Resolving the Conflict in Yemen: U.S. Interests, Risks, and Policy

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, March 10, 2017

Editor’s note: On March 9, Thomas Joscelyn testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The hearing, “Resolving the Conflict in Yemen: U.S. Interests, Risks, and Policy,” was called to explore the political dynamics of the ongoing war in Yemen, as well as the roles played by foreign actors and al Qaeda. His written testimony can be read below. A version of Mr. Joscelyn’s testimony with footnotes can be found here.

Senator Corker and other members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the ongoing war in Yemen. Unfortunately, I do not see a way that this conflict can be resolved any time soon. Yemen is rife with internal divisions, which are exacerbated by the proxy war being waged by several actors. Arab states, Iran, and others see Yemen as a key battleground in their contest for regional power. In addition, al Qaeda has taken advantage of the crisis to pursue its chief objective, which is seizing territory and building an emirate inside the country.

I discuss these various actors in my written testimony below and look forward to answering your questions.

The Iranian-backed Houthi offensive has significantly undermined U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Governance in Yemen has been a longstanding problem. But the Houthi offensive in late 2014 knocked President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi from power at a time when the U.S. was counting on his government to act as a vital counterterrorism partner.

There is a debate over how close the Houthis and Iran really are. Some have argued that the Houthis should not be thought of as an Iranian terror proxy, such as Hezbollah. While this accurate – the Houthis have their own culture and traditions – there is no question that Iran and the Houthis are allies. And it is in Iran’s interest to work with the Houthis against Saudi-backed forces in Yemen, while also encouraging Houthi incursions into the Saudi kingdom.

The U.S. government has long recognized Iran as one of the Houthis’ two key backers. (The other being former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his network, which is discussed below.) In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, the State Department noted:

Iran actively supported members of the Houthi tribe in northern Yemen, including activities intended to build military capabilities, which could pose a greater threat to security and stability in Yemen and the surrounding region. In July 2012, the Yemeni Interior Ministry arrested members of an alleged Iranian spy ring, headed by a former member of the IRGC.

That warning proved to be accurate, as the Houthis made significant gains just over two years later. The U.S. and its allies have intercepted multiple Iranian arms shipments reportedly intended for the Houthis. And senior U.S. officials have repeatedly referenced Iran’s ongoing assistance. Late last year, Reuters reported that “Iran has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis,” including “missiles and small arms.”

In September 2015, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter listed America’s “core interests in the region.” Among them, according to Carter, was “supporting Saudi Arabia in protecting its territory and people from Houthi attacks, and supporting international efforts to prevent Iranian shipments of lethal equipment from reaching Houthi and Saleh-affiliated forces in Yemen.” The Houthis have responded by launching missiles at American ships, as well as ships operated by other countries.

Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his supporters have worked to undermine President Hadi’s’s government.

Former President Saleh and his son have allied with the Houthis to thwart any chance of having a stable political process inside Yemen. The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Saleh and two Houthi military commanders in 2014, describing them as “political spoilers.” Saleh became “one of the primary supporters of violence perpetrated by” the Houthis as of the fall of 2012, and has provided them with “funds and political support.” Then, in April 2015, Treasury sanctioned Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali Saleh. The junior Saleh was commander of Yemen’s Republican Guard, but was removed from that post by Hadi. Still, Ahmed Ali Saleh “retained significant influence within the Yemeni military, even after he was removed from command.” And he has “played a key role in facilitating the Houthi military expansion.”

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is attempting to build an Islamic state in Yemen.

Al Qaeda is working to build Islamic emirates in several countries and regions, including Afghanistan, North and West Africa, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Unlike its rivals in the Islamic State (or ISIS), al Qaeda has adopted a long-term approach for state-building. While AQAP has begun to implement its version of sharia law in Yemen, it has not advertised the most gruesome aspects of its draconian code for fear of alienating the population. Still, AQAP controlled much of southern Yemen from April 2015 to April 2016, including the port city of Mukallah, where it reportedly earned substantial revenues via taxes. AQAP’s forces simply melted away when the Arab-led coalition entered Mukallah and other areas. By doing so, AQAP presented itself as a protector of the local population and lived to fight another day. The group is capable of seizing more territory at any time.

AQAP isn’t just an “affiliate” of al Qaeda; it is al Qaeda.

In addition to being a regional branch of al Qaeda’s international organization, AQAP has housed senior al Qaeda managers who are tasked with responsibilities far outside of Yemen. For example, Nasir al Wuhayshi (who was killed in 2015) served as both AQAP’s emir and as al Qaeda’s general manager. At the time of his death, Wuhayshi was the deputy emir of al Qaeda’s global operations.

Beginning in 2014, the Islamic State (or ISIS), mushroomed in size after declaring the establishment of its so-called caliphate across a large part of Iraq and Syria. Some predicted, erroneously, that AQAP would defect to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s cause in the event that Wuhayshi was killed. That prediction was based on a stunning ignorance of AQAP’s organization and implicitly assumed that AQAP’s loyalty to al Qaeda was embodied in a single man. Wuhayshi’s successor, Qasim al Raymi, quickly reaffirmed his and AQAP’s allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri. Al Qaeda veterans and loyalists from a new generation of jihadists are peppered throughout AQAP’s ranks.

The U.S. has killed a number of top AQAP leaders, but the group has effectively replaced them and likely retains a bench of capable fill-ins.

Wuhayshi was one of several senior AQAP leaders killed in the drone campaign in 2015. Others have perished since. But AQAP has quickly filled their positions with other al Qaeda veterans, including Raymi, Ibrahim al Qosi (a former Guantanamo detainee), Ibrahim al Banna (discussed below), and others. Most of AQAP’s insurgency organization, including its middle management, has not been systematically targeted. Therefore, the organization as a whole has not been systematically degraded. AQAP still threatens the West, but most of its resources are devoted to waging the insurgency and building a state inside Yemen. Recently, the U.S. has stepped up its air campaign, launching 40 or more airstrikes against AQAP this month. Those airstrikes are intended, in part, to weaken AQAP’s guerrilla army. But it will require more than bombings to do that. Without an effective government representing most of the Sunni tribes and people, AQAP will continue to position itself as the legitimate ruler in many areas of Yemen.

Al Qaeda has deep roots inside Yemen.

Osama bin Laden’s and Ayman al Zawahiri’s men first began to lay the groundwork for al Qaeda’s organization inside Yemen in the early 1990s, if not earlier. Zawahiri himself spent time in Yemen alongside his comrades in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), which effectively merged with bin Laden’s operation in the 1990s. Zawahiri, his brother, and their fellow EIJ jihadists established a base of operations in Yemen. One of these EIJ veterans, Ibrahim al Banna, was designated as a senior AQAP leader by the U.S. government late last year. In 1992 or 1993, Zawahiri ordered al Banna to oversee “the administration” of al Qaeda’s “affairs” in Yemen, “opening public relationships with all the students of knowledge and the notables and the tribal sheikhs.” That was more than a quarter of a century ago. Yet al Banna, a co-founder of AQAP, continues to command jihadists inside the country to this day.

Al Qaeda has suffered multiple setbacks inside Yemen since al Banna was first dispatched to the country in the early 1990s. But the jihadists’ patient approach has clearly borne fruit. An unnamed U.S. military official recently explained that AQAP has “skillfully exploited the disorder in Yemen to build its strength and reinvigorate its membership and training.” This same official estimated that AQAP’s total group strength is in the “low thousands,” but warned that because many of its members are Yemeni “they can blend in with the tribes there.”

This assessment of AQAP’s overall strength may or may not be accurate with respect to the total number of deployed fighters. But the U.S. has underestimated the size of jihadist organizations in the past, including the Islamic State (ISIS) and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. AQAP maintains a deep support network within Yemeni society that allows it to regenerate its forces and continue waging jihad despite fighting on multiple fronts for many years.

The U.S. Treasury Department has outlined parts of AQAP’s fundraising apparatus in a series of terrorist designations. Treasury’s work has highlighted the mix of tribal politics, Gulf fundraising, and local banking that has helped fuel AQAP’s war in Yemen.

Files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound reveal that al Qaeda has sought to maintain friendly tribal relations and avoid the mistakes made in Iraq, where the predecessor to the current Islamic State alienated tribal leaders. It is difficult to gauge the extent of ideological support for AQAP’s cause within Yemen’s tribes, but the jihadists do not need key tribes to be completely committed to their cause. While there have been tensions at times, AQAP benefits from the tribes’ frequent unwillingness to back government forces against the jihadists.

Some tribal leaders are closely allied with AQAP, so much so that they have been integrated into the organization’s infrastructure. This has led to an awkward situation in which some of AQAP’s leaders are also partnered with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Hadi’s government in the war against the Houthis. For instance, during a raid against AQAP in January, U.S. forces killed a prominent tribal leader named Sheikh Abdel-Raouf al-Dhahab. The Associated Press (AP), citing “military officials, tribal figures and relatives,” reported that Dhahab met “with the military chief of staff in Hadi’s government” shortly “before the raid.” Fahd al-Qasi, Dhahab’s “top aide,” accompanied Dhahab to the meeting and subsequently confirmed that it took place. “During five days of talks with the military, al-Dhahab — who commands a force of some 800 tribal fighters — was given around 15 million Yemeni riyals ($60,000) to pay his men in the fight against the rebels, al-Qasi and the two officials said,” according to the AP. Al-Qasi “distributed the money to the fighters” just hours before the raid.

AQAP has also benefitted from its longstanding relationship with Shaykh Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani and his network. The U.S. Treasury Department first designated Zindani as a terrorist in 2004, describing him as a “loyalist to Usama bin Laden and supporter of al-Qaeda.” In 2013, Treasury said that Zindani was providing “religious guidance” for AQAP’s operations. Zindani has been a prominent leader in Islah, which is a Yemeni political party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and Islah have a lengthy history of relations, which had cooled in the not-so-distant past. However, as a result of the Houthis’ successful push across Yemen, Saudi Arabia has embraced Islah once again. Zindani himself has maintained friendly relations with the Saudis.

Zindani is the founder of Al-Iman University, which has served as a jihadist recruiting hub. Some al Qaeda leaders have not always been happy with the elderly ideologue. But one letter recovered in bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound demonstrates why al Qaeda would not publicly criticize him. “To be fair, a significant number of al-Mujahidin who reach the jihadi arena here were instructed or prepared by him, especially the new Russian converts to Islam who moved from Russia to Yemen and stayed for a while at al-Iman University and then moved with their families to the field of Jihad,” a senior al Qaeda leader wrote in March 2008. Whatever disagreements al Qaeda may have had with Zindani at times, he and his broad network have provided valuable support for AQAP’s operations.

The preceding paragraphs above give a brief overview of AQAP’s deep network inside Yemen, demonstrating why it remains a potent force. The Islamic State has also established a much smaller presence inside Yemen. The Islamic State’s men are capable of carrying out large attacks, particularly against soft targets such as funerals and markets. AQAP avoids such operations, seeing them as detrimental to its cause, which is based on building more popular support for the jihadist group.

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

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Watch the Senate hearing, “Resolving the Conflict in Yemen: U.S. Interests, Risks, and Policy”

Also see:

The future of counterterrorism: Addressing the evolving threat to domestic security

joscelynLONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | February 28, 2017 | tjoscelyn@gmail.com | @thomasjoscelyn

Editor’s note: Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee Counterterrorism and Intelligence, on the future of counterterrorism and addressing the evolving threat to domestic security.

Chairman King, Ranking Member Rice, and other members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. The terrorist threat has evolved greatly since the September 11, 2001 hijackings. The U.S. arguably faces a more diverse set of threats today than ever. In my written and oral testimony, I intend to highlight both the scope of these threats, as well as some of what I think are the underappreciated risks.

My key points are as follows:

– The U.S. military and intelligence services have waged a prolific counterterrorism campaign to suppress threats to America. It is often argued that because no large-scale plot has been successful in the U.S. since 9/11 that the risk of such an attack is overblown. This argument ignores the fact that numerous plots, in various stages of development, have been thwarted since 2001. Meanwhile, Europe has been hit with larger-scale operations. In addition, the U.S. and its allies frequently target jihadists who are suspected of plotting against the West. America’s counterterrorism strategy is mainly intended to disrupt potentially significant operations that are in the pipeline.

-Over the past several years, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies claim to have struck numerous Islamic State (or ISIS) and al Qaeda “external operatives” in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. These so-called “external operatives” are involved in anti-Western plotting. Had they not been targeted, it is likely that at least some of their plans would have come to fruition. Importantly, it is likely that many “external operatives” remain in the game, and are still laying the groundwork for attacks in the U.S. and the West.

-In addition, the Islamic State and al Qaeda continue to adapt new messages in an attempt to inspire attacks abroad. U.S. law enforcement has been forced to spend significant resources to stop “inspired” plots. As we all know, some of them have not been thwarted. The Islamic State’s caliphate declaration in 2014 heightened the threat of inspired attacks, as would-be jihadists were lured to the false promises of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s cause.

-The Islamic State also developed a system for “remote-controlling” attacks in the West and elsewhere. This system relies on digital operatives who connect with aspiring jihadis via social media applications. The Islamic State has had more success with these types of small-scale operations in Europe. But as I explain in my written testimony, the FBI has uncovered a string of plots inside the U.S. involving these same virtual planners.

-The refugee crisis is predominately a humanitarian concern. The Islamic State has used migrant and refugee flows to infiltrate terrorists into Europe. Both the Islamic State and al Qaeda could seek to do the same with respect to the U.S., however, they have other means for sneaking jihadists into the country as well. While some terrorists have slipped into the West alongside refugees, the U.S. should remain focused on identifying specific threats.

-More than 15 years after 9/11, al Qaeda remains poorly understood. Most of al Qaeda’s resources are devoted to waging insurgencies in several countries. But as al Qaeda’s insurgency footprint has spread, so has the organization’s capacity for plotting against the West. On 9/11, al Qaeda’s anti-Western plotting was primarily confined to Afghanistan, with logistical support networks in Pakistan, Iran, and other countries. Testifying before the Senate in February 2016, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper warned that the al Qaeda threat to the West now emanates from multiple countries. Clapper testified that al Qaeda “nodes in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey” are “dedicating resources to planning attacks.” To this list we can add Yemen. And jihadists from Africa have been involved in anti-Western plotting as well. Incredibly, al Qaeda is still plotting against the U.S. from Afghanistan.

Both the Islamic State and al Qaeda continue to seek ways to inspire terrorism inside the U.S. and they are using both new and old messages in pursuit of this goal.

The jihadists have long sought to inspire individuals or small groups of people to commit acts of terrorism for their cause. Individual terrorists are often described as “lone wolves,” but that term is misleading. If a person is acting in the name of a global, ideological cause, then he or she cannot be considered a “lone wolf,” even if the individual in question has zero contact with others. In fact, single attackers often express their support for the jihadists’ cause in ways that show the clear influence of propaganda.

Indeed, al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) first began to aggressively market the idea of “individual” or “lone” operations years ago. AQAP’s Inspire magazine is intended to provide would-be jihadists with everything they could need to commit an attack without professional training or contact. Anwar al Awlaki, an AQAP ideologue who was fluent in English, was an especially effective advocate for these types of plots. Despite the fact that Awlaki was killed in a U.S. airstrike in September 2011, his teachings remain widely available on the internet.

The Islamic State capitalized on the groundwork laid by Awlaki and AQAP. In fact, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s operation took these ideas and aggressively marketed them with an added incentive. Al Qaeda has told its followers that it wants to eventually resurrect an Islamic caliphate. Beginning in mid-2014, the Islamic State began to tell its followers that it had already done so in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. Baghdadi’s so-called caliphate has also instructed followers that it would be better for them to strike inside their home countries in the West, rather than migrate abroad for jihad. The Islamic State has consistently marketed this message.

In May 2016, for instance, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani told followers that if foreign governments “have shut the door of hijrah [migration] in your faces,” then they should “open the door of jihad in theirs,” meaning in the West. “Make your deed a source of their regret,” Adnani continued. “Truly, the smallest act you do in their lands is more beloved to us than the biggest act done here; it is more effective for us and more harmful to them.”

“If one of you wishes and strives to reach the lands of the Islamic State,” Adnani told his audience, “then each of us wishes to be in your place to make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them and terrorizing them, until every neighbor fears his neighbor.” Adnani told jihadists that they should “not make light of throwing a stone at a crusader in his land,” nor should they “underestimate any deed, as its consequences are great for the mujahidin and its effect is noxious to the disbelievers.”

The Islamic State continued to push this message after Adnani’s death in August 2016.

In at least several cases, we have seen individual jihadists who were first influenced by Awlaki and AQAP gravitate to the Islamic State’s cause. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife were responsible for the December 2, 2015 San Bernardino massacre. They pledged allegiance to Baghdadi on social media, but Farook had drawn inspiration from Awlaki and AQAP’s Inspire years earlier.

Omar Mateen swore allegiance to Baghdadi repeatedly on the night of his assault on a LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. However, a Muslim who knew Mateen previously reported to the FBI that Mateen was going down the extremist path. He told the FBI in 2014 that Mateen was watching Awlaki’s videos. It was not until approximately two years later, in early June 2016, that Mateen killed 49 people and wounded dozens more in the name of the supposed caliphate.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man who allegedly planted bombs throughout New York and New Jersey in September 2016, left behind a notebook. In it, Rahami mentioned Osama bin Laden, “guidance” from Awlaki, an also referenced Islamic State spokesman Adnani. Federal prosecutors wrote in the complaint that Rahami specifically wrote about “the instructions of terrorist leaders that, if travel is infeasible, to attack nonbelievers where they live.” This was Adnani’s key message, and remains a theme in Islamic State propaganda.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has alleged that other individuals who sought to support the Islamic State were first exposed to Awlaki’s teachings as well.

These cases demonstrate that the jihadis have developed a well of ideas from which individual adherents can draw, but it may take years for them to act on these beliefs, if they ever act on them at all. There is no question that the Islamic State has had greater success of late in influencing people to act in its name. But al Qaeda continues to produce recruiting materials and to experiment with new concepts for individual attacks as well.

Al Qaeda and its branches have recently called for revenge for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who died in a U.S. prison earlier this month. Rahman was convicted by a U.S. court for his involvement in plots against New York City landmarks in the mid-1990s. Since then, al Qaeda has used Rahman’s “will” to prophesize his death and to proactively blame the U.S. for it. Approximately 20 years after al Qaeda first started pushing this theme, Rahman finally died. Al Qaeda’s continued use of Rahman’s prediction, which is really just jihadist propaganda, demonstrates how these groups can use the same concepts for years, whether or not the facts are consistent with their messaging. Al Qaeda also recently published a kidnapping guide based on old lectures by Saif al Adel, a senior figure in the group. Al Adel may or may not be currently in Syria. Al Qaeda is using his lectures on kidnappings and hostage operations as a way to potentially teach others how to carry them out. The guide was published in both Arabic and English, meaning that al Qaeda seeks an audience in the West for al Adel’s designs.

Both the Islamic State and AQAP also continue to produce English-language magazines for online audiences. The 15th issue of Inspire, which was released last year, provided instructions for carrying out “professional assassinations.” AQAP has been creating lists of high-profile targets in the U.S. and elsewhere that they hope supporters will use in selecting potential victims. AQAP’s idea is to maximize the impact of “lone” attacks by focusing on wealthy businessmen or other well-known individuals. AQAP has advocated for, and praised, indiscriminate attacks as well. But the group has critiqued some attacks (such as the Orlando massacre at a LGBT nightclub) for supposedly muddying the jihadists’ message. AQAP is trying to lay the groundwork for more targeted operations. For example, the January 2015 assault on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris was set in motion by al Qaeda and AQAP. Inspire even specifically identified the intended victims beforehand. Al Qaeda would like individual actors, with no foreign ties, to emulate such precise hits.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State has lowered the bar for what is considered a successful attack, pushing people to use cars, knives, or whatever weapons they can get in their hands. The Islamic State claimed that both the September 2016 mall stabbings in Minnesota and the vehicular assault at Ohio State University in November 2016 were the work of its “soldiers.” It may be the case that there were no digital ties between these attackers and the Islamic State. However, there is often more to the story of how the Islamic State guides such small-scale operations.

The Islamic State has sought to carry out attacks inside the U.S. via “remote-controlled” terrorists.

A series of attacks in Europe and elsewhere around the globe have been carried out by jihadists who were in contact, via social media applications, with Islamic State handlers in Syria and Iraq. The so-called caliphate’s members have been able to remotely guide willing recruits through small-scale plots that did not require much sophistication. These plots targeted victims in France, Germany, Russia, and other countries. In some cases, terrorists have received virtual support right up until the moment of their attack. The Islamic State has had more success orchestrating “remote-controlled” plots in Europe, but the jihadist group has also tried to carry out similar plots inside the U.S.

Read more

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Homeland Security Committee:

Multiple terrorist networks actively plot attacks against the United States, and American interests, or encourage adherents to conduct inspired attacks inside the U.S Homeland without specific direction. Though significant progress has been made in improving American counterterrorism efforts since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, challenges persist. Over the last several years, the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence (CT&I) has continually worked to identify and address these weaknesses and improve U.S. domestic security. This hearing provides an opportunity to examine the continued evolution of the terrorist threat and review recommendations for improvement from national security experts.

OPENING STATEMENTS

Rep. Pete King (R-NY), Subcommittee Chairman
Opening Statement

WITNESSES

Mr. Edward F. Davis
Chief Executive Officer
Edward Davis, LLC
Witness Testimony

Mr. Thomas Joscelyn
Senior Fellow
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy
Witness Testimony

Mr. Robin Simcox
Margaret Thatcher Fellow
Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy
The Heritage Foundation
Witness Testimony

Mr. Peter Bergen
Vice President, Director
International Security and Fellows Programs
New American
Witness Testimony

How Pakistani Law Enshrines Extremism and Weakens Counter-Terror Efforts

pakistanby Ammar Anwer
Special to IPT News
February 24, 2017

Pakistani extremists have killed nearly 50,000 people since 9/11. But government ineffectiveness has stymied efforts to contain terrorist violence. The government and military often are not on the same page, or have chosen a narrow and selective approach towards extremism, fighting one outfit and at the same time supporting the other.

For instance, former President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged that Pakistan cultivated and possessed a soft spot for the Afghan Taliban. In addition, Pakistan has failed to take a firm stand against Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a radical outfit famous for its hateful rhetoric against India. The U.S. designated the organization as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2001, and the United Nations designated it as a terrorist outfit in 2005.

Lately, signs of hope have started to emerge. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief of Staff General Raheel Sharif seem to agree about extremism and also seem to lack the selective approach that their predecessors had often adopted. As evidence, more than 250 people have been arrested for propagating hate speech, and a ban has been imposed on loudspeakers, which were often used to promote sectarian violence.

In addition, Pakistan launched a host of military operations against militants, including 2014’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which targeted militant groups including the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani Network. As a result, most of North Waziristan is now controlled by the military.

The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2015, complied by the international research group the Institute for Economics and Peace, analyzes the impact of terrorism on the global community. The report conceded success of Zarb-e-Azb and stated, “Pakistan was the only country in the ten most impacted countries that saw a decline in deaths” but still ranked third in the world.

Pakistan still has a long way to go to eradicate Islamist extremism.

Pakistani law remains an obstacle to accomplishing this goal. Its constitution paves the way for religious intolerance as the following examples show:

Declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims

Discrimination against Ahmadis began shortly after Pakistan’s inception in 1947. In 1953, a series of violent attacks was instigated against the Ahmadiyya community in Lahore. The Lahore riots resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims.

In 1974, due to the strong pressure from fundamentalists, Ahmadis were officially declared non-Muslims in Pakistan. To this day Ahmadis suffer religious discrimination and persecution while the state shows no inclination toward amending the law or eradicating the discrimination.

Ehtaram-e-Ramadan Ordinance

The Ehtaram-e-Ramadan ordinance was passed in 1981 during the tenure of General Zia-Ul-Haq, and is part of the constitution. It prohibits public eating during Ramadan’s fasting hours. It is a blatant violation of religious freedom for non-Muslims and secular Muslims. The ordinance requires that restaurants remain closed during fasting hours. Violations are punishable by up to three months in prison or a fine.

But vigilantes often take this law into their own hands. During the last Ramadan, an elderly Hindu man was badly beaten for eating publicly.

Pakistan’s contentious blasphemy law

Blasphemy is the act of insulting, showing contempt or a lack of reverence for God or that which is considered sacred. The blasphemy laws are now enshrined in section 295 A, B and C of the Penal Code, with their focus to protect Islam.

Pakistan uses this controversial law at a level unparalleled in any other country. The law has had a disproportionate impact on minority communities. Minorities, which comprise just 4 percent of Pakistan’s population, are targeted in more than half of the 702 total blasphemy law cases. The laws routinely are used to target religious minorities like Hindus or Christians for personal or political motives.

This action contradicts Pakistan’s constitution which guarantees the right to profess religion, equality of citizens and protection of minorities.

The law perpetuates an environment of intolerance and discrimination. To guarantee equal treatment and fundamental rights, the blasphemy laws must be eliminated or dramatically changed. Without this improvement, the state will never be able to achieve peace, tolerance and equal human rights.

Conclusion

The facts are before us, though they might be difficult to face. However, as Aldous Huxley said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

We in Pakistan cannot claim that we are fighting a war against extremism if there are extremist tenets within our constitution. Until we change those laws, the fight can never be won.

Ammar Anwer is an ex-Islamist who writes for The Nation, Pakistan Today and other media outlets. He believes in secularism and democracy and aspires to see Pakistan become a pluralistic state.

Sanction Pakistan As State Sponsor Of Terror

hqdefault_0Forbes, by Anders Corr, Feb 23, 2017:

In the past two weeks, Pakistan has closed border crossings with Afghanistan, and attacked Afghan soil with airstrikes and heavy artillery, causing 200 families to flee. Pakistan claims that these measures counter cross-border terrorists. But in so doing, Pakistan punishes Afghanistan economically and obfuscates the primary source of South and Central Asian terrorism: Pakistan itself. Pakistan is a supporter of the Taliban, Haqqani, Islamic State, and Al Qaeda. To convince Pakistan to cease supporting terrorism, influential nations must label Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, and impose economic sanctions.

Pakistan seeks to turn Afghanistan into its backyard and put the government under its sphere of influence. It seeks “strategic depth” in Afghanistan for Pakistan’s competition with India. It seeks to influence, through political, military, and economic measures, the government of Afghanistan in order to limit Iranian influence in the country. Pakistan is doing this with military strikes, state-sponsored terrorism, economic inducements, and economic punishments such as border closings.

Afghanistan is a landlocked country, but it is nobody’s backyard. It is a sovereign and exceedingly fragile democracy of 30 million people under siege by terrorists. The democratically-elected government of Afghanistan needs the support of Pakistan in its fight against terrorism. Afghanistan’s struggle to provide peace and development to its citizens deserves that support.

Pakistan must honor its commitments in the 2016 Quadrilateral road map negotiated with Afghanistan, the U.S., and China, as Afghanistan plead for on Saturday. The government of Afghanistan invited the Taliban to talks, but the Taliban refused. Now, Pakistan must take action against cross-border Taliban terrorists in Pakistan. That will be politically impossible within Pakistan until the U.S. and E.U. take very tough economic and diplomatic measures. It is time to label Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, and support targeted sanctions against select military- and intelligence-linked Pakistani companies.

 Anders Corr is the Principal of Corr Analytics Inc, providing international political risk analysis to government and commercial clients. Twitter – @anderscorr, email – corr@canalyt.com.

Is Pakistani Intelligence Behind the Democrats’ “Secret” IT Scandal?

Center for Security Policy, by Frank Gaffney, Feb. 22, 2017:

There’s an ominous scandal unfolding on Capitol Hill.  But you’d never know that from the complete absence of coverage of it by the mainstream media.

Currently, there are many more questions than answers about the several individuals from Pakistan who long provided IT services to a large number of Democratic members of the House of Representatives. For example: Did they use their access to the lawmakers’ email systems to steal sensitive official and/or personal information? If so, was the ISI, their homeland’s aggressive intelligence service, involved?

The ISI has long run collection and influence operations against the United States government and interests. Notably, Pakistani intelligence has been a prime enabler of Sharia-supremacists like Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

The biggest question though is: Why are we not hearing about this scandal – and getting answers about its potentially serious national security implications?

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Another Pakistan spy scandal that was ignored by the media:

The Biggest D.C. Spy Scandal You Haven’t Heard About (Part Two)

Maryland Mosque Lauds Pakistani Assassin

FaceBook photo January 2, 2015

FaceBook photo January 2, 2015

by IPT News  •  Feb 15, 2017

On Sunday, an American mosque glorified a terrorist responsible for killing a Pakistani governor who was critical of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, the Rabwah Times reported.

Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab province, became an instant target for radical Islamists after he defended a Christian woman facing blasphemy charges. In 2011, Taseer’s own bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri shot and killed him.

When Qadri was executed for the killing last year, more than 100,000 Pakistanis paid their respects at his funeral.

The Gulzar E Madina Mosque in Pikesville, Md. apparently shared in the mourners’ zeal, hosting a celebration Sunday in Qadri’s memory. The mosque held a traditional “Urs” ceremony usually reserved for holy figures, the Rabwah Times story said.

Days earlier, the mosque advertised the event in the Urdu Times, America’s most distributed Urdu language newspaper. The event featured several speakers spewing radical views, including Syed Saad Ali, an Islamist scholar based in New Jersey.

“Warrior Mumtaz Qadri kissed the noose in love for Prophet Muhammad,” Ali said. “When Qadri was in jail for 5 years what did we do? What effort did we make (for his release)? Why did we not go where he was being held? Qadri did everything for us, and for the love of Islam and we could not even stand by him. People say Islam teaches peace…I say Islam teaches us Ghairat (Honor). Who will now stand up?”

According to the Rabwah Times, the event was “attended by dozens of people including young children and teenagers.”

Pakistan has charged about 1,000 people with blasphemy since 1987, and convictions can carry the death penalty. These laws especially target members of Pakistan’s minority communities, including the Ahmadi and Christians. But the law can be also applied to anyone that is seen as a threat to the government.

Sunday’s event in Maryland is another example of a radical mosque in the United States glorifying terrorists and inciting violence among younger generations. Impressionable children in these contexts view terrorists as heroes and are encouraged to support and violence for Islamist objectives.

Also see:

Trump left countries with high terror risk off his banned list

Taliban militants train in a lawless region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 2011. EPA

Taliban militants train in a lawless region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 2011. EPA

New York Post, by Paul Sperry, January 28, 2017:

Afghanistan is conspicuously absent from the list of terror-prone countries in President Trump’s indefinite immigration ban, even though al-Qaeda has reopened terrorist training camps there and Afghan immigration factors into recent homegrown terrorism, including the Orlando and Chelsea attacks.

Trump signed an executive order on Friday temporarily blocking entry into the US for immigrants and nonimmigrants from seven Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — until the government can tighten security procedures to screen out terrorists under Trump’s proposed “extreme vetting” program. It would also completely stop the processing and resettling here of Muslim refugees from ISIS hotspot Syria.

“It’s countries that have tremendous terror,” Trump explained. “And it’s countries that people are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems.”

Leaving Afghanistan — as well as high-risk Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — off the list may prove shortsighted, however.

A new Pentagon report reveals that 20 terrorist groups, including ISIS, are now operating in Afghanistan, mostly along the Pakistan border. It notes that “the Taliban and other insurgents have gained territory over the past two years,” as President Obama withdrew US troops, and now control almost 40 percent of the country.

Al-Qaeda, meanwhile, has built massive new terrorist training camps — including one 30-square miles in size, the largest training facility the Pentagon has seen since 9/11 — signaling the group is gearing up to repeat its pre-9/11 horror of exporting terrorism from Afghanistan.

Lost in the noise over Syrian refugees and the terrorist threat they pose is the growing wave of Afghan refugees hitting our shores, as Afghanistan descends into its own civil war. As the security situation has deteriorated, Afghan immigration has surged.

Afghan refugees have fled the country as it’s descended further into civil war.Getty

Afghan refugees have fled the country as it’s descended further into civil war.Getty

Between 2013 and 2015, the last years reported by the State Department, the total number of Afghan refugees admitted to the US actually outpaced the number of Syrian refugees admitted: 2,324 vs. 1,823. The number of Afghan refugees resettled in US cities — namely, New York, Houston and Sacramento — jumped 21 percent in 2015, after increasing 14 percent in 2014. Afghans reported as admitted in the first three months of 2016 had already exceeded State’s projection for the entire year. Meanwhile, another 10,000-plus Afghans are seeking asylum here.

And these are just the permanent resettlements and do not include the thousands of Afghans that Homeland Security is admitting as “temporary immigrants.” US visas issued annually to Afghans have nearly doubled under the Obama administration, soaring from 2,454 in 2008 to 4,156 in 2015, the latest year for which data are kept.

Few in Washington are raising alarms about the largely uncontrolled influx of these Afghan immigrants, but the security risk is just as great.

Though their numbers are relatively small next to the projected flood of Syrians, “some may cause trouble,” as they have in Germany, which is deporting 12,000 Afghan refugees after some carried out terrorist attacks there, said David North, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.

It’s not that there aren’t legitimate refugees among these Afghan nationals. The problem is there’s no vetting procedures in place to reliably sort the “good guys” from the “bad guys.” As a result, the government’s screening system has repeatedly failed to ID jihadists and other turncoats who have betrayed the hospitality extended to them by this country.

Recent examples include: Afghan refugee Hayatulla Dawari, who got as far as naturalization before authorities learned of his involvement with an Afghan terror group and convicted him in 2014; and Afghan refugee Sohiel Omar Kabir, who was sentenced in 2015 to 25 years in federal prison for providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to kill Americans.

Chelsea bomb suspect Ahmad Rahami was radicalized after a 2014 trip to AfghanistanAP

Chelsea bomb suspect Ahmad Rahami was radicalized after a 2014 trip to AfghanistanAP

Nor does the government monitor these immigrants once they arrive. Investigators now believe Afghan-born Ahmad Khan Rahami, the accused New York City bomber, was radicalized after returning from a 2014 trip to Afghanistan, where his father reportedly once fought as a “mujahedeen.” Afghan-American Omar Mateen, the Orlando terrorist, also maintained Afghan connections through his father, an open supporter of the Taliban.

Our military exchange program is another major hole in security involving Afghan immigration that virtually nobody is talking about. The Pentagon can’t even keep track of the Afghans it brings here for military training exercises designed to help them go back and defend their homeland.

Alarmingly, at least 45 Afghan soldiers have disappeared in the US over the past two years while training at military installations. Many of these AWOL immigrants, who came here on special visas, have extensive training in weapons and explosives. Homeland Security has joined the military in the hunt for the missing Afghans.

Further raising security alarms, the Taliban has infiltrated the Afghan security forces supplying these immigrants. Penetration is so deep that, according to the Pentagon report released earlier this month, the Taliban obtain much of their weapons and ammunition, as well as gasoline, from US-supplied Afghan soldiers.

“Taliban commanders give instructions to their forces to buy weapons, ammunition and fuel from the Afghan army and police,” the report reveals.

It also disclosed that from January 2015 through August 2016, there were 101 insider attacks in which Taliban or other insurgents posing as Afghan security personnel turned on fellow Afghan security force members, killing 257.

Saudi nationals also get a pass under Trump’s restrictions. In fact, they may continue to be ushered in as “trusted travelers” and bypass the normal security process under a deal Obama struck with the kingdom that opened the floodgates to more than 709,000 Saudi students and other visa-holders since 2009. It’s as if 9/11 never happened and 15 Saudi terrorists never infiltrated the country on rubber-stamped visas.

Sperry is a former Hoover Institution media fellow and author of “Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington.”

Russia’s new favorite jihadis: The Taliban

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-11-34-34-am-1024x577

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, January 4, 2017:

Note: This article was first published by The Daily Beast.

More than 15 years into America’s war in Afghanistan, the Russian government is openly advocating on behalf of the Taliban.

Last week, Moscow hosted Chinese and Pakistani emissaries to discuss the war. Tellingly, no Afghan officials were invited. However, the trio of nations urged the world to be “flexible” in dealing with the Taliban, which remains the Afghan government’s most dangerous foe. Russia even argued that the Taliban is a necessary bulwark in the war against the so-called Islamic State.

For its part, the American military sees Moscow’s embrace of the Taliban as yet another move intended to undermine NATO, which fights the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State every day.

After Moscow’s conference, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova spoke with reporters and noted that “the three countries expressed particular concern about the rising activity in the country of extremist groups, including the Afghan branch of IS [the Islamic State, or ISIS].”

According to Reuters, Zakharova added that China, Pakistan, and Russia agreed upon a “flexible approach to remove certain [Taliban] figures from [United Nations] sanctions lists as part of efforts to foster a peaceful dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban movement.”

The Taliban, which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, quickly praised the “Moscow tripartite” in a statement posted online on Dec. 29.

“It is joyous to see that the regional countries have also understood that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is a political and military force,” Muhammad Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the group’s political office, said in the statement. “The proposal forwarded in the Moscow tripartite of delisting members of the Islamic Emirate is a positive step forward in bringing peace and security to Afghanistan.”

Of course, the Taliban isn’t interested in “peace and security.” The jihadist group wants to win the Afghan war and it is using negotiations with regional and international powers to improve its standing. The Taliban has long manipulated “peace” negotiations with the U.S. and Western powers as a pretext for undoing international sanctions that limit the ability of its senior figures to travel abroad for lucrative fundraising and other purposes, even while offering no serious gestures toward peace.

The Obama administration has repeatedly tried, and failed, to open the door to peace. In May 2014, the U.S. transferred five senior Taliban figures from Guantanamo to Qatar. Ostensibly, the “Taliban Five” were traded for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American who reportedly deserted his fellow soldiers and was then held by the Taliban and its jihadist allies. But the Obama administration also hoped that the exchange would be a so-called confidence-building measure and lead to more substantive negotiations. The Taliban’s leaders never agreed to any such discussions. They simply wanted their comrades, at least two of whom are suspected of committing war crimes, freed from Guantanamo.

Regardless, Russia is now enabling the Taliban’s disingenuous diplomacy by pretending that ISIS is the more worrisome threat. It’s a game the Russians have been playing for more than a year.

In December 2015, Zamir Kabulov, who serves as Vladimir Putin’s special representative for Afghanistan, went so far as to claim that “the Taliban interest objectively coincides with ours” when it comes to fighting ISIS head Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists. Kabulov even conceded that Russia and the Taliban have “channels for exchanging information,” according to The Washington Post.

The American commanders leading the fight in Afghanistan don’t buy Russia’s argument—at all.

During a press briefing on Dec. 2, General John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, discussed “the malign influence of external actors and particularly Pakistan, Russia, and Iran.” Gen. Nicholson said the U.S. and its allies are “concerned about the external enablement of the insurgent or terrorist groups inside Afghanistan, in particular where they enjoy sanctuary or support from outside governments.” Russia, in particular, “has overtly lent legitimacy to the Taliban.”

According to Nicholson, the Russian “narrative” is “that the Taliban are the ones fighting the Islamic State, not the Afghan government.” While the Taliban does fight its jihadist rivals in the Islamic State, this is plainly false.

The “Afghan government and the U.S. counterterrorism effort are the ones achieving the greatest effect against Islamic State,” Nicholson said. He went on to list the U.S.-led coalition’s accomplishments over the past year: 500 ISIS fighters (comprising an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the group’s overall force structure) were killed or wounded, the organization’s “top 12 leaders” (including its emir, Hafiz Saeed Khan) were killed, and the group’s “sanctuary” has been reduced from nine Afghan districts to just three.

“So, this public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but it is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO effort and bolster the belligerents,” Nicholson concluded. While Nicholson was careful not read too much into Russia’s motivation for backing the Taliban, he noted “certainly there’s a competition with NATO.”

There’s no doubt that ISIS’s operations in Afghanistan grew significantly in the wake of Baghdadi’s caliphate declaration in 2014. However, as Nicholson correctly pointed out, Baghdadi’s men are not adding to the territory they control at the moment. Their turf is shrinking. The same cannot be said for the Taliban, which remains the most significant threat to Afghanistan’s future. At any given time, the Taliban threatens several provincial capitals. The Taliban also controls dozens of Afghan districts and contests many more. Simply put, the Taliban is a far greater menace inside Afghanistan than Baghdadi’s men.

Regardless, the Russians continue to press their case. Their argument hinges on the idea that ISIS is a “global” force to be reckoned with, while the Taliban is just a “local” nuisance.

Kabulov, Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan, made this very same claim in a newly-published interview with Anadolu Agency. Kabulov contends that “the bulk, main leadership, current leadership, and the majority of Taliban” are now a “local force” as a “result of all these historical lessons they got in Afghanistan.”

“They gave up the global jihadism idea,” Kabulov adds. “They are upset and regret that they followed Osama bin Laden.”

Someone should tell the Taliban’s media department this.

In early December, the Taliban released a major documentary video, “Bond of Nation with the Mujahideen.” The video included clips of the Taliban’s most senior leaders rejecting peace talks and vowing to wage jihad until the end. It also openly advertised the Taliban’s undying alliance with al Qaeda. At one point, an image of Osama bin Laden next to Taliban founder Mullah Omar is displayed on screen. (A screen shot of this clip can be seen above.) Photos of other al Qaeda and Taliban figures are mixed together in the same shot.

An audio message from Sheikh Khalid Batarfi, an al Qaeda veteran stationed in Yemen, is also played during the video. Batarfi praised the Taliban for protecting bin Laden even after the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings. “Groups of Afghan Mujahideen have emerged from the land of Afghans that will destroy the biggest idol and head of kufr of our time, America,” Batarfi threatened.

A narrator added that the mujahideen in Afghanistan “are the hope of Muslims for reviving back the honor of the Muslim Ummah [worldwide community of Muslims]!” The Afghan jihadists are a “hope for taking back the Islamic lands!” and a “hope for not repeating defeats and tragedies of the last century!”

The Taliban’s message is, therefore, unmistakable: The war in Afghanistan is part of the global jihadist conflict.

All of this, and more, is in one of the Taliban’s most important media productions of 2016. There is no hint that the Taliban “regrets” allying with al Qaeda, or has given “up the global jihadism idea,” as Kabulov claims. The exact opposite is true.

There is much more to the Taliban-al Qaeda nexus. In August 2015, al Qaeda honcho Ayman al Zawahiri swore allegiance to Mullah Mansour, who was named as Mullah Omar’s successor as the Taliban’s emir. Mansour publicly accepted Zawahiri’s fealty and Zawahiri’s oath was prominently featured on the Taliban’s website. After Mansour was killed earlier this year, Zawahiri pledged his allegiance to Mansour’s replacement, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. Zawahiri and other al Qaeda leaders regularly call upon Muslims to support the Taliban and reject the Islamic State’s Afghan branch.

In his interview with Anadolu Agency, Kabulov concedes that not all of the Taliban has “given up” the global jihadist “ideas.” He admits that within the Taliban “you can find very influential groups like the Haqqani network whose ideology is more radical, closer to Daesh [or ISIS].”

Kabulov is right that the Haqqanis are committed jihadi ideologues, but he misses the obvious contradiction in his arguments. Siraj Haqqani, who leads the Haqqani network, is also one of the Taliban’s top two deputy leaders. He is the Taliban’s military warlord. Not only is Siraj Haqqani a “radical” ideologue, as Kabulov mentions in passing, he is also one of al Qaeda’s most committed allies. Documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that al Qaeda’s men closely cooperate with Siraj Haqqani on the Afghan battlefields.

Kabulov claims that the Islamic State “operates much more smartly” than al Qaeda and has “learned from all the mistakes of al Qaeda.” He says Baghdadi’s enterprise has “brought more advanced and sophisticated people to design, plan, and [execute] policy.” Once again, the exact opposite is true.

Al Qaeda has long known the pitfalls of the Islamic State’s in-your-face strategy, and has smartly decided to hide the extent of its influence and operations. Zawahiri and his lieutenants have also used the Islamic State’s over-the-top brutality to market themselves as a more reasonable jihadi alternative. And both the Taliban and al Qaeda are attempting to build more popular support for their cause as much of the world remains focused on the so-called caliphate’s horror show.

Al Qaeda’s plan has worked so well that the Russians would have us believe that the Taliban, al Qaeda’s longtime ally, should be viewed as a prospective partner.

Kabulov says that Russia is waiting to see how the “new president, [Donald] Trump, describe[s] his Afghan policy” before determining what course should be pursued next.

Here’s one thing the Trump administration should do right away: Make it clear that the Taliban and al Qaeda remain our enemies in Afghanistan.

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

Taliban Activist Who Met With Clinton in Pakistan Promotes Hatred of Jews

orya-n-hillary
Sometimes hatred looks a lot like envy.
CounterJihad, by Shireen Qudosi, Sept. 20, 2016:
In a little-known diplomatic mission to Pakistan, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with a vocal Taliban supporter Orya Maqbool Jan, who has been caught on video bashing Jews and calling for the death penalty against those who blaspheme Islam.
Jan was part of an exclusive party that accompanied Clinton on a tour of Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, during her three day Pakistan trip as secretary of state in 2009.  Though his radical statements are largely unknown in the West, his positions are well-known in his part of the world. 
Clinton’s appearance with him both endorsed his radical Islamism, which is linked to this last weekend’s attacks in New York and New Jersey, and also undercut her own message of female empowerment.  Jan is an outspoken opponent of Western-style rights for women, and has been harshly critical of Western women and those Pakistani women who seem to endorse their views.

In an uncut short documentary produced by Hoggard Films covering Clinton in Pakistan shows Orya and Clinton side-by-side as Clinton talks to the world about fighting extremism. She’s also seen here with Jan (at 38 seconds):

In newly-discovered video (available below with full translation) recorded at a mosque in Norway, the Pakistani Deobandi cleric can be heard spinning conspiracy theories about Jews and calling for the death penalty against those who blaspheme against Islam. The vocal Taliban supporter told his listeners that Jews, “control the world’s wealth and media.” Going even farther, Jan claimed the Jews are Gog and Magog. In Islamic tradition, Gog and Magog (called Yajuj and Majuj) are tribes of apocalyptic chaos and destruction.

The Clinton Connection

Jan met with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on one of her trips to Pakistan in 2009. While there, she promised the audience U.S. taxpayer funds, saying, “we want to help you with jobs, economic development, infrastructure, access to education, providing support to healthcare and improving energy supply.”

Stateside, the trip was hailed as a success by a scripted media. TIME Magazine ran a Clinton-approved piece, originally titled “Hillary’s Moment: Clinton Faces the World.” The piece painted Hillary as “allowing herself to be hammered by tough questions,” in landscapeperpetually skeptical of American interests. It was an iconic moment for Clinton who questioned Pakistani intelligence’s quagmire on the location of Osama bin Laden. At least, it was aniconic moment for Americans. The rest of the world would see it differently.

Standing outside of Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Hillary Clinton gave a public statement on American resolve in the fight against radical Islam – while flanked by Orya Maqbool Jan, a notorious fundamentalist, a Taliban supporter, and a well-known oppressor of women’s rights. Jan believes:

According to Wikileaks release of Clinton emails, Jan’s presence alongside Clinton was organized by Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Huma Abedin, a top aide of Clinton’s who travelled to Pakistan earlier to arrange details and welcome Clinton to her home country.

Clinton’s Credibility Problem

American taxpayers shelled out hard-earned money for a State Department-sanctioned trip halfway around the world.  Hillary Clinton used it to stand next to one of the most notorious supporters of Islamism in Pakistan – to then talk about combating extremism.

America has a credibility problem because it has a leadership problem. That leadership, under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was incompetent in screening for Islamists. The State Department could not be reached for a comment requesting clarification on why a known Taliban supporter would be allowed to stand by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while as she discusses taking a hard stance against extremists. Multiple requests for answers were ignored.

Also ignored are the minority voices in Pakistan that stand up to extremism – the very minority voices Clinton attempted to reach through the 2009 delegation to Pakistan and the launch oftechnology initiatives to boost intra-communication. Seeing Clinton speak about extremism while seeing Orya striding next to her – one of the most recognizable faces of oppression – is as clear signal to Pakistani critical thinkers that America (1) doesn’t understand the face of extremism and/or (2) America is disingenuous in their efforts to combat extremists. That is the real message Clinton got across.

And that is the message Americans at home are beginning to understand as well.

What is that mindset immigrants who do not assimilate bring with them when they cross the threshold to America?  Will it not be the same unrelenting Islamic supremacist culture?  The same is true for foreign dignitaries, media personalities, and refugees.  Clinton hasproven she does not understand the dangers of allowing this world view to pass into the West.

New York Bomb Suspect Radicalized Next Door to Orya Maqbool Jan

On Sunday, September 18th, 2016, 28-year-old U.S. citizen of Afghan origin, Ahmad Khan Rahami launched a jihadi attack in New Jersey and New York at injured 29 people. Rahami acted independently under the global insurgency instructions of former ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. However, Rahami is part of a greater mindset that stands in staunch opposition to Western values. Investigators are speculating Rahami was radicalized in Quetta, Pakistan, a known stronghold for Pakistani Taliban – and the same small territory where Orya Maqbool Jan is from.

Among the issues of immigration and assimilation, the most recent attack on U.S. soil raises a greater question of Clinton’s capability in leading the greatest war of the 21st century.

How can Hillary Clinton lead this war while giving press conferences attacking the immigrant connection when the last three attacks on U.S. soil have been directly immigrant related: San Bernardino, Orlando, and now New York?

How can Hillary Clinton advocate American values, American interests, or champion women’s rights when she’s standing along one of the most vehement advocates of Islamic extremism – Orya Maqbool Jan?

Orya Maqbool Jan’s Inciteful Rhetoric the Real Hate Speech

Despite Clinton’s claim to champion freedom, she’s in knee-deep affiliation with extremists and Islamists. Her campaign’s attempt to slander truth has hate speech is in vile opposition to hard facts. The truth is that real hate speech is what community leaders and media personalities like Orya Maqbool Jan freely spew at home and abroad, telling us that immigration isn’t just about refugees but about the immigration of foreign and hostile ideas through visiting visas and digital spheres.

“No law or belief – not even universal human rights – is higher than the principles of our Holy Book,” Orya Maqbool Jan tells his audience in his native Urdu. “The only constitution Muslims should have is the Quran.”

Even in Norway, Jan’s Pakistani audience is conditioned to accept outlandish and unfounded conclusions because they’ve already found themselves agreeing wholeheartedly with a very familiar lament in the Muslim world, Pan-Islamism. After the failures of Arab nationalism and the Middle East’s flirtations with Marxism-Leninism, Pakistani thinkers like Mohammed Iqbal championed a return to identity based on the shared consciousness and history of Islam. This identity would be trans-national; its most common recurring theme is that, without Islam as a unifying force, Muslims are divided and selfish, unable to work together to achieve the ummah’s goals successfully.

The tones of victimization Orya takes are very similar to post WWI Germany, which produced a population ripe for attaching itself to anything that will help give it an insulated identity. That attachment and division was a necessary precursor to what happens next: hatred, exclusion and extermination.

There’s just no way to take what is being said for face value, especially if reading the translation alone. Urdu is a very poetic and emotive language that a translation alone cannot fully deliver. These emotions carry the listener from empathy for the Jews; to grievances of how Muslims were robbed by events of the 20th century; to contempt for current world leaders; to, finally, a climate where the world is stacked against Muslims, and the only inevitable path for true believers is to fight. The supremacist undertones that are ripe throughout don’t come from nationalism, but from religious dedication to the infallibility of the Quran.

Religious scholars like Orya Maqbook Jan rely on the West’s ignorance in understanding Islamic ideology. They also trust that sermons like this won’t be spread with a facilitated understanding of how problematic and hateful they are. Yet there are Pakistanis like myself and LUBPAK editor Ali Abbas Taj (who shared this video) who are pulling back the curtain. So while Pakistan continues its grievances against America and exploits visits with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as an opportunity to ‘tell the world,’ behind the curtain there is a very dark picture of a rising threat that is ready to go to war against the world.

The threat isn’t limited to Pakistan, where Jan is given enough of a platform to stand side by side with Hillary Clinton during a State Department visit. He’s also given a green light to travel to the West and fill mosques with sermons designed to activate Muslims living abroad. As crafted in his speech, he uses history and religious verses to shame Muslims who possess national and foreign identities, who have built lives overseas. And without directly saying so, he tells them to give up that identity and embrace a ‘purist’ interpretation of Islam in preparation for the coming war that will rage against the world and its Jews.

Also see:

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.

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Listen to John Batchelor interview Thomas Joscelyn:

watching-bin-laden-raid

Fifteen Years Later, Al Qaeda Grows

Information Dominance: A Snapshot of the War

“I say to you that we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.”

2005 Letter from Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, current leader of Al Qaeda

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, Aug. 7, 2016:

As UTT has reported on numerous occasions, for both the Global Islamic Movement and the Marxist/Socialist movement, the primary focus is in the information domain (propaganda, deception operations, etc).

For the Global Islamic Movement’s leading edge – the Muslim Brotherhood – their methodology is “Civilization Jihad” by OUR hands. They get our leaders and key organizations to do their work for them.

Getting the U.S. State Department to write the constitutions for Iraq and Afghanistan (2005) which created Islamic states under sharia – thus fulfilling Al Qaeda’s objectives in those nations – and getting a four-star U.S. general (Petraeus) to go on international television to condemn a U.S. citizen for exercising his First Amendment rights to burn a book (the Koran) – thus enforcing the Islamic law of “Slander” – are two simple examples.

At the Democratic National Convention, Khizr Khan played his role knowing full well there would be a predictable response from Mr. Trump.  A response for which our enemies were prepared.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Republican leadership and people in the Trump campaign did not even have fore-knowledge of Mr. Khan’s participation in the convention and, thus, did not do their due diligence or conduct a basic background investigation on Mr. Khan to prepare for a response.

They were operationally blind.

Mr. Trump made statements regarding Mr. Khan and his wife, and the trap was sprung.  It was not Hillary Clinton nor the Democrat Party that fired the first salvo at Trump Headquarters.

Mr. Trump was hammered by Gold Star mothers, the VFW, Republican leaders, and others.  This was a home run for the enemy.

This is warfare in the information domain.  This is “political warfare,” and is never done willy nilly.  It has purpose, and is a part of a larger strategy.

There is also an abundance of evidence Mr. Khan is an agent of a foreign power (Pakistan) who just conducted an extremely well-executed information operation against a U.S. Presidential candidate.

All the players responded as predicted, and all patriotic Americans should be gravely concerned.

If the Trump campaign does not figure this out quickly, his supporters will be separated, pitted against each other, and dissipated.  The enemy is engaging in the information warfare battlespace, and the Trump campaign appears oblivious to it.

In 2012, Michele Bachmann courageously led the charge in Congress and put forth evidence from the largest terrorism trials in American history revealing massive Muslim Brotherhood penetration of the federal government.  She called for key Inspector Generals offices to investigate.

The attack on her came from Senators Marco Rubio and John McCain, and other prominent Republican leaders.

Civilization Jihad by OUR hands.

Khizr Khan is a suit-wearing jihadi.  He adheres to sharia, and believes in submitting the world to sharia (Islamic law).  Mr. Khan has written clearly that sharia must be followed to the letter and the Koran “is the absolute authority from which springs the very conception of legality and every legal obligation.”

This is, by the way, in direct contradiction of American law and government, the foundation of which are the “Law of Nature” and “Nature’s God,” not sharia.  Americans should know this the next time Mr. Khan waves a copy of our Constitution in our faces.

For more on “Sharia” see the UTT article HERE.

If we are to truly understand the threat we face from the Global Islamic Movement and the Marxist/Socialist movement, we must know their primary battlefield is in the media, not on a piece of open ground on which tanks and troops engage each other.

Pakistan: Friend or Foe in the Fight Against Terrorism?

The black-and-white banner of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, is prevalent at an anti-US rally in Lahore in December 2011. AP photo.

The black-and-white banner of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, is prevalent at an anti-US rally in Lahore in December 2011. AP photo.

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, July 12, 2016:

Editor’s note: Below is Bill Roggio’s testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. A PDF of the testimony, with footnotes, can be downloaded here.

Chairman Poe and Chairman Salmon, Ranking Members Keating and Sherman, and other members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me here today to speak about Pakistan and its support for terrorist groups that threaten the security of the United States and its allies.

This Committee rightly asks the question of whether Pakistan is a friend or foe in the fight against terrorism. While Pakistani officials and forces have assisted the U.S. in hunting senior al Qaeda figures at times, Pakistan’s overall strategy is pro-jihadist and therefore puts it in the foe category. Pakistan does battle some terrorist groups within its borders, but it only does so because these groups pose a direct threat to the state.

Pakistan myopically supports a host of terrorist groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India to further its goals in the region. Pakistan backs these groups despite the fact that they are allied with and aid the very terrorist groups that fight the Pakistani state. In addition, many of the jihadist groups sponsored by Pakistan are allied with al Qaeda.

Today I will highlight six major groups directly supported or tolerated by Pakistan’s establishment: the Afghan Taliban and its subgroup, the Haqqani Network; the Mullah Nazir Group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Each of these groups is used by Pakistan as an instrument of its foreign policy. These six groups are by no means the only terrorist organizations supported by Pakistan, they are merely the most prominent.

Pakistan uses these six groups and others as a counterweight against what its policy makers perceive to be Pakistan’s greatest threat: India. However, the jihadist ideology has also spread throughout Pakistan as a result of policies adopted by the country’s military elite. Therefore, we should not underestimate the degree to which these groups are supported for ideological reasons.

Pakistan, a country of 182 million people, does not possess the manpower to counter India, a nation of 1.25 billion. Pakistan and India have been in a virtual state of war since Partition in 1947. The two countries have fought four active wars in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999. Each of these wars was initiated by Pakistan, and ended in defeats. Pakistani strategists have determined that to counter India, it must use unconventional means, including supporting jihadist groups.

Strategic Depth

To compensate for its inability to achieve victory on conventional battlefields against India, Pakistan implemented its own version of “strategic depth” in Afghanistan. Pakistan has supported groups in Afghanistan in order to deny India influence in its backyard, as well as to allow the nation to serve as a fallback in case of an Indian invasion.

Pakistan capitalized on the chaos in Afghanistan post-Soviet withdrawal and hunted for a group that would serve its purposes. With the rise of Mullah Omar’s Taliban faction in the early 1990s, Pakistan military and intelligence officers assigned to implement strategic depth saw the perfect partner: a powerful jihadist political movement that was gaining popularity throughout the country and was capable of sustaining military advances. Pakistan provided military and financial support to Omar’s faction, which successfully established the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban in 1996 and controlled upwards of 90 percent of the country until the US invasion in 2001.

In addition to securing a friendly government in Afghanistan, Pakistan used the country as both a training and a recruiting ground for a host of jihadist groups that fight in India-occupied Kashmir.

Good vs Bad Taliban

In order to justify its policy of support to jihadist groups, Pakistani elites have attempted to distinguish between what are referred to as “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban.” Simply stated, the so-called “good Taliban” are groups that advance Pakistan’s foreign policy goals and do not threaten the state or wage war within its borders. “Good Taliban” and other groups deemed acceptable by the Pakistani establishment include the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, the Mullah Nazir Group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. These groups conduct numerous heinous acts of terrorism in the region, and are directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and civilians, and yet are supported by the Pakistani state.

“Bad Taliban” are any jihadist faction that challenges the primacy of the Pakistani state. These groups include the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and the weakened Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The Pakistani military has pursued these groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province with some success. However, when targeting these groups, the military has avoided pursuing groups such as the Haqqani Network, which provided shelter and support for the “bad Taliban.”

Pakistani officials have denied that it pursues a policy of strategic depth and differentiates between “good and bad Taliban”, or alternatively, have claimed it will no longer differentiate between the two. However, these claims are false. This is demonstrated in Pakistan’s continuing support for the aforementioned groups and others, as well as an unwillingness to round up leaders and key operatives of these groups.

Read more

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JOINT SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING: PAKISTAN: FRIEND OR FOE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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State notes ‘severely degraded’ al Qaeda operated large training camp in Afghanistan

Qaeda-training-camp-e1444748558794Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, June 6, 2016:

The US government continues to underestimate al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US Department of State noted that a “severely degraded” al Qaeda was able to operate “a large training camp” inside Afghanistan, one of three that were known to be in operation inside the terrorist hotbed over the past year.

State noted the al Qaeda camp and and a secondary facility, plus the raid to destroy them in Country Reports on Terrorism 2015, which was released last week.

“While al Qaeda (AQ) has been severely degraded in the region, its regional affiliate, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), continued to operate in Afghanistan,” State reported. “Notably, AQIS members were active at a large training camp in a remote area of Kandahar Province. On October 11, U.S. and Afghan forces conducted a coordinated joint operation that successfully destroyed the AQIS training camp and a related facility, and killed dozens of AQ-linked trainees.”

The camps that State referred to were located in the Shorabak district in Kandahar. In October 2015, a large US military strike force took four days to clear two al Qaeda camps in Shorabak. One camp covered over 30 square miles, and included large caches of weapons, ammunition, and other supplies. An al Qaeda media cell was also based there. [See LWJ reports, US military strikes large al Qaeda training camps in southern Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda’s Kandahar training camp ‘probably the largest’ in Afghan War.]

After the Shorabak raid, General John Campbell, then the commander of Resolute Support, noted that US military and intelligence officials were surprised that the camp even existed.

“It’s a place where you would probably think you wouldn’t have AQ [al Qaeda]. I would agree with that,” Campbell said, according to The Washington Post. “This was really AQIS [al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent], and probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war.”

Al Qaeda has not been “severely degraded in the region”

State’s insistence that al Qaeda has been “severely degraded in the region” is at odds with recent evidence from Afghanistan and Pakistan. For more than six years, The Long War Journal has warned that official estimates of al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan are inaccurate. The jihadist group remains a significant threat to this day and bonds between al Qaeda and the Taliban remain strong.

The US military has targeted at least three known al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in the past year. Evidence used to target the Shorabak camp was obtained during a raid on another al Qaeda camp in Paktika province in July 2015. Abu Khalil al Sudani, one of al Qaeda’s most senior figures, is thought to have been killed during that raid. Al Qaeda clearly assessed the situation in Paktika as being safe enough to place one of their top leaders there.

The US raided another al Qaeda facility in Afghanistan this year. On May 9, US special operations forces rescued Ali Haider Gilani, the son of Pakistan’s former prime minister, during a raid against an al Qaeda safe house in Paktika province. Gilani was held by al Qaeda for more than three years.

Additionally, Resolute Support, NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, was forced to admit that previous long-held estimates on al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan, were wrong. Since 2010, US officials have claimed that al Qaeda has been “decimated” in Afghanistan and has maintained a consistent minimal presence of 50 to 100 operatives. In April, Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, the top spokesman for Resolute Support, told The Washington Post that al Qaeda has forged close ties to the Taliban and is resurgent in the country.

Additionally, Buchanan told CNN that al Qaeda may have upwards of 300 operatives in the country, “but that number does include other facilitators and sympathizers in their network.” [See LWJ report, US military admits al Qaeda is stronger in Afghanistan than previously estimated.]

Buchanan said the military was forced to revise the estimate upward after the Shorabak raid, where more that 150 al Qaeda were at a single location.

“If you go back to last year, there were a lot of intel estimates that said within Afghanistan al Qaeda probably has 50 to 100 members, but in this one camp we found more than 150,” Buchanan told CNN.

In addition to al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, the group has a significant base in Pakistan, and not just the tribal areas where the group is always assumed to operate. Last week, The Washington Post published a disturbing report on al Qaeda’s growing presence in Karachi, Pakistan. Hundreds if not thousands of al Qaeda operatives and recruits are thought to be operating in that Pakistani city.

al qaeda in pak

“Counterterrorism officials in Karachi have a list of several hundred active al Qaeda members, which makes them assume there are at least a few thousand on the streets,” the Post reported. “In Karachi, AQIS has divided itself into three operational segments — recruitment, financial and tactical — made up of four-to-six-person cells. The recruitment cells work in madrassas and schools, casually preaching Islam before targeting certain students for potential recruitment, officials said.”

Al Qaeda is executing its strategy of incorporating elements from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Harakat-ul-Muhajideen, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Brigade 313, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Indian Mujahideen, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Turkistan Islamic Party, Junood al Fida, and other groups based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. This vision was outlined by Ayman al Zawahiri in September 2014, after he announced the formation of AQIS. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent incorporates regional jihadist groups.]

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

Pakistani liberal to American panel “You are going to get me killed”

comic3Conference Examines Islamic Blasphemy Law Dangers

Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, Phd., June 3, 2016:

“You are going to get me killed…I have got my flight back home,” stated Pakistani religious freedom advocate Arafat Mazhar to an audience questioner at an April 20 Georgetown University conference recently made available online.  His jarring response emphasized that the conference’s examination of Islamic blasphemy norms in Pakistan and the world beyond was no mere academic matter but involves global, often lethal, threats to freedom of speech and religion.

Mazhar’s statement occurred during the conference’s afternoon panel in an exchange with an audience member from Afghanistan studying in America.  Mazhar emphasized that his organization Engage Pakistan currently only supports reforming the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws with theological arguments such that these laws would not have a divine status.  Any abolition of these laws, a proposition that has had deadly consequences for Pakistan’s Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer and Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, would be a much longer term goal.

Just as illuminating and disturbing was Mazhar’s Afghan interlocutor who cited a 2015 Afghan incident in which a mob brutally killed a woman accused of burning a Quran.  “Had there been a good anti-blasphemy law” with codified standards, he suggested, “she would not have been killed that viciously.”  On the basis of such conjectured more humane executions he accordingly asked, “Is it a good idea to get rid of the anti-blasphemy law or is it good to have a good law?”

Mazhar responded that empirical evidence contradicted such arguments previously made in favor of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.  From Pakistan’s 1947 independence to the 1986 completion of these laws, Islamic blasphemy accusations caused only four extrajudicial killings, but after 1986 these killings increased by 2,500 percent.  His fellow panelist, University of Notre Dame professor Daniel Philpott, noted that Pew studies had found that blasphemy laws had a perverse “pedagogical effect” in inciting hostility towards the protected faith’s opponents real or imagined.

Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, a retired American career diplomat, concurred on the panel that blasphemy laws are “like handing a loaded gun” to people.  He cited a 2005 Sudan case where the government had dropped charges of insulting religion against a newspaper editor, but outraged mobs still demanded retribution.  Months later his beheaded corpse turned up after a kidnapping.

Former Pakistani parliamentarian and human rights advocate Farahnaz Ispahani likewise stated during the earlier lunch panel that blasphemy laws in her country “enabled a vigilante culture.”  Her fellow panelist, Mazhar’s Engage Pakistan colleague Ayesha Iftikhar, stated that there “you can become a hero just because you went after someone for blasphemy.”  Ispahani described how blasphemy laws abetted the “purification of Pakistan” such that only three percent of Pakistan’s population now belongs to non-Sunni Muslim religious minorities, down from 23 percent in 1947.

Ispahani noted that blasphemy’s culture of incitement extended to popular Pakistani television programs watched by millions nationwide.  Here Muslim clerics had called for the killing of Ahmadiyya, a small Muslim sect deemed heretical by all other Muslim denominations.  Her fellow panelist, Imam Mohamed Magid, and Asma Uddin, an American Muslim religious freedom advocate and lawyer who had appeared on the morning panel, had both referenced public order justifications for Islamic blasphemy laws.  Yet such considerations apparently only operated in one direction, Ispahani observed, protecting the sensibilities of Muslims for fear of their possible violent reactions while allowing these very same Muslims uninhibited hate.

Appearing with Uddin, Hudson Institute religious freedom expert Nina Shea analyzed Islamic blasphemy law threats to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.  “These blasphemy laws imprison Muslims in a suffocating chamber of blind dogmatism and conformity and extremists are given the last word” while Muslim dissidents and reformers face dangers including death.  “The West’s response has been less than inspiring, the West has tended to indulge these laws” by encompassing their content within hate speech laws, as five convictions in France of actress Brigette Bardot indicate.   In the United States, “Al Capone-like underlying issues” brought a year-long prison sentence to the filmmaker who violated his parole terms while producing Innocence of Muslims, an internet film that enraged Muslims worldwide.

Shea noted especially the previously obscure Florida pastor Terry Jones, who ultimately made good on his 2010 announcement to burn ceremoniously a Quran, thereby provoking Senator Lindsey Graham to propose speech restrictions.  “The United States did not handle that particularly well.  There was a parade of generals and government officials that went public and denounced him, begged him to stop,” Shea stated.  “This is extremely dangerous, because it raises expectations that the state, that is the American government, will regulate expression on behalf of religion, and in particular one religion.”

The controversial Magid, past president of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)-linked Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), tried to present a benign understanding of his faith.  Like afternoon panelist Salam Al-Marayati, head of the equally MB-linked Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), Magid cited the oft-invokedQuran 2:256 (“no compulsion…in the religion”) and the Medina Charter.  Recently celebrated in theMarrakesh Declaration, an attempt to justify religious freedom on the basis of Islamic sources, this charter of Islam’s prophet Muhammad supposedly “created a pluralistic society” according to Magid.

Magid emphasized Islamic orthodoxy because the “word reform itself triggers negative thoughts in Muslims.”  The best approach for winning Muslim hearts and minds is therefore to “take it back to the Prophet.  Not reforming, reinforcing the original framework,” he stated, as the “message of Islam is spread through compassion.”  He argued that Muhammad did not use force when opponents hurled insults and trash at him or Muslims apostatized.

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