Syria’s Nusra Front Breaks from Al-Qaeda

AFP

AFP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, July 29, 2016:

The Nusra Front, formally known as Jabhat al-Nusra, has been al-Qaeda’s franchise in Syria since late 2011. The Syrian group’s leader has announced it will now cut its ties with al-Qaeda and become independent, with al-Qaeda’s blessing.

The announcement came from Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani in his first video statement. As the BBC reports, Julani announced that his group would be renamed Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which translates to “Front for the Conquest of Syria/the Levant,” and will have “no affiliation to any external entity.”

The reason for the split, and the reason al-Qaeda endorsed it, was to “remove the pretext used by powers, including the U.S. and Russia, to bomb Syrians.” In other words, Julani thinks his group has been unfairly targeted because it was linked to al-Qaeda, and now that it has been formally rebranded as an independent entity, foreign powers will no longer have an excuse to bomb them.

Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ahmed Hassan Abu al-Khayr said Nusra’s leadership had been instructed to “go ahead with what protects the interests of Islam and Muslims and what protects jihad.”

“The brotherhood of Islam is stronger than any organisational links that change and go away,” declared al-Qaeda’s number one, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The Russians do not need much of a pretext to bomb enemies of the Assad regime, and the U.S. clearly is not buying this “rebranding” strategy.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, not even troubling himself to use the Nusra Front’s new name, said:

The United States continues to assess that Nusra Front leaders maintain the intent to conduct eventual attacks in and against the West and there continues to be increasing concern about Nusra Front’s growing capacity for external operations that could threaten both the United States and Europe.

In fact, a report earlier this year from the Institute for the Study of War, and American Enterprise Institute, portrayed the Nusra Front as “much more dangerous to the U.S. than the ISIS model in the long run.”

“We judge any organization, including this one, much more by its actions, its ideology, its goals,” added State Department spokesman John Kirby. “Thus far, there’s no change to our views about this particular group. We certainly see no reasons to believe that their actions or their objectives are any different. And they are still considered a foreign terrorist organization.”

Perhaps it would have been more crafty for the al-Qaeda bosses to avoid admitting they ordered the “breakaway” as a propaganda ploy to “protect jihad.” Also, they are making the charade much less convincing by actively seeking closer ties with other Islamist groups in Syria.

CNN notes that just two weeks ago, the United States announced closer cooperation with Russia against the Nusra Front to “restore the cessation of hostilities, significantly reduce the violence and help create the space for a genuine and credible political transition” in Syria. Nusra is one of the groups excluded from the cessation of hostilities agreement, along with ISIS.

Of course, it is unlikely that anyone in the Nusra Front or al-Qaeda expected the Western world to accept this “rebranding” effort and let them go on their merry way. The goal is to create propaganda opportunities with other Islamist groups, who can be nudged into the al-Qaeda umbrella by Nusra leaders who are supposedly no longer al-Qaeda operatives, but share their “core ideology.” There will be much caterwauling about how the Americans and Russians are still unfairly bombing “Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.”

CNN quoted analysts who also made an interesting case that the Nusra “rebranding” and the involvement of al-Qaeda second-in-command Masri are an indication Masri – supposedly “under arrest” in Iran, with the details rather murky, until recently – is actually in Syria, and may be preparing to take charge of al-Qaeda from Zawahiri.

This would enable Masri to continue Zawahiri’s strategy of spreading jihadi ideology without explicit connections to al-Qaeda at present, with an eye toward reasserting al-Qaeda as the Wal-Mart of jihad once ISIS has been defeated.

The report by the Institute for the Study of War/AEI, mentioned above, made the case that Nusra was “quietly entwining itself with the Syrian population and Syrian opposition,” and was “waiting in the wings to pick up the mantle of global jihad once ISIS falls,” as ISW president Kim Kagan put it.

This would make Nusra much more difficult to target than ISIS, which is not exactly easy to target, once it sinks roots into urban conquests, lines up human shields, and positions them to keep Syria in a state of war for years to come, no matter what political deals might be struck with other insurgent factions. From that constant turmoil, they could supply al-Qaeda with weapons and trained fighters to strike targets across the world.

Speaking in January, Kagan observed that the Nusra Front chose not to overtly attack the West “because the al-Qaeda leadership’s priority is preserving success in Syria and avoiding being targeted by the U.S.” This “rebranding” maneuver fits neatly into the strategy she described.

Also see:

Al Qaeda in Iran

(Credit: Newscom)

(Credit: Newscom)

Weekly Standard, by Stephan F. Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn, THE MAGAZINE: From the August 1 Issue:

Last week, President Barack Obama’s administration dismissed reports of Iranian support for al Qaeda as the product of fevered minds. Claims of collaboration between the Islamic regime and the terrorist organization are little more than “baseless conspiracy theories,” an Obama administration official told The Weekly Standard. “Anyone who thinks Iran was or is in bed with al Qaeda doesn’t know much about either.”

That group of ignoramuses apparently includes the Obama administration’s top official on terror financing. Adam J. Szubin, the Treasury Department’s acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, this week designated three senior al Qaeda officials operating in Iran. A statement explaining the designations says Treasury “took action to disrupt the operations, fundraising, and support networks that help al-Qaida move money and operatives from South Asia and across the Middle East by imposing sanctions on three al-Qaida senior members located in Iran.”

One of the three operatives is part of a “new generation” of al Qaeda leaders, replenishing the ranks of those who have been killed by the United States and its allies. Treasury identifies that man, Faisal Jassim Mohammed al-Amri al-Khalidi, as the chief of al Qaeda’s Military Commission and a key operative in al Qaeda’s global network, responsible for weapons acquisition and a liaison between al Qaeda leaders and associated groups.

This is not the first time the Obama administration has targeted the Iran-al Qaeda relationship. The Treasury and State Departments publicly accused the Iranian regime of allowing al Qaeda to operate inside Iran at least 10 times between July 2011 and August 2014. Testifying before Congress in February 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the relationship as a “marriage of convenience.”

There is considerably more evidence of Iran’s support for al Qaeda in the collection of documents captured during the raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound on Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011. Senior U.S. intelligence officials have told The Weekly Standard that the document collection includes letters describing the nature of the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda and specific ways in which Iran has aided al Qaeda’s network and operations. The Obama administration has refused to release the documents to the public and fought to keep them hidden during the negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal.

The Weekly Standard contacted the Obama administration official who last week dismissed Iran-al Qaeda cooperation to see if the new designations changed his view that claims of Iranian support for al Qaeda are “baseless conspiracy theories.” He replied: “Al Qaeda has long used Iran as a transit and facilitation point between South Asia and the Middle East, sometimes with the knowledge of some Iranian authorities. At the same time, the Iranian government has imprisoned some al Qaeda operatives, and we believe today’s action provides another opportunity for Iran to take action against al Qaeda.”

Think about that for a moment. The Obama administration accuses Iran of harboring senior al Qaeda operatives and sanctions those operatives in an effort to prevent them from hurting America and its interests. But rather than scold Iran for continuing to provide safe haven to terrorists devoted to killing Americans, the administration spins the move as an “opportunity” for Iran.

An opportunity? Why would the Iranian regime need the U.S. government to provide an “opportunity” to take action against the very terrorists it has been supporting for more than a decade? This is illogical, insulting, and dangerous. But it is consistent with the kind of irresponsible whitewashing of the radical regime that has become a trademark of the Obama administration’s approach to Iran.

The Obama administration provided Iran with billions of dollars through the nuclear deal despite having evidence in its possession that the country was providing safe haven to senior al Qaeda terrorists and despite acknowledging, publicly, that some of those funds would be used for terror. The administration kept secret crucial details of the agreement from Congress, concessions that the Iranians are now citing, convincingly, as evidence that they fleeced the United States and its partners. The administration withheld from the public and from Congress documents from the bin Laden raid that make clear the extent of the support Iran has provided al Qaeda over the years.

And now the Obama administration pretends that another public accusation of Iran’s complicity in al Qaeda’s terror is just an “opportunity” for the terror-sponsoring regime to stop doing what it is committed to doing?

Iran’s support for al Qaeda is not a “baseless conspiracy theory.” It’s a dangerous reality.

US Levies Terror Sanctions Against Iran-based al-Qaeda Leaders

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Tablet Magazine, by Armin Rosen, July 20, 2016:

Three senior al-Qaeda operatives landed on the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Global Terrorists list on July 20, joining the U.S. government’s international who’s-who of terrorist operatives. What’s perplexing is that two of the three al-Qaeda figures aren’t based in the stereotypical al-Qaeda hangouts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Yemen. Instead, they’re hiding out in a country that’s seen its relations with the U.S. and the broader international warm considerably in recent years: Iran.

Abu Bakr Muhammad Muhammad Ghumayn is “a senior al-Qaida leader who has served in several financial, communications, and logistical roles for the group” and who had “assumed control of the financing and organization of al-Qaida members located in Iran” as of 2015, according to a Treasury’s press release. Meanwhile, Yisra Muhammad Ibrahim Bayumi joined al-Qaeda in 2006 and had been based in Iran since 2014. According to the Treasury designation, Bayumi was “involved in freeing al-Qaida members in Iran” and “served as a mediator with Iranian authorities.” He also coordinated al-Qaeda fundraising activities from his Iranian safe-haven, while also providing unspecified other forms of assistance to “al-Qaida members located in Iran.”

Bayumi and al-Qaeda’s other go-betweens with Tehran seem to be pretty effective at the “mediation” aspect of their jobs: In September of 2015, just two months after the announcement of the nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran, the Iranian authorities released several top al-Qaeda figures they had been holding as part of a prisoner swap.

The Treasury designations reinforce some uncomfortable realities about the Iranian regime—which received at least $56 billion in sanctions relief as the result of the July 2015 nuclear deal and is now the U.S.’s partner in implementing a landmark arms control agreement. Regime elements in Terhan clearly see an advantage in sheltering a fairly extensive al-Qaeda operation that includes professional fundraisers and facilitators like Bayumi and Ghumayn.

Never mind that al-Qaeda is a Sunni group whose Syrian affiliate is fighting the Iranian-backed pro-Shi’ite government in Syria, or that Iran’s potential utility in fighting Sunni extremist groups like al-Qaeda is part of the realist argument for the western powers upgrading their relations with Tehran. There’s still an influential faction within the ideologically anti-American and Shi’ite sectarian regime in Iran that simply doesn’t care about all of that: al-Qaeda bogs down the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan, and is committed to permanent war against a common enemy, and have thus been allowed to operate on Iranian soil.

The designations also show just how little of an impact Iran’s supposedly moderate political leadership has had in terms of changing the behavior of the more ideologically committed and anti-American hardline elements of the regime. Fifteen years ago, Iranian agents may have helped facilitate the travel of al-Qaeda operatives involved in the September 11 plot, including somewhere between eight and 10 of the 14 Saudi “muscle” hijackers who carried out the attacks. Later in the 2000s, Iran provided a safe haven to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his associates, who then went on to form the core leadership of al-Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’s predecessor organization. In 2013, the U.S. State Department’s State Sponsors of Terror designation list noted that Iran “remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody,” and had “previously allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.”

Tuesday’s designations suggest that the Iranian regime’s calculations towards al-Qaeda haven’t really changed much—even after last year’s diplomatic breakthrough.

Armin Rosen is a New York-based writer. He has written for The Atlantic, City Journal, and World Affairs Journal, and was recently a senior reporter for Business Insider.

Also see:

Top Intel Official: Al Qaeda Worked on WMD in Iran

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New evidence of the bin Laden-Iran connection.

Weekly Standard, by Stephen F. Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn, July 12, 2016:

Al Qaeda operatives based in Iran worked on chemical and biological weapons, according to a letter written to Osama bin Laden that is described in a new book by a top former U.S. intelligence official.

The letter was captured by a U.S. military sensitive site exploitation team during the raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad headquarters in May 2011. It is described in Field of Fight, out Tuesday from Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Michael Ledeen of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“One letter to bin Laden reveals that al Qaeda was working on chemical and biological weapons in Iran,” Flynn writes.

Flynn’s claim, if true, significantly advances what we know about al Qaeda’s activity in Iran. The book was cleared by the intelligence community’s classification review process. And U.S. intelligence sources familiar with the bin Laden documents tell us the disclosure on al Qaeda’s WMD work is accurate.

Flynn notes that only a small subset of bin Laden’s files have been released to the public. The “Defense Intelligence Agency’s numerous summaries and analyses of the files remain classified,” too, Flynn writes. “But even the public peek gives us considerable insight into the capabilities of this very dangerous global organization.”

It’s not just al Qaeda.

“There’s a lot of information on Iran in the files and computer discs captured at the Pakistan hideout of Osama bin Laden,” Flynn writes in the introduction. The authors note that the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda “has always been strained” and “[s]ometimes bin Laden himself would erupt angrily at the Iranians.” Previously released documents and other evidence show that al Qaeda kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in order to force a hostage exchange and bin Laden was very concerned about the Iranians’ ability to track his family members.

And yet the book makes clear that Flynn believes there is much more to the al Qaeda-Iran relationship than the public has been told. And that’s not an accident. Obama administration “censors have been busy,” Flynn writes, blocking the release of the bin Laden documents to the public and, in some cases, to analysts inside the U.S. intelligence community. “Some of it—a tiny fraction—has been declassified and released, but the bulk of it is still under official seal. Those of us who have read bin Laden’s material know how important it is…”

Not surprisingly, Obama administration officials bristle at Flynn’s characterization of their lack of transparency and lack of urgency on jihadists and their state sponsors. “Mike Flynn, in true Kremlin form, has been peddling these baseless conspiracy theories for years. Anyone who thinks Iran was or is in bed with al Qaeda doesn’t know much about either,” an Obama administration official told THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

It’s an odd line of attack, given the fact that the Obama administration has repeatedly accused Iran of directly aiding al Qaeda. The Treasury and State Departments publicly accused the Iranian regime of allowing al Qaeda to operate inside Iran in: July 2011, December 2011, February 2012,July 2012,October 2012, May 2013, January 2014, February 2014, April 2014, and August 2014. In addition, in congressional testimony in February 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the relationship as a “marriage of convenience.”

Asked about the administration’s own repeated statements pointing to the Iranian regime’s deal with al Qaeda, the administration official who dismissed Flynn’s claim as a “baseless conspiracy” theory declined to comment further.

The Flynn/Ledeen claim about al Qaeda’s WMD work in Iran comes with an interesting wrinkle. The authors preface their disclosure of al Qaeda’s work on “chemical and biological weapons in Iran” by suggesting that the revelation was included in documents already public.

But the only document released to date that seems to touch on the subject is a March 28, 2007, letter to an al Qaeda operative known as “Hafiz Sultan.” The letter, which discussed the possibility of Iran-based al Qaeda operatives using chlorine gas on Kurdish leaders and includes a likely reference to Atiyah ‘Abd-al-Rahman, was released by the administration via the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point in May 2012. President Obama’s Treasury Department has claimed that Rahman was appointed by Osama bin Laden “to serve as al Qaeda’s emissary in Iran, a position which allowed him to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of Iranian officials.” It is not, however, addressed to bin Laden and it does not include a reference to biological weapons.

And while the U.S. Treasury and State Department have repeatedly sanctioned al Qaeda’s operatives inside Iran and offered rewards for information on their activities, as noted, statements from Treasury and the State Department do not mention al Qaeda’s “chemical and biological weapons” work inside Iran.

The takeaway: It does not appear that the al Qaeda document referenced by Flynn has been released by the U.S. government.

Flynn and others who have seen the documents say there are more explosive revelations in the bin Laden files kept from the public. Those already released give us a hint. One document, released in 2015, is a letter presumably written by Osama bin Laden to the “Honorable brother Karim.” The recipient of the October 18, 2007, missive, “Karim,” was likely an al Qaeda veteran known Abu Ayyub al Masri, who led al Qaeda in the Iraq (AQI) at the time.

Bin Laden chastised the AQI leader for threatening to attack Iran. The al Qaeda master offered a number of reasons why this didn’t make sense. “You did not consult with us on that serious issue that affects the general welfare of all of us,” bin Laden wrote. “We expected you would consult with us for these important matters, for as you are aware, Iran is our main artery for funds, personnel, and communication, as well as the matter of hostages.”

That language from bin Laden sounds a lot like the language the Obama administration used in July 2011, when a statement from the U.S. Treasury noted that the network in Iran “serves as the core pipeline through which Al Qaeda moves money, facilitators and operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia.”

David Cohen, who was then a top Treasury official and is now the number two official at the CIA, told us back then: “There is an agreement between the Iranian government and al Qaeda to allow this network to operate. There’s no dispute in the intelligence community on this.”

Why, then, is the Obama administration attempting to dismiss the cooperative relationship between Iran and al Qaeda as a “baseless conspiracy?” Good question.

And it’s one that releasing the rest of the documents could help answer.

Note: Flynn’s co-author Michael Ledeen is a colleague of Thomas Joscelyn at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Once Again, Al-Qaeda Brands Itself as Social Justice Warriors

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PJ Media, by Raymond Ibrahim, July 14, 2016:

After the Orlando massacre, when an armed Muslim murdered 49 people in a gay nightclub, al-Qaeda published a guide urging more such “lone wolf” attacks – with the added caveat that jihadists should exclusively target mainstream white Americans.

According to the jihadi group’s online publication “Inspire guide: Orlando operation,” killing homosexuals is “the most binding duty.” However, would-be jihadis are advised to “avoid targeting places and crowds where minorities are generally found in America,” and instead to target “areas where the Anglo-Saxon community is generally concentrated.”

In response, several pundits warned that al-Qaeda is shifting gears, somehow trying to portray itself as a “social justice warrior.”

In fact, al-Qaeda has long presented itself to the West in this manner. These latest instructions are hardly new. Further, they help explain the real differences between al-Qaeda and ISIS, and which stage of jihad they see themselves in.

Although The Al Qaeda Reader documents al-Qaeda’s dual approach — preach unrelenting jihad to Muslims, whine about grievances to Westerners — a nearly decade-old communique from al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is sufficient to understand the strategy behind these latest instructions. In that letter, as-Zawahiri spoke to the many “under-privileged” of the world:

That’s why I want blacks in America, people of color, American Indians, Hispanics, and all the weak and oppressed in North and South America, in Africa and Asia, and all over the world, to know that when we wage jihad in Allah’s path, we aren’t waging jihad to lift oppression from Muslims only; we are waging jihad to lift oppression from all mankind, because Allah has ordered us never to accept oppression, whatever it may be …This is why I want every oppressed one on the face of the earth to know that our victory over America and the Crusading West — with Allah’s permission — is a victory for them, because they shall be freed from the most powerful tyrannical force in the history of mankind.

American blacks, however, were Zawahiri’s primary targets. Zawahiri praised and quoted from the convert to Islam, Malcolm X:

Anytime you beg another man to set you free, you will never be free. Freedom is something you have to do for yourself. The price of freedom is death.

The al-Qaeda leader also appealed to another potentially sympathetic population — environmentalists:

[The U.S.] went out and ruined for the entire world, the atmosphere and climate with the gases emitted by its factories.

Years earlier, Osama bin Laden himself complained about the U.S. not signing the Kyoto protocols:

You [the U.S.] have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history.

What does this ostensibly disparate group of people — “third-worlders,” environmentalists, and disaffected American blacks — have in common? They all harbor anti-Western sentiments that can be appealed to for purposes of exonerating al-Qaeda’s jihad.

Now, al-Qaeda is again reaffirming that killing homosexuals is “the most binding duty,” but it’s still best to continue targeting non-minorities in America — “Anglo-Saxons” — because they are so easy to demonize.

Al-Zawahiri used the same strategy in Egypt in 2014. During a particularly brutal period of Christian persecution — dozens of churches were burned — he counseled Egypt’s Muslims to stop attacking Coptic Christians. The al-Qaeda leader, who on numerous occasions had exhibited his antipathy for Christians, made clear that his directive was purely for PR purposes; he was concerned about jihad’s image in the West.

While agreeing to the most draconian of Sharia’s tenets, al-Qaeda also knows that many of these — for example, the destruction of churches and subjugation of “infidel” Christians — needs to be curtailed or hidden from the Western world.  Otherwise, al-Qaeda’s efforts of portraying jihadis as “freedom fighters” resisting an oppressive West risk being undermined.

On the other hand, ISIS represents the unapologetic jihad, indifferent to Western opinion.

By widely broadcasting its savage triumphalism in the name of Islam, ISIS forfeits the “social warrior” card and instead plays the “strength” card. In this manner ISIS has inspired hundreds of millions of Muslims, according to some disturbing polls.

Al-Qaeda was born at a time when deceiving the West about the aims of the jihad was deemed necessary; ISIS was been born at a time when deceiving an already passive West is no longer deemed important.

Time will tell which strategy works better.

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?

9 Steps to Successfully Counter Jihad

Sipa via AP Images

Sipa via AP Images

Breitbart, by Jamie Glazov, July 13, 2016:

While the Obama administration continues to allow the Muslim Brotherhood to direct American foreign policy and, therefore, to implement “strategies” that render America defenseless in the face of Jihad and stealth Jihad, there are some alternative strategies that have the potential to turn this catastrophic situation around completely in America’s favor.

Below are 9 concrete steps that, if implemented by a future American administration, would make a big difference in preserving our civilization and in defending Americans from terrorism:

1. Label the Enemy and Make a Threat Assessment.

The Obama administration continues to refuse to label our enemy and, therefore, it continues to enable our defeat in the terror war. It is urgent that we name our enemy (i.e. Islamic Jihad) and definitively identify what ideology inspires our enemy (i.e. Islamic law).

2. Scrap “Countering Violent Extremism.”

“Countering Violent Extremism” is the pathetic and destructive focus of the Obama administration in allegedly fighting the terror war. On the one hand, this “focus” is vague to the point of being meaningless and completely incapacitates us. On the other hand, this focus allows the administration to perpetuate the destructive fantasy that there are other types of “extremists” — who just happen to be the Left’s political opponents — that pose a great threat to the country.

For example, as Stephen Coughlin has revealed, the “violent extremists” the administration is clearly worried about are the “right-wing Islamophobes” whom the administration obviously considers to be the real threat to American security.

The “Countering Violent Extremism” is trash and needs to be thrown in the garbage.

3. Stop “Partnering” With Muslim Brotherhood Front Groups.

The government needs to stop cooperating with, and listening to, Muslim Brotherhood front groups such as CAIR and ISNA immediately. The Muslim Brotherhood document, the Explanatory Memorandum, has made it clear that the Brotherhood’s objective is to destroy our civilization from within by our own hands with the influence of these groups. Moreover, as Robert Spencer advises, there needs to be legislation that will bar all such groups and affiliated individuals from advising the government or receiving any grants from it.

4. Implement a Concrete “Countering-Jihad” Strategy.

After discarding the “Countering Violent Extremism” absurdity, a concrete Counter-Jihad strategy must become an official policy. It must specifically register that Jihadists are the enemies and that Islamic law (Sharia) is what specifically motivates them.

Most importantly, as Sebastian Gorka urges in Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War, the government needs to lay down a vision, an actual “threat doctrine analysis” in a thorough document, just like George Kennan’s Long Telegram and NSC-68 did in laying out the strategic foundation to fighting communism in the Cold War. It is absolutely mind-boggling that nothing of this sort exists today in our terror war — and it is a reflection of the Left being in charge and of the destructive defeat that it is sowing.

4. Launch Our Own Counter-propaganda Campaign.

The Left and Islamists engage in propaganda 24/7. What does our propaganda war entail? Zilch.

Sebastian Gorka is crucially correct, therefore, when he recommends a national counter-propaganda campaign that involves a two-part approach: the first being the bolstering of efforts to define our enemy (Steps #1 and #4 above) and, second, the strengthening of our allies and partners in their own counter-propaganda efforts – which must include our empowering of Muslims who are trying to form an anti-Jihadist version of Islam.

Consequently, educational programs have to be set up everywhere, from public schools to universities to workplaces, in businesses and numerous other institutions. These programs must crystallize what exactly Islamic Law is and how it inspires and sanctions violence against unbelievers. This has to also involve, as Gorka urges, “a nationwide program of education that includes the armed services as well as federal, state, and local police forces and the intelligence community.”

The education campaign must also focus on the second part of Gorka’s counter-propaganda campaign, which is to help strengthen Muslims who seek to seize Islam from the jihadists’ hands.

6. Affirm Sharia’s Assault on the U.S. Constitution as Seditious.

Once the truth is accepted that jihadis are inspired and sanctioned by their Islamic texts, it must logically become required that mosques, Islamic schools and groups have to immediately curtail any teaching that motivates sedition, violence, and hatred of unbelievers (i.e. remember how CAIR advised Muslims not to talk to the FBI). Indeed, once the government discerns and labels the elements of Islamic law that threaten the American Constitution, any preaching and spreading of those elements in America must be labelled as seditious.

7. Put Pressure on Mosques, Islamic Groups and Schools.

Authorities have to start subjecting mosques and other Islamic institutions to surveillance — and discard the suicidal leftist notion that it is “racist” and Islamophobic to do so. Islamic institutions have to be made to buffer their lip-service against terror with actually doing something about it. As Robert Spencer counsels, this has to involve introducing programs that teach against jihadists’ understanding of Islam — and these programs have to be regularly monitored by the government. (This will be a part of Gorka’s suggested counter-propaganda campaign discussed in Step #5).

Spencer rightly stresses that the paradigm has to become that Muslim communities have to win the “trust” of intelligence and law enforcement agents, rather than the other way around, which is, absurdly and tragically, the case right now.

8. Bring Counter-Jihadists into the Government.

Instead of having Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers like Mohamed Elibiary serving on the U.S. Homeland Security Advisory Council (he “resigned” in Sept. 2014 under mysterious circumstances), and Muslim Brotherhood-linked individuals like Huma Abedin serving as the right-hand woman of Hillary Clinton, we need to bring in people who actually love America and want to protect it. We all know who these noble and courageous individuals are – and some of them are referenced in this article. The government must also bring in brave Muslim individuals who genuinely reject Jihad and empower them in propagating their anti-jihadist vision for Islam.

(P.S. Yes, there is an argument to be made that Islam cannot be Islam without Jihad. But the debate over this belongs in another forum. And whatever the answer, it does not mean that the effort to empower Muslims who want to make the anti-jihadist Islamic vision possible should not be made.)

9. Ridicule the Enemy.

Ridicule is a vicious and potent weapon. There is a baffling and shameful silence in our culture’s sphere of comedy, especially in Hollywood and our media, with regard to the myriad ingredients of Sharia and Jihad that merit at least a million hilarious satirical sketches.

Bill Maher, for whatever unappealing drawbacks he has in conservatives’ eyes, has set a bold standard in this respect in his Burka Fashion Show skit. American comedians need to start writing scripts that follow in Maher’s footsteps and Americans need to encourage and equip them to do so – and to also vigorously defend them from the attacks and slanders they will inevitably receive from totalitarian leftist and Islamic forces.

We must never underestimate the crippling effect of comedy on the totalitarian Mullahs of the world. Indeed, the contemptuous, snickering and roaring laughter of people, as they gaze at the pathetic rules and lives of Sharia’s gatekeepers, poses a danger to tyrants like no other.

Jamie Glazov is the editor of Frontpagemag.com. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of United in Hate, the host of the web-TV show, The Glazov Gang, and he can be reached at jamieglazov11@gmail.com.

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.

***

What Should We Make Of The Islamic State’s Ramadan Wave Of Violence?

smoke-1024x683FPRI, Author:  Clint Watts

The Islamic State has taken the final week of Ramadan to make a big statement: “We will not go quietly.” In the last seven days the terror group has shown that a “wounded Islamic State is a dangerous Islamic State” lashing out in an unprecedented wave of suicide bombings and other attacks around the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia.

The Islamic State’s gradual decline in Syria and Iraq has finally brought a long expected shift in the group’s tactics from conventional military operations back towards insurgencies paired with regional and international terror attacks. The Islamic State overtook al Qaeda by declaring a caliphate and has since surpassed their forefathers as a terror group by executing a daily string of directed and networked attacks in six countries while narrowly missing in a seventh.

Here’s a quick recap of the Islamic State’s Ramadan Campaign. (For an explanation of the directed versus networked taxonomy see “Directed, Networked and Inspired: The Muddled Jihad of ISIS and al Qaeda Post Hebdo.” I’m estimating whether these attacks are directed or networked based upon available open source information. These classifications may change as further information arises.)

June 27 to July 5: The Islamic State’s Cascading Terrorism

Success breeds success for the Islamic State and their directed suicide assaults seek to amplify their image, rally their base during a down time, and inspire their supporters to undertake further violence in their name. Here’s what the Islamic State has perpetrated in short order.

Interestingly, only two of the above attacks do not involve a suicide operation – Bangladesh and Malaysia. Jama’at ul Mujahideen Bangladesh, a group connected with the Islamic State, but not a formal wilayat, had until recently only perpetrated targeted sectarian assassinations and this attack appears to not only be a major, violent step forward for the group but also seems more reminiscent of the Paris attacks and other international hostage seizures. Association of the Malaysian grenade attack with the Islamic State would also be a new trend regionally. In both cases, these peripheral attacks in South and Southeast Asia show the lesser capability of these distant Islamic State associates. It’s difficult to tell at this point whether they don’t have the capability to perpetrate suicide bombings or the personnel willing to execute such attacks.

Ultimately, the Islamic State has cascaded its terror attacks striking one target in a different country each day. Will it inspire attacks globally? Only time will tell, but possibly not. Western media has paid short attention to these attacks with the exception of the Istanbul airport. As al Murabitoon and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb learned with its Western African terror campaign post Paris, Western media coverage endures when Westerners are killed in the West, all other attacks have less value.

Here are some other items of note from this past week’s terror campaign.

The Islamic State against all enemies – Muslim, Christian, Shi’a, Sunni, Arab, Western

Some have incorrectly suggested that the Islamic State nimbly focuses its attacks predominately against Westerners or certain audiences. This week’s Islamic State attacks and resulting deaths point to the opposite conclusion: all enemies of the Islamic State are targets and Muslims have suffered the worst. In Saudi Arabia alone, the Islamic State hit near a Western consulate, a Shi’a mosque and a Sunni holy site. Lebanon saw targeting of Christians. Bangladesh brought a focus on Westerners. The Istanbul attack killed mostly Muslims. Yemen and Saudi Arabia saw the Islamic State concentrating on security forces. Each Islamic State affiliate may pick and choose certain targets for local reasons but as an aggregate, no one faith or ethnicity is spared from the Islamic State’s wanton violence.

Islamic State’s Remaining Fighters: Die In Place Or Go Out With A Bang?

The Islamic State lost Fallujah last week and some of its members that tried to escape were pulverized in massive airstrikes. Many Islamic State foreign fighters can’t return home or have no Islamic State affiliate to drift back to. For those homeless foreign fighters, the choice is simple: they can either die in place fighting for a crumbling caliphate or they can go out as martyrs striking their homelands or a regional or international targets. The Islamic State owns the largest number of homeless foreign fighters in history. As the group loses turf, they’ll likely become part of the largest human missile arsenal in history and be directed against any and all soft targets they can reach. This campaign is likely not the end of the Islamic State’s suicide campaign, but only the beginning.

Foreign Fighters Go As Far As Their Passports Will Take Them

Last winter, the West suffered from the Islamic State’s decision to allegedly dispatch hundreds of European foreign fighters back to their homelands. Paris and Brussels burned and operatives across a host of European countries were arrested. Western passport holders and those hidden in refugee flows pushed as far as they could to hit high profile soft targets. Turkey struggled for years with foreign fighters passing easily through their borders into Syria and fighters from the Caucasus and Central Asia found the country quite permissible, likely facilitating this past week’s Russian-speaking suicide bombers. Richard Engel reported that as many as 35 operatives were recently dispatched into Turkey alone. The Yemeni and Saudi attacks focused more heavily on security forces and were likely perpetrated by Islamic State pledges from their respective countries and possibly a Pakistani. The bottom line: the Islamic State is sending its bombers to the locations where they can achieve the biggest results. They are not in short supply of Western, Middle Eastern, Central Asian, or Russian operatives – expect more suicide attacks in places that al Qaeda only dreamed of reaching.

Strong Counterterrorism Matters: The Islamic State Preys On The Weak

Those countries with stronger counterterrorism and security apparatuses have fared the best this past week. The Saudis, long known for squelching terrorists in their midst, sustained far fewer deaths than other countries hit this week. Iraq, despite years of investment, seems unable to protect itself from suicide attacks with yet another massive suicide bombing. Lebanon and Bangladesh, two locations of rising promise for the Islamic State (see Figure 1), have weaker security environments and local conditions ripe for extremism. The Islamic State will likely learn from this past week and exploit those places where they got the greatest return on their investment.

Is The Islamic State Looking For An Exit Strategy?

In conclusion, the Islamic State’s rapid pace of violence may come at a time when they need to find a new home for the brand. Their caliphate revenues and oil production continue to dry up. They will need to shift to illicit schemes and donations to survive. Successful attacks attract investors: will this latest string of violence bring money? Probably not, but what this rampant violence can do is signal to Islamic State’s central leadership which affiliates are still committed to the Islamic State brand. Affiliates, existing or emerging, may want to carry on the Islamic State’s vision outside of Syria and Iraq. Much like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was for the al Qaeda Central during their downturn, Islamic State Central will need an affiliate to carry the black banner forward or their caliphate experiment will crumble as fast as it was created.

ISIS-affiliates-Figure-1

Also see:

Homeland Security Advisory Council: Covering for the Enemy Threat Doctrine

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher W. Holton

America is at war and we continue to be prevented from identifying and understanding our enemies as a result of influence operations targeting our bureaucratized counterterrorism apparatus.

The latest evidence of this long-standing and, unfortunately, very effective influence campaign comes from the revelation that the “Countering Violent Extremism Subcommittee” of the Homeland Security Advisory Council to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued a recommendation that urges rejecting use of Islamic terms such as “jihad” and “shariah” in communications about the threats that we face….

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/homeland-security-report-calls-rejecting-terms-jihad-sharia/

This is nothing new. We have heard CIA director John Brennan reject the term “jihadist” and the State Department under Condoleezza Rice rejected the use of the term as well.

We have covered the damaging efforts by our enemies to prevent the actual correct use of the term “jihad” extensively here on Terror Trends Bulletin in the past…

https://terrortrendsbulletin.com/2013/01/13/cairs-new-disinformation-campaign-on-jihad/

But the effort to suppress even mere mention of the word “shariah” is actually much more damaging than the suppression of the word “jihad.” That’s because shariah is THE enemy threat doctrine.

To understand our enemies, their motivations, their intentions and their strategy, one must study shariah. Shariah is everything to the jihadists. It is the code that they follow and its full implementation is their goal.

Forbidding the use of the term shariah, much less suppressing study of shariah in the present conflict is the equivalent of forbidding intelligence agencies from studying Mein Kampf in World War II or the works and words of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao during the Cold War.

Anyone who would recommend that we avoid studying and talking about shariah simply must have a nefarious purpose.

By way of review, shariah is Islamic law. The terms shariah and Islamic law are completely interchangeable; they refer to exactly the same thing. Shariah is an immutable theo-political-legal-military code derived from the Islamic doctrinal trilogy, made up of the Quran, the Sirah (the biography of the prophet Mohammed) and the Hadith (traditions, sayings and stories compiled about the life of Mohammed).

Every single Jihadist terrorist group in the world–without exception–has as its stated goal the imposition of shariah: the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, HAMAS, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Lashkar e Taiba, Abu Sayyef, Jemaah Islamiyah, Boko Haram, the Taliban, Al Shabaab–all of them.

So, while the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will be carefully avoiding the use of the term shariah, our enemies have been using it quite commonly, frequently and prominently, as if to illustrate the absurdity of the DHS recommendation.

What follows is a compilation of quotes from jihadi leaders and Al Qaeda and Islamic State documents that reveal the central importance of shariah to their movement. This is why Americans must familiarize themselves with shariah.

SHARIAH ACCORDING TO THE JIHADISTS THEMSELVES

• The sharia has forbidden us from taking infidels as confidants, inducting them into our secrets.
• The sharia forbids us from appointing infidels to important posts.
• The sharia forbids us from adopting or praising the beliefs and views of the infidels.
• The sharia forbids us from assisting infidels against Muslims; even the one who is coerced has o excuse to fight under the banner of infidels.
• The sharia commands us to battle infidels—both original infidels and apostates, as well as hypocrites. As for waging jihad against the infidels who have usurped the lands of Islam, this is a duty considered second only to faith, by ulemaic consensus.
• The sharia does not accept the excuses made by hypocrites—that they befriend the infidels because they fear the vicissitudes of time.
• We are duty-bound by the sharia to help Muslims overcome the infidels.

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al Qaeda leader

Osama bin Laden sits with his adviser and purported successor Ayman al-Zawahiri during an interview in Afghanistan, Barack Obama

Democracy is based on the principle of the power of creatures over other creatures, and rejects the principle of God’s absolute power over all creatures; it is also based on the idea the men’s desires, whatever they may be, replace God absolutely, and on the refusal to obey God’s law. In Islam, when there is a disagreement or a difference of opinion, one refers to God, his Prophet, and the commands of sharia.

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al Qaeda leader

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Jordanian Intelligence Officers Killed in Terror Attack

Such attacks on security forces in Jordan are rare

Such attacks on security forces in Jordan are rare

Center for Security Policy, by Daniel Brennan, June 6, 2016:

Five Jordanians were killed in what the state called a “terror attack” on Monday June 6th. The attack occurred around 7:00 a.m. local time in the Palestinian refugee camp in Baqa’a, where around 100,000 refugees are sheltered.

Mohammed Momani, a government spokesperson, stated that the attack targeted Jordan’s intelligence agency office, housed along the main street of the camp. Three of the five Jordanians killed were listed as intelligence officers, while a telephone operator and a guard also died in the attack.

Al Rai newspaper reported that a single assailant armed with an automatic weapon drove towards the office and then began an assault on the camp’s intelligence compound. Reports suggest that the gunman is still at large.

The Baqa’a camp was founded in the late 1960s as a result of the Arab-Israeli war. Though originally sheltered in tents and scrap materials, the Palestinian refugees transitioned the shantytown into a sort of de-facto city for Palestinian refugees by using concrete materials and UN provided prefabricated shelters.

Alongside Palestinian refugees, Jordan also hosts refugees from the Syrian civil conflict, caring for over 600,000 displaced Syrians. Jordan’s second largest refugee camp, Zaatari, hosts around 80,000 and is located less than 20 miles from the Baqa’a camp, about an hour drive.

Still, no announcements have been made as to the identity of the individual who carried out the attack or his/her motive. In a statement to the press, Mr. Momani called the actions “cowardly,” and outlined that it was carried out by “people who are outside of our religion.”

Jordan is currently ruled by King Abdullah II, a Sunni Muslim, whose family has ruled Jordan since the early 1920’s. Despite being one of the United States key allies in the fight against Islamic State and other terrorist groups, Jordan rarely faces attacks against its government forces. Additionally, the General Intelligence Directorate of Jordan (GID) has had longstanding cooperation with the Central Intelligence Agency.

Efforts to combat terrorist activities in Jordan are ongoing. Most recently, in March, the GID foiled planned attacks by an Islamic State cell when Jordanian military operatives raided a residential building in Irbid, in which they killed seven suspected jihadist insurgents. At the scene, officials found weapons, ammunition, explosives, and detonators as well as plans to attack civilian and military sites.

The Wall Street Journal stated that officials in Amman, the capital of Jordan, indicated the refugee attack was conducted by Islamic State, considering the group’s recent declaration urging supporters to conduct operations during the month of Ramadan.

Jordan has long been a target of jihadist attacks, specifically from Al Qaeda in Iraq (the predecessor to Islamic State), led by Jordanian leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.  Zarqawi was the driving force behind the infamous 2005 hotel bombings that killed dozens and injured hundreds staying in and aroung western resorts in Amman.

Al-Qaeda continues to seek support and influence in the region by tapping into the Syrian conflict.

In May, al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, announced plans to extend recruitment to areas in and around Syria. Among the Al Qaeda officials believed to be conducting operations are Jordanian operatives Abul Qassam and Sari Shibab.

While Islamic State remains the most obvious culprit, the source of the attack in Baqa’a could also stem from ongoing struggle between the Jordanian government and the opposition led by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has long been known to drawn support from refugee Palestinians.  In recent months, the group has been pushing their political wing, Islamic Action Front, to boycott elections, among other protests, in an aim to topple the current regime. In recent years Jordanian security forces have accused Jordanian Muslim Brothers of cooperating with Hamas in weapons smuggling and training for attacks. Such tensions boiled over in April leading Jordanian officials to close down Muslim Brotherhood operations in the country.

Further complicating the attack are reports from Israeli intelligence of cooperation between Hamas and Islamic State “Sinai Province”. The cooperation between the two groups represents Hamas’ desire to target Egyptian security forces and destabilize Egyptian government after the military ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power in 2013. Such an alliance could prove extremely destabilizing to the region, particularly if cooperation extends beyond Sinai and into Jordan.

As described by reports the assault on the intelligence office bears some resemblance to the operations of all three major terrorist groups: Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and Hamas.

It likewise remains a possibility that the gunman was unaffiliated with any specific group. If so, further determination of the perpetrator’s motivations will require a successful capture and interrogation by Jordanian security forces.

Also see:

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.

The Benghazi Cover Up

How Obama, Hillary and their media allies won an election by lying to the American people

Front Page Magazine, June 3, 2016:

screen_shot_2016-06-02_at_10.42.32_pm

Editor’s note: The following video was produced by journalist Lee Stranahan and exposes the coordinated campaign between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the media to conceal the truth about the Benghazi terrorist attack until after the 2012 presidential election. The video sequence is featured in Stranahan’s film “The Caliphate.” 

ISIS and AQ Intention to Act?

isisaqUnconstrained Analytics, By Stephen Coughlin, May 27, 2016:

This message is not being put out to raise alarm bells too loudly but simply to point out unfolding activities that call for heightened awareness.

It is highly relevant that both ISIS and AQ put out messages within days of each – May 20 and 21 –  other that provide possible indicators of near term intention to act. The ISIS broadcast occurred in the context of a Twitter build up that indicates the exercising of a C3 node that focused on Ramadan and/or events leading to Ramadan.

This year, Ramadan begins June 6. Al Qaeda released its most current edition, Issue 15, of Inspire MagazineInspire posted dates suggesting Memorial Day (30 May) or Independence Day (July 4) as possible attack dates. Memorial Day is one week in advance of Ramadan and qualifies as an event leading up to Ramadan.

This timing and closeness of release of these two activities should cause some measure of heightened awareness that something maybe up over the period of the next week starting with Memorial Day and leading through Ramadan. As the form of attacks that we’ve seen by ISIS over the recent past – Paris, Belgium, etc – line up with the types of jihad advocated by al-Qaeda in Inspire should raise awareness of some form of functional crossover.

A brief review is in order. Of note in this discussion, both al-Qeada and ISIS are self-identified Wahhabi entities and use similar language that uniquely identifies them as such. While not wanting to overly raise the alarm bells, I do think we have indicators of possible future activity that warrants increased vigilance.

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No Death Penalty for Benghazi Jihadist Protects “Al Qaeda is Dead” Narrative

Accused Benghazi terrorist Ahmed Abu Khatallah

Accused Benghazi terrorist Ahmed Abu Khatallah

… a death-penalty prosecution would call into question many aspects of Benghazi that the Obama administration has long sought to keep under wraps: how Obama-administration policy empowered the jihadists who carried out the attack; how those jihadists were linked to al-Qaeda, which the president was then ludicrously claiming to have defeated; how those jihadists attacked Western targets in Benghazi several times before September 11, 2012; how, despite that fact, the State Department led by Hillary Clinton reduced security at its Benghazi facility; how there has been no explanation why the State Department had a facility in Benghazi, one of the most dangerous places in the world for Americans; how there were American military assets in place that might have been able to rescue at least some of those killed and wounded in Benghazi, yet they were not used.

No Death Penalty for a Benghazi Jihadist — Is this Law or Politics?

National Review, By Andrew C. McCarthy, May 11, 2016:

In a terse submission to the federal district court in Washington, D.C., the Obama Justice Department has announced that it will not seek the death penalty against Ahmed Abu Khatallah. He is the only terrorist charged in the Benghazi massacre of September 11, 2012, in which U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other American officials were killed in an attack carried out by dozens of jihadists.

Government lawyers provided no explanation for this decision. If you are wondering whether politics played a role in it, you have good reason to be suspicious.

On the face of it, Khatallah is a textbook case for capital punishment. The Benghazi indictment alleges that he willfully and maliciously caused the death of Americans in a terrorist attack that he helped coordinate. The facts of his offense check several of the “aggravating factor” boxes in federal death-penalty law. There is, moreover, a national-security component, inherent not only in the Benghazi atrocity itself but in the perverse incentive that the government’s failure to seek an available death sentence would create for others considering mass-murder attacks against American installations overseas.

In addition, terrorists imprisoned by the United States after being prosecuted for successful attacks against America become iconic figures in the jihad. As long as they live, they can and do inspire more attacks, recruitment, and fundraising.

Thus, legal and national-security considerations militate in favor of seeking capital punishment. Remember, Mr. Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979. An attack on our ambassador and on sovereign American facilities abroad is an act of war against the United States. Since national security is the core responsibility of the federal government, there can be no federal offense more worthy of capital treatment.

We are talking about the Obama administration, though, so there are always political considerations. And when it comes to Benghazi, they always take precedence.

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