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.

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Terror ‘Defector’ Stories Hyped by Media Collapse Underneath the ‘Deradicalization’ Narrative

PJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, MARCH 16, 2017:

The “deradicalization” narrative — and a whole industry of academics pursuing large cash grants from governments looking to set up such programs — are built upon the premise that the right set of information and conditions can not only turn terrorists away from violence, but even into respectable and productive citizens.

More often than not, it seems, reality demonstrates the premise’s naivety.

In my previous article, I looked at the current case of Brooklyn native Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya, a former ISIS fighter who defected from the group and is now being enlisted by the Justice Department to help “deradicalize” other terror recruits. Having already plead guilty to his crimes, he is looking for reduced sentencing in exchange for his assistance.

I noted that many “deradicalization” programs established by Western governments have been fraught with repeated and embarrassing failures. But these programs have failed in the Muslim world, too — including in Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population of any country, and Saudi Arabia, which arguably has the most global influence. If Muslim countries can’t figure out how to craft effective Islamic “deradicalization” programs, what hope do Western countries have?

Two recent high-profile cases of former terrorists turned defectors touted by the international media represented the promise of “deradicalization” programs, but delivered the predictable failure that seems the dominant pattern with such efforts.

THE METEORIC RISE AND FALL OF AL-QAEDA RECRUITER TURNED DERADICALIZER JESSE MORTON

Last August, national and international media organizations were abuzz with the news that a former Al-Qaeda recruiter, Jesse Morton aka Younus Abdullah Muhammed, was given early release from his 12-year federal prison sentence so that he could take up an academic research position at the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

Now Morton was not your average material support for terrorism jihadist wannabe. Not only was he in direct communications with senior Al-Qaeda leaders over seas, but as one of the leaders of the New York-based Revolution Muslim network, he was responsible for recruiting an eye-popping number of now-convicted domestic terror supporters.

As the FBI press release published at the time of his conviction on terror charges states, he openly supported the 9/11 attacks and the November 2009 massacre at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan, as well as directed his supporters to commit violence against Jewish organizations and the creators of the “South Park” Comedy Central Network TV program.

Amidst a PR effort by the GWU Program on Extremism, the media adored Jesse Morton’s story of radicalization and redemption:

Morton was sought after for interviews by media organizations all over the world…

[…]

It was no surprise when, exactly five months after Morton’s hiring was announced by GWU, news broke that he had been arrested again, this time for vice:

In their rush to garner media, did the GWU Program on Extremism push Morton out into the public eye far too soon? How much confidence did they have in his “conversion” story? Was the narrative that “deradicalization” was possible in such a high-profile case too tempting for the media to apply basic journalistic scrutiny?

The answer to the first two questions may never be known. But the media’s haste to push the “deradicalization” narrative again exposed their ideological bias when all the evidence urged caution.

[…]

Chasing the “Deradicalization” Unicorn

There are endless calls for governments to increase funding for “deradicalization” programs, and there are many NGOs, researchers, and academics seeking those funds. Yet as I noted in Part 1, these government-sponsored “deradicalization” programs are failing everywhere. Worse, there are not many ways to objectively measure success when something doesn’t happen.

In the recent cases of Jesse Morton and Harry Sarfo, the media failed in their basic journalistic responsibilities — in both instances they advanced the “deradicalization” narrative that fell apart in the matter of months.

Needless to say, the follow-up reporting that undercuts the initial stories did not get anywhere near the hype or attention of the original sensational stories.

It should also be noted that in virtually all of these cases of “reformed” or “deradicalized” terror recruits and operatives lies the threat of criminal prosecution. The suspects themselves have a real-world incentive beyond media recognition to spin personal stories of redemption: avoiding prison time.

Which brings us back to the case of Mohimanul Alam Bhuiya.

The Justice Department enlisted this former ISIS fighter as part of a “deradicalization” program. However, even in his initial communication with the FBI when he sought to return from Syria, he made clear that his intention was to eliminate any legal consequences for having joined the most lethal terrorist organization in the world.

He faces sentencing in federal court later this year.

An examination of these “deradicalization” programs in the U.S., other Western countries, and even in the Muslim world shows that the Justice Department’s chances of success are risky at best. Yet now we have the media, yet again, pushing a sensational story of a “reformed” former terrorist operative.

Why are they so insistent on not learning any lessons?

While the Justice Department and the media chase the mythical “deradicalization” unicorn, Americans face greater risk because of their pursuit.

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Islamic State Leader Baghdadi ‘Flees Mosul’ as Iraqi Forces Advance

AP Photo/Militant video, File

Breitbart Jerusalem, March 9, 2017:

(AFP) — Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is reported to have abandoned Mosul, leaving local commanders behind to lead the battle against Iraqi forces advancing in the city.

With Iraqi troops making steady progress in their assault to retake Mosul from the jihadists, a US defence official said Baghdadi had fled to avoid being trapped inside.

It was the latest sign that IS is feeling the pressure from twin US-backed offensives that have seen it lose much of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, the defence official said Baghdadi had left Mosul before Iraqi forces seized control of a key road at the beginning of this month, isolating the jihadists in the city.

“He was in Mosul at some point before the offensive…. He left before we isolated Mosul and Tal Afar,” a town to the west, the official said.

“He probably gave broad strategic guidance and has left it to battlefield commanders.”

Baghdadi, who declared IS’s cross-border “caliphate” at a Mosul mosque in 2014, in an audio message in November urged supporters to make a stand in the city rather than “retreating in shame”.

Iraq launched the offensive to retake Mosul — which involves tens of thousands of soldiers, police and allied militia fighters — in October.

After recapturing its eastern side, the forces set their sights on the city’s smaller but more densely populated west.

– ‘Ran away like chickens’ –

In recent days Iraqi forces have retaken a series of neighbourhoods in west Mosul as well as the provincial government headquarters and a museum where IS militants filmed themselves destroying priceless artefacts.

The military said Wednesday they had also taken the infamous Badush prison northwest of Mosul where IS reportedly executed hundreds of people and held captured Yazidi women.

On Thursday Iraqi forces were “combing the city centre area to defuse (bombs in) homes and shops and buildings,” Lieutenant Colonel Abdulamir al-Mohammedawi of Iraq’s elite Rapid Response Division told AFP.

Forces were also “searching for snipers in the city centre,” Mohammedawi said.

The area is located on the edge of Mosul’s Old City, a warren of narrow streets and closely spaced houses that could see some of the toughest fighting of the battle.

“Currently there is no order from the operations command to advance toward the Old City. We will advance when this order is issued,” Mohammedawi said.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to still be trapped under IS rule in Mosul.

Those who did manage to escape the city said the jihadists were growing increasingly desperate.

Abdulrazzaq Ahmed, a 25-year-old civil servant, was seized by jihadist fighters as they retreated from the neighbourhood of Al-Mansur.

“We were used as human shields” said Ahmed, who managed to escape along with hundreds of other civilians to Iraqi police waiting outside the city.

Rayan Mohammed, a frail 18-year-old who was once given 60 lashes for missing prayers, said the jihadists were scrambling in the face of the Iraqi offensive.

“They ran away like chickens,” he said.

– Marines deployed to Syria –

West Mosul is the most heavily populated area under IS control and along with Raqa in Syria the last major urban centres it holds.

In Syria, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been advancing on Raqa. Earlier this week its forces reached the Euphrates River, cutting the main road to the partly IS-held city of Deir Ezzor downstream.

A US official said Wednesday that a Marine Corps artillery battery had been sent into Syria to support the battle for Raqa — joining some 500 American special operations fighters who have been training and assisting the SDF.

The United States has been leading a coalition since mid-2014 carrying out air strikes against the jihadists in both Syria and Iraq.

Elsewhere in Syria, Turkish troops and their rebel allies have pushed south from the Turkish border and driven IS out of the northern town of Al-Bab.

Russian-backed government troops have meanwhile swept eastwards from Syria’s second city Aleppo and seized a swathe of countryside from the jihadists.

The US defence official said IS was now looking beyond the seemingly inevitable losses of Mosul and Raqa.

“I don’t think they have given up on their vision of their caliphate yet,” the official said.

“They… are still making plans to continue to function as a pseudo-state centred in the Euphrates River valley.”

About 15,000 IS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, including some 2,500 in Mosul and Tal Afar and as many as 4,000 still in Raqa, the official said.

***

Exclusive video: Iraqi forces near Mosul mosque where IS group leader declared ‘caliphate’

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Trump’s Plan For ISIS Poised To Put Marines 20 Miles From ISIS Capital

Daily Caller, by Saajar Enjetti, March 8, 2017:

U.S. Marines arrived in Syria Wednesday to begin the first phase of President Donald Trump’s plan to expel the Islamic State from its capital of Raqqa, The Washington Post reports.

The Marines will provide artillery support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and accompanying U.S. special operators in the assault on the city. The type of artillery base must be within 20 miles of its intended target to be effective, the WaPo notes. Some infantry Marines accompanied the unit to provide force protection on the mission.

Trump, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will also likely lift the current cap on U.S. special operators embedded with local forces in tandem with the deployment. The U.S. has approximately 500 special operators in the country currently. Their proposal would also include the use of U.S. attack helicopters, U.S. artillery, and increased arms sales to U.S.-backed forces.

The main recipient of U.S. aid and artillery support will likely be the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS force largely composed of Syrian Kurdish fighters. American reliance on Syrian Kurds will likely spark major tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, who regard the Kurdish forces as an existential threat on par with ISIS. The Kurdish forces have proven the only reliable, large-scale U.S.-backed force capable of fighting the terrorist group effectively.

New strategic plans for Raqqa are likely just a small facet of a new overall strategy to eradicate ISIS. Trump ordered a 30-day review of U.S. strategy, along with options to increase operations tempo, which the Pentagon delivered to the White House Monday.

“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.”

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Finnish ISIS Convert Takes Aim at ‘Foolish’ Muslims Who Have Adapted to West

A mosque in Roihuvuori, Helsinki, seen on May 15, 2015. (The Visual Explorer/Shutterstock.com)

PJ MEDIA, BY BRIDGET JOHNSON, MARCH 7, 2017:

The new issue of ISIS’ Rumiyah magazine concentrates once again on Finnish recruits as a convert to Islam directs Muslims to fight against Muslims in their community who embrace democracy, run for public office or fight in the military.

A woman writing under the name Umm Khalid al-Finlandiyyah said in an issue of ISIS’ Dabiq magazine last year that she was drawn to Islam by living in “a ‘Christian’ nation where people do not strongly adhere to their corrupted religion.”

The Rumiyah issue, released today in English and several other languages, features another writer purportedly from Finland going by the name Umm Musa al-Finlandiyyah. “Umm” means “mother of,” indicating the writer is female.

She said that after converting in her home country she was aghast at “the lack of religious adherence by so-called ‘Muslims’ – those whom I had thought to be Muslims – who didn’t pray, possibly fasted during Ramadan, and whose extent of following the Shari’ah was restricted to the avoidance of eating pork.”

She added that “what is most dangerous” in Finland’s Muslim community “is that most of them don’t even know that there are actions that take people out of Islam, so many people think they are still Muslims, while in reality they have fallen into kufr [disbelief] and riddah [apostasy].”

“Many people think Islam is like a citizenship – once you get it, it remains with you until the end of your life. But Islam doesn’t work with the same principle. It has conditions by which one enters it and nullifiers by which can leave it – even without knowing it.”

The writer said “participating in government elections and voting in them, as well as military service, working as a lawyer, and criticizing the Shari’ah of Allah, are only a few of the many things which can nullify one’s Islam, and all of them are easy to perpetrate” living in non-Muslim countries.

The convert accused other Muslims of being “foolish” by criticizing ISIS when media began “spreading the news about the mass executions conducted by the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham.”

“The ignorant ‘Muslims’ are blaming the Islamic State for spreading fitnah [unrest] and ‘spoiling the jihad,’ though the only true jihad for Allah’s cause is what the Islamic State is actually conducting – for all of its enemies do nothing to support the establishment of Allah’s rule on earth,” she wrote.

She vowed that ISIS’ “fight against kufr and its supporters will continue on the true frontline,” without explicitly mentioning the terror group’s increasing loss of territory in Iraq and Syria.

“Anyone who denies that a so-called ‘Muslim’ Member of Parliament is a murtadd [apostate] kafir – as he has committed shirk with Allah in legislation – is himself a murtadd. And anyone who denies that a so-called ‘Muslim’ in the military service of the kuffar is a murtadd kafir – as he has supported the cause of taghut – is himself a murtadd,” she wrote. “And anyone who refuses to make takfir [excommunication] of those who consider the Shari’ah of Allah to be unsuitable for this era, or refuses to make takfir of those who are fighting to establish democracy, is himself a murtadd.”

In its 2015 year-end report, the Finnish Security Intelligence Service said “at least 70 adults and dozens of children” had traveled to the Islamic State. “This jihadist travel concerns even a much larger group of people in Finland, if the sphere of influence of those having remained in the conflict zone for a long time is taken into account,” the report added.

“The conflict will continue to affect Finland’s security for a long time. A new generation of Jihadists, among them also Finnish nationals, is growing up on the areas controlled by terrorist organisations in Syria and Iraq. Due to terrorist fighters originating from Finland, also foreign radical Islamists know Finland better than before.”

A November study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that “Finland has the largest number of ISIS foreign fighters relative to the size of its Muslim population, followed by Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, and Austria,” and “inequality and poverty are unlikely to be root causes of recruits joining ISIS” as Finland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

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Jihadology: Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: Rome Magazine #7

Trump’s Plan To Eradicate ISIS Caught Between Warring Allies

Fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) carry the coffins of their fellow fighters, who were killed when Islamic State militants attacked the town of Tel Abyad on the Turkish border at the weekend, during their funeral procession at Ras al-Ain city, in Hasakah province, Syria March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS90VM

Fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) carry the coffins of their fellow fighters, who were killed when Islamic State militants attacked the town of Tel Abyad on the Turkish border at the weekend, during their funeral procession at Ras al-Ain city, in Hasakah province, Syria March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTS90VM

Daily Caller, by Saagar Enjetti, March 1, 2017:

Turkey, U.S. ally and member of NATO, is likely to launch an all-out assault on the main anti-Islamic State U.S. proxy force, the Institute for the Study of War warns in a new assessment.

Current U.S. strategy against ISIS relies on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Syrian rebel group largely composed of Kurdish militias. The problem is, Turkey regards these groups as existential threats to its existence, and believes they are deeply tied to the PKK. The U.S. has special operators embedded within the SDF’s ranks, and believes it is the only group capable of retaking the ISIS-held capital of Raqqa in Syria.

Turkey attacked SDF-controlled villages Wednesday, according to SDF spokesmen. Turkey’s operations appear geared towards taking the SDF controlled city of Manbij, which is right along its border. “The fight for Manbij will derail the U.S.-backed campaign against ISIS and create opportunities for al Qaeda to expand further in Syria,” ISW’s assessment declares.

The SDF is likely to play a key role in President Donald Trump’s plan to defeat ISIS. The Pentagon delivered several options to Trump earlier this week, all of which will likely bolster U.S. support to ground forces capable of taking on ISIS.

Trump and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis have already quietly escalated the U.S. ground war against ISIS, which includes additional assistance to the SDF. “There are signs of full support from the new American leadership — more than before — for our forces,” an SDF spokesman told Reuters Feb. 1.  Trump also indicated in July he was a “big fan” of the Kurdish forces, and wanted to balance his strategy with Turkey. “It would be really wonderful if we could put them somehow both together,” he told The New York Times.

“Further escalation between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds would severely jeopardize – and likely halt indefinitely – the campaign against ISIS in Ar-Raqqa City,” ISW declares.
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Iraqi army controls main roads out of Mosul, trapping Islamic State

An Iraqi special forces soldier fires a rifle as other soldiers runs across a street during a battle in Mosul, Iraq March 1, 2017 REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

An Iraqi special forces soldier fires a rifle as other soldiers runs across a street during a battle in Mosul, Iraq March 1, 2017 REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Reuters, by Stephen Kalin, March 1, 2017:

U.S.-backed Iraqi army units on Wednesday took control of the last major road out of western Mosul that had been in Islamic State’s hands, trapping the militants in a shrinking area within the city, a general and residents said.

The army’s 9th Armored Division was within a kilometer of Mosul’s Syria Gate, the city’s northwestern entrance, a general from the unit told Reuters by telephone.

“We effectively control the road, it is in our sight,” he said.

Mosul residents said they had not been able to travel on the highway that starts at the Syria Gate since Tuesday. The road links Mosul to Tal Afar, another Islamic State stronghold 60 km (40 miles) to the west, and then to Syria.

Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris river on Feb. 19.

If they defeat Islamic State in Mosul, that would crush the Iraq wing of the caliphate declared by the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014 from the city’s grand old Nuri Mosque.

The U.S.-led coalition effort against Islamic State is killing the group’s fighters more quickly than it can replace them, British Major General Rupert Jones, deputy commander for the Combined Joint Task Force said.

With more than 45,000 killed by coalition air strikes up to August last year, “their destruction just becomes really a matter of time,” he said on Tuesday in London.

The U.S. commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, has said he believes U.S.-backed forces will recapture both Mosul and Raqqa, Islamic State’s Syria stronghold in neighboring Syria, within six months.

The closing of the westward highway meant that Islamic State are besieged in the city center, said Lt General Abdul Wahab al-Saidi, the deputy commander of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), deployed in the southwestern side.

Units from the elite U.S.-trained division battled incoming sniper and anti-tank fire as they moved eastwards, through Wadi al-Hajar district, and northward, through al-Mansour and al-Shuhada districts where gunfire and explosions could be heard.

These moves would allow the CTS to link up with Rapid Response and Federal Police units deployed by the riverside, and to link up with the 9th Armored Division coming from the west, tightening the noose around the militants.

“Many of them were killed, and for those who are still positioned in the residential neighborhoods, they either pull back or get killed are our forces move forward,” Saidi said.

Two militants lay dead near the field command of the CTS, in the al-Mamoun district which looked like a ghost town. A few hundred meters away, a car bomb was hit by an air strike.

STRAFING FROM ABOVE

The few families who remained in al-Mamoun said they were too scared to leave as the militants had booby-trapped cars.

Women cooked bread over outdoor ovens while men gathered on street corners as helicopters flew overhead strafing suspected militant positions further north

One of two buses parked nearby had its roof shorn off. Residents buried a 60-year-old woman who was killed on Tuesday when she stepped on an explosive device while trying to flee.

Several thousand militants, including many who traveled from Western countries to join up, are believed to be in Mosul among a remaining civilian population estimated at the start of the offensive at 750,000.

They are using mortars, sniper fire, booby traps and suicide car bombs to fight the offensive carried out by a 100,000-strong force made up of Iraqi armed forces, regional Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iranian-trained Shi’ite Muslim paramilitary groups.

About 26,000 have been displaced from western Mosul, often under militant fire, according to government figures. The United Nations puts at more than 176,000 the total number of people displaced from Mosul since the offensive started in October.

Thousands more streamed out, walking through the desert toward government lines during the day, crossing over a deep trench which appears to have served as an Islamic State defense, some waving white flags.

Among them a boy shot in the leg was limping alongside a cart carrying an older woman, while another was pushed in a wheelchair. Old people asked why there was no cars or buses to pick them up and take them to the displaced people centers.

A man said he spent 11 days hiding in his house with no food, no water and no idea of what was happening outside.

“The archangel of death would have come for us if we stayed any longer,” he said.

Aid agencies put the number of killed and wounded at several thousands, both military and civilians.

Army, police, CTS and Rapid Response units forces attacking Islamic State in western Mosul are backed by air and ground support from a U.S.-led coalition, including artillery. U.S. personnel are operating close to the frontlines to direct air strikes.

Federal police and Rapid Response units are several hundred meters only from the city’s’ government buildings.

Taking those buildings would be of symbolic significance in terms of restoring state authority over the city and help Iraqi forces attack militants in the nearby old city center where the al-Nuri Mosque is located.

Military engineers started preparing a pontoon that they plan to put in place by the side of the city’s southernmost bridge, captured on Monday. Air strikes have damaged all of its five bridges.

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Hamas Terror Double Game Backfires as Fighters Defect to Islamic State in Sinai

hamas-isisPJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, FEBRUARY 27, 2017:

The Hamas terrorists in control of the Gaza Strip adjacent to the Sinai Peninsula find themselves between a rock and a hard place these days as the double game that they’ve played with the Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai has backfired as reportedly hundreds of their trained Qassam Brigade fighters have defected.

Meanwhile, an attempted rapprochement with Egypt in recent weeks also appears to be breaking down as the Islamic State is reportedly setting Hamas up for a war with Israel that it is most likely not prepared for.

As I reported here at PJ Media back in June, Hamas, fashioned by some in the Washington D.C. ‘smart set’ as supposed ‘moderates,’ had been actively cooperating with the Islamic State.

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Ex-Guantanamo detainee carried out suicide attack near Mosul, Iraq

17-02-21-ronald-fiddler-isis-suicide-bomber-near-mosulLong War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Feb. 22, 2017:

The British press buzzed yesterday with news that a former Guantanamo detainee known as Jamal al Harith (formerly Ronald Fiddler) had blown himself up in a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in Iraq. Al Harith reportedly took part in the Islamic State’s defensive suicide attacks around Mosul, which is one of the organization’s de facto capitals. The so-called caliphate claims to have launched scores of suicide VBIEDs in defense of the city.

On the same day al Harith executed his attack (Feb. 20), the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency released a short video of three SUVs being deployed as bombs. All three vehicles had armor added to the front. One of the three was presumably driven by al Harith. The Islamic State released a photo al Harith (seen above), identifying him by the alias Abu Zakariya al Britani. The group also issued a claim of responsibility for his bombing.

Al Harith’s death brings to an end one of the strangest stories in the history of the detention facility at Guantanamo. Along with four others, Al Harith was transferred to American custody in early 2002 after being found in the Taliban-controlled Sarposa prison.

According to leaked Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessments, jihadis in Afghanistan accused all five men of being spies for foreign powers looking to infiltrate the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s ranks. Sarposa (spelled “Sarpooza” and “Sarpuza” in JTF-GTMO’s files) was overrun by the Northern Alliance in late 2001 and the men (subsequently dubbed the Sarposa Five) were handed over to the Americans and then transferred to Guantanamo.

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White House Aide Criticizes Obama’s Counter-Terrorism Policy for Failing to Mention Islam

A propaganda photo depicting ISIS fighters near Nineveh, Iraq / AP

A propaganda photo depicting ISIS fighters near Nineveh, Iraq / AP

‘Our labels must reflect reality, otherwise we will misdiagnose’

Washington Free Beacon, by Natalie Johnson, February 14, 2017:

President Donald Trump’s deputy assistant condemned the Obama administration Monday for refusing to mention religion in its counterterrorism strategy, particularly when dealing with the Islamic State.

Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism specialist who now serves as a senior White House aide, said the Untied States has had “serious problems” over the past eight years identifying the nature of an enemy engaged in a religiously inspired war.

“The Obama administration in 2011 prohibited discussion of religion, expressly Islam, in all counter-terror training for federal agents and military,” Gorka said during an event at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

“That’s like saying in 1944 you can’t say the word Nazi because you’ll offend a German. It’s absurd, it’s in fact asinine. You have to be able to talk about the enemy and the words that they use. When they say they’re a jihadist, you can’t say, ‘Well they’re just misguided nihilists.’ No, they think they are holy warriors,” he continued. “Our labels must reflect reality, otherwise we will misdiagnose.”

Gorka said it is imperative for U.S. officials to understand that 80 percent of the fight against ISIS and jihad-inspired terrorist groups will be fought in the domain of information and media operations rather than in military operations.

A report published last year by IntelCenter, a counter-terrorism research firm, found that between June and July 2016 there were significant terrorist attacks every 84 hours directed or inspired by ISIS outside the war zones in Iraq and Syria. Gorka said the findings underscore America’s overemphasis on a “whack-a-mole” strategy that targets individual terrorists while ignoring the root of the problem: ideology.

“For them, it’s not just a caliphate of the ground, it’s a caliphate of the mind,” Gorka said.

“We’re not going to capture all the jihadists, we’re not going to kill all of them … they’re going to move. They may go North, they may go West, they may come across the Atlantic,” he continued. “We must understand, ISIS’s battlefront begins when you leave your house in the morning. There is no battlefront like World War I or World War II, there are no trenches.”

Gorka said the United States during the Obama and Bush administrations focused too heavily on physical battlefield actions, like death tolls, as the metric of success in the war on terrorism. Meanwhile, the information war fell behind, he said.

Bill Gertz, senior editor at the Washington Free Beacon and author of the newly released book iWar, called for the Trump administration to reestablish a U.S. information agency that can both “promote American ideals” and counteract “lies and deception.”

Obama signed a defense bill in December requiring the State Department to engage in countermeasures, including counter-disinformation, to combat the spread of adversarial ideologies, but Gertz said the bill did not go far enough.

“We need to retool for the information age,” Gertz said at the Heritage Foundation. “We really are deficient in this area of promoting the American ideal and we’re facing competing narratives.”

Unlike al Qaeda, ISIS has been able to adapt and redefine its mission, even as it continues to lose ground in Iraq and Syria. The group has had particular success spreading disinformation and propaganda, Gorka said. He suggested the Trump administration combat the terrorist group’s efforts by establishing an information operation that is driven directly by the White House.

“We will have won when the black flag of jihad, when the black flag of ISIS, is as repugnant across the world as the white peaked hood of the Ku Klux Klan and the black, white, and red swastika of Hitler’s Third Reich,” Gorka said.

Defections Challenge Hamas’ Cooperation With the Islamic State

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, attend a memorial for Mohamed Zouari in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on January 31, 2017, (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, attend a memorial for Mohamed Zouari in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on January 31, 2017, (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

by IPT News  •  Feb 8, 2017

Hamas continues to play a double game when it comes to the Islamic State. The Palestinian terrorist organization is trying to supress ISIS-inspired jihadists in Gaza, while simultaneously cooperating with the terrorist group’s Sinai Peninsula affiliate – Wilayat Sinai.

Despite some tactical benefits, Hamas’ seemingly counterintuitive, yet calculated, engagement with Islamic State elements has resulted in tangible setbacks for the Palestinian group. Palestinian sources speaking with the Times of Israel revealed that dozens of Hamas operatives have defected to Wilayat Sinai, including highly trained terrorists from elite units.

Roughly two months ago, Hamas forces arrested Abed al-Wahad Abu Aadara, a Hamas naval commando who defected to ISIS after he re-entered Gaza. His brother also joined ISIS and died in clashes with the Egyptian military. Facing pressure from ISIS, Hamas recently released Abu Aadara from prison.

Other defectors include highly trained Hamas operatives who enhance the Islamic State’s ability to build bombs and use anti-tank missiles. Senior military wing members, including Abu Malek Abu Shwiesh, a key assistant to Hamas’ Rafah commander, reportedly joined Wilayat Sinai.

The ISIS affiliate has created significant Egyptian casualties in recent years, particularly after acquiring and deploying sophisticated weaponry in the Sinai.

Israeli officials have outlined detailed aspects of Hamas-Islamic State cooperation in the past. Both organizations engage in smuggling terrorists and arms, including advanced weapons systems. For example, Hamas provided Wilayat Sinai with Kornet anti-tank missiles that have destroyed Egyptian military vehicles. Hamas also provides military training and medical services for injured Wilayat Sinai fighters in Gaza, in addition to reportedly transferring money directly to the terrorist organization.

In return, Hamas cultivates a safe haven for its leaders and fighters in case of a future confrontation with Israel, understanding that Israel’s military engagement on Egyptian territory is limited.

Since the end of the 2014 summer war in Gaza, Hamas has invested significant resources into reconstructing its terrorist infrastructure. It also continues to rebuild its elite forces – including its naval commando unit – dedicated to infiltrating into Israel to carry out terrorist attacks. Reports of Hamas defections are a clear setback for the Palestinian organization, but are not likely lead to a wider rift with the Islamic State.

Despite broader ideological differences, both groups remain committed to challenging the Egyptian military in Sinai and destroying the Jewish state.

***

Islamic State Using Funds to Recruit Children Among Illegal Alien Population

migrantsgreece-690x377Shariah Finance Watch, by Christopher W. Holton, Feb. 5, 2017:

The Islamic State is paying the smugglers’ fees of child “refugees” to attract new recruits.

Europol has identified as many as 88,300 unaccompanied minors among the illegal alien population overrunning Europe.

Both the ISIS and the Islamic State affiliate in Nigeria–Boko Haram–have been recruiting in refugee camps using financial incentives, as well as working with the human smugglers.

The Islamic State has reportedly offered as much as $2,000 per head in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. Jordanian special forces discovered an Islamic State “sleeper cell” inside a refugee camp in northern Jordan. The Islamic State has issued warnings that they are infiltrating the refugee population. Jihadist groups have been extremely active in their efforts to influence and recruit in the refugee population.

The term “refugee” is not meant to be all-inclusive here of all the people moving from the Islamic world to Europe and elsewhere in the West. Large numbers are better described as illegal aliens.

Reports also indicate that the Islamic State is using food to recruit from the refugee/illegal alien population.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/05/isis-recruitment-drive-child-refugees

ISIS Alleges Someone Is Publishing Fake Islamic State Magazines

12Heavy, February 4, 2017:

Islamic State terrorist channels are warning ISIS sympathizers that someone is publishing a fake, 6th edition of their Rumiyah online magazine and warning them to be careful where they download the PDF from.

The above screenshot alleges the perpetrators of the fake publication to be “the kuffar,” a broad, pejorative Islamic term meaning “disbeliever.”

It is unclear who created and distributed the alleged fake publication. However, chatter on ISIS channels indicates suspicion towards intelligence agencies like the CIA or the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB).

The latest edition of the magazine was issue #5. It was released in early January and praises the terroristic possibilities of arson. It also specifically points out a target in the United States, First Baptist Dallas. First Baptist Dallas is a church in Texas that ISIS states is “a popular Crusader gathering place waiting to be burned down.”

In a November 2016 edition release of their magazine, ISIS stated that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would be “an excellent target” for a lone wolf terrorist attack. It suggested that driving a car into a crowd would be the easiest way to carry out an attack. Soon after, 18-year-old Somali refugee Abdul Razak Ali Artan drove a car into a crowd of students at Ohio State University.

Somalia was recently listed as one of the countries involved in President Donald Trump’s executive order, titled “Protection Of The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States.” The order bans nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entry into the United States for the next 90 days and coincides with a pause in the the admission of all refugees to the U.S. for the next four months.

Read more

So Much for the ‘Lone Wolf’ Theory of Islamic Terrorism

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PJ MEDIA, BY MICHAEL WALSH FEBRUARY 4, 2017:

Rukmini Callimachi, probably the best reporter on terrorism active today, lays it all out here:

Not ‘Lone Wolves’ After All: How ISIS Is Guiding Terror Plots From Afar

When the Islamic State identified a promising young recruit willing to carry out an attack in one of India’s major tech hubs, the group made sure to arrange everything down to the bullets he needed to kill victims. For 17 months, terrorist operatives guided the recruit, a young engineer named Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani, through every step of what they planned to be the Islamic State’s first strike on Indian soil…

As officials around the world have faced a confusing barrage of attacks dedicated to the Islamic State, cases like Mr. Yazdani’s offer troubling examples of what counterterrorism experts are calling enabled or remote-controlled attacks: violence conceived and guided by operatives in areas controlled by the Islamic State whose only connection to the would-be attacker is the internet.

In the most basic enabled attacks, Islamic State handlers acted as confidants and coaches, coaxing recruits to embrace violence. In the Hyderabad plot, among the most involved found so far, the terrorist group reached deep into a country with strict gun laws in order to arrange for pistols and ammunition to be left in a bag swinging from the branches of a tree.

For the most part, the operatives who are conceiving and guiding such attacks are doing so from behind a wall of anonymity. When the Hyderabad plotters were arrested last summer, they could not so much as confirm the nationalities of their interlocutors in the Islamic State, let alone describe what they looked like. Because the recruits are instructed to use encrypted messaging applications, the guiding role played by the terrorist group often remains obscured.

As a result, remotely guided plots in Europe, Asia and the United States in recent years, including the attack on a community center in Garland, Tex., were initially labeled the work of “lone wolves,” with no operational ties to the Islamic State, and only later was direct communication with the group discovered.

Exactly right. The New York Times is to be congratulated on Ms. Callimachi’s work and other news media should take notice. From the start of the Muslim/Arab war on the West on 9/11, it’s been clear to anyone with an ounce of sense that most of the “lone wolves” are in fact anything but. Just as in prisons, where Muslim inmates whisper sweet nothings into fellow criminals’ ears about the wonders of jihad and “martyrdom,” so do they prey, like child molesters, on vulnerable young people on the Internet. Islam gives them a historically sanctioned excuse for their basest impulses, channeling what would be ordinary criminal behavior into something with a patina of “religion.”

While the trail of many of these plots led back to planners living in Syria, the very nature of the group’s method of remote plotting means there is little dependence on its maintaining a safe haven there or in Iraq. And visa restrictions and airport security mean little to attackers who strike where they live and no longer have to travel abroad for training.

“They are virtual coaches who are providing guidance and encouragement throughout the process — from radicalization to recruitment into a specific plot,” said Nathaniel Barr, a terrorism analyst at Valens Global, who along with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington wrote one of the first articles discussing the virtual plotters.

“If you look at the communications between the attackers and the virtual plotters, you will see that there is a direct line of communication to the point where they are egging them on minutes, even seconds, before the individual carries out an attack.”

Well, that’s just great. As the abortive attack on the Louvre — one of the glories of French civilization — shows, once the barbarians are inside the gates, they’re just a cell phone away from self-detonating. If we’re ever to get serious about “homeland security,” we’re going to have to address very unpolitically-correct notions of citizenship, visas, and green cards, as well as how far civil-rights protections extend to enemies within and even “faith” itself. It’s going to make a lot of folks uncomfortable. But discomfort is better than death.

AP: Pentagon Program to Counter Islamic State Propaganda Rife with Incompetence, Corruption

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PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, February 1, 2017:

In 2011, the Obama administration conducted a purge of counter-terrorism training across all relevant federal agencies and imposed a new “countering violent extremism” (CVE) regime in its place to remove any reference in training to role of certain trends in Islamic ideology in support of terrorism.

As I reported last year here at PJ Media, these CVE programs have collapsed into absurdity, with some Obama administration programs intended to directly confront online terror recruitment becoming more harmful than helpful in that effort.

But now an extensive investigation by the Associated Press finds that CVE has claimed yet another victim – the Pentagon’s $500 million WebOps program intended to provide a counter-narrative to Islamic State propaganda.

According to the AP, the WebOps program is rife with incompetence and corruption. Some whistleblowers telling the news agency that the effort has become a laughingstock in the online jihadist community.

The AP reports:

A critical national security program known as “WebOps” is part of a vast psychological operation that the Pentagon says is effectively countering an enemy that has used the internet as a devastating tool of propaganda. But an Associated Press investigation found the management behind WebOps is so beset with incompetence, cronyism and flawed data that multiple people with direct knowledge of the program say it’s having little impact.

Several current and former WebOps employees cited multiple examples of civilian Arabic specialists who have little experience in counter-propaganda, cannot speak Arabic fluently and have so little understanding of Islam they are no match for the Islamic State online recruiters.

It’s hard to establish rapport with a potential terror recruit when — as one former worker told the AP — translators repeatedly mix up the Arabic words for “salad” and “authority.” That’s led to open ridicule on social media about references to the “Palestinian salad.”

Four current or former workers told the AP that they had personally witnessed WebOps data being manipulated to create the appearance of success and that they had discussed the problem with many other employees who had seen the same. Yet the companies carrying out the program for the military’s Central Command in Tampa have dodged attempts to implement independent oversight and assessment of the data.

So according to whistleblowers, you have government contractors tasked with countering Islamic State propaganda – much of it religious arguments – who have no knowledge of Islam. This is a feature, not a bug, of Obama’s CVE policies.

But it gets worse:

Engaging in theological discussions on social media with people who are well versed in the Quran is not for beginners. Iraq and Syria are riven with sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, who follow different interpretations of Islam. Multiple workers said that WebOps “experts” often trip up on language that is specific to one sect or region.

“People can tell whether you are local, or whether you are Sunni or Shia,” said another former worker, so poorly crafted messages are not effective. He said he left WebOps because he was disgusted with the work.

A number of the workers complained to AP that a large group on staff from Morocco, in North Africa, were often ignorant of Middle Eastern history and culture — or even the difference between groups the U.S. considers terrorist organizations. The group was so dominant that colleagues jokingly referred to them as “the Moroccan mafia.”

A lot of them “don’t know the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas,” said the employee who left to find more meaningful work. Hezbollah is an Iran-backed Shiite group based in Lebanon. Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, is the Palestinian branch of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.

All of this is due to Obama’s purge.

Many of the government subject matter experts (SMEs) in the fields of Middle East culture, Islamic ideology, and Islamist organizations were either removed from their positions following hysterical accusations of “Islamophobia” and biased training, or so limited in what they could teach by Obama’s CVE policies that it was inadequate for the U.S. government departments and agencies to adequately conduct their missions.

A Joint Chiefs of Staff Action Memorandum issued at the height of the counter-terror training “purge” on October 11, 2011, directed a new undefined and secretive CVE screening process for all trainers. It involved “Military Information Support Operations, Information Operations, and Military Intelligence curriculum,” or, the military’s “eyes out” operations.

The failed WebOps program would be part of the Pentagon’s Information Operations branch and subject to the Joint Chiefs CVE guidelines.

The devastating effects of the “purge” aren’t limited to civilian specialists operating behind computer screens. The warriors on the front lines fighting against the Islamic terrorists that have sworn to destroy our society and threaten attacks against our homeland were hurt as well.

In December 2014, the New York Times reported that Major Gen. Michael Nagata, then-head of Special Operations Command Central, had held a series of conference calls attempting to understand why the Islamic State had grown so dangerous:

Trying to decipher this complex enemy — a hybrid terrorist organization and a conventional army — is such a conundrum that General Nagata assembled an unofficial brain trust outside the traditional realms of expertise within the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies, in search of fresh ideas and inspiration. Business professors, for example, are examining the Islamic State’s marketing and branding strategies.

In the midst of these discussions, Gen. Nagata issued this damning indictment of how the Obama administration’s CVE policies following the “purge” had blinded the very tip of the American war-fighting spear:

“We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it,” he said, according to the confidential minutes of a conference call he held with the experts. “We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.”

After the intentional purge from the Defense Department’s training of any ability to define the enemy, America’s top warriors now admit they are blinded, with no path to success.

But it’s not just the Defense Department that has been hamstrung by the Obama CVE policies.

On September 8, 2011, Obama signed Executive Order 13584, which led to the establishment of the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) to counter terrorist propaganda.

That State Department program suffered chronic leadership changes and a string of public embarrassments in the face of the growing international terrorist threat from the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

As a consequence, the State Department closed the CSCC.

Now the U.S. government must delegate these vital tasks to foreign organizations, much as the WebOps program is doing with its Moroccan employees.

Among the many embarrassing CSCC episodes was a graphic video they produced called “Welcome to ISIS Land.” It featured severed heads, corpses, and crucifixions interspersed with messages directed at would-be ISIS recruits about the grisly skills they would need to acquire.

That CSCC director — a longtime U.S. diplomat — was promptly replaced.

Another CSCC effort was the “Think Again, Turn Away” program, which pushed out counter-messaging via social media targeting potential ISIS recruits. The program’s Twitter account would regularly “troll” ISIS adherents on Twitter.

But not long after the program was launched, terrorism experts were openly lambasting the program, including accusations that the CSCC’s efforts were legitimizing terrorists. Further, the actual penetration of their social media efforts barely touched the potential terror recruits they were trying to influence. For example, when one well-known pro-ISIS Twitter user, Shami Witness, was arrested, a comparison of the Twitter followers of Shami Witness and the “Think Again, Turn Away account” found that they only shared FIVE followers:

In the comments to that tweet, some users revealed that they were among the five followers that overlapped — and they weren’t even recruiting targets, but terrorism researchers or academics.

In February 2015, Obama’s envoy to the Muslim world, Rashad Hussain, was appointed to lead the CSCC. Yet by that year’s end, a State Department panel of experts concluded that the CSCC’s efforts were not effective, and questioned whether the U.S. government should be involved in counter-propaganda at all. Rashad Hussain was promptly moved to the Justice Department and the CSCC was shut down.

In January 2016 a new effort, the Center for Global Engagement, was launched, but with little prospect that rebranding their efforts will be more effective. Now, most of the State Department’s counter-propaganda efforts have been outsourced to the Sawab Center in Abu Dhabi, which pushes the now-failed CVE strategies. The continued in-country counter-propaganda efforts now have to be characterized as “ninja,” because they are essentially unseen (and unmeasurable).

 On the heels of all that failure, American taxpayers are now on the hook for the $500 million WebOps boondoggle at the Pentagon. Meanwhile, the Islamic State continues to spread its ideology virtually unopposed by the U.S. government.

To defeat the Islamic State will require not just military victories, but successfully rolling back and defeating its ideology. That requires, as Sun Tzu famously said, to “know your enemy.” As Gen. Negata admitted in his conference call, more than 15 years after the 9/11 attacks even our most hardened warriors don’t understand their movement or their ideology.

We undoubtedly require an abandonment of the failed Obama-era CVE policies, and a change in culture where discussions of the various strains of Islamic ideology that power groups like the Islamic State are encouraged — not punished. That’s the difficult task ahead for President Trump and his new administration.