Sources: DOD memo sent after Benghazi attack listed suspects with Al Qaeda ties

riceFox News, By Catherine Herridge:

A targeting memo sent to the State Department by the Defense Department’s Africa Command two days after the Benghazi attack listed 11 suspects with ties to Al Qaeda and other groups, counter-terrorism and congressional sources confirmed to Fox News.

This is significant because it arrived two days before then-UN ambassador Susan Rice appeared on television shows blaming the assault on an inflammatory video. It also came nearly a day before presidential aide Ben Rhodes sent an email also suggesting the video – and not a policy failure – was to blame for the Sep, 11, 2012 attack that claimed four American lives.

The memo, which was referred to in passing during recent congressional testimony, was drawn up by the Defense Department’s Africa command, known as Africom, and was sent to the State Department as the best available intelligence in the early morning hours of September 14, 2012.

It included the names of 11 suspects, four connected to the Al Qaeda affiliate in North Africa known as AQIM, and seven connected to Ansar al-Sharia, a group with ties to the terrorist network.

“They knew from the get-go that Al Qaeda was involved in the attack so the idea that the Obama administration didn’t know that early on or they suspected it was something else entirely basically is willful blindness,”said counter-terrorism analyst Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

“You have to look at the facts and what the intelligence says and that intelligence was clear that known Al Qaeda personalities were involved in this attack.”

In her new book, “Hard Choices,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed the administration made new information available as soon as it was received.

“Every step of the way, whenever something new was learned, it was quickly shared with Congress and the American people,” she wrote. “There is a difference between getting something wrong, and committing wrong.”

While the contents of the email are stamped classified, an attachment including a flow chart showing the relationship among the suspects, is not classified, according to a leading Republican on the House Government Oversight Committee who has seen the memo and wants the administration to release it.

“This is a document from military intelligence widely distributed to the State Department, the White House, the Pentagon, the intelligence community,”said Rep.Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

“This was not buried in the bowels of some email chain. This was a widely distributed document. It demonstrated that Ansar al-Sharia and specifically Al Qaeda were involved in this attack. It should have been something that was put out immediately, not nearly two years after the fact.”

The memo was among some 3,000 documents recently released by the State Department to the oversight committee. With the House Speaker establishing a select committee to investigate Benghazi, all documents from the relevant House committee investigations were handed over.

Asked about the memo, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she was not familiar with it, adding “We described the perpetrators as terrorists from the beginning, we’ve discussed this fact over and over again of course from the podium and again that hasn’t changed.”

But a review of the State Department transcripts in the first week after the attack shows then-spokeswoman Victoria Nuland resisted the terrorism description, instead telling reporters on Sep.17, 2012 that the government was still investigating.

Asked by a reporter if the administration regarded the attack as “an act of terrorism,” Nuland replied, “I don’t think we know enough. I don’t think we know enough. And we’re going to continue to assess… We’re going to have a full investigation now, and then we’ll be in a better position to put labels on things, okay?”

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

UN adds Boko Haram to al Qaeda sanctions list

By 

The United Nations has added Boko Haram to its al Qaeda sanctions list, citing the Nigerian group’s ties to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and prolific terrorist acts. The move comes more than one month after Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 girls, thereby gaining international infamy.

Boko Haram “has maintained a relationship with” AQIM “for training and material support purposes,” the UN’s sanctions page reads. AQIM is one of al Qaeda’s several regional branches and the group’s emir, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud (a.k.a. Abdelmalek Droukdel), has sworn bayat (an oath of allegiance) to al Qaeda’s senior leadership.

The UN says that Boko Haram has “gained valuable knowledge on the construction of improvised explosive devices from AQIM.” In addition, a “number of Boko Haram members fought alongside al Qaeda affiliated groups in Mali in 2012 and 2013 before returning to Nigeria with terrorist expertise.”

The UN also cites a November 2012 statement made by the terrorist group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, in which he “expressed Boko Haram’s solidarity with al Qaeda affiliates in Afghanistan, Iraq, North Africa, Somalia and Yemen.”

In a previous statement, issued in July 2010, Shekau praised al Qaeda and offered his condolences for the “martyrdom” of al Qaeda’s two top leaders in Iraq. “Do not think jihad is over,” Shekau said. “Rather, jihad has just begun. O America, die with your fury.”

US government already recognized relationship between AQIM and Boko Haram

The UN’s recognition of Boko Haram’s ties to AQIM are hardly surprising given that the US government has repeatedly pointed to the relationship.

In June 2012, the State Department designated three individual terrorists, including Abubakar Shekau. The two other jihadists designated, Khalid al Barnawi and Abubakar Adam Kambar, “have ties to Boko Haram and have close links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” State reported.

Read more at Long War Journal

U.S. NEGLIGENCE ARMED ISLAMIC TERROR GROUP

boko-haram (1)WND, by Aaron Klein:

The Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram has been made all the more dangerous by weapons it acquired during the looting of Libyan reserves after the U.S.-backed NATO campaign that deposed Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

Shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles now in Boko Haram’s possession are a potential threat to commercial airliners in West Africa, dramatically increasing the jihadist group’s destructive impact.

The Nigeria-based Boko Haram group has been the center of worldwide headlines after it abducted at least 276 girls last month from the northeastern town of Chibok, which is known to have a sizeable Christian community.

Yesterday, the group released a video purporting to show the missing girls and claiming they had converted to Islam. In the 17-minute video, Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader, warned he would not free the schoolgirls until all Boko Haram prisoners are released from jails.

Regarding the conversion of the girls, Shekau stated: “”These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with … we have indeed liberated them. These girls have become Muslims.”

Founded in 2009, Boko Haram’s profile as a terrorist group has risen rapidly.

Its rise may have been accelerated by weaponry it acquired as a consequence of NATO and the Obama administration’s efforts in Gaddafi’s ouster.

The largest terrorist looting of Man-Portable-Air-Defense-Systems, or MANPADS, took place immediately after the military campaign against the Gadhafi regime, when the U.S.-NATO alliance failed to secure the weapons.

Gadhafi had hoarded Africa’s biggest known reserve of MANPADS. His stock was said to number between 15,000 and 20,000. Many of the missiles were stolen by militias fighting in Libya, including those backed by the U.S. in their anti-Gadhafi efforts.

In January 2012, the United Nations Security Council first raised the alarm about Boko Haram acquiring weapons looted in Libya.

A 2013 House report documented Boko Haram’s efforts to purchase weapons from the groups that looted Gadhafi’s reserves. It stated the group “has acquired, or will acquire, SA-7 and SA-24 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.”

The House document noted the SA-7 is effective up to 4,600 feet. While most commercial aircraft cruise at about 30,000 feet, the missile could down airliners during takeoff and landing.

“Nothing the organization has done so far gives the impression that they would restrain themselves from aiming for such a target if given the opportunity,” the report warned of Boko Haram.

The 39-page report said Boko Haram’s growing collaboration with al-Qaida, including the Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, franchise, has made the African group a threat to U.S. interests abroad as well as a potential danger to the U.S. homeland.

The January 2012 U.N. report also noted Boko Haram was working with AQIM, with seven of its members arrested traveling through the Niger to Mali “in possession of documentation on manufacturing of explosives, propaganda leaflets and names and contact details of members of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb they were allegedly planning to meet.”

In May 2012, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported two former CIA officers had been raising the alarm within the intelligence community about missiles and weapons proliferated from Libya and being acquired by Boko Haram.

In an email, the officers wrote: “The missiles and munitions that have been streaming out of Libya since the fall of 2011 have made their way to Agadez in Niger and points west … Boko Haram has taken possession of some of the refurbished missiles.”

Top Al Qaeda commander relocates to Syria

Sanafi al NasrFox News, By Catherine Herridge:

A member of Al Qaeda’s senior leadership, Sanafi al Nasr, has relocated to Syria, where he is living openly and publicly courts his followers on twitter, according to counter-terrorism analysts and social media messages.

“This is a guy who fought with Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula. He’s a spokesman for the Nusra Front. He’s connected, if not a planner, for the Al Qaeda core. This demonstrates the integration of Al Qaeda and all its levels,”  Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said.  “And the fact that it’s (Al Qaeda leadership) now seeking out Syria as a core area of operations, this explains a lot about, I think, the new direction of Al Qaeda today.”

While Nasr is not a household name, his pedigree is well established, according to counter-terrorism analysts, who say he is the third cousin of Usama bin Laden and almost all of his six brothers have fought alongside the Al Qaeda network. At least one of his brothers was held at Guantanamo Bay.

The Saudi, who is on that nation’s most wanted list, was first identified by the Long War Journal as relocating to Syria, and as a member of Al Qaeda’s so-called Victory Committee, which sets policy and long term strategy for the network.

“This is a sort of policy planning group for Al Qaeda,”  Schanzer said of the Victory Committee, adding, “These are people who are trying to think about what happens next, how to plan for the future.”

Nasr’s emergence is seen as another indicator that the network is sending members of its senior or “core” leadership to Syria to build alliances with other radical groups, and thereby extending the brand and reach of the senior leadership, which is traditionally based in Pakistan.

In recent congressional testimony, the head of the national  counter-terrorism center, Matt Olsen, told Congress that Al Qaeda is making a significant play for Syria with its operatives and its cash.

“Syria has become the pre-eminent location for Al Qaeda-aligned groups to recruit and to train, and to equip what is now a growing number of extremists some of whom seek to conduct external attacks,”  Olsen told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in early March.

Nasr has coordinated with other senior “core” Al Qaeda members inside Syria, including Abu Khalid al Suri until al Suri’s recent death.

“Al Qaeda and terrorist networks in general – international terrorist networks – will go, they’ll follow the path of least resistance,  said Fox News military analyst Ralph Peters. “We’ve seen them moving into Syria in significant numbers. It tells me that they actually feel not only safer there, but that they have more flexibility there than they do in Pakistan.”

Nasr’s move to Syria, according to some analysts, was by design and it suggests that the traditional view of Al Qaeda, with its leadership based in Pakistan, is at the very least outdated or was wrong to begin with.

“The idea that we were hearing that Al Qaeda was decimated, or that it was destroyed because Usama bin Laden was killed, or because some of the senior operatives were wrapped up, it was absolutely not true,”  Schanzer said.  “This guy demonstrates the fact that people who’ve been fighting for affiliate groups, multiple affiliate groups, that can still be a leader on the battlefield in an area that seems to be apparently far-field from the core, and still seems to be working with the core.”

Sally Persons contributed to this report

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Libya: Jihadi Terror Leaders’ Safest Haven

by Anna Mahjar-Barducci:

Libya is the new jihadist front on the Mediterranean — and just a few hours away from the centers of Europe.

Several security sources have confirmed that Belmokhtar is still alive and has moved, along with his troops, from Mali to a new base in the Libyan desert.

The leading jihadist commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar — also known as Khalid Abu Al-Abbas, and by his nickname “Al-A’war” (“the one-eyed”) — is hiding in Libya. From there, according to security sources quoted in media reports, he is planning to mastermind terrorist attacks against Westerners and their interests across Africa’s Sahel region.

Belmokhtar, born in Algeria in 1972, and an Algerian citizen, was a key member of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM]. After an internal power struggle, he decided in December 2012 to form a new group, known as the Signatories in Blood.

 

Jihadi commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

On January 16, 2013, armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, he led an attack against a Western-owned gas processing facility of In Amenas, Algeria. In the four-day siege of the complex, 39 hostages — including U.S. citizens Frederick Buttacio, Victor Lynn Lovelady, and Gordon Lee Rowan — were killed. After the assault, the U.S. State Department put a $5 million bounty on Belmokhtar.

As a former Algerian soldier with experience from training camps in Afghanistan, and as a member of the Armed Islamic Group [GIA] in Algeria, he rose quickly to the high rank of “emir” (commander). Later, he was one of the co-founders of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which evolved into AQIM.

As a commander in AQIM, Belmokhtar conducted kidnapping operations against Westerners. Later, while in the north of Mali, fighting against Western and African military intervention in the area, he established his own group.

Although his career as a terrorist seemed to have come to an end when, in March 2013, the Chadian government announced that he had been killed in combat in Mali, U.S. intelligence and military officials were wary of confirming Belmokhtar’s death.

Several security sources have confirmed that Belmokhtar is still alive and has moved, along with his troops, from Mali to a new base in the Libyan desert. Malian security sources further say that Belmokhtar intends “to control the entire Sahel from the Libyan territory.”

In an interview to the Libyan press agency LANA, Malian President Boubaker Keita said that Belmokhtar represents a menace for the region. “If this news [that he is still alive] is true,” he said, “we are under a serious threat. Belmokhtar is a very dangerous figure. I am sorry that he was not killed in my country as previously announced and that he managed to move to Libya. There is not going to be peace in the whole region of the Sahara as long as he is alive.”

The news that he managed to escape a huge manhunt staged by the international military forces in the Sahel is doubtless helping to build him into a legend and attracting more young people to jihadism.

In addition, Libya is undergoing a period of uncertainty and weakness. The country is in a political vacuum and unable to pursue a war against terrorism. After gunmen recently attempted to attack family members of Libya’s interim Prime Minister, Abdullah Al-Thani, he handed in his resignation.

Read more at Gatestone Institute

Citizens Commission on Benghazi: Obama Provided Material Support to Terrorists

Stays-in-Benghazi-450x350Front Page, by :

The interim report of the Citizens Commission on Benghazi is out and it states that…

The war in Libya was unnecessary, served no articulable U.S. national security objective, and led to preventable chaos region-wide. In the period since the 2011 revolution in Libya, the country has remained fragmented, poorly governed, and overrun with violent militias, the majority of which are jihadist Al Qa’eda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) affiliates. Yet, at the time of his overthrow, Muammar Qaddafi was an ally of the United States in the Global War on Terror.

And points out that…

Even more disturbingly, the U.S. was fully aware of and facilitating the delivery of weapons to the al-Qa’eda-dominated rebel militias throughout the 2011 rebellion. The jihadist agenda of AQIM, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), and other Islamic terror groups represented among the rebel forces was well known to U.S. officials responsible for Libya policy. The rebels made no secret of their al-Qa’eda affiliation, openly flying and speaking in front of the black flag of Islamic jihad, according to author John Rosenthal and multiple media reports. And yet, the White House and senior Congressional members deliberately and knowingly pursued a policy that provided material support to terrorist organizations in order to topple a ruler who had been working closely with the West actively to suppress al-Qa’eda. The result in Libya, across much of North Africa, and beyond has been utter chaos, disruption of Libya’s oil industry, the spread of dangerous weapons (including surface-to-air missiles), and the empowerment of jihadist organizations like al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The report also points out that Gaddafi was discussing terms of exile, but that there was no interest in the negotiations from the White House.

That’s interesting considering that the left had insisted that Bush endlessly negotiate with Saddam. Yet they entirely refuse to negotiate with Gaddafi.

The report also distinguishes between the technical ‘stand down’ order point that Media Matters has seized on to attempt to discredit critics of their leader.

On the day of the attacks in Benghazi, whether or not there was an official order to stand down, the result was the same. There were military assets, for example, at the U.S. base in Sigonella, in Sicily, Italy that could have been brought to bear, and perhaps could have saved the lives of the two men killed at the CIA Annex, the scene of the second attack that night. The failure to attempt to rescue these Americans amounts to a dereliction of duty.

Jerome Vitenberg: France Aims to Destroy African Militias

victims of Boko Haram2By Ryan Mauro:

Jerome Vitenberg is an analyst of international politics and taught International Relations and Political Science for the London School of Economics through the University of London’s International Programsat DEI College Greece.

In a column last month, Vitenberg wrote that France’s involvement in the war-torn Central African Republic is part of a strategy to assemble a bloc of liberal democracies in Africa. He explains that France wants to create what he himself has termed the “Doula-Djibouti Corridor” across Africa, although France has never used this term.

CAR’s population is 80% Christian, but an Islamist campaign of violence is causing mayhem and the deaths of over 1,000 civilians and displacement of over 500,000 people. Unfortunately, some Christians have responded with their own militias that have engaged in retaliatory violence.

The following is Vitenberg’s interview with Ryan Mauro, Clarion Project National Security Analyst:

You should read the entire interview at but I want to focus on this part because it speaks to the most often asked question I see: Why do government officials tolerate and appease Islamists even when they are fully aware of their agenda?

Clarion: What is the official stance of France and other European countries towards the Muslim Brotherhood and, specifically, its role in Egypt?

Vitenberg: The French and other European intelligence agencies are fully informed about the jihadist goals and malicious strategies of the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliated organizations.

On the other hand, the political echelons have shown a policy of appeasement towards those organizations within their countries. Each European country has a different theoretical understanding and practical methodology towards its dealings with Muslim organizations, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.

These differences result from how the various states relate to minority groups, the relationship with the minorities’ representative groups and, more generally, the concept of the relationship between the state and the individual.

There is a blatant contrast between the well-known intolerance of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology towards non-Muslim states and societies and the laissez-faire policy of the European governments towards the Brotherhood. There are several hypotheses about the political elites in Europe.

In some cases, the political echelons are naïve and believe in appeasement of jihadist organizations. Their normative and idealist approach prevents them from listening to their security and intelligence agencies.

CJR: See The Cognitive Dissonance of the Progressive World View on Islam

Political elites may be victims of political blackmail that leads to a quiet understanding with the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in their countries. The understanding is that the European government lets the Islamists operate and the Islamists will keep quiet and not cause too much trouble.

The political elites may also be bribed, possibly via financial donations (e.g. from Qatar) for specific national projects or due to corruption with funding deposited into secret bank accounts.

CJR: See John Guandolo: The Muslim Brotherhood in America – We are at war and we are losing, specificallyPart III – The settlement process

There might be more explanations, but I believe that stupidity, fear and greed summarize why politicians are letting the Brotherhood manipulate individuals and families as a first step and societies and governments later.

CJR: see Western Arrogance and Decline  by Bruce Thornton at Front Page

Obama’s Dangerous Fantasy of Al-Qaeda Defeated

warisover_6067-85x85By Robert Spencer

When he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Washington last Friday, Barack Obama said this [1] about the war in Afghanistan: “We achieved our central goal … or have come very close to achieving our central goal, which is to de-capacitate al-Qaeda, to dismantle them, to make sure that they can’t attack us again.”

He said this four days after a Muslim imam who was a soldier in the Afghan National Army opened fire [2] on a group of his British “allies,” murdering one of them and wounding six. The Taliban, al-Qaeda’s partner in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack, which was yet another in an ever-lengthening string of “insider” attacks by Afghan forces against those who are putting themselves at risk to train and assist them. The BBC reports [3] that “in 2012, more than 60 Nato service personnel, and a quarter of the British troops who died in Helmand, were killed in such attacks.”

The Taliban is not al-Qaeda, although the distinction on the ground in Afghanistan may be exceedingly fine, too fine to be discerned by the average NATO soldier when the Afghan he is trying to teach how to be a military man turns the gun he has just given him on his benefactor. In any case, the appalling fact that “a quarter of the British troops who died in Helmand” perished in such attacks indicates that the enemy in Afghanistan is far from being either “de-capacitated” or dismantled, and still has the ability to attack us.

Nonetheless, Obama officials keep doing the victory dance over an al-Qaeda that they repeatedly imply is on the verge of extinction. Jeh Johnson, general counsel at the Defense Department, recently said that “military pursuit of al-Qaida” should end soon [4]. His reasoning was apparently that al-Qaeda is now so severely damaged that we will soon reach a “tipping point” after which military action against them will no longer be necessary, and local police can handle it.

This astounding manifestation of an overconfidence of Baghdad Bob proportions, or else of a capitulation attempting to disguise itself as a victory, is bitterly ironic coming at a time when al-Qaeda is anything but on the ropes: in fact, it is “carving out its own state [5]” in Mali, with so much success that last Friday the French launched airstrikes in hopes of stopping its advance and its consolidation of power in the vast areas it already controls.

Viewed alongside the Obama administration’s unstinting support for the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt and support for jihadist rebels elsewhere, along with its active work to further the agenda [6] of Islamic supremacist Muslim Brotherhood front groups in the U.S., this raises questions about whether Obama is preparing to abandon the last elements of any U.S. resistance to jihad in any form.

Read more at PJ Media

Did the US have enough indicators and warnings for Algeria?

arc-of-instability1

 

by

In the intelligence world, indicators and warnings are essential. They are key pieces of data expressing enough insight allowing an analyst to determine threats, proposed threat levels, and assist in forecasting. With the ongoing hostage situation still unfolding in Algeria (still ongoing as this is being written), it’s critical to question whether the US or our Western allies had enough indicators and warnings to caution citizens living and or working in Algeria.

In May, Homeland Security Today published a piece titled West Africa: Al Qaeda’s New Home. It revealed how Al Qaeda shifted its base from Afghanistan and Pakistan into West Africa—specifically Mali. There was enough information found within to allow any open source intelligence analyst to obtain what is known as “chatter.” That chatter could be observed as the first warning.

Then, in October, Homeland Security Today released another article title The Quint-Border Region: The World’s Most Under-Reported Terror Hot Spot. Within it, five key nations were identified in western Africa demonstrating unprecedented amounts of activities which have unfolded over the years via Al Qaeda linked terrorist groups. These incidents were sheer warnings.

The first week of December could arguably be construed as one of the biggest indicators demonstrating how austere the region has truly become. Online media outlet Magharebia divulged in an article title Belmokhtar breaksaway from AQIM. Anyone who ever worked intelligence knows when key leaders break away from a large terror group, they later form their own. And that’s exactly what Mokhtar Belmokhtar did.

Belmokhtar broke away from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magrheb and formed his own Islamist group called Al Muwaki un bi Al-Dima (Signatories of Blood). A video tape of the one eyed Islamist was created and delivered to at least one international media outlet explaining his intent.

Belmokhtar is no small fish in the Islamic terror world. He is a highly skilled and trained fighter who quickly moved up the ranks in Al Qaeda after fulfilling his mission in Afghanistan back in 1991. He eventually returned to Algeria where he was born and later assisted in a horrifically violent coup of Mali’s government.

Only a few weeks after Magharebia posted their news about Belmokhtar’s split from AQIM, the Jamestown Foundation released a very well written report on the situation in West Africa, specifically revealing Belmokhtar’s future endeavors.

With this information, why did the United States State Department’s Office of Securityand Cooperation release just two travel warnings for Algeria in 2012? Worse, why were they created in May and September having nothing more recent knowing the entire West African region was imploding?

Yes, these two travel warnings could have also sparked interest for an intelligence analyst to create something more suitable for the Western free world, specifically Americans living and working in the region.

The truth is, America and our western allies knew how volatile the entire west African region had become. Yet for some reason, similar to Benghazi, they sat on the back of their heels proving to be inept protectors of their citizens.

Now, as the tragedy in Algeria continues to unfold, reports have revealed at least 35 hostages and 15 terrorists were killed in Algerian military led airstrikes. This reporting remains extremely vague and maintains limited details.  As mentioned last night on Canadian Television News, this tragedy would end in bloodshed.

Kerry Patton, a combat disabled Veteran is author of Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors.

Al-Qaida carves out own country in Mali

Women wearing veils, as mandated by Islamist group Ansar Dine, walk along a street in Timbuktu, Mali, on Oct. 18, 2012. (Associated Press)

Women wearing veils, as mandated by Islamist group Ansar Dine, walk along a street in Timbuktu, Mali, on Oct. 18, 2012. (Associated Press)

By Rukmini Callimachi – Associated Press

Mopti, Mali • Deep inside caves, in remote desert bases, in the escarpments and cliff faces of northern Mali, Islamic fighters are burrowing into the earth, erecting a formidable set of defenses to protect what has essentially become al-Qaida’s new country.

They have used the bulldozers, earth movers and Caterpillar machines left behind by fleeing construction crews to dig what residents and local officials describe as an elaborate network of tunnels, trenches, shafts and ramparts. In just one case, inside a cave large enough to drive trucks into, they have stored up to 100 drums of gasoline, guaranteeing their fuel supply in the face of a foreign intervention, according to experts.

Northern Mali is now the biggest territory held by al-Qaida and its allies. And as the world hesitates, delaying a military intervention, the extremists who seized control of the area earlier this year are preparing for a war they boast will be worse than the decade-old struggle in Afghanistan.

“Al-Qaida never owned Afghanistan,” said former United Nations diplomat Robert Fowler, a Canadian kidnapped and held for 130 days by al-Qaida’s local chapter, whose fighters now control the main cities in the north. “They do own northern Mali.”

Al-Qaida’s affiliate in Africa has been a shadowy presence for years in the forests and deserts of Mali, a country hobbled by poverty and a relentless cycle of hunger. In recent months, the terror syndicate and its allies have taken advantage of political instability within the country to push out of their hiding place and into the towns, taking over an enormous territory which they are using to stock arms, train forces and prepare for global jihad.

The catalyst for the Islamic fighters was a military coup nine months ago that transformed Mali from a once-stable nation to the failed state it is today. On March 21, disgruntled soldiers invaded the presidential palace. The fall of the nation’s democratically elected government at the hands of junior officers destroyed the military’s command-and-control structure, creating the vacuum which allowed a mix of rebel groups to move in.

With no clear instructions from their higher-ups, the humiliated soldiers left to defend those towns tore off their uniforms, piled into trucks and beat a retreat as far as Mopti, roughly in the center of Mali. They abandoned everything north of this town to the advancing rebels, handing them an area that stretches over more than 240,000 square miles. It’s a territory larger than Texas or France — and it’s almost exactly the size of Afghanistan.

Turbaned fighters now control all the major towns in the north, carrying out amputations in public squares like the Taliban did. Just as in Afghanistan, they are flogging women for not covering up. Since taking control of Timbuktu, they have destroyed seven of the 16 mausoleums listed as world heritage sites.

The area under their rule is mostly desert and sparsely populated, but analysts say that due to its size and the hostile nature of the terrain, rooting out the extremists here could prove even more difficult than it did in Afghanistan. Mali’s former president has acknowledged, diplomatic cables show, that the country cannot patrol a frontier twice the length of the border between the United States and Mexico.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, operates not just in Mali, but in a corridor along much of the northern Sahel. This 4,300-mile-long ribbon of land runs across the widest part of Africa, and includes sections of Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Libya, Burkina Faso and Chad.

arc-of-instability1

“One could come up with a conceivable containment strategy for the Swat Valley,” said Africa expert Peter Pham, an adviser to the U.S. military’s African command center, referring to the region of Pakistan where the Pakistan Taliban have been based. “There’s no containment strategy for the Sahel, which runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.”

Earlier this year, the 15 nations in West Africa, including Mali, agreed on a proposal for the military to take back the north, and sought backing from the United Nations. Earlier this month, the Security Council authorized the intervention but imposed certain conditions, including training Mali’s military, which is accused of serious human rights abuses since the coup. Diplomats say the intervention will likely not happen before September of 2013.

In the meantime, the Islamists are getting ready, according to elected officials and residents in Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao, including a day laborer hired by al-Qaida’s local chapter to clear rocks and debris for one of their defenses. They spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for their safety at the hands of the Islamists, who have previously accused those who speak to reporters of espionage.

The al-Qaida affiliate, which became part of the terror network in 2006, is one of three Islamist groups in northern Mali. The others are the Movement for the Unity and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, based in Gao, and Ansar Dine, based in Kidal. Analysts agree that there is considerable overlap between the groups, and that all three can be considered sympathizers, even extensions, of al-Qaida.

The Islamic fighters have stolen equipment from construction companies, including more than $11 million worth from a French company called SOGEA-SATOM, according to Elie Arama, who works with the European Development Fund. The company had been contracted to build a European Union-financed highway in the north between Timbuktu and the village of Goma Coura. An employee of SOGEA-SATOM in Bamako declined to comment.

Read more at Washington Times

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Al Qaeda is No “Remnant,” Mr. President

By Bob Beauprez for Townhall:

During his interview recently on the Jon Stewart Show, President Obama continued his established narrative that he has driven al-Qaeda into the ground sufficiently that only a few “remnants” of the radical Islamic terrorist organization remain.

A “remnant” is a “small group of surviving people” according to the dictionary.  But, remnants don’t grow, multiply, and spread. A remnant doesn’t extend across a significant portion of the planet.

In the final debate, the President claimed that “al-Qaeda is much weaker than when I came into office.”

At the Democratic National Convention – just five days before the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya – and frequently on the campaign trail, Obama brags that he has put al-Qaeda “on its heels.”

True enough, Osama bin Laden is dead and other al-Qaeda leaders have joined him. But, the assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi is a brutal reminder that radical Islamic terror groups have not disappeared and certainly are not dormant.

“al-Qaeda is not ‘on its heels,'” asserts KT McFarland, a National Security Expert and former Reagan Defense Department official. “al-Qaeda and its affiliates are planting the flag into new regions around the globe and are now active in more than 30 countries,” says McFarland.

The West Africa nation of Mali is among the latest tragic manifestations of al-Qaeda influence. Northern regions of Mali have been under control of the Islamic radicals since March. Malian military forces assisted by the French military (Mali was a French Colony until 1960) are currently preparing an attempt to retake the region by force.

McFarland’s assessment that al-Qaeda is “active in more than 30 countries” certainly exposes the phoniness of the President’s contention. So, too, does the following report filed today by Reuters describing the expansive methodology of al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Mali and elsewhere.

Flush with cash, Al Qaeda-linked gunmen – dubbed “gangster-jihadists” by French parliamentarians – are now key players in a web of Islamists and criminal networks recruiting hundreds of locals, including children, and a trickle of foreign fighters. Among the shifting alliances, Al Qaeda’s North Africa wing, known as AQIM, has forged links with Malian Tuareg Islamists, and MUJWA, a group that splintered off from AQIM but still operates loosely with it.

The Islamists, who advocate a political ideology based on Islam, are trying to impose a strict form of sharia law. At least three suspected criminals have been stoned to death or executed by firing squad in Mali while several others have had hands and feet amputated.

Almahamoud, a man from Ansongo who was accused – wrongly, he says – of stealing cattle, suffered an amputation in August. “They cut off my hand to make an example of me,” he said. “They will continue mutilating people to impose their authority. I don’t know how I will live with just one hand.”

Traditional, moderate Islamic customs have been crushed. Music is banned, women cover themselves with veils and residents are flogged for smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. Ancient religious shrines central to the Sufi Islam practiced by many Malians have been smashed because they are deemed illegal by the hardliners.  Read more.

Bob Beauprez is a former Member of Congress and is currently the editor-in-chief of A Line of Sight, an online policy resource. Prior to serving in Congress, Mr. Beauprez was a dairy farmer and community banker. He and his wife Claudia reside in Lafayette, Colorado. You may contact him at:  http://bobbeauprez.com/contact/