POMPEO SPEAKS

Powerline, by Scott Johnson, Sept. 12, 2017:

Bret Baier interviewed CIA Director Mike Pompeo yesterday afternoon for a segment of the FOX News Special Report. The interview was occasioned by the anniversary of 9/11. The questions were well informed and the answers were direct. Most striking to me was Pompeo’s contrast with his predecessor.

Baier, for example, asked Pompeo whether the intelligence assessments supported the proposition that ISIS constituted a junior varsity terrorist organization consistent with the advertised assessment of President Obama. “No,” Pompeo responded.

Baier elicited news from Pompeo with his answer to the question when the trove of documents captured in the raid on bin Laden’s compound would be released. Pompeo promised that they would be released in their entirety “very soon” — with the exception of pornography and copyrighted material. “Everything other than those items will be released in the weeks ahead,” he said.

Pompeo also acknowledged and discussed Iran’s collaborative relationship with al Qaeda. President Obama, you may recall, helped make billions of dollars available to the Iranian regime for its nefarious purposes. President Trump’s options with Iran may be limited, but at least he understands that we need a way out and means to do something about it. Iran seems to me to represent the single most sinister example of Obama’s efforts to bind those who would follow him to his warped vision.

‘KNOWN WOLF’ TERROR SCANDAL: CIA Knew About 9-11 Hijackers, Didn’t Provide Intel to FBI

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, Sept. 11, 2017:

As I’ve recounted in more than 30 articles here at PJ Media over the past three years, virtually every Islamic terrorist who has conducted an attack in the West since 9/11 has already been known to authorities, which prompted me to coin the phrase “known wolf” terrorism.

Amidst today’s commemoration of the 16th anniversary of 9/11, it bears recalling that 9/11 itself was a “known wolf” attack too.

The fact is that the CIA had intelligence that two Saudi 9/11 hijackers were living in the United States, but they deliberately refused to share the information with the FBI who had authority to act on such information and possibly prevent the 9/11 attacks.

In many respects, the 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11 were not only the victims of Al-Qaeda terrorists, but also bureaucratic incompetence and inter-governmental turf wars.

Who among those who sat on the information were punished? Well, none were. The CIA sitting on critical intelligence until just days before the attack was couched in the larger excuse of “intelligence failures” and swept under the rug.

Some of what we known about the CIA’s pre-9/11 intelligence about the hijackers comes from a joint congressional inquiry several years after the attacks, but the most revealing information has come from former FBI agent Mark Rossini, who though a FBI agent was assigned to the CIA and prevented from sharing the information with his colleagues.

Two years ago, Jeff Stein at Newsweek detailed Rossini’s story:

Rossini is well placed to do just that. He’s been at the center of one of the enduring mysteries of 9/11: Why the CIA refused to share information with the FBI (or any other agency) about the arrival of at least two well-known Al-Qaeda operatives in the United States in 2000, even though the spy agency had been tracking them closely for years.

That the CIA did block him and Doug Miller, a fellow FBI agent assigned to the “Alec Station,” the cover name for CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, from notifying bureau headquarters about the terrorists has been told before, most notably in a 2009 Nova documentary on PBS, “The Spy Factory.” Rossini and Miller related how they learned earlier from the CIA that one of the terrorists (and future hijacker), Khalid al-Mihdhar, had multi-entry visas on a Saudi passport to enter the United States. When Miller drafted a report for FBI headquarters, a CIA manager in the top-secret unit told him to hold off. Incredulous, Miller and Rossini had to back down. The station’s rules prohibited them from talking to anyone outside their top-secret group.

The various commissions and internal agency reviews that examined the “intelligence failure” of 9/11 blamed institutional habits and personal rivalries among CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) officials for preventing them from sharing information. Out of those reviews came the creation of a new directorate of national intelligence, which stripped the CIA of its coordinating authority. But blaming “the system” sidesteps the issue of why one CIA officer in particular, Michael Anne Casey, ordered Rossini’s cohort, Miller, not to alert the FBI about al-Mihdhar. Or why the CIA’s Alec Station bosses failed to alert the FBI—or any other law enforcement agency—about the arrival of Nawaf al-Hazmi, another key Al-Qaeda operative (and future hijacker) the agency had been tracking to and from a terrorist summit in Malaysia.

Because Casey remains undercover at the CIA, Rossini does not name her in his unfinished manuscript. But he wrote, “When I confronted this person…she told me that ‘this was not a matter for the FBI. The next al-Qaeda attack is going to happen in Southeast Asia and their visas for America are just a diversion. You are not to tell the FBI about it. When and if we want the FBI to know about it, we will.’

Rossini recalled going to Miller’s cubicle right after his conversation with Casey. “He looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language.… We were both stunned and could not understand why the FBI was not going to be told about this.”

It remains a mystery. None of the post-9/11 investigating bodies were able to get to the bottom of it, in part because Rossini and Miller, who continued to work at Alec Station after the attacks, didn’t tell anyone what happened there. When congressional investigators came sniffing around, they kept their mouths shut.

“We were told not to say anything to them,” Rossini said. Who told you that? I asked. “The CIA. I can’t name names. It was just understood in the office that they were not to be trusted, that [the congressional investigators] were trying to pin this on someone, that they were trying to put someone in jail. They said [the investigators] weren’t authorized to know what was going on operationally.… When we were interviewed, the CIA had a person in the room, monitoring us.”

As a result, Rossini wasn’t interviewed by the subsequent 9/11 Commission, either. “Based on that interview, I guess the 9/11 Commission [which followed up the congressional probe] thought I didn’t have anything worthy to say.” He kept his secret, he said, from the Justice Department’s inspector general as well. “I was still in shock,” he added, and still fearful of violating Alec Station’s demand for omerta. Finally, when his own agency—the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR)—came to him in late 2004, after the congressional probe and 9/11 Commission had issued their reports, he opened up.

The CIA has long insisted it shared intelligence about al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi with the FBI, but records gathered by the 9/11 Commission contradict this assertion. Indeed, the panel could find no records supporting the claim of another Alec Station supervisor, Alfreda Bikowsky, that she had hand-carried a report to the FBI.

“The FBI is telling the truth,” Philip Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 Commission, told Newsweek. As for why the CIA not only failed to share pre-9/11 information on Al-Qaeda operatives but forbade the FBI agents in Alec Station from sharing it, Zelikow said, “We don’t know.”

Ironically, the intelligence that the CIA was holding onto was from a lead developed by the FBI investigating the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

The FBI had pinpointed an Al-Qaeda operative named Ahmed Al-Hada and from there mapped an extensive network, but the monitoring and intelligence gathering was the purview of the intelligence community, not the FBI.

Lawrence Wright of The New Yorker traced the intelligence the CIA developed on the 9/11 hijackers based on that FBI lead:

A conversation on the Hada phone at the end of 1999 mentioned a forthcoming meeting of Al Qaeda operatives in Malaysia. The C.I.A. learned the name of one participant, Khaled al-Mihdhar, and the first name of another: Nawaf. Both men were Saudi citizens. The C.I.A. did not pass this intelligence to the F.B.I.

However, the C.I.A. did share the information with Saudi authorities, who told the agency that Mihdhar and a man named Nawaf al-Hazmi were members of Al Qaeda. Based on this intelligence, the C.I.A. broke into a hotel room in Dubai where Mihdhar was staying, en route to Malaysia. The operatives photocopied Mihdhar’s passport and faxed it to Alec Station, the C.I.A. unit devoted to tracking bin Laden. Inside the passport was the critical information that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa. The agency did not alert the F.B.I. or the State Department so that Mihdhar’s name could be put on a terror watch list, which would have prevented him from entering the U.S.

The C.I.A. asked Malaysian authorities to provide surveillance of the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, which took place on January 5, 2000, at a condominium overlooking a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. The condo was owned by a Malaysian businessman who had ties to Al Qaeda. The pay phone that Soufan had queried the agency about was directly in front of the condo. Khallad used it to place calls to Quso in Yemen. Although the C.I.A. later denied that it knew anything about the phone, the number was recorded in the Malaysians’ surveillance log, which was given to the agency.

At the time of the Kuala Lumpur meeting, Special Branch, the Malaysian secret service, photographed about a dozen Al Qaeda associates outside the condo and visiting nearby Internet cafés. These pictures were turned over to the C.I.A. The meeting was not wiretapped; had it been, the agency might have uncovered the plots that culminated in the bombing of the Cole and the September 11, 2001, attacks. On January 8th, Special Branch notified the C.I.A. that three of the men who had been at the meeting—Mihdhar, Hazmi, and Khallad—were travelling together to Bangkok. There Khallad met with Quso and one of the suicide bombers of the Cole. Quso gave Khallad the thirty-six thousand dollars, which was most likely used to buy tickets to Los Angeles for Mihdhar and Hazmi and provide them with living expenses in the U.S. Both men ended up on planes involved in the September 11th attacks.

In March, the C.I.A. learned that Hazmi had flown to Los Angeles two months earlier, on January 15th. Had the agency checked the flight manifest, it would have noticed that Mihdhar was traveling with him. Once again, the agency neglected to inform the F.B.I. or the State Department that at least one Al Qaeda operative was in the country.

Although the C.I.A. was legally bound to share this kind of information with the bureau, it was protective of sensitive intelligence. The agency sometimes feared that F.B.I. prosecutions resulting from such intelligence might compromise its relationships with foreign services, although there were safeguards to protect confidential information. The C.I.A. was particularly wary of O’Neill, who demanded control of any case that touched on an F.B.I. investigation. Many C.I.A. officials disliked him and feared that he could not be trusted with sensitive intelligence. “O’Neill was duplicitous,” Michael Scheuer, the official who founded Alec Station but has now left the C.I.A., told me. “He had no concerns outside of making the bureau look good.” Several of O’Neill’s subordinates suggested that the C.I.A. hid the information out of personal animosity. “They hated John,” the F.B.I. counterterrorism official assigned to Alec Station told me. “They knew that John would have marched in there and taken control of that case.”

The C.I.A. may also have been protecting an overseas operation and was afraid that the F.B.I. would expose it. Moreover, Mihdhar and Hazmi could have seemed like attractive recruitment possibilities—the C.I.A. was desperate for a source inside Al Qaeda, having failed to penetrate the inner circle or even to place someone in the training camps, even though they were largely open to anyone who showed up. However, once Mihdhar and Hazmi entered the United States they were the province of the F.B.I. The C.I.A. has no legal authority to operate inside the country.

The CIA’s turf war with the FBI, in fact, would cost John O’Neill his life on 9/11. Having retired from the FBI in July 2001, he took up a new position as director of security for the World Trade Center. He died on the job during the attacks.

Other FBI agents working leads related to the 9/11 cell have also expressed frustration at the CIA’s reluctance to share the critical intelligence regarding Mihdhar and Hazmi with the FBI.

The terrorist pair had come under the watch of San Diego FBI agent Steven Butler when they lived there, but the information about their role in the Al-Qaeda network was never shared.

Two seasoned New York FBI terror investigators, Frank Pellegrino and John Anticev, also lament that the CIA’s intelligence could have helped prevent the 9/11 attacks.

The view raised by Wright in his New Yorker article that the CIA may have planned to, or possibly unsuccessfully tried to, recruit Mihdhar and Hazmi has the support of at least one senior official.

In a video interview for a documentary, Richard Clarke, who served as counter-terrorism ‘czar’ for President Bill Clinton and then President George W. Bush, speculates that this failed CIA recruitment scenario is exactly what happened (particularly ~4:00-8:00):

As Clarke, who was directly involved in a senior role in the events before and after 9/11, notes the CIA did finally turn over the information about the presence of Mihdhar and Hazmi in the U.S. three weeks before 9/11 on August 21st, but only after they had lost contact with the pair.

Clarke also notes that the information was only shared with lower level FBI officials and never with senior management.

But at a September 4th meeting on terrorism with Cabinet-level officials at the White House, the presence of two known Al-Qaeda operatives inside the United States was curiously never mentioned, let alone discussed.

One week later, 3,000 Americans would be dead, the World Trade Center would be destroyed, the Pentagon would be heavily damaged, and the U.S. economy would lose $1 trillion in value in just a few days.

As horrific as 9/11 was – the most lethal terrorist attack in modern world history – it is compounded by the tragedy that the reasons why that attack was allowed to happen have STILL never been fully investigated, let alone revealed.

And with each subsequent terror attack in the U.S., we discover that the suspects were again known to law enforcement and intelligence officials — “known wolf” attacks — with all indications that the negligence and mistakes made prior to 9/11 are still being made costing American lives.

That scandal demeans the lives of all those lost on that terrible day.

CIA’s New Boss Accused of Not Being Interested in Diversity

Front Page Magazine, by Daniel Greenfield, Sept. 10, 2017:

The CIA needs diversity like a racehorse needs a fifth leg.

The Foreign Policy “expose” accidentally demonstrates that with its opening anecdote.

In early summer, Judy and Dennis Shepard bought plane tickets to give a speech to the workforce at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The Shepards in 1998 had founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation in honor of their late son — a 21-year-old college freshman who was viciously attacked and left tied to a fence before he was brought to a hospital where he died of his injuries. One of the most notorious anti-gay acts of violence in U.S. history, his death led to some of the country’s first federal hate crime laws.

The Shepards had been invited to the CIA to talk about diversity and LGBTQ rights, joining a long line of guest speakers at the covert overseas spy agency including lawmakers, former officials, authors, and celebrities.

The schedule was set, and the details arranged, but in the 11th hour, the senior leadership shut down the event. The seventh floor, where the director’s office sits, had the Shepards’ speech canceled, questioning what value it would bring to the CIA mission.

Good question. What value does it bring? FP’s article treats the answer as self-evident. But it isn’t at all.

Does the CIA have a major gay bashing problem? Is it involved in solving gay hate crimes? There’s no concievable reason for this except Obama Inc’s obsession with shoehorning its social justice agenda into everything. And so it was rightly canceled. The CIA should have better things to do than diversity training. Except not according to FP.

The cancellation, now under review by the CIA’s Office of General Counsel, according to a second source, left employees disheartened — particularly those invested in the diversity reforms that were emphasized during the tenure of John Brennan, the former CIA director.

…if you were looking for yet another reason why John Brennan shouldn’t have ever been allowed to run the CIA or fry eggs over the stove…

But the media is playing the same old game of turning embedded Obama operatives in an organization into anonymous sources that highlight some larger supposed frustration about the organization’s mission. Because #Resistance.

For those who have worked inside the agency, the backtracking on diversity represents a threat to the workforce and national security,

Yes, not hearing a lecture on Matthew Shepard undermines our national security…

The agency needs employees from different backgrounds and orientations to effectively recruit agents abroad.

Somehow the old CIA managed to recruit all sorts back in the day. Has the new diversity CIA gotten better at recruiting assets?

“The most important intelligence product … during the 1950s and ’60s and ’70s was essentially produced by old white men,” said David Priess, a former CIA briefer and author of The President’s Book of Secrets.

Not to mention science. If only Newton or Einstein had been forced to sit through a lecture on Angela Davis or Matthew Shephard.

In March 2013, John Brennan was appointed director under President Barack Obama, and the new CIA head moved to make diversity and employee rights a priority. Senior leaders competed for spots to speak at employee gay pride events and accompanied the director to diversity events and celebrations.

…priotiies. When the left takes over, national security ceases to be a priority and is replaced by political correctness.

But for Brennan, the changes were a matter of building a better workforce, as well as national security. “I believe strongly that diversity and inclusion [are] what this country is all about,” Brennan said in a phone interview with FP. “I can think of no organization that can make a better business case for diversity and inclusion than the CIA.”

Except just about every organization. But who wants to waste time on intel when there’s virtue to be signaled.

In June, the intelligence community held its pride summit at FBI headquarters. Speakers included then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who said the intelligence community’s credibility derived from the importance it placed on diversity. “We all need to be allies, to walk in each other’s shoes, to try to understand what it’s like, for example, to be gay, a person of color, or transgender, or all of these at the same time,” he said in a keynote speech.

Another reminder of what a disaster McCabe is.

During his very first all-hands speech to the CIA workforce, Pompeo cheered the officers and analysts, pledging to support them. But on the issue of diversity, Pompeo’s response raised concerns. According to two sources familiar with the speech, he was repeatedly asked about his commitment to diversity. After the third question, he visibly lost his temper. He snapped back, saying he didn’t know what people wanted him to do besides seek out the best person for the job, one source who was present at the speech recalled.

The best person for the job? Come on. What is this? Some sort of meritocracy.

“He didn’t seem to understand the need for a workforce that reflects America,” another source familiar with speech noted.

They don’t want a workforce that reflects America, but one that reflects Berkeley.

When asked if Pompeo had attended any diversity events, the spokesperson instead referred to Pompeo’s commitment to hiring the best person. “Whether that person is an African American IT professional from New York, a Pashtun speaking Italian from Montana or a Hmong scholar from Mississippi, there is only one question:  can that person deliver the mission they are tasked with undertaking to keep America safe?” the spokesperson said.

“This is heartbreaking,” said Bakos, the former CIA analyst, of reports that diversity efforts are backsliding. “It’s already too easy to get these flag-waving, chest-bumping people” hired into the agency.

And why would we want those?

How Can US Leaders NOT Know About Islam?

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, Aug. 28, 2017:

When Understanding the Threat (UTT) conducts its 3-day “Understanding and Investigating the Jihadi Network” two things are always true at the end of the course:  (1) the attendees tell us none of them – including FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force agents/officers – were aware of the information presented prior to attending the course, and (2) they all believe the information is critical to protecting their communities.

How is this possible?

In the last few weeks, UTT has written articles, given numerous media interviews, produced UTT’s Radio Show, and related information via social media detailing the failure of our government to identify the Islamic threat and deal with it in a factual/reality-based manner.

This produced numerous questions from UTT followers, media, and others asking “How is it possible U.S. leaders are so ignorant of Islam and sharia?”

The answer is simple: 100% of our enemy states they are muslims waging jihad to establish an Islamic State under sharia.  They call the means to do this “Civilization Jihad,” and the U.S. Islamic Movement – primarily led by the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood – does this by controlling the narrative about Islam inside our system.  The MB controls the narrative by controlling the information our national security professionals receive as it relates to “terrorism” and related matters.

Inside the government, there is no training which provides employees of the State Department, FBI, CIA, DHS, DIA, National Security staffs, Pentagon, military commands, or other key components of the government factual information about sharia (Islamic Law) and its role in this war.  Nor is there substantive training related to the massive jihadi network in the United States, primarily led by the Muslim Brotherhood.

How did we get here?

In 2006, UTT’s John Guandolo (an FBI Special Agent at the time) created and implemented the first training inside the U.S. government which detailed:  sharia as the enemy threat doctrine, what it is, its authority in Islam, and what it says; the Muslim Brotherhood history, network, key organizations and leaders, modus operandi, and examples of penetrations and operations inside the United States; funding channels for the Global Islamic Movement; and investigative and strategic solutions to this threat.

The program was a resounding success and all the graduates believed it should be given to all government employees and law enforcement officers.

In the fall of 2006, John Guandolo notified coordinators of a 9/11 event they should reconsider including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) because they operate as a Hamas entity.  Leaders of CAIR called leadership at FBI Headquarters who called the Assistant Director of the FBI’s Washington Field Office (WFO) who, in turn, called the Special Agent in Charge of WFO and Mr. Guandolo was reprimanded.

And so it continues today across our government.

The primary Islamic advisors regarding the Islamic threat inside the White House, State Department, CIA, FBI, DHS, national security staffs, and others are Muslim Brotherhood (MB) operatives or muslims ideologically aligned with the MB.

The key universities where senior government officials (including military generals) receive their masters and doctorate degrees in Middle East Studies and related topics – like Georgetown and Harvard – are bought and paid for by Saudi Arabia (The Kingdom Group).  No truth about sharia is being taught there.

There is no discussion of Islamic sharia – with the exception of propaganda being taught by muslim professors – at the military war colleges, the Joint Forces Staff College, boot camps, basic officer trainings or anywhere else in the military.

The U.S. Marine Corps’ 9 month long Command & Staff College does not even mention the word “jihad.”

Muslim Brother Arif Alikhan served as the DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy and was a Professor of Homeland Security & Counterterrorism at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

In 2011, there was a directed purge of all training materials inside the Department of Justice, FBI, DHS, and the military after known Muslim Brotherhood groups the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and Hamas doing business as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) complained to the White House about “offensive” materials being included in government training discussing Islam.  FBI Director Mueller, DHS Secretary Napolitano and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey (US Army) all ordered the “offensive” materials purged.

Inside the government, those who speak truth and follow facts/evidence leading to sharia (Islamic Law) as the basis for why the enemy is fighting are rejected.  In the case of DHS employee Philip Haney, his investigations uncovered thousands of organizations and individuals who were involved in planning and organizing jihadi activities inside the United States.  DHS officials removed over 800 records of jihadis and jihadi organizations which were put into DHS’s system by Haney.  Then DHS went after Haney with numerous internal investigations to shut his work down.

Former DHS Investigator Philip Haney

Read the article Mr. Haney wrote in the Hill about this here.  Mr. Haney’s book See Something, Say Nothing further details his experiences.

So how would our leaders come to understand the threat?  How would FBI agents, CIA case officers, or DHS employees?

From the time they enter government service, and during their daily work, the message is that this war has nothing to do with “real Islam.”

The factual basis for understanding the enemy threat doctrine – Sharia – is nowhere to be found in the U.S. government, and so the very people charged with protecting American citizens remain ignorant of the threat of Islam.

This is the intentional outcome of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s decades long campaign.

Trump Got This One Right

An anti-Assad militia member loads an American-made TOW anti-tank missile southeast of the city of Tal Afar. Photo credit: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP / Getty

Weekly Standard, by Thomas Joscelyn, THE MAGAZINE: From the August 7 Issue

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump was shown a disturbing video of Syrian rebels beheading a child near the city of Aleppo. It had caused a minor stir in the press as the fighters belonged to the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, a group that had been supported by the CIA as part of its rebel aid program.

The footage is haunting. Five bearded men smirk as they surround a boy in the back of a pickup truck. One of them holds the boy’s head with a tight grip on his hair while another mockingly slaps his face. Then, one of them uses a knife to saw the child’s head off and holds it up in the air like a trophy. It is a scene reminiscent of the Islamic State’s snuff videos, except this wasn’t the work of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s men. The murderers were supposed to be the good guys: our allies.

Trump wanted to know why the United States had backed Zenki if its members are extremists. The issue was discussed at length with senior intelligence officials, and no good answers were forthcoming, according to people familiar with the conversations. After learning more worrisome details about the CIA’s ghost war in Syria—including that U.S.-backed rebels had often fought alongside extremists, among them al Qaeda’s arm in the country—the president decided to end the program altogether.

On July 19, the Washington Post broke the news of Trump’s decision: “a move long sought by Russia,” the paper’s headline blared. Politicians from both sides of the aisle quickly howled in protest, claiming that Trump’s decision was a surrender to Vladimir Putin.

There is no doubt that Putin, who has the blood of many Syrian civilians on his hands, was pleased by the move. But that doesn’t mean the rebel aid program was effective or served American interests.

The defenders of the CIA program argue that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) remains our best hope for a moderate opposition to Assad. But the FSA is not the single, unified organization its name implies. It is, rather, a loose collection of groups that have adopted the FSA brand, often in addition to their own names and branding. Although “Free Syrian Army” sounds secular and moderate, its constituents are ideologically diverse and include numerous extremists. Zenki, for example, was referred to as an FSA group well after its hardline beliefs were evident, and few FSA groups could be considered truly secular. Several prominent FSA organizations advocate Islamist ideas, meaning they believe that some version of sharia law should rule Syrian society.

To make matters worse: FSA-affiliated rebels have often been allied with Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria. Some of the most prominent FSA groups, indeed, objected to the U.S. government’s decision to designate Nusra as a terrorist organization in December 2012. Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm was even then strong enough to command loyalty in the face of American sanctions. There have been episodic clashes between Nusra and America’s FSA allies, but more often than not FSA-branded rebels have been in the trenches alongside Nusra’s jihadists.

Jabhat al-Nusra, publicly an arm of al Qaeda until July 2016, has been the single strongest organization within the insurgency for some time. Well before President Trump was inaugurated, Nusra had grown into a menace. And America’s provision of arms to FSA-branded rebels worked to Nusra’s advantage—an inconvenient fact for those criticizing the president’s decision.

Russia intervened in Syria in September 2015, and the timing was not accidental. Just months earlier, in March, the “Army of Conquest” took over the northwestern province of Idlib. This rebel coalition was no band of moderates. It was led by Nusra and included its closest Islamist and jihadist partners. The Army of Conquest was on the march, threatening the Assad family’s stronghold of Latakia on the coast. Had the insurgents progressed much further south, Bashar al-Assad’s regime would have been in serious jeopardy, perhaps would even have fallen. With the backing of Russia and Iran, Assad’s forces rallied and stopped the Nusra-led coalition from taking even more ground. Russia saved Assad, but its efforts also stymied the jihadists’ offensive—a important fact that is often left out of Syria policy debates.

Since July 2016, Jabhat al-Nusra has changed its name twice and merged with other organizations to form a group known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (“Assembly for the Liberation of Syria,” or HTS). The group is riven by internal rivalries, with some members even arguing that its leadership is no longer beholden to al Qaeda. But the jihadists are consolidating their control over Idlib as part of a totalitarian drive to dominate governance in the province.

HTS’s top-dog status within Idlib is no accident. Al Qaeda’s leadership and Jabhat al-Nusra have been laying the groundwork for an Islamic emirate, based on radical sharia law, in Syria since 2012. And their plan has called for exploiting Free Syrian Army groups and their CIA support.

Nusra has been happy to take advantage of the support FSA groups received from the United States and other nations supporting the multi-sided proxy war against Assad. There are dozens of videos online showing Syrian rebels firing the American-made, anti-tank BGM-71 TOW missile. The TOW is distinctive in appearance and relatively easy to identify, making it a rather public announcement of the groups involved in the CIA’s “clandestine” program. If one wants to know which FSA-branded groups have been approved by Langley, just look for TOW missiles.

Defenders of the program argue that only a small number of TOWs have been fired by al Qaeda’s men or other non-vetted rebels. Maybe. But at least some of the “vetted” groups shouldn’t have been deemed acceptable partners in the first place. Zenki received TOWs even though its extremism is obvious. Other Islamist groups within the loose-knit FSA coalition received TOWs as well.

And Nusra used such organizations to further its own designs. Abu Kumayt, who served as a fighter in the Western-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF), explained to the New York Times in December 2014 that Nusra “lets groups vetted by the United States keep the appearance of independence, so that they will continue to receive American supplies.” Another “commander” in a group that received TOWs told the Times that FSA “fighters were forced to operate them . . . on behalf of” Nusra during a battle with Assad’s forces. American-made weapons were fueling the jihadists’ gains and when Nusra finally grew tired of the SRF and Harakat Hazm, another American-supported group based in Idlib province, it quickly dispatched them, taking their weapons in the process.

American-made arms helped fuel the insurgents’ gains in Idlib province in 2015. Today, that same province is home to a nascent Taliban-style state.

Advocates for the Syrian opposition point to areas of the country outside of Idlib province where FSA-branded groups seem to hold more sway. But the story is almost always complicated by a jihadist presence. Take Aleppo, for instance, where in August 2016, insurgents temporarily broke the regime’s brutal siege. The Army of Conquest coalition—the same Nusra-led alliance that took over Idlib—played a key role in the fighting, as they would in a second attempt to break the siege later in 2016.

In October 2016, the U.N.’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told reporters that Nusra accounted for only 900 to 1,000 of the 8,000 opposition fighters in Aleppo. After objections that this modest figure was too high, the U.N. revised its estimate downward, claiming Nusra had just 150 to 200 members within the Aleppo opposition. Advocates then seized on this low figure to argue that the insurgents inside the city deserved the full backing of the West. They ignored the fact that the other, non-Nusra rebels included many extremists—such as Zenki.

It is doubtful that the U.N.’s lowball estimate for Nusra’s presence in Aleppo was accurate; Nusra produced videos showing large convoys making their way to the city, which suggested a much bigger force. But even the U.N. conceded that Nusra’s “influence” was greater than its numbers implied, because of the jihadists’ “operational capacity coupled with the fear that they engendered from other groups.” Part of the reason Nusra is so operationally effective is its use of suicide bombers, and a series of these “martyrs” were deployed by Nusra and its allies during key points in the battle for Aleppo. Without Nusra’s Army of Conquest, the insurgents would have had little hope of breaking Assad’s grip on the city, and TOW-armed FSA groups, some of them Islamist, fought right alongside Nusra’s men.

The bottom line: Sunni jihadists and extremists are laced throughout the Syrian rebellion and have been for years. While pockets of acceptable allies remain, there is no evidence that any truly moderate force is effectively fighting Assad, and President Trump was right to end the program of CIA support for the Syrian opposition.

It is a dire situation, and one might easily conclude that a full alliance with Russia in Syria makes some sense. That is clearly the president’s thinking. His administration has already explored ways to cooperate with Putin against the Islamic State, including brokering a ceasefire in southern Syria. But a partnership with Russia has its own downsides.

Russian and Syrian jets have indiscriminately and repeatedly bombed civilian targets. The Assad regime has used chemical weapons, which Trump himself objected to, bombing a Syrian airfield in response. The United States cannot endorse these war crimes by allying itself with the perpetrators of mass murder in Syria. The president has loudly denounced Iran and its sponsorship of terrorism throughout the world. But Russia and the Syrian government have sponsored Iran’s growing footprint in the country. A recent State Department report said that as many 7,000 fighters from Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terror group that is opposed to both the United States and Israel, are now located in Syria. These same Hezbollah fighters, along with Shiite militiamen sponsored by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), are Russia’s and Assad’s key on-the-ground allies.

All of which is to say that there are no easy answers in Syria. But that doesn’t mean the United States should keep playing a losing hand. And that’s exactly what the program to support Syria’s rebels was—a bad deal.

Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.

Trump Shuts Down CIA Support for Syrian ‘Rebels’ After Years of Chronic Failure

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, July 24, 2017:

The announcement last week that the Trump administration was shutting down the “covert” CIA program of arming Syrian “rebel” groups couldn’t have come too soon.

As I’ve reported here in more than three dozen articles over the past three years, the CIA support program had suffered chronic failures, including defections of groups “vetted” by the CIA defecting to al-Qaeda and ISIS, and leakage of weapons provided by the CIA into the hands of those same terror groups.

The pinnacle of this failure came in Obama’s last few hours in the White House in January, when he ordered the bombing of a terror training camp that also hosted fighters from a CIA-“vetted” group embedded with Al-Qaeda. That same CIA-“vetted” group officially partnered with Al-Qaeda a few days later.

Perhaps the defining moment of the U.S. support for Syrian “rebels” debacle came last year when CIA-backed groups were fighting against groups backed by the Pentagon:

The Washington Post announced the cancellation of the CIA support program last week, claiming without evidence that the move was made to placate Russia:

The termination of the program was confirmed by SOCOM Gen. Tony Thomas at the Aspen Security Forum on Friday:

Gen. Thomas specifically refuted the Washington Post‘s Russia tie-in to the announcement:

But as I reported here at PJ Media back in February, the CIA had already begun shutting down the weapons pipeline to the “rebel” groups.

Predictably, the “rebel” groups began flocking to Al-Qaeda as soon as the CIA pipeline began to slow.

In response to the program cancellation announcement, cheerleaders of the “vetted moderate rebels” complained that the U.S. hadn’t supported the groups enough.

But that talking point was rebutted by Obama nearly three years ago.

In an August 2014 interview with Tom Friedman in the New York Times, Obama dismissed the notion that more weapons would have given the “rebels” any kind of edge and expressed frustration at the inability to find enough “moderates”:

With “respect to Syria,” said the president, the notion that arming the rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy.This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”

Even now, the president said, the administration has difficulty finding, training and arming a sufficient cadre of secular Syrian rebels: “There’s not as much capacity as you would hope.”

And yet, just a month later the GOP congressional leadership passed $500 million in additional funds for an eventual U.S.-backed, Pentagon-trained army of 15,000 “vetted moderates” to combat ISIS. In less than a year, that half-billion dollar boondoggle approved by Congress turned into a disaster. By July 2015, fewer than 60 fighters had been successfully vetted and trained — costing taxpayers nearly $4 million for each fighter.

[…]

By any objective measure, the CIA’s assistance to the Syrian “rebel” groups has been a complete catastrophe.

The CIA’s botched handling in both Libya and Syria should serve as a cautionary tale to the Trump administration about the follies of ill-informed intervention. While those policies may have been driven by the best of intentions, the results have been horrifically bad.

And contrary to the program’s defenders, these efforts are very likely responsible for drawing Russia and Iran deeper into the region.

As the Assad regime, backed by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, continues to make gains against the opposition’s positions, and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the north of the country pressure ISIS, we can only expect that the opposition will grow even more dominated by the terrorist groups because they have largely been the only game in town. And it’s likely that continued CIA support would have accelerated that radicalization process, not delayed it.

A few of us lonely voices have said this is where the Syrian war was heading all along. And the cancellation of the CIA’s support program is at least a tacit recognition that we were right.

Read more

Report: Trump Ending Obama’s Covert CIA Program to Arm and Train Syrian Rebels

AP Photo/Virginie Nguyen Huang

Breitbart, by John Hayward, July 19, 2017:

President Donald Trump is reportedly ending a covert CIA program to arm and train Syrian rebel forces that dates back to 2013.

According to a report by the Washington Postthe president made the decision almost a month ago in an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

The Post frames this as a huge victory for Russia, citing the decision as an aspect of “Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests.” The Post notes that Russia targeted some of these Syrian fighters with airstrikes when it intervened in the Syrian civil war and quotes an unnamed “current official” who bluntly declared, “Putin won in Syria.”

However, the same report notes that even supporters of the CIA program have “questioned its efficacy,” admits U.S. leverage against the Assad regime has grown “limited,” concedes that ending the program was not a condition for the cease-fire agreement Trump reached with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and notes that Jordan supports Trump’s decision.

Even a former Obama administration official, Ilan Goldenberg, described Trump’s decision as “probably a nod to reality.” However, he added that ending all support for the Syrian rebels would be a “huge strategic mistake.” Pentagon programs to assist rebel forces are said to remain in effect, including a plan Trump approved in May to arm the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

The Washington Post piece quotes some American intelligence officials who say it was President Barack Obama’s failure to respond to Russian intervention against increasingly successful rebel forces in 2015 that set the stage for Assad’s eventual triumph.

The Obama administration also gave up on some high-profile efforts to train and equip a proxy force in Syria, most notably a $500 million effort that ended in absolute disaster and became a laughingstock across the Middle East.

The Washington Post also fails to mention that a distressing number of the weapons shipped by the CIA to Syrian rebels under Obama ended up in the hands of black marketeers and terrorists. Some of those weapons were used to kill Americans. The ability of the U.S. government to “vet” Syrian rebels and keep American equipment away from terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, has long been questioned.

Sometimes the rebels Obama provided with weapons openly threw in their lot with al-Qaeda and its Nusra Front franchise because they had the best chance of defeating the Syrian military and its allies.

Spicing up reports of this decision with dark insinuations about Trump’s ties with Russia does not conceal the cold truth that regime change in Syria is very unlikely, and it was President Barack Obama who made it that way – not that much enthusiasm for plunging the United States into Syria’s civil war, and possibly ending up in combat against Russian and Iranian forces, could be found in any corner of the political spectrum.

Even the cynical notion of arming unsavory Syrian insurgents against Assad and letting them bleed each other out proved to be a disaster because it led to a humanitarian horror show and a flood of refugees that may have changed Europe forever. Those who insinuate Trump is doing Vladimir Putin’s bidding by ending the CIA program to arm Syrian rebels should be prepared to explain their strategy for achieving something other than a bloody stalemate, civilian slaughter, and an endless flow of refugees. Clearly, no one associated with Barack Obama had any such strategy.