UTT Throwback Thursday: US Government’s Failure to Address Domestic Threat

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, Aug.24, 2017:

Summary

The attacks of 9/11 were conducted against the U.S. homeland with support from the Islamic Movement inside the United States.  The U.S. government’s response to fight on battlefields overseas, while leaders of the U.S. Islamic Movement exclusively provided “advice” to our leaders, led to strategic defeats in Afghanistan and Iraq despite the fact the U.S. military crushed the enemy on the battlefield.

Why?  How did this happen?

The United States lost and is losing this war today because, contrary to U.S. warfighting doctrine, the United States government has failed to identify the enemy we face and the doctrine they use as the basis for why they are fighting.

The enemy clearly articulates that sharia (Islamic Law) is the basis for everything they do.

Now the United States is re-engaging in Afghanistan using some of the same leaders who crafted the losing war strategy in the first place, who still have not defined the enemy, using the same allies who are still our enemies (eg Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, et al), while ignoring the massive jihadi network in the United States, which is the primary front for our enemy in this war.

Then (Post 9/11)

After 9/11, President Bush stated the purpose for our operations in Afghanistan was to “make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans,” and that U.S. military actions are “designed to clear the way for sustained, comprehensive and relentless operations to drive them out and bring them to justice.”

During the entire Bush administration the United States never defined the enemy.  Yet, the administration and all key government agencies were primarily advised by Muslim Brotherhood leaders which led to the United States writing constitutions for Afghanistan and Iraq (2005) creating Islamic Republics under sharia (Islamic Law), thus achieving Al Qaeda’s objectives in those two countries.

That is when we lost the war.

Now (August 2017)

In announcing renewed military operations in Afghanistan, President Trump stated the objectives of this endeavor include:  “Attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terrorist attacks against America before they emerge.”

First, if we kill all ISIS fighters, the Global Islamic Movement will roll on.  This is bigger than merely ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

As UTT reported on Monday in its article “US Islamic Movement Enters Final Stage” the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and its allies INSIDE the United States are experiencing the culmination of six decades of work domestically to overthrow our nation.  At the same time, the State Department is meeting with representatives of Hamas doing business as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) which raises grave concerns.

Mr. Trump’s original instincts were correct.  He should stick with his gut.  We should not engage in Afghanistan as his National Security Advisor and others recommend.

This is a strategic distraction from the real war here at home.

The pattern we see between the U.S. government response after 9/11 and today are very similar:

9/11:  Jihadis attack the homeland using airliners killing nearly 3,000 Americans.

Response:  U.S. fails to define the enemy in any of its national security documents. U.S. military attacks targets in Afghanistan, while using U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leaders as primary advisors on how to fight the war.

Result:  Strategic loses in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Significant gains for Islamic Movement inside the U.S.

Today: U.S. Islamic Movement in “Final Stage” of its Civilization Jihad using hard-left Marxists as leading edge of their violent actions.

Response:  U.S. fails to define the enemy in any of its national security documents.  National Security Advisor Herbert McMaster demonstrates no knowledge of enemy doctrine (sharia).  U.S. Launches renewed military operations in Afghanistan, while failing to pursue the MB and designate it a terrorist organization.  The U.S. government continues to allow the MB to operate in the open in the United States.

Result:  While the U.S. puts its strategic focus on Afghanistan, the cooperating Islamic and hard-left/Marxist Movements will achieve the intentional outcome of their campaign – increased civil disorder, chaos, and a high likelihood of open civil war.

The Islamic Movement in the United States includes over 3000 Islamic centers/mosques, over 800 Muslim Student Associations (MSA) on every major college/university campus, over 255 Islamic Societies, and many others as has been detailed in previous UTT reports.  Nearly all of the jihadi attacks on the United States in the last 16 years, including the attacks of 9/11, had direct support from this network.

The 9/11 attacks had direct support from Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar.

Yet, this network remains untouched by the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security.

If the United States government wants to thin the jihadi herd, as the President states is his desire, he can begin with dealing with the mothership of their Movement – the US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) – and jihadi leaders inside America like Nihad Awad, Ibrahim Hooper, Oussama Jamal, Salam al Marayati, Mohamed Magid, Azhar Azeez, Javaid Siddiqi, Sayyid Syeed, Muzammil Siddiqi, and so many others, as well as those aiding and abetting them like the President of the Southern Poverty Law Center Richard Cohen and the entire SPLC, and Congressmen Keith Ellison and Andre Carson.

Sending more troops to Afghanistan is a good start

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio, Aug. 21, 2017:

Editors’ note: A version of this article was first published at The Weekly Standard

In a primetime speech Monday evening, President Trump is expected to announce the deployment of several thousand more American troops to Afghanistan. We doubt this will be enough to win the war, but it is better than the alternatives offered to the president. A complete withdrawal would have been disastrous.

The premature withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 paved the way for the rise of the Islamic State, which evolved into an international menace after overrunning much of Iraq and Syria. A similar scenario could have unfolded in Central and South Asia. The Taliban-led insurgency currently contests or controls more territory today than in years. And a withdrawal would have cleared the jihadists’ path to take even more ground, possibly leading to dire ramifications throughout the region.

Therefore, President Trump deserves credit for making a decision that went against his gut instinct, which told him to get out. In the process, America and its Afghan allies avoided the near-certain catastrophe that would have followed.

But if America is really going to put the Afghan government on the path to victory, then the Trump administration will have to learn from the mistakes of its predecessors. In particular, the US government needs to drastically reassess America’s jihadist enemies and avoid the policy pitfalls of the past.

With that in mind, the Trump administration has the opportunity to make the following course corrections.

Stop underestimating al Qaeda

President Trump can explain to the American people that al Qaeda is still a significant problem in South Asia—a potentially big one. President Barack Obama frequently claimed that al Qaeda was “decimated” and a “shadow of its former self” in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That wasn’t true. The Obama administration’s counterterrorism campaign dealt significant blows to al Qaeda’s leadership, disrupting the organization’s chain-of-command and interrupting its communications. But al Qaeda took measures to outlast America’s drones and other tactics. The group survived the death of Osama bin Laden and, in many ways, grew.

Consider that from June 2010 until 2016—that is, most of the Obama administration—the US government repeatedly insisted that there were just 50 to 100 al Qaeda operatives in all of Afghanistan. This was clearly false at the time, and US officials were eventually forced to admit that this figure was far off.

From October 2015 until the first week of December 2016, the US and its allies killed or captured 400 al Qaeda members in Afghanistan—four times the longstanding high-end estimate. In October 2015, American and Afghan forces raided two large training camps in the Shorabak district of Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province. One of them was nearly 30 square miles in size. US officials described the camp as likely the largest al Qaeda training facility in the history of Afghanistan. Both of the Shorabak camps were supported by the Taliban.

Think about that: In October 2015—more than 14 years after the 9/11 hijackings —the US led a raid on what was probably the largest al Qaeda training camp in history. So much for being “decimated.”

Al Qaeda continues to fight under the Taliban’s banner as well. Its newest branch, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, is deeply embedded in the Taliban-led insurgency. And just days before the 2016 presidential election, the US killed a veteran al Qaeda leader in eastern Afghanistan who was both planning attacks against the American homeland and supporting the Taliban’s insurgency. Incredibly, al Qaeda is still able to plot attacks against the US from inside Afghanistan.

Some of the Americans newly deployed to Afghanistan will be called upon to perform counterterrorism missions. Similar efforts have disrupted anti-American plots in the past. But al Qaeda has used its broader role in the insurgency to regenerate its threats against the West. The American mission needs to root out al Qaeda, much more so than in the recent past. Are there other Shorabak-type training camps? How many fighters does al Qaeda really have in Afghanistan— taking into account its ethnically diverse membership? The Trump administration needs to focus on these types of questions. Otherwise, al Qaeda will keep coming back.

Forget about a grand bargain with the Taliban’s senior leadership

Many officials in the US government think the only way the Afghan war ends is by negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban. There’s just one problem: The Taliban has never shown any real interest in peace.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton oversaw negotiations with the Taliban during the Obama administration. The talks were a fiasco. The Taliban extracted various concessions and the US never got anything in return, other than Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an accused deserter. The current Taliban honcho is Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, whose son carried out a suicide bombing in July. Akhundzada is a jihadist ideologue, not a prospective peace partner. Negotiating with him would be sheer folly. The Obama administration also pursued talks with the Taliban under the theory that the group could forswear al Qaeda. See the details above—that idea was always a dangerous fantasy.

The US and the Afghan government can and should attempt to peel away mid- to low-level Taliban fighters and commanders. But the idea that a grand bargain can be had with the Taliban has never been rooted in reality.

Stop treating the Haqqani Network as a separate group

The US has long operated under the delusion that the powerful Haqqani family and its loyalists are somehow distinct from the Taliban. It was always a curious assumption given that Jalaluddin Haqqani, the network’s eponymous founder, formally joined the Taliban in the mid-1990s. His son, Sirajuddin (a key al Qaeda ally), has been the Taliban’s No. 2 leader since 2015 and oversees much of the Taliban’s military operations. Sirajuddin’s ascent within the Taliban’s ranks means that no one can pretend that the Haqqani Network and the Taliban are distinct entities any longer. The Haqqani Network has long been designated a terrorist organization by the US government. The Trump administration should extend the designation to cover the entire Taliban, thereby making it clear to anyone who does business with the Taliban that they are backing a terrorist group.

The Islamic State is a threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not nearly as much of a threat as the Taliban-al Qaeda axis

The US has spent disproportionate resources fighting the Islamic State’s “province” in eastern Afghanistan. Earlier this year, for example, the US military dropped the “mother of all bombs” on the group’s stronghold in Nangarhar province. Several Americans have died during operations against Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists in country.

There’s no question that the Islamic State remains a serious problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but it still doesn’t threaten the Afghan government to the same degree that the Taliban-al Qaeda axis does. The Islamic State controls parts of perhaps several Afghan districts. But the Taliban and its allies contest or control approximately 40 percent of the country. Therefore, the US has focused a lot of resources on a, relatively speaking, smaller threat. The Trump administration will need to devise a more offensive approach to dealing with the Taliban-al Qaeda alliance, an effort that has been hampered by restrictive rules of engagement in the past.

Pakistan continues to be a big problem

It is no secret that Pakistan harbors much of the Taliban’s senior leadership. But the US has only occasionally targeted these figures inside Pakistan proper. If Pakistan won’t turn on the Taliban—and it won’t—then the Trump administration should take more aggressive action against the group’s Pakistani safe havens.

The drone campaign can be expanded to target known Taliban leaders operating inside Pakistan. For example, the organization’s leader, Mullah Mansour, was killed in a May 2016 airstrike in Pakistan after he returned from a visit to Iran. Mansour’s death was intended to open the door to possible peace talks, which didn’t materialize.

If the Taliban is allowed to continue operating unencumbered, then the administration will be repeating the mistakes of the past. For too long, the Taliban’s leaders have been able to direct the insurgency in Afghanistan from their cozy confines in Pakistan. American aid to Pakistan can and should be withheld until the country’s military and intelligence establishment proves willing to make meaningful changes in its behavior. No one should hold their breath waiting for this happen, however, and the Trump administration can’t afford to wait.

Iran remains a problem, too

The Iranian government has supported the Taliban’s insurgency since 2001. Although this assistance is not as pronounced as Pakistan’s, it is meaningful. The US government has also repeatedly noted that Iran hosts al Qaeda’s “core facilitation pipeline,” which moves fighters, funds, and communications to and from South Asia. Any successful strategy for turning the Afghan war around will have to deal with the Iranian government’s nefarious role.

The Russians are on the opposite side of the Afghan war. The Russians are, at a minimum, providing rhetorical support to the Taliban. There are reports that Russia has provided arms to Taliban insurgents as well. President Trump has made no secret of the fact that he seeks better relations with Vladimir Putin’s government. But Russia’s flirtations (and maybe more) with the Taliban are a stark reminder that this will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. In the meantime, the US will have to take steps to disrupt Putin’s relationship with his favorite jihadis in the Taliban.

The rural areas matter

US military officials often downplay the importance of rural areas, arguing that they need only bolster the Afghan government’s defenses in the more heavily populated areas. But this is a mistake. The Taliban’s insurgents have been using their advances in Afghanistan’s more rural territory to orchestrate sieges on several provincial capitals. If the US and Afghan forces don’t go on the offensive in these areas, then the jihadists will continue to squeeze the more populated terrain.

These are just some of the issues that confront the US on the road ahead.

With his decision, President Trump has ensured that the worst-case scenario won’t unfold. But that is a long way from victory. And to win, the US is going to have to get real about our jihadist enemies in Afghanistan.

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

Al-Qaeda to U.S. Muslims: ‘No Escape from Coming Confrontation’ to Avoid ‘Concentration Camps’

(Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb photo)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, Aug. 17, 2017:

An al-Qaeda leader warned American Muslims that they’re headed for “concentration camps” unless they pick up arms and fight, quoting late American al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki stating that “surely your situation is becoming similar to that of the embattled Muslim community of Spain after the fall of Grenada.”

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb leader Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, aka Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel, made the comments in this week’s new issue of the English-language Inspire magazine from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which included a lengthy how-to on attacking the train system with a homemade derailment tool placed on the tracks.

“How many lone jihad operations have had the impact of changing policies, bringing about the fall of political parties or even governments in some of the strongest and most influential countries of the world! This is why the martyrdomseeker

and Inghimasi (storm trooper) instills more fear in the hearts of the enemy than other fighters,” Wadoud said in a Q&A. “It is due to the positive results of lone jihad operations that we invite the sons of our Ummah [Muslim community] to adopt this new method of jihad and hold on to it firmly.”

He said that though the United States “is impossible to invade for a power outside the American Continent since it is surrounded by 6000 kilometers of the Atlantic Ocean,” lone jihad operations are “uncostly in terms of lives and expenses for Muslims, its impact on the enemy is significant and almost disproportional.”

“There is little doubt that this type of jihad enrages the disbelievers even more when a revert from their own race or nationality carries out such an operation… someone who had once been part of their community before Allah guided him to Islam and jihad,” Wadoud continued. “This is enraging for the enemies of Islam because it proves that Islam transcends their narrow nationalism and a Muslim’s loyalty is to his religion and not to his homeland. This aspect is harder for them to digest than the operation itself, so let us reflect on it. This is one of the weak spots in which there is enragement of the disbelievers.”

“Due to the edge that a Muslim living in the West enjoys, many scholars and leaders of jihad have encouraged carrying out martyrdom operations in the West. The reward and station of such an individual is no less than the reward of those who migrate to the theaters of jihad.”

Wadoud discussed how “crime rates in America are much higher than other nations, and it comes as no surprise that most crimes are of a racist nature.”

“And this is something that Obama on the eve of his departure from the White House himself admitted frankly,” he added. “The inescapable result of Trump’s victory and the coming to power of his likes in Western countries means that the room for co-existence in the West is being eroded with every passing day. And this does not affect Muslims alone, but all races other than the ‘white race’ (as they love to portray themselves). With the permission of Allah, this trend will prove to be in the interest of Muslims, since it will awaken the conscience of the Ummah and make it cognizant of the reality of Western Crusader savagery.”

He argued “there is no escape from the coming confrontation,” and Muslims have to lead the battle.

The AQIM leader added that if President Trump “sticks to his antagonistic policies towards Islam and crosses the limits in his attacks on Muslims, his fate will be no different from that of Bush, if not worse.”

Wadoud said U.S. Muslims put “false hope” in Hillary Clinton as “in terms of their enmity for Islam, they are all equal.”

“So both Democrats and Republicans are serpents carrying lethal venom, but the former prefers a gentle delicate façade, while the latter reveals its true colors,” he explained. “…Trump’s blunt statements and his hostile stance towards Islam and Muslims may be beneficial in ways that only Allah knows. His rash candidness is a powerful reminder to the Islamic Ummah of the reality of these disbelievers.”

Trump, Wadoud continued, “given his repulsive racist nature, read the popular scene correctly.”

“His election campaign was based on appealing to the natural racist tendencies of the American voter. In doing so, Trump’s campaign exploited the absolute political ignorance of the masses in America, where a single emotional speech is sometimes sufficient to change the outlook of many. This is why we saw that his outspokenness often touched the limits of audacity in several statements he made. He understood that the ordinary American had become tired of the grey zone visible in the policies of the Democrats. So he knew how to play with their feelings and rally their emotions,” the terror leader added.

“He succeeded in raising issues which trouble them, foremost being the loss of security experienced by the American public on American soil as well as abroad. Trump succeeded twice: first when he instilled fear of Islam amongst the masses, second when he convinced them that he is their sole hope against this danger.”

UTT SPECIAL REPORT: Terrorist from Terrorist Mosque Speaks in Delray Beach FL Tonight

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, Aug. 17, 2017:

Tonight (8/17/2017) at the South County Civic Center in Delray Beach, Florida, Muslim Brother (Jihadi) Bassem Alhalabi will speak on “Human Rights” in Islam.

The contrast would be comical if it were not so dangerous and the public were better informed.

[Author’s note:  the leadership of the Islamic world at the Head of State level approved the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (1990) defining “Human Rights” as the imposition of Islamic Law/Sharia.  See Cairo Declaration HERE; note Articles 24 &25]

Bassem Alhalabi is the President of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, which is a highly sharia-adherent mosque, and has leaders/attendees involved in the terrorist groups Al Qaeda and Hamas.

Alhalabi is also currently a professor at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Before arriving at FAU, Alhalabi was in Tampa at the University of South Florida (USF)  working closely with convicted terrorist Sami al-Arian.  Alhalabi co-authored publications with al-Arian and, when applying to FAU, he used al-Arian as a reference.

Sami Al-Arian in jail

The September 21, 2004 superseding indictment charged in the Middle District of Florida (Tampa) stated: “SAMI AMlN ALARlAN was a member of the PIJ, a member of the ‘Shura Council’ of the PIJ, and Secretary of the ‘Shura Council.’”

Al-Arian pled guilty to “Conspiracy to make or receive contributions or funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist, in violation of 18 USC Section 371.”

PIJ is also a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).

Al-Arian was sentenced on May 1, 2006, to 57 months in prison.

In addition to being a terrorist, Sami al-Arian was a tenured professor at the University of South Florida and taught computer science, like Alhalabi.

On June 30, 2003, Alhalabi was charged in a U.S. Department of Commerce administrative hearing as follows:  “Alhalabi caused to be exported a thermal imaging camera, an item subject to the Regulations, from the United States to Syria.”

Who sends thermal imaging equipment to a state sponsor of terrorism?  A terrorist does.  It is not clear why this was not a “Material Support for Terrorism” charge.

The Alhalabi charging document from the U.S. Department of Commerce can be read here.

The Islamic Center of Boca Raton has a history of sharia adherence and, therefore, supporting jihad – what U.S. law calls “terrorism.”

The Islamic Center of Boca Raton

Prior to 9/11/2001, the Islamic Center of Boca Raton received grants from and donated money to the Global Relief Foundation (GRF), which the U.S. Treasury designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and shut down in 2002 because “its officers and directors have connections to, and have provided support for and assistance to, Usama bin Laden (UBL), al Qaida (sic).”

The mosque publicly pleads ignorance.

In 2007, Dr. Rafiq Sabir, an active member of the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, was convicted of Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization – Al Qaeda.

On May 23, 2016, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) at FAU hosted a panel discussion which included Bassem Alhalabi.  Alhalabi told the audience “Sharia is being practiced in the U.S.  We at the Islamic Center of Boca Raton, we practice sharia.”  He then explained to the crowd that amputating hands for theft is a good thing.

See the video here.  (hat tip to the United West!)

UTT readers are aware sharia mandates jihad until an Islamic State (Caliphate) is established and sharia is the law over the entire earth.  Jihad is legally defined as “warfare against non-muslims” in sharia.

The website for the Islamic Center of Boca Raton states:  “Terrorism is not a religious identity, rather it is a horrific behavior often justified by misapplied religious dogma.  ICBR [Islamic Center of Boca Raton], in accordance to its sole purpose and understanding of Islam, stands firm on the condemnation of all forms and acts of terrorism. The ill acts of a few misguided individuals shall not be viewed as the mainstream of Islam and Muslims.”

Since we know – because Bassem Alhalabi publicly said it – the ICBR is fully sharia adherent, we must define “Terrorism” as Islam/Sharia defines the word.  In Islam, “Terrorism” is to kill a muslim for a non-sharia prescribed reason, ie to kill a muslim without right under sharia.  Sharia prescribes when and how muslims may be killed:  those who commit capital crimes in Islam (apostasy and adultery for instance), and a muslim who kills another muslim without right (for a non-sharia prescribed reason) may be killed. Any other killing of a muslim is “Terrorism” in Islam.

So, of course they denounce terrorism.  However, they are not referring to “terrorism” as defined by U.S. law.

And they will never denounce JIHAD.

In March 2011, Bassem Alhalabi was arrested in Boca Raton, Florida for assaulting Joe Kaufman, Chairman of Americans Against Hate, after Kaufman spoke in Tallahassee, Florida about the terrorism ties of Hamas leader Ahmed Bedier, a colleague of Alhalabi, and leader of the group United Voices of America.

In May 2017 it was revealed the Islamic Center of Boca Raton recently paid $4.9 million for a 19 acre plot in Delray Beach, Florida.  Wonder what the Muslim Brotherhood will use that for?

Nothing good to be sure.

At what point will citizens in Florida hold their local and state officials accountable for passing the buck while allowing terrorists like Bassem Alhalabi to walk the streets?

Analysis: Taliban propagandists release ‘open letter’ to President Trump

LONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN & BILL ROGGIO | August 15, 2017

The Taliban has published an “open letter” to President Donald Trump, urging him to “adopt the strategy of a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan instead of a troops increase.” The letter was clearly penned with the Trump administration’s ongoing debate over the war in Afghanistan in mind.

Senior administration officials have reportedly prepared several plans, ranging from a complete withdrawal to a small increase of several thousand American troops. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, favors the latter while alternative scenarios have also been presented to the president.

President Trump has been reticent to commit additional forces, as he would then take ownership of the longest war in America’s history. The Taliban obviously knows this and is trying to influence the debate inside the US.

But readers should keep in mind that the new letter is propaganda and should be read as such. The letter is laced with erroneous and self-serving statements. And some of its key points, crafted for Western readers, are contradicted by the facts.

Allied with al Qaeda, which exports terrorism around the globe

The Taliban describes itself as a “mercy for Afghanistan, [the] region and the world because the Islamic Emirate does not have any intention or policy of causing harm to anyone and neither will it allow others to use the Afghan soil against anyone.”

Although the Taliban does not explicitly mention al Qaeda, the group likely wants readers to assume that this sentence means there is a clear distinction between the Taliban’s operations inside Afghanistan and jihadist threats outside of the country. In reality, there is no such clear line of demarcation.

Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda, remains openly loyal to the Taliban’s overall leader. Zawahiri swore allegiance to Mullah Mansour in Aug. 2015. Mansour, the successor to Taliban founder Mullah Omar, described al Qaeda’s leaders as the “heroes of the current jihadist era” and Osama bin laden as the “leader of mujahideen.” Mansour publicly accepted the “esteemed” Dr. Zawahiri’s fealty shortly after it was offered.

After Mansour was struck down by an American drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016, Zawahiri quickly rehearsed the same oath to Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, who still presides over the Taliban. Akhundzada’s son carried out a suicide bombing in Helmand province in July. The attack was just the latest piece of evidence confirming that the Taliban emir is a committed ideologue, not a prospective peace partner.

Under Akhundzada’s leadership, the Taliban is hardly bashful about its continuing alliance with al Qaeda. The Taliban celebrated the relationship in a Dec. 2016 video, which contained images of Osama bin Laden alongside Mullah Omar. One such image from the production can be seen below:

Other al Qaeda figures are also proudly featured in the Taliban video, such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Khalid al Batarfi, a veteran jihadist who plays an important ideological role. Batarfi praised the Taliban for harboring and supporting al Qaeda. And he directly connected the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan to the jihad against the US.

“Groups of Afghan Mujahideen have emerged from the land of Afghans that will destroy the biggest idol and head of kufr of our time, America,” Batarfi said in the Taliban’s video. The “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was sacrificed and even vanished in support of our sacred religion, but they (the Taliban) did not trade off their religion.” Batarfi crowed that the jihadists can finally “see [the] light of victory,” as governance according to the “rule of Sharia” law is “even stronger in Afghanistan than before.”

While the Taliban is often portrayed as a nationalist group (this is the intended implication of the group’s letter to President Trump), the Dec. 2016 video portrayed the Taliban’s struggle as part of the global jihad and the effort to reclaim all Muslim lands.

Akhundzada’s top deputy is the aforementioned Sirajuddin Haqqani, a longtime al Qaeda ally. The Haqqanis have been in bed with al Qaeda since the 1980s. Sirajuddin’s father, Jalaluddin, was one of Osama bin Laden’s earliest and most influential backers. Files recovered during the May 2011 raid on bin Laden’s compound reveal that al Qaeda’s men have fought alongside Sirajuddin’s forces for years. This is especially significant because Haqqani oversees the Taliban’s military operations.

There are numerous other ties. In Sept. 2014, for instance, Zawahiri publicly announced the creation of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which brought together existing al Qaeda-allied groups. AQIS has repeatedly made it clear that its men fight under the Taliban’s banner and that its primary goal is to restore the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate to power in Afghanistan. In Oct. 2015, US and Afghan forces raided two massive al Qaeda training camps in southern Afghanistan. One of the camps, approximately 30 square-miles in size, may be the largest al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan’s history. Both of the camps were supported by the Taliban. AQIS conducts operations in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and elsewhere.

Just over two weeks before the 2016 presidential election, the US hunted down a top al Qaeda commander known as Farouq al-Qahtani in eastern Afghanistan. Qahtani not only commanded jihadists fighting alongside the Taliban, he was planning attacks inside the United States at the time of his demise.

All of these details, and more, belie the Taliban’s claim that it won’t “allow others to use the Afghan soil against anyone.”

State sponsors and enablers of the Taliban-led insurgency

The Taliban claims that the US government has concluded that the “mujahideen” are entirely self-sufficient and do not receive any foreign support. “Your intelligence agencies admit that our Mujahideen are not being supported by any country and neither can they produce any proof in the contrary,” the letter reads.

This is obviously false — Pakistan’s support for the Taliban is longstanding and well-known. Other countries, such as Iran and Russia, provide some level of assistance. Wealthy benefactors in the Gulf have contributed rich sums to the Taliban cause as well.

In July, the US State Department once again confirmed that Pakistan harbors the Taliban, including the so-called Haqqani Network (HQN), which plays an integral role within the organization. “Pakistan did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or HQN, or substantially limit their ability to threaten US interests in Afghanistan, although Pakistan supported efforts to bring both groups into an Afghan-led peace process,” State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 reads. A “number” of attacks inside Afghanistan throughout 2016 “were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan.”

In a report submitted to Congress in June, the Defense Department also explained the enduring importance of the jihadists’ Pakistani safe havens. “Attacks in Afghanistan attributed to Pakistan-based militant networks continue to erode the Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship,” the Pentagon noted. “Militant groups, including the Taliban and Haqqani Network, continued to utilize sanctuaries inside Pakistan.”

The Afghan Taliban is not operating under the radar in Pakistan, but instead receives assistance from parts of the government. “Afghan-oriented militant groups, including the Taliban and Haqqani Network, retain freedom of action inside Pakistani territory and benefit from support from elements of the Pakistani Government,” the report reads (emphasis added).

This is consistent with Pakistan’s “Good Taliban” vs. “Bad Taliban” policy, which favors jihadists who are focused on attacking the Afghan government and allied forces, including the US. Only the “Bad Taliban” — that is, those jihadists operating against the Pakistani state — are regularly targeted by Pakistani security. The effects of this policy are plain to see. The Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) earned its name because the group’s most senior leaders have been able to operate openly in the city. It is well-known, too, that the Haqqanis have cozy relations with the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment. Sirajuddin Haqqani has been the Taliban’s top deputy leader since 2015.

Pakistan isn’t the only regional player supporting the Taliban-led insurgency. The Iranian government is as well.

“Iran provides some support to the Taliban and Haqqani Network and has publicly justified its relationships as a means to combat the spread of the ISIS-K threat in Afghanistan,” the Pentagon reported in June. Although the Iranians attempt to justify their policy as a form of realpolitik, a necessary consequence of fighting the Islamic State’s Wilayah Khorasan (Khorasan “province,” or ISIS-K), the reality is that they first forged a working relationship with their former foes in the Taliban immediately after the 9/11 hijackings. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Analysis: Iran has supported the Taliban’s insurgency since late 2001.]

A striking example of Iranian complicity in the Afghan insurgency was revealed in May 2016, when the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Mansour, was killed in an American airstrike. The US followed Mansour from Iran, where he was holding meetings, across the Pakistani border into Baluchistan, where he was struck down. Mansour’s ability to travel freely inside Iran speaks volumes about the ongoing relationship.

At a minimum, Russia has rhetorically backed the Taliban. “Russian-Afghan relations suffered due to Russia’s public acknowledgment of communications with the Taliban and support of the Taliban’s call for coalition withdrawal from Afghanistan,” the Pentagon has said. Press reports continue to point to evidence that Russian-supplied weapons are helping to fuel the Taliban-led insurgency. Asked about these reports in April, Gen. John Nicholson, the Commander of Resolute Support and US Forces Afghanistan, refused to refute them.

There are other obvious problems with the Taliban’s letter. The group accuses President Trump’s generals of lying about the American casualties incurred. The “[g]enerals are concealing the real statistics of your dead and crippled however the Afghans can easily count the coffins being sent your way on a daily basis,” the letter reads. This is nonsensical, as American casualties are readily verified. Moreover, the Taliban frequently lies about the number of Americans killed or wounded in combat.

The Taliban says that it could “conquer many provincial capitals currently under siege,” if it “were not for fear of civilian casualties.” There is no question that the Taliban currently threatens multiple provincial capitals, but its concern about civilian casualties is mostly cosmetic. The United Nations has repeatedly documented the Taliban’s culpability in killing and wounding innocents. The group is responsible for more civilian casualties in Afghanistan than any other actor.

The US approach to the war in Afghanistan should be based on a rational assessment of the situation, not the Taliban’s misleading claims.

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

New Threats from Al Qaeda: Inspire 17 Magazine

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher W. Holton. Aug. 13, 2017:

Al Qaeda has issued its latest edition of Inspire magazine, Inspire 17.

The magazine is published by the media arm of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but it covers Al Qaeda operations worldwide. In particular, Inspire 17 features the emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Abu Musab Abdel al-Wadoud.

However, this latest issue of Inspire is noteworthy in that the most prominent personality in the magazine is Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama bin Laden. Hamza bin Laden is emerging as a global leader of Al Qaeda and has specifically vowed to take revenge on the U.S. for killing his father.

Here is a brief summary of the highlights of Inspire 17:

Al Qaeda claims that they will be concentrating on targeting Western nations’ transportation infrastructure, seeking to disrupt the movement of people and cargo.

While Al Qaeda says that they will be targeting all aspects of transportation, air, sea and land, as well as local and international, Inspire 17 focuses on rail transport.

As implied by the name “inspire” Al Qaeda seeks to inspire individual Jihadis to take action. They suggest attacking transport vehicles such as trains and aircraft, lines of transport, such as railways, and stations, terminals and transit points, such as train stations, subway terminals and airports.

Bin Laden specifically states: “I urge my Mujahideen brothers everywhere, especially Lone Jihad heroes; I say to them: Target America.”

But America is not the only target mentioned in the magazine. It sets a priority order for targets in the following order: “everyone who transgresses against our religion,” Jewish interests, US, NATO, Russia.

Al Qaeda specifically instructs its followers to target civilians, as opposed to military targets: “In targeting civilians, there is much advantage and benefit for attaining goals of Jihad that cannot be attained when targeting the military.”

The emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abu Musab Abdel al-Wadoud is quoted as singling out France for attack: “France! Do you know time for settling debts has approached? Do not think you will escape punishment! Start preparing to pay what you owe to Muslims, in cash and in kind.”

France has conducted a robust military campaign against AQIM for several years now.

The impact on Western and American lifestyles from increased security measures is not lost on Al Qaeda: “O Mujahideen, it is time we instill fear and make them impose strict security measures to trains as they did with air.”

Concentrating on rail, the magazine describes a austere technique for attacking trains by derailing them from railroad tracks by positioning an item on them that will alter the course of the train’s wheels.

Unlike previous terror attacks on rail infrastructure, such a technique would not require explosives.

The magazine points out the merit of derailing high speed trains and lists Acela in the US, Class 395 Javelin in the UK and TGV in France as high speed trains to attack.

The magazine also suggests prioritizing derailing trains with HAZMAT cargo in cities and towns in the USA.

The following passenger trains are listed as specific targets: Lake Shore Limited, Empire Builder, Coast Starlight, Acela Express, Amtrak Cascades, Cardinal, Carolinian, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Pacific Surfliner, Palmetto, Silver Meteor, Silver Star, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle. It also depicts a map of US rail lines by Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, BNSF and Amtrak.

AQAP publishes guide for derailing trains in the US, Europe

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Aug. 13, 2017:

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has released the 17th edition of its Inspire magazine, in which the group calls on supporters to strike trains in the US and Europe.

The editors of Inspire say that followers can choose from one of three modes of attack. They can directly target the train from “either inside or from outside,” or target “the rail itself so as to derail the train,” or assault train stations, which “are always crowded and cause major interruption towards the transportation system.”

The latest issue of Inspire focuses mainly on the second means of attack, providing readers with step-by-step instructions for building a train derailment device. An 18-page guide to building a derail tool is included in the 97-page electronic magazine and signed by the “AQ Chef,” a name that has been attached to previous AQAP ideas, such as a how-to guide for building bombs that was published in Inspire years ago. The “AQ Chef” claims that the magazine’s “train derail” design is similar to the “industrial” tool “used by the track management staff” when they need to derail a train with faulty breaks.

The instructions begin with the building of a mold and end with the construction of a metal derail device. “We will keep away from using any electronic tools or tools that are specially used in construction…so as to remove any traces for suspicion,” the do-it-yourself guide reads.

This “weapon” has several advantages, according to AQAP. It is “[e]asy to design” and easy to “hide your tracks from forensics after the operation.” It will supposedly befuddle security agencies and leave the enemy “confused and disoriented.”

Interestingly, AQAP touts the fact that this type of “operation” does not require “martyrdom” and therefore “can be repeated.”

Hours after the new Inspire magazine was released online, the New York Police Department (NYPD) Counterterrorism Bureau responded with a series of messages on its official Twitter feed.

“We’ve known about the content & threats presented in the current issue of AQAP’s Inspire 17 prior to its release,” one NYPD tweet, seen on the right, reads. “Our robust multi-layered counterterrorism apparatus is designed to protect our air, land, waterways and railways in #NYC,” another tweet reads.

AQAP touts potential economic damage

Al Qaeda has long argued that its attacks and guerrilla warfare are intended to wear down the West, in part by driving up the costs of security and waging war. The adjustments made to airline security since the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings have been costly. Al Qaeda’s failed attempts to bring down airliners in the years that followed have also driven costs up.

In this vein, AQAP has repeatedly promoted the detrimental economic effects of its operations. In 2010, for instance, Inspire’s editors claimed that the $4,200 spent on an attempt to blow up cargo planes forced the West to spend billions of dollars in additional security. This made the operation effective even though no one was killed and the plot was thwarted, according to AQAP. [See FDD’s Long War Journalreport, AQAP releases a ‘special issue’ of Inspire magazine.]

Similarly, Inspire’s authors tout the intended economic impact of their plan, pointing to the large numbers of passengers carried on commuter trains and the valuable freight that is often transported by rail. One page summarizes the main “passenger train routes in America,” while another displays a map of “US railroad lines by ownership.”

“O Mujahideen,” AQAP’s men write, “it is time that we instill fear and make them impose strict security measures to trains as they did with their Air transportation.” Train derailments will “[c]ontinue to bleed the American economy [with] more losses, increase the psychological warfare and make it worry, fear and weaken much more.”

“We have to expose more of their vulnerabilities in their security,” Inspire’s editors explain. “And when they spend millions of dollars to tackle a vulnerability we should be ready to open a new [one] – by the strength of Allah.” In this manner, the jihadists claim, “we can make their economy bleed and wage a psychological warfare by breaching vulnerabilities in their security.”

AQAP’s editors recognize that most derailments don’t cause significant damage, but they argue that some accidents caused by train derails have been especially costly. Moreover, it is very difficult for authorities to protect the extensive railroad system, making it a prime target for disrupting the American economy.

To make their case, Inspire’s authors point to a 2004 report authored by the United States General Accounting Office (GAO). “There are over 100,000 miles of rail in the United States,” the report’s authors noted. “The extensiveness of the infrastructure creates an infinite number of targets for terrorists.”

Even so, Inspire’s authors warn followers that “railroad management staff still have some security measures” in place, including the regular deployment of “a rail inspection car on the railroad so as to inspect the rails.” AQAP says the “Lone Mujahid” can “overcome this security measure” by placing “the derail tool on the rails approximately 10 minutes before the train passes by.” The jihadist should also be “well aware of the timing and schedule of the train,” including the “route the targeted train will take.” This “information is widely and publicly available for all.”

Al Qaeda has targeted trains in the past

Targeting trains is hardly a new idea, of course. On Mar. 11, 2004, al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists placed ten bombs in backpacks and bags on board commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, killing 191 people and wounding nearly two thousand more.

In 2009, US officials thwarted an al Qaeda plot against commuter trains in the New York City area.

In 2013, Canadian authorities arrested two men who were plotting to derail trains traveling between Toronto and New York City. Canadian officials determined that the two jihadists, who were subsequently convicted on terrorism charges, received “support from al Qaeda elements located in Iran” in the form of “direction and guidance.”

In addition to trains and planes, al Qaeda has also attacked other transportation nodes in the past. The July 7, 2005 London bombings, which are referenced in the new edition of Inspire, targeted commuters during rush hour.

Other al Qaeda figures promote “Lone Jihad” attacks in Inspire

Inspire features commentary from several prominent jihadist figures, including Hamza bin Laden, the son of the al Qaeda’s founder. The terrorist publication includes the text of Hamza’s “advice for martyrdom seekers in the West,” which was released in May.

An essay by former Guantanamo detainee and current AQAP leader Ibrahim al-Qosi is titled, “imminent threat…” Al-Qosi, who worked for Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11, praises the “fear, terror and death” caused “by new creative and destructive Lone Jihad operations,” which are “executed by men from your own homeland.” Al-Qosi explains the logic behind such attacks, saying that they are carried out by “[m]en whose boots have not touched the lands of Jihad in Afghanistan or Sham and whose names have never been in the FBI or CIA black lists.” In other words, “Lone Jihad” operations do not rely on jihadists who may have been detected by authorities because of their suspicious travels.

In another piece, Ibrahim Ibn Hassan al-Asiri, a senior AQAP leader and bomb maker, explains “the importance of focusing on specific kinds of targets” in the transportation sector. Al-Asiri is a notorious explosives specialist and is suspected of crafting some of AQAP’s clever devices, including the underwear bomb used in a failed bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009. Al-Asiri calls on his “Mujahideen brothers everywhere, especially the Lone Jihad heroes” to follow in the footsteps of various terrorists. “Target America,” he advises.

Inspire also includes a lengthy interview with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) emir, Abu Musab Abdul Wadoud (a.k.a. Abdelmalek Droukdel). Like the others, Wadoud stresses the efficacy and necessity of “lone” jihadist attacks. “This method of jihad is one of the modes of conflict between us and the West – something both new and old – a way of hemming in the enemy and breaking its strength, and this mode of asymmetrical warfare was pioneered by our predecessors centuries ago,” Wadoud says. “The Lone Jihad has proven its effectiveness and ability to repel aggression.”

As FDD’s Long War Journal previously reported, the Islamic State has had more success than al Qaeda in inspiring or guiding “Lone Jihad” operations in recent years, despite the fact that AQAP was a key innovator in this regard. This has forced AQAP to praise a string of attacks carried out in the Islamic State’s name, even though AQAP opposes Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s so-called caliphate. In the latest edition of Inspire, AQAP continues to laud operations claimed by the Islamic State and its supporters, such as the June 2016 Orlando massacre, the July 2016 truck assault in Nice, France, the September 2016 attacks in the New York-New Jersey area and Minnesota, as well as the March 2017 terrorist incident near the British parliament in London. In a number of cases, “lone jihad” terrorists were first exposed to AQAP’s ideas but later claimed that they acted on behalf of the Islamic State.

Al Qaeda is attempting to regain the initiative with respect to “lone jihad” operations. In May, AQAP leader Qasim al-Raymi released a lengthy plea for more attacks in the West. Al Qaeda quickly followed Al-Raymi’s message with the aforementioned speech by Hamza bin Laden.

And the latest edition of Inspire is intended to further buttress these efforts, with multiple al Qaeda figures praising the “lone jihad.”

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