Ex-Guantanamo detainee carried out suicide attack near Mosul, Iraq

17-02-21-ronald-fiddler-isis-suicide-bomber-near-mosulLong War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Feb. 22, 2017:

The British press buzzed yesterday with news that a former Guantanamo detainee known as Jamal al Harith (formerly Ronald Fiddler) had blown himself up in a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in Iraq. Al Harith reportedly took part in the Islamic State’s defensive suicide attacks around Mosul, which is one of the organization’s de facto capitals. The so-called caliphate claims to have launched scores of suicide VBIEDs in defense of the city.

On the same day al Harith executed his attack (Feb. 20), the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency released a short video of three SUVs being deployed as bombs. All three vehicles had armor added to the front. One of the three was presumably driven by al Harith. The Islamic State released a photo al Harith (seen above), identifying him by the alias Abu Zakariya al Britani. The group also issued a claim of responsibility for his bombing.

Al Harith’s death brings to an end one of the strangest stories in the history of the detention facility at Guantanamo. Along with four others, Al Harith was transferred to American custody in early 2002 after being found in the Taliban-controlled Sarposa prison.

According to leaked Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessments, jihadis in Afghanistan accused all five men of being spies for foreign powers looking to infiltrate the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s ranks. Sarposa (spelled “Sarpooza” and “Sarpuza” in JTF-GTMO’s files) was overrun by the Northern Alliance in late 2001 and the men (subsequently dubbed the Sarposa Five) were handed over to the Americans and then transferred to Guantanamo.

Read more

Also see:

Al Qaeda often agitated for Omar Abdel Rahman’s release from US prison

blind-sheikhLONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN, | February 19, 2017:

News broke yesterday that Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian jihadi ideologue, died in a US prison. Within hours of the reports, al Qaeda re-released a copy of Rahman’s last “will,” in which Rahman asked his “brothers” to exact “revenge” for his death.

The US District Court for the Southern District of New York convicted Rahman (seen on the right) on terror-related charges in 1995 and he was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. Rahman was convicted for his role in a conspiracy to launch terror attacks against several New York City landmarks, including the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the FBI’s main office in Manhattan, and the United Nations building. Investigators also found that he was involved with the jihadists responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The ninth issue of al Qaeda’s Al-Nafir newsletter, which was released online after news of Rahman’s death spread, carried a version of Rahman’s “Will to the Islamic Ummah.” In the text, Rahman complained of the treatment he was allegedly subjected to in an American prison, writing that the US is purposefully “eliminating the scholars who speak the truth.” (This is a common al Qaeda talking point, as the jihadis frequently accuse the Americans of targeting their “scholars.”)

Rahman claimed that the Americans will “eventually kill me,” either through poisoning, or by giving him spoiled medicine, or with an overdose of drugs. Rahman warned that the Americans will lie about the causes of his death, so the jihadis shouldn’t believe them.

Rahman, who was 78, died of natural causes, according to American officials.

His “will” has been a piece of jihadi propaganda since the 1990s.

“My brothers, if they [the Americans] kill me, and they eventually will do so, then perform my funeral and give my corpse to my family,” Rahman wrote, according to a translation of Al-Nafir obtained by FDD’s Long War Journal. “Do not forget my blood and do not squander it, but exact a severe and fierce revenge on them for me.” Rahman called on others to remember that he was their “brother” and that he “spoke the truth” in the cause of Allah.

Al-Nafir’s version is similar to the text that was distributed in 1998. In The Osama bin Laden I Know, Peter Bergen wrote that copies of Rahman’s “will” were distributed at a press conference hosted by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri on May 26, 1998.

Rahman’s sons handed out a laminated card with their father’s will, as well as a fatwa authorizing attacks against the US, written on it. The text of Rahman’s last will described by Bergen appears to be the same as Al-Nafir’s, meaning Rahman first warned that the Americans were slowly killing him almost twenty years ago. He eventually died — and now al Qaeda is using his death to call for retribution.

According to the translation obtained by Bergen, Rahman’s fatwa read: “Cut all relations with [the Americans, Christians, and Jews], tear them to pieces, destroy their economies, burn their corporations, destroy their peace, sink their ships, shoot down their planes and kill them on air, sea, and land. And kill them wherever you may find them, ambush them, take them hostage, and destroy their observatories. Kill these infidels.”

Rahman’s fatwa has been credited with providing theological justifications for al Qaeda’s attacks, as not many sheikhs endorsed bin Laden’s early vision of global terror. At the May 1998 conference where Rahman’s fatwa and will were handed out by his sons, bin Laden announced that he had formed the “World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.” It was this front, which Rahman’s sons supported, that brought the war to American targets in Aug. 1998, when the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed.

Al Qaeda frequently took up Rahman’s cause through the years. Bin Laden often cited Rahman’s case as an example of America’s supposed injustice towards Muslims.

In his 1996 declaration of war against America, Bin Laden portrayed Rahman’s imprisonment as part of an alleged campaign against Islamic scholars. In 1997, according to the Washington Post, bin Laden accused the US of fabricating “a baseless case against [Rahman] even though he is a blind old man.”

A Presidential Daily Brief delivered to President Bill Clinton on Dec. 4, 1998 warned that bin Laden and his men were working with Rahman’s group, Gama’at al-Islamiyya (IG), to orchestrate an “aircraft hijacking.” The intent behind the putative plot was to force the US to free Rahman and others. The plot didn’t progress, but it was later seen as an early harbinger of the 9/11 hijackings.

In Sept. 2000, Al Jazeera’s satellite channel aired footage of a meeting of several jihadi leaders in Afghanistan. All of them, including bin Laden and Zawahiri, pledged to free Rahman from jail. “We promise to work with all our power to free our brother [Rahman],” bin Laden said, with one of Rahman’s sons by his side.

Zawahiri also spoke, asking: “Which one of us today would not sacrifice himself for this man who has supported every righteous stand and has been an unshakable leader?” Zawahiri continued: “We have a duty towards Dr. Omar Abdel Rahman, who has never abandoned a righteous stand. Do we now abandon giving him support and rewarding him?”

Al Qaeda and other actors continued to seek Rahman’s release in the years since.

After the revolution in Egypt swept Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011, Rahman’s cause became even more popular. Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood figure who briefly served as Egypt’s president, promised his supporters that he would try to free the blind ideologue.

Members of Gama’at al-Islamiyya who were closely allied with al Qaeda also helped stage a protest outside the US Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012. The protest was pro-al Qaeda, with the group’s black flag flying high and chants of “Obama! Obama! We are all Osama [bin Laden]!” ringing out. Some of the protesters cited Rahman in their rallying cries.

In Jan. 2013, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a notorious Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) commander, orchestrated a major raid on a natural gas field in Algeria. His men took dozens of foreign nationals hostage and demanded the release of Rahman in exchange for some of them. Authorities did not comply with the demand.

Al Qaeda still uses images and clips of Rahman in its propaganda.

On Feb. 18, the same day that Rahman’s death was announced, al Qaeda released Ayman al Zawahiri’s lengthy eulogy for one of Rahman’s longtime comrades, Rifai Ahmed Taha Musa, who was killed in an American airstrike in Apr. 2016. Taha and Rahman were both Gama’at al-Islamiyya leaders. Zawahiri praised Taha for taking part in the aforementioned Sept. 2000 conference in Kandahar, during which the jihadis called for Rahman’s release.

“Sheikh Rifai Taha, may God have mercy on him, took interest in the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman in deed, and not by merely begging America” to free him, Zawahiri said. Taha agreed with bin Laden that Rahman should be freed and said so during the conference, Zawahiri remarked.

Zawahiri’s video eulogy for Taha includes footage from the Sept. 2000 gathering, during which they praised Rahman. As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, used images of Rahman alongside Zawahiri and Taha to promote the video. (One such image can be seen above.) It may be the case that al Qaeda waited to release Zawahiri’s commemoration of Taha until Rahman died, as the timing of the video’s online distribution is especially conspicuous.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), both of which are openly loyal to Zawahiri, released a joint eulogy for Rahman earlier today. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. The al Qaeda branches specifically mentioned Rahman’s will.

“We call upon the sons of Islam and its honorable knights, who were not successful in liberating the sheikh from his imprisonment, to earnestly and honestly work hard to execute his will, and to build from his blood a lighthouse that inspires the generations…to viciously avenge the sheikh against his oppressors and his wardens,” the statement from AQAP and AQIM reads, according to SITE’s translation. “This would be the least of what his brothers in Islam and pride should do,” the statement continues, as Muslims should “rescue…our scholars and our leaders who were faithful to Allah and never deviated from his path.”

Rahman’s teachings had a significant influence on the development of al Qaeda and modern jihadism. For more than 20 years, al Qaeda’s leaders made him a central part of their cause. The jihadis will almost certainly continue to use him in their productions in the years to come.

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

The Final Obama Scandal

raiders_of_the_lost_ark_warehouse_scen_450

Closing the book on a deceptive narrative about the al Qaeda threat

Weekly Standard, THE MAGAZINE: From the February 6 Issue – by Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn, January 27, 2017:

Less than 24 hours before the official end of the Obama presidency, while White House staffers were pulling pictures off the walls and cleaning out their desks, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) posted without fanfare another installment of the documents captured in Osama bin Laden’s compound during the May 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The press statement that accompanied the release made an unexpected declaration: This batch of newly released documents would be the last one. “Closing the Book on Bin Laden: Intelligence Community Releases the Final Abbottabad Documents,” the statement was headlined. According to a tally on the ODNI website, this last batch of 49 documents brings the total number released to 571.

For analysts who have paid attention to the Abbottabad documents, the numbers immediately caused alarm. For years, the Obama administration told the American people that the haul from the bin Laden compound was massive and important. In an interview on Meet the Press just days after the raid, Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, said the material could fill “a small college library.” A senior military intelligence official who briefed reporters at the Pentagon on May 7, 2011, said: “As a result of the raid, we’ve acquired the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.” Sources who have described the cache to THE WEEKLY STANDARD over the years have claimed that the number of captured documents, including even extraneous materials and duplicates, totals more than 1 million.

Can it really be the case that this release “closes the book”? The short answer: No, it can’t.

“[Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper and the old administration may want this to be closed, but it’s far from closed,” says Representative Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). “Now the truth will begin to come out. It’s just the beginning.”

The documents have been at the center of an intense, five-year political battle between Republicans on Capitol Hill and the Obama administration, and an equally pitched bureaucratic battle between the Central Intelligence Agency and ODNI on one side, and U.S. military intelligence agencies on the other. The Obama administration and the intelligence community leaders who have been loyal to the president argue that the document collection provided valuable intelligence in the days after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, but that what remains is unimportant and, in any case, supports the Obama administration’s approach to al Qaeda and jihadist terror over the past eight years. Republicans and military intelligence officials have a different view: Used properly, the document collection can serve as an important tool in understanding al Qaeda and other Islamic radicals—their history, their ideology, their structure, their operations, and even, five years on, their plans—not only for U.S. intelligence officials, but for lawmakers, historians, and the American public.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have pushed to have the documents declassified and released as part of an effort to hold the Obama administration accountable for its relentless politicization of intelligence on al Qaeda and threats to the United States and its interests. Based on his conversations with analysts who have worked on the documents, Nunes believes that many of those not yet released will contradict Obama administration claims about al Qaeda, its relationships, and its operations.

In 2014, Nunes fought to include language in the Intelligence Authorization Act requiring the declassification and release of the bin Laden documents. The law mandated the release of all documents in the collection that could be disclosed without hurting U.S. national security. The intelligence community was required to specify any documents deemed too sensitive to release publicly and offer an explanation justifying that decision. Nunes says he has not yet received such an explanation for any of the tens of thousands of documents withheld from the public.

Why do the documents still matter? Over the course of eight years, President Obama and his advisers repeatedly downplayed the jihadist threat. The story of how bin Laden’s documents were mischaracterized and mishandled offers important insights into how the administration pushed a deceptive narrative about al Qaeda and its branches around the globe. The jihadist threat grew—not diminished—over the course of the Obama administration. To this day, America and its allies continue to fight al Qaeda everywhere from West Africa to South Asia.

Because of its barbarism, massive land grabs, and multiple attacks in the West, the Islamic State (ISIS) dominates headlines these days. The Islamic State makes itself easy to see. But al Qaeda, the organization that birthed ISIS, is still alive and thriving, often masking the extent of its operations and influence. Since 2011, al Qaeda has grown rapidly in jihadist hotspots such as Syria, where today the group has 10,000 or more fighters, its largest guerrilla army yet.

Al Qaeda’s resiliency was a terribly inconvenient fact for President Obama, who won his first campaign arguing that George W. Bush had exaggerated the threat from jihadist terror and had fought jihadists with means that were both unnecessary and un-American. Obama scaled back such operations across the board—ending the war in Iraq, withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, rewriting U.S. interrogation and detention policies, and releasing high-risk terrorists from the facility at Guantánamo Bay. When he ran for reelection, he told the American people that al Qaeda was “on the run” and had been “decimated.” His advisers sought to downgrade the nature of the threat to one of “violent extremists” and “lone wolf” attacks. Obama sold his efforts against al Qaeda as something close to a total victory.

“Today, by any measure, core al Qaeda—the organization that hit us on 9/11—is a shadow of its former self,” President Obama claimed on December 6, 2016, during his final counterterrorism speech. “Plots directed from within Afghanistan and Pakistan have been consistently disrupted. Its leadership has been decimated. Dozens of terrorist leaders have been killed. Osama bin Laden is dead.”

Some of this is certainly true: Osama bin Laden is dead, dozens of other jihadist leaders have been killed, and plots have been disrupted. But by most measures, al Qaeda is bigger today than ever. The organization and its branches are fighting in insurgencies in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. Obama briefly mentioned al Qaeda’s “branches” in some of these countries during his speech, but he left Americans with the impression that al Qaeda has been reduced to a nuisance—if that.

Obama said nothing about al Qaeda’s massive force in Syria. But the U.S. military has reported that U.S. attacks killed upwards of 150 “al Qaeda operatives” in Syria during the first weeks of 2017.

Obama’s public case on his success against al Qaeda centered on what he calls “core al Qaeda,” which neither he nor his advisers ever bothered to define precisely. The phrase seems to refer to the senior al Qaeda leaders based in South Asia, and specifically those who had a hand in the 9/11 hijackings. Most of the 9/11 plotters, as it happens, were killed or captured during the Bush administration. Obama was right that “dozens” of other “core” al Qaeda jihadists have been killed in drone strikes and raids during his tenure. But those leaders have been replaced, in some cases by men who have proven even more effective in building the terror group’s global network and guiding its transnational efforts.

How many senior al Qaeda leaders were there at the beginning of his administration, in January 2009? How many are there today? Obama never answered these rudimentary questions—he never provided basic metrics to measure his own claims. But the fact that U.S. military and CIA officials continued to fire missiles at al Qaeda operatives around the globe on a regular basis, at the direction of a president who claimed to have defeated al Qaeda, suggests that Obama understood his rhetoric didn’t match reality.

Which brings us back to the bin Laden files. There is no better resource for understanding al Qaeda, how it thinks and operates, at least through 2011, than the intelligence recovered in its founder’s compound. For this reason, and others, the Trump administration should ensure that the ODNI doesn’t get to close the book on bin Laden’s files.

Read more

The New Bin Laden Documents

his undated file photo shows al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. (AP Photo, File)

his undated file photo shows al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. (AP Photo, File)

Why the public needs to see most of Osama bin Laden’s files.

Weekly Standard, by Thomas Joscelyn, January 19, 2017:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released 98 additional items from Osama bin Laden’s compound today. If the ODNI has its way, then these files will be the last the American people see for some time. The accompanying announcement is titled, “Closing the Book on bin Laden: Intelligence Community Releases Final Abbottabad Documents.” The ODNI says today’s release “marks the end of a two-and-a-half-year effort to declassify several hundred documents recovered” during the Abbottabad raid.

But the total number of files released thus far, including today’s document dump, is just a drop in the bucket compared to what was found in the al Qaeda master’s compound. And if the public and the media care about transparency, then they should push to see more.

As THE WEEKLY STANDARD has reported in the past, more than 1 million documents and files were recovered in Abbottabad. Some of the documents (e.g. blanks, duplicates, scans of publicly available media, etc.) are basically worthless. But many thousands more illuminate how al Qaeda has operated.

On May 8, 2011, Tom Donilon, who was then President Obama’s National Security Adviser, explained that bin Laden’s documents and files would fill a “small college library.” Donilon elaborated further that the recovered intelligence demonstrated Osama bin Laden’s active role. At the time of his death, the al Qaeda founder oversaw a cohesive international network, receiving updates from around the globe on a regular basis.

In 2012, the Washington Post reported that U.S. officials “described the complete collection of bin Laden material as the largest cache of terrorism files ever obtained, with about 100 flash drives and DVDs as well as five computer hard drives, piles of paper and a handwritten journal kept by the al-Qaeda chief.”

To date, the ODNI has released or listed just 620 “items” found in bin Laden’s home. Only 314 of these are “declassified material.”

That is an insignificant fraction of the total collection.

President Obama’s White House also released 17 files via West Point’s Combating Terrorism center in 2012. And a handful of additional documents made their way to the public during a terror-related trial in Brooklyn in 2015. But even including those files, the public has still only seen a small number of documents, as compared to the total cache.

Gen. Michael Flynn, who will serve as the National Security Adviser to President Trump, has read and been briefed on some of the bin Laden files. Gen. Flynn also fought to have the documents fully exploited. Last year, Flynn wrote that only a “tiny fraction” had been released to the public. That was before today’s release. But the 98 new items hardly mark an appreciable increase.

Transparency is important for a number of reasons. Consider the ODNI’s own statement on today’s release, and how it provides a remarkably incomplete picture regarding al Qaeda’s decades-long relationship with Iran.

Why would ODNI attempt to portray bin Laden’s views as fixed and negative—”hatred, suspicion”—when documents written by bin Laden himself tell a more nuanced, yet troubling story?

There’s no question that some of bin Laden’s files document the tensions and problems in al Qaeda’s relationship with Iran. Bin Laden worried that members of his family would be tracked by Iranian intelligence. At one point, al Qaeda even kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in order to force a prisoner exchange. Some senior al Qaeda leaders have been held in Iranian custody for years.

But there is much more to the story, including the documents detailing Iran’s longtime collusion with al Qaeda. The ODNI is essentially asking readers to focus on the bad days in al Qaeda’s marriage with Iran, while ignoring the good days.

One previously released document, apparently authored by bin Laden himself, summarized his views on Iran. In a letter dated Oct. 18, 2007, Bin Laden warned one of his subordinates in Iraq not to openly threaten attacks inside Iran. Bin Laden explained why (emphasis added):

You did not consult with us on that serious issue that affects the general welfare of all of us. We expected you would consult with us for these important matters, for as you are aware, Iran is our main artery for funds, personnel, and communication, as well as the matter of hostages.

Bin Laden was pragmatic when it came to dealing with Iran for reasons that are not hard to understand: Iran was the “main artery” for his organization. Why would ODNI attempt to portray bin Laden’s views as fixed and negative—”hatred, suspicion”—when documents written by bin Laden himself so plainly contradict this?

Since July 2011, President Obama’s Treasury and State Departments have repeatedly made it clear that Iran hosts senior al Qaeda leaders. Echoing bin Laden’s letter, the State Department has even described al Qaeda’s network inside Iran as its “core pipeline.”

The Treasury and State Departments publicly accused the Iranian regime of allowing al Qaeda to operate inside Iran in: July 2011, December 2011, February 2012, July 2012, October 2012, May 2013, January 2014, February 2014, April 2014, August 2014, and July 2016.

In addition, during congressional testimony in February 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the relationship as a “marriage of convenience.”

Today’s statement by the ODNI says nothing about this “convenience.”

The bin Laden files are an invaluable resource for checking the U.S. Intelligence Community’s assessments. The CIA’s erroneous assessment of al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan is a case in point.

In June 2010, then CIA Director Leon Panetta told ABC’s This Week that al Qaeda’s footprint in Afghanistan was “relatively small,” totaling “50 to 100” members, “maybe less.”

A memo written by Osama bin Laden’s chief manager that same month told a different story. In the memo, bin Laden’s henchman explained that al Qaeda was operating in at least eight of Afghanistan’s provinces as of June 2010. In addition, just one al Qaeda “battalion” based in Kunar and Nuristan had 70 members by itself. In other words, just one al Qaeda “battalion” exceeded the lower bound of the CIA’s figures for all of Afghanistan—all by itself. U.S. officials have been forced to concede in recent months that there are far more al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan than previously estimated. If they had accurately assessed bin Laden’s files, then they would have already known that.

Osama bin Laden’s files are a crucial resource to understanding the 9/11 wars, and al Qaeda’s strengths and weaknesses. The American public should be able to see as many of them as possible.

Guantanamo detainee selected for aborted 9/11 hijacking transferred to Oman

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, January 18, 2017:

The Defense Department has released a list of ten now former Guantanamo detainees who were transferred to Oman earlier this week. One of them is Mohammed Al Ansi, a Yemeni who was captured in northern Pakistan in late 2001 and transferred to the detention facility in Cuba in Jan. 2002.

Mohammed Al Ansi

Mohammed Al Ansi

US authorities repeatedly found that Ansi (seen on the right) may have been selected to take part in an aborted part of the 9/11 hijackings.

Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) concluded in a leaked threat assessment, dated May 17, 2008, that Ansi “swore bayat (oath of allegiance) to” Osama bin Laden “and received specialized close combat training for his role as a suicide operative in an aborted component of the 11 September 2001 al Qaeda attacks.”

Another version of the allegation was included in a summary prepared by the Obama administration for the Periodic Review Board (PRB) process at Guantanamo.

“Judging from other detainee statements and corroborating information,” the Oct. 14, 2015 summary reads, Ansi “participated in advanced combat training and may have met with al Qaeda external operations chief Khalid Shaykh Mohammed … in Karachi and been considered for participation in a suicide attack or deployment in the West.”

Al Qaeda originally considered hijacking US airliners leaving from airports in Southeast Asia as part of the 9/11 plot. But bin Laden reportedly canceled this part of the operation because he thought it would be difficult to coordinate the additional hijackings.

According to the US government’s files, one of the ringleaders for the canceled 9/11 hijackings was Walid Bin Attash, a senior al Qaeda operative who helped plot the Oct. 2000 USS Cole bombing. Bin Attash allegedly performed surveillance on American airliners operating in Southeast Asia. After his part of the plot was called off, Bin Attash turned his attention to other al Qaeda plans.

Bin Attash, who is currently held at Guantanamo, fingered Ansi and three other detainees as would-be participants in the airliner plot. Leaked threat assessments prepared by JTF-GTMO, as well as files prepared for the detainees’ PRB hearings, link all four of them to the initial plan. Two of them were previously transferred by the Obama administration. Abdul Rahman Shalabi, a Saudi, was transferred to his home country on Sept. 22, 2015. Abd al Malik Abd al Wahab, a Yemeni, was transferred to Montenegro on June 22, 2016.

Only the fourth detainee identified by Bin Attash as being part of the plot, a Yemeni named Zuhail Abdo Anam Said al Sharabi, remains in US custody at Guantanamo. A summary prepared for Sharabi’s PRB hearing notes that he traveled to Malaysia, where he stayed with Bin Attash and two of the 9/11 hijackers. Sharabi apparently denied this allegation during questioning, but also described the pair of 9/11 hijackers as “martyrs.” JTF-GTMO’s analysts found that Sharabi’s trip to Malaysia with Bin Attash was ordered by Osama bin Laden himself as “part of the pre-planning for the hijacking plot.” The pair stayed at the home of Hambali, a notorious al Qaeda leader in Southeast Asia who is also still detained at Guantanamo.

Bin Attash told authorities that, just two months prior to 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) took the four (including Ansi), as well as two others, “to Karachi to teach them English language and American culture.”

Read more

Also see:

  • US transferring 4 Gitmo detainees to UAE and Saudi Arabia, officials say (foxnews.com) After the transfers are complete, 41 detainees will remain at the detention camp. It is not immediately known if any more transfers will take place before Obama leaves office Friday, though it is clear the outgoing president will not achieve his 2008 campaign goal of shuttering the camp.

Bin Laden’s Millennial Son Designated a Terrorist by U.S.

Osama bin Laden and Hamza bin Laden

Osama bin Laden and Hamza bin Laden

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, January 5, 2017:

WASHINGTON — The State Department has designated and sanctioned Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza as a global terrorist.

Hamza, who is in his mid-20s and bin Laden’s eleventh son, has been rallying millennials to jihad in audio messages over the past several months.

“The followers of the thought of Sheikh Osama, may Allah have mercy on him, which is represented by targeting the head of global disbelief that supports the Jews, have increased in number within a decade and a half, and became double in number,” Hamza bin Laden said in a July message.

“If you think that your sinful crime that you committed in Abbottabad has passed without punishment, then you thought wrong,” he added, referring to the U.S. raid in which his father was killed. “What is correct is coming to you, and its punishment is severe.”

Al-Qaeda senior leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced on Aug. 14, 2015, that Hamza was an official member of the terror group.

Since then, bin Laden has called for “open-source jihad,” as al-Qaeda calls lone jihad, attacks against Washington, Paris and Israel. This year Hamza has also called on Saudi tribes to unite with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to wage war against Saudi Arabia.

“Today’s action notifies the U.S. public and the international community that Hamza bin Laden is actively engaged in terrorism,” the State Department said. “Designations of terrorist individuals and groups expose and isolate organizations and individuals, and result in denial of access to the U.S. financial system. Moreover, designations can assist or complement the law enforcement actions of other U.S. agencies and other governments.”

The department also issued a terrorist designation against Ibrahim al-Banna, an Egyptian AQAP leader who previously led Islamic Jihad in Yemen before becoming AQAP’s security chief. A $5 million reward is on his head.

Also see:

EXCLUSIVE: Huma Abedin Email Attacked Jewish Group Photo of Richard Pollock RICHA

Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin (Reuters photo)

Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin (Reuters photo)

Daily Caller, by Richard Pollack, October, 5, 2016:

Huma Abedin, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s closest aide, urged former President Bill Clinton in 2009 to reject a speaking invitation before the American Israel Public Affairs Council (AIPAC), asking his assistant in an email, do “u really want to consider sending him into that crowd?”

Abedin’s comment about “that crowd” has sparked anger and consternation among Jewish and non-Jewish leaders who consider it hostile to Jews and to the State of Israel. Her comments are raising uncomfortable questions about Abedin’s past and her family’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Appalling” is how Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, described the email, adding that it, “shows hostility toward Jews and Israel in light of the fact that ‘that crowd’ gives huge ovations to White House speakers.”

Klein pointed to the Abedin family’s ties to a radical Islamic group, saying, “it makes me think about the allegations about her parents and other family members who were associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Middle East Forum President Daniel Pipes called Abedin’s comment “disdainful” of AIPAC. He also noted her past association with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Abedin’s disdainful comment about AIPAC as ‘that crowd’ could derive from her Muslim or her leftist identity – or both,” Pipes told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Andrew McCarthy, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who led the prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and others for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, told TheDCNF Abedin’s background raised security concerns.

“During Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, some of us pointed out that Abedin’s background raised concerns about Islamist sympathies and unfitness for a security clearance that gave her access to top-secret intelligence,” McCarthy said.

Abedin was raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by fundamentalist Muslim parents who ran the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. The journal was published by Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, which was founded by her father Syed Abedin. Abedin remained on the masthead as an editor of the journal for 12 years until she entered the Department of State with Clinton in 2009.

Critics noted her father’s main benefactor was Abdullah Omar Naseef, secretary general of the Muslim World League (MWL). The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Rabita Trust, a subsidiary of the MWL, as a terrorist entity. Osama bin Laden credited MWL as a funding source after the 9/11 attacks.

Abedin has kept her personal political views to herself. Accusations of anti-Semitism were blunted by her marriage to former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is Jewish. That marriage is ending after Weiner was caught multiple times sexting online, most recently while sitting next to his son.

The issue of AIPAC’s interest in Bill Clinton’s attendance was raised in two sets of emails, all dated Sept. 10, 2009.

The State Department released them Sept. 21, 2016, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the conservative advocacy group Citizens United.

The AIPAC issue was raised by Doug Band, who was Bill Clinton’s White House “body man.” Band now boasts on his corporate web site that he was “the key architect of Clinton’s post-Presidency” and created and built the Clinton Global Initiative that critics link to corrupt “pay to play” deals with overseas corporations, wealthy individuals and foreign governments.

Band also was recently credited with securing access of Clinton Foundation donors to Hillary Clinton. Band is now the chairman of Teneo, a company that has been dubbed “Clinton, Inc.” Abedin was senior adviser to Teneo while she was serving as deputy chief of staff for Hillary Clinton.

Abedin’s special status allowing her to draw paychecks from the government and Teneo is being investigated by Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

In a Sept. 10, 2009, email, Band told Cheryl Mills and Abedin that Bill Clinton was reluctant to attend the AIPAC Jewish forum, stating, “Aipac begging for wjc to come speak at conference.  He doesn’t think he should unless you all do.”

Mills, Hillary’s chief of staff, told Band the final decision was up to Hillary Clinton and she would touch base with her. As Mills sought that answer, Abedin comments, “U really want to consider sending him into that crowd?”

An apparently impatient Band pointedly asked, “Go or not go?”

Abedin finally responds: “No go to aipac.”

It’s unclear from the email exchange why they wanted to skip the AIPAC meeting. Bill Clinton twice addressed AIPAC in the 1990s as president. Hillary Clinton spoke before AIPAC in 2010 after her husband was asked to address the group.

Bill Clinton attended the funeral for Israeli leader Shimon Peres last week, but in years past, Bill Clinton has expressed more sympathy for the Palestinians than Israelis.

“I will never forget what it taught me about your suffering, your history of dispossession and dispersal, but also about your resilience and courage,” he said in an open letter to the Palestinian people on Jan. 19, 2001, the day he left the White House.

He also released a statement to the Israelis. Here, however, he counseled “compromise” rather than empathy: “Compromise is often difficult and always painful. But the people and leaders of the region must understand that to seek a peace without compromise is not to seek peace at all.”

A spokesman for AIPAC declined to address the email. The Clinton campaign did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

EXCLUSIVE: Federal complaint against bombing suspect omits journal’s ISIS references

Fox News, by Catherine Herridge, Pamela K. Browne, September 21, 2016

Pages from the bloody journal of the New York and New Jersey bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami show he was a follower of Al Qaeda as well as the Islamic State terror group, yet federal investigators made no reference to ISIS in their complaint charging him on Tuesday.

At least two pages include references to Anwar al-Awlaki — the American-born Muslim cleric who was killed in a 2011 drone strike and whose preaching has inspired acts of terror linked to ISIS and Al Qaeda. Federal investigators mentioned Awlaki in the complaints.

However, the journal also appears to reference Abu Muhammad al Adnani — the ISIS spokesman killed by coalition forces in August after he called his followers to attack non-believers in their homelands.

“I looked for guidance came Sheikh Anwar, Brother Adnani, Dawla. Said it clearly – Attack the kuffar (non-believer) in the back yard,” one section read. Page 12 of the indictment references this section without naming Adnani.

Rahami’s screed also praised 9/11 mastermind Usama bin Laden and Nidal Hasan, the former Army officer who went on a deadly shooting rampage in 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas.  Hasan was also a follower of Awlaki. The Counter Extremism Project’s research counted 77 extremists — 43 U.S. extremists and 34 European extremists — with ties to Anwar al-Awlaki. They include the Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen in June, as well as Syed Farook, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino massacre in December 2015.

In addition, the journal included rantings plotting revenge against the U.S. government for slaughtering Muslim holy warriors. In one section, the Afghan-born Rahami suggested he was worried police or the feds would capture him before he could carry out a suicide attack, becoming a martyr. “The sounds of bombs will be heard in the streets,” the journal declared.

Another section included a reference to “pipe bombs” and a “pressure cooker bomb” and declared: “In the streets they plan to run a mile,” an apparent reference to one of the blast sites, a charity run in Seaside Park. The feds said the journal ended with the words: “Death to your oppression.”

The pages appeared to be pierced by a bullet from the shootout that ended with Rahami in handcuffs on Monday. He’s suspected of planting bombs in Seaside Park and Elizabeth, New Jersey, as well as New York City, where the feds said at least 31 people were wounded after an explosion Saturday night.

Fox News has asked the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice to explain why Rahami wrote about ISIS in his journal, but unlike the other terrorists he cited, there was no reference to ISIS in the charging documents.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Also see:

Bomb suspect praised Osama bin Laden, Anwar al Awlaki in notebook

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn,  September 21, 2016

The Department of Justice has charged Ahmad Khan Rahami with the bombings in New York and New Jersey on Sept. 17, as well as other planned attacks. The charges include Rahami’s use of “weapons of mass destruction,” meaning the pipe bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) he planted in Seaside Park, NJ, the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, and in Elizabeth, NJ.

ahmad-khan-rahami-captured-768x981The most damaging bomb was detonated near 135 West 23rd Street (the “Chelsea bomb”). According to the Complaint filed in Rahami’s case, 31 people were wounded in the blast, which also caused millions of dollars in property damage. The bomb, which used a pressure cooker, was “comprised of a high-explosive main charge” and “packed with ball bearings and steel nuts, hundreds of which were recovered from the blast site.”

The Chelsea bomb was placed in a dumpster, which likely limited the efficacy of the shrapnel packed in it. But the impact on the dumpster and the surrounding area demonstrates that it could have been deadly. The dumpster, which was more than 100 pounds, was “propelled…more than 120 feet.” Windows 400 feet away from the detonation site and up to three stories high were shattered.

A second bomb recovered on 27th street was apparently constructed in a similar fashion.

Rahami allegedly acquired many of the bomb components via eBay in the months leading up to the attacks. And he apparently didn’t do much to cover his tracks. Not only were Rahami’s fingerprints found on some of the unexploded bombs, according to the Complaint, he also reused cell phones that were previously subscribed to members of his family. The cell phones served as triggering devices for the bombs. In addition, Rahami’s face was clearly visible on surveillance video near where the bombs were placed.

Still another cell phone belonging to one of Rahami’s family members was recovered by officials. It allegedly included a video, recorded on Sept. 15, of Rahami detonating a “small, black cylindrical object” in a backyard near his residence in Elizabeth.

Jihadi references found in notebook and on social media account

During the course of the arrest, authorities recovered a handwritten journal from Rahami. The notebook was damaged during Rahami’s shootout with the police. It included a number of jihadi-related thoughts and comments, including praise for Osama bin Laden and Anwar al Awlaki.

One passage reads: “You (USA Government) continue your [unintelligible] slaught[er] against the mujahidean [sic] be it Afghanistan, Iraq, Sham [Syria], Palestine…”

Another entry, according to the Complaint, expressed concern that the author (presumably Rahami) may be caught before he was able “to carry out a suicide attack.” The handwritten note references the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security “looking for me,” and then includes what appears to be a prayer to Allah “[t]o not take Jihad away from [me].” The comment continues: “I beg [unintelligible] shahadat [martyrdom] & Inshallah [God willing] this call will be” answered.

The Complaint cites a passage in the notebook that contains a “reference to the instructions of terrorist leaders that, if travel is infeasible, to attack nonbelievers where they live.” This has been a consistent theme in the Islamic State’s messaging over the past several months. Sheikh Abu Muhammad al Adnani, the deceased Islamic State spokesman who also oversaw the organization’s anti-Western plotting, told followers to attack in their home countries if they couldn’t travel to the lands of the so-called caliphate. The Complaint doesn’t cite Adnani, however, and instead focuses on Anwar al Awlaki, who helped pioneer the idea of individual jihadist attacks in the West. Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike in 2011, was an al Qaeda ideologue and his teachings have been marketed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). He is frequently referenced by both al Qaeda and the Islamic State to this day.

The passage is written in broken English but includes the phrase “back to sham [Syria].” The Complaint continues with additional lines from the notebook: “But [unintelligible] this incident show the risk are [unintelligible] of getting caught under [unintelligible] I looked for guidance and…Guidance came from Sheikh Anwar…Said it clearly attack the Kuffar [non-believers] in their backyard.”

A footnote says that “Sheikh Anwar” is a reference to Awlaki.

Indeed, according to the Complaint, the notebook includes praise for Awlaki, Nidal Hasan (an Awlaki follower who killed 13 people during a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas in Nov. 2009) and “Brother Osama bin Laden.”

Awlaki has inspired multiple plots in the West. In December 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife killed 14 people in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. Farook had studied Awlaki’s teachings years beforehand. Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. in June, also listened Awlaki’s lectures. Both the San Bernardino shooters and Mateen pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. The Islamic State claimed that they acted on its behalf.

On the same day that Rahami allegedly detonated bombs in NY and NJ, a Somali man stabbed nine people at the Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, Minn. The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq News Agency, which is one of the group’s main propaganda arms.

But the Islamic State has not claimed the bombings Rahami is charged with carrying out. Thus far, no group has claimed Rahami as its own.

Regardless, the Complaint makes it clear that Rahami was drawn to the jihadist ideology. A social media account with the user name Yaafghankid78, which is connected to Rahami, favorited jihadi anthems.

And one part of the recovered notebook reads: “Inshallah [God willing] the sounds of the bombs will be heard in the streets. Gun shots to your police. Death To Your OPPRESSION.”

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

***

NY Suspect’s Mosque Linked to Subversive Islamist Group

***

Just to clarify: Rahami’s parents were asylum seekers from Afghanistan, not refugees. Ann Corcoran explains the difference here.

***

Ignore what Maajid Nawaz says about Trump helping jihadist recruitment – hogwash. But he certainly knows a lot about the jihadist scene in Quetta:

Also see:

Islamic Movement in U.S. Preparing for Battle

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, Sept. 13, 2016:

For UTT followers who are accustomed to brief articles, this is a longer article because it needs to be.  This is an important topic and needs a little more attention.  Please read this carefully because the implications are significant.  JG

As UTT has continually reported, there exists in the United States a significant jihadi movement led primarily by the Muslim Brotherhood whose organizations include the most prominent and influential Islamic groups in America.

weapons2

The Islamic Movement in the U.S. continues their daily work of preparing for the coming battle at all levels of the society.  From a military standpoint, the leaders of the American Muslim community are coalescing their forces and preparing strategically, operationally, and logistically for war.

Strategic Overlay

Going back to the early 1980’s, the jihadis set up an elaborate network of jihadi centers known in the U.S. as the Al Kifah Refugee Centers to recruit jihadis for the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.  Some of these over three dozen offices were operated by only a couple jihadis with a phone or fax machine, and some had a more sizable presence in the community.  Nevertheless, they created nodes across the United States for jihadis in many American cities, and became centers for possible Al Qaeda recruitment in the future.

For the last few decades the Pakistani terrorist organization known as Jamaat al Fuqra has been establishing jihadi training camps in the United States primarily among black Muslims, many of whom were recruited in prison.  Known in the U.S. as “Muslims of America” or “MOA,” approximately two dozen of the three dozen known camps appear to be operational today.

In the early 1990’s the Chief Investigator for the state of Colorado, with support from the Governor and Attorney General, launched a multi-jurisdictional raid of an MOA compound near Buena Vista (CO) and discovered weapons, explosives, lists of people to be assassinated, evidence that military/national guard bases had been under surveillance, and the like.

In one of the gems discovered in the 2004 FBI raid of the Annandale, Virginia home of a senior Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas leader, a recording of a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader speaking to a group of Muslim Brothers in Missouri revealed the MB has numerous training camps inside America and conducted regular firearms training.

To be clear, they are not planning on conducting violent actions in the immediate future, but are planning for “Zero Hour” – their term for when the violent jihad will begin when the time is right.  They may wait until an outside influence from a foreign power or a major event initiates conflict, and then the Islamic Movement can begin the jihad and act independently or as an ally for a hostile foreign power such as Iran or China.

In the MB’s 5-Phase “World Underground Movement Plan” – discovered at the 2004 FBI raid in Annandale, Virginia – the Brotherhood states (Phase 2) they must “Establish a government (secret) within the government.”  The purpose of this is to have jihadis on the inside of our government who will serve as the leadership for the Islamic Movement when they seize power in the United States.  Until then, their role is to (1) gather intelligence and (2) conduct influence operations at all levels of the society, especially within the decision-making process.

As has previously been discussed, this is much more a counterintelligence and espionage issue than it is a “terrorism” matter.  The enemy is preparing the battlefield now for the eventual battle to come.

The U.S. Network

The evidence in the largest terrorism financing and Hamas trial ever successfully prosecuted in American history (US v Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Dallas 2008) reveals the most prominent Islamic organizations in the U.S. are a part of a massive jihadi network whose stated objective is to wage “Civilization Jihad” to destroy our system of government and establish an Islamic State (caliphate) under sharia here.  The evidence also reveals the Muslim Brotherhood Islamic Centers/Mosques are the places at which jihadi train for battle and from which the jihad will be launched.

All of the mosques our military entered during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and mosques that European authorities have raided in the last two years have had weapons in them.  The mosque is what Mohammad used a mosque for, and the launch point for jihad is one of those purposes.

There are over 2400 Islamic Centers/Mosques in America, most of which are a part of the MB’s jihadi network.

In the United States the “nucleus” for the Islamic Movement is the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) whose subsidiary Islamic Societies number approximately 170.  The Muslim Students Associations (MSA) serve as a recruiting arm for jihadis, and there are over 700 chapters on nearly every major college campus in America.

Reports from around the country from civilian and law enforcement sources reveal:  Mosques and Islamic organizations are being built in strategic locations – near key infrastructure facilities, military bases, or some other key position in the community; taxi cab drivers at the largest airports in the U.S. are Muslim; and there is a noticeable increase in sharia-compliant Muslim TSA officers, baggage handlers and airline/airport employees at U.S. airports.

Additionally:  Muslims are purchasing hotels, quick marts, and 7-11 type stores with gas stations, and  a majority of major hotels in cities across the U.S. have a manager or assistant manager who is a Muslim, which is statistically impossible unless this activity is intentional.

Quick marts and gas stations provide their Movement with a logistics train that will be needed in a battle. Having people in leadership positions at major hotels in major cities, where law enforcement and intelligence groups and others hold conferences, serve as excellent intelligence gathering nodes.

Jihadis have penetrated U.S. federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies giving them access to sensitive intelligence systems, while simultaneously they have shut down real threat-based training inside these same agencies under the guise factual/truth-based training is “offensive to Muslims.”

Jihadis have themselves penetrated senior levels of the government (eg Suhail Khan working for two successive Secretaries of Transportation with access to classified critical infrastructure details), and have recruited senior U.S. government officials to promote and protect their interests which are hostile to the U.S. (most recent example – Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson promoting and defending leading MB organization ISNA and speaking at their annual convention expressly to open the door to more Cabinet officials to do the same).

Key jihadi organizations, like Hamas (doing business as the Council on American Islamic Relations/CAIR) work on Capitol Hill and inside government agencies to keep truthful discussions about the Islamic threat from ever happening, while plotting to work with Al Qaeda (as evidenced by UTT’s Chris Gaubatz discovery of a CAIR document dated 3/08/04 at their headquarters in Washington, D.C. stating, “Attempt to understand Islamic movements in the area, and start supporting Islamic groups including Mr. bin Laden and his associates”).

urban-war

Now, the U.S. government is bringing tens of thousands of sharia adherent Muslims into our nation.  From the Islamic perspective, these people are Muhajaroun – those who make the hijra into the non-Muslim lands in preparation for the “Final Stage,” which is armed conflict with the host country.  This is all a part of their strategy, and is consistent with core Islamic doctrine.

Finally, we are currently observing the Marxist/Socialist Movement in the U.S. working directly with the Islamic Movement at the ground and strategic levels.  Both have publicly declared their support for one another, they are both receiving funding from hard-left Marxists/socialists (eg George Soros) and foreign powers, and both are openly pushing for confrontation with and the overthrow of the U.S. government.

The Islamic Movement in the United States is deeply embedded in the U.S. decision-making process, has thousands of organizations and allies, possesses a logistics train of fuel and supplies, conducts weapons training programs, has access to U.S. intelligence systems, is well funded (primarily by Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc), has strategic plans for North America (An Explanatory Memorandum) and has a plan to implement the strategy (Implementation Manual) which they are following.

The U.S. response is to say “Islam is a religion of peace” and work with the very Muslim leaders who are driving this hostile network.

Victory is not possible with this recipe.

Each year there are between 70 and 120 new Islamic non-profits being created in America, most of which appear to be working directly in line with the Muslim Brotherhood’s plan to wage civilization jihad until “Zero Hour” when the war goes hot.

Until then, they continue to prep the battlefield because they are really at war with us because they are following sharia – core Islamic doctrine – as their blueprint for what they are doing.

****

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

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

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

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

Except it wasn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al Qaeda has grown under Zawahiri’s tenure

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

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

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

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

image-posted-by-tilmidh-usamah-bin-ladin-1024x348

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The threat to the West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Listen to John Batchelor interview Thomas Joscelyn:

watching-bin-laden-raid

Fifteen Years Later, Al Qaeda Grows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Homeland Security Advisory Council: Covering for the Enemy Threat Doctrine

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher W. Holton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHARIAH ACCORDING TO THE JIHADISTS THEMSELVES

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

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al Qaeda leader

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

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

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al Qaeda leader

Read more

Why All The Jihadi Attacks? Why Now?

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher W. Holton, June 13, 2016:

Way back in February of 1998, Osama Bin Laden declared a Jihad against Jews and Crusaders in a written document entitled the “World Islamic Front Statement.”

In that document he specifically stated:

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it

Despite this, with just a few notable exceptions over the years, few Muslims answered Bin Laden’s call to kill Americans.

Bin Laden was of course killed by U.S. Special Operations forces in May 2011.

Since then, we have seen many more attacks here in the U.S.

Why? If Osama Bin Laden was not able to inspire Muslims to attack and kill Americans, why are we seeing so many such attacks in recent years? Such as:

• The Orlando night club massacre

• The San Bernardino massacre

• The Chattanooga massacre

• The failed Garland, Texas attack

• The Queens, New York hatchet attack on police officers standing on a street corner

• The Philadelphia attack on a police officer sitting in his squad car

• The Moore, Oklahoma beheading of a grandmother at the hands of a Muslim co-worker

These are just a few of the incidents in recent years that have, unfortunately, been categorized as “lone wolf” terrorist attacks by our recalcitrant news media.

In fact, the term “lone wolf” does not exist in Islamic doctrine. What DOES exist in Islamic doctrine is the fact that Jihad is an individual as well as a collective obligation.

What we are seeing are in fact individual acts of Jihad–acts of war, not criminal acts. We continue to deny this at our peril. There is a doctrinal basis for the enemy that is waging war against us. This form of warfare does not require formal ties between fighters or units (organizations) waging the war.

The concept of Jihad being an individual obligation is longstanding and has its basis in mainstream Islamic law (Shariah). We can see this from a widely-read and used text of Shariah sold annually at the convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Muslim organization in the United States, which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing prosecution in U.S. history: the U.S. v the Holy Land Foundation. In that trial, ISNA was identified as a Muslim Brotherhood front group. Interestingly, ISNA’s Canadian wing was shut down in 2013 for funneling money to a Jihadist terrorist group in Kashmir.

The name of the Shariah text is A Summary of Islamic Jurisprudence by Dr. Salih Al-Fawzan and published by Al-Maiman Publishing House in Saudi Arabia. Al-Fawzan is a member of the Board of Senior Ulema in Saudi Arabia and also a member of the Permanent Committee for Fatwa and Research in the kingdom.

img_0137

Volume One of this work has a chapter devoted to Jihad. On page 473, the basis in Shariah for individual Jihad is explained in detail and reveals for us why we are seeing this escalation of attacks:

For a Muslim, there are certain cases in which jihad is an individual duty:

1) When a Muslim is present at the battlefield, it is obligatory for him to fight and he is prohibited to leave the battlefield and flee.

2) When enemies attack a Muslim country…

3) When a Muslim is needed to help his fellow Muslims fight their enemies.

4) When a Muslim is called by the ruler (or the one in authority) to fight in the Cause of Allah, for the Prophet (PBUH) said:

Whenever you are called for fighting in the cause of Allah, you should go immediately.

As you can see, these four circumstances are quite broad and all could be interpreted as existing right now. But numbers 2, 3 and 4 are particularly relevant right now and serve as the doctrinal basis for why Muslims have suddenly begun rising up in violent Jihad in the West:

• The Islamic State has called on Muslims to wage Jihad because the Islamic State is under attack. This applies to 2 and 3 above.

• Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State has issued calls on Muslims in the West to rise up in Jihad. This applies to 4 above and is the key difference between the days of Bin Laden and today.

Bin Laden may have been admired by many Muslims, but he never declared himself as a Caliph and his calls for Jihad were mostly ignored. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s calls are being answered because he has declared himself as the Caliph and many Muslims recognize him as such. That is why were are seeing acts of individual Jihad that we mostly did not see before.

And that is why the U.S. and the West cannot tolerate the existence of the Islamic State over the long-term. It has become the flame attracting moths. It will only gain more legitimacy and strength if it is allowed to persist. In short, it must be destroyed.

In closing, the concept of Jihad as an individual obligation didn’t start with Bin Laden in 1998. It has been recognized by Jihadi ideologues for many years. Here are some relevant quotes from significant Jihadis through the years, including Bin Laden:

And ulema [Muslim legal scholars] have throughout history unanimously agreed that the jihad is an individual duty…On that basis, and in compliance with Allah’s order, we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims: The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it…We, with Allah’s help, call on every Muslim who believes in Allah and wishes to be rewarded to comply with Allah’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.

Osama Bin Laden
Ayman al-Zawahiri, Amir of the Jihad Group, Egypt
Abu-Yasir Rifa’I Ahmad Taha, Egyptian Islamic Group
Mir Hamzah, Jamiat ul Ulema-e-Pakistan
Fazlur Rahman, Jihad Movement in Bangladesh
23 February 1998

Indeed, every person should according to Islam prepare himself/herself for jihad, and every person should eagerly and patiently wait for the day when Allah will call them to show their willingness to sacrifice their lives. We should ask ourselves, is there a quicker way to heaven? Only Islam can save mankind from itself. And jihad on the individual and international scale will be a necessary part of this process of change.

Dr. A.M.A. Fahmy
International Islamic Forum
1949

Jihad is an obligation from Allah on every Muslim and cannot be ignored or evaded.

Hasan al-Banna
Founder of the Muslim Brotherhood
1948

The establishment of an Islamic State is obligatory. If that state cannot be established without war, then that becomes an obligation also. So it is obligatory for every Muslim to seriously strive for the return of the caliphate.

Jihad becomes an individual duty in three situations:

1. First, when two armies meet.
2. Second, when the infidels descend upon a country.
3. Third, when the Imam calls upon people to fight.
Know that when jihad is an individual duty, there is no requirement to ask permission of parents to wage jihad.

The Neglected Obligation
Muhammad Al-Salam Faraj
Leader of Jamaat al-Jihad, Egypt
1981

The Book commands Muslims to wage their war with the spirit of a religious duty and obligation. This Quranic injunction adds new facets and depths to the concept of a total war. It makes a Muslim citizen answerable both to the state and to Allah in the fulfillment of this divine obligation.

The Quranic Concept of War
Brigadier General S. K. Malik, Army of Pakistan
1979

There is agreement among scholars that when the enemy enters an Islamic land or a land that was once part of the Islamic lands, it is obligatory on the inhabitants of that place to go forth to face the enemy. But if they sit back, or are incapable, lazy, or insufficient in number, the individual obligation spreads to those around them. Then if they also fall short, it goes to those around them, and so on and so on, until the individually obligatory nature of jihad encompasses the whole world. The individually obligatory nature of jihad remains in effect until the lands are purified from the pollution of the disbelievers.

The obligation of jihad today remains an individual obligation on all until the liberation of the last piece of land that was in the hands of Muslims but has been occupied by the disbelievers.

Join the Caravan
Abdullah Yusuf Azzam
“Father of Global Jihad”
Founding member of Al Qaeda
1987

Individual jihad has recurred throughout Islamic history. In the time of the Crusades…groups of mujahideen responded to the crisis. Many isolated expeditions and groups carried out the obligation of jihad.

Individual jihad using the method of urban or rural guerilla warfare is the foundation for sapping the enemy and bringing him to a state of collapse and withdrawal. It will pave the way for the desired strategic goal.

What mandates these methods as a strategic opinion is the imbalance of forces between the resistance and the large invading alliance of unbelievers, apostates and hypocrites.

We fight them for the sake of incidents to cause political pressure and psychological collapse, so that they leave our lands. Carrying out a small operation every month against the enemy will have more of an impact on him than a big operation every year or two.

Toward a New Strategy in Resisting the Occupier
Muhammad Khalil al-Hakaymah
Al Qaeda Chief of External Operations
Killed by US air strike in Pakistan in 2008

Successful jihad will only happen within an ummah [Islamic nation or community] in which the fighting creed is firmly established and clarified. This must happen in order to attain the “Revolutionary Jihadist Climate” that will spontaneously give rise to instruments of resistance.

Violent jihad is as an individual duty obligatory upon every Muslim. All the ulema have said this…”

The Call to Global Islamic Resistance
Abu Musab al-Suri
Al Qaeda propagandist
Captured in Pakistan 2005

Also see:

1979: Annus Horribilis—Modern Jihad Goes Global

Chanting "Long Live Khomeini" and "Death to the Shah," 100,000 people gather in front of the mosque inside the Bazaar on Monday, Jan. 15, 1979 in Tehran for a massive rally against the Shah. Troops stood by as demonstrators showered them with flowers, and kisses. (AP Photo)

Chanting “Long Live Khomeini” and “Death to the Shah,” 100,000 people gather in front of the mosque inside the Bazaar on Monday, Jan. 15, 1979 in Tehran for a massive rally against the Shah. Troops stood by as demonstrators showered them with flowers, and kisses. (AP Photo)

Washington Free Beacon, by Dr. Sebastian Gorka, April 9, 2016:

Three momentous events mark 1979 as the year in which modern jihad, having evolved over the course of the century, emerged as a global movement: the establishment of a theocratic regime in Iran, the siege of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. While the conditions for an Islamist explosion had existed for a long time, these events were the spark.

On April 1, 1979, following the overthrow of the shah and the return of the fundamentalist Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in France, the Shiite populace of Iran voted in a national referendum to become an Islamic republic. A new constitution outlined the central role of divine revelation in determining Iran’s laws, which would be based on the Koran and the Sunnah, the traditions of Islam. Then on November 4, a crowd of student protesters who were loyal to Khomeini and committed to taking their revolution to the “great Satan,” America, stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took sixty-six Americans hostage. Most of them would remain in captivity until the day Ronald Reagan took Jimmy Carter’s place in the White House. Focused on rescuing their imprisoned countrymen, Americans had a poor understanding of the broader picture in Iran. The elderly Khomeini was not seen as a serious alternative to the royal Pahlavi family, who were friendly to the United States. But the revolutionary cleric and his new guard of religious fanatics were able to exploit the ancient Persian reserves of pride and resilience, quickly imposing a Shia version of theocracy in which Islam and politics were totally reintegrated. The mullahs of Tehran became the center of political as well as religious power in Tehran.

Demonstrators hold up a poster of exiled Muslim leader Ayatollah Khomeini during an anti-shah demonstration in Tehran in 1978 / AP

Demonstrators hold up a poster of exiled Muslim leader Ayatollah Khomeini during an anti-shah demonstration in Tehran in 1978 / AP

The Shia of Iran thus demonstrated to the world—including the Sunnis, many of whom would be envious—that the theocratic caliph- ate was viable in the modern world. It also demonstrated that Muslims not only should but could reject the Western separation of politics and faith. Modernity’s separation of Allah’s writ and governance could be reversed.

Just as important, the success of the Iranian revolution and the embassy attack proved that the United States, and by inference all other great powers, was not invulnerable. The Muslim world did not have to be the powerless victim of Western machinations, such as interference in Iran’s domestic affairs and overarching control of the geopolitics of the Middle East.

Twelve days after the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran, about three hundred armed Islamists, inexperienced and ill- equipped, seized control of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, the holiest site in Islam and the equivalent of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. These men were interested in a holy war not against infidel Christians or Jews but against their fellow Muslims. Led by a man who would later declare himself the long-awaited mahdi—just as Mohammed Ahmad had done years before in Khartoum—these jihadists invoked the principle of takfirism to declare any Muslim who disagreed with them an apostate, a false Muslim, starting with the royal family, the house of Saud, whom they saw as puppets of the infidel West. Their war was first with their fellow Muslims who had fallen away from the path of purity. The militants managed to hold the Grand Mosque for almost two weeks, a stunning accomplishment. But it was only after the siege was finally broken and most of the jihadists killed—with the covert assistance of French commandos—that the implications of this jihadi attack and the breadth of the conspiracy became clear.

In his definitive account, The Siege of Mecca, Yaroslav Trofimov reports that the attackers were not simply a collection of embittered loners or isolated fundamentalists. They shared their hatred of the Saudi regime and their “apostate” countrymen with an influential group of Saudi clerics, key members of the ulema, the religious leaders of the country. These clerics lamented the loss of faith that had made the global community of Muslims, the ummah, weak, allowing it to be dominated by the infidel West. Recall that the Saudi state was founded on a compact between the house of Saud and the fundamentalist cleric Mohammed ibn Abd al Wahhab. In the eyes of these puritanical clerics, the behavior of the royal family and the spread of Western influence across the Arabian Peninsula were signs that it was time for that compact to be revoked. The clerics encouraged a turn to violence, offering a religious sanction for jihad against the house of Saud and the other “apostate” Muslims of Saudi Arabia.

After the siege of the Grand Mosque was put down, the jihadis’ connection to the influential Saudi clerics was unearthed and the individual imams were identified by Saudi intelligence. The king then invited them to the palace, where instead of having them incarcerated or beheaded, he made them an offer that was difficult to refuse. He proposed a new compact: The propagation of jihadist ideology within the country, on Islamic soil—dar al Islam—would be utterly haram, or forbidden. In exchange for a promise that the ideology would never again threaten the kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the house of Saud, the government would support its propagation in infidel lands (dar al harb) around the globe. This commitment, backed by a massive influx of petrodollars, made the kingdom the most important force behind the spread of fundamentalist and radicalized Islamic ideology around the world.

Afghans protesting Soviet involvement in their country invading their embassy in Tehran, Jan. 6, 1980 / AP

Afghans protesting Soviet involvement in their country invading their embassy in Tehran, Jan. 6, 1980 / AP

The third pivotal event of 1979 was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on December 24. The Marxist government of Afghanistan, a Muslim nation, was battling an internal threat from indigenous fundamentalist groups. Afghans had become increasingly discontent with the regime’s socialist reforms, and by December 1979 ancient clans and tribes of skilled warriors were attacking government institutions and assets. Having signed a treaty of friendship with the Afghan regime the year before, the Soviet Union decided it was time to step in and assist its “ally.” Thirty thousand troops rolled in on Christmas Eve, a number that would grow to a hundred thousand.

While the upheavals in Iran and Saudi Arabia had an important psychological effect on future jihadists, the conflict in Afghanistan had the most direct influence on modern jihad. It was there that the ideas of a global jihad were forged and the original jihadist army coalesced, in no small part because of the massive resources that poured in from America and Saudi Arabia to support the indigenous mujahideen. In his essay “Martyrs: The Building Blocks of Nations,” Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s boss and the real founder of Al Qaeda, attested to the importance of the Afghan holy war:

Some thought that the Earth had become devastated and that this ummah had been drained of the thirst for martyrdom. Therefore, Allah exploded the Jihad on the land of Afghanistan and groups of youths from the Islamic World marched forth to Afghanistan in search of Jihad and martyrdom.

The Jihad initially began as a few drops, until Allah decided to ignite the sparks within this blessed people and explode the Jihad, blessing with it the land of Afghanistan and the rest of the Muslims until its good encompassed the whole World.

Azzam, bin Laden, and their small band of Arabs—no more than a few hundred—transformed a conflict between Moscow and the tribes of Afghanistan into a global movement for Islamic jihad in which Muslims of different languages, cultures, and countries coalesced into one brotherhood in pursuit of one objective—the victory of Islam and the word of Allah across the earth. Without Azzam’s new ideas about jihad, legitimized by his scholarly prestige, and bin Laden’s access to millions of dollars in funding, Afghanistan’s jihad might have stayed within its borders. Together, these two men were able to take their enterprise global and start a fire that still rages today, more incandescent than ever.

ABDULLAH AZZAM: THE SCHOLAR MARTYR

Abdullah Azzam / AP

Abdullah Azzam / AP

Abdullah Azzam was born into a Palestinian family who had to flee the West Bank after the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War of 1967. He became a disciple of the Muslim Brotherhood, studying during his formative years the incendiary works of its founder, Hassan al Banna (1906–1949) and those of Sayyid Qutb, finding in them the expression of his own rage and sense of victimhood. Studying in Syria and Egypt and teaching in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, he came into contact with the leading Islamist movements of the day, weaving their disparate intellectual threads together into a cohesive doctrine, which he eventually published in 1984 as a fatwa titled Defense of the Muslim Lands. The foundational work for the global jihad of the twentieth century, Azzam’s Defense contains the key assertions at the heart of every jihadist enterprise:

  • Muslims have been humiliated at the hands of impure regimes and colonial powers.
  • Islam will suffer ultimate defeat if Muslims do not take on jihad as a personal obligation.
  • The only way for Islam to be saved is for the caliphate to be reestablished for the glory of Allah.

Muslims are the people who have been entrusted with the final revelation of God, Azzam writes, and Islam is the only religion destined for the whole of humanity. Yet Muslims have been humiliated and subjugated. The unclean, the polytheists, those who do not believe in Allah, he says,

have duped the dull masses of Muslims by installing their wooden-headed puppets as false figureheads of states that remain under their control.

Colonialism has taken on a new face.

They have come from every horizon to share us amongst them like callers to a feast. There is no greater humiliation for the people expected to lead humanity to redemption.

The unbelievers have thus joined together to humiliate the Muslims, and the only way Muslims can fight back is to come together under a unified caliphate “in order to make victorious Allah’s religion of Islamic monotheism.”

Defense of the Muslim Lands begins with an epigraph justifying violent jihad in the words of Mohammed: “But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost.” If there were any doubt about Azzam’s emphasis on martyrdom in service to Allah, he clarified it in his “Martyrs: The Building Blocks of Nations”:

History does not write its lines except with blood. Glory does not build its lofty edifice except with skulls. Honor and respect cannot be established except on a foundation of cripples and corpses.

For Azzam, nothing is more honorable than for a Muslim to die fighting in the collective effort to reestablish the caliphate. In the short term, however, he was concerned about drawing more fighters to Afghanistan, so in Defense of the Muslim Lands he emphasizes the personal obligation of every Muslim to jihad. Insisting that his call for universal holy war is supported by a wide array of Muslim scholars, he details the lengthy process he went through to get this approval. During the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, he recalls, he delivered a lecture before more than one hundred scholars from around the Muslim world, “from whom there was not a single objection.”

This broad scholarly support of Azzam’s teaching was important for two reasons. The approval of theulema, the learned men and scholars, established the validity of his fatwa before the Muslim world. At the same time, it showed that support for Azzam’s notion of jihad extended far beyond the “Arab mujahideen,” the foreign jihadis fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. The scholars Azzam consulted may not have joined him on the battlefield, but their approval allowed his call to jihad to resonate across the globe. As one scholar wrote in his endorsement of the fatwa, “Therefore it is incumbent upon every Muslim today, capable of carrying a weapon, to march forward to jihad to aid his or her Muslim brothers in Afghanistan and in every place in need, even though his or her parents do not permit it. …”

Azzam himself understood the crucial role of ideologues in the battle. He knew victory could not be achieved by the sword alone. Expounding on the Hadith, the stories and sayings of Mohammed, he stated that “the ink of the scholar is worth more than the blood of the martyr.” He continued:

Indeed nations are only brought to life by their beliefs and their concepts, and they die only with their desires and their lusts.

The life of the Muslim ummah is solely dependent on the ink of its scholars and the blood of its martyrs.

What is more beautiful than the writing of the ummah’s history with both the ink of a scholar and his blood, such that the map of Islamic history becomes colored with two lines: one of them black, and that is what the scholar wrote with the ink of his pen; and the other one red, and that is what the martyr wrote with his blood.

And something more beautiful than this is when the blood is one and the pen is one, so that the hand of the scholar which expends the ink and moves the pen, is the same as the hand which expends its blood and moves the ummah.

The extent to which the number of martyred scholars increases is the extent to which nations are delivered from their slumber, rescued from their decline, and awoken from their sleep.

In this file photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, Lebanese people gather at the scene of an attack claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades / AP

In this file photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, Lebanese people gather at the scene of an attack claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades / AP

Like other ideologues before him, Azzam appreciated the importance of ideas and beliefs on the battlefield. People, he knew, will not fight for territory or treasure alone; they have to believe in the righteousness of their cause. It was Azzam who would elaborate the ultimate justice of jihad and provide the rationale for thousands, indeed tens of thousands, to join the battle for Allah against the infidels.

Azzam’s influence stretched well beyond the Afghan war. Even after he was assassinated in Pakistan in 1989, his call to universal war strengthened and catalyzed Al Qaeda’s growth into a global brand, eventually spawning ISIS and, in 2014, the creation of the new Islamic State—the caliphate reborn.

Elaborating on the importance of Azzam in launching the global jihadist movement, the publishers of the English-language version of Defense of the Muslim Lands write in their introduction:

Abdullah Azzam was greatly influenced by the Jihad in Afghanistan and the Jihad was greatly influenced by him. To it he concentrated his full effort, that he ultimately became the most prominent figure in the Afghani Jihad aside from the Afghan leaders. He spared no effort to pro- mote the Afghan cause to the whole world, especially throughout the Muslim ummah…. He changed the minds of Muslims about Jihad in Afghanistan and presented the Jihad as an Islamic cause which concerns all Muslims around the world [emphasis added].

Due to his efforts, the Afghani Jihad became universal, in which Muslims from every part of the world came to fight.

Azzam had dedicated his own life to jihad, and his clerical credentials were impeccable. His doctorate in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), which gave him full authority to issue fatwas, was from the most important theological institution in the Sunni world, Al Azhar in Cairo. His prestige was one reason that Defense of the Muslim Lands, from the time it was issued until the summer of 2014, when ISIS reestablished the caliphate, was the modern jihadi movement’s most effective tool for mobilizing support.

Another reason was that the logic of Azzam’s fatwa was flawless. Azzam had translated the geopolitical crisis of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan into a religious mandate for action. The USSR was a kuffar, an infidel nation, and the worst kind—driven by an atheist dogma that denied not only Allah but all transcendental truth. This infidel superpower had invaded dar al Islam, sacred Muslim land. The government in Kabul may have been made up of socialists, but the nation was part of Khorasan, ancient Islamic territory. Its invasion by infidel forces demanded that the global community of Muslims wage a holy war to repel the kuffar invaders.

Azzam reasoned that because there was no caliph to declare jihad against the USSR or any other infidel group, Muslims could not wait for direction from the outside. No longer an action declared by an imperial leader, jihad was thus “democratized.” Azzam’s fatwa became the most important document sanctioning and requiring holy Islamic war for the next three decades.

OSAMA BIN LADEN: TARGETING THE WORLD

While Abdullah Azzam forms one pillar of modern jihad, Osama bin Laden forms the other. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan brought Azzam into the foreign fighter movement, and the first Gulf War, a dozen years later, propelled his onetime deputy, bin Laden, to the leadership of a global terror organization targeting America and American interests around the world.

The scion of a prominent Saudi family—his father was one of the wealthiest building contractors in the desert nation and a friend of the king—Osama bin Laden was working for the family firm when radicals stormed the Grand Mosque in Mecca. While he had likely come into contact with the ideas of Sayyid Qutb as well as with Azzam, he was not yet fully radicalized, and he saw the siege as a treasonous act against a legitimate Islamic government. But when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan one month later, something snapped. He later told an interviewer, “When the invasion of Afghanistan started, I was enraged and went there at once. I arrived within days, before the end of 1979.” Though it is improbable that he actually arrived in Afghanistan “within days” of the Soviet invasion, it is likely that he traveled there in great secrecy to deliver support for the mujahideen from wealthy Gulf donors, keeping his family in the dark about his mission.

AP

AP

Azzam was the older, revered scholar and teacher, while bin Laden was a twenty-three-year-old ascetic with access to many millions of dollars in funds from his own family and from donors throughout the Middle East. By the early 1980s, bin Laden was a conduit for external funding and a key figure in the recruitment of fighters, bringing thousands of men through Pakistan to Afghanistan in support of the holy war against the atheist Soviet Union.

The pairing of Azzam and bin Laden was critical to the success of the enterprise. Azzam was not the first to talk about jihad, but with bin Laden’s financial and operational assistance, he gave the ideology a longer reach than it had ever had before. The Saudis and many other Arab Muslims felt an obligation to support the jihad for religious purposes, and bin Laden could facilitate their support. At the same time, the United States was providing covert support to the indigenous mujahideen of Afghanistan to weaken the Soviet regime. For the time being, the interest of the capitalist West coincided with that of the Wahhabi fundamentalists. Both saw the Soviet Union as their enemy. By the end of the 1980s, having lost more than fourteen thousand soldiers in a vicious unconventional war in a region that had brought defeat to invaders as disparate as Alexander the Great and the British Empire, the Kremlin decided that the war in Afghanistan was no longer worth it. American Stinger missiles, Pakistani intelligence, and small arms from China had made the local Afghan fighters a force to be reckoned with. In the view of the new Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, they could not be defeated without inordinate cost to the USSR.

But the “Arab Muj,” who had come from outside Afghanistan to fight in this new holy war, especially Osama bin Laden, would draw another conclusion. Less than a year after the last Soviet troop convoy had left the territory of Afghanistan, Abdullah Azzam, the leader of the MAK, the organization that had recruited more than fifty-five thousand foreign fighters to come and wage war in Afghanistan, was dead, and bin Laden inherited the jihadi organization that would soon become Al Qaeda. But bin Laden had a different interpretation of what had just happened in Afghanistan—what it meant for the future of all Muslims and the fight against infidels everywhere.

For the wealthy Saudi, who had just spent a decade in a war zone fighting the overwhelmingly more numerous and better equipped Soviets, there was only one way to interpret the victory of the jihadists: they truly were warriors of Allah, true mujahideen, fighters in a holy war supported by God. There was no other way to explain the victory over the superior forces of a superpower. It would be inconceivable for bin Laden and his ilk to conclude that the war was in fact won because another infidel superpower, the United States, had facilitated the victory of the local Afghans through a covert program supported by his lazy countrymen safe and sound back in Saudi Arabia. His certainty that the Arab mujahideen were now vindicated as God’s own fighters eventually spurred bin Laden to broaden his jihadi horizons. But only after another war broke out.

Kuwaiti demonstrators holding placard which shows Saddam Hussein as bloodthirsty during a rally in Damascus, Syria / AP

Kuwaiti demonstrators holding placard which shows Saddam Hussein as bloodthirsty during a rally in Damascus, Syria / AP

The following year saw Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces invade Kuwait. His occupation of the neighboring nation also put the Saudi kingdom and its royal family at risk, as many believed that after the fall of Kuwait, Saddam would next invade Saudi Arabia. By this point Osama was losing faith in the elite of his homeland, but the king had been a close friend of his father’s, and far more important than that, Saudi Arabia was the home to the holiest and most precious sites in all Islam, the cities of Mecca and Medina, where Mohammed had established the first caliphate. The kingdom had to be protected from Saddam Hussein, a Baathist thug who modeled himself more on Stalin than Mohammed.

Bin Laden met with King Fahd and the Saudi defense minister, asking them not to depend on non-Muslim (infidel) assistance from the United States and offering to defend Saudi Arabia with his own legion of seasoned Arab mujahideen. But the king declined and instead invited America and its allies to deploy their troops to the Arabian Peninsula. This deployment, however, required a fatwa, issued by the royal court’s domesticated clerics, the first of its kind in Islamic his- tory. Although stationing infidel troops in the land of Mecca and Medina had been utterly haram, or forbidden, since the time of the first caliphate, now it was decreed permissible. For bin Laden, this meant the crusaders were back, but this time they had been invited by the king himself. Islam had been betrayed and sullied by its own royal leadership. This decision changed the world, moving bin Laden to turn his guerrilla band into an international terror organization that would bring jihad to the streets of America.

Bin Laden now began publicly to denounce the king, his father’s close friend, as a lackey of the infidels. Attempts to silence him failed, and eventually he was banished from the kingdom and stripped of his Saudi citizenship. After the Gulf War, he moved to Sudan and took his organization—renamed Al Qaeda, “The Base”—with him.

Al Qaeda now had a new target. Instead of killing infidels who had dared to invade Muslim lands, as with the Soviets in Afghanistan, the holy war would be taken directly to the infidel, either in his own land or in locations abroad that offered an easy target.

While the operations against the infidels were planned in secret, bin Laden decided to come out of the shadows and publicly issue a fatwa of his own, Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places, urging all Muslims, just as his mentor Abdullah Azzam had, to take up the fight and become jihadis themselves. Al Qaeda may have been born in the mountains and villages of Central Asia in a war with an occupying military, but now the enemy was everywhere, its ranks including office workers in New York, embassy employees in Africa, and American sailors in Yemen. The following decade would witness the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and the suicide attack against the USS Cole in the Port of Aden in 1999.

Modern jihad had finally gone global. And then came September 11, 2001.

This essay was excerpted from Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War by Sebastian Gorka, available from Regnery Publishing on April 11.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized authority on national security, strategy, and counterterrorism. He is one of the world’s leading experts in asymmetric warfare. Gorka serves as the Major General Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at Marine Corps University where he teaches on irregular warfare.

***

Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War, by Sebastian Gorka, PhD

Excellent talk given in 2013: