The History and Capabilities of The Khorasan Group

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

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

The Khorasan Group Does Not Exist -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more

The Khorosan Group Does Not Exist

pic_giant_092714_SM_Barack-Obama-Khorasan-Group-GBy Andrew C. McCarthy:

We’re being had. Again.

For six years, President Obama has endeavored to will the country into accepting two pillars of his alternative national-security reality. First, he claims to have dealt decisively with the terrorist threat, rendering it a disparate series of ragtag jayvees. Second, he asserts that the threat is unrelated to Islam, which is innately peaceful, moderate, and opposed to the wanton “violent extremists” who purport to act in its name.

Now, the president has been compelled to act against a jihad that has neither ended nor been “decimated.” The jihad, in fact, has inevitably intensified under his counterfactual worldview, which holds that empowering Islamic supremacists is the path to security and stability. Yet even as war intensifies in Iraq and Syria — even as jihadists continue advancing, continue killing and capturing hapless opposition forces on the ground despite Obama’s futile air raids — the president won’t let go of the charade.

Hence, Obama gives us theKhorosan Group.The who?

There is a reason that no one had heard of such a group until a nanosecond ago, when the “Khorosan Group” suddenly went from anonymity to the “imminent threat” that became the rationale for an emergency air war there was supposedly no time to ask Congress to authorize.

You haven’t heard of the Khorosan Group because there isn’t one. It is a name the administration came up with, calculating that Khorosan — the –Iranian–​Afghan border region — had sufficient connection to jihadist lore that no one would call the president on it.

The “Khorosan Group” is al-Qaeda. It is simply a faction within the global terror network’s Syrian franchise, “Jabhat al-Nusra.” Its leader, Mushin al-Fadhli (believed to have been killed in this week’s U.S.-led air strikes), was an intimate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the emir of al-Qaeda who dispatched him to the jihad in Syria. Except that if you listen to administration officials long enough, you come away thinking that Zawahiri is not really al-Qaeda, either. Instead, he’s something the administration is at pains to call “core al-Qaeda.”

“Core al-Qaeda,” you are to understand, is different from “Jabhat al-Nusra,” which in turn is distinct from “al-Qaeda in Iraq” (formerly “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia,” now the “Islamic State” al-Qaeda spin-off that is, itself, formerly “al-Qaeda in Iraq and al-Sham” or “al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant”). That al-Qaeda, don’t you know, is a different outfit from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula . . . which, of course, should never be mistaken for “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” “Boko Haram,” “Ansar al-Sharia,” or the latest entry, “al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.”

Coming soon, “al-Qaeda on Hollywood and Vine.” In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if, come 2015, Obama issued an executive order decreeing twelve new jihad jayvees stretching from al-Qaeda in January through al-Qaeda in December.

Except you’ll hear only about the jayvees, not the jihad. You see, there is a purpose behind this dizzying proliferation of names assigned to what, in reality, is a global network with multiple tentacles and occasional internecine rivalries.

As these columns have long contended, Obama has not quelled our enemies; he hasminiaturized them. The jihad and the sharia supremacism that fuels it form the glue that unites the parts into a whole — a worldwide, ideologically connected movement rooted in Islamic scripture that can project power on the scale of a nation-state and that seeks to conquer the West. The president does not want us to see the threat this way.

For a product of the radical Left like Obama, terrorism is a regrettable but understandable consequence of American arrogance. That it happens to involve Muslims is just the coincidental fallout of Western imperialism in the Middle East, not the doctrinal command of a belief system that perceives itself as engaged in an inter-civilizational conflict. For the Left, America has to be the culprit. Despite its inbred pathologies, which we had no role in cultivating, Islam must be the victim, not the cause. As you’ll hear from Obama’s Islamist allies, who often double as Democrat activists, the problem is “Islamophobia,” not Muslim terrorism.

This is a gross distortion of reality, so the Left has to do some very heavy lifting to pull it off. Since the Islamic-supremacist ideology that unites the jihadists won’t disappear, it has to be denied and purged. The “real” jihad becomes the “internal struggle to become a better person.” The scriptural and scholarly underpinnings of Islamic supremacism must be bleached out of the materials used to train our national-security agents, and the instructors who resist going along with the program must be ostracized. The global terror network must be atomized into discrete, disconnected cells moved to violence by parochial political or territorial disputes, with no overarching unity or hegemonic ambition. That way, they can be limned as a manageable law-enforcement problem fit for the courts to address, not a national-security challenge requiring the armed forces.

The president has been telling us for years that he handled al-Qaeda by killing bin Laden. He has been telling us for weeks that the Islamic State — an al-Qaeda renegade that will soon reconcile with the mother ship for the greater good of unity in the anti-American jihad — is a regional nuisance that posed no threat to the United States. In recent days, however, reality intruded on this fiction. Suddenly, tens of thousands of terrorists, armed to the teeth, were demolishing American-trained armies, beheading American journalists, and threatening American targets.

Read more at National Review

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Cultural Jihad did some fact checking:

 

  •   A Wikipedia check showed entries and sources no older than September 2014
  •  The group is not listed by the Dept of State as a designated terrorist organization
  •  The group’s reported leader, Muhsin al-Fadhli is listed on the National Counter-terrorism website as part of  al-Qaeda but no mention of  a Khorosan/Khurasan Group.

 

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi: From Terrorist Commander to Religious Icon

abu-bakr-al-baghdadiBlind Eagle, By Brian Fairchild:

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s power to motivate and attract tens of thousands of radicalized Muslims is largely based on the fact that he has transcended the role of a terrorist commander and has become an Islamic religious and political icon – the new “Caliph” of the re-established “Caliphate”. 

He doesn’t claim to be a prophet, but he claims nothing less than to be the rightful political and religious heir to the Prophet Muhammad, and he often draws parallels between himself and Muhammad and other prophets, to support these claims and to legitimize his strict religious ideology.

On July 5, 2014, al-Baghdadi made his video debut at the Great Mosque of al-Nouri in Mosul, Iraq wearing Islamic garb and sporting a long beard, and he made a speech that was carefully crafted to draw parallels between himself and Muhammad.  The speech occurred during the Muslim month of Ramadan, and so he began his comments by stating that “Ramadan is a month to wage jihad”, noting that the Prophet Muhammad fought many battles against the “polytheists” during this month.

The implications of this reference sent a particularly potent message to radical Muslims because they know that Muhammad led Islam’s two most important battles during Ramadan – the very first battle, called the Battle of Badr, and the Battle of Mecca.  According to Islamic history, Muhammad faced overwhelming odds in his battle with the powerful Quraysh tribe at the desert oasis of Badr, but was victorious because of Allah’s divine intervention.  At the subsequent Battle of Mecca, he defeated the Quraysh with an Army of 10,000.  The city fell with almost no resistance.  The victory at Mecca consolidated Muhammad’s power and caused the surrounding tribes to join him.  The few remaining opposing tribes were quickly subdued.

The parallels to al-Baghdadi are unmistakable.  As he spoke at the Great Mosque of al-Nouri his total force was estimated to be around 10,000, the same number Muhammad fielded in the Battle of Mecca.  Like Muhammad, he emerged out of the desert and, against all odds, defeated a much larger and better equipped enemy, causing many to flee without firing a shot.  He consolidated his power by creating the “caliphate”, and the surrounding tribes joined him.  Finally, he proclaimed that these victories were only possible because he and his troops “have been bestowed upon by Allah to achieve victory” – divine intervention. 

The comparisons continue.  In the Islamic State’s September 21, 2014 statement, al Baghdadi calls Muslims to emulate the Prophet Muhammad’s historic hijrah (emigration) from Mecca to Medina by emigrating from their homes to defend the new Islamic State.  He proclaims that the coming fight with America is a decisive moment in Islamic history (just as Muhammad’s fight was) – a moment in which the fate of all Muslims hang in the balance, and he exhorts Muslims to rise to their brothers’ defense because:

  • “They are facing a battle which is of the decisive, critical battles in the history of Islam. If the Muslims are defeated, they will be humiliated in such a manner that no humiliation compares to. And if the Muslims are victorious – and this will be the case by Allah’s permission – they will be honored with all honor by which the Muslims will return to being the masters of the world and kings of the earth…”[1]

These comparisons resonate deeply in Salafi-jihadis who believe that there is no higher religious calling than to emulate the Prophet Muhammad’s methodology to establish Allah’s religion on earth, and this is precisely what al Baghdadi calls them to do.  He emphasizes their piousness by stating that he sees “the Quran walking alive amongst” them, and then unambiguously tells them that they are directly following in Muhammad’s footsteps:

  • “O soldiers of the Islamic State and its sons everywhere, listen and comprehend. If the people belie you, reject your state and your call, and mock your caliphate, then know that your Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) was belied. His call was rejected. He was mocked. If your people fight you, accuse you with the worst of accusations, and describe you with the worst of all traits, then know that the people of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) fought him, expelled him, and accused him with matters worse than those you have been accused with.  If the parties have gathered against you, then know they gathered against your Prophet before (blessings and peace be upon him).”[2]

Muslim traditions tell how the pious Muhammad was able to overcome vastly superior military forces because of Allah’s divine intervention on his behalf, and thus, in the September 21, 2014 statement, al Baghdadi tells his followers that, because of their piousness and strict religious observance, Allah is on their side and that victory against America is assured because Allah wills it:

  • “Allah has given you might and honor after your humiliation. He has made you rich after your poverty. And He has aided you despite your weakness and small numbers. He showed you that victory is from Him, the Glorified.He grants it to whomever He wills and whenever He wills…Therefore Allah will give you victory. Indeed, Allah will give you victory. By Allah, Allah will give you victory…So know that – by Allah – we fear not the swarms of planes, nor ballistic missiles, nor drones, nor satellites, nor battleships, nor weapons of mass destruction. How could we fear them, while Allah the Exalted has said: ‘If Allah should aid you, no one can overcome you; but if He should forsake you, who is there that can aid you after Him? And upon Allah let the believers rely” – Qur’an Chapter 3: Verse 160.

In addition to drawing parallels between himself and the Prophet Muhammad, al Baghdadi also uses the Prophet Noah to legitimize his particularly severe religious rule.  In the second issue of his official publication Dabiq magazine titled The Flood , al Baghdadi uses the story of Noah and the Ark to legitimize his demand that Muslims live according to a strict literal interpretation of Sharia law.  In the article, the Prophet Noah is described as an uncompromising prophet who gave his people a single, but profound, choice:

  • “He didn’t say to them, for example: “I have come to you with the truth, and your leaders are calling you to falsehood, so you are free to choose whether to follow me or to follow your leaders.” In fact, he didn’t even say anything to the effect of: “If you follow me then you would be correct, and if you follow your leaders then you would be mistaken.” Nor did he say anything to the effect of: “If you follow me you will be saved, and if you oppose me and follow your leaders then your reckoning is with Allah, and I have done what is required of me and you are free to choose.” Rather, he told them with full clarity:  “It’s either me or the flood.”[3]  The parallel between Noah and al Baghdadi couldn’t be more obvious, especially given the fact that the Dabiq article was titled:  It’s Either the Islamic State or the Flood.

It is al Baghdadi’s uncompromising religious belief that is the very crux of the jihadi civil war between al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri’s Jahbat al Nusra (also called the Nusra Front), and al Baghdadi’s Islamic State.

Al Baghdadi is much more religiously zealous and demanding than Zawahiri.  Zawahiri is flexible and pragmatic in matters of ideology, preferring to slowly and carefully educate the Muslim community to accept Sharia law, and he is willing to form pragmatic alliances with non-jihadi organizations to further al Qaeda’s interests.

Al Baghdadi, on the other hand, has no such tolerance for coddling the Muslim masses or working with infidels, believing rather that it is his mission to confront Muslims, including Zawahiri and the Nusra Front, on matters of religion:

  • “it’s upon us…to eradicate the principle of “free choice,” and to not deceive the people in an attempt to seek their pleasure…Rather, we must confront them with the fact that they’ve turned away from the religion…and that we’re completely ready to stand in the face of anyone who attempts to divert us from our commitmentto making the religion of Allah triumphant over all other religions, and that we will continue to fight the people of deviation and misguidance until we die trying to make the religion triumphant.”[4]

That al Baghdadi and his followers have drawn this religious line in the sand against al Qaeda is documented by the following developments:

In late April 2014, a group of nine al Qaeda emirs from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Iran defected from al Qaeda to the Islamic State.  They justified their defection by indirectly accusing Zawahiri and the al-Nusra Front of infidelity and apostasy:

  • “the forces of infidelity and apostasy quickly sowed the seeds of hypocrisy, using new groups under Islamic sounding names to be a rival and an obstacle to the Islamic state…the group did not have any courage to enforce judgments over those who disobey sharia, under the pretext of avoiding a clash with the people or due to their inability and incapacity…”

A few days later, al Baghdadi’s spokesman, Sheikh Muhammad al-Adnani, echoed these sentiments stating:

  • “Al Qaeda, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Khorasan, deviated from the rightful course…It is not a dispute about who to kill or who to give your allegiance. It is a question of religious practices being distorted and an approach veering off the right path.”

In The Flood, al Baghdadi specifically criticized the Nusra Front and Zawahiri for regularly breaking Sharia law in matters of religion and by forging alliances with organizations the Islamic State considers to be infidel, such as the Syrian National Coalition and the Islamic Front, and for justifying this religious laxity as a pragmatic and temporary necessity for “the sake of Jihad”.[5]

Also in The Flood, al Baghdadi quotes Salafi scholar Ibnul Qayyim who said:  “The pillars of kufr (religious infidelity) are four:  arrogance, envy, anger, and desire”, and then al Baghdadi goes on to accuse al Qaeda of all four:

  • “Whoever wants to know how a mujāhid (jihad) group fī sabīlillah (for Allah) becomes a militant group fighting fī sabīlit-tāghūt (for corrupt regimes) then let him review history, and let him know that a man’s love for leadership,wealth, and personal opinion becomes pride. Pride becomes envy. Envy becomes arrogance. Arrogance becomes hatred. Hatred becomes enmity. Enmity becomes contradiction of the rival.[6]

So confident is he in his religious superiority that in March 2014, al Baghdadi challenged the Nusra Front, to Mubahala – an Islamic ritual that implores Allah to choose between two rival factions by showing his favor for one while cursing the other.  In Muslim tradition, the repeated military success of one of the parties can only occur if Allah wills it, and al Baghdadi believes that his series of successes proves that Allah has chosen the Islamic State over the Nusra Front as the winner.

Analysts frequently try to explain why so many radicalized Muslims flock to Iraq and Syria.  The reasons they stipulate often include that these misguided Muslims are simply alienated youth, thrill seekers, or are attracted by “jihad cool”.  In actual fact, Salafi-jihadi fighters are religious zealots, and they are attracted to al Baghdadi as their religious and political leader precisely because he is seen by them to be the active defender of what they consider to be “true” Islam.  Tens of thousands have already performed hijrah to embrace his religious and political leadership, and this number can be expected to grow exponentially as al Baghdadi continues to “defend” Islam.

Brian Fairchild bio.

Misunderstanding al Qaeda

LWJ, By

This article was originally published at The Weekly Standard.

On Tuesday, Sept. 23, the US government announced that a new bombing campaign was under way in Syria. The Obama administration had been building the case for airstrikes for weeks. The president and his surrogates repeatedly highlighted the threat posed by the Islamic State (often called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL), which has captured large swaths of territory across Iraq and Syria. Unexpectedly, the administration announced that American missiles had also struck something called the “Khorasan group,” which was in the final stages of planning attacks in the West. The group may even have been close to striking inside the United States.

ABOVE, MUHSIN AL FADHLI; BELOW, A SEPTEMBER 23 BOMBING RUN NEWSCOM

ABOVE, MUHSIN AL FADHLI; BELOW, A SEPTEMBER 23 BOMBING RUN
NEWSCOM

Widespread confusion ensued. The press wondered aloud, “What is the Khorasan group?” It is a “new” terrorist organization, some reported. It is an “al Qaeda offshoot,” others claimed. All of the following descriptors were used of the group: “little-known,” “shadowy,” “mysterious,” “previously unknown.”

But you have heard of the Khorasan group before. It is, to put it simply, al Qaeda.

Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda, ordered trusted operatives from Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, and North Africa to relocate to Syria. Some of the al Qaeda operatives involved are so notorious that US counterterrorism officials have tracked them, off and on, for more than a decade.

Zawahiri tasked his men with plotting mass-casualty attacks in the West. And, al Qaeda reasoned, Syria offered distinct advantages over other prospective launching pads. Until the US-led military intervention, al Qaeda’s terrorists had established safe havens inside the country that allowed them to set up laboratories and bomb-making factories for testing new explosive devices. Western counterterrorism defenses have made it difficult for al Qaeda to get bombs on board planes and well-trained operatives in place to carry out their missions. So the terrorists are seeking undetectable explosives, like the underwear bomb that nearly took down a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009.

The number of Western foreign fighters inside Syria today is unprecedented, providing al Qaeda with a deep pool of recruits. Many Western fighters have gone off to fight for Jabhat al Nusrah, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria. Al Qaeda was sorting through these fighters looking for dedicated and skilled jihadists like the members of the Hamburg cell that produced the kamikaze pilots responsible for attacking New York and Washington on 9/11. Syria also offers a geographic advantage. It is much easier for al Qaeda recruits to travel to and from Syria than, say, the remote regions of Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Indeed, American and European counterterrorism authorities are already attempting to track hundreds of fighters who have returned to the West from Syria.

It is easy to see why Ayman al Zawahiri and his subordinates decided to establish a new base of operations in Syria. Why, then, did US officials and reporters have such a hard time, at first, explaining that the airstrikes targeting the Khorasan group were really just part of our long war against al Qaeda?

The confusion is no accident. The way President Obama, his subordinates, and some US intelligence officials think and talk about al Qaeda is wrong.

On Sept. 24, national security adviser Susan Rice appeared on NBC’s Today show. Citing the airstrikes against the Khorasan group and ISIL in Syria and other recent developments, host Matt Lauer asked a commonsensical question, “What happened to the days when the administration was able to say it felt confident that we had dealt a crippling blow to al Qaeda and Islamic militants?”

Rice responded, “Well, Matt, understand what we’ve been saying. We have been focused for many years, as you know, on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, what we call al Qaeda core. And that element of al Qaeda, which is the one that hatched the 9/11 plot and executed it, has been substantially degraded and doesn’t at this stage pose nearly the same type of threat that it used to.”

She continued, “What has happened, though, over years, is that al Qaeda has metastasized. Imagine a cancer that had an original tumor. Now elements of the cells of that tumor have moved to places like the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen, parts of Africa, Somalia, and what we call the Sahel region, Mali. And now also to Syria. So we are having to deal with each of these cells. As you’ve seen, we’ve taken action in Yemen, we’ve taken action in Somalia, and now we’re taking action, as necessary, in Syria.”

Rice’s answer is both wrong and myopic.

First, the so-called Khorasan group is part of core al Qaeda. The idea that terrorists cannot be core al Qaeda solely because they are located outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan is obtuse. Documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that the al Qaeda master ordered some of his minions out of the drones’ kill box in northern Pakistan and maintained ongoing communications with terrorists around the globe. The general manager of al Qaeda’s global network today is in Yemen.

Al Qaeda operatives can and do travel around the world, especially to and from Syria. Muhsin al Fadhli, a Kuwaiti who was targeted in the airstrikes, was first involved in al Qaeda’s attack planning as early as 2002. Fadhli has been tied to the Oct. 6, 2002, attack on the French ship MV Limburg, as well as the Oct. 8, 2002, attack against US Marines stationed on Kuwait’s Faylaka Island. One Marine was killed in the Faylaka Island shootout. Fadhli is so trusted within al Qaeda that he was one of the few jihadists to have foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks, which, for obvious reasons, were kept secret beforehand. The US government first designated Fadhli an al Qaeda terrorist in 2005.

One of Fadhli’s co-leaders in al Qaeda’s Khorasan group is a jihadist known as Sanafi al Nasr, who is a third cousin of Osama bin Laden. Nasr, who leads a senior planning committee within al Qaeda, in addition to other duties, was groomed to rise through al Qaeda’s ranks at a young age because of his impeccable pedigree. Several of his brothers, two of whom were once detained at Guantánamo before being freed, became loyal al Qaeda operatives. Other family members, including his father, have been tied to al Qaeda as well. Gulf donors know that Nasr will put their money to good use for al Qaeda because he is a fully made man.

Fadhli, Nasr, and their cohorts in the Khorasan group are, by any reasonable definition, core al Qaeda members. In addition, Fadhli and Nasr once oversaw al Qaeda’s Iran-based network, which the Obama administration has described as a “core facilitation pipeline” for al Qaeda. Al Qaeda terrorists with similar backgrounds have been identified in each of the other geographic areas Rice listed.

Second, al Qaeda’s planned attacks, staged from Syria, directly refute Rice’s claim that “it doesn’t at this stage pose nearly the same type of threat that it used to.” Administration officials justified the airstrikes on the Khorasan group–that is, al Qaeda–by explaining that it posed an “imminent” threat to the West. “Intelligence reports indicated that the group was in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks against Western targets and potentially the US homeland,” Lieutenant General William Mayville, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained to reporters after the airstrikes. In other words, “core” al Qaeda in Syria was planning 9/11-style attacks.

Third, by likening al Qaeda to cancer, Rice employed the same tortuous metaphor that administration officials have repeated over and over. As anyone who has had a loved one pass away from cancer knows, however, metastatic cancer is one of the worst-case scenarios. Even if the “original tumor” is “substantially degraded,” tumors elsewhere can be just as lethal, if not more so. No one wants to hear that a cancer has metastasized, and doctors desperately try to prevent it from doing so. And, of course, it is no comfort to family and friends of the deceased to learn that they died from a secondary tumor rather than the original one.

The administration’s cancer metaphor is particularly absurd with respect to al Qaeda. Only by defining “core” al Qaeda in exceptionally narrow terms can one claim it has been decimated. The attack planning in Syria alone is enough to undermine this perception.

What administration officials also ignore is that al Qaeda’s geographic expansion, or “metastasis,” has always been part of the plan. Despite al Qaeda’s leadership disputes with ISIL, there are more jihadist groups openly loyal to al Qaeda today than on 9/11 or when Barack Obama took office in January 2009. Earlier this month, the group announced the creation of a fifth regional branch, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which likely subsumes several existing jihadist organizations. On Sept. 6, AQIS-trained fighters boarded a Pakistani ship. Al Qaeda says they were attempting to launch missiles at an American warship, which would have been catastrophic, both in terms of the immediate damage and the ensuing political crisis in Pakistan. AQIS joins Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Jabhat al Nusrah (Syria), and Al Shabaab (Somalia) as formal branches of al Qaeda, all of which owe their loyalty to Zawahiri. Other unannounced branches of al Qaeda probably exist, too. These are not just “cells,” as Rice put it, but fully developed insurgency organizations that challenge governments for control of nation-states.

Other administration officials did a better job than Rice of explaining the Khorasan group. Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to the president, explained that it was made up of “core al Qaeda operatives” who had relocated to Syria. President Obama said they are “seasoned al Qaeda operatives.” But accurate descriptions such as these have been the exception, not the rule, when it comes to the Obama administration’s descriptions of al Qaeda.

President Obama has long spoken of al Qaeda in exactly the terms used by Rice. “Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat,” Obama said in a speech at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013. “Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us.”

It is no wonder that, initially, there was such public confusion over the Khorasan group. Its very existence refutes the US government’s paradigm for understanding the terrorist threat. Now more than ever, the administration should revisit its assessments of al Qaeda. The idea that there is a geographically confined “core” of al Qaeda in South Asia that has little to do with what happens elsewhere is undermined by a mountain of evidence. Al Qaeda is still a cohesive international network of personalities and organizations. The details of al Qaeda’s plotting in Syria make this clear.

And, according to the administration itself, al Qaeda was close to striking the West once again.

Obama Praises Muslim Cleric Who Backed Fatwa on Killing of U.S. Soldiers

President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly / AP

President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo:

President Barack Obama favorably quoted and praised on Wednesday in his speech before the United Nations a controversial Muslim cleric whose organization has reportedly endorsed the terror group Hamas and supported a fatwa condoning the murder of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Obama in his remarks offered praise to controversial cleric Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah and referred to him as a moderate Muslim leader who can help combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL or ISIS) radical ideology.

However, Bin Bayyah himself has long been engulfed in controversy for many of his views, including the reported backing of a 2004 fatwa that advocated violent resistance against Americans fighting in Iraq.

This is not the first time that the Obama administration has extoled Bin Bayyah, who also has served as the vice president of a Muslim scholars group founded by a radical Muslim Brotherhood leader who has called “for the death of Jews and Americans,” according to Fox News and other reports.

The State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau (CT) was forced to issue multiple apologies earlier this year after the Washington Free Beacon reported on its promotion of Bin Bayyah on Twitter.

“This should not have been tweeted and has since been deleted,” the CT Bureau tweeted at the time after many expressed anger over the original endorsement of Bin Bayyah.

However, it appears that Obama and the White House are still supportive of Bin Bayyah, who, despite his past statements, is still hailed by some as a moderate alternative to ISIL and al Qaeda.

“The ideology of ISIL or al Qaeda or Boko Haram will wilt and die if it is consistently exposed, confronted, and refuted in the light of day,” Obama said before the U.N., according to a White House transcript of his remarks.

“Look at the new Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies—Sheikh bin Bayyah described its purpose: ‘We must declare war on war, so the outcome will be peace upon peace,’” Obama said, quoting the controversial cleric.

Concern over the administration’s relationship with Bin Bayyah started as early as 2013, when outrage ensued after he was reported to have met with Obama’s National Security Council staff at the White House.

While Bin Bayyah has condemned the actions of groups such as Boko Haram and ISIL, he also has taken controversial positions against Israel.

He issued in 2009 a fatwa “barring ‘all forms of normalization’ with Israel,” according to a Fox report on the White House meeting.

Additionally, the notorious 2004 fatwa permitting armed resistance against U.S. military personnel in Iraq reportedly stated that “resisting occupation troops” is a “duty” for all Muslims, according to reports about the edict.

Patrick Poole, a reporter and terrorism analyst who has long tracked Bin Bayyah, expressed shock that the Obama administration would endorse the cleric on the world stage.

“It is simply amazing that just a few months ago the State Department had to publicly apologize for tweeting out it’s support for Bin Bayyah, only to have Barack Obama go before the leaders of the entire world and publicly endorse Bin Bayyah’s efforts,” Poole said.

“It seems that nothing can stop this administration’s determination to rehabilitate Bin Bayyah’s image, transforming him from the Islamic cleric who issued the fatwa to kill Americans in Iraq and calling for the death of Jews to the de facto White House Islamic mufti,” he said.

This type of mentality has contributed to the administration’s foreign policy failures in the region,” Poole said.

“This is a snapshot of why this administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East is a complete catastrophe,” he said. “The keystone of their policy has been that so-called ‘moderate Islamists’ were going to be the great counter to al Qaeda. But if you take less than 30 seconds to do a Google search on any of these ‘moderate Islamists,’ you immediately find they are just a degree or two from the most hardcore jihadis and have little to no difference when it comes to condoning violence.”

A White House official said that the president’s remarks speak for themselves and declined to add anything further.

OBAMA AT THE UN: DON’T BLAME ISIS

United Nations Hosts World Leaders For Annual General AssemblyBreitbart, by DR. SEBASTIAN GORKA:

In what could have been a seminal wartime address to the nations of the world at the UN today, instead of rallying the West and her regional allies against the barbarity of the Global Jihadist Movement, President Obama chose to reinforce the administration narrative that America’s deadly enemies are a product of local injustices.
Since 2008, the Obama administration has promoted the argument that what we face in the guise of Al Qaeda, or ISIS, or any other part of the global Jihadi coalition, is simply “Violent Extremism” that grows out of “local grievances.”

This is Beltway speak for an academic idea called Social Movement Theory. (If you want the full history behind this idea and who pitched it to the White House, here is a piece on its origins).

In short, this view sees the violence of jihadi groups against Christians, Yazidis, or even fellow Muslims, as a reaction to the injustice endemic in their societies. Years of oppression by Saddam, Maliki, or the Assad family will inevitably lead to religious genocide and mass slaughter when circumstances allow (e.g. after US forces leave Iraq).

Today the President went even further by drawing the analogy that the violence here in Ferguson, Missouri is an example of the same injustices prevalent throughout the Middle East. The President of the United States appeared to equate the shooting of a thief by a sworn law enforcement officer with the mass slaughter of women and children based upon their religion.

In response to ISIS, the Commander-in-Chief called upon the “international community” to come together and improve said conditions and make “a better life” for all.

Unfortunately history teaches another lesson.

ISIS, the Islamic State, the Al Nusra Front, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram are simply the various faces of a new totalitarianism. The commonality of Jihadism with Fascism and Communism is not an accident. In fact, key Jihadi authors such as Sayyid Qutb of the Muslim Brotherhood studied Mussolini, Lenin and Hitler when writing seminal Jihadist works such as Milestones.

Social Movement Theory denies the responsibility of the perpetrators of heinous acts such as the recent beheadings of innocents journalists. Jihadi John isn’t responsible. Taking seven minutes to cut of James Foley’s head while he is alive is just the natural response to years of “oppression.”

In reality, this fight is simply another war against a totalitarian enemy who truly believes that either they will win and we will be killed or we will win. Unfortunately, it will be impossible for us to be victorious if our plan is based upon solving all injustice in the world and especially if we believe that the enemy is the victim.

Sebastian Gorka, Ph.D. is the Major General Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University and the national security and foreign affairs editor of the Breitbart News Network. Follow him on Twitter @SebGorka.

White House’s ‘Attempt to Miniaturize the Enemy’ Ignores Dangerous Ideological Link Between Islamic State, Al Qaeda

TheBlaze TV’s For the Record spoke to counterterrorism experts who said the Islamic State beheaded American journalist James Foley in part as a commitment to its Salafi-jihadist end goals, the underlying ideology that bonds dozens of terror groups across the region. (AP)

TheBlaze TV’s For the Record spoke to counterterrorism experts who said the Islamic State beheaded American journalist James Foley in part as a commitment to its Salafi-jihadist end goals, the underlying ideology that bonds dozens of terror groups across the region. (AP)

The Blaze, by Elizabeth Kreft, Sep. 24, 2014:

You may not have heard the terms ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State or caliphate in the mainstream media until this summer, but that doesn’t mean the violent Islamic jihadist organization is a completely new entity.

A Salafi-jihadi by any other name still beheads their victims.

The headline-grabbing introduction of the Islamic State in the last several months was a calculated rebranding by the Al Qaeda offshoot, with its specific, deadly strain of Islamic ideology dubbed Salafist jihadism. This ultra-strict ideology suggests the Koran must be followed word-for-word and may not be interpreted by anyone else. Rather than the violent uprising of a new breed of terrorist, the Islamic State is simply embracing the strictest ideology associated with the first three decades of Islam.

This is the ideology that connects all terror groups — the Islamic State and Al Qaeda alike — and it’s the brutal mindset they hope to impress upon the hearts of jihadi sympathizers susceptible to radicalization.

It’s an important connection to grasp, since President Barack Obama declared on multiple occasions that “Al Qaeda is on the run and Osama bin Laden is dead,” indicating the primary Al Qaeda threat to the U.S. — the ability to attack the United States within its borders — was removed. But one former federal prosecutor says the commander in chief downplayed the enemy in his descriptions, creating a gap in understanding about the Al Qaeda-spawned organizations that have actually increased in number by 58 percent since 2010.

“What the Obama administration in particular has done … since the president took office in 2009, in claiming to have decimated Al Qaeda, in claiming to have rolled back the terrorist threat, in claiming that we are a safer place than we were before he took office, has been a real purposeful attempt to miniaturize the enemy,” said Andrew McCarthy, who led the prosecution of the ”Blind Sheik,” Omar Abdel Rahman, for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. McCarthy spoke to TheBlaze TV’s For the Record for Wednesday’s new episode, “Total Confrontation” (8 p.m. ET).

That might be the one thing the Islamic State and the Obama administration have in common: They’ve both attempted to minimize Al Qaeda, but for very different reasons. Obama thinks Al Qaeda is “decimated”; Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the current leader of the Islamic State, thinks Al Qaeda moves too slowly.

In this way, the Islamic State likely sees Al Qaeda as its unwelcome anchor rather than as a supporting parent organization. But the two organizations are inextricably linked, even though the Islamic State is attempting to prove daily that it is willing and able to take its tactics in more brutal directions, and is pushing a more aggressive timeline for a full establishment of a caliphate.

Al-Baghdadi’s calculated rebranding of his terror branch this year — first as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant before the condensed “Islamic State” — is a purposeful honing of that vision and message.

“IS was formerly constituted as Al Qaeda in Iraq, but was disowned by ‘core’ al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri in February 2014. This fracture resulted in all-out war between the two groups for the leadership of the international jihad movement,” said Brian Fairchild, a former CIA operations officer. “Some describe it as Al Qaeda 6.0.”

The significant differences between Al Qaeda and the Islamic State could almost be seen as an upgrade for millennial jihadis: they embrace a newer, social-media friendly recruiting pattern and a penchant for self-promotion while focused on immediate results.

But the most important connection between the younger-seeming Islamic State and old-school Al Qaeda is the identifier the Obama administration has vehemently suppressed, both in narrative and in function: the underlying Salafi-jihadist ideology.

“The game-changing rise of the Islamic State and the phenomenal flood of radicalized foreign fighters flowing to the new ‘caliphate’ make political correctness and willful ignorance … of the jihad a recipe for national disaster,” Fairchild wrote in an analysis post on his website.

This means several organizations with different names and leadership charisma remain linked by their underlying mission and jihadist vision. Core Al Qaeda in Pakistan; formal affiliates that have sworn allegiance to core Al Qaeda (located in Syria, Somalia, Yemen and North Africa); the panoply of Salafi-jihadist groups that have not sworn allegiance to Al Qaeda; and inspired individuals and networks all have their own terrifying tactics — the common bond between these various terror networks is their relentless commitment to establishing an extremist Islamic emirate and returning Islam to its purest form.

The Islamic State group is often described as the most fearsome jihadi outfit of all: a global menace outweighing Al Qaeda, but experts interviewed by For the Record argue it’s the underlying Salafi-jihad mindset that fuels the brutal group, and this mindset is the foundational connection between multiple terror networks. (AP Photo/Militant Website, File)

The Islamic State group is often described as the most fearsome jihadi outfit of all: a global menace outweighing Al Qaeda, but experts interviewed by For the Record argue it’s the underlying Salafi-jihad mindset that fuels the brutal group, and this mindset is the foundational connection between multiple terror networks. (AP Photo/Militant Website, File)

“Government recognition of the Islamic religious foundation of jihad is essential for two specific national security reasons. The Muslim dilemma can never be successfully addressed until this fact is acknowledged, and official recognition of the religious nature of jihad would provide American counterterrorism officers with an investigative direction,” Fairchild wrote.

The ongoing feud between the Islamic State and Al Qaeda has only added to the confusion for average citizens trying to understand the connections between the violent groups.

Fairchild said the rivalry between the Salafi-jihadist organizations boils down to a single point: it means more violence will be directed at anyone who disagrees with a strict interpretation of the Koran.

Some experts say the Islamic State’s intense, regional focus to push for the caliphate proves the group is less a threat to the United States than core Al Qaeda, but as experts told For the Record, the end goal of all the Salafi-jihadist organizations remains the same: convert or kill.

“I don’t pretend that ISIS doesn’t see itself now as different from some of the other Al Qaeda groups, but an awful lot of the labeling that’s gone on has been the West trying to miniaturize Al Qaeda into a bunch of little regional and parochial branches that don’t really glue together because then you’d have to acknowledge the ideology that does bring all the stuff together,” McCarthy said, “and more of that has been labeling by us than self-identification by the jihad.”

Fairchild put it bluntly: It doesn’t matter how the U.S. classifies the Islamic State or other Al Qaeda affiliates; if a terror network self-identifies as Salafi-jihadist, they are embracing literal interpretation of the Koran’s commands to wipe out both Muslim “apostates” who disagree with violent jihad tactics, and nonbelievers in other countries.

No matter how the West defines the groups, Fairchild notes, if ideology that links them is ignored or minimized, intelligence groups have missed the point.

“And the enemy always gets a vote,” he said.

For The Record: Total Confrontation

 

TheBlaze TV’s For the Record will take an in-depth look at the Islamic State in the new episode “Total Confrontation,” Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Also see:

Senior al Qaeda strategist part of so-called ‘Khorasan group’

Sanafi al Nasr, a senior al Qaeda strategist, is a part of the so-called "Khorasan group." Nasr is sitting on the far left in the picture above.

Sanafi al Nasr, a senior al Qaeda strategist, is a part of the so-called “Khorasan group.” Nasr is sitting on the far left in the picture above.

LWJ, By

Al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan group,” which was struck in the US-led bombing campaign earlier this week, is run by senior jihadists dispatched to Syria by Ayman al Zawahiri.

One member of the group, a veteran al Qaeda operative named Muhsin al Fadhli, has been publicly identified.

But several US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal have confirmed that another well-known al Qaeda bigwig, a Saudi known as Sanafi al Nasr, is also a leader in the group. And, like al Fadhli, Nasr once served as the head of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network.

In March, The Long War Journal first reported that Nasr is a senior al Qaeda leader. US intelligence officials explained at the time that he was involved in al Qaeda’s strategic planning and policies.

Five months later, in August, the US Treasury Department designated Nasr, noting that he is a “key” al Qaeda financier, as well as one of the Al Nusrah Front’s “top strategists.” Treasury also said that Nasr became a “senior” leader in Al Nusrah, an official branch of al Qaeda, after relocating to Syria in the spring 2013.

Nasr, whose real name is Abdul Mohsin Abdullah Ibrahim Al Sharikh, has an active Twitter feed with more than 23,000 followers.

In tweets posted since early 2013, Nasr has revealed a number of details concerning al Qaeda’s operations. In one tweet, for instance, he explained that al Qaeda’s senior leadership decided to deploy trusted veterans to Syria, where they were embedded within both the Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham.

Nasr’s tweet was one of the first public hints regarding al Qaeda’s plans.

Nasr has been closely tied to the leadership of Ahrar al Sham, a rebel group in Syria that fights alongside Nusrah on a regular basis. Ahrar al Sham is the most powerful organization in the Islamic Front, a coalition of several groups. It was cofounded by Abu Khalid al Suri, a veteran al Qaeda operative who served as Ayman al Zawahiri’s representative in Syria until he was killed in February.

Much of Ahrar al Sham’s leadership was killed in an explosion earlier this month. After they were killed, Nasr changed the header on his Twitter feed to an image honoring the slain jihadists.

US officials have stressed that al Qaeda’s “Khorasan group” was planning attacks in the West and possibly against the US homeland.

“Intelligence reports indicated that the group was in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks against western targets and potentially the US homeland,” Lieutenant General William Mayville, director of operations for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained to reporters. Other US officials have said the same.

Nasr has not hidden his desire to strike the US. Treasury noted in August that he “has used social media posts to demonstrate his aspiration to target Americans and US interests.”

Former head of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network

Although he is relatively young, Nasr is an al Qaeda veteran. He first began contributing to jihadist forums and websites roughly a decade ago.

Nasr was groomed for his position within al Qaeda, in part, because of his jihadist pedigree. Several of Nasr’s brothers, two of whom were once detained at Guantanamo, joined al Qaeda. Some of Nasr’s other family members, including his father, have also been tied to al Qaeda.

Indeed, according to US intelligence officials, Nasr is one of Osama bin Laden’s third cousins and his family bonds have made it easier for Nasr to keep the trust of al Qaeda’s Gulf donors. Cash has flowed through Nasr into al Qaeda’s coffers.

Nasr is so respected within al Qaeda that he was tasked with managing its deal with the Iranian regime, which is one of the organization’s most sensitive relationships. In early 2013, according to Treasury, Nasr temporarily served as the head of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network. Al Qaeda’s presence in Iran is the result of a formerly “secret deal” between the Iranian government and the terrorist organization.

Nasr’s ties to Iran may help to explain why, according to the US Treasury and State Departments, the Iranian regime continues to allow al Qaeda to funnel fighters to the Al Nusrah Front in Syria. Al Nusrah is fighting in Syria against Bashar al Assad’s regime and Hezbollah, both of which are backed by the Iranians. Given their opposition to each other in Syria, the ongoing relationship between al Qaeda and the Iranians is somewhat of a mystery.

It is so well-known in jihadist circles that Nasr was based in Iran for a time that supporters of the Islamic State have even criticized Nasr’s Iran ties on social media. Nasr has repeatedly criticized the Islamic State, which was part of al Qaeda’s international network before being disowned by al Qaeda’s general command.

Like Muhsin al Fadhli, another leader in the “Khorasan group” and former head of al Qaeda in Iran, Nasr was redeployed to Syria in 2013.

Other al Qaeda operatives who joined the Khorasan group have come from around the world, including from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, and North Africa, according to The New York Times.

The “Khorasan Group”, New Name, Old Threat

khor1CSP, By Kyle Shideler:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S.-Arab Strikes in Syria Cause Serious Damage to ISIS & AQ

U.S. Navy F18 Super Hornet after conducting strike missions against ISIS targets in Syria

U.S. Navy F18 Super Hornet after conducting strike missions against ISIS targets in Syria

Many ISIS targets were destroyed, many terrorist leaders killed, but the U.S. and its allies must support the Kurds in north Syria to prevent a massacre.

By Ryan Mauro:

The U.S. and five Arab partners began airstrikes on the Islamic State (more commonly known by the acronym of ISIS) on September 22 and have done serious damage. Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, was unexpectedly hit by the U.S. and jihadist pages reported the deaths of top leaders.

The initial airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria, the home base of ISIS, were caught on videotape. You can see it here on the Clarion Project YouTube channel.

The airstrikes were not carried out by the U.S. alone. The Arab countries of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates took part. Qatar assisted logistically. France, which previously bombed ISIS in Iraq, did not take part.

Egypt declined in part because the U.S. would not endorse its campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood and against Ansar al-Sharia in Libya. The Turkish Prime Minister says his country may provide logistical and military support now that its 49 hostages have been released by ISIS as part of a secret deal with the terrorist group.

There were no serious protests against the U.S.-Arab airstrikes.

There was a small demonstration in Istanbul, Turkey. Significantly, a U.S.-backed “moderate” group of Syrian rebels named Harakat Hazm condemned the airstrikes, even though the U.S. has provided it with anti-tank missiles. An Arab newspaper reports that it is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood (the parent group of Hamas), Qatar and Turkey.

The author reported that jihadist social media pages were insistent that al-Nusra sites had been struck in the cities of Kafr Deryan and Idlib near Aleppo. This was confirmed by the Pentagon the next day.

Shortly after al-Nusra was hit, a video of an English-speaking, European member of al-Nusra in front of a destroyed site surfaced online. The terrorist, who said al-Nusra fights to “implement the law of Allah,” was audibly discouraged. He says, “A lot of mujahideenhave been killed in these attacks.”

The U.S. has confirmed that it targeted al-Nusra’s Khorasan unit, a group of top Al-Qaeda operatives sent by Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit holders of Western passports. The U.S. says Khorasan was in the final stages of an attack in Europe or the U.S. The group is known to be targeting airliners with non-metallic bombs.

Read more at Clarion Project

Also see:

At War With Al Qaeda, Islamic State in Syria

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

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

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

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

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

Consider all of the following.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

US airstrikes target Al Nusrah Front, Islamic State in Syria

Long War Journal, By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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:

Islamist foreign fighters returning home and the threat to Europe

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

Tom_Large (1)By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at Long War Journal

U.S. Tracks Threats Against West by Al Qaeda Affiliate in Syria

In addition to Islamic State, groups in Syria that pose a threat to the U.S. include Nusra Front, shown above in Damascus in July. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

In addition to Islamic State, groups in Syria that pose a threat to the U.S. include Nusra Front, shown above in Damascus in July. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

By SIOBHAN GORMAN and JULIAN E. BARNES:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. is tracking multiple terror plots based out of Syria that target the West—threats that current and former intelligence officials say have been traced to al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and not to Islamic State, the extremist group that has seized the world’s attention.

Disclosures about the plots, which include bombings, are raising new questions about whether U.S. military strategy focusing on Islamic State militants could end up missing part of the threat Western countries face from Syria.

The U.S.-driven focus on Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, already has prompted questions from some senior military and intelligence officials as well as independent experts and analysts.

“Does ISIS represent a threat to the U.S.? Yes, of course, but it isn’t the only issue,” said John Cohen, who recently left his post as the top counterterrorism official at the Homeland Security Department to teach at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “The threats emanating from Syria go beyond the threat posed by ISIS.”

At the White House, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the threat posed by Islamic State militants is different from that posed by other extremist groups in Syria and “if left unchecked” could present a risk to the U.S. domestically.

“ISIL is not the only group we focus on in the region. The actions we take—not all of which are public—are tailored appropriately to the threats we face,” she said.

Islamic State extremists, who have seized control of territory and towns across Iraq and Syria, represent a serious danger to U.S. and Western interests, mainly in the region, said the officials. But so do groups more tightly affiliated with the Pakistan-based leadership of al Qaeda.

Two such groups are the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and a cell of al Qaeda leaders now in Syria that works closely with Nusra Front known as Khorasan.

U.S. officials say Khorasan is a growing hazard, particularly to the U.S., because its members are focused on violence toward the West and have been eyeing attacks on American airliners.

On Thursday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as Islamic State “in terms of threat to the homeland.” It was the first time a U.S. official has acknowledged the group’s existence.

The groups have shown an affinity for bomb plots. Officials say they have grown alarmed that terrorists could attempt some attacks soon, such as a number targeting European countries from operatives based in Syria and Turkey.

The plots emanating from Syria likely have been under development for months, but the groups are vying for prominence with Islamic State, which has catapulted to the top of the U.S. target list in the region, the current and former officials said.

In Australia on Thursday, police carried out early morning raids in Sydney and another major city aimed at disrupting what they said were plans by local Islamic State supporters to behead members of the public. That plot represents a new nightmare scenario for U.S. officials, in which the brutal tactics of Islamic State militants are adopted more broadly by sympathetic extremists.

Officials wouldn’t describe in any detail the nature, location or timing of the plots. Together, Nusra Front and Khorasan are suspected to have multiple plots in the works targeting countries in Europe as well as the U.S.

Read more at WSJ