the Turkish village of Suruc, near the border town of Kobane in northern Syria, accompany the coffins of three Kurdish fighters who died while battling ISIS militants. (Photo: Barbaros Kayan/Newscom)

Arab Spring Devolves Into Terrorist Winter

Eleven terrorist groups have been added to the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations since the Arab Spring.

“Arab Spring” is the popular name given to the democratic wave of civil unrest in the Arab world that began in December 2010 and lasted through mid-2012.

It turns out the revolutionary movement created an ideal environment for terrorism to grow and thrive.

“Terrorists realized they could exploit the confusion and vacuum in power created by the uprisings,” says a U.S. intelligence officer stationed in Libya during the Arab Spring movement. He says terrorists used social media to stoke civil unrest and take advantage of the chaos.

In the Arab Spring’s wake, Egypt and Tunisia disbanded the security structures that had helped keep jihadists in check, and freed many Islamist and jihadist political prisoners. In Libya, parts of the country fell entirely outside government control, providing openings for violent terrorist movements.

“Many of the regimes weakened or deposed by the Arab Spring were among Washington’s most effective counterterrorism partners,” noted Juan Zarate in an analysis written in June 2011.

A senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Zarate said the political upheaval created “new space” for al-Qaeda and associated terrorist movements to operate where none existed before.

Graphic: Kelsey Harris

Predictions Fulfilled

The idea that revolutionary uprisings might open the door to terrorists was well-recognized by analysts such as Zarate at the time.

“The chaos and disappointment that follow revolutions will inevitably provide many opportunities for al-Qaeda to spread its influence,” Zarate predicted in an April 17, 2011, analysis. “Al-Qaeda’s leaders … know that this is a strategic moment. They are banking on the disillusionment that inevitably follows revolutions to reassert their prominence in the region.”

Two years later, on Aug. 5, 2013, Zarate warned, “we are now at risk of failing to imagine how the terrorist threat may be changing—well beyond the exclusive al-Qaeda prism.”

Al-Qaeda-Linked Groups: “The Most Lethal”

In the first nine months of 2014, nearly 13,000 terrorist attacks killed more than 31,000 people, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 7.44.03 PM

Far from fading away, al-Qaeda’s legacy has only grown, says START Executive Director William Braniff.

“It is clear that groups generally associated with al-Qaeda remain the most lethal groups in the world, and it is their violence that has driven global increases in activity and lethality,” Braniff reported in congressional testimony Feb. 13.

About half of the terrorist attacks and fatalities occurred in just three countries: Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda spinoff ISIS was responsible for more terrorist activity than any other single group.

150310_Terrorists_Sharyl-v2

Today’s Landscape

ISIS has declared itself a “Caliphate,” which refers to an Islamic form of government led by an authoritative power considered a successor to the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Braniff says ISIS sees the growth of its Caliphate as “the means to the end of a final, decisive military confrontation with the West.”

“In countries where terrorism crowds out nonviolent activism, civilians often have little choice but to align with extremist organizations out of concerns for self-preservation,” Braniff says. “This is one mechanism in which extremist ideologies and groups can gain sway over larger swathes of society.”

Zarate, author of “Treasury’s War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare,” says ISIS is “piggy-backing” off the work of al-Qaeda and beginning to advance the global agenda of Sharia rule.

Sharia calls for harsh punishments, such as stoning, amputation or execution, for offenses such as wine drinking and infidelity.

Most Muslim countries do not strictly employ these classic punishments, but the United Nations estimates thousands of women are killed each year in Sharia-justified “honor killings”: victims murdered for bringing “dishonor” to one’s family. ISIS has become known for employing other Sharia measures such as genital cutting, child marriage, stoning and execution by crucifixion.

ISIS fighters holding the Al-Qaeda flag with "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" written on it. (Photo: Medyan Dairieh/Newscom)

“I worry about what the strategic implications are if groups like ISIS have physical space, leadership and innovation to bring their wild imaginings to fruition,” says Zarate, a former deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.

“Anytime we allow terrorist organizations with smart, committed and dedicated groups of individuals to adapt and think strategically about how to pursue their agenda to include attacking the U.S.—that’s a dangerous position to be in.”

Sharyl Attkisson, an Emmy award-winning investigative journalist, is a senior independent contributor to The Daily Signal. She is the author of “Stonewalled.” Send an email to Sharyl. – 

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

Washington’s Al Qaeda Ally Now Leading ISIS in Libya

Global Research, March 10, 2015, By Eric Draitser: (h/t @ClareMLopez)

The revelations that US ally Abdelhakim Belhadj is now leading ISIS in Libya should come as no surprise to those who have followed US policy in that country, and throughout the region. It illustrates for the umpteenth time that Washington has provided aid and comfort to precisely those forces it claims to be fighting around the world.

According to recent reports, Abdelhakim Belhadj has now firmly ensconced himself as the organizational commander of the ISIS presence inside Libya. The information comes from an unnamed US intelligence official who has confirmed that Belhadj is supporting and coordinating the efforts of the ISIS training centers in eastern Libya around the city of Derna, an area long known as a hotbed of jihadi militancy.
While it may not seem to be a major story – Al Qaeda terrorist turns ISIS commander – the reality is that since 2011 the US and its NATO allies have held up Belhadj as a “freedom fighter.” They portrayed him as a man who courageously led his fellow freedom-lovers against the “tyrannical despot” Gaddafi whose security forces at one time captured and imprisoned many members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), including Belhadj.

Belhadj served the US cause in Libya so well that he can be seen receiving accolades from Sen. John McCain who referred to Belhadj and his followers as heroes. He was initially rewarded after the fall of Gaddafi with the post of military commander of Tripoli, though he was forced to give way to a more politically palatable “transitional government” which has since evaporated in that chaotic, war-ravaged country.

Belhadj’s history of terrorist activity includes such “achievements” as collaboration with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq, and of course his convenient servitude to the US-NATO sponsored rampage across Libya that, among other things, caused mass killings of black Libyans and anyone suspected of being part of the Green Resistance (those loyal to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya led by Gaddafi). Although the corporate media tried to make a martyr of Belhadj for his alleged torture via the CIA rendition program, the inescapable fact is that wherever he goes he leaves a violent and bloody wake.

While much of this information is known, what is of paramount importance is placing this news in a proper political context, one that illustrates clearly the fact that the US has been, and continues to be, the major patron of extremist militants from Libya to Syria and beyond, and that all talk of “moderate rebels” is merely rhetoric designed to fool an unthinking public.

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend…Until He Isn’t

There is ample documented evidence of Belhadj’s association with Al Qaeda and his terrorist exploits the world over. Various reports have highlighted his experiences fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and he himself has boasted of killing US troops in Iraq. However, it was in Libya in 2011 where Belhadj became the face of the “rebels” seeking to topple Gaddafi and the legal government of Libya.

As the New York Times reported:

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group was formed in 1995 with the goal of ousting Colonel Qaddafi. Driven into the mountains or exile by Libyan security forces, the group’s members were among the first to join the fight against Qaddafi security forces… Officially the fighting group does not exist any longer, but the former members are fighting largely under the leadership of Abu Abdullah Sadik [aka Abdelhakim Belhadj].

So, not only was Belhadj a participant in the US-NATO war on Libya, he was one of its most powerful leaders, heading a battle-hardened jihadist faction that constituted the leading edge of the war against Gaddafi. Nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated than when the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) took the lead in the attack on Gaddafi’s compound at Bab al-Aziziya. In this regard, LIFG was provided intelligence, and likely also tactical support, from US intelligence and the US military.

This new information about Belhadj’s association with the suddenly globally relevant ISIS certainly bolsters the argument that this writer, among many others, has made since 2011 – that the US-NATO war on Libya was waged by terrorist groups overtly and tacitly supported by US intelligence and the US military. Moreover, it dovetails with other information that has surfaced in recent years, information that shines a light on how the US exploited for its own geopolitical purposes one of the most active terrorist hotbeds anywhere in the world.

According to the recent reports, Belhadj is directly involved with supporting the ISIS training centers in Derna. Of course Derna should be well known to anyone who has followed Libya since 2011, because that city, along with Tobruk and Benghazi, were the centers of anti-Gaddafi terrorist recruitment in the early days of the “uprising” all through the fateful year of 2011. But Derna was known long before that as a locus of militant extremism.

In a major 2007 study entitled “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First Look at the Sinjar Records” conducted by the Combating Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy at West Point, the authors noted that:

Almost 19 percent of the fighters in the Sinjar Records came from Libya alone. Furthermore, Libya contributed far more fighters per capita than any other nationality in the Sinjar Records, including Saudi Arabia… The apparent surge in Libyan recruits traveling to Iraq may be linked the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’s (LIFG) increasingly cooperative relationship with al-Qa’ida which culminated in the LIFG officially joining al-Qa’ida on November 3, 2007…The most common cities that the fighters called home were Darnah [Derna], Libya and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with 52 and 51 fighters respectively. Darnah [Derna] with a population just over 80,000 compared to Riyadh’s 4.3 million, has far and away the largest per capita number of fighters in the Sinjar records.

And so, the US military and intelligence community has known for nearly a decade (perhaps longer) that Derna has long been directly or indirectly controlled by jihadis of the LIFG variety, and that that city had acted as a primary recruiting ground for terrorism throughout the region. Naturally, such information is vital if we are to understand the geopolitical and strategic significance of the notion of ISIS training camps associated with the infamous Belhadj on the ground in Derna.

This leads us to three interrelated, and equally important, conclusions. First, Derna is once again going to provide foot soldiers for a terror war to be waged both in Libya, and in the region more broadly, with the obvious target being Syria. Second is the fact that the training sites at Derna will be supported and coordinated by a known US asset. And third, that the US policy of supporting “moderate rebels” is merely a public relations campaign designed to convince average Americans (and those in the West generally) that it is not supporting terrorism, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

The Myth of ‘Moderate Rebels’

The news about Belhadj and ISIS must not be seen in a vacuum. Rather, it should be still further proof that the notion of “moderates” being supported by the US is an insult to the intelligence of political observers and the public at large.

For more than three years now, Washington has trumpeted its stated policy of support to so-called moderate rebels in Syria – a policy which has at various times folded such diverse terror groups as the Al Farooq Brigades (of cannibalism fame) and Hazm (“Determination”) into one large “moderate” tent. Unfortunately for US propagandists and assorted warmongers however, these groups along with many others have since voluntarily or forcibly been incorporated into Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS/ISIL.

Recently, there have been many reports of mass defections of formerly Free Syrian Army factions to ISIS, bringing along with them their advanced US-supplied weaponry. Couple that with the “poster boys” for Washington policy, the aforementioned Hazm group, now having become part of Jabhat al Nusra, the Al Qaeda linked group in Syria. Of course these are only a few of the many examples of groups that have become affiliated with either the ISIS or Al Qaeda brand in Syria, including Liwaa Al-Farouq, Liwaa Al-Qusayr, and Liwaa Al-Turkomen to name just a few.

What has become clear is that the US and its allies, in their unending quest for regime change in Syria, have been overtly supporting extremist elements that have now coalesced to form a global terror threat in ISIS, Nusra, and Al Qaeda.

But of course, this is nothing new, as the Belhadj episode in Libya demonstrates unequivocally. The man who was once Al Qaeda, then became a “moderate” and “our man in Tripoli,” has now become the leader of the ISIS threat in Libya. So too have “our friends” become our enemies in Syria. None of this should surprise anyone.

But perhaps John McCain would like to answer some questions about his long-standing connections with Belhadj and the “moderates” in Syria. Would Obama like to explain why his “humanitarian intervention” in Libya has become a humanitarian nightmare for that country, and indeed the whole region? Would the CIA, which has been extensively involved in all of these operations, like to come clean about just who they’ve been supporting and what role they’ve played in fomenting this chaos?

I doubt any such questions will ever be asked by anyone in the corporate media. Just as I doubt any answers will ever be furnished by those in Washington whose decisions have created this catastrophe. So, it is for us outside the corporate propaganda matrix to demand answers, and to never let the establishment suppress our voices…or the truth.

Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City, he is the founder of StopImperialism.org and OP-ed columnist for RT, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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

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

Two obvious takeaways from this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama lied. Americans died.

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

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

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

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

Nothing to see here.

Osama Bin Laden’s Files: The Arab revolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more

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