Islamic State Expands Into North Africa

A Malian police officer stands guard after a deadly terrorist attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali in November 2015 / Getty Images

Attacks by new terror group threaten Western interests in region

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz March 15, 2017:

A new Islamic State affiliate is gaining strength in sub-Saharan Africa as part of efforts by the Syrian-based Islamist terror group to take over large parts of the continent.

A relatively new group known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has stepped up terrorist attacks in the swath of north Africa known as the Sahel. The Sahel is a semi-arid region that stretches from the western states of Mali and Nigeria, through Niger, Chad, and Sudan and into part of Ethiopia.

ISIS-GS, as the group is identified in U.S. intelligence reports, was formed in 2015 from al Murabitun, an Islamist terror group once linked to al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Militants from Murabitun and a second AQIM splinter group called al Mulathamun Battalion founded ISIS-GS.

According to a State Department security report, al Murabitun was “one of the more active militant groups in the Sahel” and carried out the November 2015 attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali that killed 20 people.

The March 8 report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), a State Department-private sector group, said the new ISIS-GS had been relatively quiet for about a year before reemerging with three significant terror attacks in late 2016.

The Islamic State officially recognized ISIS-GS in October in what security analysts regard as an indication the broader terror movement is stepping up operations in northern Africa.

“Since the Islamic State proclaimed its so-called caliphate in June 2014, it has expanded in both symbolic and real terms in North and West Africa,” said a report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

The OSAC report said the official ISIS recognition of the new group likely reflects “the group’s desire to strengthen its African presence after setbacks in Libya, creating a possibility that this new group could receive increased material support from ISIS in the future.”

The Islamic State suffered setbacks in Libya, where it had controlled key parts of the largely ungoverned state. ISIS in Libya had imposed its ultra-violent version of Sharia law, with sex slaves and beheadings, in the city of Sirte. It was driven out of the port city in December by Libyan government forces.

Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander of Africa Command, told a Senate hearing last week that ISIS is regrouping after its expulsion from Sirte and that many of its militants were moving to southern Libya.

In prepared testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Waldhauser said countering the ISIS threat in both the Sahel and Libya is among one of five “lines of effort” for his command.

“The instability in Libya and North Africa may be the most significant, near-term threat to U.S. and allies’ interests on the continent,” he said.

“The multiple militias and fractured relationship between factions in east and west Libya exacerbate the security situation, spilling into Tunisia and Egypt and the broader Maghreb, allowing the movement of foreign fighters, enabling the flow of migrants out of Libya to Europe and elsewhere.”

The terrorist groups are working to incorporate large areas of Africa under Islamist ideology and are networking and targeting young people for recruitment, he said.

Waldhauser also stated that Africa Command “must be ready to conduct military operations to protect U.S. interests, counter violent extremist organizations, and enable our partners’ efforts to provide security.”

Jason Warner, an assistant professor at the Combating Terrorism Center, stated in January that ISIS headquarters delayed recognizing the Sahel affiliate until after the attacks in late 2016. The attacks “signaled to the Islamic State that ISIS-GS was more than just a nominal fighting force,” he said.

Warner said ISIS-GS appears better organized than two other new ISIS affiliates in Africa: the Islamic State in Somalia, in northern Somalia, and the southern Islamic State of Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

“While recent news on the Islamic State centers on the siege of Mosul in Iraq, the group’s ideological hold in sub-Saharan Africa has been quietly growing, and not simply in relation to its well-known merger with Boko Haram,” Warner wrote in the West Point journal CTC Sentinel. “Indeed, over the past year-plus, three new Islamic State affiliates have gained prominence in sub-Saharan Africa.”

ISIS-GS “is the only one of these groups to have carried out multiple attacks,” Warner said.

The Sahel affiliate of ISIS is led by al Murabitun commander Adnan al Sahrawi, who pledged his group’s loyalty to ISIS in May 2015.

ISIS-GS conducted its first attack in Burkina Faso in September on a border post. That was followed by attacks in October in Burkina Faso and an assault on a prison in Niger in an apparent bid to free jihadists that could bolster its forces.

The Islamic State conducted similar prison attacks in Iraq prior to taking over large portions of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

ISIS-GS is also suspected of carrying out the December 2016 attack on a military convoy in Burkina Faso that killed 12 soldiers.

“The emergence of an ISIS affiliate in the Sahel will likely increase the security threat to the private sector, as western interests are routinely targeted by militant groups in the Sahel,” the report said.

The Islamic terror group Boko Haram, active in Nigeria, aligned with ISIS in March 2015, another sign of the terror group’s growing influence on the continent.

Also see:

Resolving the Conflict in Yemen: U.S. Interests, Risks, and Policy

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, March 10, 2017

Editor’s note: On March 9, Thomas Joscelyn testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The hearing, “Resolving the Conflict in Yemen: U.S. Interests, Risks, and Policy,” was called to explore the political dynamics of the ongoing war in Yemen, as well as the roles played by foreign actors and al Qaeda. His written testimony can be read below. A version of Mr. Joscelyn’s testimony with footnotes can be found here.

Senator Corker and other members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the ongoing war in Yemen. Unfortunately, I do not see a way that this conflict can be resolved any time soon. Yemen is rife with internal divisions, which are exacerbated by the proxy war being waged by several actors. Arab states, Iran, and others see Yemen as a key battleground in their contest for regional power. In addition, al Qaeda has taken advantage of the crisis to pursue its chief objective, which is seizing territory and building an emirate inside the country.

I discuss these various actors in my written testimony below and look forward to answering your questions.

The Iranian-backed Houthi offensive has significantly undermined U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Governance in Yemen has been a longstanding problem. But the Houthi offensive in late 2014 knocked President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi from power at a time when the U.S. was counting on his government to act as a vital counterterrorism partner.

There is a debate over how close the Houthis and Iran really are. Some have argued that the Houthis should not be thought of as an Iranian terror proxy, such as Hezbollah. While this accurate – the Houthis have their own culture and traditions – there is no question that Iran and the Houthis are allies. And it is in Iran’s interest to work with the Houthis against Saudi-backed forces in Yemen, while also encouraging Houthi incursions into the Saudi kingdom.

The U.S. government has long recognized Iran as one of the Houthis’ two key backers. (The other being former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his network, which is discussed below.) In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, the State Department noted:

Iran actively supported members of the Houthi tribe in northern Yemen, including activities intended to build military capabilities, which could pose a greater threat to security and stability in Yemen and the surrounding region. In July 2012, the Yemeni Interior Ministry arrested members of an alleged Iranian spy ring, headed by a former member of the IRGC.

That warning proved to be accurate, as the Houthis made significant gains just over two years later. The U.S. and its allies have intercepted multiple Iranian arms shipments reportedly intended for the Houthis. And senior U.S. officials have repeatedly referenced Iran’s ongoing assistance. Late last year, Reuters reported that “Iran has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis,” including “missiles and small arms.”

In September 2015, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter listed America’s “core interests in the region.” Among them, according to Carter, was “supporting Saudi Arabia in protecting its territory and people from Houthi attacks, and supporting international efforts to prevent Iranian shipments of lethal equipment from reaching Houthi and Saleh-affiliated forces in Yemen.” The Houthis have responded by launching missiles at American ships, as well as ships operated by other countries.

Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his supporters have worked to undermine President Hadi’s’s government.

Former President Saleh and his son have allied with the Houthis to thwart any chance of having a stable political process inside Yemen. The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Saleh and two Houthi military commanders in 2014, describing them as “political spoilers.” Saleh became “one of the primary supporters of violence perpetrated by” the Houthis as of the fall of 2012, and has provided them with “funds and political support.” Then, in April 2015, Treasury sanctioned Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali Saleh. The junior Saleh was commander of Yemen’s Republican Guard, but was removed from that post by Hadi. Still, Ahmed Ali Saleh “retained significant influence within the Yemeni military, even after he was removed from command.” And he has “played a key role in facilitating the Houthi military expansion.”

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is attempting to build an Islamic state in Yemen.

Al Qaeda is working to build Islamic emirates in several countries and regions, including Afghanistan, North and West Africa, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Unlike its rivals in the Islamic State (or ISIS), al Qaeda has adopted a long-term approach for state-building. While AQAP has begun to implement its version of sharia law in Yemen, it has not advertised the most gruesome aspects of its draconian code for fear of alienating the population. Still, AQAP controlled much of southern Yemen from April 2015 to April 2016, including the port city of Mukallah, where it reportedly earned substantial revenues via taxes. AQAP’s forces simply melted away when the Arab-led coalition entered Mukallah and other areas. By doing so, AQAP presented itself as a protector of the local population and lived to fight another day. The group is capable of seizing more territory at any time.

AQAP isn’t just an “affiliate” of al Qaeda; it is al Qaeda.

In addition to being a regional branch of al Qaeda’s international organization, AQAP has housed senior al Qaeda managers who are tasked with responsibilities far outside of Yemen. For example, Nasir al Wuhayshi (who was killed in 2015) served as both AQAP’s emir and as al Qaeda’s general manager. At the time of his death, Wuhayshi was the deputy emir of al Qaeda’s global operations.

Beginning in 2014, the Islamic State (or ISIS), mushroomed in size after declaring the establishment of its so-called caliphate across a large part of Iraq and Syria. Some predicted, erroneously, that AQAP would defect to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s cause in the event that Wuhayshi was killed. That prediction was based on a stunning ignorance of AQAP’s organization and implicitly assumed that AQAP’s loyalty to al Qaeda was embodied in a single man. Wuhayshi’s successor, Qasim al Raymi, quickly reaffirmed his and AQAP’s allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri. Al Qaeda veterans and loyalists from a new generation of jihadists are peppered throughout AQAP’s ranks.

The U.S. has killed a number of top AQAP leaders, but the group has effectively replaced them and likely retains a bench of capable fill-ins.

Wuhayshi was one of several senior AQAP leaders killed in the drone campaign in 2015. Others have perished since. But AQAP has quickly filled their positions with other al Qaeda veterans, including Raymi, Ibrahim al Qosi (a former Guantanamo detainee), Ibrahim al Banna (discussed below), and others. Most of AQAP’s insurgency organization, including its middle management, has not been systematically targeted. Therefore, the organization as a whole has not been systematically degraded. AQAP still threatens the West, but most of its resources are devoted to waging the insurgency and building a state inside Yemen. Recently, the U.S. has stepped up its air campaign, launching 40 or more airstrikes against AQAP this month. Those airstrikes are intended, in part, to weaken AQAP’s guerrilla army. But it will require more than bombings to do that. Without an effective government representing most of the Sunni tribes and people, AQAP will continue to position itself as the legitimate ruler in many areas of Yemen.

Al Qaeda has deep roots inside Yemen.

Osama bin Laden’s and Ayman al Zawahiri’s men first began to lay the groundwork for al Qaeda’s organization inside Yemen in the early 1990s, if not earlier. Zawahiri himself spent time in Yemen alongside his comrades in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), which effectively merged with bin Laden’s operation in the 1990s. Zawahiri, his brother, and their fellow EIJ jihadists established a base of operations in Yemen. One of these EIJ veterans, Ibrahim al Banna, was designated as a senior AQAP leader by the U.S. government late last year. In 1992 or 1993, Zawahiri ordered al Banna to oversee “the administration” of al Qaeda’s “affairs” in Yemen, “opening public relationships with all the students of knowledge and the notables and the tribal sheikhs.” That was more than a quarter of a century ago. Yet al Banna, a co-founder of AQAP, continues to command jihadists inside the country to this day.

Al Qaeda has suffered multiple setbacks inside Yemen since al Banna was first dispatched to the country in the early 1990s. But the jihadists’ patient approach has clearly borne fruit. An unnamed U.S. military official recently explained that AQAP has “skillfully exploited the disorder in Yemen to build its strength and reinvigorate its membership and training.” This same official estimated that AQAP’s total group strength is in the “low thousands,” but warned that because many of its members are Yemeni “they can blend in with the tribes there.”

This assessment of AQAP’s overall strength may or may not be accurate with respect to the total number of deployed fighters. But the U.S. has underestimated the size of jihadist organizations in the past, including the Islamic State (ISIS) and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. AQAP maintains a deep support network within Yemeni society that allows it to regenerate its forces and continue waging jihad despite fighting on multiple fronts for many years.

The U.S. Treasury Department has outlined parts of AQAP’s fundraising apparatus in a series of terrorist designations. Treasury’s work has highlighted the mix of tribal politics, Gulf fundraising, and local banking that has helped fuel AQAP’s war in Yemen.

Files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound reveal that al Qaeda has sought to maintain friendly tribal relations and avoid the mistakes made in Iraq, where the predecessor to the current Islamic State alienated tribal leaders. It is difficult to gauge the extent of ideological support for AQAP’s cause within Yemen’s tribes, but the jihadists do not need key tribes to be completely committed to their cause. While there have been tensions at times, AQAP benefits from the tribes’ frequent unwillingness to back government forces against the jihadists.

Some tribal leaders are closely allied with AQAP, so much so that they have been integrated into the organization’s infrastructure. This has led to an awkward situation in which some of AQAP’s leaders are also partnered with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Hadi’s government in the war against the Houthis. For instance, during a raid against AQAP in January, U.S. forces killed a prominent tribal leader named Sheikh Abdel-Raouf al-Dhahab. The Associated Press (AP), citing “military officials, tribal figures and relatives,” reported that Dhahab met “with the military chief of staff in Hadi’s government” shortly “before the raid.” Fahd al-Qasi, Dhahab’s “top aide,” accompanied Dhahab to the meeting and subsequently confirmed that it took place. “During five days of talks with the military, al-Dhahab — who commands a force of some 800 tribal fighters — was given around 15 million Yemeni riyals ($60,000) to pay his men in the fight against the rebels, al-Qasi and the two officials said,” according to the AP. Al-Qasi “distributed the money to the fighters” just hours before the raid.

AQAP has also benefitted from its longstanding relationship with Shaykh Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani and his network. The U.S. Treasury Department first designated Zindani as a terrorist in 2004, describing him as a “loyalist to Usama bin Laden and supporter of al-Qaeda.” In 2013, Treasury said that Zindani was providing “religious guidance” for AQAP’s operations. Zindani has been a prominent leader in Islah, which is a Yemeni political party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and Islah have a lengthy history of relations, which had cooled in the not-so-distant past. However, as a result of the Houthis’ successful push across Yemen, Saudi Arabia has embraced Islah once again. Zindani himself has maintained friendly relations with the Saudis.

Zindani is the founder of Al-Iman University, which has served as a jihadist recruiting hub. Some al Qaeda leaders have not always been happy with the elderly ideologue. But one letter recovered in bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound demonstrates why al Qaeda would not publicly criticize him. “To be fair, a significant number of al-Mujahidin who reach the jihadi arena here were instructed or prepared by him, especially the new Russian converts to Islam who moved from Russia to Yemen and stayed for a while at al-Iman University and then moved with their families to the field of Jihad,” a senior al Qaeda leader wrote in March 2008. Whatever disagreements al Qaeda may have had with Zindani at times, he and his broad network have provided valuable support for AQAP’s operations.

The preceding paragraphs above give a brief overview of AQAP’s deep network inside Yemen, demonstrating why it remains a potent force. The Islamic State has also established a much smaller presence inside Yemen. The Islamic State’s men are capable of carrying out large attacks, particularly against soft targets such as funerals and markets. AQAP avoids such operations, seeing them as detrimental to its cause, which is based on building more popular support for the jihadist group.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

***

Watch the Senate hearing, “Resolving the Conflict in Yemen: U.S. Interests, Risks, and Policy”

Also see:

Al-Qaeda Claims U.S. Killed ‘Blind Sheikh’ in Prison, Calls for ‘Violent Revenge’

Relatives and friends of "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted of plotting terror attacks in New York City in the decade before 9/11, carry his coffin after funeral prayers at the Grand Mosque in the Nile Delta town of Gamalia, Egypt, on Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Mostafa Albasuni)

Relatives and friends of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted of plotting terror attacks in New York City in the decade before 9/11, carry his coffin after funeral prayers at the Grand Mosque in the Nile Delta town of Gamalia, Egypt, on Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Mostafa Albasuni)

PJ MEDIA, BY BRIDGET JOHNSON, FEBRUARY 22, 2017:

Al-Qaeda accused the United States of withholding necessary medication from “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, the mastermind of the deadly 1993 World Trade Center bombing who died behind bars Saturday.

They also released a final statement from the sheikh complaining of strip searches that explored his private parts “front and back,” claiming that he could be poisoned behind bars and calling for “the most powerful and violent revenge” in the event of his demise.

Abdel-Rahman, 78, was serving a life sentence at the Federal Medical Center, Butner, in North Carolina. He had been blinded at a young age by diabetes, and reportedly passed away from complications of coronary heart disease and diabetes.

In a statement issued by their As-Sahab media, al-Qaeda’s central command grieved the sheikh “after a battle with the tyrants of the earth lasted almost six decades of his life” and winding up “in the grip of the people of the Cross.”

The terror group also noted operations that had been conducted over the years in an effort to win Abdel-Rahman’s release, including the kidnapping of westerners by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb as well as al-Qaeda in Pakistan and its Yemen branch.

Citing Abdel-Rahman’s family, who first released the news of his death, al-Qaeda alleged “the Americans decided to kill him in prison” by withholding drugs.

Al-Qaeda encouraged followers to “slay” in the sheikh’s name as “Americans enjoy security and safety,” targeting U.S. interests everywhere.

Al-Qaeda also released a parting statement from Abdel-Rahman in their Al-Nafir Bulletin, in which he said the Americans were using his imprisonment to “rub the pride of the Muslims in the dirt.”

He complained of being filmed while bathing or using the toilet in solitary confinement, being strip-searched “until I am as naked as when my mother delivered me” before “they look into my private parts, from the front and the back — what are they looking for?” and of not having any fellow Arabic speakers visit. “If it were not for reciting the Quran I would have been afflicted with many psychological and mental illnesses,” he said.

The statement attributed to Abdel-Rahman also said he was prevented from Friday prayers and from celebrating Islamic holidays, or having “any contact with Muslims.”

“They are undoubtedly killing me, especially while I am isolated from the world. No one sees what they do to me in my food and drink. They may employ the method of slow killing with me, where they put poison in the food or a medicine or an injection, and may give me dangerous, bad medicine, or they may give me a quantity of lethal drugs or a madness-inducing drug,” he said. “This is in particular, while I smell strange and awful scents from the floor above me, constantly accompanied by a ‘whoosh,’ like the sound of an old air conditioner, with knocks, noise, and hammering, like the sound of grenades, which continues for hours, day and night.”

After offering several verses from the Quran, Abdel-Rahman continued, “If they kill me — and they inevitably will — publicize my funeral, and send my corpse to my family, and do not forget my blood and do not waste it.”

“Instead, avenge me with the most powerful and violent revenge,” he concluded. “Remember a brother who told you a word of truth and was killed in the way of Allah.”

Abdel-Rahman’s body was returned to his family in Egypt today via the Cairo airport. Thousands gathered in his hometown, Al-Gamaliya, for his funeral.

In an earlier issue of Al-Nafir released by their Global Islamic Media Front at the beginning of the month, al-Qaeda directly addressed President Trump, something official ISIS materials haven’t even done since Inauguration Day. Responding to the raid on an al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula camp, in which CENTCOM admitted civilian casualties, the terror group claimed “Americans in this massacre intentionally killed women and children, and even an infant in the womb was not spared.”

“And on this occasion we say to the stupid President Trump: The presidency of your country has had several presidents in years past, whom all have promised the American people to kill the mujahideen and excise them. However, they all ended up leaving the White House before fulfilling their promise, despite some of them having a second term. This is undoubtedly your fate, for the flame of jihad has ignited and reached all over the world.”

Al Qaeda often agitated for Omar Abdel Rahman’s release from US prison

blind-sheikhLONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN, | February 19, 2017:

News broke yesterday that Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian jihadi ideologue, died in a US prison. Within hours of the reports, al Qaeda re-released a copy of Rahman’s last “will,” in which Rahman asked his “brothers” to exact “revenge” for his death.

The US District Court for the Southern District of New York convicted Rahman (seen on the right) on terror-related charges in 1995 and he was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. Rahman was convicted for his role in a conspiracy to launch terror attacks against several New York City landmarks, including the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the FBI’s main office in Manhattan, and the United Nations building. Investigators also found that he was involved with the jihadists responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The ninth issue of al Qaeda’s Al-Nafir newsletter, which was released online after news of Rahman’s death spread, carried a version of Rahman’s “Will to the Islamic Ummah.” In the text, Rahman complained of the treatment he was allegedly subjected to in an American prison, writing that the US is purposefully “eliminating the scholars who speak the truth.” (This is a common al Qaeda talking point, as the jihadis frequently accuse the Americans of targeting their “scholars.”)

Rahman claimed that the Americans will “eventually kill me,” either through poisoning, or by giving him spoiled medicine, or with an overdose of drugs. Rahman warned that the Americans will lie about the causes of his death, so the jihadis shouldn’t believe them.

Rahman, who was 78, died of natural causes, according to American officials.

His “will” has been a piece of jihadi propaganda since the 1990s.

“My brothers, if they [the Americans] kill me, and they eventually will do so, then perform my funeral and give my corpse to my family,” Rahman wrote, according to a translation of Al-Nafir obtained by FDD’s Long War Journal. “Do not forget my blood and do not squander it, but exact a severe and fierce revenge on them for me.” Rahman called on others to remember that he was their “brother” and that he “spoke the truth” in the cause of Allah.

Al-Nafir’s version is similar to the text that was distributed in 1998. In The Osama bin Laden I Know, Peter Bergen wrote that copies of Rahman’s “will” were distributed at a press conference hosted by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri on May 26, 1998.

Rahman’s sons handed out a laminated card with their father’s will, as well as a fatwa authorizing attacks against the US, written on it. The text of Rahman’s last will described by Bergen appears to be the same as Al-Nafir’s, meaning Rahman first warned that the Americans were slowly killing him almost twenty years ago. He eventually died — and now al Qaeda is using his death to call for retribution.

According to the translation obtained by Bergen, Rahman’s fatwa read: “Cut all relations with [the Americans, Christians, and Jews], tear them to pieces, destroy their economies, burn their corporations, destroy their peace, sink their ships, shoot down their planes and kill them on air, sea, and land. And kill them wherever you may find them, ambush them, take them hostage, and destroy their observatories. Kill these infidels.”

Rahman’s fatwa has been credited with providing theological justifications for al Qaeda’s attacks, as not many sheikhs endorsed bin Laden’s early vision of global terror. At the May 1998 conference where Rahman’s fatwa and will were handed out by his sons, bin Laden announced that he had formed the “World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.” It was this front, which Rahman’s sons supported, that brought the war to American targets in Aug. 1998, when the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed.

Al Qaeda frequently took up Rahman’s cause through the years. Bin Laden often cited Rahman’s case as an example of America’s supposed injustice towards Muslims.

In his 1996 declaration of war against America, Bin Laden portrayed Rahman’s imprisonment as part of an alleged campaign against Islamic scholars. In 1997, according to the Washington Post, bin Laden accused the US of fabricating “a baseless case against [Rahman] even though he is a blind old man.”

A Presidential Daily Brief delivered to President Bill Clinton on Dec. 4, 1998 warned that bin Laden and his men were working with Rahman’s group, Gama’at al-Islamiyya (IG), to orchestrate an “aircraft hijacking.” The intent behind the putative plot was to force the US to free Rahman and others. The plot didn’t progress, but it was later seen as an early harbinger of the 9/11 hijackings.

In Sept. 2000, Al Jazeera’s satellite channel aired footage of a meeting of several jihadi leaders in Afghanistan. All of them, including bin Laden and Zawahiri, pledged to free Rahman from jail. “We promise to work with all our power to free our brother [Rahman],” bin Laden said, with one of Rahman’s sons by his side.

Zawahiri also spoke, asking: “Which one of us today would not sacrifice himself for this man who has supported every righteous stand and has been an unshakable leader?” Zawahiri continued: “We have a duty towards Dr. Omar Abdel Rahman, who has never abandoned a righteous stand. Do we now abandon giving him support and rewarding him?”

Al Qaeda and other actors continued to seek Rahman’s release in the years since.

After the revolution in Egypt swept Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, Rahman’s cause became even more popular. Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood figure who briefly served as Egypt’s president, promised his supporters that he would try to free the blind ideologue.

Members of Gama’at al-Islamiyya who were closely allied with al Qaeda also helped stage a protest outside the US Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012. The protest was pro-al Qaeda, with the group’s black flag flying high and chants of “Obama! Obama! We are all Osama [bin Laden]!” ringing out. Some of the protesters cited Rahman in their rallying cries.

In Jan. 2013, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a notorious Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) commander, orchestrated a major raid on a natural gas field in Algeria. His men took dozens of foreign nationals hostage and demanded the release of Rahman in exchange for some of them. Authorities did not comply with the demand.

Al Qaeda still uses images and clips of Rahman in its propaganda.

On Feb. 18, the same day that Rahman’s death was announced, al Qaeda released Ayman al Zawahiri’s lengthy eulogy for one of Rahman’s longtime comrades, Rifai Ahmed Taha Musa, who was killed in an American airstrike in Apr. 2016. Taha and Rahman were both Gama’at al-Islamiyya leaders. Zawahiri praised Taha for taking part in the aforementioned Sept. 2000 conference in Kandahar, during which the jihadis called for Rahman’s release.

“Sheikh Rifai Taha, may God have mercy on him, took interest in the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman in deed, and not by merely begging America” to free him, Zawahiri said. Taha agreed with bin Laden that Rahman should be freed and said so during the conference, Zawahiri remarked.

Zawahiri’s video eulogy for Taha includes footage from the Sept. 2000 gathering, during which they praised Rahman. As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, used images of Rahman alongside Zawahiri and Taha to promote the video. (One such image can be seen above.) It may be the case that al Qaeda waited to release Zawahiri’s commemoration of Taha until Rahman died, as the timing of the video’s online distribution is especially conspicuous.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), both of which are openly loyal to Zawahiri, released a joint eulogy for Rahman earlier today. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The al Qaeda branches specifically mentioned Rahman’s will.

“We call upon the sons of Islam and its honorable knights, who were not successful in liberating the sheikh from his imprisonment, to earnestly and honestly work hard to execute his will, and to build from his blood a lighthouse that inspires the generations…to viciously avenge the sheikh against his oppressors and his wardens,” the statement from AQAP and AQIM reads, according to SITE’s translation. “This would be the least of what his brothers in Islam and pride should do,” the statement continues, as Muslims should “rescue…our scholars and our leaders who were faithful to Allah and never deviated from his path.”

Rahman’s teachings had a significant influence on the development of al Qaeda and modern jihadism. For more than 20 years, al Qaeda’s leaders made him a central part of their cause. The jihadis will almost certainly continue to use him in their productions in the years to come.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Al-Qaeda Guide: ‘Large and Violent Demonstrations’ Can Distract from Terror Operations

Police deploy a chemical irritant as a crowd marches through the streets of Portland, Ore., following Donald Trump's presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)

Police deploy a chemical irritant as a crowd marches through the streets of Portland, Ore., following Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, Feb. 7, 2017:

A new al-Qaeda guide from one of the group’s most wanted leaders pitches the value of kidnappings to jihadists, including seizing scientists working in “sensitive” areas and politicians, and details how terrorists should map out these operations.

The 39-page guide, released by al-Qaeda’s As-Sahab media, is authored by Saif al-Adel, a senior al-Qaeda member on the FBI’s Most Wanted list in connection with the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. There’s a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of the Egyptian through the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program.

Al-Adel, in his mid-50s, drew from a lecture on kidnapping he originally delivered in 2000. He’s been al-Qaeda’s planner in Iran, and is rumored to have recently spent time in Syria.

He dedicates the guide to, among others, “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is serving a life sentence on federal conspiracy charges in North Carolina, “and his associates in America.”

Kidnapping is described as more than a ransom-generating operation, but “one of the methods …to break the will of the enemy and force him to submit to the wishes of the attackers under pressure,” as well as “one of the most serious intelligence operations and the most controversial and most difficult” in terms of the length of the many stages of the operation including negotiations.

Funding jihad is listed as the last goal for kidnappers, but the list includes angling for prisoner swaps and stoking debate in the media “to gain international sympathy.”

Jihadists are encouraged to intricately plan kidnapping operations down to a “full rehearsal” before the deed at a similar site. Al-Adel tells them to plans ops with surprise attacks, speed and stealthy withdrawal as well as concealment of the kidnapping victim.

He ranks kidnapping targets into three tiers: “money men, and senior politicians and senior military” are considered the top targets, with the second-most desirable targets being “leading scientists in sensitive sciences” as well as celebrities, media and government officials. The lowest priority is tourists and “the citizenry at large,” though al-Qaeda has been seizing tourists, particularly in North Africa, for years.

The planning tips are similar to those detailed in the assassination issue of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine last May: finding a target, becoming familiar with their residence and routines, and formulating escape routes in advance. Al-Adel encourages gathering as much information about targets as possible from open sources such as the internet as well as human intelligence, wiretaps, surveillance and “imaging.” Jihadists are told to get to know the target’s “habits” and “weaknesses,” as well as relatives and any protective detail or home security system.

For targeting tour groups, terrorists are told to observe and learn how different tour companies handle security — “Does the guard at the bus remain after the descent of tourists? Is there a time unguarded for tourists?” — along with what language the tourists on board speak and what routes they take.

Ideal locations for kidnappings are described as accessible sites that pose the “lowest possible risk” to terrorists and allow for “speed and flexibility.” Terrorists are told to budget time wisely to include the operation itself, transferring hostages and conducting negotiations, and to ask themselves questions including, “Is there a dangerous, unpredictable effect on a cell? What is the practical impact on the community?”

Distraction techniques — “a huge fire in a warehouse timber port, car explosion on a bridge, large and violent demonstrations, etc.” — are emphasized to lure security away from potential targets as well as having three plans for one kidnapping: the master plan, the Plan B, and the contingency plan. “Develop a security plan for each individual if arrested,” Al-Adel says of terrorists involved in the op.

He even includes recommendations for people kidnapped by al-Qaeda, including “remain calm and in control” of oneself “and therefore the kidnappers will be the same,” and “you must be polite with the terrorists” while speaking naturally and building “a good human relationship with the terrorists.”

“Do not refuse any service” offered by the terrorists, such as food or drink, he adds, “exercise whenever possible and keep a clean body… try to take advantage of your time so that your mind remains intact.” And, he adds, “avoid the discussion of religion and politics.”

Al-Adel gives an example of how a plan would be put into place and executed with a target of “a money man of the Jews kidnapped while attending a celebration.” The December 1999 hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814 is also discussed.

The guide concludes with instruction for jihadists to operate in “the spirit of brotherhood and love of self-sacrifice” with “deep and intelligent thinking,” with “a good understanding of the nature of human beings” being critical to a successful terror kidnapping.

Al Qaeda back in the crosshairs–and with good reason

map-al-qaeda-2015Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher W. Holton, February 5, 2017:

There is growing evidence that, not only did Barack Obama allow the Islamic State caliphate to become established and metastasize on his watch, but he also looked the other way while Al Qaeda became resurgent.

Sean Durns over at the Washington Examiner has an article that summarizes how Al Qaeda has spread in recent years…

Al Qaeda, the group responsible for the worst terrorist attack in United States history, never really left. Instead, while news media coverage inordinately focused on the Islamic State, al Qaeda re-tooled and re-established itself for a new age.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of al Qaida’s death were greatly exaggerated. Anticipatory obituaries appeared after the death of al Qaida founder Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. Then-President Barack Obama, for instance, said on Sept. 10, 2011 that al Qaeda was “on a path to defeat.” Similarly, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said in July 2011 that the U.S. was “within reach of strategically defeating al Qaeda.”

But as terror analysts Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Bridget Moreng pointed out in an April 2015 op-ed, “The Islamic State’s offensive through Iraq and Syria last year has dominated the headlines, but the jihadist group that has won the most territory in the Arab world over the past six months is Al Qaeda.”

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/al-qaeda-is-back/article/2613929

As a result, not only has Donald Trump inherited the Islamic State caliphate, he has also inherited an Al Qaeda that is rebounding.

As Trump promised in his campaign, he is taking the war to the enemy. U.S. Special Operations Forces carried out a raid on an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a raid that has been the subject of much partisan bickering.

The Leftist news media is predictably celebrating the raid as “botched,” which is typical of their ignorance of military operations. They have evidently grown used to drone strikes which kept national command authority’s image squeaky clean, but also failed to achieve much of anything, given the growth of both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. To put it mildly, the media is overeager to see the new administration fail and will report everything as a failure.

Nevertheless, the raid reportedly killed two senior AQAP Jihadists, Sultan al-Dhahab and Abd-al-Ra’uf al-Dhahab. It was sufficiently successful to prompt the leader of AQAP, Qasim Al-Raymi, to issue a call for revenge against the U.S.

The media is also all-too eager to buy into the enemy propaganda that the U.S. raid killed civilian women and children. There is no evidence either way and there is sufficient precedent for women and even children to act as combatants for Jihadist organizations, so if they were killed, they are simply casualties of war.

Bill Roggio at Long War Journal has a good report on the renewed campaign against Al Qaeda…

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/02/us-military-says-aqap-leaders-killed-in-raid.php

The Final Obama Scandal

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Closing the book on a deceptive narrative about the al Qaeda threat

Weekly Standard, THE MAGAZINE: From the February 6 Issue – by Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn, January 27, 2017:

Less than 24 hours before the official end of the Obama presidency, while White House staffers were pulling pictures off the walls and cleaning out their desks, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) posted without fanfare another installment of the documents captured in Osama bin Laden’s compound during the May 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The press statement that accompanied the release made an unexpected declaration: This batch of newly released documents would be the last one. “Closing the Book on Bin Laden: Intelligence Community Releases the Final Abbottabad Documents,” the statement was headlined. According to a tally on the ODNI website, this last batch of 49 documents brings the total number released to 571.

For analysts who have paid attention to the Abbottabad documents, the numbers immediately caused alarm. For years, the Obama administration told the American people that the haul from the bin Laden compound was massive and important. In an interview on Meet the Press just days after the raid, Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, said the material could fill “a small college library.” A senior military intelligence official who briefed reporters at the Pentagon on May 7, 2011, said: “As a result of the raid, we’ve acquired the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.” Sources who have described the cache to THE WEEKLY STANDARD over the years have claimed that the number of captured documents, including even extraneous materials and duplicates, totals more than 1 million.

Can it really be the case that this release “closes the book”? The short answer: No, it can’t.

“[Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper and the old administration may want this to be closed, but it’s far from closed,” says Representative Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). “Now the truth will begin to come out. It’s just the beginning.”

The documents have been at the center of an intense, five-year political battle between Republicans on Capitol Hill and the Obama administration, and an equally pitched bureaucratic battle between the Central Intelligence Agency and ODNI on one side, and U.S. military intelligence agencies on the other. The Obama administration and the intelligence community leaders who have been loyal to the president argue that the document collection provided valuable intelligence in the days after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, but that what remains is unimportant and, in any case, supports the Obama administration’s approach to al Qaeda and jihadist terror over the past eight years. Republicans and military intelligence officials have a different view: Used properly, the document collection can serve as an important tool in understanding al Qaeda and other Islamic radicals—their history, their ideology, their structure, their operations, and even, five years on, their plans—not only for U.S. intelligence officials, but for lawmakers, historians, and the American public.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have pushed to have the documents declassified and released as part of an effort to hold the Obama administration accountable for its relentless politicization of intelligence on al Qaeda and threats to the United States and its interests. Based on his conversations with analysts who have worked on the documents, Nunes believes that many of those not yet released will contradict Obama administration claims about al Qaeda, its relationships, and its operations.

In 2014, Nunes fought to include language in the Intelligence Authorization Act requiring the declassification and release of the bin Laden documents. The law mandated the release of all documents in the collection that could be disclosed without hurting U.S. national security. The intelligence community was required to specify any documents deemed too sensitive to release publicly and offer an explanation justifying that decision. Nunes says he has not yet received such an explanation for any of the tens of thousands of documents withheld from the public.

Why do the documents still matter? Over the course of eight years, President Obama and his advisers repeatedly downplayed the jihadist threat. The story of how bin Laden’s documents were mischaracterized and mishandled offers important insights into how the administration pushed a deceptive narrative about al Qaeda and its branches around the globe. The jihadist threat grew—not diminished—over the course of the Obama administration. To this day, America and its allies continue to fight al Qaeda everywhere from West Africa to South Asia.

Because of its barbarism, massive land grabs, and multiple attacks in the West, the Islamic State (ISIS) dominates headlines these days. The Islamic State makes itself easy to see. But al Qaeda, the organization that birthed ISIS, is still alive and thriving, often masking the extent of its operations and influence. Since 2011, al Qaeda has grown rapidly in jihadist hotspots such as Syria, where today the group has 10,000 or more fighters, its largest guerrilla army yet.

Al Qaeda’s resiliency was a terribly inconvenient fact for President Obama, who won his first campaign arguing that George W. Bush had exaggerated the threat from jihadist terror and had fought jihadists with means that were both unnecessary and un-American. Obama scaled back such operations across the board—ending the war in Iraq, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, rewriting U.S. interrogation and detention policies, and releasing high-risk terrorists from the facility at Guantánamo Bay. When he ran for reelection, he told the American people that al Qaeda was “on the run” and had been “decimated.” His advisers sought to downgrade the nature of the threat to one of “violent extremists” and “lone wolf” attacks. Obama sold his efforts against al Qaeda as something close to a total victory.

“Today, by any measure, core al Qaeda—the organization that hit us on 9/11—is a shadow of its former self,” President Obama claimed on December 6, 2016, during his final counterterrorism speech. “Plots directed from within Afghanistan and Pakistan have been consistently disrupted. Its leadership has been decimated. Dozens of terrorist leaders have been killed. Osama bin Laden is dead.”

Some of this is certainly true: Osama bin Laden is dead, dozens of other jihadist leaders have been killed, and plots have been disrupted. But by most measures, al Qaeda is bigger today than ever. The organization and its branches are fighting in insurgencies in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. Obama briefly mentioned al Qaeda’s “branches” in some of these countries during his speech, but he left Americans with the impression that al Qaeda has been reduced to a nuisance—if that.

Obama said nothing about al Qaeda’s massive force in Syria. But the U.S. military has reported that U.S. attacks killed upwards of 150 “al Qaeda operatives” in Syria during the first weeks of 2017.

Obama’s public case on his success against al Qaeda centered on what he calls “core al Qaeda,” which neither he nor his advisers ever bothered to define precisely. The phrase seems to refer to the senior al Qaeda leaders based in South Asia, and specifically those who had a hand in the 9/11 hijackings. Most of the 9/11 plotters, as it happens, were killed or captured during the Bush administration. Obama was right that “dozens” of other “core” al Qaeda jihadists have been killed in drone strikes and raids during his tenure. But those leaders have been replaced, in some cases by men who have proven even more effective in building the terror group’s global network and guiding its transnational efforts.

How many senior al Qaeda leaders were there at the beginning of his administration, in January 2009? How many are there today? Obama never answered these rudimentary questions—he never provided basic metrics to measure his own claims. But the fact that U.S. military and CIA officials continued to fire missiles at al Qaeda operatives around the globe on a regular basis, at the direction of a president who claimed to have defeated al Qaeda, suggests that Obama understood his rhetoric didn’t match reality.

Which brings us back to the bin Laden files. There is no better resource for understanding al Qaeda, how it thinks and operates, at least through 2011, than the intelligence recovered in its founder’s compound. For this reason, and others, the Trump administration should ensure that the ODNI doesn’t get to close the book on bin Laden’s files.

Read more

The New Bin Laden Documents

his undated file photo shows al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. (AP Photo, File)

his undated file photo shows al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. (AP Photo, File)

Why the public needs to see most of Osama bin Laden’s files.

Weekly Standard, by Thomas Joscelyn, January 19, 2017:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released 98 additional items from Osama bin Laden’s compound today. If the ODNI has its way, then these files will be the last the American people see for some time. The accompanying announcement is titled, “Closing the Book on bin Laden: Intelligence Community Releases Final Abbottabad Documents.” The ODNI says today’s release “marks the end of a two-and-a-half-year effort to declassify several hundred documents recovered” during the Abbottabad raid.

But the total number of files released thus far, including today’s document dump, is just a drop in the bucket compared to what was found in the al Qaeda master’s compound. And if the public and the media care about transparency, then they should push to see more.

As THE WEEKLY STANDARD has reported in the past, more than 1 million documents and files were recovered in Abbottabad. Some of the documents (e.g. blanks, duplicates, scans of publicly available media, etc.) are basically worthless. But many thousands more illuminate how al Qaeda has operated.

On May 8, 2011, Tom Donilon, who was then President Obama’s National Security Adviser, explained that bin Laden’s documents and files would fill a “small college library.” Donilon elaborated further that the recovered intelligence demonstrated Osama bin Laden’s active role. At the time of his death, the al Qaeda founder oversaw a cohesive international network, receiving updates from around the globe on a regular basis.

In 2012, the Washington Post reported that U.S. officials “described the complete collection of bin Laden material as the largest cache of terrorism files ever obtained, with about 100 flash drives and DVDs as well as five computer hard drives, piles of paper and a handwritten journal kept by the al-Qaeda chief.”

To date, the ODNI has released or listed just 620 “items” found in bin Laden’s home. Only 314 of these are “declassified material.”

That is an insignificant fraction of the total collection.

President Obama’s White House also released 17 files via West Point’s Combating Terrorism center in 2012. And a handful of additional documents made their way to the public during a terror-related trial in Brooklyn in 2015. But even including those files, the public has still only seen a small number of documents, as compared to the total cache.

Gen. Michael Flynn, who will serve as the National Security Adviser to President Trump, has read and been briefed on some of the bin Laden files. Gen. Flynn also fought to have the documents fully exploited. Last year, Flynn wrote that only a “tiny fraction” had been released to the public. That was before today’s release. But the 98 new items hardly mark an appreciable increase.

Transparency is important for a number of reasons. Consider the ODNI’s own statement on today’s release, and how it provides a remarkably incomplete picture regarding al Qaeda’s decades-long relationship with Iran.

Why would ODNI attempt to portray bin Laden’s views as fixed and negative—”hatred, suspicion”—when documents written by bin Laden himself tell a more nuanced, yet troubling story?

There’s no question that some of bin Laden’s files document the tensions and problems in al Qaeda’s relationship with Iran. Bin Laden worried that members of his family would be tracked by Iranian intelligence. At one point, al Qaeda even kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in order to force a prisoner exchange. Some senior al Qaeda leaders have been held in Iranian custody for years.

But there is much more to the story, including the documents detailing Iran’s longtime collusion with al Qaeda. The ODNI is essentially asking readers to focus on the bad days in al Qaeda’s marriage with Iran, while ignoring the good days.

One previously released document, apparently authored by bin Laden himself, summarized his views on Iran. In a letter dated Oct. 18, 2007, Bin Laden warned one of his subordinates in Iraq not to openly threaten attacks inside Iran. Bin Laden explained why (emphasis added):

You did not consult with us on that serious issue that affects the general welfare of all of us. We expected you would consult with us for these important matters, for as you are aware, Iran is our main artery for funds, personnel, and communication, as well as the matter of hostages.

Bin Laden was pragmatic when it came to dealing with Iran for reasons that are not hard to understand: Iran was the “main artery” for his organization. Why would ODNI attempt to portray bin Laden’s views as fixed and negative—”hatred, suspicion”—when documents written by bin Laden himself so plainly contradict this?

Since July 2011, President Obama’s Treasury and State Departments have repeatedly made it clear that Iran hosts senior al Qaeda leaders. Echoing bin Laden’s letter, the State Department has even described al Qaeda’s network inside Iran as its “core pipeline.”

The Treasury and State Departments publicly accused the Iranian regime of allowing al Qaeda to operate inside Iran in: July 2011, December 2011, February 2012, July 2012, October 2012, May 2013, January 2014, February 2014, April 2014, August 2014, and July 2016.

In addition, during congressional testimony in February 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the relationship as a “marriage of convenience.”

Today’s statement by the ODNI says nothing about this “convenience.”

The bin Laden files are an invaluable resource for checking the U.S. Intelligence Community’s assessments. The CIA’s erroneous assessment of al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan is a case in point.

In June 2010, then CIA Director Leon Panetta told ABC’s This Week that al Qaeda’s footprint in Afghanistan was “relatively small,” totaling “50 to 100” members, “maybe less.”

A memo written by Osama bin Laden’s chief manager that same month told a different story. In the memo, bin Laden’s henchman explained that al Qaeda was operating in at least eight of Afghanistan’s provinces as of June 2010. In addition, just one al Qaeda “battalion” based in Kunar and Nuristan had 70 members by itself. In other words, just one al Qaeda “battalion” exceeded the lower bound of the CIA’s figures for all of Afghanistan—all by itself. U.S. officials have been forced to concede in recent months that there are far more al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan than previously estimated. If they had accurately assessed bin Laden’s files, then they would have already known that.

Osama bin Laden’s files are a crucial resource to understanding the 9/11 wars, and al Qaeda’s strengths and weaknesses. The American public should be able to see as many of them as possible.

Why Are Terror Leader al-Awlaki’s Video Messages Still on YouTube?

awlaki-1Fox News Insider, December 5, 2016:

YouTube has the ability to remove videos seen as having the potential to recruit terrorists, says Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano.

The judge joined Jenna Lee on Happening Now to discuss growing questions on why the videos of radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki – leader of the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen – have been allowed to remain on YouTube.

Investigators have linked the ideology of al-Awlaki, who was killed in Yemen five years ago, to at least 11 incidents since 2009, including the recent attack on the campus of Ohio State University.

According to a YouTube representative, “YouTube has clear policies in prohibiting terrorist recruitment and content intending to incite violence, and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users.” So why then are al-Awlaki’s videos allowed to remain on the platform, Lee asked.

“The short answer is his videos are still out there because like flag burning, they are protected speech,” Napolitano said. “Even though they are hateful, even though they advocate violence, even though they are profoundly un-American, they are protected speech…protected from the government…but not protected from YouTube, which is not the government.

“So the First Amendment says the government shall not interfere with free speech, but YouTube could take them down in a flash just because it doesn’t want this stuff being propagated on its platform.”

Napolitano said YouTube should make a “business judgment” on how to handle this content.

“If they think their their shareholders want a free and open platform where any political idea can be aired no matter how horrible, hateful or harmful it may be, they should keep it on there,” he said. “But if they want to cleanse the airwaves of this horror and terror producing stuff, they can take it down with impunity.”

9/11 Mastermind Reveals Trump’s Plan to Fight Terrorists Works

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed shows anti-war leftists were playing into Al Qaeda’s hands.

Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield,  December 2, 2016:

The left aided Islamic terrorists most not with street protests, but by embedding counterintuitive narratives into the framework of counterterrorism. These narratives turned reality on its head.

In counterterrorism, counterintuitive narratives transformed inaction into a virtue.

One of the most pervasive myths was that Islamic terrorists actually wanted us to fight them and that we could only defeat them by ignoring them. The irrationality of the myth that terrorists wanted us to bomb and kill them was exceeded only by its persistence among experts and political officials.

Popularly known as “Playing into their hands”, the goal of this counterintuitive narrative was to make the ostrich approach appear prudent and masterful while flipping around patriotism by accusing national security hawks of playing into the hands of the terrorists by killing them.

Only the appeasers had the secret to defeating Islamic terrorism while the patriots were truly traitors.

Trump faced repeated accusation from Hillary and her proxies that he was playing into the hands of ISIS with calls to get tough on Islamic terrorism. And you can expect the smear that he’s playing into the hands of the terrorists by bombing and killing them to recur throughout his administration.

But the myth has been shredded by James E. Mitchell’s book, “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America.” As the man who helped the CIA break terrorists, Mitchell had written the “book” on effective methods for fighting Islamic terror. And now he actually wrote the book on what the terrorists really wanted and fear.

And no, they didn’t want to be bombed. We weren’t “playing into their hands” by killing them or by making it harder for them to come to America. It was the left that was playing into Al Qaeda’s hands.

And that still is.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, revealed that Al Qaeda shared the leftist panic and disaster over Bush’s “cowboy” approach to fighting terrorists. The United States had backed down from Islamic terrorists so many times that they had come to take our defeatism for granted. Al Qaeda didn’t have a masterful plan to lure us into Afghanistan, as the left liked to insist, instead it expected President Bush to follow in Clinton’s footsteps by delivering an empty speech and then writing it off as a law enforcement problem. Much as Obama had done with Benghazi.

It wasn’t expecting the roar of jets over Kandahar.

“How was I supposed to know that cowboy George Bush would announce he wanted us ‘dead or alive’ and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?’’ Khalid Sheikh Mohammed whined.

“KSM explained that if the United States had treated 9/11 like a law enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks”, but instead Al Qaeda and its plans for the next wave of attacks were crushed “by the ferocity and swiftness of George W. Bush’s response.”

Like Saddam’s WMDs, the left has made great sport of the lack of major follow-up attacks by Al Qaeda. But Al Qaeda couldn’t follow up because it was under too much pressure. Unsurprisingly, killing terrorists actually worked. Unknown numbers of American lives were saved because President Bush believed that killing terrorists was more effective than appeasing them.

The left had always insisted on treating 9/11 as a law enforcement matter. That is why Obama aggressively pushed to move Islamic terrorists into criminal courts. Even his Osama bin Laden bid was only an effort to capture the top Al Qaeda terrorist so that he could put him on trial in a criminal court.

“My belief was if we had captured him, that I would be in a pretty strong position, politically, here, to argue that displaying due process and rule of law would be our best weapon against al-Qaeda,” Obama had argued, showcasing a typical counterintuitive narrative myth.

Osama’s death proved to be a lucky political break for Obama, but he hadn’t been trying to fight terror. Instead he was working to appease it.

Various counterintuitive narratives were invoked in defense of this bad policy, including the “Playing into their hands” myth. But now we know that it was leftists who were playing into Al Qaeda’s hands.

The mastermind of 9/11 wanted us to send the cops after Al Qaeda. He wasn’t looking to dance with an A-10. And had Bill Clinton turned over the White House to Al Gore instead of George W. Bush, 9/11 would have been far more devastating as the opening round of a series of major Islamic terror attacks.

Another great counterintuitive myth is that Islamic immigration, which provides fertile recruiting ground for foreign terror groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS to pursue their Jihad on America using operatives already embedded in the country, is actually the best way to fight Islamic terrorism.

When Trump called for a ban on Muslim migration, counterintuitive narratives were deployed that accused him, once again, of playing into the hands of ISIS and Al Qaeda. Islamic immigration, the counterintuitive myth claimed, disproved the claims of Islamic terrorists about America. The more Muslim migrants we took in, the more Muslims would come to love us and reject Islamic terrorism.

But Khalid Sheikh Mohammed revealed that he did not oppose Islamic immigration. He viewed it as the certain way for Muslims to defeat America and the free world. Islamic terrorism was a short range gamble. The “moonshot” of Islamic conquest wasn’t terrorism, it was Muslim migration to the West.

And even in the short term, Islamic terror was still enabled by Islamic immigration.

“Jihadi-minded brothers would immigrate into the United States” and “wrap themselves in America’s rights and laws’ while continuing their attacks,” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed admitted.

While the counterintuitive narrative deeply embedded in CVE insists that Islamist “civil rights” groups like CAIR are our best “partners” in fighting Islamic terrorism and that extending every possible legal protection to Islamic terrorists will help discredit them, Mohammed saw Islamic migration and the whole Islamist civil rights scam enabled by the radicals at the ACLU and elsewhere, as cover for Islamic terrorism.

All of this is obvious to any thinking person who possesses enough common sense to come out of the rain. So why did so many important people fall for the counterintuitive myths of counterterrorism?

The strange seductiveness of counterintuitive narratives lies in their rejection of common sense solutions. Instead they follow the standard leftist pattern of descending into the matrix of a logically illogical system which is internally consistent, but makes no sense when applied to the real world.

Counterintuitive narratives make elites and experts feel smart for appearing to transcend common sense to grasp deeper insights into human nature and how the world works. Such gnostic revelations are a big part of the left’s appeal, particularly to college students, but these mythologies are a myth.

The left loves to play with language, but word games don’t change reality. They just seduce those who consider themselves bright into believing that their cleverness is more meaningful than reality.

But eventually the ivory towers fall, the sand castles are washed away by the tide and the lies die.

Common sense was always right. Killing terrorists works. Appeasing them doesn’t. Terrorists are broken through pressure, not milk and cookies. Trump’s proposals work. Those of the left only enable terrorism.

“America will expose her neck for us to slaughter,” Mohammed predicted. And it did.

But just as the mastermind of September 11 had not anticipated what President Bush would do, Islamic terrorists never saw President Trump coming.

***

A good follow-up on the manipulation of language to achieve political ends:

***

Brian Kilmeade recently interviewed Dr. James Mitchell on his new book. “‘Enhanced Interrogation”:

A horrifying look into the mind of 9/11’s mastermind, in his own words

Khalid Sheik Mohammed in 2003. (Associated Press)

Khalid Sheik Mohammed in 2003. (Associated Press)

November 28, 2016:

What is it like to stare into the face of evil? James E. Mitchell knows.

In his gripping new memoir, “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America,” Mitchell describes the day he was questioning Khalid Sheik Mohammed, when the 9/11 mastermind announced he had something important to say. “KSM then launched into a gory and detailed description of how he beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl,” Mitchell writes. Up to that moment, the CIA did not know KSM had personally carried out the murder. When asked whether it was “hard to do” (meaning emotionally difficult), KSM misunderstood the question. “Oh, no, no problem,” KSM said, “I had very sharp knives. Just like slaughtering sheep.”

To confirm his story, the CIA had KSM reenact the beheading so that it could compare the features of his hands and forearms to those in the video of Pearl’s murder. “Throughout the reenactment, KSM smiled and mugged for the cameras. Sometimes he preened,” Mitchell writes. When informed that the CIA had confirmed that he was telling the truth, KSM smiled.

“See, I told you,” KSM said. “I cut Daniel’s throat with these blessed hands.”

This is the pure evil Mitchell and his colleagues confronted each day at CIA “black sites.” “I have looked into the eyes of the worst people on the planet,” Mitchell writes. “I have sat with them and felt their passion as they described what they see as their holy duty to destroy our way of life.”

The world has heard almost nothing from KSM in the 15 years since the 9/11 attacks, but Mitchell has spent thousands of hours with him and other captured al-Qaeda leaders. Now, for the first time, Mitchell is sharing what he says KSM told him.

Mitchell is an American patriot who has been unjustly persecuted for his role in crafting an interrogation program that helped stop terrorist attacks and saved countless lives. He does not shy from the controversies and pulls no punches in describing the interrogations. If anything, readers may be surprised by the compassion he showed these mass murderers. But the real news in his book is what happened after enhanced interrogations ended and the terrorists began cooperating.

Once their resistance had been broken, enhanced interrogation techniques stopped and KSM and other detainees became what Mitchell calls a “Terrorist Think Tank,” identifying voices in phone calls, deciphering encrypted messages and providing valuable information that led the CIA to other terrorists. Mitchell devotes an entire chapter to the critical role KSM and other detainees played in finding Osama bin Laden. KSM held classes where he lectured CIA officials on jihadist ideology, terrorist recruiting and attack planning. He was so cooperative, Mitchell writes, KSM “told me I should be on the FBI’s Most Wanted List because I am now a ‘known associate’ of KSM and a ‘graduate’ of his training camp.”

KSM also described for Mitchell many of his as yet unconsummated ideas for future attacks, the terrifying details of which Mitchell does not reveal for fear they might be implemented. “If we ever allow him to communicate unmonitored with the outside world,” Mitchell writes, “he could easily spread his deviously simple but potentially deadly ideas.”

But perhaps the most riveting part of the book is what KSM told Mitchell about what inspired al-Qaeda to attack the United States — and the U.S. response he expected. Today, some on both the left and the right argue that al-Qaeda wanted to draw us into a quagmire in Afghanistan — and now the Islamic State wants to do the same in Iraq and Syria. KSM said this is dead wrong. Far from trying to draw us in, KSM said that al-Qaeda expected the United States to respond to 9/11 as we had the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut — when, KSM told Mitchell, the United States “turned tail and ran.” He also said he thought we would treat 9/11 as a law enforcement matter, just as we had the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the USS Cole in Yemen — arresting some operatives and firing a few missiles into empty tents, but otherwise leaving him free to plan the next attack.

“Then he looked at me and said, ‘How was I supposed to know that cowboy George Bush would announce he wanted us ‘dead or alive’ and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?’” Mitchell writes. “KSM explained that if the United States had treated 9/11 like a law enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks.” He was not able to do so because al-Qaeda was stunned “by the ferocity and swiftness of George W. Bush’s response.”

But KSM said something else that was prophetic. In the end, he told Mitchell, “We will win because Americans don’t realize . . . we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.”

KSM explained that large-scale attacks such as 9/11 were “nice, but not necessary” and that a series of “low-tech attacks could bring down America the same way ‘enough disease-infected fleas can fell an elephant.’ ” KSM “said jihadi-minded brothers would immigrate into the United States” and “wrap themselves in America’s rights and laws” until they were strong enough to rise up and attack us. “He said the brothers would relentlessly continue their attacks and the American people would eventually become so tired, so frightened, and so weary of war that they would just want it to end.”

“Eventually,” KSM said, “America will expose her neck for us to slaughter.”

KSM was right. For the past eight years, our leaders have told us that we are weary of war and need to focus on “nation building at home.” We have been defeating ourselves by quitting — just as KSM predicted.

But quitting will not bring us peace, KSM told Mitchell. He explained that “it does not matter that we do not want to fight them,” Mitchell writes, adding that KSM explained “America may not be in a religious war with him, but he and other True Muslims are in a religious war with America” and “he and his brothers will not stop until the entire world lives under Sharia law.”

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Gitmo prisoner reveals that Saudi ‘terrorist rehab’ center is a scam

Photo: Kate Brooks/Redux

Photo: Kate Brooks/Redux

New York Post, by Paul Sperry, November 28, 2016:

Counterterrorism experts have long suspected Saudi Arabia’s “rehabilitation” center for terrorists does a poor job of de-radicalizing jihadists. But a Saudi detainee at Guantanamo Bay now reveals it’s actually a recruiting and training factory for jihad.

According to recently declassified documents, senior al Qaeda operative Ghassan Abdullah al-Sharbi told a Gitmo parole board that the Saudi government has been encouraging previously released prisoners to rejoin the jihad at its terrorist reform school, officially known as the Prince Mohammed bin Naif Counseling and Care Center.

The Obama administration has praised the effectiveness of the Saudi rehab program — which uses “art therapy,” swimming, ping-pong, PlayStation and soccer to de-radicalize terrorists — and conditioned the release of dozens of Gitmo prisoners, including former Osama bin Laden bodyguards, on their entry in the controversial program.

To date, 134 Saudi detainees have been transferred to the Saudi reform camps in Riyadh and Jeddah. Last year, nine Yemeni detainees were sent there, as well, and more are expected to follow over the next two months, as Obama strives to meet his campaign goal of closing Gitmo.

Photo: Kate Brooks/Redux

Photo: Kate Brooks/Redux

Al-Sharbi dropped a bombshell on the Gitmo parole board at his hearing earlier this year, when he informed members that the Saudi kingdom was playing them for suckers. “You guys want to send me back to Saudi Arabia because you believe there is a de-radicalization program on the surface.

True. You are 100% right, there is a strong — externally, a strong — de-radicalization program,” al-Sharbi testified. “But make no mistake, underneath there is a hidden radicalization program,” he added. “There is a very hidden strong — way stronger in magnitude — broader in financing, in all that.”

Al-Sharbi is one of the longest serving, and most unrepentant, prisoners at Gitmo. A Saudi national with an electrical engineering degree from King Fahd University, he attended a US flight school associated with two of the 9/11 hijackers. He traveled to Afghanistan in the summer of 2001 and trained at an al Qaeda camp, building IEDs to use against allied forces.

Al-Sharbi was captured March 28, 2002, at an al Qaeda safehouse in Faisalabad, Pakistan, with senior al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah. According to his US intel dossier, he told interrogators that “the US got what it deserved from the terrorist attacks on 9/11.”

Given a chance at parole after 14 years, however, Al-Sharbi was surprisingly frank with the board.

He explained that Riyadh is actively recruiting and training fighters to battle Iranian elements in neighboring Yemen and Syria. Saudi views Shiite-controlled Iran as a regional threat to its security.

“They’re launching more wars and the [United] States is backing off from the region,” he said. “They’re poking their nose here and here and there and they’re recruiting more jihadists, and they’ll tell you, ‘Okay, go fight in Yemen. Go fight in Syria.’ ”

Al-Sharbi said the Saudis also are “encouraging” former detainees “to fight their jihad in the States.”

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

“It’s not like a past history,” he said. “It’s increasing.”

A growing body of evidence backs up his claims. Last month, for example, a Wikileaked e-mail from Hillary Clinton revealed, citing US intelligence sources, that Saudi has provided “clandestine financial and logistic support to” ISIS and other Sunni terrorist groups in the region.

Al-Sharbi said the kingdom is playing a double game.

“They will proudly tell you they will fight terrorism,” he said. “That means they will support it.”
Al-Sharbi told the Gitmo board he doesn’t want to enroll in the Saudi rehab program, because he would be used to “fight under the Saudi royal cloak.”

“This is in the cause of a king. This is not a true jihad,” he said. “And I’m not going to Saudi unless I am sure they’re not gonna be using me.”

The Saudi rehab ruse has carried a lot of weight with the Gitmo parole board. Earlier this year, it released “Saudi al Qaeda recruiter and fighter” Muhammed Al Shumrani after his lawyers insisted that repatriating him to Saudi Arabia and enrolling him in its “well-established reintegration program” would cure his admittedly “problematic behavior.”

Photo: Kate Brooks/Redux

Photo: Kate Brooks/Redux

Last year, the defense team of longtime bin Laden bodyguard Abdul Rahman Shalabi insisted that the same Saudi rehab program would make sure he’s reformed. In approving his release, the board said that it was “confident about the efficacy of the Saudi program.”

In both cases, US intelligence warned the board that the hardened terrorists would more than likely “reengage in terrorist activity.”

By Riyadh’s own numbers, some 20% of the terrorist enrollees at its rehab club — which features golf carts, palm trees and an Olympic-sized pool — go back to the jihad, returning to the ranks of the Taliban or al Qaeda. US officials believe the recidivism rate is much higher, but Saudi does not disclose criteria for evaluation.

One high-profile failure was Said Ali al-Shihri. After his graduation from the Saudi program, he returned to Yemen where he ran an al Qaeda branch and helped plan the deadly bombing of the US Embassy and mastermind the failed plot to blow up a 2009 Christmas flight over Detroit, before a drone-fired missile finally caught up to him.

The Saudi center is more holiday resort than halfway house for paroled inmates. Jihadists are rewarded with gourmet meals, video games, ping pong, jacuzzis and newly furnished private apartments reserved for conjugal visits. They also are allowed unescorted visits to family members. In September, the center granted “beneficiaries” Eid al-Adha holiday vacation for 12 days.

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Graduates are further rewarded with young brides and new cars.

Lending credence to al-Sharbi’s charges, the three-month program includes a few hours a day of lessons in Islam from Saudi clerics and “Shariah specialists.”

“Beneficiaries spend 15 hours a week in the Shariah program,” according to a local Jeddah press report, which is triple the amount of time devoted to psychological counseling.

Al-Sharbi’s parole was declined; he is still in Gitmo, along with 60 detainees — down from the 241 who were there when President Obama started his term.

But with the administration rushing to reduce that number even further before the end of Obama’s term, how many more jihadists will be released into this highly suspect program?

Congress has an obligation to ask hard questions: Is this a preemptive campaign to prevent terror attacks or more likely an incubator for facilitating more attacks?

Paul Sperry is author of “Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington.”

Al Qaeda and ISIS’ Jihad for the Long Haul

ISIS killers in Syria.

ISIS killers in Syria.

By Andrew Harrod, PhD. exclusive to the Religious Freedom Coalition, Oct 13th, 2016

Al-Qaeda (AQ) and the Islamic State in Iraq and (Greater) Syria (ISIS) have troubling potentials to withstand recent significant defeats and conduct long-term jihad campaigns, particularly absent any political stabilization greater Mesopotamia.   So analyzed policy experts before an audience of about 60 at the Hudson Institute’s September 13 panel “ISIS:  On the Verge of Defeat or Transforming Itself for the Long Haul?” in Washington, DC.

Hudson Institute Adjunct Fellow Michael Pregent noted that ISIS is “quickly learning, if you don’t have the ability to shoot down an American aircraft, you shouldn’t plant a black flag, because you are likely to lose territory.”  If ISIS’ ambition to maintain a caliphate state within a certain territory became untenable, ISIS could then emulate AQ as a covert jihadist terrorist organization.  Foreign Policy Research Institute Senior Fellow Nada Bakos stated that ISIS has “already metamorphosed into another type of organization where they are inciting and directing attacks outside the territory they control.”

ISIS’ caliphate currently crumbling in the face of conventional military assault appeared to validate the strategy of AQ, a jihadist group “in this for the long haul” and “still there as a long-term threat” for the West, Bokos stated.  AQ “is still very focused on the West and the United States.  They are still very focused on various stages before they get to a caliphate” while ISIS “jumped about six of those steps.”  AQ founder Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahiri evinced such a strategy in AQ documents recovered during the May 1, 2011, killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  The AQ leaders had argued “don’t establish a caliphate until you can pay everybody in the caliphate and you can give them a job and you can feed them,” Pregent noted.

In an “obvious competition between the two organizations,” AQ “has a much more sophisticated and coherent ideology” and a “much more sophisticated structure” than ISIS, Bokos noted.  Pregent noted that AQ’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, was much more selective in recruitment than ISIS, placing higher ideological and military training demands upon inductees.  Similarly, Zawahiri had previously advocated making Nigeria’s Boko Haram jihadist group, currently an ISIS affiliate, an AQ affiliate, but met opposition from bin Laden, who distrusted Boko Haram’s discipline and qualifications.

Bokos suggested that AQ could eventually absorb an ISIS bereft of its caliphate territory and lacking AQ’s covert expertise.  Although tempted to go covert, ISIS’ “central effort is still holding the caliphate together.  That is what they centered and built this whole organization around.  They lose face if they lose that territory.”  Yet extortion, now a leading ISIS revenue source, alienates ISIS’ subject population of Sunni Muslims, recalling a similar alienation under ISIS’ predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).  Pregent noted speculation that bin Laden had tolerated lax communication security with AQI’s leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in order to allow his 2006 killing by American troops in Iraq given his refusal to heed bin Laden’s opposition to AQI’s brutality.

Nonetheless, Pregent worried that current strategy against ISIS affiliates from Libya to Iraq is “simply resetting the conditions that led to ISIS to begin with” and allowing for a future iteration of the organization.  Anti-ISIS coalition nations are “willing to commit an air force, commit a fighter jet, maybe commit some special operators on the ground, some snipers, but the default has been to use a proxy force.”  Often distrusted by local Sunnis, such proxies “depopulate a Sunni area that ISIS controls, disperse ISIS, replace the ISIS flag with an Iraqi flag, a Syrian flag, a Libyan flag, whatever flag that may be,” then “call it a PR event.”  Yet in Iraq ISIS cells have continued to operate in towns taken from ISIS such as Fallujah, Ramadi, and Tikrit, while ISIS attacks have plagued Iraq’s capital Baghdad itself.

Considering Iraq’s Shiite militias and Shiite-dominated central government, both supported by Iran, the “last thing the United States should do is provide air cover to Iranian Shia proxies as they take back these towns from ISIS,” Pregent stated.  Northwestern Iraq’s “Sunni population is more distrustful than ever of Baghdad, now more distrustful of us” after the United States’ 2011 Iraq troop withdrawal left Iraqi Sunnis alone amidst sectarian repression under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.   Continuing Shiite-Sunni animosity therefore provides fertile soil for ISIS to reestablish itself as a defender of Sunnis, meaning that after ISIS’ impending loss of Mosul “June 2017 will be June 2014 all over again,” he fears.

nazarene_pin_ad_300pxPregent’s alternative strategy is an “intelligence-driven operation where we decapitate ISIS key leaders, bring in Sunni recruits, put pressure on Baghdad to basically bring back the US-trained Sunnis that Malik purged” from Iraqi security forces.  While the CIA has estimated that ISIS has 8,000 fighters, most of them foreigners, 350,000 military-age Sunni males in Mosul have not joined ISIS, allowing for an operation in which “Mosul turns on ISIS.”  Beyond Mosul, Iraq’s lasting pacification requires getting “Baghdad to be a government Sunnis trust” while Bokos noted the need to replace Jabhat al-Nusra’s provision of municipal services, a key element of its popularity among Sunnis.

Pregent’s strategy necessitated renewed American leverage in Iraq’s region, something desired by many Sunni refugees he had met in camps in Iraq and Turkey.  Yet Sunni tribes who had helped defeat AQI during the Iraq War’s Anbar Awakening were weary of renewed alliance with America after facing both Baghdad’s repression and retaliation from AQI members who later joined ISIS.  “Our strategy is based on hope, and the tribal strategy is based on pragmatism,” he noted, while Bokos warned that ISIS had co-opted many Sunnis who once served Iraqi security forces.

Lack of a political settlement in Iraq would only give rise to future, greater dangers, Pregent worried.  The fall of ISIS’ caliphate would lead to an ISIS “2.0, Al Qaeda version, in the interim.”  Then “ISIS 3.0 comes back with an ability to shoot down an American aircraft.”

Andrew E. Harrod is a researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. He can be followed on twitter at @AEHarrod.

‘Join the Revolution’: Al-Qaeda Makes Populist Pitch to Millennials

Osama bin Laden and Hamza bin Laden

Osama bin Laden and Hamza bin Laden

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, October 12, 2016:

Al-Qaeda is appealing to millennials with a cocktail of populism and Islam and directives to not admire grown “kids” in professional sports but “men… with their AK aimed at the enemy” — and to follow the latter into jihad.

The outreach was detailed in Al-Balagh, a recent magazine issued by al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, a successful chapter announced by core leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2014 that has conducted a spree of machete assassinations against individuals deemed to have insulted Islam. One of the group’s earlier victims was an Atlanta couple who were secular writers visiting Bangladesh; Avijit Roy was hacked to death, while his wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed was seriously injured.

The 53-page inaugural issue of the magazine was printed in English and Bengali. The editor’s note at the beginning first details and slams the “criminal demon-crazy nexus which is known as democracy.”

“Thus, while the anti-Islamic bigots and hate-breeders are hailed as heroes by the rulers and the media, the Tawheed [monotheism]-loving Muslims who came out in the streets to protest the defamation of their beloved prophet are humiliated and massacred,” the column states in apparent reference to the bloggers, professors and journalists who have been hacked to death by AQIS.

The appeal to youth first uses the politics of Bangladesh as a backdrop, arguing that “the criminals siphon billions of dollars from the share market with ease and immersed in mirth, with no accountability whatsoever, while the devastated, burdened youth faced with unrelenting poverty and debt are forced to commit suicide.”

“Domestic maids succumb to death after enduring barbaric torture at the hands of distinguished citizens, while the killers are showered with flowers and garlands. Our mothers and sisters are abused in broad daylight, yet the criminals roam free,” the piece continues. “Every moment a new tragedy is born. It is impossible to keep track of the disasters plaguing this nation. So which one of these can one speak about? Such is the state of the country.”

“And what about the Muslim Ummah [community]? It seems no one even cares to inquire about the Muslims in Palestine anymore, although the criminal Zionist Israel is still surrounded by Muslim countries. I think it was Ali Tantawi who once said, ‘If Muslims can’t learn to resist Israel with weapons then they should learn how to die. You will see Israel be wiped off of the map with a flood of Muslim blood.'”

The article laments that in “Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, China, Myanmar, India, Pakistan — nowhere have the Muslims been able to be liberated.”

“I am not merely talking about the Western concept of ‘independence’ or ‘self-determination,’ but I am talking about true liberation, which can only come through the victory of the deen [religion]. I am talking about making Islam victorious,” the write continues.

“But the good news is a new wave, a reversal of the world order has started all over the world. A wave of Muslim youth is returning to Tawheed. A wave of the youth is returning to Islam. It is a return to the roots in order to bring back the glory and reclaim the honor, and to destroy the satanic civilization and establish the reign of the divine Shariah.”

“The Muslim youth,” argues the AQIS piece, “have started to realize that they have to rise up and join the caravan.”

“They have to join the resistance and the revolution. They have to conquer fear and walk on the same road on which the Salaf stepped upon. Only then true liberation and true victory will come. The Muslims have recognized the reality of the system of kufr [disbelief] imposed by the global kuffar. The magic of the magician has finally come undone,” continues the recruiting pitch.

Would-be jihadists are told that “with our backs to the wall, now is the time to fight back.”

“It is now or never. The Muslims all over the world are witnessing the help of Allah granted to the Mujahideen.” A few operations are mentioned, including “the beginning of the Third Intifada” in the Middle East.

“Oh youth! Tie your shroud around your head and join the golden caravan! The grown men who spend their times playing like kids in the fields of cricket are not your role models. Rather, your role models are men, firm in speech and in action. Men who lived with their head high and with their AK aimed at the enemy. Your role models are the lions of the Ummah, such as Umar and Usama – may Allah have mercy upon them,” states the piece.

“Yes, your role models are the likes of the reviving Imam, the hero of the afflicted Ummah, Shaykh Usama bin Ladin, who boldly stated, ‘I swear by Allah who has raised the heavens without any pillars, America and those living in America will not even dream of peace until we live it in Filisteen, and until all the kufr armies are expelled from the land of Muhammad.'”

There are also articles in the magazine geared toward a millennial audience, including age-oriented marriage guidelines. Al-Qaeda publications have often tried to include women writers to reach out to that demographic as well, and Al-Balagh includes a “Sisters’ Column: How I Came to Love the Niqab.”

The State Department designated AQIS as a foreign terrorist organization in June, 16 months after Roy’s murder.

The Treasury Department noted that younger leaders — “part of a new generation of al-Qaeda operatives” — have been quietly building up al-Qaeda in its July sanctions against three members of the terror group sheltering in Iran.

Osama bin Laden’s 11th son, Hamza, now in his mid-20s, has also been rallying millennials to jihad in audio messages over the past 14 months.

“The followers of the thought of Sheikh Osama, may Allah have mercy on him, which is represented by targeting the head of global disbelief that supports the Jews, have increased in number within a decade and a half, and became double in number,” Hamza bin Laden said in a July message.

“If you think that your sinful crime that you committed in Abbottabad has passed without punishment, then you thought wrong,” he added, referring to the U.S. raid in which his father was killed. “What is correct is coming to you, and its punishment is severe.”

***

What makes someone become an Islamic extremist? Is it poverty? Lack of education? A search for meaning? Haroon Ullah, a senior State Department advisor and a foreign policy professor at Georgetown University, shares what he discovered while living in Pakistan.

EXCLUSIVE: Federal complaint against bombing suspect omits journal’s ISIS references

Fox News, by Catherine Herridge, Pamela K. Browne, September 21, 2016

Pages from the bloody journal of the New York and New Jersey bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami show he was a follower of Al Qaeda as well as the Islamic State terror group, yet federal investigators made no reference to ISIS in their complaint charging him on Tuesday.

At least two pages include references to Anwar al-Awlaki — the American-born Muslim cleric who was killed in a 2011 drone strike and whose preaching has inspired acts of terror linked to ISIS and Al Qaeda. Federal investigators mentioned Awlaki in the complaints.

However, the journal also appears to reference Abu Muhammad al Adnani — the ISIS spokesman killed by coalition forces in August after he called his followers to attack non-believers in their homelands.

“I looked for guidance came Sheikh Anwar, Brother Adnani, Dawla. Said it clearly – Attack the kuffar (non-believer) in the back yard,” one section read. Page 12 of the indictment references this section without naming Adnani.

Rahami’s screed also praised 9/11 mastermind Usama bin Laden and Nidal Hasan, the former Army officer who went on a deadly shooting rampage in 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas.  Hasan was also a follower of Awlaki. The Counter Extremism Project’s research counted 77 extremists — 43 U.S. extremists and 34 European extremists — with ties to Anwar al-Awlaki. They include the Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen in June, as well as Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino massacre in December 2015.

In addition, the journal included rantings plotting revenge against the U.S. government for slaughtering Muslim holy warriors. In one section, the Afghan-born Rahami suggested he was worried police or the feds would capture him before he could carry out a suicide attack, becoming a martyr. “The sounds of bombs will be heard in the streets,” the journal declared.

Another section included a reference to “pipe bombs” and a “pressure cooker bomb” and declared: “In the streets they plan to run a mile,” an apparent reference to one of the blast sites, a charity run in Seaside Park. The feds said the journal ended with the words: “Death to your oppression.”

The pages appeared to be pierced by a bullet from the shootout that ended with Rahami in handcuffs on Monday. He’s suspected of planting bombs in Seaside Park and Elizabeth, New Jersey, as well as New York City, where the feds said at least 31 people were wounded after an explosion Saturday night.

Fox News has asked the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice to explain why Rahami wrote about ISIS in his journal, but unlike the other terrorists he cited, there was no reference to ISIS in the charging documents.

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.

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