Taliban kills dozens in suicide assault in Kabul

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, April 19, 2016:

The Taliban targeted a unit responsible for providing security for Afghan officials in a coordinated suicide assault in the Afghan capital today. The Taliban claimed credit for the deadly attack, in which at least 28 people were killed and more that 300 were wounded, according to reports on the ground.

The Taliban took responsibility for the attack on its official propaganda outlet, Voice of Jihad, and said it was part of Operation Omari, the 2016 spring offensive named after Mullah Omar, its founder and first emir. The Taliban reported a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle at the gate, which allowed armed fighters to breach the compound. This is a tactic that has been effectively employed by the Taliban and other jihadist groups throughout the world over the past decade.

“Amid the ongoing ‘Omari’ annual campaign at around 09:00 am local time this morning, a martyrdom seeking unit of Islamic Emirate launched a heavy attack on 10th directorate intelligence building located in PD1 of Kabul city,” the statement said. “The operation began when a martyrdom seeker detonated his explosives laden vehicle at the gate of the building, removing all barriers and killing the guards followed by a number of other martyrdom seekers rushing inside and engaging the remaining enemy targets.”

The Taliban’s account was substantiated by press reporting from Afghanistan. According to TOLONews, the compound that was attacked belonged to a “Secret Service Unit tasked with protecting VIPs.” Afghan officials said the attack began when a suicide bomber detonated at the gate, and one or more Taliban fighters then penetrated the perimeter and began firing on the survivors inside the compound. At least 28 people were killed and 327 more were wounded, according to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health.

The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan claimed that the attack was proof that the Taliban were unable to fight Afghan forces face to face “on the battlefield.”

“Today’s attack shows the insurgents are unable to meet Afghan forces on the battlefield and must resort to these terrorist attacks,” General John Nicholson, the commander of Resolute Support, NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, said in an email sent to The Long War Journal. “We strongly condemn the actions of Afghanistan’s enemies and remain firmly committed to supporting our Afghan partners and the National Unity Government.”

However, the Taliban are openly engaging Afghan forces on the battlefield on multiple fronts throughout Afghanistan. In the south, the Taliban controls nearly half of Helmand province and has pressured Afghan forces to retreat from key district there. The provincial capital of Lashkar Gah is under siege. In the north, the Taliban launched a coordinated offensive in all seven districts of Kunduz just after announcing the commencement of Operation Omar last week. The Taliban are also fighting in the open in multiple provinces in the east and west.

The Long War Journal estimates that the Taliban controls or hotly contests more than 80 of Afghanistan 400 plus districts.

Today’s attack in Kabul is the largest of its kind since Aug. 7-8, 2015, when the Taliban launched two suicide bombers and a suicide assault over the course of 24 hours. Forty-four people, including 20 Afghan police recruits, 15 Afghan civilians, eight US-contracted Afghan personnel, and a US Army Green Beret were killed when the Taliban targeted a police academy, a US Special Forces base, and a residential district. [See LWJ report, Taliban continues terror attacks in Afghan capital.]

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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Al Qaeda in Syria/Iraq Doubles in Size as ISIS and Al Nusra Kiss and Make Up

isis-qaeda-450x287Front Page, by Daniel Greenfield:

ISIS didn’t just beat the Iraqi military. It also beat Syria’s dominant Al Qaeda group, the Al-Nusra Front, which like ISIS had also been spawned from Al Qaeda in Iraq. The Al-Nusra Front began shooting at ISIS when the latter invaded Syria and claimed authority over it. But now they kissed and made up.

It’s all one big happy Al Qaeda family.

The number of Islamist extremists fighting for ISIS could double after al-Qaeda’s 15,000 strong offshoot in Syria is said to have pledged allegiance to the militant group.

Al-Qaeda’s Syrian offshoot Wednesday made an oath of loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) at a key town on the Iraqi border, a monitor said.

News of the merger between ISIS and the al-Nusra front were made by both the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and an Islamist website this afternoon.

Images widely shared by ISIS supporters online appeared to show al-Nusra’s alleged leader in the Albu Kamel region, Abu Yusuf al-Masri, embracing ISIS fighters after apparently taking an oath of allegiance.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the overall leader of al-Qaeda, has previously disowned ISIS and proclaimed the al-Nusra Front as its official Syrian affiliate.

An internal report of ISIS’ activities last year put its total number of fighters in Iraq and Syria at 15,000. With al-Nusra boasting a similar sized or possibly even larger force, today’s merger could double the total number of militant Sunni Islamists fighting under the ISIS banner in the Middle East.

Hardest hit are all the “news stories” about how ISIS was too “extreme” for Al Qaeda. So much for that. But nothing to worry about.

As Barack Hussein Obama once said, “If a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”

The jayvee team is taking over two countries and has its own air force.

 

A new definition for al-Qaeda

 

Image Credit: AEI's Critical Threat's Project

Image Credit: AEI’s Critical Threat’s Project

above image source: http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/09/the-al-qaeda-network-today/

 

 

Washington Post, By Katherine Zimmerman, Jan. 31:

What exactly is al-Qaeda? And who cares? Confusion about how to define the terrorist group is rife. Was al-Qaeda involved in the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead? The Obama administration says no. Are the groups proliferating around Africa and the Middle East really part of the al-Qaeda that toppled the World Trade Center and hit the Pentagon?

There is no simple answer. Al-Qaeda is a global terrorist organization that relies on secrecy to survive. Even al-Qaeda members are confused about each other’s status: The leader of the group in Yemen had to ask his Algerian counterpart for clarification about Ansar al-Din’s relationship to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The covert nature of the network intentionally obscures many relationships.

Here’s the problem: According to recently declassified testimony of Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before the House Armed Services Committee in October, the U.S. military regards itself as legally barred from going after the perpetrators of the Benghazi attacks (and, presumably, others who attack Americans) unless they are affiliated with al-Qaeda. The Obama administration’s parsing of words to deny al-Qaeda’s direct involvement effectively precludes a military response in these situations.

But the United States can neither disrupt nor defend itself from an enemy it cannot define. Nor are we safer because of arbitrary definitions. The question demands an answer: What is al-Qaeda?

Al-Qaeda’s leadership regulates the use of its name and resources; it has formally and publicly recognized affiliates in Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and West Africa. In each of these cases, the regional leadership pledged loyalty to the al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who accepted their oaths. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki may have been right when she said last month that “they don’t give out T-shirts or membership cards,” but any sensible definition of group membership must surely recognize the explicit and public exchanges of oaths of loyalty and command between Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri, on the one hand, and the leaders of overt franchises on the other.

Many experts disagree about the extent to which locally oriented militants are officially part of al-Qaeda. The White House has focused on terrorists currently targeting the United States, which form a small subset of the overall al-Qaeda movement. In the course of the debate over Benghazi, that focus has narrowed further to the question of whether “al-Qaeda core” ordered a specific attack.

There is even disagreement over the definition of “core” al-Qaeda. Most administration officials suggest that it is the small group keeping company with Zawahiri in Pakistan. Others define it as veteran members of the al-Qaeda network, active before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But this core has long been dispersed, with only a small part still in Pakistan. Some members now lead regional franchises: Nasir al-Wuhayshi, bin Laden’s former secretary, is both emir of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qaeda’s general manager.

In reality, al-Qaeda’s goals are furthered by the so-called core, affiliates and local groups that enjoy no formal relationships with the Zawahiri contingent. The Jamal Network in Egypt, al-Mulathamun in the Sahel and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have a direct but informal relationship with al-Qaeda. The TTP poses a particular definitional problem because it has neither sought nor received formal membership in al-Qaeda, yet it conducted the attempted Times Square bombing in May 2010.

The greatest al-Qaeda threat to the United States is AQAP, which has attempted to attack the U.S. homeland three times since 2009 and whose leader is clearly a member of al-Qaeda core, despite his location in Yemen. Still, most of AQAP’s efforts in recent years have gone into seizing control of parts of Yemen, making it “locally focused.” And what to make of al-Shabab, the formally recognized affiliate in Somalia that does not use the al-Qaeda name? It has been fixated on Somalia but has conducted attacks throughout the region and recruits directly, and in English, from the American Somali community.

Al-Qaeda today is the realization of bin Laden’s broader vision. He did not limit himself only to the founding and running of al-Qaeda but imagined a network uniting like-minded groups extending far beyond state borders. The al-Qaeda operatives around bin Laden’s successor in Pakistan are — at least for the time being — hemmed in by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and they are under siege from Afghanistan-based U.S. drone attacks. But the al-Qaeda network — a defined set of groups running from West Africa to Southeast Asia — carries on bin Laden’s legacy and remains a danger.

An excessively narrow definition of al-Qaeda is just as dangerous as one that includes every Sunni Muslim extremist group. Clearly not all parts of the broader al-Qaeda network are equally dangerous. Nor does dealing with each automatically require the use of military force. Decisions to use force against al-Qaeda must be shaped by strategy and prioritization, like any other national security decision. But excluding large portions of the al-Qaeda network from consideration and hiding behind semantics guarantees strategic failure. Defining the enemy down is not the answer.

Katherine Zimmerman is a senior analyst at the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project and authored the report “The al-Qaeda Network: A New Framework for Defining the Enemy.”

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Al Qaeda Leader Urges Unity for Sake of Islamic State

imagesAl-Qaeda’s leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri has posted a 103-minute message on militant websites calling on Muslims to unite to create an Islamic state.. The audio was produced by al-Qaeda’s media arm, As-Sahab, and was presented alongside video footage showing Iranian Revolutionary Guards captured in Syria.

Zawahiri urged Muslims to use the “Arab Spring” to come together and wage jihad. He specifically praised the mujahideen in Syria, exhorting them to step up their fight against the “criminal secular” regime of President Bashar Assad. He also issued a warning to France that its military intervention in Mali will be bogged down.

“I warn France that it will meet in Mali, with God’s permission, the same fate America met in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Al-Zawahiri said.

Al-Qaeda is unhappy that France launched a military operation in Mali last January after being asked to intervene by the country’s interim president. Since then, French and Malian troops have liberated main towns in the north, but remnants of al-Qaeda-linked cells remain active there in some of the vast rural areas.

Read more at The Clarion Project

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Algeria in Jihadi Flames

algeria-1_2454515b-450x334By

Emboldened by America’s projection of weakness abroad, Islamists apparently linked to al-Qaeda reportedly continue to hold about 40 foreign hostages including seven Americans seized Wednesday at a natural gas field in Algeria.

At press time, conflicting media reports had been emerging from the region. Some claimed that the hostages have been freed; others, that several hostages have been killed.

The mass kidnapping at a BP (formerly British Petroleum) gas site near the Libyan border, which may very well have been accomplished with U.S.-supplied weapons left over from the ouster of the late Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, seems to be a spillover from a failed French drive to remove Islamist militants from nearby Mali.

According to the Wall Street Journal, France’s target in Mali was Algeria-based Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, which has “claimed responsibility for the Algeria kidnappings, calling it retaliation.”

The northern portion of Mali is important to the Islamofascists because it is one of their recently acquired strongholds that serves as a showcase for the reimposition of Shariah law in the region. It is a beachhead for Islamist world revolution.

Al-Qaeda forces, working with Qaddafi’s former mercenaries, previously took over northern Mali, an area about the size of Texas. Africa, writes FrontPage Magazine’s Daniel Greenfield, is now “to Islamic Colonialism in the 21st Century what it was to European Colonialism in the 19th Century.”

The kidnapping episode also undercuts President Obama’s spurious claim that al-Qaeda is somehow on the run and virtually irrelevant thanks to his policies. During the past election cycle Obama bragged over and over that “al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead.” That path now seems to be long and winding.

Each passing day it becomes increasingly clear that the Obama administration, which spends much of its time apologizing for past U.S. policies, isn’t serious about combating Islamism. The fact that the administration itself is a hotbed of Islamist activity, according to various investigative reports, no doubt has something to do with it.

Read more at Front Page

 

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Did the US have enough indicators and warnings for Algeria?

arc-of-instability1

 

by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mali Islamists Hit in Lightning Strikes by French

Map showing Mali's location in Africa (Source: CIA)

Map showing Mali’s location in Africa (Source: CIA)

Determined to win and win in a short time, French fighter planes began lightning strikes on Islamist strongholds in northern Mali Friday. Since then, the strikes have intensified, as have the amount of ground troops – now at 550 – that France has brought in for support.The French specifically stepped in as radical Islamists, who had taken over northern Mali last April, began a successful expansion campaign into the central region of the country, threatening to reach Bamako, the capital.

Seven other countries have joined the effort, including the U.S., who is providing communications support, and Britain, who is sending aircrafts to help transport troops from neighboring countries.

Since taking over the northern part of the country (an area greater than the size of France), the Al Qaeda-linked groups have imposed the most extreme form of Sharia (Islamic) law on the territory, amputating arms for those accused of thievery, public whippings of women for wearing perfume or makeup, flogging men for smoking cigarettes, and stoning to death individuals accused of adultery. Alcohol, music and watching sports on television have also been forbidden. The Islamists began their campaign in the region by smashing historic tombs and shrines located in Timbuktu.

See RadicalIslam.org’s related report Mali Islamists Amputate Thief’s Hand. Threaten 60 More

Tens of thousands of Malians have fled the region, with those left behind having to deal with the horrors of everyday life under the Islamists.

“France’s goal is to lead a relentless struggle against terrorist groups,” the ministry said, “preventing any new offensive of these groups to the south of Mali,” said France’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Mali map (Source: CIA)

Mali map (Source: CIA)

The Islamists rapid expansion into central Mali prompted the French to take action to prevent Al Qaeda terrorists from establishing large terrorist bases from which to launch attacks in Europe and link to other Islamist groups in Somalia, Yemen and northern Africa.

France’s goal is also to provide support to Malian government forces, who are hoping to soon be joined by troops from other African nations to take back their country.

Read more a Radical Islam