Islamic State claims suicide bombings at Kabul protest

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Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, July 23, 2016:

The Islamic State claimed credit for a double suicide attack today in Kabul that killed more than 60 people, wounded at least 200 more and caused much of the city to be shut down.

The Islamic State’s suicide bombers detonated their explosives as Afghan Hazara, an ethnic Shia minority, gathered to protest in the capital. The Hazara were demonstrating to influence the government to allow an electric power line project to pass through Bamayan province.

The Islamic State claimed credit for the deadly Kabul bombings on its semi-official Amaq News Agency. According to Amaq, two “fighters of the Islamic State” executed the attack on the protesters.

The Taliban, via one of its official spokesmen, Zabihullah Mujahid, quickly denied any involvement for the Kabul bombings.

“The Mujaheedin [Taliban] does not have anything to do with today’s attack in Kabul,” Mujahid said on his Twitter account immediately after the bombings. He claimed the “enemies of Afghanistan” were responsible, likely a reference to the Islamic State. The Taliban and the Islamic State have been at odds since the latter group established its “Khorasan province” in 2014. The group is comprised of disaffected commanders from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.

While the Islamic State has experienced difficulty establishing a significant presence in Afghanistan – and has lost ground in areas such as Helmand, Zabul, and Farah – it still has a foothold in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where it fights both the Taliban and Afghan forces. The Islamic State likely is using this position of strength in Nangarhar to launch attacks into the capital. Additionally, the group may be leveraging legacy networks from the greatly weakened Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a portion of which defected to the Islamic State.

The Islamic State has not shied away from directly targeting Hazaras. In February 2015, it kidnapped 30 Hazara men in Zabul. Later that year, seven Hazara, including children, were beheaded by the Islamic State.

The rise of the Islamic State as well as the resurgence of the Taliban has led to the rise of militias in the Afghan north. Hazara make up a component of the “Marg,” or Death Militia in northern Afghanistan. [See LWJ report, Afghan ‘Death’ militia emerges, vows to fight Islamic State, Taliban.]

While the Islamic State has used its suicide bombers in the capital to hit soft targets such as political demonstrations, the Taliban has targeted Afghan security personnel and foreign workers. The Taliban’s last major attack in Kabul, on June 30, targeted a convoy of police cadets and killed more than two dozen police and first responders. On June 20, a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying individuals who worked at the Canadian embassy, and killed 23 people, including 14 Nepali security guards. A suicide assault team also struck a security headquarters in the heart of the city on April 19, killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 300.

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

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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.

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

Homeland Security Advisory Council: Covering for the Enemy Threat Doctrine

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher W. Holton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHARIAH ACCORDING TO THE JIHADISTS THEMSELVES

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

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al Qaeda leader

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

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

Ayman al-Zawahiri
Al Qaeda leader

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Taliban kills dozens in suicide assault in Kabul

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, April 19, 2016:

The Taliban targeted a unit responsible for providing security for Afghan officials in a coordinated suicide assault in the Afghan capital today. The Taliban claimed credit for the deadly attack, in which at least 28 people were killed and more that 300 were wounded, according to reports on the ground.

The Taliban took responsibility for the attack on its official propaganda outlet, Voice of Jihad, and said it was part of Operation Omari, the 2016 spring offensive named after Mullah Omar, its founder and first emir. The Taliban reported a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle at the gate, which allowed armed fighters to breach the compound. This is a tactic that has been effectively employed by the Taliban and other jihadist groups throughout the world over the past decade.

“Amid the ongoing ‘Omari’ annual campaign at around 09:00 am local time this morning, a martyrdom seeking unit of Islamic Emirate launched a heavy attack on 10th directorate intelligence building located in PD1 of Kabul city,” the statement said. “The operation began when a martyrdom seeker detonated his explosives laden vehicle at the gate of the building, removing all barriers and killing the guards followed by a number of other martyrdom seekers rushing inside and engaging the remaining enemy targets.”

The Taliban’s account was substantiated by press reporting from Afghanistan. According to TOLONews, the compound that was attacked belonged to a “Secret Service Unit tasked with protecting VIPs.” Afghan officials said the attack began when a suicide bomber detonated at the gate, and one or more Taliban fighters then penetrated the perimeter and began firing on the survivors inside the compound. At least 28 people were killed and 327 more were wounded, according to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health.

The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan claimed that the attack was proof that the Taliban were unable to fight Afghan forces face to face “on the battlefield.”

“Today’s attack shows the insurgents are unable to meet Afghan forces on the battlefield and must resort to these terrorist attacks,” General John Nicholson, the commander of Resolute Support, NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, said in an email sent to The Long War Journal. “We strongly condemn the actions of Afghanistan’s enemies and remain firmly committed to supporting our Afghan partners and the National Unity Government.”

However, the Taliban are openly engaging Afghan forces on the battlefield on multiple fronts throughout Afghanistan. In the south, the Taliban controls nearly half of Helmand province and has pressured Afghan forces to retreat from key district there. The provincial capital of Lashkar Gah is under siege. In the north, the Taliban launched a coordinated offensive in all seven districts of Kunduz just after announcing the commencement of Operation Omar last week. The Taliban are also fighting in the open in multiple provinces in the east and west.

The Long War Journal estimates that the Taliban controls or hotly contests more than 80 of Afghanistan 400 plus districts.

Today’s attack in Kabul is the largest of its kind since Aug. 7-8, 2015, when the Taliban launched two suicide bombers and a suicide assault over the course of 24 hours. Forty-four people, including 20 Afghan police recruits, 15 Afghan civilians, eight US-contracted Afghan personnel, and a US Army Green Beret were killed when the Taliban targeted a police academy, a US Special Forces base, and a residential district. [See LWJ report, Taliban continues terror attacks in Afghan capital.]

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

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We Spent Billions Training Afghan Soldiers. Now They’re Defecting To The Taliban.

taliban_fighters_ap

Washington Times, by Joshua Yasmeh, April  12, 2016:

Scores of US-trained Afghan soldiers have deserted their posts and joined the Taliban, according to an exclusive report by CNN Senior International Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.

Understaffed and under resourced, the Afghan military is finding it difficult to retain troops. “Death is not the only reason the Afghan army is losing troops: Desertion is rife within the ranks,” explains Walsh.

As the Taliban makes headway and regains territory in southern Afghanistan, an unstable  government in Kabul continues to lose ground. “The Taliban control or influence as much as 20% of Afghanistan, its highest levels of control since 2001,” notes CNN. Despite abstract assurances by the White House, Afghanistan is falling.

While the Taliban’s aims are grounded in political Islam, many Afghan soldiers are defecting for practical reasons. Walsh reports:

CNN met two deserters in Helmand whose stories show the breadth of the problem, who have taken their skills — months of U.S. taxpayer-funded training — to the Taliban.

“I did 18 months of army training and took an oath to serve this country,” one deserter said. “But the situation changed. The army let us down, so we had to come to the Taliban, who treat us like guests.”

The two men still had their old uniforms, army IDs, and even the bank cards they used to withdraw their official wages.

“I decided to leave the army when my dead and injured comrades lay in our base, and nobody took them to hospital. My army training is very useful now, as I am training Taliban fighters with the same knowledge.”

Here’s Walsh’s full report:

Perhaps it’s cowardice. Or maybe it’s a simple cost-benefit decision based on rational self-interests and the sheer impulse to survive. Without a stable US military presence on the ground, Afghan soldiers have been dropping like flies. 2015 may have been the worst year since the beginning of the US invasion.  Consider this: According to CNN, “U.S. officials estimate that 5,500 Afghan security force members died that year alone, far more than the 3,500 NATO lost in its entire decade long campaign. And 2016 may be much worse.”

“Afghanistan is at an inflection point; 2016 may be “no better and possibly worse than 2015,” stated America’s top commander in the country, Army Gen. John Campbell. “Now, more than ever, the United States should not waver in Afghanistan.” Campbell added: “Afghanistan has not achieved an enduring level of security and stability that justifies a reduction of our support in 2016.”

“Close air support has been the one resource and capability that the Afghans have asked me for every single day,” asserted the US commander. “Those who serve in Afghanistan understand it’s worth the investment.”

The Afghan army needs close US support. In December General Campbell confessed that ISIS had infiltrated Afghanistan posing a major threat to troops and allies on the ground. “There could be 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000 ISIS men who are now trying to consolidate links to their ‘mothership’ in Iraq and Syria,”reports Independent. “ISIS wants to establish its pre-Afghan ‘Khorasan Province’ in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.”

Unfortunately, President Obama and his amateur national security team have made a habit of ignoring our military tacticians. As the region devolved into anarchy and social strife, Obama shifted his Afghanistan policy several times. In October, President Obama announced his plan to leave nearly 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan until early 2017. The plan will maintain the current levels of armed forces until shortly after the end of Obama’s presidency, kicking the can down the road for the next president.

Thanks to President Obama’s politically expedient decision to prematurely label combat operations in Afghanistan over, more Afghans are dying. Soldiers are defecting. And the government in Kabul is losing territory faster than it ever has. Obama’s reckless and abrupt end-all-wars campaign has cost countless lives. Since we are technically not at war, the US military operators have to abide by very narrow rules of engagement.

The rise of ISIS in Afghanistan places President Obama’s schizophrenic (anti)war strategy in stark relief. The latest developments in the war-torn terrorist hotbed directly undermine the administration’s narrative of a stabilized Afghanistan. This president ran as the anti-Bush pacifist, an agent of change that would end all wars. Instead, Obama’s reign as president has wrought nothing but bloodshed in a region mired in geopolitical instability.

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‘The target was Christians,’ Pakistani Taliban says of Lahore Easter attack

56f8fde8ad768Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, March 28, 2016:

The spokesman for a faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan said that the group intentionally targeted Christians in a suicide bombing which killed and wounded hundreds of women and children on Easter Sunday.

“The target was Christians,” Ihsanullah Ihsan, the official spokesman of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, said according to a statement obtained by The Long War Journal.

Ihsan also said that Jamaat-ul-Ahrar wanted to “send a message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore.” The group has been operating in Punjab province for nearly two years.

At least 72 people, mostly women and children, were killed and more than 300 were wounded after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance of the Gulshan-i-Iqbal park in the eastern city of Lahore, according to Dawn. Many of the people at the park were said to have been celebrating Easter Sunday.

The brutal Lahore suicide attack took place just one day after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the Afghan Taliban, released a statement entitled “Only Islamic rituals can be celebrated in an Islamic country” on its official website, Voice of Jihad. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has given an oath of allegiance to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has targeted Christians in Lahore in the past. In March 2015, the group claimed responsibility for the bombings at two churches in Lahore. At least 14 people were killed and 70 more were wounded.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar launched at least two other suicide attacks in Punjab. In November 2014, a suicide bomber killed 50 people at the Wagah border crossing with India. And in August 2015, another of the group’s suicide bombers killed Punjab province’s home minister and 16 other people in an attack at his house.

The Pakistani military responded to the Easter Sunday massacre in Lahore by announcing the beginning of a wide security operation in Punjab to root out Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. But, as noted, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has been active in the province and has conducted several high-profile suicide attacks there since November 2014.

A dangerous jihadist group

The leadership of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is known to have ties to multiple jihadist groups operating in the region. Omar Khalid al Khurasani, a top leader of the group, is closely linked to Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s emir, and has called for the imposition of sharia law and the establishment of a global caliphate. Khurasani has also said that a primary goal of the Pakistani Taliban is to obtain nuclear weapons. [See LWJ reports, Taliban commander wants Pakistan’s nukes, global Islamic caliphate, and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar celebrates 9/11 attack.]

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar split from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the summer of 2014 after a leadership dispute emerged in the wake of the killing of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the previous emir of the Pakistani Taliban alliance. But Jamaat-ul-Ahrar rejoined the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in March 2015. Lashkar-e-Islam, a group based in Pakistan’s tribal areas, also joined the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is also known to have integrated key al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leaders into its organization. In May 2014, three jihadist groups – led by Matiur Rehman, Ehsanul Haq, and Muhammad Shamil – merged with the group. Matiur Rehman, who was put in command of all three factions, is a senior al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader. The US Treasury Department described Rehman as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s “chief operational commander” and as “a planning director for al Qaeda” in his 2010 designation.

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

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Pakistan is ‘very cooperative and very engaged in the fight against terrorism,’ Secretary Kerry tells Congress

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the FY2017 State Department Budget Request on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the FY2017 State Department Budget Request on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, Feb. 25, 2016:

US Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that Pakistan’s government and military are “very cooperative and very engaged in the fight against terrorism” while Senator Bob Corker accused the country of “outright blatant duplicity” for supporting the Afghan Taliban.

Kerry and Corker squared off on Pakistan on Feb. 23 during a State Department budget request hearing. Corker challenged Kerry’s omission of Afghanistan in his opening statement, and then said he “witnessed that continued duplicity on Pakistan’s part” during a recent visit to Afghanistan.

“They [Pakistan] continue to support the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and give safe haven to al Qaeda,” Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, noted. He then objected to the US government’s recent approval of the sale of F-16 fighters and other equipment worth nearly $700 million to Pakistan. He claimed that “zero US taxpayer dollars will go to subsidize Pakistan’s purchase until such a time as they do the things that we know they could do to stop helping to destabilize Afghanistan.”

Kerry rose to Pakistan’s defense, and called the situation in the country “a very complicated mix.”

“The government itself, the military has been very cooperative and very engaged in the fight against terrorism,” Kerry stated, noting that Pakistani soldiers have been killed during military operations in the tribal areas.

Kerry then claimed that there are “entities that complicate our efforts very significantly,” without naming them. This is almost certainly a reference to Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate, which is more commonly known as the ISI. The ISI is known to support the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, (a Taliban subgroup), and a host of Pakistani jihadist groups allied with al Qaeda, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen.

While Kerry treats the ISI as an entity separate from the military and government, the ISI is actually part of Pakistan’s military. ISI directors have served as the Chief of Army Staff, the highest military rank in Pakistan, and arguably the most powerful person in Pakistan.

Kerry also claimed that the Pakistani military “drove the Haqqani Network into new locations” during its ongoing offensive in North Waziristan, known as Zarb-e Azb. While the Pakistani military has said the offensive in North Waziristan has targeted all jihadist groups based there, this is untrue. Zarb-e Azb has only focused on groups that actively oppose the government, such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. These organizations are often referred to as the “bad Taliban” as they do not take direction from the ISI and the military focus their efforts inside Afghanistan and India.

Organizations like the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group are called “good Taliban” as they do not attack the Pakistani state. However, these groups do support al Qaeda and the so-called “bad Taliban”.

The Pakistani military gave sufficient notice before the launch of Zarb-e Azb in June 2014 that allowed the Haqqanis and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group to vacate North Waziristan. The Haqqani Network is known to have relocated to the neighboring tribal agency of Kurram. Not a single senior or mid-level Haqqani Network leader has been killed or captured during the 20 months of Pakistan military operations in North Waziristan.

Pakistan’s “long line of duplicity” in Afghanistan, as Corker concluded in his exchange with Kerry, continues to this day. This duplicity can be seen with the Pakistani state’s relationship with Siraj Haqqani, one of the Afghan Taliban’s two deputy emirs who is the operational commander of the Haqqani Network, and the Taliban’s Quetta Shura.

According to The New York Times‘ Carlotta Gal, Siraj “moves freely around Pakistan, and has even visited the Pakistani intelligence headquarters of the Afghan campaign in Rawalpindi.” Other Haqqani Network leaders are known to travel to the gulf to raise money for the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The leadership of the Afghan Taliban, which is based outside of the Pakistani city of Quetta and is known as the Quetta Shura, receives direct support from the ISI and the military. The Taliban openly recruits inside Pakistan and runs training camps and command and control centers throughout the country, but most prominently in the tribal areas and the provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Afghan Taliban is open about its relationship with al Qaeda, and in August 2015, the group accepted al Qaeda pledge of allegiance.

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

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Top U.S. General: ‘I Do Not Have Authority’ to Offensively Attack Taliban

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, Feb. 2, 2016:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. military, since President Obama declared that American troops had ceased their combat mission at the end of 2014, has only been able to attack the Taliban from a defensive position, the top commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan told lawmakers.

“I have the authority to protect our coalition members against any insurgency — Haqqani [Network], Taliban, al Qaeda — if they’re posing as a threat to our coalition forces,”testified the commander, Gen. John Campbell, before the House Armed Services Committee.

The general’s comments came in response to Rep. Jim Bridenstine asking if he had the authority to attack the Taliban, which has stepped up attacks since the end of 2014 and has been linked to the deteriorating security conditions in the Afghanistan.

“If the Taliban are attacking coalition forces, then I have everything I need to do that,” responded Gen. Campbell, who is expected to retire soon. “To attack the Taliban just because they’re Taliban, I do not have that authority.”

“It is astonishing that we have an authority to go after the Taliban and the president is preventing us from doing that,” proclaimed Bridenstine.

The Oklahoma Republican argued that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) 2001, passed by Congress and signed into law by the U.S. president at the time, grants the top commander the authority to use the necessary force against the Taliban.

Rep. Bridenstine questioned, “Yet, the president, it seems, is saying you can’t attack the Taliban even though they were responsible for September 11?”

“What I think is we adjusted our mission in 2015,” explained Campbell. “We went away from combat operations and we worked with the Afghans to build their capabilities to go after the Taliban.”

President Obama declared an end to the U.S. combat mission in December 2014, marking the beginning of the train, assist, and advise (TAA) role for the American troops on January 1, 2015.

While testifying, Gen. Campbell noted that with only 9,800 U.S. service members in Afghanistan, carrying out the TAA mission is difficult.

“Again if the Taliban are attacking or pose a threat to coalition forces, I have everything I need to provide that force protection,” reiterated Campbell. “To go after the Taliban because they’re Taliban, I don’t do that sir.”

At least 21 American service members have been killed and another 79 wounded since President Obama adjusted the mission so that U.S. troops are unable to attack the Taliban from an offensive position. The majority of the total 2,227 American military deaths and 20,109 injuries since the war began in October 2001 have taken place under President Obama’s watch.

Rep. Bridenstine quoted the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) 2001.

“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons,” states the AUMF.

The Taliban has been accused of providing safe haven to al Qaeda members involved in orchestrating the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. homeland, including the late jihadist leader Osama bin Laden.

President Obama is currently expected to reduce the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to 5,500 troops by the time he left office in 2017.

“We’ll have a very limited ability to do TAA with 5,500,” said Gen. Campbell, who signaled that the U.S. military will stay in Afghanistan for years beyond 2017.

Obama has nominated Army Lt. Gen. John Nicholson, Jr., to replace the outgoing commander.

President Obama has been hesitant to call the Taliban a terrorist group.

U.S. Grip on Afghanistan Unravels, Terrorists Make Most Gains Since 2001

An Afghan policeman stands guard at his checkpoint in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Jan. 26 / AP

An Afghan policeman stands guard at his checkpoint in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Jan. 26 / AP

About a third of Afghanistan under insurgent control

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Jan. 29, 2016:

Terrorists in Afghanistan control more territory than at any time since 2001 as America’s grip on the country continues to unravel amid a spike in violence that has made Afghanistan more dangerous than ever, according to a new government oversight report.

The Afghan government has lost control of about 30 percent of the country, with terrorists linked to the Taliban, ISIS, and other groups moving freely in the region, according to new findings by the Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstructions, otherwise known as SIGAR.

“The lack of security has made it almost impossible for many U.S. and even some Afghan officials” to manage and oversee ongoing reconstruction projects that could total billions of dollars, according to the report, which found that the Afghan government has control of more than 70 percent of the country.

The deteriorating security situation has endangered oversight operations meant to ensure that billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being appropriately spent. American military casualties also have risen as terrorists gain a renewed foothold in the country, according to the report.

“The security situation leaves billions and billions of dollars’ worth of U.S.-funded projects and programs out of the reach of any American officials,” said an oversight official not authorized to speak on the record.

“Afghanistan proved even more dangerous than it was a year ago,” according to the report. “The Taliban now controls more territory than at any time since 2001. Vicious and repeated attacks in Kabul this quarter shook confidence in the national-unity government.”

About a year after U.S. coalition forces turned security operations over to Afghan forces, the situation continues to worsen, particularly due to the Afghan forces inability to properly conduct operations.

There were nearly 72 “security incidents” per day in Afghanistan between August and December 2015, according to statistics compiled by SIGAR.

While the United States has provided more than $64.5 billion in taxpayer funds to rebuild the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, they continue to falter. Since May 2015, the total force strength, which currently stands at 322,638, has decreased by nearly 10,000.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense is expected to function at about 62 percent of its total ability, “a drop from the 69 percent, 74 percent, and 90 percent forecasts in the last three-quarters,” the report found.

Additionally, the United Nations determined that “the overall level of security incidents increased and intensified from August 2015 through the end of October, with 6,601 incidents as compared to 5,516 incidents (a 19 percent increase) during the same period in 2014,” according to the report.

“The 6,601 security incidents reported were the most since SIGAR began reporting in November 2012, and the average daily number of incidents that occurred equaled the number in the summer of 2014,” according to the statistics.

Armed clashes and incidents involving improvised explosive devices increased by more than 20 percent since the same time period in 2014 and account for around 68 percent of all “security incidents,” according to the U.N.

Scores of suicide attacks, assassination attempts, abductions, and other attacks also were recorded.

Between August and Oct. 31, 2015, officials documented “3,693 civilian casualties (1,138 persons killed and 2,555 injured),” which amount to “a 26 percent increase over the same period in 2014,” according to the report.

Since January 2015, 11 U.S. military personnel have been killed in action, bringing the total to 21 deaths in this period.

Oversight projects also have suffered as a result of the increased violence, according to SIGAR, which has had difficulty keeping tabs on Afghanistan’s government.

“The dangers of absent oversight were exposed when a task force appointed by [Afghan] President Ashraf Ghani reportedly found that millions of dollars were being embezzled while Afghanistan pays for numerous nonexistent ‘ghost’ schools, ‘ghost’ teachers, and ‘ghost’ students,” the report found.

Meanwhile, SIGAR continues to expose massive corruption and waste in U.S.-funded projects.

One U.S. Army sergeant, for instance, pled guilty last year in a conspiracy to receive “illegal bribes by a public official,” according to the audit. This resulted in a 24-month sentence.

Another U.S. Army sergeant pled guilty to similar charges and was sentenced to a year in prison.

Are we losing Afghanistan again?

Taliba-Paktia-e1445435515840Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn, Oct. 21, 2015:

Editor’s note: The following article was originally published at The New York Times Opinion Page on Oct. 21, 2015.

“ALLAH has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat,” Mullah Muhammad Omar, the first head of the Taliban, once said, “so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled.” When his colleagues admitted this summer that Mullah Omar had died, Al Qaeda and affiliated groups around the globe remembered those words — victory is a divine certainty — in their eulogies. And in Afghanistan today, though the majority of Afghans still do not identify with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, Mullah Omar’s bold defiance in the face of a superpower is beginning to look prescient

Since early September, the Taliban have swept through Afghanistan’s north, seizing numerous districts and even, briefly, the provincial capital Kunduz. The United Nations has determined that the Taliban threat to approximately half of the country’s 398 districts is either “high” or “extreme.” Indeed, by our count, more than 30 districts are already under Taliban control. And the insurgents are currently threatening provincial capitals in both northern and southern Afghanistan.

Confronted with this grim reality, President Obama has decided to keep 9,800 American troops in the country through much of 2016 and 5,500 thereafter. The president was right to change course, but it is difficult to see how much of a difference this small force can make. The United States troops currently in Afghanistan have not been able to thwart the Taliban’s advance. They were able to help push them out of Kunduz, but only after the Taliban’s two-week reign of terror. This suggests that additional troops are needed, not fewer.

When justifying his decision last week, the president explained that American troops would “remain engaged in two narrow but critical missions — training Afghan forces, and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda.” He added, “We’ve always known that we had to maintain a counterterrorism operation in that region in order to tamp down any re-emergence of active Al Qaeda networks.”

But the president has not explained the full scope of what is at stake. Al Qaeda has already re-emerged. Just two days before the president’s statement, the military announced that it led raids against two Qaeda training camps in the south, one of which was an astonishing 30 square miles in size. The operation lasted several days, and involved 63 airstrikes and more than 200 ground troops, including both Americans and Afghan commandos.

“We struck a major Al Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland,” Brig. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, a military spokesman, said. General Shoffner described it as “one of the largest joint ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan.” Other significant Qaeda facilities are already being identified in local press reporting.

Recently, Hossam Abdul Raouf, a chief lieutenant of the Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, confirmed in an audio message that Qaeda’s senior leadership has relocated out of northern Pakistan — no secret to the military and the C.I.A., which have been hunting senior Qaeda figures in Afghanistan and elsewhere throughout the year.

The Taliban are not hiding their continuing alliance with Al Qaeda. In August, Mr. Zawahri pledged his allegiance to Mullah Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. Within hours, Mullah Mansour publicly accepted the “esteemed” Mr. Zawahri’s oath of fealty. And Qaeda members are integrated into the Taliban’s chain of command. In fact, foreign fighters affiliated with Al Qaeda played a significant role in the Taliban-led assault on Kunduz.

The United States made many mistakes in the 9/11 wars. After routing the Taliban and Al Qaeda in late 2001, President George W. Bush did not dedicate the resources necessary to finish the fight. President Obama was right in December 2009 to announce a surge of forces in Afghanistan, but it was short-lived. Al Qaeda is not nearly as “decimated” in South Asia as Mr. Obama has claimed.

We don’t think 5,500 troops is enough. No one is calling for a full-scale occupation of the country. But a force of as many as 20,000 to 25,000 would far better support our local Afghan allies, helping them defend multiple provincial capitals at the same time and fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their strongholds.

While many believe that Al Qaeda is solely focused on attacking the West, it has devoted most of its efforts to waging insurgencies. This is the key to understanding how it has been able to regenerate repeatedly over the past 14 years. Al Qaeda draws would-be terrorists from the larger pool of paramilitary forces fighting to restore the Taliban to power in Afghanistan or to build radical nation-states elsewhere. Therefore, the mission of the United States is bigger than the one Mr. Obama envisions. Drones and select counterterrorism raids are not enough to end the threat.

Al Qaeda and like-minded groups were founded on the myth that the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan because of the mujahedeen’s faith in Allah alone. This helped spawn a generation of new wars and terrorist attacks, most of which have targeted Muslims. Should the Afghans suffer additional territorial losses, Mullah Omar’s words will appear prophetic. And a new myth, one that will feed the Taliban’s and Al Qaeda’s violence for years to come, will be born.

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

Also see:

REWIND 2009: Obama, Clinton Enthusiastic About Engaging ‘Moderate’ Taliban in Afghanistan

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, Oct. 15, 2015:

Just weeks into his first term, President Obama was cheery at the prospect of bringing a resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan by backing a plan to lure “moderate” elements of the Taliban to support the U.S.-backed government.

Obama’s new secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was also enthusiastic about the engagement with these “moderates.”

How’s that working out? Not so well. Obama announced today that — contrary to his stated plans — the U.S. will continue its military involvement in Afghanistan past 2016:

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As veteran White House reporter Ed Henry notes, this contradicts Obama’s repeated claims that he was ending the war in Afghanistan:

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With such dismal news, it seems appropriate to recall those heady days more than six-and-a-half years ago when the D.C. foreign policy establishment was aflutter with talk of the administration engaging the “moderate” Taliban. They were cheerleading for the secretary, who was on board with the engagement plan:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday endorsed Afghan plans to hold reconciliation talks with moderate Taliban members.

“We must support efforts by the government of Afghanistan to separate the extremists of al Qaeda and the Taliban from those who joined their ranks, not out of conviction but out of desperation,” Clinton said in an address laying out the new U.S. strategy for the region that President Obama announced last week.

She added, “They should be offered an honorable form of reconciliation and reintegration into a peaceful society if they are willing to abandon violence, break with al Qaeda and support the constitution.”

As late as last year, administration officials were still pushing the “moderate” Taliban plan.

Not everyone was enchanted by the plan back in 2009, and these dissenters have of course been proven correct. As theWashington Times editorialized at the time:

The Afghan government believes the talks are going well, and that supportive statements from President Obama have “created enormous optimism.” The negotiations fit neatly into Mr. Obama’s “let’s talk it out” global strategy. The reported U.S. position is that if the Taliban cease fighting, evict al-Qaeda, and promise not to support terrorism in the future, the U.S. and NATO will leave Afghanistan. Call it Anbar Awakening: The Sequel.

The United States assumes only about 5 percent of the Taliban are incorrigibles, and the remaining “reconcilables” can be “peeled off.” Hamid Karzai, himself a former Taliban supporter, defines the moderates as “those who are not affiliated with al-Qaeda” and “who accept the constitution of Afghanistan.” But most of the people who fit that description either joined the political process years ago or were killed by their immoderate brethren.

With today’s announcement, and Hillary Clinton being the presumed Democratic Party presidential candidate for 2016, how are things faring in Afghanistan?

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Al Qaeda Does Not Recognize IS as Legitimate

Zawahii and BaghdadiCenter for Security Policy, by Nicholas Hanlon, Sep. 11, 2015:

Seeing the IS group in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a clear and existential threat, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has revealed his true feelings about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and they are not warm.

“We preferred to respond with as little as possible, out of our concern to extinguish the fire of sedition, but Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his brothers did not leave us a choice, for they have demanded that all the mujahideen reject their confirmed pledges of allegiance, and to pledge allegiance to them for what they claim of a caliphate.”

Zawahiri apparently recorded this message before Mullah Omar died since he restated al Qaeda’s loyalty to Omar.  Just for kicks, one might draw comparisons between the handling of IS by al Qaeda and the Obama administration.  Zawahiri claims that he had avoided taking issue with al Baghdadi for fear of giving him legitimacy.  As a strategy, that turned out to be irreverent because IS has succeeded in making themselves such a problem for the Taliban and al Qaeda, they are now forced to admit as much.

The U.S. administration also tried to act like IS was no big deal.  Thanks to great reporting by the Daily Beast we now know that it was a policy to suppress intelligence analysis from Centcom about IS.  Despite the continual global spread of IS with propaganda upgrades on social media that can sometimes make al Qaeda look like your grandmother’s global jihadists, the U.S. administration is not likely to say ‘uncle’ no matter how hot the world burns.   The administration sees itself as having already said the final word on the matter.  In their version of history, the air strikes are the answer to IS just like the ‘deal’ is the answer to the Iranian nuclear program.  Don’t expect much more than that.

Also see:

Former CIA and DIA Operatives Warn of Another 9/11 Attack

Plumes of smoke pour from the World Trade Center buildings in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

Plumes of smoke pour from the World Trade Center buildings in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

US News, By Sara Carter, Sept. 11, 2015:

The United States could be facing another 9/11 attack as factions grow deeper among the Taliban, al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, especially with the recently confirmed death of the Taliban’s one-eyed leader Mullah Omar, according to a senior U.S. lawmaker, federal law enforcement and intelligence officials.

The tensions between Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and the Taliban is as dangerous a national security threat to the United States as it was before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, said Brian Fairchild, who spent two decades with the CIA and has testified before Congress on terrorism.

“Right now, al-Qaida, under Zawahiri, needs the Khorasan group or some affiliated group to attack the U.S. again like 9/11 in order to lift up his stature and that of the organization,” Fairchild said. “He doesn’t want something small but something big – a big-scale attack like 9/11 to make him relevant again. This is an extremely dangerous time as Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban fight and compete for dominance.”

A 32-page Islamic State recruiting document obtained in Pakistan by American Media Institute detailed the growing division between the Islamic State group and al-Qaida. The document — authenticated by retired Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and two other senior U.S. intelligence officers — called for the Islamic State group to launch a war with India that would draw the United States into battle and end the world.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) also issued two threatening communications in August calling on believers to take action in the U.S. through more lone-wolf attacks, according to SITE Intelligence Group and Middle-East Research Institute, both of which track terror activity.

“Despite many years since 9/11, our enemies in the now Islamic State still see anniversaries as important times to stage attacks,” Flynn said. “And regardless of how far away we get from the original attack against America in 2001, our need to remain vigilant on this coming anniversary is as high as it has ever been. We have had more than sufficient warnings from our FBI in the past few weeks and months. Our nation must never back down from these vicious murderers.”

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told AMI on Sept. 3, the threat emanating from terrorist organizations has evolved since 2001.

“Since the 9/11 attacks we’ve seen the spread of jihadi ideology and the vacuum created under failed states,” McCaul said. “ISIS in Syria and Iraq is an example of that and the growth of the jihad movement has increased exponentially.”

The threat, however, has changed, McCaul said.

“Islamic State has enormous reach through the Internet and its dark space that allows the group to conduct and plan operations,” he said. “It is an area that leaves most of law enforcement and the intelligence community in the dark and its difficult, if not impossible, to combat…We call it terrorism gone viral. Bin Laden had cadres and couriers but with the Internet, they can radicalize thousands of fighters in a matter of minutes.”

BF quote on threatThe issue of “foreign fighters returning and hitting the homeland, which is a similar concern our European allies are facing at the moment, is something we are deeply concerned about as well,” he added.

Flynn explains that the failure to target the radical religious ideas behind the Islamic State group has given the terrorist group room to spread – not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world.

The threat of a “major war in South Asia goes beyond the scale that we have been dealing with in the wars we’ve fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. The likelihood of far more deadly weapons of mass destruction being applied certainly goes up,” Flynn said.

Fairchild said that since 2001, U.S. policy to dismantle safe-havens for terrorist organizations has failed.

“If you look at the world today there are sanctuaries all across the world. ISIS and al-Qaida affiliates are all over the world, in Yemen, Sinai, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Africa to name a few. The very premise of our counterterrorism policy has failed and our domestic security is being directly threatened,” he said.

Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Marsha Catron declined to comment on the current threats or the steps being taken by DHS to mitigate the threats.

Although the Islamic State group’s recruiting document details the deep divisions within the jihadi terror groups, it also states its reverence for Mullah Omar, who had escaped on a motorcycle following a United States mission to capture him in Afghanistan in 2001 and refused to turn Osama bin Laden over to authorities.

Known as the Emir of the Afghan Taliban, Omar rose to power in 1995 and aided and harbored members of al-Qaida before and after Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He reportedly died in 2013, but his death remained a secret until July 29, when the Afghanistan government acknowledged his death just two days before peace talks between the terrorist groups were scheduled to begin.

“In the past, well before the attack on the World Trade Center, the Americans tried to bribe the Emir of the Muslims of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Mullah Muhammad Omar with wealth, power, and better relations with the anti-messianic global brotherhood in exchange for Sheikh Osama bin Laden,” the document states. “After 9/11, when the U.S threatened to attack, the pious Emir of the Muslims of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan said, ‘A momin’s (one who believes in God) honor cannot allow him to hand over his momin brother to infidels, even at the cost of power; a momin’s insurance is his faith which cannot be bargained.'”

Despite the apparent reverence for Omar, the Islamic State group wants to usurp the power in the region by encouraging al-Qaida’s fighters to defect and join their movement, the document said.

A Taliban official told the American Media Institute that Islamic State group leadership in the region is struggling to build recruitment and that the Taliban is engaged in continued fighting with its members.

When asked how the Afghan Taliban views the Islamic State group compared to the U.S. and NATO, the official said, “yes, [Islamic State] is much worse than [U.S. and NATO] – they are like a cancerous cell within the jihadi groups.”

“Mainly we have our alliances with al-Qaida and we host their core leadership in Afghanistan – we have support of Al Nusrah, AQAP and al-Shabab,” the official says. “But only the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria is our sworn enemy. Taliban and al-Qaida has a single enemy among the Jihadi groups worldwide and that is the so-called Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, which is not according to Islam — they are deviants.”

U.S. Intelligence officials, who have direct knowledge of the region, said it is this competition between the various extremist groups has increased the threat to U.S. security both at home and abroad.

“Mullah Omar’s death could present opportunities for other terrorist organizations to recruit disenchanted Taliban members; create splinter groups who may seek peace settlements with the Afghanistan government; or possibly incentivize the Taliban to continue its fighting efforts,” a U.S. Intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.

The threat against U.S. assets, personnel overseas and the possibility of another 911 attack against the homeland “has increased since the rise of ISIL and intelligence agencies are monitoring it closely,” the intelligence official added.

Sara A. Carter is a writer for the American Media Institute. Follow her on Twitter: @SaraCarterDC

New ‘Islamic Commandos’ Terror Group Emerges in War-Torn Afghanistan

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Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, August 24, 2015:

The reported emergence of a new terror group in Afghanistan, calling itself the “Islamic Commandos,” indicates that the country remains a safe haven for terrorist organizations.

American troops invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to prevent terrorist groups, namely al-Qaeda, from using the war-torn country as a base for their operations.

Since then, the U.S. has spent billions of taxpayer dollars and lost at least 2,217 American lives on that effort.

Less than one year after President Obama declared an end to the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan, Khaama Press reports that Afghan officials are now saying the Islamic Commandos have begun operating in their areas.

The group, which has at least 1,000 members, has begun to function in northern and southern Afghanistan—particularly in the northern provinces of Badakhshan, Kunduz, and Faryab; and the southern Zabul, Urozgan, and Kandahar provinces. This is according to Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, deputy governor of Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan, who reportedly told Azadi Radio on Sunday, adding that the group is also operating in his province.

“He said [the] majority of this group is currently fighting with security forces in northern Afghanistan,” adds Khaama Press.

The deputy governor pointed out that the group broke away from the Taliban, which it now considers a rival faction.

It is unknown what brought about the division that led to the formation of the Islamic Commandos, notes Heavy.com.

A report from the Afghan Bokhdi News Agency, written in Dari, quotes Ahmadi as saying that the Islamic Commandos are linked to al-Qaeda and have entered Afghanistan from Pakistan’s restive North Waziristan tribal region located along the Afghan border, according to an English translation provided by BBC.

Breitbart News was unable to independently confirm whether or not the new terrorist group has ties to al-Qaeda. It is unclear whether or not there is a relationship between the Islamic Commandos, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), and al-Qaeda.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda share historic ties. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri pledged allegiance to the new Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour, who took over the group after Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar was reported dead. Mansour has accepted the pledge.

The Taliban and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) are currently fighting a turf war in Afghanistan.

There are already at least fifteen terrorist organizations operating in the Afghan and Pakistan region, SFGate reports. The Islamic Commandos are the newest terrorist group in Afghanistan.

U.S. and international troops are already dealing with the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the entry of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), which has appeared in parts of the country, carrying out brutal executions.

Except for a small Kabul-based embassy presence, the U.S. is expected to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, President Obama has said.

Obama, at the request of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, already slowed down the withdrawal pace of American forces, extending the presence of nearly 10,000 troops until the end of this year.

In 2014, the U.S. president said that by the end of 2015, America would draw down its military presence to about half of the current level.

President Obama has reportedly asked U.S. Gen. John F. Campbell, the top commander of American and international forces in Afghanistan, to reassess the situation on the ground after the 2015 fighting season, the first with the Afghan forces supposedly in the lead.

Earlier this month, The Daily Mirror reported that British special forces (SAS, SBS) were deployed back to Afghanistan to take on both ISIS and the Taliban.

“Just a year after David Cameron said the war was over, members of the SAS and SBS along with US special forces are taking part in military operations almost every night as the insurgent forces close in on the capital Kabul,” noted the article.

“British troops are supposed to be just advisers to the Afghanistan special forces, who they have spent years training,” it added. “But senior defence sources say that in reality the troops are planning and leading counter-terrorist strike operations.”

U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Afghan president have discussed the possibility of forming a ten-year regional counterterrorism effort against ISIS.

Why the US government is on track to ‘normalizing’ ISIS

 (AP Photo, File)

(AP Photo, File)

New York Post, by Alex VanNess, August 23, 2015:How long will it take the United States to recognize the Islamic State as a legitimate actor?

That may sound ridiculous. After all, ISIS is a barbaric and sociopathic band of terrorists who proudly highlight their brutality over the Internet. Unfortunately, recent history suggests this doesn’t disqualify them, as horrific as it sounds, from eventual recognition.

Since before 9/11, the Taliban laid claim to numerous terror attacks on civilian populations throughout Afghanistan. They harbored Osama bin Laden, and since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, they’ve been directly responsible for the deaths of more than 2,000 American troops.

Yet in January, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest cryptically explained that the Taliban was not a terrorist group but instead falls under a “different classification.”

Earnest’s verbal gymnastics were deployed in the service of explaining away the president’s decision to trade five members of the Taliban for the release of American soldier-captive Bowe Bergdahl.

Hamas is an openly anti-Semitic terrorist organization that has claimed responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians, including several Americans. Since its creation, the Gaza-based Hamas has been dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. Hamas is brutally repressive toward women and gays; they have a tendency to savagely drag dead bodies through the streets.

Last year, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a new unity government that incorporated Hamas-appointed ministers. Instead of cutting off financial support to the new government, as required by US law, the Obama administration jumped through hoops to legitimize the new government. Officials said they would continue supporting the Palestinian government because the new ministers were “technocrats” that “don’t represent . . . hard-core Hamas leadership.”

The legitimacy granted to Hamas by this administration is a reflection of the trend held by many pro-Palestinian protestors who now brazenly chant, “we are Hamas!” through the streets of US cities such as Miami.

Cuba has a long history of human-rights abuse. The Cuban government regularly harasses and imprisons dissidents and has been a state sponsor of terrorism for decades. Cuba continues to serve as a safe haven for terrorists and maintains close ties to both North Korea and Iran.

In 2013, Cuba was caught sending weapons to North Korea. It aids terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Iranian proxy Hezbollah and the Basque Fatherland of Liberty (ETA).

Despite this behavior, the administration still decided to take Cuba off the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and has begun the process of normalizing the relationship between the United States and Cuba.

The State Department justified this removal by stating that “Cuba has not provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six-months” and citing vague promises that they “will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.”

So to recap, within this past year we have stopped referring to the Taliban as terrorists, provided de facto recognition and funding to Hamas and have opened up to the repressive terror-sponsoring Cuban government.

Why should we assume that ISIS will be treated any differently than these groups?

As each day passes, ISIS solidifies its presence in the region. Sure, ISIS commits terrible atrocities. The group regularly — and indiscriminately — beheads innocent people; rapes women and sells them as sex slaves and employs children as executioners.

But its leaders have undeniably been working to establish the Islamic State as, well, as a functioning state. They issue identification cards, pave roads, pick up trash, operate power stations and offer social-welfare programs.

ISIS has carved out its territory by filling the Middle East’s power vacuums, and are thus, in some places, the only game in town. How long before the international community recognizes the ISIS government?

The past precedent of legitimizing various terrorist groups and repressive dictatorships make this all too real of an issue. It’s imperative that the United States stops this trajectory of providing legitimacy to these regimes and turns back the ISIS tide, or we may one day soon be debating the opening of an embassy to the Islamic State in what used to be Iraq.

Alex VanNess is the manager of public information for the Center for Security Policy.