ISIS ‘a transnational jihadist group’

LWJ, The Long War Journal‘s Thomas Joscelyn appears on FOX News to discuss the Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, its goals to establish a caliphate, its current offensive in Iraq, the destabilizing influence of Iran, and the West’s lack of strategy to deal with jihadism.

 

 

HOW US POLICY ENABLED THE RISE OF AL QAEDA 2.0 AND THE COLLAPSE OF IRAQ

obama-among-red-berets-afpBreitbart, by DR. SEBASTIAN GORKA:

Policy decisions and politically driven censorship of the American national security establishment have helped strengthen Al Qaeda’s successor and hastened the collapse of the nation of Iraq.

​The current administration and the President represented Operation Iraqi Freedom as the “wrong war,” as opposed to the “good war” that was Afghanistan. The Vice President even called the end of our involvement in Iraq one of the great achievements of Obama’s tenure.

 

With the jihadi group ISIS now in control of parts of the country that together equal the size of Syria, taking over former US bases, and moving toward the capital of Baghdad, the “achievement” has vanished.

The chaos and murder unleashed in the last few days are beyond the comprehension of the majority of Americans who have never served or lived in a war zone. According to the vicar of Baghdad Andrew White, Iraq is now witnessing mass violence and atrocities worse than anything seen since the invasion in 2003.

Almost 4,500 American servicemen and women died in OIF, and the US taxpayers havespent $20 billion to equip and train the Iraqi security forces. So how did we arrive at this apocalyptic horror?

The fact is that ISIS – The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (or the Levant) – has grown in strength and ferocity in the last three years to a point that it now is more powerful and capable than the original Al Qaeda whence it came. It has become Al Qaeda 2.0. ISIS’s growth is in part a result of conscious actions and policy decisions taken by the current US administration.

  • First, since very early on in his presidential campaign and then after becoming the Commander-in-Chief, it became obvious that the President had little interest in international affairs and national security. In fact, in his first speech to graduating West Point cadets in 2009, he was unequivocal. It was time to “end the war in Iraq” because “we must rebuild our strength here at home.” The White House agenda since 2008 has primarily been driven by domestic projects aimed at expanding the state such as Obamacare. That is why none of the National Security Advisers appointed by the White House since General Jim Jones was ignominiously replaced in 2010 have been recognized names in the world of national security. The issue just does not interest the incumbent, and therefore there was no need for a Kissinger- or Brzezinski-caliber replacement.
  • As attested to by a remarkably in-depth 2011 article in The New Yorker, the administration sees all crises as unique and unrelated to one another. So great is this belief that America does not need a strategy to deal with the world and inform our national actions in a consistent fashion that the President, when interviewed on national television, actually stated that having “blanket policies” can get you “into trouble.” As a result, the idea that the chaos in Syria, where ISIS built its forces, was connected to the future stability of Iraq did not occur to the administration until Mosul, Fallujah, and Tikrit had fallen to fighters trained and hardened in the war against Assad just next door. Our government cannot connect the dots if the Commander-in-Chief openly believes that doing so is a bad idea.
  • This lack of any strategic approach to the global threat of jihadi groups is compounded by politically-driven censorship of the national security and defense establishment. As documented elsewhere, in 2011 putative “representatives” of the Muslim communities in the US demanded that the White House review and censor all counterterrorism training materials and trainers used by the Defense Department and Department of Justice, their claim being that existing materials and trainers were un-Islamic or “Islamaphobic.” This event that has come to be known as “the purge” – see this documentary for the full story – and led to the forced removal of any mention of Islam or jihad from all governmental training materials used by our armed forces or the FBI. As a result, as a government, we have blinded ourselves to such an extent that it has become practically impossible for a national security professional to understand what is going on in the Middle East and what drives groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda without getting into trouble for being politically incorrect.

    Of course, trying to understand the decapitation of enemy forces or the tactic of suicide attacks without referring to, or being allowed to refer to, jihad is analogous to our trying to understand the Third Reich in 1944 while banning our soldiers and intelligence professionals from talking about and analyzing Nazism.

  • Lastly, the fact that Senator Obama built a campaign narrative on the foundation that Afghanistan is the “good war” and Iraq was the “bad war” locked his administration onto a politically defined track that short-changed America’s national security interests. Once in office, commitment to this narrative – that was deemed to have helped him win office – meant that the Iraqi campaign had to end at all costs. So great was the pressure that the administration was prepared to pull all US forces out in 2011 without securing the standard Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Baghdad that would have allowed us to leave enough forces in country to suppress and deter violence against the Maliki regime and keep the country functioning after more than 4,000 Americans had died to free it from Saddam Hussein.

You don’t have to be a dastardly neoconservative to understand that the events occurring now in Iraq – and Syria, and Libya, and even Egypt – have direct implications for the security of America. We know that Westerners, including Americans, are going to the Middle East to fight the jihad. If they win, or simply survive to come back home, they will present a clear threat to any political system such as ours that is not sharia-compliant or theocratic.

But there is a bigger danger.

Al Qaeda was formed out of an organization not dissimilar to ISIS. In the 1980s a Palestinian-Jordanian called Abdullah Azzam created the Services Bureau (MAK) to fight the Soviet military units in Afghanistan just as ISIS is fighting the military units in Iraq that they consider to be kufr (unbelievers) because they are Shia and not Sunni. Azzam’s deputy was a Saudi named Osama bin Laden who inherited the MAK when Azzam was assassinated. Bin Laden then turned the MAK into Al Qaeda, the same Al Qaeda that killed almost 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania on September 11th, 2001.

According to the official investigation, the 9/11 attacks cost Al Qaeda $500,000. On its murderous rampage to Baghdad, ISIS has captured $430,000,000 from Iraqi government coffers. Should these jihadists, who are now stronger than the original Al Qaeda they grew out of, capture all of Iraq, or Iraq and Syria, they will likely turn their sights on the “Far Enemy” as the MAK/Al Qaeda turned against us when the Soviets were defeated.

In this case, however, they will have enough money for at least 800 9/11-scale attacks.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka has been appointed the Major General Horner Chair of Military Theory at Marine Corps University and is the National Security Affairs editor of Breitbart.com.

Zawahiri’s Representative in Syria Assassinated

Al Qaeda head addresses infighting in Syria

download (57)By THOMAS JOSCELYN:

The emir of al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri, has released a new audio message addressing the infighting between jihadist groups in Syria. Zawahiri does not mention any specific groups or individuals by name, but much of his message is clearly aimed at the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), a branch of al Qaeda that has been the main source of the internecine conflict.

Zawahiri addresses all of the jihadist factions fighting against Bashar al Assad’s regime, saying they are the best “hope” for establishing an Islamic state in the heart of the Levant, as well as “liberating Jerusalem,” according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal.

Al Qaeda respects and admires “all of you,” Zawahiri says, addressing all of the factions as “brothers.” According to Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s leaders believe that the jihadists’ “brotherhood in Islam” is stronger than any temporary “organizational bonds.”

Zawahiri implores the jihadists to “let go” of their “partisan fanaticism” if it cuts against the “unity of your ranks.” The infighting distracts them from fighting their true enemies, including Shiite forces, Russia, and China, all of whom are supposedly colluding with the “Crusader campaign.”

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and other ISIS leaders have claimed to represent the only true Islamic state inside Syria and have tried to make other jihadist groups abide by its rules. However, other jihadist groups, including al Qaeda’s other official branch inside Syria, the Al Nusrah Front, as well as al Qaeda-linked groups such as Ahrar al Sham, have rejected ISIS’ claims of superiority.

Although Zawahiri does not address ISIS directly, at least three parts of the audio message seem to be targeted at the unruly group.

First, Zawahiri says that al Qaeda does not accept “any violation” or “any assault” against the “sanctity of any Muslim or jihadist.” Al Qaeda also does “not accept” the accusations of “infidelity or apostasy” that have been levied against some jihadist groups, because they are all “sacrificing their lives and properties” for the sake of jihad.

ISIS has repeatedly accused other jihadist organizations of being apostates or infidels, especially when they do not accept the group’s unilateral decisions.

Read more at Long War Journal

Al Qaeda seizes partial control of 2 cities in western Iraq

post-33748-This-Map-Of-Al-Qaeda-In-Iraq-I-FqX3By BILL ROGGIO:

Over the past several days, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, has taken control of large sections of two western Iraqi cities that were once bastions for the terror group.

ISIS fighters entered the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, after the Iraqi military withdrew from them following clashes with tribes over a political standoff that resulted in the arrest of a Sunni member of parliament.

The ISIS has posted videos of its fighters entering the cities in force after clashing with Iraqi police and overrunning several checkpoints. In the videos, a large convoy of ISIS fighters driving technicals, or pickup trucks with heavy machine guns mounted on the back, is seen moving through Ramadi. The fighters are flying al Qaeda’s black banner while singing praises to al Qaeda and its “Islamic state.” [See more videos here.]

Officials from the Iraqi Interior Ministry acknowledged that parts of Fallujah and Ramadi are under al Qaeda control.

“Half of Fallujah is in the hands of ISIS (the Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham) group,” an anonymous interior ministry official told AFP.

“In Ramadi, it is similar – some areas are controlled by ISIS,” the official continued. The other parts of the city are controlled by “tribesmen,” likely a reference to the Sahwa (“the Awakening”), the tribal militia that with US backing ejected al Qaeda from control of large areas of Anbar between 2006 and 2009.

In Fallujah, ISIS fighters stormed the main police headquarters, freed more than 100 prisoners, and seized weapons and ammunition. “Other police stations in the city were torched by fighters as most police abandoned their posts,” Al Jazeera reported.

Iraqi special forces are said to be battling ISIS fighters in Fallujah and Ramadi. The status of nearby cities and towns is not known, but the ISIS has been active in cities such as Haditha, where in March 2012 a large force attacked police stations and executed policemen and their commanders. The ISIS has also staged raids in other cities such as Hit and Rawa.

Ramadi and Fallujah, sizeable cities with populations of several hundred thousand each, once served as the hubs for al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of the ISIS. From 2004 to early 2007, large areas of the two cities were either controlled by al Qaeda or were contested. The Awakening and US and Iraqi forces waged a protracted counterinsurgency to clear al Qaeda from the two cities as well as from surrounding cities and towns along the Euphrates River Valley.

The ISIS has been targeting Iraqi security forces as well as the Awakening in a series of high-profile suicide assaults and bombings in Anbar. Just two weeks ago, the ISIS killed the commanding general of the 7th Division, one of the division’s brigade commanders, and 16 staff officers and soldiers in a suicide attack in Rutbah. The ISIS set a trap for the division commander as he toured an area thought to have been cleared of the terror group. The 7th Division is made up primarily of soldiers and officers from Anbar province.

Read more at Long War Journal with video

 

 

Also see:

Iraq’s Lessons on Political Will

by Patrick Knapp
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2014