Islamic State appoints leaders of ‘Khorasan province,’ issues veiled threat to Afghan Taliban

Khorassan Shura_Org-thumb-560x420-5469

An organizational overview of the Khorasan Shura. The Islamic State has appointed Hafez Saeed Khan as the Governor of Khorasan province.

By

Abu Muhammad al Adnani, a spokesman for the Islamic State, announced the group’s “expansion” into the lands of “Khorasan” — modern day Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of the surrounding countries — and declared former Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan or TTP) commander Hafez Saeed Khan as the “governor” of Khorasan province. Khan had previously served as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s emir for the tribal agency of Arakzai.

Adnani made his announcement in a nearly seven minute audio taped speech titled, “Say, Die in Your Rage!” which was published on Jan. 26 2015 by the Islamic State’s Al Furqan media outlet. [For a translation of the speech, by Pieter Van Ostaeyen, see ‘Audio Statement by IS Spokesman Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani as-Shami.’]

The declaration comes only a few weeks after a conglomeration of former TTP officials formed the Khorasan Shura and pledged bayat, or allegiance, to the Islamic State. [See Long War Journal report, Pakistani Taliban splinter group again pledges allegiance to Islamic State.]

The Islamic State spokesman acknowledged Khan’s pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as Commander of the Faithful and the Caliph of Muslims, and claimed that Baghdadi had accepted the pledge and appointed Khan as the province’s governor and Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim as the deputy governor. Khadim, a former Guantanamo detainee and former senior Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan, has reportedly been operating in Helmand province on behalf of the Islamic State. [See Long War Journal report, Ex-Gitmo detainee leads contingent of Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.]

Adnani further urged the “mujahideen in Khorasan” to come forth and obey the commands of Khan and Khadim. Notably, Adnani also urged caution in his call to arms, noting that “the factions will assemble against you and the rifles and bayonets fixed against you will multiply.” He encouraged the mujahideen to stand firm against “factionalism and disunity” and to meet these challenges by “unsheathing your swords and spears.” Although not clearly stated, Adnani was issuing a veiled threat to the Taliban factions, both Afghan and Pakistani, that opposed the creation of the Khorasan Shura and who were opposed to the Islamic State.

The Afghan Taliban movement has been consistent in avoiding recognizing the Islamic State and its Caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi since the reclusive leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, has previously held the title of Commander of the Faithful position since 1996.

Adnani’s declaration and Baghdadi’s reported approval for the Islamic State to expand into Afghanistan and Pakistan could incite divisions within the various Taliban factions operating in both countries. The cohesion of many Taliban factions has been compromised over the past few years, mostly due to attrition and leadership decapitations, as well as ideological differences and personal feuds.

Christian Persecution Worldwide Has Become A Metastasizing Cancer

Religious Freedom Coalition, By Andrew E. Harrod, PhD, Jan. 24, 2015

The “cancer of Christian persecution is metastasizing” in an “epidemic” that is “spreading at an unprecedented rate in modern times,” stated Open Doors USA president David Curry at a January 7 briefing in Washington, DC’s National Press Club.  Curry’s presentation before an audience of about 30 of Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List (WWL) depressingly reviewed ongoing Christian martyrdom, often at the hands of Marxists and Muslims.

The WWL, an Open Doors press release noted, is a unique annual survey of the persecuted church worldwide, praised by Curry as the most dependable study of its kind.  Open Doors research is “meticulous,” concurred at the briefing religious freedom scholarNina Shea from the Hudson Institute.  The WWL “ranks the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous and difficult to be a Christian,” the press release explained.  An accompanying map displayed at the briefing and available online with the report showed these countries coded by color according to persecution severity.

“Approximately 100 million Christians are persecuted worldwide, making them one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world,” the press release observed.  “This year, the threshold was higher for a country to make the list, indicating that worldwide levels of persecution have increased.”  Curry noted that the number of Christians dying for their faith has more than doubled since last year’s WWL.  “While the year 2014 will go down in history for having the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era,” the press release elaborated, “current conditions suggest the worst is yet to come.”

Church destroyed in Aleppo, Syria by Sunni rebels associated with the Free Syrian Army

Church destroyed in Aleppo, Syria by Sunni rebels associated with the Free Syrian Army

North Korea, with an estimated 70,000 Christians imprisoned according to the press release, headed the list for the 13th consecutive year and appeared blood red (“Extreme Persecution”) on the map.  No other regime is so “militantly atheistic” as North Korea’s “Stalinist brand,” Shea observed, where the regime suppresses any competition to what Curry described as a “cult worship.”  North Korea exemplifies in Shea’s words how “remnant Communist” countries like China (list place 29, colored green for “Moderate Persecution”) are one significant source of Christian persecution.  Another threat came from “nationalist regimes,” Shea noted, such as the “Hindu fundamentalism” cited by the press release in India.

Shea’s third “Islamist” category,” however, was the largest threat in the WWL.  “Islamic extremism is the main source of persecution in 40 of the 50 countries,” the press release noted, including India, where both Islam and Hinduism endangered Christianity from various quarters.  “This relatively small but virulent strain of ideology,” Curry assessed, “has made the Middle East the most perilous region of the world for Christians.”  “More than 70 percent of Christians have fled Iraq since 2003,” the press release calculated, “and more than 700,000 Christians have left Syria since the civil war began in 2011.”  Bright red accordingly marked majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East and beyond on the WWL map, including Afghanistan and Iraq, two lands where the United States attempted with much blood and treasure to create stable, free societies.

For Shea, “intensifying persecution” of Christians in Muslim countries makes the word “so inadequate” that Shea prefers “religious cleansing” to describe a campaign of “total Islamization” eliminating non-Muslims.  Under the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a “completion of religious cleansing” of Christians as well as Yazidis has occurred in western Iraq, Shea stated.  Absent effective remedies, a “2,000 year-old church will be completely gone,” part of an “attack on the entire Christian presence in the region.”

Iraqi Christians have fled to Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region, where Kurds have “put out a welcome mat” and demonstrated that not all Muslims are hostile.  Unlike half a million Muslims who have fled ISIS there as well, though, the Christians lack regional allies and often avoid United Nations camps where international aid deliveries and refugee registration occur.  Accordingly, Iraqi Christians are suffering a “humanitarian crisis so dire” that it is an “existential threat,” Shea warned.

Referencing Sudan and Iran’s Islamic republics, Shea worried about “extremist influences being mainstreamed” in society and government beyond jihadist groups like ISIS.  The Iraqi government in the past, for example, marginalized Christians, who were therefore “dealt out of the deck” in the distribution of American aid.  Governments in Muslim countries likewise often turn a “blind eye and deaf ear” to persecution of Christians by private actors.

In particular, Saudi Arabia, a “towering figure within Islam” with oil resources, regional Gulf predominance, and control over Islam’s holy sites, has been “very counterproductive” by “spreading an ideology of hatred.”  Thus Saudi textbooks demonize non-Muslims and advocate “violent jihad” in Islam’s name.  As a result, “Saudi Arabia did create its own monster” in ISIS, a group Saudi Arabia has now attacked with air strikes, Shea observed.

Shea identified five “red flags” that characterize the “crime against humanity” of “religious cleansing,” elements taken together that are “greater than the sum of their parts.”  “Forcible conversion,” for example, presented Christians with Islamic law’s traditional trinity of choosing between death, conversion to Islam, or acceptance of “medieval dictates” in a “second-class citizenship.”  Nigeria’s Boko Haram “ruthlessly…applied” these alternatives during door to door searches of villages.  Laws also punished blasphemy and apostasy in Muslim countries such as Pakistan, whose “strictest black letter law” in this matter gave a “license to kill” to Muslim vigilantes.  Targeted assassination of Christian leaders, abductions, and targeted attacks on churches completed Shea’s list.

Like Curry, though, Shea assured that “prominent Muslim voices” and the “majority of Muslims” oppose religious persecution.  Shea asserted that Middle Eastern Christians “have long coexisted with the Muslim majority” in the region.  By contrast, Shea described as “extremists” the perpetrators of the Paris Charlie Hebdo jihad attacks on the very day of her remarks.

Yet the widespread, often state-based Muslim persecution of Christians noted by Shea and the WWL seemed to belie Shea’s confidence and suggest problems larger than a radical minority.  Various Middle Eastern Christians, meanwhile, have consistently contradicted Shea in discussions with this reporter (see here, here, and here).  In their experience, faith-based Islamic repression of Christians has marked the region since its eighth century Arab-Muslim conquest.

Queried about Muslim religious tolerance advocates, Shea cited interfaith activist Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal from Jordan and Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.  The latter, Shea noted, has “not encouraged any kind of eradication of Christianity” in his country and has “condemned the attacks on the churches.”  Shea, however, professed ignorance when this reporter mentioned past criticism of Sistani as a “false moderate.”  Sistani, for example, has supported sharia in Iraq, has advocated executing homosexuals, and has expressed anti-Semitic, anti-Christian sentiments against these non-Muslims and their “impurity.”

Similarly asked about moderate Muslims, Curry responded that “I don’t have any names off the top of my head.”  “We have not yet seen a major movement of moderate Muslims to condemn the teachings and ideologies” of groups like ISIS, Curry stated, his professions of a “relatively small” Islamic extremism notwithstanding.  Moderate Muslims “themselves will become a target” of jihadists by advocating for Christians and other persecution victims.

Shea bemoaned Christian persecution as an “ignored human rights crisis” in America among policymakers while “even our religious leaders are far too quiet” on the matter.  “The world still does not get it,” Curry concurred, and called the WWL a “wakeup call” for Christians to notice a “genocide going on.”  No country on the WWL has improved in recent years, Curry stated in an interview, “it’s only gotten worse.”

Shea criticized that secularized American leaders struggle to comprehend a “strong religious belief” in an “extremist version of Islam.”  Voice of America reporter Jerome Socolovsky, previously criticized for obligingly benign views on Islam, similarly seemed to exhibit at the event such incomprehension.  Socolovsky asked Shea whether American domestic respect for Islam, shown by opposition to mosque vandalism or interfaith events like the National Cathedral’s Muslim prayer service, could influence Muslims worldwide.  Shea countered that “there is no comparison” between Muslims protected by American law and often brutal Christian persecution abroad.  “Gestures” like those at the National Cathedral would also not “make a difference whatsoever” among ISIS jihadists and others.

The Nigerian Damaris Atsen gave personal witness at the briefing to the trials and tribulations of modern persecuted Christian faith.  Boko Haram terrorists in March 2010 seized her husband riding home from work and stomped him to death by the road, leaving Atsen widowed with four children, “gifts from the Lord.”  Romans 8:35 (“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”) “always encourages me” that the “spirit of the Lord is there” during her times of mourning, she said.  “I have to forgive,” she added while discussing her husband’s murderers.  “If I do not forgive, the Lord will not forgive me.”  “Pray for Nigeria,” she concluded.

Exclusive: Terror Org. Harbored by Pakistani Gov’t Now Backs ISIS

Hafiz Saeed, leader of the Jamaat-ut-Dawa terror network has a $10 million bounty on his head issued by the U.S. government.

Hafiz Saeed, leader of the Jamaat-ut-Dawa terror network has a $10 million bounty on his head issued by the U.S. government.

BY RYAN MAURO:

The Clarion Project has learned from a first-hand source in Pakistan that the leader of Jamaat-ut-Dawa, a major terrorist group harbored by the Pakistani government, expressed support for the Islamic State in a recent sermon.

The story breaks as Pakistani embassy is condemning the television show Homeland for depicting Pakistani government officials as complicit in terrorism.

The Clarion Project’s source, whose identity has been verified and will be referred to as “Aamir,” recently attended a public sermon by Jamaat-ut-Dawa (JUD) leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed at the group’s Jamia Markaz al-Qadsi headquarters in Lahore. JUD is a rebranding of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET). The group is best known for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India that killed over 150 innocents.

The U.S. State Department lists JUD/LET as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and says it has links to Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami in Bangladesh, the Indian Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammed. The U.S. Treasury Department says it works with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network and targets U.S. and Afghan forces.

The event was heavily guarded with Saeed’s own security team equipped with assault rifles. The bulk of the sermon was dedicated to promoting jihad against the U.S. and India in order to “save Islam.” Saeed explicitly told attendees to donate to jihad and even recommended registering at a website to fight. Other reports have confirmed the placement of donation boxes for jihad at his events.

Saeed said that the current jihad against America is the same one that was waged against the Soviet Union and that the U.S. is already showing it will suffer the same fate. He boasted that America is so intimidated by him that it is even afraid of his name. Attendees responded with chants of jihad.

Aamir’s report matches Saeed’s bravado. After the U.S. announced a $10 million award for his information leading to his arrest, he held a public rally next to a Pakistani base that is only 40 minutes from the U.S. embassy.

“America should give that reward money to me,” Saeed joked. “I am here. I am visible.”

According to Aamir, Saeed explicitly endorsed jihad against the U.S. in Afghanistan, against India in Kashmir and against the U.S. in Iraq, where American forces are battling the Islamic State.

Saeed’s group is taking a similar stance as other Al-Qaeda-linked groups in endorsing the Islamic State as a group but stopping short of granting legitimacy to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a caliph.

However, Saeed is also on record as criticizing the Islamic State for massacring Muslims as “apostates” and suggested it should focus on destroying Israel. Earlier this month, he said he’d say to the Islamic State, “I invite you, you are sitting near the Israel boarder, go and destroy the Israeli Jewish [sic].”

What Saeed said to an attendee indicates he is privately more supportive of the Islamic State than his public speeches reveal. Someone from the audience approached Saeed about his implied declaration of the Islamic State as an ally and asked about the group’s presence in Pakistan.

The source was shocked at Saeed’s answer. He said that the Islamic State represents pure Islam and predicted that it would take over Pakistan and seize its nuclear weapons. Saeed emphasized that the Islamic State means no harm towards Sunnis and so it should not be feared.

Read more at Clarion Project

Pakistani Taliban assault military high school in Peshawar

Pakistani army personnel patrol the streets following an attack by Taliban gunmen on a school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. – AFP

Pakistani army personnel patrol the streets following an attack by Taliban gunmen on a school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014. – AFP

LWJ, By

A suicide assault team from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (or Pakistani Taliban) stormed a military high school in Peshawar today. It is one of the deadliest jihadist attacks in the country’s history. According to initial reporting, the attackers have killed more than 130 people, including dozens of children.

At least six Taliban fighters armed with assault weapons and suicide vests entered the Army Public School in Peshawar, the capital of the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, this morning. The fighters fanned out through the school and killed everyone in their path, according to press reports.

Shahrukh Khan, a child who survived the attack by feigning death after being shot in both legs, told Agence France Presse (AFP) that the Taliban fighters were instructed to kill the students. The terrorists deliberately executed students who were already wounded.

“There are so many children beneath the benches, go and get them,” one Taliban fighter told another, according to Khan.

“The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again,” Khan stated. The fighters shouted “Allahu Akbar,” or Allah is greatest, as they executed the children.

Pakistani officials have stated that 131 people have been killed, including more than 100 students, but warned that the death toll may rise.

At least 15 explosions were heard during the fighting, Dawn reported. Pakistani security forces surrounded the building and assaulted as the Taliban continued to execute students and staff. The military claimed it killed six Taliban fighters, but more may have been involved in the attack. Troops are still searching the building for Taliban fighters and survivors.

Muhammad Khurasani, the official spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, claimed the gruesome assault and admitted that his fighters intentionally targeted civilians.

“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” Khurasani said, according to Reuters. “We want them to feel the pain.” Khurasani is referring to the current Pakistani military operation in the tribal agencies of North Waziristan and Khyber, which are adjacent to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Pakistani military is targeting the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and jihadist organizations such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, but is leaving groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group alone.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has targeted military high school students in the past. In 2009, the jihadist group kidnapped hundreds of students as they fled their military school in Ramzak, North Waziristan. The Taliban ultimately released the students as part of a prisoner exchange.

The Taliban has also launched numerous attacks on soft targets such as churches, mosques, shrines, markets, hotels, and even hospitals. Thousands of civilians have been killed in those attacks since the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan was formed in late 2006.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has also targeted the US. In an email first sent to The Long War Journal, the group claimed responsibility for the May 2010 attempted bombing in New York City’s Times Square. [See LWJ report, Pakistani Taliban claim credit for failed NYC Times Square car bombing.]

The US has targeted the organization’s top commanders as part of its drone campaign. Baitullah Mehsud, the group’s founder and first leader, was killed by an American missile in August 2009. In late 2013, Baitullah’s successor, Hakeemullah Mehsud, was also killed in an American airstrike. Hakeemullah had gloated over the failed Times Square attack in the group’s propaganda prior to his demise.

Hakeemullah was replaced by Mullah Fazlullah, but his appointment as emir of the Pakistani Taliban proved to be unpopular within the terrorist group’s ranks. Earlier this year, key constituencies that were part of Baitullah’s original coalition began peeling away to go on their own. Much of the group founded by Baitullah no longer answers to Fazlullah. One of the larger blocs to break away from Fazlullah’s leadership has rebranded itself as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. Other commanders have reportedly pledged their allegiance to Islamic State emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

[For more on the dissolution of the original Pakistani Taliban alliance, see LWJ report: Discord dissolves Pakistani Taliban coalition.]

Pakistani army kills senior al Qaeda commander tasked with attacking the West

 Adnan Shukrijumah

Adnan Shukrijumah

LWJ, By

The Pakistani military said it killed Adnan Shukrijumah, a senior al Qaeda leader who was tasked with plotting attacks in North America, during a raid in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan. Shukrijumah was a member of al Qaeda’s external operations council and was involved with the 2008 plot to bomb subways in New York City and another plot to detonate fuel pipelines at JFK International Airport.

The Inter-Services Public Relations branch of the Pakistani military announced the death of Shukrijumah in a press release, and said he was killed in a raid in the Shin Warsak area of South Waziristan.

“In an intelligence borne operation, top al Qaeda leader Adnan Al Shukrijumah was killed by [the] Pakistan Army in an early morning raid in Shin Warsak, South Waziristan today,” the ISPR statement, which was obtained by The Long War Journal, said. Additionally, “his accomplice and local facilitator were also killed in the raid.” The ISPR also said a soldier was killed during the raid.

The Shin Warsak area is a known haven for al Qaeda, and is controlled by the Mullah Nazir Group, a Taliban faction that is favored by the Pakistani military and government as it does not seek to attack the Pakistani state. The Mullah Nazir Group does wage jihad in Afghanistan and shelter members of al Qaeda and other local and international terrorist groups.

The US has launched four drone strikes against al Qaeda in Shin Warzak since December 2008. In late 2012, the US killed two mid-level al Qaeda commanders – Abdul Rehman al Zaman Yemeni and Sheikh Abdul Bari, in two separate strikes. [SeeLWJ reports, Al Qaeda commander thought killed in South Waziristan drone strike, and US drones kill 3 ‘militants’ in 1st strike in Pakistan in more than a month.]

Shukrijumah was born in Saudi Arabia and lived in the US for years. He attended a mosque in Florida where he mixed with radicals. At some point, Shukrijumah traveled to Afghanistan where he allegedly received training in al Qaeda’s camps and was groomed by senior al Qaeda leaders for future missions. In 2003, FBI and US intelligence officials told the press that Shukrijumah then came back to the US to coordinate terrorist attacks on American soil after Sept. 11, 2001. He was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda sleeper agent tied to 2009 NYC subway plot.]

Since 2003, Shukrijumah has been one of the most wanted al Qaeda terrorists in the world. On March 20, 2003, the FBI released a “Be on the Lookout” alert for Shukrijumah (aka Jafar al Tayyar, or Jafar “the Pilot”). The US State Department’s Rewards For Justice program offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture and prosecution. This made Shukrijumah on of the most wanted al Qaeda leaders in the world.

Shukrijumah has been identified as being a member of al Qaeda’s external operations council and its operations chief for North America.

He is the second member of al Qaeda’s external operations council to have been killed this fall. On Oct. 13, jihadists reported the death of Ahmed Abdulrahman Sihab Ahmed Sihab, who is also known as Abdulrahman al Sharqi. Sihab, a wanted Bahraini citizen who was on the US list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, is thought to have been killed in a drone strike in Pakistan or Afghanistan. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda external operations leader reported killed .]

Afghanistan: A Case Against a Residual US Military Presence

November 21, 2014 / ISIS Study Group:

The US government and Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) finally inked a bilateral security agreement (BSA) on 30 SEP 14 that will leave a residual US military force of 9,800 – 10,000 personnel in the country. Since the signing of the BSA the US government has been fueling the mainstream media with talk about how it may boost the chances for resuming peace talks with the Taliban by “demonstrating to the insurgents that they cannot hope to achieve a military victory.” We strongly disagree with this dangerously naive view of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, and submit to the American people that the presence of US military personnel in the country is irrelevant. Why? Because the central government will fall whether a residual force is there or not. The only thing a continue US military presence will do is delay the inevitable.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-afghan-bilateral-security-agreement-signed-1412076436

http://www.stripes.com/news/security-pact-may-foster-afghan-peace-process-us-envoy-says-1.305996

ANA 1
ANA troops
Source: http://www.afghanistan-today.org/media/photos/ANAunit.jpg

So keeping this in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that we had the customary “friday afternoon information dump” with the Obama administration authorizing an expansion of the US military’s residual force in Afghanistan starting in 2015 – complete with the same restrictive rules of engagement (ROE) that have led to so many deaths over the past 6 yrs in the country.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/22/us/politics/in-secret-obama-extends-us-role-in-afghan-combat.html?_r=0

Whereas the US government should’ve kept a residual force in Iraq, the opposite is true for Afghanistan. Here’s some of the primary reasons:

1. The Afghan people have no national identity. Where the average Iraqi (with the exception of the Kurds) identifies as being “Iraqi,” the Afghans’ loyalty falls in line with the following: Family, tribe, ethnic group, religion, nationality – all in this order. National identity is so far down on the totem pole that its barely a blip on their radar, and that’s one of the reasons why GIRoA can barely control Kabul. In other words, you’re more likely to find an Afghan who will identify as a being a member of the Zadran or Shirzai tribes than you will one who will identify himself as being “Afghan.” That’s a big problem to overcome in a country where unity is such a foreign concept. The UK and Soviets both tried – and failed in doing exactly what’s being attempted here. Should we really expect things to be different? Remember, even before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the central government was having difficulty maintaining its grip away from the capital.

http://www.kabultec.org/ntlid.html

http://www.rferl.org/content/afghanistan-id-cards-ethnic-divisions/25205181.html

http://www.fravahr.org/spip.php?article424

2. Insider attacks. The concept of insider attacks have become a fixture in the enemy’s TTPs in the country – and enlisted men aren’t the only targets. Senior US military officers have also been targeted, with the most recent incident being the attack that led to the death of US Army MG Harold Greene. We assess that the restrictive ROE and ludicrous policy of “cultural sensitivity training” so as not to “offend” our Afghan National Army (ANA) counterparts will not prevent future insider attacks. Furthermore, the only reason there has been a drop in these attacks this year is because of the US drawdown. The ANA are now taking the brunt of insider attacks, and we have several contacts who have served in the country – some of which are still there– who have informed us that many of these incidents go unreported so as not to paint a “negative picture.” We had problems with the IA being compromised by the former regime and IRGC-Qods Force proxies, but never experienced attacks on this scale. It’s also worth noting that in the final days of the Soviet occupation, the Soviet Army was experiencing several insider attacks by Afghan military officers who defected to the Mujahidin. In fact, they saw an increase towards the end of their mission embedding advisors as whole units defected to the Mujaheddin.

Read more

Also see:

Clinton State Department’s “Lady Taliban” Under Active FBI Investigation

Robin L. Raphel testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in 2004. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Robin L. Raphel testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in 2004. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

PJ Media, By Patrick Poole On November 6, 2014

Stunning news related to a top Clinton State Department diplomat, former Assistant Secretary of State Robin Raphel, that the Washington Post is reporting tonight is subject to an active FBI counter-intelligence investigation:

A veteran State Department diplomat and longtime Pakistan expert is under federal investigation as part of a counterintelligence probe and has had her security clearances withdrawn, according to U.S. officials.

The FBI searched the Northwest Washington home of Robin L. Raphel last month, and her State Department office was also examined and sealed, officials said. Raphel, a fixture in Washington’s diplomatic and think-tank circles, was placed on administrative leave last month, and her contract with the State Department was allowed to expire this week.

Two U.S. officials described the investigation as a counterintelligence matter, which typically involves allegations of spying on behalf of foreign governments. The exact nature of the investigation involving Raphel remains unclear. She has not been charged.

She was the first official to hold the position of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, appointed to that position by President Bill Clinton, and later served as US Ambassador to Tunisia and Senior Vice President of the National Defense University.

In August 2009, she was appointed as deputy for US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, where she was responsible for disbursing non-military aid to Pakistan.

This appointment was controversial because Raphel had been a registered agent for the Government of Pakistan just days before her new position was announced, and because of her close association with the Taliban during the Clinton Administration, earning Raphel the moniker, “Lady Taliban.”

According to one 2009 report:

Robin Raphel, 67, who has the dubious distinction of being a lobbyist for the former military regime of General Pervez Musharraf and who also has close ties with the Taliban as part of her lobbying for UNOCAL, will be the main person overlooking the $1.5 billion aid package to Pakistan, giving rise to concerns the U.S. taxpayers monies would go down the Pakistan drain.

Raphel is widow of former US Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel who had perished in the mysterious aircrash that killed Pakistan military dictator General Ziaul Haq and top brass of his military on August 17, 1988.

Raphel was appointed last month as deputy to Mr. Richard Holbrooke, the US. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan…

He said another reason to doubt Secretary Clinton’s assertion of accountability is in the naming of Robin Raphel as a deputy to U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakstan, Richard Holbrooke.

“She had been a Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs beginning in 1993 and on her watch, the madrassas bloomed. Robin Raphel is the person who, during the Clinton presidency, squired Taliban officials around Washington as the next best hope for Afghan leadership,” Dienstag recalled.

Raphel was lobbying for the ill-fated UNOCAL pipe line project at the time.

Raphel eventually became a lobbyist at Cassidy & Associates for the military administration of General Pervez Musharraf. “She was responsible for the lobbying for Pakistan in the State Department as a registered foreign agent of Pakistan and the firm had a $1.2 million contract with the Govt of Pakistan. At this time Jezail sees this as a highly dubious appointment of a well known revolving door retread to a sensitive position,” Dienstag said.

Details of the current FBI investigation haven’t been released, but it is expected that her ties to Pakistan are likely to be focus of the matter.

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

Al Qaeda Announces New Branch and Bid for Own Caliphate

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri

BY RYAN MAURO:

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has announced the opening of a new branch targeting India, Bangladesh and Burma in a videotape release. He did not mention the Islamic State (formerly ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), but his announcement could be interpreted as an attempt to demonstrate Al Qaeda’s viability as it is being eclipsed by the Islamic State.

Zawahiri, who is thought to be hiding in Pakistan, said that it took Al Qaeda two years to merge its associated forces into this new branch. Tellingly, he said that the new branch, named Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent (QJIS), would be loyal to Taliban chief Mullah Omar.

QJIS is led by a Pakistani commander of Al Qaeda named Asim Umar. His official position in Al Qaeda is chief of the group’s Sharia Committee in Pakistan. He is also a Pakistani Taliban commander.

Zawahiri named Ustad Usama Mahmoud as the spokesperson for QJIS.

He emphasized that the group’s goal is to “Establish sharia in the land and to free the occupied land of Muslims in the Indian sub-continent.”

The jihad is not fundamentally about territorial disputes. Indian control of Kashmir, the crackdown on Islamists by the Bangladeshi government and the dictatorship of Burma are road blocks standing in the way of this greater objective of sharia governance. Al Qaeda takes up these political causes as a means to this end.

Zawahiri called on Muslims to help QJIS create a caliphate. He describes its mission statement as “to call the ummah [Muslim world] to unite round the word of Tawhid [monotheism], to wage jihad against its enemies, to liberate its land, to restore its sovereignty, and to revive its Caliphate.”

This is an important detail. The Islamic State’s pitch is that it is an established caliphate and the one with the best chance of a success. Zawahiri is showing that Al Qaeda is also pro-caliphate and is suggesting the Indian subcontinent as an alternative starting point.

Read more at Clarion Project

Also see:

Lady al Qaeda: The World’s Most Wanted Woman

siddiqui1_1

The Taliban wanted to trade Bergdahl for her. The Islamic State offered to swap Foley. Why does every jihadi group want the U.S. to free Aafia Siddiqui? 

BY SHANE HARRIS:

Two years ago, a group of senior U.S. national security officials received a tantalizing proposal from officials in Pakistan. If the United States would release a Pakistani woman serving a lengthy prison sentence in Texas for attempted murder, Islamabad would try to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been missing since 2009 and was thought to be held in Pakistan by Taliban forces.

According to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the proposal, President Barack Obama’s national security advisors swiftly rejected the offer. To free the prisoner, Aafia Siddiqui, who’s linked to al Qaeda and was convicted in 2010 of attempting to kill Americans in Afghanistan, would violate the administration’s policy of not granting concessions to terrorist groups, the officials concluded. It would also put a potentially dangerous fighter back on the street. Siddiqui, 42, who’s known in counterterrorism circles as “Lady al Qaeda,” has been linked to 9/11 ringleader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and was once on the FBI’s most-wanted terrorists list. Educated in the United States — she studied at M.I.T. and received a doctorate from Brandeis — Siddiqui was arrested in 2008 in Afghanistan carrying sodium cyanide, as well as documents describing how to make chemical weapons and dirty bombs and how to weaponize Ebola. When FBI and military officials tried to question Siddiqui, she grabbed a weapon left on the table in her interrogation room and fired upon them.

Although U.S. officials never seriously considered trading Siddiqui, she has been a perennial bargaining chip for terrorists and Islamist militants who’ve made her release a condition for freeing a number of American and European prisoners over the years. The militants had repeatedly threatened to execute Bergdahl if Siddiqui wasn’t set free. And the

Islamic State terrorists who murdered American journalist James Foley last week had demanded Siddiqui’s release to spare his life.

On Tuesday, the Islamic State again demanded her freedom, this time in exchange for a 26-year-old American woman kidnapped last year in Syria while working with humanitarian aid groups. Officials believe the Islamic State is holding at least four American prisoners, including journalist Steven Sotloff. The militants have also insisted upon a $6.6 million ransom for the young American woman, whose family doesn’t want her identified. The Islamic State’s demands were first reported by ABC News.

While the White House has steadfastly refused to put Siddiqui’s release on the table in negotiating for American prisoners, a team inside the Defense Department has proposed trading her for American captives, according to a U.S. lawmaker.

“We are aware of at least one entity in the Defense Department that has developed possible options to trade Siddiqui. And we can say with certainty that the option was weighed for Bergdahl and several others in captivity,” said Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.-Calif.), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and a former Marine who has criticized the Obama administration for not doing more to free American prisoners.

A heated debate over whether the U.S. government should pay ransoms or conduct prisoner swaps in order to free American captives erupted after Foley’s murder. The United States, unlike many European countries, doesn’t pay ransoms. Some terrorism experts say that Americans are less likely to be kidnapped as a result. But some former prisoners and their families want the government to pony up if doing so will free Americans.

Kasper said the Siddiqui option in Bergdahl’s case never reached Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “That’s a real shame, because right or wrong on trading Siddiqui, all valid options should be explored and exhausted,” he said.

Read more at Foreign Policy

Also see:

Feds Arrest Long-Time Afghan Resident of Penn. for Terror Ties

Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin's flag

Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin’s flag

Although arresting violent and criminal jihadists in the US is necessary, the breweries of Islamist extremism must also be shut down.

By Ryan Mauro:

Federal authorities have arrested an Afghan named Hayatullah Dawari in Pennsylvania for allegedly lying on his citizenship application about his membership in the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) terrorist group.  He is accused of secretly communicating with HIG operatives in Pakistan about an unspecified operation.

The U.S. government says Dawari was associated with HIG in Afghanistan and Pakistan before he became a permanent resident in November 2008. Federal prosecutors say he lied on his citizenship application last year by denying any organizational associations. Theyassert that he acknowledged his HIG membership in a phone call made shortly after he filed for citizenship.

He is accused of maintaining communication with HIG operatives in Pakistan. In January, the FBI captured a book sent to him from that country that had a hidden message glued inside. The message was written in Pashto, a language spoken primarily in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams says it was “directing some urgent action.”

Dawari appears to be part of a larger cell because he was told to distribute books to specific individuals in the U.S. Williams said a similar secret communication was in the possession of an associate of Dawari’s in Philadelphia.

Dawari’s lawyer claims he served as a doctor with the American Red Cross and cared for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. He also claims the book was to be used to teach children at his mosque. He concedes that Dawari may have also treated terrorists while in Afghanistan but denies being a member of HIG.

HIG is an Islamist terrorist group with links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The indictment states that the group’s goal is a “fundamentalist Islamic state” in Afghanistan. The group is also closely linked to the Iranian regime and reportedly purchased surface-to-air missiles from North Korea in 2005.

Read more at Clarion Project

‘Honor’ Killings: A New Kind of American Tragedy

Amina-Ajmal-Honor-Killing-Evidence-Photoby Dr. Phyllis Chesler:

A new kind of American tragedy is taking place in a Brooklyn Federal Courthouse.

Both the defendant, standing trial for conspiracy to commit murder abroad in Pakistan, and the main witness against him, his daughter Amina, wept when they first saw each other. Amina’s extended family stared at her with hostility. As she testified, Amina paused, hesitated, and sobbed. She and her father had been very close until he decided that she had become too “Americanized.”

This Pakistani-American father of five, a widower, worked seven days a week driving a cab in order to support his children; this included sending his daughter, Amina, to Brooklyn College.

This is a successful American immigrant story—and yet, it is also a unique and unprecedented story as well, one which demands that Western law prevail over murderously misogynistic tribal honor codes.

At some point, Mohammad Ajmal Choudry sent Amina to Pakistan so that she might re-connect with her “roots”—but he had her held hostage there for three years. During that time, Amina, an American citizen, was forced into an arranged marriage, ostensibly to her first cousin, who probably expected this marriage to lead to his American citizenship. Such arranged marriages, and arranged specifically for this purpose, are routine. They are also factors in a number of high profile honor killing cases in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

For example, the Texas born and raised Said sisters, Aminah and Sarah, refused to marry Egyptian men as their Egyptian cab-driver father Yasir wanted them to do and he killed them for it. Canadian-Indian, Jaswinder Kaur, refused to marry the man her mother had chosen for her and instead married someone she loved. Her widowed mother and maternal uncle had her killed in India. They have been fighting extradition from Canada for more than a decade.

Amina, who grew up in New York from the time she was nine years old, did not want to be held hostage to this marriage. Indeed, Amina had found a man whom she loved and wished to marry.

Plucky Americanized Amina fled the arranged marriage within a month. With the help of a relative, the U.S. State Department, and ultimately, the Department of Homeland Security, Amina left Pakistan and went into hiding in the United States.

She had to. Her father had threatened to kill her if she did not return to her husband, give up her boyfriend, or return to her father. Mohammad may have pledged Amina’s hand without her knowledge, long, long ago.

A female relative’s sexual and reproductive activities are assets that belong to her father’s family, her tribe, her religion. They are not seen as individual rights.

Acting as if one is “free” to choose whom to marry and whom not to marry means that a woman has become too Westernized, or, in Amina’s case, too “Americanized.” This is a capital crime.

From Mohammad’s point of view, his beloved daughter had betrayed and dishonored him. She had “un-manned” him before his family. The desire to marry whom you want or to leave a violent marriage are viewed as filthy and selfish desires. Many Muslims in the Arab and Muslim world; Hindus and Muslims in India; and Muslims and, to a lesser extent, Sikhs in the West share this view and accordingly, perpetrate “honor killings.”

I do not like this phrase. An honor killing is dishonorable and it is also murder, plain and simple. It is a form of human sacrifice. It is also femicide–although sometimes boys and men are also murdered. I would like to call them “horror” murders.

Read more at Breitbart

 

Assault on Pakistan Airport Signals Taliban’s Reach and Resilience

Relatives and colleagues of airport security personnel killed in the attack on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, gathered near the coffins after funeral prayers. ATHAR HUSSAIN / REUTERS

Relatives and colleagues of airport security personnel killed in the attack on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, gathered near the coffins after funeral prayers.
ATHAR HUSSAIN / REUTERS

By DECLAN WALSH:

London –  Only a week ago the Pakistani taliban appeared to be on the ropes. Violent rivalries had split the insurgency in two. Peace talks with the government had collapsed. Military jets had pounded militant hide-outs in the tribal belt.

A squad of militant commandos, disguised as government security forces, stormed Karachi’s international airport after dark. They carried food, water and ammunition, apparently in preparation for a long siege, and big ambitions: perhaps to hijack a commercial airliner, government officials said Monday, or to blow up an oil depot, or to destroy airplanes on the tarmac.

The 10 attackers were dead five hours later, shot by soldiers or blown up by their own suicide vests. Yet the audacious nature of the assault shook Pakistan to its core, offering a violent reminder that for all its divisions, the Taliban remain an astonishingly resilient force.

It has kept a reach far beyond its tribal redoubt along the Afghan border, with an ability to penetrate the country’s busiest airport in the largest city. And the discovery that Uzbek jihadis were among the attackers underscores how, even in splinters, the Taliban can draw on an international militant network to conduct sophisticated attacks — which means trouble not just for Pakistan’s government and military, but for American interests in Afghanistan.

The determined attack seems to bear out earlier warnings by counterterrorism experts that the Taliban split two weeks ago was unlikely to erode the group’s capacity for mayhem.

“It’s become a hydra-headed monster,” said Najmuddin Shaikh, a retired head of Pakistan’s foreign service. “They had limited success in Karachi, but maybe that was just our good luck.”

Key to the Taliban’s strength is the web of alliances it has cultivated with fellow militant groups in North Waziristan, the tribal district along the Afghan border that since 2001 has evolved into a vibrant global hub of jihadi money, ideology and fighters — Punjabis, Chechens, Arabs, Central Asians, Afghan Taliban and a smattering of Westerners.

The Taliban’s major ally is the Haqqani network, a formidable force in the Afghan insurgency that held the American soldier Bowe Bergdahl hostage for five years until his release on May 31. But they have other allies too — fighters whose militancy was born elsewhere, but who have joined in the Taliban fight.

Chief among them are the Uzbeks, hard-bitten fighters who followed Osama bin Laden into Pakistan after September 2001, and who have since become an important element of the Taliban insurgency, offering Pakistan fighters what experts call a deep bench of militant training and expertise.

Read more at New York Times

Blind Skies over Afghanistan and Pakistan?

pakistanal-al-qaedaCSP, by Ben Lerner:

The big headline this past week was President Obama’s announcement at West Point that the United States is drawing down its military presence in Afghanistan to 5,000 ground troops by the end of 2015. Left unsaid by the President, however, was that we’re scaling back substantially on fighting al Qaeda from the skies as well.

As Guy Taylor reports at the Washington Times:

President Obama’s call to cut the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to 5,000 troops in 18 months will end an era of American drone superiority over the region and jeopardize hard-fought gains against al Qaeda just as the terrorist movement’s original core is rising again, former senior defense officials and national security sources say….

…With regard to drone operations, the heavy U.S. troop presence in northern Afghanistan over the past decade created the logistical capability for sustained cross-border targeting in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where more than 250 U.S. drone strikes were reported from 2005 through 2013.

Taylor goes on to relay the concerns of David Sedney, President Obama’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan and Central Asia, that al Qaeda in the Af-Pak region is regrouping at the same time that we are pulling up stakes on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strikes:

What’s particularly disconcerting, Mr. Sedney said, is the manner in which al Qaeda appears to be recovering from gains made by the 2005-to-2013 drone campaign and the 2011 raid that killed bin Laden.

“These strikes were just having a dampening effect. They were not permanently degrading or defeating al Qaeda,” Mr. Sedney said. “Al Qaeda is an ideology, not a core of individuals. The number of attacks is ramping up again. The flow of recruits never stopped; the flow of money has not stopped. A lot of the flow has gone to Syria, but much of that is because al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan wanted it there.”

Is now really the time to degrade this capability, in that part of the world?  Judging from Eli Lake’s reporting at The Daily Beast, the answer would be no:

While it’s true that Osama bin Laden and other top lieutenants were killed in Obama’s first term, it’s also true that the pace of those drone attacks against the extremists in Pakistan have since declined. According to the New America Foundation’s database for drone attacks there have been no drone strikes in Pakistan since December 25, 2013. Reza Jan, an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats project, concluded in a paper published Wednesday that the pause in drone strikes in Pakistan has given the Pakistani Taliban a chance to regroup and replenish its leadership ranks. Jan said Maulana Fazlullah, the new chief of Pakistan’s Taliban, has established a haven in Nuristan today. Other reports from the region have said he travels between Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border region with ease.

“I think our intelligence community is very concerned that al Qaeda in northeastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan will grow stronger without pressure being applied to them,” [House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman, Rep. Mac] Thornberry said.

Al Qaeda remains in Afghanistan despite drawdown plans

Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

Naseer Ahmed/Reuters

LWJ, By 

Eli Lake’s report at The Daily Beast, titled “As Obama Draws Down, Al Qaeda Grows in Afghanistan,” is today’s must read article. A quick excerpt:

As President Obama outlines what he promises to be the end of the war in Afghanistan, new U.S. intelligence assessments are warning that al Qaeda is beginning to re-establish itself there.Specifically, the concern for now is that al Qaeda has created a haven in the northeast regions of Kunar and Nuristan and is able to freely operate along Afghanistan’s only major highway–Route One, which connects the airports of Kandahar and Kabul.

“There is no doubt they have a significant presence in northeast Afghanistan,” Mac Thornberry, the Republican vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told The Daily Beast. “It’s a lot of speculation about exact numbers, but again part of the question is what are their numbers going to be and what are there activities going to be when the pressure lets up.”

If Thornberry’s warnings prove correct, then Obama is faced with two bad choices. He either breaks his promise to end America’s longest war or he ends up losing that war by withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan too soon, allowing al Qaeda to re-establish a base of operations in the country from which it launched 9/11.

For years, the official intelligence community estimate was that a little more than 100 al Qaeda fighters remained in Kunar Province, a foreboding territory of imposing mountains and a local population in the mountains at least that largely agrees with al Qaeda’s ascetic Salafist philosophy.

But recent estimates from the military and the U.S. intelligence community have determined that al Qaeda’s presence has expanded to nearby Nuristan and that the group coordinates its operations and activities with allies like the Pakistan-based Taliban and Haqqani Network.

 

Read the whole thing. Long War Journal readers will know that for years we have reported on al Qaeda’s extensive presence in Afghanistan; al Qaeda’s collusion with the Taliban, Haqqani Network, the Pakistani Taliban, and other groups; and US and Coalition efforts to dismantle the network using targeted raids.

And we’ve repeatedly criticized the often-repeated meme that al Qaeda has just 50-100 fighters in Afghanistan. Using press reports, press releases from the International Security Assistance Force, and al Qaeda’s own statements, we have detected the presence of al Qaeda and allied groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, and Lashkar-e-Taiba in 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Sadly, in June 2013 ISAF stopped issuing press releases on its raids that targeted al Qaeda, cutting off one important source of information that detailed al Qaeda’s presence.

Now, I’d argue that al Qaeda isn’t expanding into Kunar and Nuristan, but has merely capitalized on the US pullback from Kunar that took place beginning in 2009 [see this report from 2011 for some background on the withdrawal]. Keep in mind that the US began this withdrawal even as special operations forces were actively targeting what ISAF identified as al Qaeda “camps” in the province. For more on this, see LWJ report, ISAF captures al Qaeda’s top Kunar commander, from April 2011.

It seems that some US officials are finally starting to come around to the analysis of al Qaeda’s presence that has long been provided by The Long War Journal. Unfortunately, that may be too little and too late, as President Obama has set the stage for the US to exit Afghanistan and significantly reduce, if not end, its capacity to target al Qaeda and allied groups in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.