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.

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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

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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.

Taliban kills dozens in suicide assault in Kabul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We Spent Billions Training Afghan Soldiers. Now They’re Defecting To The Taliban.

taliban_fighters_ap

Washington Times, by Joshua Yasmeh, April  12, 2016:

Scores of US-trained Afghan soldiers have deserted their posts and joined the Taliban, according to an exclusive report by CNN Senior International Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.

Understaffed and under resourced, the Afghan military is finding it difficult to retain troops. “Death is not the only reason the Afghan army is losing troops: Desertion is rife within the ranks,” explains Walsh.

As the Taliban makes headway and regains territory in southern Afghanistan, an unstable  government in Kabul continues to lose ground. “The Taliban control or influence as much as 20% of Afghanistan, its highest levels of control since 2001,” notes CNN. Despite abstract assurances by the White House, Afghanistan is falling.

While the Taliban’s aims are grounded in political Islam, many Afghan soldiers are defecting for practical reasons. Walsh reports:

CNN met two deserters in Helmand whose stories show the breadth of the problem, who have taken their skills — months of U.S. taxpayer-funded training — to the Taliban.

“I did 18 months of army training and took an oath to serve this country,” one deserter said. “But the situation changed. The army let us down, so we had to come to the Taliban, who treat us like guests.”

The two men still had their old uniforms, army IDs, and even the bank cards they used to withdraw their official wages.

“I decided to leave the army when my dead and injured comrades lay in our base, and nobody took them to hospital. My army training is very useful now, as I am training Taliban fighters with the same knowledge.”

Here’s Walsh’s full report:

Perhaps it’s cowardice. Or maybe it’s a simple cost-benefit decision based on rational self-interests and the sheer impulse to survive. Without a stable US military presence on the ground, Afghan soldiers have been dropping like flies. 2015 may have been the worst year since the beginning of the US invasion.  Consider this: According to CNN, “U.S. officials estimate that 5,500 Afghan security force members died that year alone, far more than the 3,500 NATO lost in its entire decade long campaign. And 2016 may be much worse.”

“Afghanistan is at an inflection point; 2016 may be “no better and possibly worse than 2015,” stated America’s top commander in the country, Army Gen. John Campbell. “Now, more than ever, the United States should not waver in Afghanistan.” Campbell added: “Afghanistan has not achieved an enduring level of security and stability that justifies a reduction of our support in 2016.”

“Close air support has been the one resource and capability that the Afghans have asked me for every single day,” asserted the US commander. “Those who serve in Afghanistan understand it’s worth the investment.”

The Afghan army needs close US support. In December General Campbell confessed that ISIS had infiltrated Afghanistan posing a major threat to troops and allies on the ground. “There could be 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000 ISIS men who are now trying to consolidate links to their ‘mothership’ in Iraq and Syria,”reports Independent. “ISIS wants to establish its pre-Afghan ‘Khorasan Province’ in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.”

Unfortunately, President Obama and his amateur national security team have made a habit of ignoring our military tacticians. As the region devolved into anarchy and social strife, Obama shifted his Afghanistan policy several times. In October, President Obama announced his plan to leave nearly 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan until early 2017. The plan will maintain the current levels of armed forces until shortly after the end of Obama’s presidency, kicking the can down the road for the next president.

Thanks to President Obama’s politically expedient decision to prematurely label combat operations in Afghanistan over, more Afghans are dying. Soldiers are defecting. And the government in Kabul is losing territory faster than it ever has. Obama’s reckless and abrupt end-all-wars campaign has cost countless lives. Since we are technically not at war, the US military operators have to abide by very narrow rules of engagement.

The rise of ISIS in Afghanistan places President Obama’s schizophrenic (anti)war strategy in stark relief. The latest developments in the war-torn terrorist hotbed directly undermine the administration’s narrative of a stabilized Afghanistan. This president ran as the anti-Bush pacifist, an agent of change that would end all wars. Instead, Obama’s reign as president has wrought nothing but bloodshed in a region mired in geopolitical instability.

Also see:

Sesame Street unveils Afghan puppet to empower girls amid Muslim rape epidemic

Sesame Street introduced a new character: Zari, an Afghan girl, to promote female empowerment in a Muslim nation where women's rights are almost nonexistent. The rollout occurs as a Muslim rape epidemic sweeps across Europe.

Sesame Street introduced a new character: Zari, an Afghan girl, to promote female empowerment in a Muslim nation where women’s rights are almost nonexistent. The rollout occurs as a Muslim rape epidemic sweeps across Europe.

The Examiner, by Samantha Chang, April 8, 2016:

Sesame Street has unveiled a new puppet, an Afghan girl named Zari, to empower girls in an oppressive Muslim nation where women’s rights are almost nonexistent.

Zari, age 6, will be featured in Sesame Street segments about health and exercise as she aspires to become a doctor. The Afghan version of Sesame Street, called “Baghch-e-Simsim” (Sesame Garden), is the most popular children’s TV show in Afghanistan.

Sesame Street executives say they hope Zari will open people’s minds about the importance of encouraging schooling for girls in a country where many women are excluded from education.

“Debuting a confident, inquisitive, and sweet Afghan girl character is a perfect opportunity to engage both boys and girls with lessons supporting girls’ empowerment,” Sesame Street executive VP Sherrie Westin said in a press release.

Zari will wear a hijab (the traditional Muslim headscarf) during some segments, and casual clothes in others. In reality, Zari could be beaten or killed for not wearing a headscarf at all times, so Sesame Street is taking some creative license with this move.

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Robert Spencer comments,

This puppet is apparently intended for the Afghan version of Sesame Street, “Baghch-e-Simsim,” and thus represents yet another naive and well-intentioned but foredoomed effort to improve the situation of women there. The plight of women in Afghanistan stems from Islam, and so isn’t going to be changed by a TV show. And if Zari is introduced on the U.S. version of Sesame Street, she will without any doubt direct her energies to dispelling “Islamophobia.”

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Also see:

Brutal: Former Defense Secretaries Openly Slam ‘Inexperienced’ Obama White House War Micromanagement

5699848b-6d26-40e9-b268-19c52d61e1f9

Town Hall, by Katie Pavlich, Apr 07, 2016:

For years the Obama administration has been accused of micromanaging the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from inside the White House. Now in an astonishing report from Fox News anchor Bret Baier, three former Obama Defense Secretaries are openly slamming him for his distrust of the military, his failure to lead and they’re exposing his inexperienced and closest advisors for second guessing senior field commanders with phone calls to the battlefield.

“President Obama, he’s one of the youngest presidents we’ve ever had. One of the most inexperienced presidents we’ve ever had. He has a staff around him that is very inexperienced. I don’t think there’s one veteran on his senior staff at the White House. I don’t believe there’s one business person. I don’t believe there is one person who’s ever run anything. Other than Vice President Biden, none of them have ever been elected to anything. You must levin the loaf, levin your advisors where you get a lot of experience at difference things where he, the President himself, is so inexperienced,” Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. “I think he’s got to fundamentally understand and I’m not sure he ever did nor people around him, the tremendous responsibility the United States has. Not to be the world’s policemen, but to lead and we’re the only ones who can. The world becomes more dangerous, not less dangerous, when America gets less involved in the world. I don’t mean invading and occupying and imposing, but leading.”

“It was the operational micromanagement that drove me nuts of White House and NSC (National Security Council) staffers calling senior commanders out in the field and asking them questions, second guessing commanders,” Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also served under President Bush, said. “When I I was Deputy National Security Advisor, if I would have tried to, even as deputy, if I had tried to call a field commander, going around Dick Cheney who was Secretary of Defense or Colin Powell who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, I’d have had my head handed to me, probably personally by the President.”

“I told the combatant commanders and the field commanders, ‘If you get calls from the White House staff, if you get a call from the President that’s one thing, that’s totally okay, that’s the chain of command, but you get a call from some White House or National Security Council staffer, you tell them to call me instead and then tell them, oh by the way, go to hell and that’s directly from the Secretary of Defense,” Gates continued.

“I think what I’ve seen in these last four years is almost this cautiousness and over correction which makes it appear that the United States is hesitant to take action and that sends, I think, a message of weakness,” Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

As if inexperienced White House advisors micromanaging the battlefield wasn’t bad enough, late last year we learned from an exclusive in the Daily Beast intelligence reports were being scrubbed to fit the political narrative that terrorism around the world, including ISIS, was shrinking.

More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast has learned.

The complaints spurred the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence. The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.

“The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,” one defense official said.

Two senior analysts at CENTCOM signed a written complaint sent to the Defense Department inspector general in July alleging that the reports, some of which were briefed to President Obama, portrayed the terror groups as weaker than the analysts believe they are. The reports were changed by CENTCOM higher-ups to adhere to the administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.

It should be noted that second guessing field commanders had severe and serious consequences in Afghanistan with 70 percent of U.S. troop casualties there occurring during President Obama’s time in the White House.

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Fox News Insider, 3/31/16

When Barack Obama took office, he inherited a professional, world-class, battle-toughened military. Seven years later, many experts and insiders see the U.S. armed forces as a tattered and demoralized organization.

Bret Baier looks at the hundreds of billions in cuts, the radical social change forced upon the troops and a foreign policy that breaks with decades of tradition and leaves us in a world more dangerous than ever.

The hour-long program includes interviews with Obama’s first three Secretaries of Defense – Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel – as well as numerous people on the ground, who work to keep America’s fighting forces battle ready.

Gates weighed in on Obama’s decision-making on the ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The president ultimately pushed for Mubarak’s immediate removal, despite the military urging caution.

“Literally, the entire national security team recommended unanimously handling Mubarak differently than we did,” Gates said.

During the Libya uprising in 2011, Gates said he had reservations about information on military options going to the White House without his approval.

“You had concerns about that – running military operations out of the White House,” Baier noted.

“Yeah. The experience we had with that in Vietnam didn’t work so well,” Gates responded.

 

‘The target was Christians,’ Pakistani Taliban says of Lahore Easter attack

56f8fde8ad768Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, March 28, 2016:

The spokesman for a faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan said that the group intentionally targeted Christians in a suicide bombing which killed and wounded hundreds of women and children on Easter Sunday.

“The target was Christians,” Ihsanullah Ihsan, the official spokesman of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, said according to a statement obtained by The Long War Journal.

Ihsan also said that Jamaat-ul-Ahrar wanted to “send a message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore.” The group has been operating in Punjab province for nearly two years.

At least 72 people, mostly women and children, were killed and more than 300 were wounded after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance of the Gulshan-i-Iqbal park in the eastern city of Lahore, according to Dawn. Many of the people at the park were said to have been celebrating Easter Sunday.

The brutal Lahore suicide attack took place just one day after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the Afghan Taliban, released a statement entitled “Only Islamic rituals can be celebrated in an Islamic country” on its official website, Voice of Jihad. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has given an oath of allegiance to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has targeted Christians in Lahore in the past. In March 2015, the group claimed responsibility for the bombings at two churches in Lahore. At least 14 people were killed and 70 more were wounded.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar launched at least two other suicide attacks in Punjab. In November 2014, a suicide bomber killed 50 people at the Wagah border crossing with India. And in August 2015, another of the group’s suicide bombers killed Punjab province’s home minister and 16 other people in an attack at his house.

The Pakistani military responded to the Easter Sunday massacre in Lahore by announcing the beginning of a wide security operation in Punjab to root out Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. But, as noted, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has been active in the province and has conducted several high-profile suicide attacks there since November 2014.

A dangerous jihadist group

The leadership of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is known to have ties to multiple jihadist groups operating in the region. Omar Khalid al Khurasani, a top leader of the group, is closely linked to Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s emir, and has called for the imposition of sharia law and the establishment of a global caliphate. Khurasani has also said that a primary goal of the Pakistani Taliban is to obtain nuclear weapons. [See LWJ reports, Taliban commander wants Pakistan’s nukes, global Islamic caliphate, and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar celebrates 9/11 attack.]

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar split from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the summer of 2014 after a leadership dispute emerged in the wake of the killing of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the previous emir of the Pakistani Taliban alliance. But Jamaat-ul-Ahrar rejoined the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in March 2015. Lashkar-e-Islam, a group based in Pakistan’s tribal areas, also joined the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is also known to have integrated key al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leaders into its organization. In May 2014, three jihadist groups – led by Matiur Rehman, Ehsanul Haq, and Muhammad Shamil – merged with the group. Matiur Rehman, who was put in command of all three factions, is a senior al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader. The US Treasury Department described Rehman as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s “chief operational commander” and as “a planning director for al Qaeda” in his 2010 designation.

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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