Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Debacle: Arming Jihadists in Libya . . . and Syria

hillary-clinton-benghazi-scandal-arm-syrian-rebels-isis_0National Review, By Andrew C. McCarthy — August 2, 2016

As U.S. armed forces attack ISIS in Libya, WikiLeaks is poised to remind us that ISIS is in Libya — indeed, that ISIS is ISIS — thanks to disastrous policies championed by Hillary Clinton as President Obama’s secretary of state. Also raised, yet again, is the specter of Mrs. Clinton’s lying to Congress and the American people — this time regarding a matter some of us have been trying for years to get answers about: What mission was so important the United States kept personnel in the jihadist hellhole of Benghazi in 2012?

Specifically, did that mission involve arming the Syrian “rebels” — including al-Qaeda and forces that became ISIS — just as, at Mrs. Clinton’s urging, our government had armed Libyan “rebels” (again, jihadists) to catastrophic effect?

It has been less than two weeks since WikiLeaks rocked the Clinton campaign on the eve of the Democratic convention by leaking hacked e-mails illuminating DNC efforts to rig the nomination chase in Clinton’s favor. Now the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, has announced that WikiLeaks is soon to publish highly sensitive government e-mails that demonstrate Hillary Clinton’s key participation in efforts to arm jihadists in Syria. Just as in Libya, where Mrs. Clinton championed the strategy of arming Islamist “rebels,” the Syrian “rebels” who ultimately received weapons included the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and ISIS.

The Daily Wire and other outlets are reporting on Assange’s comments, published by Democracy Now. Clearly, we should not take Assange’s word for what is to be gleaned from the hacked records, which he says include some 17,000 e-mails “about Libya alone.” Let’s see if he has what he says he has. But it is worth setting the stage, because what is known is outrageous and has not been given nearly enough attention — largely because Beltway Republicans were complicit in the Obama-Clinton policy of allying with Islamists, and thus have shown no interest in probing the inevitably disastrous fallout.

As I have been pointing out for years, for example, we have never gotten to the bottom of why the State Department, under Mrs. Clinton’s direction, had an installation in Benghazi, one of the world’s most dangerous places for Americans.

The Obama administration, like the Bush administration, had touted Qaddafi as a key counterterrorism ally against rabidly anti-American jihadists in eastern Libya. Nevertheless, Secretary Clinton led the policy shift in which our government changed sides in Libya — shifting support to the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, just as Mrs. Clinton had urged shifting U.S. support to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. In Libya, this included arming “rebels,” who naturally included a heavy concentration of jihadists.

EDITORIAL: What We Know about the Benghazi Attack Demands a Reckoning 

As I’ve recounted, to topple Qaddafi on behalf of the Islamists, the Obama administration — which did not seek congressional authorization for its offensive war (and preposterously maintained that bombing another country’s government was not really “war” anyway) — had to flout a United Nations resolution. The U.N. had agreed only to military operations for the purpose of protecting civilians, not offensive operations against the regime. Besides arming jihadists, the administration took no meaningful steps to make sure that Qaddafi’s military arsenals did not fall into terrorist hands. The regime was toppled and Qaddafi was brutally murdered — prompting Secretary Clinton’s bizarrely giddy quip, “We came, we saw, he died.” As some of us not-so-giddy types had warned would happen, Libya then became a safe haven for terrorists who turned on the American and Western forces that had cleared the path for them.

In small compass, this is the story of J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador killed in the Benghazi massacre. As Business Insider’s Michael B. Kelley recounts, before becoming ambassador, Stevens was the Obama administration’s official liaison to Qaddafi’s Islamist opposition in Libya, including its al-Qaeda-linked groups. The latter included the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Stevens worked directly with a top LIFG leader, Abdelhakim Belhadj.

When the Qaddafi regime was ousted, Belhadj took control of the Tripoli Military Council. In 2011, Belhadj met with anti-Assad “rebels” in Turkey to plan weapons shipments from Libya to Syria. As Mr. Kelley explains, in September 2012 the Times of London reported that “a Libyan ship ‘carrying the largest consignment of weapons for Syria . . . has docked in Turkey.’” According to that report:

The shipment reportedly weighed 400 tons and included SA-7 surface-to-air anti-craft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades. Those heavy weapons are most likely from Muammar Gaddafi’s stock of about 20,000 portable heat-seeking missiles — the bulk of them SA-7s — that the Libyan leader obtained from the former Eastern bloc. Reuters reports that Syrian rebels have been using those heavy weapons to shoot down Syrian helicopters and fighter jets. The ship’s captain was “a Libyan from Benghazi and the head of an organization called the Libyan National Council for Relief and Support,” which was presumably established by the new government.

Fox News subsequently reported that the ship, a Libyan-flagged vessel, Al-Entisar (The Victory), docked in the Turkish port of Iskenderun, only 35 miles from the Syrian border, on September 6, 2012. That was just five days before jihadists conducted the patently coordinated terrorist attack on the mysterious State Department and CIA compounds in Benghazi, killing four Americans including Stevens — who had been promoted to ambassador in May.

It is incontestable that the Obama administration has worked closely with the Islamist government of Turkey in efforts to arm and train “rebels” in Syria. Stevens’s last meeting on the night of September 11, 2012, right before the State Department’s Benghazi compound was attacked, was with Turkey’s consul general, Ali Sait Akin.

RELATED: Why Doesn’t the Buck Stop with Hillary?

In the months leading up to the attack on the State Department facility, and on the even more shadowy CIA outpost a little over a mile away, jihadists in eastern Libyaconducted a series of attacks against Western targets — including, on June 6, 2012, a bomb detonated just outside the State Department compound. The British government and the International Red Cross pulled their personnel out; yet the Obama administration left U.S. government personnel in, despite grossly inadequate security precautions.

Why? I believe that one significant mission was the coordination of weapons transfers from Libya to Syrian jihadists.

Remember the state of play in mid 2012. Obama was locked in a tight reelection race. He was falsely claiming that he had “decimated” al-Qaeda (which was actually thriving); that he was ending American wars (which were actually intensifying as he drew troops down despite ground conditions); and that his pro-Islamist policies were helping forge democracy in places like Egypt (then under Muslim Brotherhood rule) and Libya (which had disintegrated into a failed state under domination by Islamist militias). Prior to the November election, if Obama had openly announced that his administration was arming Syrian Islamists, it would have been highly controversial. It would have spotlighted how that same policy had failed in Libya, a fact to which neither the media nor Republicans had called public attention. This, no doubt, is why reports that Obama was “launching a covert operation to send weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time” (as the Times of London’s Christina Lamb put it) did not appear untilimmediately after Obama had won a second term.

Were Obama, Clinton, and others in the administration steering arms to Syrian jihadists before that time?

RELATED: The Benghazi Debacle Should Have Ended Hillary Clinton’s Career

Recall that in mid 2012, Obama was also feeling heat — from the Islamist regimes he was appeasing, from Beltway Republicans, and even from some in his own administration, apparently including Secretary Clinton — for not doing enough to help the “rebels” drive Assad from power in Syria. There was a good explanation for this reluctance: Our government knew that the Syrian “rebels,” like the Libyan “rebels,” teemed with jihadists. Not only has this fact long been notorious; Judicial Watch managed to wangle from the government an August 2012 Defense Department memo that flatly states, “The Salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [i.e., al-Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” The memo elaborates that its reference to AQI incorporates both Jaish al-Nusra (which is al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in Syria) and the Islamic State (the breakaway “caliphate” spawned by AQI).

There was no defensible security arrangement or diplomatic need for the State Department facility in Benghazi (U.S. diplomatic functions were handled in Tripoli). Was its real purpose to give diplomatic cover to covert intelligence operations (such as those at the nearby CIA compound)? If so, did those operations include aiding and abetting the arming of the Syrian rebels?

Unnamed U.S. government sources furtively described the CIA facility as, according to Reuters, “a base for, among other things, collecting information on the proliferation of weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, including surface-to-air missiles” (my italics). Putting aside the administration’s recklessness in failing to keep Qaddafi’s arsenals out of jihadist hands, what are the “other things” that the State Department and the CIA were up to?

We know, as detailed above, that Ambassador Stevens’s jihadist contact, Belhadj, moved an enormous shipment of weapons from Benghazi to the Syrian “rebels” in Turkey. And we know that, while claiming not to be directly arming those “rebels,” the Obama administration was working with Turkey, the Saudis, and other Islamist governments to determine which Syrian “rebels” should be armed. As the New York Times reported in June 2012, some three months before the Benghazi massacre:

A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers. The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.

The Times elaborated that “the Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.” To repeat, however: Soon after Obama’s reelection, the Times was explaining that “with help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment.” And by June 2013, the Times reported that the administration had begundirectly supplying the Syrian “rebels” with “small arms and ammunition.”

Right after Stevens and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi, the U.K.’s Telegraph reported that the CIA’s facility there was an operation “to supply missiles from Libyan armouries to Syrian rebels.” Simultaneously, CNN’s Jake Tapper reported that enormous pressure was being brought to bear on CIA operatives not to reveal what the agency had been doing in Benghazi.

When Mrs. Clinton testified about the Benghazi massacre before a Senate committee in early 2013, she claimed to have no knowledge of any transfers of weapons from Libya to Turkey, Syria, or any other countries. As the The Daily Signal report details, Clinton was pointedly asked by Senator Rand Paul (R., Ken.) whether the U.S. had been “involved in any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya.” She initially tried to deflect the question, claiming that “nobody’s ever raised that with me.” But Senator Paul kept pressing:

It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that they may have weapons. And what Id’ like to know is, that [CIA] annex that was close by [the State Department facility], were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons, and were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries? Any countries, Turkey included?

When Mrs. Clinton again tried to deflect, suggesting that he instead put the question “to the agency that ran the annex” — as if the State Department had had no knowledge of what the CIA was doing next door — Senator Paul countered that he was asking about what Clinton herself knew. Mrs. Clinton answered, “I don’t know. I don’t have any information on that.”

Was she telling the truth? Were U.S. personnel stationed as sitting ducks in Benghazi in order to help supply weapons to Syria, where it was inevitable they would fall into the hands of America’s enemies? Perhaps we’ll soon find out.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is as senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

US airstrikes target Islamic State stronghold in Libya

Fighters from the Al Bunyan Al Marsoos (“Solid Structure”) operations room in Sirte, Libya.

Fighters from the Al Bunyan Al Marsoos (“Solid Structure”) operations room in Sirte, Libya.

Long War Journal, BY BILL ROGGIO AND THOMAS JOSCELYN | August 1, 2016

The US military acknowledged today that it has targeted the Islamic State’s Libyan arm in the city of Sirte. The air strikes are part of an effort to deal a blow to the jihadist group in its largest base of operations inside Libya.

“Today, at the request of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), the United States military conducted precision air strikes against ISIL [Islamic State] targets in Sirte, Libya, to support GNA-affiliated forces seeking to defeat ISIL in its primary stronghold in Libya,” the Pentagon stated in a press release.

“These strikes were authorized by the president following a recommendation from Secretary [of Defense] Carter and Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Dunford,” the statement continued. “They are consistent with our approach to combating ISIL by working with capable and motivated local forces. GNA-aligned forces have had success in recapturing territory from ISIL thus far around Sirte, and additional US strikes will continue to target ISIL in Sirte in order to enable the GNA to make a decisive, strategic advance.”

The airstrikes were confirmed by Libya’s prime minister and Al Bunyan Al Marsoos (“Solid Structure”), an operations room that is allied with the UN-backed government and recruits fighters from Islamist militias in Misrata and elsewhere. According to Al Bunyan Al Marsoos, an Islamic State “tank” was targeted and destroyed by US aircraft.

Al Bunyan Al Marsoos launched an offensive to retake Sirte in late May and claimed it would “be liberated within days.” While the Islamic State lost some ground during the initial fighting, the situation in Sirte has largely stalemated. American airpower was likely called in because the offensive has stalled and the US can provide superior targeting against the jihadists, who remain entrenched in the interior of the city. [See LWJ report, Libyan forces seize key points from the Islamic State around Sirte.]

As Al Bunyan Al Marsoos advanced on the city in May, the Islamic State’s Libyan “province” was forced to deploy its “martyrs.” The jihadists launched zero suicide attacks in and around Sirte during the first four months of the year, according to data published by Amaq News Agency, which is part of the the Islamic State’s media machine. But then, in May, the organization dispatched nine suicide bombers in Sirte and on the outskirts of the city. This was a clear indication that the Islamc State’s grip on the area was slipping, as the organization previously did not need to use its “martyrs” to beat back its opponents.

The loss of Sirte would be a major blow to the Islamic State and its efforts to control territory outside of Iraq and Syria. The group seized Sirte in June 2015 and has repeatedly showcased the city as one of its main bases outside of its holdings in Iraq and Syria.

Sirte is so important to the Islamic State that the group’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al Adnani, mentioned it alongside Raqqa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq in a speech in May. Raqqa and Mosul are the de facto capitals of the self-declared caliphate and, as such, the most important cities under the jihadists’ control.

In his speech, titled “That They Live By Proof,” Adnani implicitly conceded that the Islamic State could lose one or all three of these cities. Adnani argued that neither the loss of individual leaders, nor the “loss of a city or the loss of land,” would mean that the Islamic State has been defeated as long as the jihadists retained the will to fight.

The newly announced operations in Sirte are the first publicly acknowledged airstrikes by the US in Libya since Feb. 2016, when American warplanes attacked an Islamic State training camp near Sabratha. The US targeted Noureddine Chouchane, who was described by the Pentagon as a “senior facilitator” for the so-called caliphate and was “associated with the training camp.” Chouchane is thought to be involved in two high profile terrorist attacks in Tunisia in 2015 and reportedly played a significant role in the Islamic State’s external operations network that plots and executes attacks against the West. [See LWJreport, US airstrike targets Islamic State operative, training camp in Libya.]

On Nov. 13, 2015, the US killed Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, also known as Abu Nabil al Anbari, in an airstrike. Zubaydi, an Iraqi national, “was a longtime al Qaeda operative and the senior ISIL [Islamic State] leader in Libya,” according to a statement by the US military. Some accounts indicated that Zubaydi served as the lead executioner in the February 2015 massacre of Coptic Christians on the Libyan coast.

The airstrikes in Sirte highlight the expanding war against the Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for multiple terrorist attacks in the West over the past year.

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

Hillary’s Libya Debacle

hillary_clinton_testimony_to_house_select_committee_on_benghazi_1

Front Page Magazine, by Joseph Klein, July 13, 2016:

Colin Powell’s famous words, “You break it, you own it,” are coming back to haunt Hillary Clinton. Powell said those words in cautioning President George W. Bush about the harsh unintended consequences that could result from the military action to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq, which Hillary voted to support while in the Senate. As Secretary of State, Hillary forgot all about Colin Powell’s prescient warning. She became the prime mover within the Obama administration for military action to forcibly remove Libya’s President Muammar Gaddafi. In fact, upon learning of his death at the hands of a mob, Hillary Clinton exulted. Paraphrasing Julius Caesar, Hillary proclaimed on Oct. 20, 2011:  “We came, we saw, he died.”

What followed the toppling of Gaddafi’s regime, however, was utter chaos, not the smooth transition to a pluralistic democracy that Hillary had naively envisioned. Indeed, the anarchy that ensued has created a dire strategic threat to the United States and its Western and Arab allies that had not existed during the last years of Gaddafi’s reign. Especially after Gaddafi announced the end of his nuclear weapons program in December 2003 and followed through with allowing the removal of nuclear materials thereafter, his regime posed no strategic threat to U.S. national security.

No doubt Gaddafi was a brutal dictator, who sought to ruthlessly put down the rebellion that threatened his rule. However, his death and the end of his regime, which Hillary celebrated, fixed nothing.

Robert Gates, Obama’s Defense Secretary at the time, along with other senior leaders in the Obama administration such as Vice President Joseph Biden and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, foresaw the dangers of an ill-planned U.S. military intervention without a realistic plan for a peaceful transition. They warned against it. But Hillary’s call for intervention won out.  She persuaded a reluctant President Obama to enter the fray in support of our European and Arab allies on humanitarian grounds.

Hillary spent countless hours shuttling among foreign capitals to shore up what became a NATO-led coalition against Gaddafi’s regime.  She engineered the passage of a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of military force in Libya to protect the vulnerable civilian population, which she apparently interpreted to authorize outright regime change. Hillary had personally met with the chairman of the Libyan Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil and other Libyans who might become a part of a successor regime. Her top aide Jake Sullivan explained Hillary’s confidence in these leaders’ ability to bring the various factions in the country together to form a relatively stable, democratic and inclusive post-Gaddafi transitional government. He said Hillary had received written pledges to bring about just such a transition from the Transitional National Council.

In a succession of e-mails, Hillary’s senior aides at the State Department, and her informal outside confidante Sidney Blumenthal, sang her praises for leading the implementation of the Libyan strategy she had pushed Obama to accept.

“First, brava! This is a historic moment and you will be credited for realizing it,” Blumenthal wrote on Aug. 22, 2011. “When Qaddafi himself is finally removed, you should of course make a public statement before the cameras wherever you are, even in the driveway of your vacation home. You must go on camera. You must establish yourself in the historical record at this moment. The most important phrase is: ‘successful strategy.’”

Hillary chomped at the bit to take credit for what she initially regarded as a great success in Libya when things seemed to be going well. She sent an e-mail to her top aide at the State Department, Jake Sullivan, forwarding Blumenthal’s recommendation. “Pls read below,” Hillary wrote. “Sid makes a good case for what I should say, but it’s premised on being said after Q[addafi] goes, which will make it more dramatic.”

Sycophant Sullivan wrote back, “it might make sense for you to do an op-ed to run right after he falls, making this point. You can reinforce the op-ed in all your appearances, but it makes sense to lay down something definitive, almost like the Clinton Doctrine.”

Sullivan had already written an e-mail to two other high level State Department officials, Cheryl Mills and Victoria Nuland, just a day before the above-mentioned Blumenthal e-mail, effusively praising his boss for her leadership role in steering Obama administration policy on Libya. “HRC has been a critical voice on Libya in administration deliberations, at NATO, and in contact group meetings — as well as the public face of the U.S. effort in Libya. She was instrumental in securing the authorization, building the coalition, and tightening the noose around Qadhafi and his regime.”

Sullivan then laid out a detailed chronology of all the actions Hillary had taken to accomplish her mission.

However, Hillary’s mission turned into a strategic disaster.  Weapons in the hands of non-state actors, including jihadists, were spreading from Libya across national borders to help further inflame conflicts in Mali, Syria, and elsewhere. Migrants were using Libya as a disembarkation point to try and reach Europe across the Mediterranean Sea in overwhelming numbers. Armed militias fought each other within Libya, while rival governments were formed. Anti-American jihadists, who benefitted from the outcome of the ‘Clinton Doctrine” in Libya, filled the power vacuum. The tragic result was the terrorist attack in Benghazi that took four Americans’ lives on September 11, 2012, including the life of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Just as Hillary was, in the words of FBI Director James Comey, “extremely careless” in the handling of classified information on her private e-mail system, she was reckless in ignoring clear warning signals leading up to the deadly September 11th Benghazi terrorist attack. Indeed, in addition to threats, there were previous terrorist attacks, including one in June 2012 against the U.S. consulate compound itself and another the same month hitting a convoy carrying the British ambassador. The British decided to evacuate from Benghazi. Yet Hillary pressed on to establish a permanent U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi. Ambassador Chris Stevens took his fateful trip to Benghazi in September 2012 in part to advance Hillary’s plan. “At least one of the reasons he was in Benghazi was to further the secretary’s wish that that post become a permanent constituent post and also there because we understood the secretary intended to visit Tripoli later in the year,” Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks testified to a Congressional committee in 2013.

Multiple requests from people on the ground in Libya for more security, including some from Ambassador Stevens himself, were sent to the State Department prior to the September 11, 2012 attack.  Stevens’ last diary entry was “never ending security threats.”  Somehow the security concerns never reached Hillary’s desk. She told the House Benghazi Committee that “I was not responsible for specific security requests.”  But Hillary’s attempt to wash her hands of any responsibility raises more questions than it answers.

Hillary said that Stevens was a friend. She had, in her words, “hand-picked” Stevens for what she knew was a highly dangerous post even as her so-called Clinton Doctrine unraveled. By her own account, there was “lawlessness” in Benghazi, which she said Stevens had been aware of. Yet she never bothered to reach out to him directly to ask whether there was sufficient security for the mission she had hand-picked her friend to carry out.  She simply said that Stevens knew the risks and “felt comfortable” with conditions on the ground. One phone call or e-mail directly to her personal friend would have informed her of Stevens’ concerns over the “never ending security threats.” Hillary had not even provided Stevens with her cell phone number, fax number or personal e-mail address in case he needed to reach her. Apparently, Hillary had less compunctions about giving out that contact information to Blumenthal.

Through her reckless indifference to the security needs of Stevens and other Americans who became caught in the terrorist attack at the Benghazi facility that she wanted to make permanent, Hillary Clinton for all intents and purposes left them there unprotected to face the deadly consequences. She then lied to the families of the victims of the attack, telling them that an obscure anti-Muslim video was the cause of the attack when she knew at the time that the attack was a coordinated, pre-meditated act of jihadist terrorism. And she doubled down on her reckless indifference – literally – a year later at a Senate hearing with her infamous remark: “What difference at this point does it make?”

As she runs to become the next president and commander-in-chief, Hillary Clinton is trying to disown what she broke in Libya. Her recklessness and indifference to the consequences of her actions, as well as her lies to cover up her mistakes, follow the same pattern as her e-mail debacle and should disqualify her from the presidency.

Also see:

US Africa commander nominee: No ‘grand strategy’ to confront ISIS in Libya

694940094001_4767639608001_4a564451-fa49-46bd-853b-f20a3b171636Fox News, By Lucas Tomlinson, June 21, 2016:

The general tapped to lead U.S. Africa Command told Capitol Hill lawmakers Tuesday he did not know of any “overall grand strategy” to defeat ISIS in Libya.

Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser made the comments under questioning from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz.

“I am not aware of any overall grand strategy at this point,” Waldhauser said.

The statement comes a week after CIA Director John Brennan delivered a stark warning to Congress about the growth of ISIS fighters around the world. He estimated the group has 5,000-8,000 fighters inside Libya.

During Tuesday’s Senate committee hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked Waldhauser if those ISIS fighters could one day conduct attacks against Europe.

“Eventually they could, yes,” he replied.

Waldhauser is the nominee to be U.S. commander of Africa Command, but has not been confirmed yet.

He also said Tuesday he would not have the authority, as the top U.S. commander in Africa, to go after ISIS targets on his own inside Africa, while suggesting “it would be wise” to hit those targets.

The U.S. military has carried out two airstrikes inside Libya since late last year.

Two U.S. F-15E jet fighters flying out of Lakenheath, England, likely killed the ISIS leader in Libya, Abu Nabil, in mid-November. The Iraqi national was a longtime Al Qaeda operative and the senior ISIS leader in Libya, according to Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook.

In February, U.S. jets also bombed an ISIS training camp in Libya, killing a senior ISIS leader and an estimated 30 ISIS recruits fighters on the ground.

A senior U.S. official told Fox News at the time that the target of the airstrike was Noureddine Chouchane, a senior ISIS figure in Libya who was likely killed.

The airstrike on the ISIS base in Sabratha, Libya, was also carried out by F-15s flying from England. Local reports initially suggested more than 30 people had been killed. However, it was not immediately clear how many ISIS terrorists were among the dead.

Adding to the concern in the West is evidence that the number of ISIS fighters in Libya is increasing, according to America’s top spy.

CIA Director Brennan said last week the estimated 5,000-8,000 ISIS fighters on the ground are up from an estimated 2,000-5,000 in February.

The U.S. military has deployed a small number of U.S. special operations forces there in the past few months, according to Cook.

Waldhauser said no more troops are needed at this moment.

Asked afterward by Fox News if Defense Secretary Ash Carter agreed with Waldhauser’s assessment that there is no “overall grand strategy” in Libya, Cook also declined to answer, saying Libya remains “a very complicated situation.”

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Also see:

***

SHOCKING: ISIS Fighters Are Disguising Themselves As Refugees [VIDEO]

Constitution, by Bethany Blankley, June 21, 2016:

CNN recently reported on a reality all to familiar with Libyan Immigration Police: ISIS fighters are disguising themselves as refugees to enter other countries to commit terrorist attacks.

Ismail al-Shukri, a police commander, told CNN, “ISIS can be among the illegal immigrants on the boats. They travel with their families, without weapons as normal illegal immigrants. They will wear American dress and have English language papers so they cause no suspicion.”

CNN Senior International Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh, who accompanied police near Tripoli to a warehouse raid, reported:

“But there is a new threat here, smugglers and police telling us that ISIS have hidden fighters among other groups of migrants bound for Europe. This trade in human souls is awful enough until you think that perhaps ISIS are using this passage of human life into Europe to try and infiltrate the continent with sleeper cells. Police tell us off-camera they’ve caught different, other migrants with ISIS links and a top Libyan intelligence officials warns us, the threat is real.”

Walsh spoke to a smuggler who explained that he and other smugglers frequently ferry ISIS members from Libya to European ports.

“Do you and other smugglers feel comfortable moving people who may be ISIS towards Europe?” Walsh asked him. He replied, “Smugglers are only interested in smuggling. Only money matters.”

The Islamic State’s prolific ‘martyrdom’ machine

isis suicide attacksLONG WAR JOURNAL, BY | June 8, 2016:

The Islamic State claims to have executed 489 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq, Syria and Libya during the first five months of 2016. The figure comes from monthly data published by Amaq News Agency, a propaganda arm of the so-called caliphate that releases infographics summarizing the group’s suicide attacks.

Amaq’s most recent infographic (seen on the right) indicates that the jihadists executed 119 “martyrdom operations” in the month of May alone. If Amaq’s figures are accurate, then the Islamic State is launching suicide attacks at a historically high rate.

Earlier this month, for example, the State Department reported that there were 726 “suicide attacks” executed by all perpetrators around the globe in 2015. Therefore, all terrorist groups, including the Islamic State, carried out an average of 61 suicide bombings per month in 2015. The Islamic State nearly doubled that rate in May and has exceeded it by more than 20 attacks each month this year, according to Amaq’s infographics.

The data referenced by Foggy Bottom is compiled by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), which maintains an “unclassified event database compiled from information in open-source reports of terrorist attacks.”

According to START’s data, 2015 witnessed a record number of suicide bombings. But 2016 is currently on pace to eclipse that high-water mark.

While Amaq’s claims are difficult to independently verify, the statistics are reasonable given the scale of the Islamic State’s fighting. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s men routinely claim credit for simultaneous suicide bombings. The organization is taking on multiple adversaries in every country where it operates, making the use of suicide bombings (one of the jihadists’ most effective tactics) an especially important tool. For instance, the State Department noted that “[o]n average, suicide attacks in 2015 were 4.6 times as lethal as non-suicide attacks.”

A recent video from Al Hayat, another one of the Islamic State’s mouthpieces, trumpeted this “caliphate vs. the world” mentality. In “The Religion of Kufr Is One,” Al Hayat made it clear that Baghdadi’s enterprise is at war with virtually everyone else. The subtitle of the video, “The Islamic State and its methodology dealing with all apostate parties and nations of disbelief,” underscored the degree to which this is the group’s deliberate strategy.

The Islamic State’s prolific use of “martyrs” probably highlights both its strength and weakness. On the one hand, there are likely more people, predominately young men, willing to die for the jihadists’ cause today than ever. (It should also be noted that adolescents and even children have been used in suicide attacks.) On the other hand, most of the organization’s suicide attackers are being dispatched in areas where the “caliphate” is being challenged, including locations that were once under its control.

The Long War Journal assesses that Islamic State is being forced to deploy many of its “martyrs” because its territorial claims are being rolled back in Iraq, Syria and even Libya.

The Long War Journal has tallied the figures provided on Amaq’s infographics from January through May of 2016. The English-language versions of these infographics can be seen below.

The following observations have been culled from Amaq’s statistics.

Most of the Islamic State’s “martyrdom operations,” 303 of the 489 claimed (62 percent), have been carried out inside Iraq. Approximately half of these (152 of 303) have been launched in Anbar province, where the jihadists are engaged in fierce battles with Iraqi government forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias for months. Salahuddin (52 suicide attacks), Nineveh (40), Baghdad (32), and Kirkuk (17) are the next most frequently targeted areas.

The Islamic State launched 175 suicide attacks in Syria (36 percent of the total) during the first five months of the year. Aleppo province (59) was hit most frequently, followed by Hasakah (33), Deir Ezzor (25), Homs (20) and Raqqa (14) provinces. Raqqa is, of course, the de facto capital of the Islamic State. Amaq’s data indicate that 12 of the 14 suicide attacks there this year were carried out in February.

The remaining 11 “martyrdom operations” took place in Libya. Interestingly, Amaq claimed only one suicide attack in Libya from January through April. But the infographic for May shows 10 such bombings. Nine of the 10 have been executed in and around Sirte, the group’s central base of operations in Libya. The Islamic State’s presence in Sirte has been under assault from multiple directions for weeks, with the jihadists losing their grip on some of the neighboring towns and key facilities. Thus, the group is likely attempting to stymie its rivals’ advances with the deployment of its suicide bombers.

Iraqi forces are the most frequent target of the Islamic State’s “martyrdom operations,” as they were hit 279 times from January through May. Bashar al Assad’s regime is the second most frequent target, with the Islamic State’s suicide bombers striking the Syrian government’s forces on 89 occasions. The remaining bombings struck “Kurdish units” (54), the “Syrian opposition” (31 times), the Peshmerga (25), Fajr Libya (10) and General Khalifa Haftar’s fighters in Libya (1).

Vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) are used more often than individual bombers strapped with explosives, according to Amaq. The infographics count 301 VBIEDs used in suicide attacks (62 percent of the total) as compared to 184 bombings using explosive belts, jackets and vests. The remaining four are listed as “dual operations.”

Assuming Amaq’s data are accurate, then the Islamic State’s “martyrdom” machine is setting a record pace for suicide operations.

See more

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

Also see:

Islamic State details operations against jihadist rivals in Derna, Libya

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, March 18, 2016:

The 21st issue of the Islamic State’s weekly Al Naba newsletter, which was released earlier this month, contains an infographic (seen below) that says much about the organization’s operations inside Libya. The image purportedly summarizes “the most important military operations” against the “apostate Awakenings and the Libyan Army” in the city of Derna during a three-month period that ended Feb. 29, 2016.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.19.33 PM

A map at the top of the infographic highlights four key cities along the Mediterranean coast. From west to east they are: Sirte, Benghazi, Derna and Tobruk. Sirte has fallen to the “caliphate’s” fighters, who also control the neighboring towns of Nawfaliyah and Bin Jawad. In Benghazi, the Islamic State’s arm most likely cooperates, tacitly or otherwise, with other jihadists against General Khalifa Haftar’s forces in the Libyan National Army.

But the story in the eastern city of Derna has been different. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s followers have repeatedly fought their jihadist rivals in the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC) and other aligned factions since last year. The MSC has received the backing of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and has noteworthy ties to al Qaeda’s international organization.

The Islamic State refers to the MSC and allied organizations as the “apostate Awakenings.” The term “Awakenings” was once reserved for the Islamic State’s tribal opponents in Iraq, but the “caliphate” has broadened the meaning of the term to include even those organizations affiliated with al Qaeda.

Al Naba notes that the entirety of Derna falls under the jurisdiction of the Wilayat Barqah (or its eastern Cyrenaica Province). But the Islamic State’s “soldiers” are based in Al Fatayih (an area in the eastern part of the city) and its surrounding areas, as opposed to the heart of Derna. This is due to the group’s battles with the MSC last year. The Islamic State’s men were forced to abandon their strongholds in Derna’s center for the outlying neighborhoods.

According to the statistics in Al Naba’s infographic, however, the Islamic State continues to battle its jihadist foes. Its snipers targeted the “apostate Awakenings” 15 times and the group also detonated 32 improvised explosive devices against them as well. The “caliphate’s” soldiers launched 7 commando operations.

In sum, Al Naba’s editors claim that 250 members of the “Awakenings” and the Libyan Army were killed or wounded, four tanks and 18 other military vehicles were destroyed, and five military outposts were overrun. In addition, several vehicles were captured, along with a variety of other weapons and ammunition. The Islamic State does not break these figures down further, so there is no way to tell how the alleged casualties were distributed between the “Awakenings” and Haftar’s forces.

These statistics cannot be independently verified, but Al Naba’s infographic highlights the ongoing fighting between the Islamic State’s Libyan arm and its jihadist foes.

***

Must see – Libya : interactive map of major actions linked with ISIS or presumably ISIS in Libya since January 2016 (libertedecrire.wordpress.com) h/t Sebastian Gorka

capture-d_c3a9cran-2016-03-16-c3a0-21-41-43

Also see:

ISIS Now Possesses Anti-Aircraft Missiles; Can Reach Europe

An Islamic-State fighter with a shoulder-held missile. (Photo: Islamic-State video screenshot)

An Islamic-State fighter with a shoulder-held missile. (Photo: Islamic-State video screenshot)

Clarion Project, March 13, 2016:

The U.S. and U.N. have confirmed the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Libya now possesses shoulder-held missiles capable of downing civilian or military aircraft.

The admission puts planes in North and West Africa as well as all of Europe in danger.

The Islamic State’s stock of MANPADs (man portable air defense systems) originated from the stockpiles of weapons looted after Libya’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown by rebels in 2011.

Gaddafi was believed to have possessed 20,000 MANPADs (Russian-made SA-7 and SA-16 models) by the time of his demise. An American team, acting in Libya after the coup, managed to locate and destroy 5,000 of the missiles.

The team leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity told The Independent, “There’s a large number still there in Libya, where some of the larger militia groups still maintain the stocks that they originally took control of back in 2011.” He acknowledged that others have been smuggled to extremist groups fighting in the Sinai, Syria, Nigeria and Mali.

“We might never know where they went,” he added.

After the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, which also housed a secret CIA post, intelligence sources — crucial to tracking these weapons – were lost. Two years later, the team pulled out of Libya entirely, as the deteriorating security situation turned into a full-fledged civil war and made operating there too dangerous.

Analysts question why the weapons, which are clearly in the hands of terrorists have not been used to date, save for one confirmed instance in January 2014, when (according to Egyptian and Israeli officials) Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis used the weapon to shoot down an Egyptian military helicopter in the Sinai, killing five soldiers.

However, in February, the Islamic State in Libya claimed to have shot down a Libyan government MiG-23 fighter jet west of Benghazi while it was bombing an Islamist militia. While the Libyan government claims the plane went down due to “technical problems,” an analysis of a subsequent ISIS video of the incident by U.S. intelligence officials proved the Islamic State’s claim was most likely correct. The Islamic State also claims to have downed two other planes that the Libyan government said crashed since January because of technical problems.

In Libya, other warring factions each have good reason not to use the weapon, which would certainly stop flights in and out of the country and mean lack of supplies for each side. Arms smugglers also have reason to want the airports left open, with each missile selling for $12,000 on the black market.

But the real wildcat in this conflict is the Islamic State, which now controls a 150-mile swath of territory on Libya’s Mediterranean  coast, including the city of Sirte, a perfect place for the terror organization to regroup if defeated in Syria and Iraq and a base from which to expand into Europe, North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The New York Times’ Cover-Up of Hillary’s Illegal Libyan War

hillary_clinton4Frontpage, by Daniel Greenfield, Feb. 28, 2016:

More than any other paper, the New York Times has held Obama’s foreign policy line. It’s been the place where administration sources leaked stories and narratives. The New York Times ran David Kilpatrick’s desperate attempt to shore up the “YouTube Video Caused Benghazi” lie at a time when even most of the media was unwilling to keep repeating that bizarre claim any more.

So the New York Times is the natural outlet for yet another whitewash of the illegal Libyan War. This one is more about Democrats than Republicans. Jim Webb, and in his own clumsy way, Bernie Sanders have raised the Libya issue. Tulsi Gabbard quit the DNC and endorsed Bernie Sanders in part over Libya. The New York Times’ multipart Hillary Libya series is about making that war palatable to liberals.

Excuse #1 is that Hillary Clinton just has a bias for action.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, her director of policy planning at the State Department, notes that in conversation and in her memoir, Mrs. Clinton repeatedly speaks of wanting to be “caught trying.” In other words, she would rather be criticized for what she has done than for having done nothing at all.

“She’s very careful and reflective,” Ms. Slaughter said. “But when the choice is between action and inaction, and you’ve got risks in either direction, which you often do, she’d rather be caught trying.”

That’s probably the worst excuse imaginable. It’s also flagrantly dishonest. Hillary Clinton didn’t have a bias for action in Sudan. She had a bias for action when it came to overthrowing regimes on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Excuse #2 the Genocide Lie

The piece only indirectly addresses this. But it’s the reason Obama gave for intervention. He claimed that massacres were about to happen in Benghazi. He suggested that much of the city might be wiped out. None of this was real or true.

“Jake Sullivan, Mrs. Clinton’s top foreign-policy aide at State and now in her campaign, said her view was that “we have to live in a world of risks.” In assessing the situation in Libya, he said, “she didn’t know for certain at the time, nor did any of us, what would happen — only that it passed a risk threshold that demanded that we look very hard at the response.”

What was the basis for this risk threshold? Why did genocide in Africa fail to meet this imaginary threshold?

The left spent a decade howling about Iraq. It has still failed to address the simple fact that Obama lied about the basis for the war in Libya. And Hillary Clinton handfed him that lie.

Excuse #3 Regime Change, Not Protecting Civilians

The No Fly Zone was a hoax. No such zone was needed. Nor was it about protecting civilians, but aiding Muslim terrorists.

“We basically destroyed Qaddafi’s air defenses and stopped the advance of his forces within three days,” recalled Mr. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser.

But the mission quickly evolved from protecting civilians in Benghazi to protecting civilians wherever they were. As the rebellion swelled and bystanders became combatants, the endgame became ever more murky. The United States and its allies were increasingly drawn to one side of the fighting, without extended debate over what that shift portended.

Not only is this a ridiculous lie, but it’s contradicted early on in the same article as it mentions a covert program of transferring weapons to the terrorists. This wasn’t even about protecting the terrorists, though it began that way, it was about destroying Gaddafi’s forces.

It’s 2016 and the media is still maintaining the same tired lie.

“I can’t recall any specific decision that said, ‘Well, let’s just take him out,’” Mr. Gates said. Publicly, he said, “the fiction was maintained” that the goal was limited to disabling Colonel Qaddafi’s command and control. In fact, the former defense secretary said, “I don’t think there was a day that passed that people didn’t hope he would be in one of those command and control centers.”

That’s regime change. It’s invasion and assassination. Gaddafi was a bad guy. He got what he deserved. But let’s stop playing this game in which there was never a war or an invasion. Or it was about protecting “civilians”.

By April, the president had authorized the use of drones, and, according to a senior rebel commander, C.I.A. operatives began visiting rebel camps and “providing us with intercepts of Qaddafi’s troop movements.”

To “protect civilians”.

“There was a moment, around about June or July,” recalled Mr. Shapiro, the State Department’s Libya policy adviser, “when the situation on the ground seemed to settle into a stalemate and we weren’t sure we were winning, or at least winning quickly enough.”

So we’ve gone from the ‘protecting civilians’ myth to straight up trying to win a war.

Obama ultimately took her side, according to the administration officials who described the debate. After he signed a secret document called a presidential finding, approving a covert operation, a list of approved weaponry was drawn up. The shipments arranged by the United States and other Western countries generally arrived through the port of Benghazi and airports in eastern Libya, a Libyan rebel commander said.

“Humvees, counterbattery radar, TOW missiles was the highest end we talked about,” one State Department official recalled. “We were definitely giving them lethal assistance. We’d crossed that line.”

How many of those weapons have been used against us since then?

Excuse #4: Hillary 2016

Mrs. Clinton’s old friend and political adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, who regularly emailed her political advice and vaguely sourced intelligence reports on Libya, urged her to capitalize on the dictator’s fall.

“Brava!” Mr. Blumenthal exclaimed. As always, he was thinking about Mrs. Clinton’s presidential ambitions. “You must go on camera. You must establish yourself in the historical record at this moment.” She should be sure to use the phrase “successful strategy,” he wrote. “You are vindicated.”

This is the first mention of Blumenthal even though it’s clear from her emails that he was far more influential and had his own interests in Libya.

Two days before, Mrs. Clinton had taken a triumphal tour of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and for weeks top aides had been circulating a “ticktock” that described her starring role in the events that had led to this moment. The timeline, her top policy aide, Jake Sullivan, wrote, demonstrated Mrs. Clinton’s “leadership/ownership/stewardship of this country’s Libya policy from start to finish.” The memo’s language put her at the center of everything: “HRC announces … HRC directs … HRC travels … HRC engages,” it read.

Hillary Clinton had wrecked Libya and was using it to run for office.

“The president was like, ‘We are not looking to do another Iraq,’” said Derek Chollet, then handling Libya for the National Security Council.

Too late.

Still, in her last months at the State Department, Mrs. Clinton rode a wave of popularity, bolstered by an Internet meme called “Texts From Hillary.” Its emblem was a photograph of the secretary of state gazing through dark glasses at her BlackBerry. Few knew that it had been taken aboard the military transport plane taking her to Libya in those heady days after the dictator’s fall.

***

Confirmed: Obama Sent Weapons to Muslim Terrorists in Benghazi

One of the few interesting items in the New York Times’ whitewash of Hillary and Obama’s illegal Libyan war is the confirmation of weapons shipments.

Obama ultimately took her side, according to the administration officials who described the debate. After he signed a secret document called a presidential finding, approving a covert operation, a list of approved weaponry was drawn up. The shipments arranged by the United States and other Western countries generally arrived through the port of Benghazi and airports in eastern Libya, a Libyan rebel commander said.

“Humvees, counterbattery radar, TOW missiles was the highest end we talked about,” one State Department official recalled. “We were definitely giving them lethal assistance. We’d crossed that line.”

The story blames the problem on Qatar aiding Jihadists and Obama’s unwillingness to defy the terror oil state. But the claim that we had to arm terrorists to fight Qatar’s arming of terrorists doesn’t hold up too well. Furthermore we already know that US forces were told to turn a blind eye to Qatar’s weapons shipments. We could have blocked them instead.

The story mentions a competition between Qatar and the UAE over arming the locals, but fails to clarify that Qatar was arming straight Jihadists, while the UAE had taken an anti-Islamist line.

It also fails to clarify that Qatar was backing the Muslim Brotherhood. Just like Hillary and Obama.

US airstrike targets Islamic State operative, training camp in Libya

The Sabratha municipal council released several photos, including this one, purportedly showing the aftermath of today’s airsrike. Source: Libya Al Hurra TV.

The Sabratha municipal council released several photos, including this one, purportedly showing the aftermath of today’s airsrike. Source: Libya Al Hurra TV.

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Feb.19, 2016:

The US military launched an airstrike in Libya earlier today targeting an Islamic State “training camp near Sabratha” and a jihadist named Noureddine Chouchane, according to the Pentagon. Chouchane, a Tunisian who is also known as “Sabir,” is a “senior facilitator” for the Islamic State in Libya and “associated with the training camp.”

The Tunisian government has “named Chouchane as a suspect in the March 18, 2015, deadly attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis.” More than 20 people, mostly foreign tourists, were killed in the assault on the Bardo Museum. There has been some confusion over who was responsible for the massacre. The Islamic State quickly claimed credit, but Tunisian authorities blamed members of the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion, which is part of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

If Chouchane was involved in the Bardo killings, then his role is further evidence of the Islamic State’s culpability. Chouchane may have also played a part in the July 2015 shooting spree at a beach in Sousse, Tunisia.

The Pentagon says Chouchane has “facilitated the movement of potential” Islamic State-affiliated “foreign fighters from Tunisia to Libya and onward to other countries.”

The Defense Department also suggests that Chouchane could “potentially” be involved in “planning external attacks on” American “interests in the region,” in addition to recruiting new members for Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s global operation and “establishing bases in Libya.”

According to officials contacted by The Long War Journal, the US government has become increasingly concerned about the Islamic State’s ability to plot attacks in the West and against American interests from its base of operations on the Mediterranean coast. It is possible that Chouchane was involved in such plotting, but that has not been confirmed.

Initial reports in the aftermath of the bombing say that dozens of people were killed. The identities of those killed have not yet been verified.

The US has targeted senior leaders of both the Islamic State and al Qaeda inside Libya on several occasions since the fall of Muammar al Qaddafi’s regime in 2011.

On Nov. 13, 2015, the US killed Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, also known as Abu Nabil al Anbari, in an airstrike. Zubaydi, an Iraqi national, “was a longtime al Qaeda operative and the senior ISIL [Islamic State] leader in Libya,” according to a statement by the US military. He is thought to have served as the lead executioner in the February 2015 massacre of Coptic Christians on the Libyan coast, although there is some uncertainty concerning his putative role in the murders.

The Islamic State’s so-called Libyan “province” launched an offensive in early January named after “Sheikh Abdul Mugirah al Qahtani,” which is likely one of Zubaydi’s several aliases. The operations targeted oil facilities and towns in northern Libya. [See LWJ report, Islamic State’s Libyan ‘province’ launches new offensive.]

In mid-June 2015, the US bombed a location in Libya where Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran al Qaeda operative, was suspected of meeting with other jihadists. Months later, according to The Washington Post, US officials are still not certain of Belmokhtar’s fate.

Al Qaeda has, for the most part, acted as if Belmokhtar survived. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) issued a statement saying Belmokhtar is “alive and well.” Al Murabitoon, another al Qaeda group operating in North and West Africa at the time, also denied that he had perished and released a statement in August 2015 naming Belmokhtar as its overall emir, or leader. In December 2015, Ibrahim al Qosi, an ex-Guantanamo detainee who is now an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader,referred to Belmokhtar as if he is still alive and praised him for bringing Al Murabitoon and AQIM together in a merger.

These statements are not definitive, however, and the jihadists have not released a proof of life audio or video message from Belmokhtar himself.

American troops captured Abu Anas al Libi, who was wanted for his role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and suspected of leading al Qaeda’s network in Libya, during a raid in October 2013. Al Libi subsequently died in US custody as he was awaiting trial.

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

***

ISIS Leader Moves to Libya

Shishani as a Georgian special forces soldier and as an ISIS leader.

Shishani as a Georgian special forces soldier and as an ISIS leader.

by Pete Hoekstra
IPT News
February 16, 2016

The barbaric and elusive Chechen commander who recruited British executioner “Jihadi John” has moved to Sirte, Libya to assume control of ISIS operations in the terrorist organization’s metastasizing Mediterranean caliphate.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism first learned about the movement of Abu Omar al-Shishani – among the world’s most-wanted terrorists – through its exclusive Middle East sources. Other news organizations later confirmed the account.

Al-Shishani is a former American-trained officer in the Georgian special forces. He developed a reputation for his ferocity and effectiveness while fighting against the Russians during the 2008 invasion of Georgia and later for ISIS against dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

He established his presence not long after arriving in former dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown Sirte by ordering one execution and chopping the limbs off another individual.

Western intelligence officials believe that up to 6,500 ISIS fighters – twice the number previously thought – have relocated to Libya as a result of coalition airstrikes on ISIS in the Middle East and new difficulties entering Syria.

Libya’s emergence as an ideal location in which to foster its new caliphate arose after NATO assisted radical jihadists in killing Gaddafi in 2011 and abruptly abandoned the country. Left in its wake were two rival governments competing for power, which created space for Islamists to turn Libya into a cesspool of extremism.

ISIS’s new caliphate along the Mediterranean coastline reaches as close as 200 miles from the vulnerable southern border of Europe. It exploits Libya as a base to export weapons, jihadists and ideology to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Benghazi and Derna have long been nests of radicalism. They provided more fighters per capita to Afghanistan and Iraq than nearly any other geographic area in the world. The difference between then and now is that Gaddafi kept the lid on the garbage can.

With al-Shishani hanging his hat in Sirte, Libya has become a safe haven for one of the most murderous leaders in the world today. The situation demonstrates the total failure of a Western foreign policy that “leads from behind.”

Pete Hoekstra is the Shillman Senior Fellow at the Investigative Project on Terrorismand the former Chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee. He is the author of “Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya.”

ISIS fighters in Libya surge as group suffers setbacks in Syria, Iraq

Getty Images

Getty Images

CNN, By Jim Sciutto, Barbara Starr and Kevin Liptak, Feb. 4, 2016:

Washington (CNN) The U.S. assesses that ISIS is ramping up the numbers of militants in Libya and that it has become harder for the group’s fighters to enter Syria.

The U.S. estimate of ISIS militants in Libya has doubled as it has become harder for them to enter Syria, according to U.S. intelligence assessments.

There may now be up to 6,500 ISIS fighters in Libya, twice the number previously thought, according to several U.S. intelligence officials.

They attributed the increase to the U.S. analysis that ISIS is diverting more fighters to Libya from Syria — and from Turkey when they cannot get into Syria.

“ISIS is investing heavily in Libya,” one U.S. official said.

While the estimate of up to 6,500 is the most recent from military intelligence sources, others in the intelligence community don’t agree and believe the number could be half that.

The trend began to emerge over the last six months of 2015, as indicated by the growth in numbers.

However, the official also strongly emphasized that the estimate is made up of “best guesses with low confidence,” underscoring that the U.S. is not certain at this point how many fighters are there.

The build-up is one of the key reasons the Pentagon wants to increase aerial surveillance and reconnaissance over Libya.

At the same time, the U.S. believes the number of ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq has declined slightly to somewhere between 19,000 and 25,000 — compared to the previous estimate of 20,000 to 31,500 — according to two U.S. officials familiar with the latest information.

Both emphasized that these are all estimates at best.

The U.S. believes the decline is due in part to the rate at which coalition airstrikes are killing ISIS fighters, combined with a decline in the numbers coming into both countries.

The Pentagon has recently noted the rise in reports of ISIS defections and the increase in localized conscription as the group tries to maintain its strength, as well.

But U.S. officials emphasize that ISIS is still capable, for now, of maintaining its strongholds in the Iraqi coty of Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, despite the decline.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest cited the declining numbers of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria as evidence that the Obama administration’s strategy is working in those countries. He noted that the intelligence assessments show 19,000 to 25,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, down from 20,000 to 31,500 in a previous assessment.

READ: Gen. Dunford wants ‘decisive military action’ against ISIS in Libya

“ISIL is having a more difficult time than they’ve had before in replenishing their ranks,” he told reporters, using a different term for ISIS. “The reason the numbers inside Iraq and Syria are encouraging is that the numbers are moving in the right direction.”

Earnest also denied that there’s consideration of adding Libya as a “new front” in the war on ISIS, saying the administration has long been aware of the terror group’s attempts to gain a foothold outside of Iraq and Syria.

“We’ve been mindful of these other places like Libya and Afghanistan, where ISIL may turn some of their attention,” he said. “But we know they are focused on expanding ISIL’s footprint in Iraq and Syria.”

On a broader scale, the U.S. has recently estimated that more than 36,500 foreign fighters, at least 6,600 from the West, have traveled to Syria from at least 120 countries since ISIS emerged as a force of strength. That number is up from the previous 34,500 estimate. Not all of them have joined ISIS, however. Some, the U.S. believes, have joined al Qaeda-related groups such as al Nusra.

The U.S. also estimates 250 Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria and Iraq to potentially fight or otherwise support the conflict.

Also see:

Learning from Barack and Hillary’s Libyan Adventure

President Obama delivers a statement on the US consulate attack in Benghazi, September 12, 2012.

President Obama delivers a statement on the US consulate attack in Benghazi, September 12, 2012.

Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, PhD, Feb. 4, 2016:

To learn more about the September 11, 2012, attack upon the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, portrayed in themovie 13 Hours:  The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, read Architects of Disaster:  The Destruction of Libya by Pete Hoekstra.  The former congressman insightfully analyzes the “naiveté run amok” concerning global jihad of President Barack Obama and “his chief foreign policy lieutenant, Hillary Clinton—who hopes to be the next commander-in-chief.”

Hoekstra, former House Intelligence Committee chairman, examines how this attack “was the culmination of a foreign policy on Islamic terrorism that was grounded in wishful thinking and self-delusion” concerning “moderate” Islamists.  This Obama administration definition often required “nothing more than a group’s professed commitment to nonviolence, however unsavory the group’s ultimate objectives.”  During the 2011 overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Obama cooperated with “countless salafi-jihadist veterans of the global Al Qaeda.”  American policymakers were “seemingly content to buy jihadists’ assurances that they would pursue jihad solely in their homeland.”

Hoekstra remains at a loss to justify the Libya campaign’s estimated 9,700 NATO airstrikes and 20,000 tons of weapons delivered by Qatar, mostly to jihadists like those that brutally killed the fallen Gaddafi.  Although the Libyan campaign was supposedly a humanitarian intervention, “sensational reports of humanitarian abuses, having been largely generated by Gaddafi’s opposition, were vastly overstated.”  In the face of Gaddafi’s imminent victory, the foreign intervention was “not seeking to bring the killing to a halt or to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the war, but rather to help the losing side win—by definition a prolongation of the conflict.”

Hoekstra fully recognizes that “Muammar Gaddafi was a monster, but he was our monster” at the time of his overthrow.  Hoekstra had first visited Libya with a 2003 congressional delegation specifically requested by President George W. Bush to determine whether Gaddafi genuinely sought better relations with the West.  Hoekstra had multiple meetings with Gaddafi during two subsequent official visits.

“Gaddafi was obviously driven by his instinct for self-preservation,” Hoekstra writes, but the transformation of American-Libyan relations under a despot previously notorious for international terrorism “was nothing short of stunning.”  After “September 11, 2001, Gaddafi had emerged as one of America’s greatest assets in one of the world’s most dangerous regions, northern Africa—strategically located between the tinder box of the Sahel and the soft underbelly of southern Europe.”  Additionally, “human rights conditions in Libya generally improved during this period.”

Contrastingly, a chaotic post-Gaddafi “Libya is today a central nexus for training and equipping jihadists across the Middle East,” notes Hoekstra.  Along with shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, “Islamic terrorists almost surely got their hands on the remnants of Gaddafi’s chemical weapons arsenal.”  Libya exemplifies how Obama has “thrown out dictators only to embrace far worse.  American foreign policy has been turned upside-down.”

“Gaddafi, for all his sordid history, was infinitely wiser than Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton” concerning Islam, notes Hoekstra.  “Gaddafi appreciated—in ways few Americans could—how vast were the jihadists’ global ambitions” and that “their scorn for democracy and individual rights dwarfed even his own.”  Accordingly, under him the Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood “was never allowed the opportunity to expand its influence by building a substantial social welfare network,” in contrast to neighboring Egypt.

Hoekstra finds a certain precedent for Obama administration Islam fantasies in President George W. Bush, who “repeatedly proclaimed Islam a ‘religion of peace.’”  Bush wanted “to avoid being seen as attacking the overwhelming majority of Muslims, who go about their lives peaceably,” yet “such a formulation also left too many things unsaid.”  This “refusal of the Bush administration to take seriously or understand the realities of Muslim culture” led him “to grossly underestimate the enormous obstacles that it faced in seeking to foster Western-style democracies in that part of the world.”

Hoekstra contrasts the “heads of state and chief intelligence leaders of just about every country that bordered Iraq” that he visited before the 2003 invasion.  “Almost to a person they said the same thing:  ‘You’re making a huge mistake.  You don’t know what you will be unleashing.’”  Today “Iraq is a disaster of incalculable proportions…We owned Iraq for a time, but we left before the job of rebuilding was done—assuming that it could have ever been completed.”  Similarly, the “Afghanistan we are now leaving is little different from the Afghanistan we inherited.”

“If such countries are ever to change fundamentally, we must understand that their change will be a long and exceedingly slow process” and “locally driven, not imposed by outsiders,” Hoekstra concludes.  He recalls a 2007 Jordan visit in which during “three days I talked with the Iraqi Sunni chieftains, and over and over I heard the same thing.”  “We have a system of local government that has worked thousands of years:  It is called the tribal system,” they stated, “if you think that you can impose democratic electoral reforms at the local level, we will continue to fight you.”  “General David Petraeus took heed,” writes Hoekstra, with a “surge” campaign making explicitly “clear to the local Sunnis that America was suspending efforts at democratization at the local level…and the rest is history.”

“Failing to grasp the fundamental lesson of those earlier experiences—that once broken, a nation is very difficult to put back together—President Obama broke Libya,” Hoekstra writes.  He is amazed that the “chief celebrant of Gaddafi’s murder,” Clinton, “actually gloated on camera: ‘We came, we saw, he died.’”  “It is an image that will likely haunt her presidential campaign and should,” Hoekstra notes.

“Geopolitical affairs are rarely black or white,” Hoekstra soberly concludes from his years on the intelligence committee.  He “traveled to more than eighty countries, sometimes meeting with leaders rightly reputed as being among the harshest and most oppressive in the world,” yet “they were the lesser of two evils…the devil we knew.”  “The world needs a strong America—an America that understands who it is, what it will do, and what its power can, and cannot, achieve.”

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.

U.S. Conditions IS Libya Fight on Unity Government

US Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni (R) hold a bilateral meeting before a summit regarding Islamic State with the foreign ministers of 23 countries from Europe, the West and the region, as well as by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on February 2, 2016 in Rome. Reuters/Nicholas Kamm/Pool

US Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni (R) hold a bilateral meeting before a summit regarding Islamic State with the foreign ministers of 23 countries from Europe, the West and the region, as well as by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on February 2, 2016 in Rome. Reuters/Nicholas Kamm/Pool

CSP, by Kevin Samolsky, Feb. 2, 2016:

February 2, 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry met with officials from 23 nations in Rome to discuss combating IS. Secretary Kerry addressed his growing concerns of the Islamic State’s (IS) presence in Libya especially. The growing fear is that the terrorist organization will take advantage of the lack of stability to control oil fields to further finance its operations.

Libya has been in turmoil since the NATO-backed ousting of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011. The Libyan government is currently split between an internationally recognized government in Tobruk, the General National Congress (GNC), and an unofficial government in Tripoli led by the Islamist Libya Dawn faction. Libya Dawn was able to force the GNC out of the Tripoli in 2014, and the international community has been working ever since to unite the two governments.

Libya Dawn and the GNC signed a UN-brokered agreement to unify the government last December. However, it is unclear what Libya Dawn hopes to get out of the agreement, as it was their decision to attempt to seize power following election losses that led to the current fissure.

While the Libya Dawn government may claim they want to end hostilities and unite the government, it’s likely just a play to regain power.

Libya Dawn is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the enemy of the El-Sisi government in Egypt. This had led to the decision by Cairo to fully back the GNC and openly opposed any agreement that would return the Islamists to legitimate political power. Egypt has been the driving force behind Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s anti-Islamist “Operation Dignity” campaign which has seen battlefield gains against the Islamist factions.

IS has become a growing concern to North African nations. The Free Fire Blog recently discussed the growing connections between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and IS’s growing trade network with Hamas in Gaza. In Libya, IS has taken control of Sirte, a city that links east and west of Libya, and has launched numerous attacks around the country.

International Business Times reported last year of IS threatening to wage war on Libya Dawn, but those hostilities may subside while both sides are being targeted by Egyptian and UAE airstrikes.

Breitbart News reports on troubling news of possible cooperation  between IS, Al Qaeda (AQ), and the Muslim Brotherhood within Libya. This merger would threaten any chance Libya has at stability, and if the Brotherhood were to take over, it would further threaten the neighboring government of Egypt.

Libya’s hopes for stability are quickly fading, and the Obama Administration may be apart of the blame. The Obama Administration allowed for weapon shipments to be sent to armed rebel groups during the uprising against Qaddafi. Some of these weapons fell in the hands of jihadist groups which allowed them to fight for control of Libya once Qaddafi was killed.

While the U.S. initially armed rebel groups, it has taken a step back from Libya. Instead, the Obama Administration has harshly criticized those who take part in Libya’s issues through violence, especially the UAE and Egypt. It seems ironic for the Administration to criticize others for trying to stop terrorism when they were the ones who facilitated it.

Libya’s stability is crucial against the fight against terrorism. Terrorists have beensmuggling fighters through Libya to Europe and Syria. Libya is also an important connector between Islamic State’s home base in Syria and it’s efforts in West Africa. Without a stable government to prevent this, it will continue to threaten the stability of the region.

While Secretary Kerry may be worried about IS in Libya, there must be a greater focus on the wider Islamist threat to the country. The Muslim Brotherhood poses just as large a threat to Libyan stability as IS, and if they are given any political legitimacy it will only serve to expand jihadist activity in the country. Despite the Obama Administration’s insistence to the contrary, a GNC victory over Libyan Dawn would have a better impact on security than enforcing upon Libya a unity government that neither side really wants.

Ansar al Sharia Libya relies on al Qaeda ideologues to guide followers

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Feb. 2, 2016:

Jihadist groups around the globe denounced Saudi Arabia’s execution of more than 40 men in early January. Some of those sentenced to death had taken part in al Qaeda’s first campaign to disrupt the kingdom between 2003 and 2006. It was only natural, therefore, that al Qaeda, its regional branches and other affiliated groups would decry the House of Saud’s decision to follow through on the death sentences.

However, Ansar al Sharia Libya’s response was especially noteworthy. In a three-page statement released via Twitter on Jan. 15, the group compared those executed to senior al Qaeda leaders killed in America’s drone campaign.

“Al Salul [a derogatory reference to the Saudis] recognizes the importance of the true righteous scholars who control jihad with the correct provisions from the book of Allah Almighty and the sunna of His messenger, peace and blessing be upon him, and the impact of the absence of these scholars on the jihadist arena,” Ansar al Sharia Libya’s officials wrote, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal.

The jihadists claimed that the Saudis’ “message in this regard” is similar to “the acts of the head of global nonbelief, America, which has killed righteous scholars.”

Ansar al Sharia then listed eight such “scholars,” all of whom were al Qaeda leaders killed in US airstrikes: Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari, Ibrahim Rubaish, Anwar al Awlaki, Nasir al Wuhayshi, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Abu Yahya al Libi, Atiyah Abd al Rahman (referred to as “Atiyatallah”), and Khalid al Husainan.

The list is no accident. Ansar al Sharia regularly promotes sermons delivered by some of these same ideologues. Web banners used to advertise the speeches, which were first produced by al Qaeda, can be seen at the end of this article.

Throughout December and January, the organization’s radio station, Ather al Madinah, posted clips on social media of lectures by Nadhari and Rubaish, two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) clerics who were killed in 2015.

One of Nadhari’s talks was divided into seven parts. He covered various theological issues, including the concept of tawheed (or the oneness of Allah). Nadhari explained in another sermon why Muslims should answer the “call to jihad.”

Several lectures by Rubaish, a former Guantanamo detainee who became an influential AQAP theologian after he was released from US custody, covered similar themes. In one, Rubaish advised Muslims to avoid selling out their religion for the pleasures of this world. Still another featured Rubaish and Nadhari together.

Abu Yahya al Libi’s speeches have also been rebroadcast by Ather al Madinah. Al Libi blasted the supposed false “idol” of democracy in a talk disseminated online in December.

Al Libi was one of al Qaeda’s most prominent ideologues at the time of his death in June 2012. On Sept. 10 2012, al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri confirmed al Libi’s death in a video released online. Zawahiri also called on Libyans to avenge his fallen comrade. Ansar al Sharia Libya and other al Qaeda groupsattacked an American diplomatic mission and the CIA’s so-called Annex the following day.

Screen-Shot-2016-02-02-at-1.27.36-PM-300x168Ansar al Sharia continues to refer to the Benghazi assault in its propaganda. In a short video released in December, for instance, the group’s fighters are shown chanting: “O tell lowly America that we will free Abu Khattala.”

Abu Khattala is the lone suspect from the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi raids in American custody. A screen shot of the fighters who chanted in the video can be seen on the right. The video was shot at a training camp named after Mohammed al Zahawi, Ansar al Sharia’s first emir (or leader), who died as a result of injuries in either late 2014 or early 2015.

After Zahawi’s death was confirmed in January 2015, Nadhari released a eulogy for the slain jihadist. Nadhari explained that Zahawi had personally met with Osama bin Laden in the 1990s in Sudan and adopted al Qaeda’s methodology at that time.

Although Ansar al Sharia Libya was initially portrayed by some as purely a local jihadist group, it has been a part of the al Qaeda network since its inception in 2011. The Long War Journal has documented the organization’s ties to al Qaeda and its branch in North Africa, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), on multiple occasions.

And the group now openly promotes al Qaeda clerics to its followers on a regular basis.

Ansar al Sharia Libya’s banner ads promoting the lectures delivered by al Qaeda ideologues

Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari, an AQAP official killed in January 2015:

15-12-25-Nadhari-Ansar-al-Sharia-audio-768x277

16-01-25-Nadhari-Ansar-al-Sharia-audio-768x316

Ibrahim Rubaish, an ex-Guantanamo detainee who became an AQAP official and was killed in April 2015:

15-12-23-Ibrahim-Rubaish-Ansar-al-Sharia-audio-768x277

16-01-30-Ibrahim-Rubaish-Ansar-al-Sharia-audio-768x277

Rubaish and Nadhari together:

15-12-20-Nadhari-and-Rubaish-Ansar-al-Sharia-Libya-audio-768x277

Abu Yahya al Libi was a senior al Qaeda ideologue until his death in June 2012:

16-01-30-Abu-Yahya-al-Libi-Ansar-al-Sharia-audio-768x277

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

Libyan ISIS chiefs living in fear of ‘mystery sniper’ after three of the terror group’s top men are assassinated by long-range marksman

Three ISIS leaders have been picked off by an unknown gunman in the Libyan city of Sirte, pictured in 2011, in just 10 days, according to social media - with the lone assassin being dubbed 'Daaesh hunter' in the press

Three ISIS leaders have been picked off by an unknown gunman in the Libyan city of Sirte, pictured in 2011, in just 10 days, according to social media – with the lone assassin being dubbed ‘Daaesh hunter’ in the press

  • Marksmen is said to have started the killing spree in Sirte on January 13
  • In the 10 days since, mystery gunman has picked two more ISIS leaders off
  • Militants now sweeping city for the killer, dubbed ‘Daesh hunter’ by locals 
  • ISIS is said to have 3,000 fighters in Sirte, a coastal city it took last year

Daily Mail, by Flora Drury, Jan. 29, 2016:

ISIS chiefs are living in fear of a mystery sniper after it was rumoured three of the evil terror group’s leaders had been assassinated within 10 days of each other by a long-range marksman.

The leaders are said to have been picked off one-by-one in Sirte, the Libyan coastal city where Muammar Gaddaffi was born, which the militants took control of last year.

According to unconfirmed social media reports, ISIS fighters are now sweeping the city for the man ordinary Libyans are said to be dubbing ‘Daesh hunter’.

The first ISIS leader to lose his life was Hamad Abdel Hady, a Sudanese national who was killed on January 13, according to Libya Prospect.

He is said to have been an official in the sharia court, handing out ISIS’ warped and violent sense of justice.

Abu Mohammed Dernawi was killed on January 19 near his home in the city, according to some reports.

The most recent death is rumoured to be that of Abdullah Hamad al Ansari, a high-up commander from southern Libya, who was shot dead as he left the mosque on January 23.

However, this may not be the start of such a campaign against ISIS fighters in the city.

Journalist Daniele Raineri pointed out a similar assassination took place in July, when an ISIS preacher was shot dead.

The reporter also urges caution in believing what could be nothing more than ‘wild rumours’ on his Twitter account.

Even so, social media is ablaze with reports of rumours of the sniper, who has become somewhat of a hero to those living under the control of the evil terror group, according to the Libya Herald.

The Islamists are not popular in the city, and days after the first assassination a ‘photo report’ emerged, showing the terror group executing at least three men and whipped another for drinking alcohol.

ISIS reportedly has 3,000 fighters in Sirte and has imposed the strict rules familiar with residents in their defacto capital in Raqqa, Syria.

Beheadings and crucifixions plague the town, which has been deserted by citizens by the thousands.

Also see: