NY, NJ Alleged Bomber’s Path to Terror

First responders at the scene of the bombing in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan Saturday night (Photo: video screenshot); Inset: the suspected bomber Ahmad Kahn Rahmani (Photo: Twitter/NYPD)

First responders at the scene of the bombing in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan Saturday night (Photo: video screenshot); Inset: the suspected bomber Ahmad Kahn Rahmani (Photo: Twitter/NYPD)

Clarion Project, September 20, 2016:

New York City and New Jersey bombing suspect Ahmad Rahami traveled numerous times to his homeland in Afghanistan as well as to Pakistan in recent years, according to Rep. Peter King (R-NY), as reported by the New York Post.

After his last trip to the country of his birth, he became noticeably religious. “He had changed. He dressed differently, more religiously, the robe and everything,” said Flee Jones, 27, a childhood friend of Rahami. “I really never expected it from him. He was always this fun loving guy, but now he was all quiet. He had found religion. It’s mind blowing.”

Rahmani [Rahami] also began posting radical Islamist writings and jihad-related topics on his personal website.

Those who know Rahmani [Rahami] and his relatives said his entire family became devout after their last trip to Afghanistan a number of years ago, replacing their Western-style dress with tradition Islamic clothing. Neighbors also reported after the trip Rahmani became more serious and lost interest in his favorite hobbies, one of which was fixing up Honda Civics for racing.

A woman who was his childhood sweetheart and with whom he had a baby said Rahmani [Rahami] ranted against American culture, the American military and homosexuality. The woman, identified only as Maria, said she hadn’t seen Rahmani [Rahami] in two years and he never paid child support.

On one of his trips abroad, he returned with a wife and child.

Police officers traced the bombing in Chelsea to Rahmani, whose fingerprints were found on a second, unexploded bomb a few blocks away from the first that went off Saturday night.  Twenty-nine people were injured in the Chelsea bombing.

Authorities also believe Rahmani was responsible for the bomb that exploded at a charity race for marines in New Jersey the next day. After the initial bomb blast in New Jersey, five more homemade bombs were found later that night. No one was injured in the blast which was timed and placed to occur at the beginning of the race. Police officers discovered a suspicious object, postponed the start of the race and evacuated participants.

The Chelsea bombs were made from pressure cookers similar to those used by the Boston Marathon bombers. Instructions for making such bombs can be found in al-Qaeda’s slick, English-language magazine Inspire.

The New Jersey bomb was made from pipes.

A construction worker who used to frequent the family’s fried-chicken restaurant became concerned three years ago when Rahmani and a number of the restaurant workers stopped speaking to him when they found out about his Israeli heritage.

“The first thing I did after I talked to them is I went to check my car underneath…I went to check for a bomb,” said Miguel, who only gave the press his first name.

A former marine Johnathan Wagner, 26, said Rahmani’s father spoke to him about fighting with the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 90s against the Russians and showed him pictures of himself.

Rahmani’s family applied for asylum in the U.S. in 1995 when he was seven years old. After graduating from high school, he studied criminal justice for two years in college before dropping out. An altercation in 2014 with his sister resulted in assault charges when Rahmani allegedly tried to stab her. She later dropped the charges.

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Fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda fights on

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn Sept. 11, 2016:

All appeared lost for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in December 2001. In the years leading up to the 9/11 hijackings, bin Laden believed that the US was a “paper tiger” and would retreat from the Muslim majority world if al Qaeda struck hard enough. The al Qaeda founder had good reasons to think this. American forces withdrew from Lebanon after a series of attacks in the early 1980s and from Somalia after the “Black Hawk Down” episode in 1993. The US also did not respond forcefully to al Qaeda’s August 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, or the USS Cole bombing in October 2000.

But bin Laden’s strategy looked like a gross miscalculation in late 2001. An American-led invasion quickly overthrew the Taliban’s regime just weeks after 19 of bin Laden’s men hijacked four airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Some of al Qaeda’s most senior figures were killed in American airstrikes. With al Qaeda’s foes closing in, bin Laden ordered his men to retreat to the remote Tora Bora Mountains. Here, bin Laden must have thought, al Qaeda would make its last stand. The end was nigh.

Except it wasn’t.

Bin Laden slithered away, eventually making his way to Abbottabad, Pakistan. When Navy SEALs came calling more than nine years later, in early May 2011, the world looked very different.

Documents recovered in bin Laden’s compound reveal that he and his lieutenants were managing a cohesive global network, with subordinates everywhere from West Africa to South Asia. Some US intelligence officials assumed that bin Laden was no longer really active. But Bin Laden’s files demonstrated that this view was wrong.

Writing in The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism – From al Qa’ida to ISIS, former CIA official Mike Morell explains how the Abbottabad cache upended the US intelligence community’s assumptions regarding al Qaeda. “The one thing that surprised me was that the analysts made clear that our pre-raid understanding of Bin Laden’s role in the organization had been wrong,” Morell writes. “Before the raid we’d thought that Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, was running the organization on a day-to-day basis, essentially the CEO of al Qaeda, while Bin Laden was the group’s ideological leader, its chairman of the board. But the DOCEX showed something quite different. It showed that Bin Laden himself had not only been managing the organization from Abbottabad, he had been micromanaging it.”*

Consider some examples from the small set of documents released already.

During the last year and a half of his life, Osama bin Laden: oversaw al Qaeda’s “external work,” that is, its operations targeting the West; directed negotiations with the Pakistani state over a proposed ceasefire between the jihadists and parts of the government; ordered his men to evacuate northern Pakistan for safe havens in Afghanistan; instructed Shabaab to keep its role as an al Qaeda branch secret and offered advice concerning how its nascent emirate in East Africa should be run; received status reports on his fighters’ operations in at least eight different Afghan provinces; discussed al Qaeda’s war strategy in Yemen with the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other subordinates; received updates from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, including details on a proposed truce with the government of Mauritania; authorized the relocation of veteran jihadists to Libya, where they could take advantage of the uprising against Muammar al Qaddafi’s regime; corresponded with the Taliban’s leadership; and generally made decisions that impacted al Qaeda’s operations everywhere around the globe.

Again, these are just a handful of examples culled from the publicly-available files recovered in bin Laden’s compound. The overwhelming majority of these documents remain classified and, therefore, unavailable to the American public.

Al Qaeda has grown under Zawahiri’s tenure

The story of how bin Laden’s role was missed should raise a large red flag. Al Qaeda is still not well-understood and has been consistently misjudged. Not long after bin Laden was killed, a meme spread about his successor: Ayman al Zawahiri. Many ran with the idea that Zawahiri is an ineffectual and unpopular leader who lacked bin Laden’s charisma and was, therefore, incapable of guiding al Qaeda’s global network. This, too, was wrong.

There is no question that the Islamic State, which disobeyed Zawahiri’s orders and was disowned by al Qaeda’s “general command” in 2014, has cut into al Qaeda’s share of the jihadist market and undermined the group’s leadership position. But close observers will notice something interesting about al Qaeda’s response to the Islamic State’s challenge. Under Zawahiri’s stewardship, al Qaeda grew its largest paramilitary force ever.

Brett McGurk, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, warned about the rise of Al Nusrah Front during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 28. “With direct ties to Ayman al Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden’s successor, Nusra[h] is now al [Qaeda’s] largest formal affiliate in history,” McGurk said. US officials previously contacted by The Long War Journal said Nusrah could easily have 10,000 or more fighters in its ranks.

It is worth repeating that Nusrah grew in size and stature, while being openly loyal to Zawahiri, after the Islamic State became its own jihadist menace. Far from being irrelevant, Zawahiri ensured al Qaeda’s survival in the Levant and oversaw its growth.

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On July 28, Al Nusrah Front emir Abu Muhammad al Julani announced that his organization would henceforth be known as Jabhat Fath al Sham (JFS, or the “Conquest of the Levant Front”) and would have no “no affiliation to any external [foreign] entity.” This was widely interpreted as Al Nusrah’s “break” from al Qaeda. But Julani never actually said that and al Qaeda itself isn’t an “external entity” with respect to Syria as the group moved much of its leadership to the country long ago. Al Nusrah’s rebranding was explicitly approved by Abu Khayr al Masri, one of Zawahiri’s top deputies, in an audio message released just hours prior to Julani’s announcement. Masri was likely inside Syria at the time.

Julani, who was dressed like Osama bin Laden during his appearance (as pictured above), heaped praise on bin Laden, Zawahiri and Masri. “Their blessed leadership has, and shall continue to be, an exemplar of putting the needs of the community and their higher interests before the interest of any individual group,” Julani said of Zawahiri and Masri.

Most importantly, Al Nusrah’s relaunch as JFS is entirely consistent with al Qaeda’s longstanding strategy in Syria and elsewhere. Al Qaeda never wanted to formally announce its role in the rebellion against Bashar al Assad’s regime, correctly calculating that clandestine influence is preferable to an overt presence for many reasons. This helps explain why Nusrah was never officially renamed as “Al Qaeda in the Levant” in the first place. However, fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, there is such widespread ignorance of al Qaeda’s goals and strategy that Nusrah’s name change is enough to fool many.

Al Qaeda has grown in South Asia as well. In Sept. 2014, Zawahiri announced the formation of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which brought together elements of several existing jihadist organizations. AQIS quickly got to work, attempting to execute an audacious plan that would have used Pakistani arms against American and Indian ships. The plot failed, but revealed that al Qaeda had infiltrated Pakistan’s military.

Pakistani officials recently told the Washington Post that they suspect AQIS has a few thousand members in the city of Karachi alone. And al Qaeda remains closely allied with the Taliban while maintaining a significant presence inside Afghanistan. In October 2015, for instance, Afghan and American forces conducted a massive operation against two large al Qaeda training camps in the southern part of the country. One of the camps was approximately 30 square miles in size. Gen. John F. Campbell, who oversaw the war effort in Afghanistan, explained that the camp was run by AQIS and is “probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war.”

With Zawahiri as its emir, al Qaeda raised its “largest formal affiliate in history” in Syria and operated its “largest training” camp ever in Afghanistan. These two facts alone undermine the widely-held assumption that al Qaeda is on death’s door.

Elsewhere, al Qaeda’s other regional branches remain openly loyal to Zawahiri.

From April 2015 to April 2016, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) controlled a large swath of territory along Yemen’s southern coast, including the key port city of Mukalla. An Arab-led coalition helped reclaim some of this turf earlier this year, but AQAP’s forces simply melted away, living to fight another day. AQAP continues to wage a prolific insurgency in the country, as does Shabaab across the Gulf of Aden in Somalia. Shabaab’s leaders announced their fealty to Zawahiri in February 2012 and remain faithful to him. They have taken a number of steps to stymie the growth of the Islamic State in Somalia and neighboring countries. Shabaab also exports terrorism throughout East Africa, executing a number of high-profile terrorist attacks in recent years.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) continues to operate in West and North Africa, often working in conjunction with front groups. Like al Qaeda’s branches elsewhere, AQIM prefers to mask the extent of its influence, working through organizations such as Ansar al Sharia and Ansar Dine to achieve its goals. Late last year, Al Murabitoon rejoined AQIM’s ranks. Al Murabitoon is led by Mohktar Belmokhtar, who has been reportedly killed on several occasions. Al Qaeda claims that Belmokhtar is still alive and has praised him for rejoining AQIM after his contentious relations with AQIM’s hierarchy in the past. While Belmokhtar’s status cannot be confirmed, several statements have been released in his name in recent months. And Al Murabitoon’s merger with AQIM has led to an increase in high-profile attacks in West Africa.

In sum, AQAP, AQIM, AQIS and Shabaab are formal branches of al Qaeda and have made their allegiance to Zawahiri clear. Jabhat Fath al Sham, formerly known as Al Nusrah, is an obvious al Qaeda project in Syria. Other organizations continue to serve al Qaeda’s agenda as well.

Al Qaeda’s veterans and a “new generation” of jihadist leadership

As the brief summary above shows, Al Qaeda’s geographic footprint has expanded greatly since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Some US officials argue that al Qaeda has been “decimated” because of the drone campaign and counterterrorism raids. They narrowly focus on the leadership layer of al Qaeda, while ignoring the bigger picture. But even their analysis of al Qaeda’s managers is misleading.

Al Qaeda has lost dozens of key men, but there is no telling how many veterans remain active to this day. Experienced operatives continue to serve in key positions, often returning to the fight after being detained or only revealing their hidden hand when it becomes necessary. Moreover, al Qaeda knew it was going to lose personnel and took steps to groom a new generation of jihadists capable of filling in.

From left to right: Saif al Adel, Abu Mohammed al Masri and Abu Khayr al Masri. These photos, first published by the FBI and US intelligence officials, show the al Qaeda leaders when they were younger.

From left to right: Saif al Adel, Abu Mohammed al Masri and Abu Khayr al Masri. These photos, first published by the FBI and US intelligence officials, show the al Qaeda leaders when they were younger.

Last year, several veterans were reportedly released from Iran, where they were held under murky circumstances. One of them was Abu Khayr al Masri, who paved the way for Al Nusrah’s rebranding in July. Another is Saif al Adel, who has long been wanted for his role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. At least two others freed by Iran, Abu Mohammed al Masri and Khalid al Aruri, returned to al Qaeda as well.

Masri, Al Adel, and Aruri may all be based inside Syria, or move back and forth to the country from Turkey, where other senior members are based. Mohammed Islambouli is an important leader within al Qaeda. After leaving Iran several years ago, Islambouli returned to Egypt and eventually made his way to Turkey, where he lives today.

Sitting to Julani’s right during his much ballyhooed announcement was one of Islambouli’s longtime compatriots, Ahmed Salama Mabrouk. The diminutive Mabrouk is another Zawahiri subordinate. He was freed from an Egyptian prison in the wake of the 2011 uprisings.

Al Qaeda moved some of its senior leadership to Syria and several others from this cadre are easy to identify. But al Qaeda has also relied on personnel in Yemen to guide its global network. One of Zawahiri’s lieutenants, Hossam Abdul Raouf, confirmed this in an audio message last October. Raouf explained that the “weight” of al Qaeda has been shifted to Syria and Yemen, because that is where its efforts are most needed.

The American drone campaign took out several key AQAP leaders in 2015, but they were quickly replaced. Qasim al Raymi, who was trained by al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1990s, succeeded Nasir al Wuhayshi as AQAP’s emir last summer. Raymi quickly renewed his allegiance to Zawahiri, whom Raymi described as the “the eminent sheikh” and “the beloved father.” Another al Qaeda lifer, Ibrahim Abu Salih, emerged from the shadows last year. Salih was not public figure beforehand, but he has been working towards al Qaeda’s goals in Yemen since the early 1990s. Ibrahim al Qosi (an ex-Guantanamo detainee) and Khalid al Batarfi have stepped forward to lead AQAP and are probably also part of al Qaeda’s management team.

This old school talent has helped buttress al Qaeda’s leadership cadre. They’ve been joined by men who signed up for al Qaeda’s cause after the 9/11 attacks as well. In July, the US Treasury Department designated three jihadists who are based in Iran. One of them, known as Abu Hamza al Khalidi, was listed in bin Laden’s files as part of a “new generation” of al Qaeda leaders. Today, he plays a crucial role as the head of al Qaeda’s military commission, meaning he is the equivalent of al Qaeda’s defense minister. Treasury has repeatedly identified other al Qaeda members based in Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Some members of the “new generation” are more famous than others. Such is the case with Osama’s son,Hamzah bin Laden, who is now regularly featured in propaganda.

This brief survey of al Qaeda is not intended to be exhaustive, yet it is still sufficient to demonstrate that the organization’s bench is far from empty. Moreover, many of the men who lead al Qaeda today are probably unknown to the public.

The threat to the West

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that al Qaeda “nodes in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey” are “dedicating resources to planning attacks.” His statement underscored how the threats have become more geographically dispersed over time. With great success, the US worked for years to limit al Qaeda’s ability to strike the West from northern Pakistan. But today, al Qaeda’s “external operations” work is carried out across several countries.

During the past fifteen years, Al Qaeda has failed to execute another mass casualty attack in the US on the scale of the 9/11 hijackings. Its most recent attack in Europe came in January 2015, when a pair of brothers backed by AQAP conducted a military-style assault on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris. AQAP made it clear that the Charlie Hebdo massacre was carried out according to Zawahiri’s orders.

Thanks to vigilance and luck, al Qaeda hasn’t been able to replicate a 9/11-style assault inside the US. Part of the reason is that America’s defenses, as well as those of its partner nations, have improved. Operations such as the 9/11 hijackings are also difficult to carry out in the first place. Even the 9/11 plan experienced interruptions despite a relatively lax security environment. (Most famously, for example, the would-be 20th hijacker was denied entry into the US at an Orlando airport in the summer of 2001.)

But there is another aspect to evaluating the al Qaeda threat that is seldom appreciated. It is widely assumed that al Qaeda is only interested in attacking the West. This is flat false. Most of the organization’s resources are devoted to waging insurgencies in Muslim majority countries.

The story in Syria has been telling. Although al Qaeda may have more resources in Syria than anywhere else, Zawahiri did not order his men to carry out a strike in the West. Al Qaeda’s so-called “Khorasan Group” laid the groundwork for such operations, but Zawahiri did not give this cadre the green light to actually carry them out. Zawahiri’s stand down order is well known. In an interview that aired in May 2015, for instance, Julani explained that the “directives that come to us from Dr. Ayman [al Zawahiri], may Allah protect him, are that Al Nusrah Front’s mission in Syria is to topple [Bashar al Assad’s] regime” and defeat its allies. “We have received guidance to not use Syria as a base for attacks against the West or Europe so that the real battle is not confused,” Julani said. However, he conceded that “maybe” the mother al Qaeda organization is plotting against the West, just “not from Syria.” Julani emphasized that this “directive” came from Zawahiri himself.

To date, al Qaeda has not lashed out at the West from inside Syria, even though it is certainly capable of doing so. Al Qaeda’s calculation has been that such an attack would be too costly for its strategic interests. It might get in the way of al Qaeda’s top priority in Syria, which is toppling the Assad regime. This calculation could easily change overnight and al Qaeda could use Syria as a launching pad against the West soon. But they haven’t thus far. It helps explain why there hasn’t been another 9/11-style plot by al Qaeda against the US in recent years. It also partially explains why al Qaeda hasn’t launched another large-scale operation in Europe for some time. Al Qaeda has more resources at its disposal today than ever, so the group doesn’t lack the capability. If Zawahiri and his advisors decided to make anti-Western attack planning more of a priority, then the probability of another 9/11-style event would go up. Even in that scenario, al Qaeda would have to successfully evade the West’s defenses. But the point is that al Qaeda hasn’t been attempting to hit the West nearly as much as some in the West assume.

In the meantime, it is easy to see how the al Qaeda threat has become more diverse, just as Clapper testified. AQAP has launched several thwarted plots aimed at the US, including the failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing. In 2009, al Qaeda also plotted to strike trains in the New York City area. In 2010, a Mumbai-style assault in Europe was unraveled by security services. It is not hard to imagine al Qaeda trying something along those lines once again. Other organizations tied to al Qaeda, such as the Pakistani Taliban, have plotted against the US as well.

Fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda lives. Fortunately, Zawahiri’s men have not replicated the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 Americans. But the al Qaeda threat looms. It would be a mistake to assume that al Qaeda won’t try a large-scale operation again.

*The spellings of al Qaeda and bin Laden are changed in this quote from Morell to make them consistent with the rest of the text.

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

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Fifteen Years Later, Al Qaeda Grows

Newt Gingrich: 9/11 anniversary — 15 years of strategic defeat, dishonesty and humiliation

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Fox News, by Newt Gingrich, Sept. 9, 2016:

“I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which must nevertheless be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat.” — That was Winston Churchill’s description of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s surrender to Hitler in the Munich Agreement of 1938.

Yet Churchill’s words also apply to where the United States is today.

Our men and women in uniform have been heroic.

Many have signed up to serve again even after being wounded.

Our tactical units remain the best in the world.

Our intelligence officers and diplomats have risked their lives in service to the country.

The problem is not with the sincerity, the courage, the energy or the effort of individual Americans.

The problem has been the approach of a bipartisan Washington political elite that has squandered 15 years, thousands of lives, many thousands wounded, and trillions of dollars with no coherent strategy, no honest assessment of the challenge, and no willingness to learn from failure and develop new strategies and new institutions.

Since September 11, 2001, we have moved from righteous anger and clarity of purpose against the forces of terrorism in the immediate aftermath of the attacks to now sending $1,700,000,000 in cash to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

We have watched our efforts in Iraq collapse while our efforts in Afghanistan decay.

We have seen the Middle East grow more violent, more chaotic, and more ungovernable despite 15 years of American and allied effort.

Fifteen years ago this week, terrorists killed 2,977 Americans in the worst surprise attack on our homeland since Pearl Harbor, 70 years earlier. In fact, 574 more Americans were killed on 9/11 than on December 7, 1941.

It was a huge, tragic, and deeply emotional shock. And yet the 9/11 attack was not the beginning of our war with Islamic supremacism.

By 2001, we had been at war with the Iranian dictatorship (still to this day listed by the State Department as the leading state sponsor of terrorism) for 32 years, when Iranians seized the American embassy in Tehran. Mark Bowden described the event appropriately in the title of his book, “Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam.”

From an American perspective, that war had continued in Lebanon in the 1980s and in Saudi Arabia, East Africa and Yemen in the 1990s.

In 2001, the terrorist war came to American soil with shocking results.

American anger was vivid and deep. President Bush reacted with powerful, clear, morally defining words.

In his address to the Joint Session of Congress, just nine days after the 9/11 attack, President Bush asserted “on September 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country.”

President Bush described a huge goal. “Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated,” he said.

President Bush described the scale of the challenge, saying, “Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command–every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war– to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.”

Bush went on to warn that “Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have seen. …Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”

President Bush wisely warned that “the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows.”

Four months later, in his 2002 State of the Union Address, President Bush described North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an “Axis of Evil”.

Bush warned that “the United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.” The Congress applauded.

And that was the high water mark of the response to 9/11.

Just this week, North Korea had its fifth nuclear test. Last week North Korea launched three missiles in direct violation of United Nations Resolutions.

We now know that while deceiving the Congress and the American people, the Obama Administration has sent $1,700,000,000 to what even the State Department says is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, the Iranian dictatorship.

Iraq, at great cost in American lives, wounds and money, has degenerated into a mess dominated by Iran and by ISIS.

How did we go from brave words to defeat, dishonesty, and humiliation?

Tragically, after heroic leadership in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 (who can forget President Bush in New York standing next to the fireman and promising that the people who attacked New York would hear from all of us?) and after delivering exactly the right words to Congress, the Bush administration failed to plan for how big, how hard, and how long the fight with Islamic supremacists would be.

Almost immediately, the lawyers began imposing rules and regulations.

It was decided not to declare war even though President Bush had described 9/11 “as an act of war” in his congressional address.

The State Department began pushing back against an honest, clear statement of who was attacking us.

The Defense Department was very cautious about distorting the military establishment with an aggressive focus on learning how to defeat Islamic supremacists.

The initial Afghanistan campaign was brilliant, lean, decisive, and gave us an exaggerated sense of how powerful we were and how weak our enemies were. However, the campaign was understaffed and under resourced. We did not invest the military power to completely destroy the Taliban.

President Bush had warned that “you are with us or you are against us,” but the State Department rapidly began to offer an alternative in which you could be a little with us and a little against us.

Pakistan was with us in providing a logistics system to sustain our forces in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan was against us in providing an enormous sanctuary for the Taliban in the northwest region. Instead of thinking through the cost of a campaign to wipe out the Taliban sanctuary, we limped along in exactly the kind of indecisive guerrilla war we had waged in Vietnam. Today the Taliban has regained momentum and, the minute we leave, Afghanistan is likely to fall back into Islamist dictatorship.

Our efforts to create a modern Afghanistan were crippled by a State Department bureaucracy that was clearly unwilling to cut through red tape and learn to be effective. This pattern of systemic incompetence would be repeated in Iraq because the Bush Administration was simply unwilling to reform the State Department. Failure abroad was more acceptable than a bitter bureaucratic fight in Washington.

Once the Iraq campaign began, resources were drained from Afghanistan and the military was stretched almost to the breaking point. The unwillingness to build a genuine wartime military began to cost us lives and wounded warriors as we found ourselves unable to field and sustain the combat power that was needed. Jake Tapper’s book “The Outpost” details the tragic costs of an American military which is overextended and tries to accomplish more than it is resourced to achieve.

The Iraq campaign might have been a brilliant success if Ambassador Bremer had not changed the mission in mid-war.

The American military knew it could defeat Saddam Hussein very rapidly but it also knew that it then had to rebuild the Iraqi system and let Iraqis run their own country. It would have taken four times as many troops to actually occupy and police Iraq.

Bremer seemed to think he was supposed to profoundly change Iraq and he set about to do so with little coordination with the American military and little understanding of how deep the internal hatred and potential violence among Iraqis was.

Instead of a brief campaign Americans have been sucked into endless conflict.

As an example of the dishonesty in the title of this paper, it is simply a lie to say we don’t have boots on the ground in Iraq. At last count there were more than 4,400 American troops in Iraq, not counting temporary forces rotating in and out.

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have failed to define the scale of the threat, the determination of our enemies, and the very real dangers we face.

Since the bipartisan establishment can’t even define the threat, it certainly can’t define a strategy for success.

As our enemies grow stronger and smarter, we slide from defeat to humiliation.

As our enemies watch us accept humiliation, they grow bolder and more daring.

There is a remarkable parallelism to Iranian ships crowding our navy and Russian planes crowding our air force.

None of this is a surprise.

I have posted here a paper from 2002 and 2003 warning that we had lost our way.

We have eight weeks before an historic election.

We need a robust, courageous, and honest debate about where we are and what we need to do — 15 years after 9/11.

Newt Gingrich, a Republican, was speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. He is the author of the new novel “Duplicity” and co-author, with his wife Callista Gingrich, of “Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation’s History and Future” (Center Street, May 17, 2016).

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Erik Prince: Clinton’s ‘Foreign Policy Record Is a Disaster,’ Trump Is ‘Willing to Take a Different Direction’

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Breitbart, by John Hayward, Sept. 8, 2016:

Retired Navy SEAL and former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince thought it was “shocking indeed that Matt Lauer asked any question that wasn’t pre-scripted from the Clinton team” during Wednesday night’s national security forum.

“I think perhaps the lies, the distortions have reached a tipping point, that the rest of the media is saying, we can’t be this dishonest all the time on these matters, we have to do something right,” Prince told Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM.

He thought Trump was stronger on content during the forum, because “Hillary doesn’t have anything to be strong on, content-wise.”

“Her foreign policy record is a disaster, whether it’s being part of pulling out of Iraq, basically when the war had been won and the country had been stabilized, all that blood and treasure and effort, literally thrown down the drain by the Obama Administration,” Prince said.

“And then her leading a cavalry charge into Libya, to cause what was a cooperating state on counter-terrorism, they’d given up their nuclear weapons, and she turned it into an Islamic fascist kinda hell-hole that is still melting down – a transit point for millions of refugees a year, thousands of which drowned, people being beheaded, Coptic Christians being murdered, the list of terribles. So she has no record to go on,” he pronounced.

Prince agreed with a caller that Trump could do more with Hillary Clinton’s sale of American uranium reserves to Russia, calling the story “an under-explored question, certainly by the mainstream media.”

Clinton Cash does an excellent job of covering it. Unfortunately, enough of America hasn’t seen it yet,” he said. “To elaborate, due to a significant donation into the Clinton Foundation, the State Department ended up approving the sale of a company that owns 20% of the uranium in the United States, certainly a strategic fuel stock for us here, for nuclear energy production, and of course for nuclear weapons, if necessary. It’s now in the hands of a Russian state enterprise.”

Marlow asked for Prince’s take on Donald Trump’s often-repeated call for “taking the oil” after an operation such as the Iraq War. During the Wednesday night forum, Trump more specifically called for seizing oil production before the Islamic State could take it.

“The caliphate, ISIS, operates with legitimacy in their minds because they control land,” Prince noted. “That land they control holds oil. They sell that oil, they sell it off – oddly enough, by truck, to Erdogan’s son, the ruler of Turkey, so that even the Erdogan family is in on the criminal enterprise of it all. But when he says ‘take the oil,’ if friendly forces occupy that territory, that oil is no longer available to the enemy for sale.”

He said that holding land even allows ISIS to run its own science programs, since they have “taken over the University of Mosul, their science department, and they are using it as a weapons lab for doing research on weapons that will evade detection in the West.”

“You have to take away any legitimacy that the caliphate has by owning or controlling land. They cannot have a state,” he urged. “Doing so will cut off a major part of their money supply. They would still get money, like al-Qaeda does, via some high-net-worth radical Islamist donors, and there’s other ways to deal with that, but you have to take away the legitimacy of the caliphate, by denying them sanctuary anywhere. That’s going to take them from conventional-sized units that can go from battalions, up to even brigade size, thousands of people, down to at least operating at no more than two- to four-man terror cells.”

“It was interesting in the forum last night, Hillary saying ‘I will never use U.S. ground troops,’ and she’s going to try to phone it in from the air – clearly a strategy that hasn’t been working for the last two and a half years, because ISIS is still very active, and still ever as deadly,” Prince said.

“Whether you use U.S. ground forces, whether you use local Arab forces, or whether you use contracted forces, it’s not that difficult to assemble a force – a few thousand people, we’re not talking tens of thousands. If you give it to the conventional military, they will insist on tens of thousands, just because they move with a much, much larger logistics footprint,” he said. “If you think about, what was the most effective response the U.S. has had to terrorism, I would say it was the first 12 months after 9/11, where you had a few case officers, a handful of special operations officers, supported by capable air and agency air, and it literally turned the Taliban back in a matter of weeks.”

“The U.S. military’s war plan, going back to 9/11, was basically bombs, missile raid, and a ranger raid for the first six months. They didn’t want to put any significant boots on the ground until the following April, of 2002, and this is while their headquarters, the Pentagon, was still smoking under attack,” Prince recalled. “A light, unconventional, again contracted or indigenous force, ought to roll up and destroy any conventional pockets of ISIS, in the entire Iraq/Syria theater.”

“You have to negotiate a deal with what Syria looks like, post-ISIS, with Putin,” he continued. “You know, the Alawites, the Assad family are from the Alawite tribe, that’s a Shia minority. He can’t leave, because if he does, the Alawites will be slaughtered. A Shia minority being in charge in Syria is almost like the untouchables running India – it just doesn’t happen. So it’s been that way for 40 years, and you have to separate them, because those two are in a blood feud, and unless they have a very clear boundary, they’re going to continue to fight.”

“You have to basically have the Russians and Assad be willing to shrink the footprint of what Assad’s going to run, and I would take eastern Syria, western Iraq, and put it into a greater Sunni country, call it Sunnistan,” he proposed. “Give the Kurds, who have been our most steadfast allies, fighting against Daesh and radicalism there, give them their own homeland. With that, you could actually have a homeland for Christians, because Christianity’s been in the Middle East for longer than Islam, for the past 2,000 years. And they have largely been run out of Dodge by continued attacks and violence.”

On the matter of giving Christians a homeland, Prince said there will be a conference called “In Defense of Christians” in Washington this very weekend.

He talked about how the maps of modern Iraq and Syria were drawn by the Sykes-Picot treaty in 1916, and that old world has “gone away.” He advised drawing a new map along “tribal and religious lines,” and then allowing good borders to make good neighbors.

Prince said the persecution of Christians draws relatively little media coverage in the United States because “when you have very few people who believe anymore here, who are in those positions of writing, it’s easy for them to ignore.”

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Christians find themselves in a “war of tribal extinction, where you have ISIS rolling into a village, lining everyone up, and asking them what they believe. You’ve even seen other cases of that in Somalia, or Nigeria, or wherever, where radical Islamist terrorists are lining up people and murdering them, if they can’t recite lines from the Koran.”

Prince predicted Trump would “have his hands full” if he became Commander-in-Chief.

“He’s gonna have a military bureaucracy that needs massive reform,” he said. “When you throw hundreds of billions of dollars onto an organization, year after year after year, it creates a lot of bad habits, it creates a lot of fat. It makes for a very heavy triathlete that’s going to have a hard time bobbing, and moving, and flexing, and moving quickly to fight non-state actors.”

Prince said of Hillary Clinton’s position, “There’s no there there.”

“To announce that you’re never going to use ground troops is wrong. It means basically to ISIS saying, yes, we can sit back and tear away at these Americans, because they’re afraid to commit their people to come and get us,” he said. “Her position is untenable. It’s just saying well, we’re going to get our Arab allies to do more.”

“There’s no there there,” he repeated. “You’re not going to trust the Turks. The Turks’ main interest is in destroying the Kurds. Remember, Turkey was a major transit point – and still is – for ISIS fighters and weapons, et cetera. It’s a mess that someone’s going to have to go clean out.”

“You’re not going to get Saudi Arabia to send troops,” he continued. “They’re being destroyed left, right, and center along their southern border in Yemen. Jordan is pretty much tapped out. And so there’s not a lot of other real military capability in the Middle East.”

He recalled the CIA’s use of indigenous forces after 9/11, “led by CIA officers, supported by American air power,” and suggested Trump tap the same kind of intelligence teams to conduct a similar strategy against the Islamic State on the ground, combining “cash, authority, and a real will to fight.”

“DOD can support that, but it must be an Agency-led effort,” Prince specified. “If I were in the Trump Administration, I would say that the Pentagon does not have a leading role to play, battling non-state actors. It should be an intelligence function. The Pentagon, as Mr. Trump laid out, needs to beef up its conventional military capabilities, which have been eroded and chewed up, trying to fight basically guys with pickup trucks, with our first-rate, very expensive military equipment.”

Instead, he advised using “other guys in pickup trucks” to combat these non-state irregular forces, adding “a few elements of technology to give your side the advantage.”

“You focus on going cheap,” Prince said. “This is the Long War. This is not an invasion of Grenada that’s going to be done in five days. This is a long, drawn-out, long and slow-burning fight, and you have to provision and plan to fight the enemy, to be able to outlastthem. When the Pentagon gets involved, and you start rolling blocks of 10,000 people in, it comes at an enormous cost. That’s why we’re still spending $44 billion a year in Afghanistan, and right now the Taliban controls more land in Afghanistan then they did on 9/11, 15 years ago.”

“To go at this the same way it’s been done is the definition of insanity, because we keep going around and around in circles,” he said of Hillary Clinton’s counter-terrorist agenda. “Again, the most effective time the U.S. had against terrorism was about the first year, post-9/11, and the more the Pentagon got involved, and the more battalions of lawyers and bureaucrats got involved, everything slowed down, and all progress stopped.”

In response to a caller who had military experience in Iraq, Prince talked about the restrictive rules of engagement and burdensome force-protection policies imposed on U.S. troops, pronouncing them too cumbersome for dealing with a vicious irregular enemy.

He cited legendary military theorist Carl von Clausewitz’s idea that military courage comes in two forms: the individual courage of the soldier, which the U.S. has a “surplus” of, thanks to our “fantastic soldiers, NCOs, and junior officers.”

“The other kind of courage it takes are senior leaders that are willing to commit their people to action, with an uncertain outcome,” he said. “I think that’s what we’ve suffered from. We’ve built up this massive barrier mentality when we’re trying to engage with the enemy, and it prevents effective action.”

For example, he said that “if you’re fighting in Afghanistan, you have to call a U.S. lawyer sitting in an air-conditioned office in Qatar, at some U.S. Air Force base, to get permission to drop a bomb.”

“That’s wrong. That is a non-serious way to fight a war,” he declared.

“To me, that’s disqualifying for Hillary, because that’s what she would default to,” Prince said. “I think Mr. Trump is willing to take a different direction. He’s listening to some different voices on this, and who knows what that would look like, but I have way more confidence in Mr. Trump doing the right thing than Hillary.”

LISTEN:

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Also see:

Report: US Spends One Trillion Dollars, Gets Terrorist Safe Haven In Return

August-28-AFG-Partial-Threat-Assessment_4-1Daily Caller, by Saagar Enjeti, Aug. 29, 2016:

After spending a trillion dollars and deploying hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, Jihadi groups are likely to find safe haven in Afghanistan, a new report from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) warns.

The entire purpose of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, was to topple the Taliban government and destroy the safe havens al-Qaida used to attack the U.S. on 9/11. Since President Barack Obama ended the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, the Taliban have made historic battlefield gains throughout the country. The U.S. backed Afghan government has shown itself rife with corruption, and faces a pending political leadership crisis in September.

Noting these facts, ISW warns, “If Afghanistan remains on this course, global extremist organizations will reconstitute their sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s ungoverned spaces and pose enduring threats to U.S. national security.”

Taliban affiliated terrorists from the Haqqani Network seized Saturday a town on the Pakistani border. A local Afghan official told The New York Times the Haqqani Network had hundreds of fighters, and managed to seize dozens of vehicles and weapons. The vehicles and weapons are almost certainly provided or paid for by the U.S. government.

The Haqqani Network is responsible for a large share of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan, and provides the infrastructure for massive suicide attacks throughout the country. The group maintains a tacit alliance with al-Qaida, and has deep roots in the tribal territories in Pakistan.

The U.S. also dispatched 100 soldiers to the capital city of Helmand province on Tuesday. Helmand province is important strategic territory for the Taliban, and reports indicate they now control almost every major city in the province except for the capital. The Afghan defense forces have proven inept at battling back the Taliban in Helmand, despite dedicating almost their entire military arsenal to the effort.

The Taliban has also surrounded the major city of Kunduz, which it briefly seized in September 2015. Kunduz’s seizure in 2015, marked the first time the Taliban controlled a major city since 2001. ISW notes that the Taliban controls 98% of four key districts that surround Kunduz, which it used to launch its first offensive on the city a year ago.

Al-Qaida has capitalized on Taliban gains throughout Afghanistan, by reestablishing major training camps for the first time since before 9/11. In October 2015, the U.S. launched an operation against a massive al-Qaida training camp in Kandahar province on the Pakistani border. The commanding U.S> general at the time called it “probably the largest” al-Qaida camp the U.S. had seen in its 14 year tenure in Afghanistan.

al-Qaida’s affiliates, and leaders remain committed to launching major operations against U.S. allies and the U.S. homeland.

Follow Saagar Enjeti on Twitter

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American University Attacked in Kabul Carnage

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Afghanistan descends further into chaos as Islamists gain ground.

Front Page Magazine, by Ari Liebeman, August 26, 2016:

An attack on the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul on Wednesday has claimed the lives of at least 13. Another 36 were wounded in the carnage which began with a massive explosion at the entrance to the university. Gunmen then stormed the building and began shooting indiscriminately. Some students sustained fractured legs and other injuries when they jumped out of windows in a desperate bid to escape the terrorists. Fortunately, no Americans were killed.

Two terrorists were shot dead by U.S.-backed, Afghan security forces. A third terrorist was killed when he set off the bomb that signaled the start of the attack.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack though it is almost certainly the work of ISIS or the Taliban. Though the two groups despise each another and have on occasion clashed, they maintain a shared, visceral hatred of the West and routinely target foreigners and symbols of foreign presence.

The university made for a tempting target and has come under attack before. On August 7, just days after the Obama administration paid the Islamic Republic of Iran a $400 million ransom for the release of four American hostages, two university professors, one of whom was American (the other was an Australian national) werekidnapped by unknown assailants in military uniforms. It is not known whether the kidnappers were influenced by the ransom payment and the whereabouts of the abducted faculty members are unknown.

Afghanistan has a history of repelling foreign invaders but is essentially a failed state beset by a pandemic of violence and tribalism. It hosts a plethora of ethnic groups who share little in common except for Islam and distrust of foreigners.

In mid-July, twin suicide blasts in Kabul killed at least 80 people and injured 260. Those targeted were Afghan Hazaras, Persian-speaking people who are followers of the Shia brand of Islam; the rest of the nation practices Sunni Islam. ISIS claimed responsibility for the gruesome attack.

Afghanistan represents a foreign policy failure for Obama amid a string of foreign policy failures. After eight years, the U.S. has lost, rather than gained influence in that country. By conservative estimates, the Taliban fully or partially control at least 20 percent of the country. Some estimate that their area of control could be as high as 50 percent.

Pakistan and Iran are attempting to exert influence there as well. The former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, admitted to receiving bags of cash from the Iranians. There is absolutely no doubt that the practice continues today. Moreover, Iranian spies in the country are fomenting additional mischief, including providing support for the Taliban. In addition, Iran has recruited Afghan mercenaries to fight its proxy wars in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. They are largely drawn from the Persian-speaking Hazaras, who share a kinship with their Shia brethren in Iran.

The U.S. currently maintains a military force of fewer than 10,000 in Afghanistan. Whatever influence the U.S. does have in Afghanistan is maintained by its armed presence. Should those forces be withdrawn, the Taliban, Iran and militias loyal to Pakistan would quickly move to fill the void left by the Americans. Afghanistan would then Balkanize and would likely revert to the state that existed before the U.S. intervention in 2001.

Moderates don’t do well in that part of the world as evidenced by the chaos currently reigning in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and to a lesser extent, Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria and Bahrain. Part of the blame rests with the very nature and belief systems of the people who reside there. They are hopelessly mired in a convoluted mix of medievalism, Islamic fundamentalism, conspiracy, tribalism, misogyny and xenophobia. But fault also lies with the Obama administration, which continuously dismissed emerging threats like ISIS, routinely chose to side with the bad guys, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, engaged in policies of appeasement with Iran, failed to follow through with promised action when red lines were crossed in Syria and betrayed long-time, democratic allies like Israel.

Obama has continuously misjudged, mismanaged and mischaracterized threats against the United States and its allies. The chaos prevalent in Afghanistan and in the rest of the Muslim Mideast could have been militated had Obama pursued more responsible and robust policies that recognized allies as allies and enemies as enemies. Sadly, the opposite has occurred.

Also see:

The Problem Isn’t Nation-Building. It’s Islam-Building

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Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, Aug. 19, 2016:

Nation-building has become a very controversial term. And with good reason. Our conviction that we can reconstruct any society into another America is unrealistic. It ignores our own exceptionalism and overlooks the cultural causes of many conflicts. It assumes that a change of government and open elections can transform a tribal Islamic society into America. They can’t and won’t.

But it’s also important to recognize that what we have been doing isn’t nation-building, but Islam-building.

Nation-building in Germany and Japan meant identifying a totalitarian ideology, isolating its proponents from political power and recreating a formerly totalitarian state as an open society. That is the opposite of what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq, never mind Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and all the rest.

We did temporarily pursue de-Baathification in Iraq. But the Baathists were just Saddam’s cult of personality. Saddam was a problem in Iraq. But he wasn’t the problem in Iraq. His rule was a symptom of the real problem which was the divide between Sunnis and Shiites. The real problem was Islam.

Because we failed to recognize that, de-Baathification failed. The Baathists just folded themselves into ISIS. The Sunni-Shiite war went on even without Saddam. Today Sunnis and Shiites are still killing each other in Iraq much as they had for a long time. We have boiled this war down to ISIS, but ISIS, like Saddam is just another symptom of the political violence and divisiveness inherent in Islam.

Instead of secularizing Iraq, our efforts at democracy only heightened divisions along religious lines. The “Lebanon” model for Iraq with power sharing arrangements between Sunnis and Shiites was doomed.

Iraq’s first election was dominated by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. If that name rings a bell, it should. It came out of Iran. You know, the original Islamic Revolution. The “free” election had given a boost to an Islamic terror group whose goal was the creation of an Islamic State in Iraq.

The bloodiest days of the Iraq War actually came when two sets of Islamic terror groups fighting to create an Islamic State began killing each other… and us. We know one of those groups today as ISIS. The other group is the Iraqi government. And a decade later, they’re still killing each other.

Instead of nation-building in Iraq, we practiced Islam-building. Iraq’s constitution made Islam the official religion and the fundamental source of legislation. Its first real law was that, “No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.” The new Iraq we had built was an Islamic State.

We did no better in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan whose constitution declared much the same thing. Its first parliamentary elections saw victories for the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan and the Islamic Society. As in Iraq and Syria, the distinctions between the bad Islamists and the good Islamists were often fuzzy at best. We had replaced the bad Islamist warlords who raped and murdered their enemies with the good Islamist warlords who raped and murdered their enemies.

Our nation-building had created an Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and an Islamic State in Iraq. It was no wonder that the fighting never stopped.

Matters grew much worse with the Arab Spring when Obama and Hillary’s Islam-building project flipped countries that had been democratic and secular in the loosest sense into the tar pit of political Islam.

Coptic Christians were massacred and churches were burned in Egypt. The Christian communities in Iraq and Syria were threatened with annihilation.  The Jewish community in Yemen may be close to disappearing entirely. The Yazidis were raped and murdered on a genocidal scale by the Islamic State.

But in many cases they were just collateral damage from fighting between Sunni and Shiite Islamists, and among Sunni Islamists battling each other for dominance.

The ugliest part of Islam-building was that the resulting conflicts between Islamists and secularists in Egypt and Tunisia highlighted starkly just how wrong our policy was. Instead of backing secular and democratic forces, Obama had thrown in with Islamists. And even after the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown in Egypt, his administration continued advocating on behalf of its Islamic reign of terror.

If we had practiced actual nation-building, then we would have identified Islamic tribalism as the central corrosive force in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Islamic political movements as the totalitarian threat in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Our efforts would have been directed at isolating them and keeping them out of power while working to democratize and secularize these countries on the old Turkish model. It might not have worked, but at least it would have been nation-building, not Islam-building.

Nation-building might very well have failed. America doesn’t have infinite resources and the lives of our soldiers are precious. Assuming that we can upend radically different societies is excessively optimistic.

But we didn’t even try.

What we have been doing in this century isn’t nation building. Instead we’ve been empowering our enemies. We’ve been sticking our hands into Islamist snake pits and playing, “Find the Muslim moderate” and refusing to learn any better no matter how many times we get bitten.

We have been perfectly happy to help the Islamic terrorists that our soldiers were shooting at last week so long as their leader signed some sort of accord paying lip service to equality yesterday. We didn’t just get into bed with the Muslim Brotherhood, but with former affiliates of Al Qaeda and current proxies of Iran. We allied with the Sunni and Shiite Islamist murderers of American soldiers in Iraq.

And all we got for it was more violence, chaos and death.

Even without Islam, ethnic and tribal divisions would have made nation-building into a difficult challenge. But Islam-building didn’t just leave wrecked societies, but terror threats. Tensions between Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds wouldn’t have led to massacres in Paris and Nice. Only Islam could do that.

Islam takes local conflicts and makes them global. That’s why disputes over the authority of the House of Saud led to the mass murder of thousands of people in New York or why Arab attacks on Israel became a burning international issue. Or why Sunni and Shiite feuds in Iraq and Syria led to a massacre of attendees at a rock concert in Paris.

That is also why the combination of Islam and politics in any form is an existential threat to us.

Not only should we not be subsidizing it in any way, shape or form, but we should be doing our best to stamp it out. If we must have any form of nation-building, it should be the building of secular nations in which Islam is isolated and detached from any political involvement.

We have two options for preventing the spread of Islamic political violence into our countries. The first is a ban on Muslim immigration. The second is a ban on Muslim politics. The former has been dubbed isolationism and the latter nation-building. Neither term is truly accurate, but they capture the essence of the choice.

We however have chosen a choice that is far worse than either. We have opened our doors to Muslim migration while opening Muslim countries to further Islamic political involvement. We have Islamized terror states and ourselves. Is it any wonder that we suffer from a severe Islamic terror threat?

Open borders for Islamic terror and Islam-building have led to our current state of national insecurity. We have made the world more dangerous by backing Islamic politics and we have made our countries more dangerous by welcoming in Muslim migrants to be indoctrinated into terror by Islamist organizations. The more we build up Islam, the more we destroy ourselves.

Also see:

Islamic State, Taliban form alliance in Afghanistan to focus on US-backed forces

694940094001_5073706091001_0abb71c1-8898-4331-ad29-f0b5799abc87Fox News, Aug. 9, 2016:

Islamic State and the Taliban, after more than a year of fierce combat, have forged a patchwork cease-fire across much of eastern Afghanistan that has helped both insurgencies regroup and counter U.S.-backed efforts to dislodge them.

Until several months ago, Islamic State fought bloody battles with local Taliban units over fighters and territory in several provinces. The long-running Taliban insurgency has sought to stamp out its smaller rival, which only emerged in 2014. Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces took advantage of the conflict, engaging the militants on multiple fronts to push them back and reclaim territory they held.

But recently, Afghan officials say, the two insurgencies have worked out local deals to stop fighting each other and turn their sights on the government. The upshot is that Islamic State has been able to focus on fighting U.S.- backed Afghan forces in Nangarhar province and shift north into Kunar province, establishing a new foothold in a longtime Taliban and former al Qaeda stronghold.

“They fought deadly battles with the Taliban before. But over the past two months, there has been no fighting among them,” said Gen. Mohammad Zaman Waziri, who commands Afghan troops in the east.

Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan is still nascent. Even in its stronghold Nangarhar, Afghan officials estimate the group remains several times smaller than the Taliban. And the cease-fire between them could break apart at any time.

But Islamic State has exploited the relative peace with its rival to extend the reach of its deadly attacks. In July, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed more than 80 people, one of the worst attacks in the capital since 2001.

Islamic State’s alliance with the Taliban comes as the U.S. steps up efforts to combat it. A joint Afghan-U. S. operation against Islamic State in February was hailed as a success until it became clear the militants had regrouped and were regaining lost ground.

In recent weeks, the U.S. military has pulled more troops into Afghanistan for a new joint offensive with Afghan forces involving heavy airstrikes and operations targeting commanders. The U.S.-Afghan operation in the east has cleared Islamic State strongholds in several districts in Nangarhar province, driving the militants further into mountainous areas close to the border and north to Kunar and Nuristan provinces.

The top U.S. military commander in the country, Army Gen. John Nicholson, said the cease-fire between the militant groups in Kunar didn’t reflect a broader agreement. “There’s still a conflict even though they may have a local cease-fire in place,” he said. “There’s always been a live-and-let-live dimension to some of the social fabric.”

General Allen’s Service to Al Qaeda’s Paymasters

gaFront Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, Aug. 4, 2016:

After two American soldiers were murdered by an Islamic terrorist in Afghanistan while a crowd of protesters shouted “Death to Americans” and “Death to Infidels”, General Allen visited his men.

“There will be moments like this when you’re searching for the meaning of this loss. There will be moments like this when your emotions are governed by anger and a desire to strike back,” Allen pleaded. “Now is not the time for revenge, now is not the time for vengeance.”

General Allen had already apologized to the killers for the “desecration” of the Koran by American soldiers who had been destroying copies of the hateful document being used by Taliban prisoners to send notes to each other. “I offer my sincere apologies for any offence this may have caused, to the president of Afghanistan, the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and most importantly, to the noble people of Afghanistan,” he had whined.

The “noble people” of Afghanistan were the ones chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Infidels”.

Meanwhile General Allen was telling the American soldiers grieving the loss of their own that the real tragedy was the destruction of the terrorist books. “Now is how we show the Afghan people that as bad as that act was in Bagram, it was unintentional and Americans and ISAF soldiers do not stand for this.”

Then Allen said that he was “proud” to call General Sher Mohammad Karimi “my brother”. Karimi, was the Afghan military strongman who had defended previous attacks on NATO troops and demanded that the American soldiers be put on trial.

“We admit our mistake,” General Allen cringingly continued. “We ask for our forgiveness.”

Then he praised the “Holy Koran”. Six American military personnel faced administrative punishments for doing their duty in order to appease the murderous Islamic mob in all its nobility in Afghanistan.

This was typical of General Allen’s disgraceful tenure. It is also typical of his post-military career which has included a prominent spot at Brookings and a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention. After his enthusiastic endorsement of Hillary and attacks on Trump, Hillary has insisted that anyone who criticizes Allen is not fit to be president because Allen is a “hero and a patriot”.

If there’s anyone who is an expert on heroism and patriotism, it’s Hillary.

Allen’s heroic post-military career brought him to Brookings. The road from the think tank runs to Qatar which donated nearly $15 million to promote its agenda. That agenda took General Allen to its US-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar.

Allen praised the “magnificent institutions” of Qatar. He endorsed the mobilization of the Jihadist terror groups known as Popular Mobilization Forces, some of whom have American blood on their hands and are owned and operated by Iran. Allen insisted that “many PMF fighters are not Shia-hardliners but Iraqis who volunteered last summer, answering Grand Ayatolah Ali Sistanti’s fatwa to defend Iraq.”

Then Allen sank to a new unimaginable low by urging compassion toward ISIS Jihadists from abroad.

“We must strive to be a Coalition of compassionate states,” Allen insisted. “There is no denying that many societies find the idea of rehabilitating foreign fighters objectionable. And indeed, those who have broken the laws of our lands must be held accountable. But long-term detention cannot be the sole means of dealing with returning foreign fighters.”

Then he touted “deradicalization” and “reintegration” programs by Muslim countries for Jihadists.

Allen claimed that seeing the “Muslim faith practiced and lived” in Afghanistan had made him a “better Christian”. But his messaging wasn’t surprising considering his employment and his location.

Qatar was a key international state sponsor of terror.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, had been tipped off by a member of the Qatari royal family. The same Qatari royal family whose shindig Allen had shown up to perform at. Their terrorist media outlet, Al Jazeera, had been Al Qaeda’s media drop outlet of choice.

Qatar is a strong backer of Hamas. It has been accused of funding Al Qaeda. More recently it’s been linked to backing Al Qaeda’s local platform in Syria, the Al Nusra Front. The Taliban opened an office in Qatar. Even an early ISIS leader got his start with patronage from Qatar’s royal family.

A strong backer of the Arab Spring, Qatar exploited the chaos by aggressively smuggling weapons to Jihadists in the region. Two years ago, a bipartisan majority on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and its Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade had called for an investigation of Qatar’s links to terrorist funding.

General Allen’s visit to Qatar was shameful. He was praising and pressing the flesh of the paymasters of Islamic terrorists whose hands were and are covered in American blood. Allen had betrayed the soldiers fighting against Islamic terrorists. He had betrayed his country and his cause. He is a traitor to both.

Allen’s disgusting DNC performance was the climax of a series of betrayals. It is not the worst speech he has ever given. Nor is it the most dishonest or the most despicable.

General Allen has gone from serving his country to serving the enemies of his country. That is the man whose endorsement Hillary Clinton is proudly waving around as if it is a badge of honor instead of a badge of shame.

Allen is neither a hero nor a patriot. He is a man who has sold his soul to the highest bidder. Hillary Clinton has won this latest bid for Allen’s shopworn soul, alongside the tyrants of Qatar who trade in human slaves on a global scale. It is likely worth about as much as Hillary’s own soul. Whatever tattered spiritual scraps are left of it.

The mass deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan under Obama still remains a largely untold story. It is the story of how Obama and his collaborators among the military elite sold out our soldiers and left them to die on the battlefield without allowing them to defend themselves so as not to offend the “noble people” of Afghanistan and their fine religious traditions.

74.5% of American deaths in Afghanistan occurred under Obama. Countless more came home, crippled and scarred. While General Allen hobnobs at parties with Al Qaeda bosses, the men he betrayed come back in body bags.

They are heroes. Allen is a traitor.

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What’s Hillary’s plan to help Special Ops caught in Obama’s Afghan meat grinder? (crickets)

us army special forcesConservative Review, by Daniel Horowitz, July 29, 2016:

A few weeks ago, I sounded the alarm about Obama’s dyslexic policy in Afghanistan in which U.S. Special Operators are being placed into the worst combat zones without the ability to engage in combat and without any understanding of the broader mission. Now it appears that we are again taking casualties in eastern Afghanistan, but don’t count on the mass media to ask questions.

Here is a disturbing update from the NATO Commander in the theater from a press conference yesterday:

[Commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John] Nicholson revealed that American special operations forces have been heavily involved in ground fighting in Nangarhar in recent days, and five commandos have been wounded — three of whom had to be evacuated out of the country for treatment. All are expected to recover.

The revelation that American forces are again engaged in close-quarters combat in America’s longest war comes at a time when President Barack Obama has been slowly walking back his earlier efforts to pull out all American troops by the end of his term in January. [Foreign Policy Magazine]

Remember, as these warriors are placed in the most precarious situations with no strategic mission and in some of the most rugged parts of the world, they have to call a lawyer before even calling in close air support. This dangerous convergence of mitigating factors is getting our soldiers injured and killed for no reason.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is doing its best to cover up the casualties, and most of the media is not interested in covering this during their nightly broadcasts like they did when Republicans were in power. As the Military Times reported last month, with the surge in troops in Iraq that we are not supposed to know about, the Pentagon has worked even harder to block information concerning casualties on the battlefield. They contend that they are concerned about giving our troop locations away to our enemies, but it is quite evident that they don’t want the American people to know that our troops are indeed on a battlefield (as opposed to being “advisors”).

With no oversight from Congress or the media, Obama is continuing to destroy our military. At the same time, the social engineering of the military is in full swing.

It is extremely disappointing that neither presidential candidate mentioned this 800-pound gorilla in the room. We have never been engaged in any war for 15 years, much less one that has netted no positive result. We have nothing to show for our efforts but over 1,800 military deaths, 20,000 wounded, and the Taliban control more territory than ever before – all to establish a sharia-compliant government with a constitution (set up by U.S. officials) which fosters the type of Islamic supremacism we are at war with. Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State when Afghanistan was lost in 2011 and when we sustained the most casualties. She owns this foreign policy, yet she acted like the firefighter just coming on the scene and obfuscated any mention of this disaster.

Last night, Hillary criticized Trump for observing that the state of our military is a disaster. She boldly proclaimed that “our military is a national treasure” and that we have the most powerful military in the world. She is right. Putting our soldiers in a meat grinder with appalling rules of engagement and no favorable outcome is not a way to treat our national treasure and is not a way to project strength. Nor is the social engineering and making our generals draw up logistical plans for transgenderism rather than a national objective and an end to the 15-year war in Afghanistan.

The American people recognize that the status quo in the war on Islamic terror is not working and nowhere is this more evident than in Afghanistan.

Islamic State claims suicide bombings at Kabul protest

Screen-Shot-2016-07-23-at-9.41.26-AM-1024x302

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, July 23, 2016:

The Islamic State claimed credit for a double suicide attack today in Kabul that killed more than 60 people, wounded at least 200 more and caused much of the city to be shut down.

The Islamic State’s suicide bombers detonated their explosives as Afghan Hazara, an ethnic Shia minority, gathered to protest in the capital. The Hazara were demonstrating to influence the government to allow an electric power line project to pass through Bamayan province.

The Islamic State claimed credit for the deadly Kabul bombings on its semi-official Amaq News Agency. According to Amaq, two “fighters of the Islamic State” executed the attack on the protesters.

The Taliban, via one of its official spokesmen, Zabihullah Mujahid, quickly denied any involvement for the Kabul bombings.

“The Mujaheedin [Taliban] does not have anything to do with today’s attack in Kabul,” Mujahid said on his Twitter account immediately after the bombings. He claimed the “enemies of Afghanistan” were responsible, likely a reference to the Islamic State. The Taliban and the Islamic State have been at odds since the latter group established its “Khorasan province” in 2014. The group is comprised of disaffected commanders from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.

While the Islamic State has experienced difficulty establishing a significant presence in Afghanistan – and has lost ground in areas such as Helmand, Zabul, and Farah – it still has a foothold in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where it fights both the Taliban and Afghan forces. The Islamic State likely is using this position of strength in Nangarhar to launch attacks into the capital. Additionally, the group may be leveraging legacy networks from the greatly weakened Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a portion of which defected to the Islamic State.

The Islamic State has not shied away from directly targeting Hazaras. In February 2015, it kidnapped 30 Hazara men in Zabul. Later that year, seven Hazara, including children, were beheaded by the Islamic State.

The rise of the Islamic State as well as the resurgence of the Taliban has led to the rise of militias in the Afghan north. Hazara make up a component of the “Marg,” or Death Militia in northern Afghanistan. [See LWJ report, Afghan ‘Death’ militia emerges, vows to fight Islamic State, Taliban.]

While the Islamic State has used its suicide bombers in the capital to hit soft targets such as political demonstrations, the Taliban has targeted Afghan security personnel and foreign workers. The Taliban’s last major attack in Kabul, on June 30, targeted a convoy of police cadets and killed more than two dozen police and first responders. On June 20, a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying individuals who worked at the Canadian embassy, and killed 23 people, including 14 Nepali security guards. A suicide assault team also struck a security headquarters in the heart of the city on April 19, killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 300.

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

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Also see:

Pakistan: Friend or Foe in the Fight Against Terrorism?

The black-and-white banner of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, is prevalent at an anti-US rally in Lahore in December 2011. AP photo.

The black-and-white banner of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, is prevalent at an anti-US rally in Lahore in December 2011. AP photo.

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, July 12, 2016:

Editor’s note: Below is Bill Roggio’s testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. A PDF of the testimony, with footnotes, can be downloaded here.

Chairman Poe and Chairman Salmon, Ranking Members Keating and Sherman, and other members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me here today to speak about Pakistan and its support for terrorist groups that threaten the security of the United States and its allies.

This Committee rightly asks the question of whether Pakistan is a friend or foe in the fight against terrorism. While Pakistani officials and forces have assisted the U.S. in hunting senior al Qaeda figures at times, Pakistan’s overall strategy is pro-jihadist and therefore puts it in the foe category. Pakistan does battle some terrorist groups within its borders, but it only does so because these groups pose a direct threat to the state.

Pakistan myopically supports a host of terrorist groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India to further its goals in the region. Pakistan backs these groups despite the fact that they are allied with and aid the very terrorist groups that fight the Pakistani state. In addition, many of the jihadist groups sponsored by Pakistan are allied with al Qaeda.

Today I will highlight six major groups directly supported or tolerated by Pakistan’s establishment: the Afghan Taliban and its subgroup, the Haqqani Network; the Mullah Nazir Group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Each of these groups is used by Pakistan as an instrument of its foreign policy. These six groups are by no means the only terrorist organizations supported by Pakistan, they are merely the most prominent.

Pakistan uses these six groups and others as a counterweight against what its policy makers perceive to be Pakistan’s greatest threat: India. However, the jihadist ideology has also spread throughout Pakistan as a result of policies adopted by the country’s military elite. Therefore, we should not underestimate the degree to which these groups are supported for ideological reasons.

Pakistan, a country of 182 million people, does not possess the manpower to counter India, a nation of 1.25 billion. Pakistan and India have been in a virtual state of war since Partition in 1947. The two countries have fought four active wars in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999. Each of these wars was initiated by Pakistan, and ended in defeats. Pakistani strategists have determined that to counter India, it must use unconventional means, including supporting jihadist groups.

Strategic Depth

To compensate for its inability to achieve victory on conventional battlefields against India, Pakistan implemented its own version of “strategic depth” in Afghanistan. Pakistan has supported groups in Afghanistan in order to deny India influence in its backyard, as well as to allow the nation to serve as a fallback in case of an Indian invasion.

Pakistan capitalized on the chaos in Afghanistan post-Soviet withdrawal and hunted for a group that would serve its purposes. With the rise of Mullah Omar’s Taliban faction in the early 1990s, Pakistan military and intelligence officers assigned to implement strategic depth saw the perfect partner: a powerful jihadist political movement that was gaining popularity throughout the country and was capable of sustaining military advances. Pakistan provided military and financial support to Omar’s faction, which successfully established the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban in 1996 and controlled upwards of 90 percent of the country until the US invasion in 2001.

In addition to securing a friendly government in Afghanistan, Pakistan used the country as both a training and a recruiting ground for a host of jihadist groups that fight in India-occupied Kashmir.

Good vs Bad Taliban

In order to justify its policy of support to jihadist groups, Pakistani elites have attempted to distinguish between what are referred to as “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban.” Simply stated, the so-called “good Taliban” are groups that advance Pakistan’s foreign policy goals and do not threaten the state or wage war within its borders. “Good Taliban” and other groups deemed acceptable by the Pakistani establishment include the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, the Mullah Nazir Group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. These groups conduct numerous heinous acts of terrorism in the region, and are directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and civilians, and yet are supported by the Pakistani state.

“Bad Taliban” are any jihadist faction that challenges the primacy of the Pakistani state. These groups include the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and the weakened Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The Pakistani military has pursued these groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province with some success. However, when targeting these groups, the military has avoided pursuing groups such as the Haqqani Network, which provided shelter and support for the “bad Taliban.”

Pakistani officials have denied that it pursues a policy of strategic depth and differentiates between “good and bad Taliban”, or alternatively, have claimed it will no longer differentiate between the two. However, these claims are false. This is demonstrated in Pakistan’s continuing support for the aforementioned groups and others, as well as an unwillingness to round up leaders and key operatives of these groups.

Read more

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JOINT SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING: PAKISTAN: FRIEND OR FOE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM?

Osama bin Laden’s son says al Qaeda has grown despite 15 years of war

Screen-Shot-2016-07-09-at-2.25.44-PMLong War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, July 10, 2016:

In a newly released audio message, Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza says that the number of “mujahideen” around the globe has grown despite a decade and a half of war. Hamza also threatens revenge for the death of his father, claiming that America has not yet witnessed al Qaeda’s retaliation.

Hamza’s speech was released yesterday by al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab. It is the latest speech by Osama’s heir, who was given a starring role in al Qaeda’s productions last August.

The SITE Intelligence Group translated the 21 minute, 40 second audio, which is accompanied by images of various jihadists.

The message is titled, “We Are All Osama.” The same phrase was chanted during the al Qaeda-inspired protests at American diplomatic establishments in Cairo, Tunis, Sanaa, and elsewhere in September 2012. The cover of the tenth issue of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine focused on this theme, celebrating the US Embassy protests and assaults. Footage from these rallies was also included in Hamza’s first official al Qaeda message last year.

At the beginning of the 9/11 wars, Hamza says, the “mujahideen were besieged in Afghanistan.” But today the “mujahideen are in Afghanistan and they have reached Sham [Syria], Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, Somalia, the Indian Subcontinent, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, and Central Africa.” With the possible exception of Iraq, al Qaeda’s official branches and affiliated groups have a presence in each of the areas listed by Hamza.

“The followers of the thought of Sheikh Osama, may Allah have mercy on him, which is represented by targeting the head of global disbelief that supports the Jews, have increased in number within a decade and a half, and became double in number,” Hamza claims, according to SITE’s translation. Osama bin Laden’s “followers today number in the hundreds of thousands, and his loved ones and supporters number in the millions, and that is due to the grace of Allah the Almighty.”

Hamza says he discussed the US drone campaign in northern Pakistan with Abu Yahya al Libi, a senior al Qaeda official who was killed in an airstrike in June 2012. The increase in the “Crusader American drone strikes” in Waziristan resulted in “convoys of martyrs departing one by one, and the killing of the sheikhs of jihad became rampant,” Hamza laments. But Libi reassured Hamza that this was the path al Qaeda had chosen, with its leaders sacrificing themselves so that their “nation” (meaning the ummah, or worldwide community of Muslims) may live.

Hamza describes his father as the “Reviver Imam.” Al Qaeda regularly uses this honorific and its variants, including the “Reviving Sheikh,” to describe Osama bin Laden. The title is intended to mean that bin Laden helped reinvigorate the idea of jihad within Muslim-majority countries.

“It was possible for the Reviver Imam, may Allah have mercy on him, to live a comfortable life, enjoying his fortune and wealth that reached millions of dollars,” Hamza says of his father, according to SITE. “But he and his companions preferred to have what is available within Allah in the hereafter. They preferred to defend the religion and support the vulnerable, especially our people in Palestine.”

Al Qaeda often tries to tie its agenda to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but in realty the group has devoted only a small part of its resources to the Palestinian cause.

Hamza directly threatens retaliation against the US for the May 2011 raid on his father’s compound in Pakistan. “If you think that your sinful crime that you committed in Abbottabad has passed without punishment, then you thought wrong,” Hamza claims. “What is correct is coming to you, and its punishment is severe.” He then qualifies his threat, saying “it is not revenge for Osama the person,” but “revenge for those who defended Islam and its sanctities and honor” and “for whoever revived jihad in the cause of Allah.”

Osama’s son taunts President Obama and his administration, claiming that Obama’s “arrival was accompanied with a huge media campaign, but it was hollow, containing many lies.” Obama “declared that he will end the wars, and that his era is an era of peace, and that he will close the open files that his predecessor left for him,” meaning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other issues. But Obama “is now leaving the White House and also leaving open files for his successor,” Hamza says, because he was “incapable” of solving them and “because the force of the mujahideen stands before him.”

Images of various jihadists are shown throughout Hamza’s speech. Many of them are portrayed as “martyrs,” such as Abdullah Azzam (widely considered the godfather of modern jihadism), Abu Khalid al Suri (a veteran al Qaeda operative who doubled as a senior official in Ahrar al Sham until his death in 2014), Mullah Omar, and others. The photo of Abu Khalid al Suri can be seen in the upper right hand corner of the screen shot at the beginning of this article.

Screen-Shot-2016-07-09-at-2.18.27-PM-768x843But some of the images are of jihadists who are presumably alive. One of them is Fayez al Kandari, whose picture is sandwiched between two photos of Osama bin Laden. A screen shot of Kandari’s image, as included in al Qaeda’s video, can be seen on the right.

Kandari is an ex-Guantanamo detainee who was held at the American detention facility in Cuba until January 2016, when he was transferred to his home country of Kuwait. [See LWJreport, ‘High risk’ Guantanamo detainee transferred to Kuwait.]

Another jihadist who is alive and shown in the video is Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (also known as the “Blind Sheikh”), who is imprisoned in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a follow-on plot against New York City landmarks. As Sahab’s production begins with an old clip of Rahman reciting a verse from the Quran. Al Qaeda regularly agitates for Rahman’s release, as he was one of Osama bin Laden’s earliest and most influential ideological backers.

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

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State notes ‘severely degraded’ al Qaeda operated large training camp in Afghanistan

Qaeda-training-camp-e1444748558794Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, June 6, 2016:

The US government continues to underestimate al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US Department of State noted that a “severely degraded” al Qaeda was able to operate “a large training camp” inside Afghanistan, one of three that were known to be in operation inside the terrorist hotbed over the past year.

State noted the al Qaeda camp and and a secondary facility, plus the raid to destroy them in Country Reports on Terrorism 2015, which was released last week.

“While al Qaeda (AQ) has been severely degraded in the region, its regional affiliate, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), continued to operate in Afghanistan,” State reported. “Notably, AQIS members were active at a large training camp in a remote area of Kandahar Province. On October 11, U.S. and Afghan forces conducted a coordinated joint operation that successfully destroyed the AQIS training camp and a related facility, and killed dozens of AQ-linked trainees.”

The camps that State referred to were located in the Shorabak district in Kandahar. In October 2015, a large US military strike force took four days to clear two al Qaeda camps in Shorabak. One camp covered over 30 square miles, and included large caches of weapons, ammunition, and other supplies. An al Qaeda media cell was also based there. [See LWJ reports, US military strikes large al Qaeda training camps in southern Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda’s Kandahar training camp ‘probably the largest’ in Afghan War.]

After the Shorabak raid, General John Campbell, then the commander of Resolute Support, noted that US military and intelligence officials were surprised that the camp even existed.

“It’s a place where you would probably think you wouldn’t have AQ [al Qaeda]. I would agree with that,” Campbell said, according to The Washington Post. “This was really AQIS [al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent], and probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war.”

Al Qaeda has not been “severely degraded in the region”

State’s insistence that al Qaeda has been “severely degraded in the region” is at odds with recent evidence from Afghanistan and Pakistan. For more than six years, The Long War Journal has warned that official estimates of al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan are inaccurate. The jihadist group remains a significant threat to this day and bonds between al Qaeda and the Taliban remain strong.

The US military has targeted at least three known al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in the past year. Evidence used to target the Shorabak camp was obtained during a raid on another al Qaeda camp in Paktika province in July 2015. Abu Khalil al Sudani, one of al Qaeda’s most senior figures, is thought to have been killed during that raid. Al Qaeda clearly assessed the situation in Paktika as being safe enough to place one of their top leaders there.

The US raided another al Qaeda facility in Afghanistan this year. On May 9, US special operations forces rescued Ali Haider Gilani, the son of Pakistan’s former prime minister, during a raid against an al Qaeda safe house in Paktika province. Gilani was held by al Qaeda for more than three years.

Additionally, Resolute Support, NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, was forced to admit that previous long-held estimates on al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan, were wrong. Since 2010, US officials have claimed that al Qaeda has been “decimated” in Afghanistan and has maintained a consistent minimal presence of 50 to 100 operatives. In April, Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, the top spokesman for Resolute Support, told The Washington Post that al Qaeda has forged close ties to the Taliban and is resurgent in the country.

Additionally, Buchanan told CNN that al Qaeda may have upwards of 300 operatives in the country, “but that number does include other facilitators and sympathizers in their network.” [See LWJ report, US military admits al Qaeda is stronger in Afghanistan than previously estimated.]

Buchanan said the military was forced to revise the estimate upward after the Shorabak raid, where more that 150 al Qaeda were at a single location.

“If you go back to last year, there were a lot of intel estimates that said within Afghanistan al Qaeda probably has 50 to 100 members, but in this one camp we found more than 150,” Buchanan told CNN.

In addition to al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, the group has a significant base in Pakistan, and not just the tribal areas where the group is always assumed to operate. Last week, The Washington Post published a disturbing report on al Qaeda’s growing presence in Karachi, Pakistan. Hundreds if not thousands of al Qaeda operatives and recruits are thought to be operating in that Pakistani city.

al qaeda in pak

“Counterterrorism officials in Karachi have a list of several hundred active al Qaeda members, which makes them assume there are at least a few thousand on the streets,” the Post reported. “In Karachi, AQIS has divided itself into three operational segments — recruitment, financial and tactical — made up of four-to-six-person cells. The recruitment cells work in madrassas and schools, casually preaching Islam before targeting certain students for potential recruitment, officials said.”

Al Qaeda is executing its strategy of incorporating elements from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Harakat-ul-Muhajideen, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Brigade 313, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Indian Mujahideen, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Turkistan Islamic Party, Junood al Fida, and other groups based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. This vision was outlined by Ayman al Zawahiri in September 2014, after he announced the formation of AQIS. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent incorporates regional jihadist groups.]

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

Secret Cables Link Pakistan Intel Org to Deadly Attack on CIA

Jennifer Ehle plays Jennifer Lynne Matthew in the film Zero Dark Thirty about the killing of Osama Bin Laden, head of Al Qaeda.Matthews, a mother of three was described as “one of the CIA’s top experts on al-Qaeda.” She was head of Camp Chapman and killed in the attack on the base.

Jennifer Ehle plays Jennifer Lynne Matthew in the film Zero Dark Thirty about the killing of Osama Bin Laden, head of Al Qaeda.Matthews, a mother of three was described as “one of the CIA’s top experts on al-Qaeda.” She was head of Camp Chapman and killed in the attack on the base.

Clarion Project, April 17, 2016:

Pakistan’s intelligence agency paid a Taliban-affiliated terror group in Afghanistan to perpetrate one of the deadliest attacks on the CIA in the agency’s history, according to inferences made in recently-declassified U.S. government cables and documents.

On December 30, 2009, a Jordanian suicide bomber blew himself up in Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, located near the border with Pakistan, killing seven CIA employees. The bomber, a Jordanian doctor and double agent, tricked the Americans, telling them he would lead them to Ayman al-Zawahri, now head of al-Qaeda and, at the time, second in command.

A document dated January 11, 2010 , issued less than two weeks after the bombing, reports how the head of the Haqqani network, a Taliban-allied organization designed as terrorist by the U.S., met twice with senior officials of Pakistan’s intelligence agency (the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI) the month of the bombing.

During the first meeting, funding for “operations in Khowst [Khost] province” were discussed. “Funds were later provided to tribal elders in Khowst province for their support of the Haqqani network,” according to the cable.

At the second meeting, ISI officials gave “direction to the Haqqanis to expedite attack preparations and lethality in Afghanistan.”

Although heavily redacted, a cable issued the following month specified the head of the Haqqani network as well as another individual were given $200,000 “to enable the attack on Chapman.” The cable specifically mentions a number of individuals involved in the operation, including an Afghan border commander who was given money “to enable a suicide mission by an unnamed Jordanian national.”

The Jordanian mentioned is assumed to be the suicide bomber, Humam al-Balawi, whom the CIA had cultivated as an al-Qaeda informant. Codenamed “Wolf,” al-Balawi turned out to be a double agent, perpetrating the deadliest attack against the CIA in the 15-year history of the war in Afghanistan.

Although each document states, “This is an information report not finally evaluated intelligence,” Admiral  Mike Mullen (former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) terms the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s intelligence agency. The U.S. has long-documented the connection between the ISI and the Haqqani terrorist organization.

The documents were the first public disclosure connecting the attack on Camp Chapman to the Pakistani ISI. They were released in connection with a Freedom of Information Act request. The U.S. had previously blamed al-Qaeda for the attack.