Sending more troops to Afghanistan is a good start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop underestimating al Qaeda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop treating the Haqqani Network as a separate group

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

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

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

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

Pakistan continues to be a big problem

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

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

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

Iran remains a problem, too

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

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

The rural areas matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allied with al Qaeda, which exports terrorism around the globe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State sponsors and enablers of the Taliban-led insurgency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next in Afghanistan?

Gatestone Institute, by John R. Bolton, August 15, 2017

As President Trump wrestles with America’s role in Afghanistan, he should first decide what our objectives are today compared to what we wanted immediately after Sept. 11, 2001.

Initially, the United States overthrew the Taliban regime but failed to destroy it completely. Regime supporters, allied tribal forces and opportunistic warlords escaped (or returned) to Pakistan’s frontier regions to establish sanctuaries.

Similarly, while the Taliban’s ouster also forced al-Qaida into exile in Pakistan and elsewhere, al-Qaida nonetheless continued and expanded its terrorist activities. In Iraq and Syria, al-Qaida morphed into the even more virulent ISIS, which is now gaining strength in Afghanistan.

In short, America’s Afghan victories were significant but incomplete. Subsequently, we failed to revise and update our Afghan strategic objectives, leading many to argue the war had gone on too long and we should withdraw. This criticism is superficially appealing, recalling anti-Vietnam War activist Allard Lowenstein’s cutting remarks about Richard Nixon’s policies. While Lowenstein acknowledged that he understood those, like Sen. George Aiken, who said we should “win and get out,” he said he couldn’t understand Nixon’s strategy of “lose and stay in.”

Today in Afghanistan, the pertinent question is what we seek to prevent, not what we seek to achieve. Making Afghanistan serene and peaceful does not constitute a legitimate American geopolitical interest. Instead, we face two principal threats.

Taliban’s Return To Power

First, the Taliban’s return to power throughout Afghanistan would re-create the prospect of the country being used as a base of operations for international terrorism. It is simply unacceptable to allow the pre-2001 status quo to re-emerge.

Second, a post-9/11 goal (at least one better understood today) is the imperative of preventing a Taliban victory in Afghanistan that would enable Pakistani Taliban or other terrorist groups to seize control in Islamabad. Not only would such a takeover make all Pakistan yet another terrorist sanctuary, but if its large nuclear arsenal fell to terrorists, we would immediately face the equivalent of Iran and North Korea on nuclear steroids. Worryingly, Pakistan’s military, especially its intelligence arm, is already thought to be controlled by radical Islamists.

Given terrorism’s global spread since 9/11 and the risk of a perfect storm — the confluence of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction — the continuing threats we face in the Afghan arena are even graver than those posed pre-9/11. Accordingly, abandoning the field in Afghanistan is simply not a tenable strategy.

However, accomplishing America’s goals does not require remaking Afghanistan’s government, economy or military in our image. Believing that only “nation building” in Afghanistan could ultimately guard against the terrorist threat was mistaken. For too long, it distracted Washington and materially contributed to the decline in American public support for a continuing military presence there, despite the manifest need for it.

There is no chance that the Trump administration will pursue “nation building” in Afghanistan, as the president has repeatedly made clear. Speaking as a Reagan administration alumnus of USAID, I concur. We should certainly continue bilateral economic assistance to Afghanistan, which, strategically applied, has served America well in countless circumstances during the Cold War and thereafter. But we should not conflate it with the diaphanous prospect of nation building.

Nor should we assume that the military component in Afghanistan must be a repetition or expansion of the boots-on-the-ground approach we have followed since the initial assault on the Taliban. Other alternatives appear available and should be seriously considered, including possibly larger U.S. military commitments of the right sort.

U.S. Army soldiers fire mortars at a Taliban position in northeastern Afghanistan, September 2, 2011. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Even more important, there must be far greater focus on Pakistan.

A Volatile and Lethal Mix

Politically unstable since British India’s 1947 partition, increasingly under Chinese influence because of the hostility with India, and a nuclear-weapons state, Pakistan is a volatile and lethal mix ultimately more important than Afghanistan itself. Until and unless Pakistan becomes convinced that interfering in Afghanistan is too dangerous and too costly, no realistic U.S. military scenario in Afghanistan can succeed.

The stakes are high on the subcontinent, not just because of the “Af-Pak” problems but because Pakistan, India and China are all nuclear powers. The Trump administration should not be mesmerized only by U.S. troop levels. It must concentrate urgently on the bigger strategic picture. The size and nature of America’s military commitment in Afghanistan will more likely emerge from that analysis rather than the other way around. And time is growing short.

John R. Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is Chairman of Gatestone Institute, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad”.

Unimpressed Trump Sends Pentagon Back to the Drawing Board on Afghanistan

AP

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, July 20, 2017:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. President Donald Trump, unimpressed by the Afghanistan war options presented to him during a White House meeting with his full national security team Wednesday, suggested they may have to go back to the drawing board to craft a strategy that does not mirror the failed ones employed by his predecessors, said an administration official.

The meeting came as the Pentagon briefed lawmakers about plans to increase the U.S. military footprint in the country.

Contrary to mainstream media claims that the president has taken a completely hands-offapproach to the 16-year-old conflict in Afghanistan, Trump presided over Wednesday’s meeting primarily aimed at discussing the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, a Trump administration official familiar with the deliberations told Breitbart News on condition of anonymity.

President Trump indicated that he is not satisfied with the strategy as it currently stands.

The Pentagon and White House National Security Council (NSC) declined to provide specifics about the developing plan.

President Trump demanded that his team go back to square one if necessary and create a realistic plan that ensures Afghanistan is ultimately able to stand on its own as a country, said the administration official, noting that the meeting served as a sort of wake up call for those involved in developing the strategy.

It appears that besides the Pentagon, the NSC has at least some authority in setting the strategy.

Asked about the meeting, the Pentagon did not confirm nor deny that the President asked officials to go back to the drawing board.

“We’re not going to discuss White House meetings or direction,” said Adam Stump, a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) spokesman, when Breitbart News asked whether or not it has been forced to start developing the Afghanistan war strategy from scratch and when it expects to present the plan to Trump.

The NSC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters last Friday a decision on the new plan would be unveiled around “mid-July” or “somewhere around there. We are driven by the maturity of the discussion, and where we’re at, we are not going to meet some timeline if we are not ready, but we are pretty close.”

Trump has granted the Pentagon the authority to decide how many additional troops to deploy to the war-ravaged country.

Currently, Mattis may increase that number of troops by between 3,000 and 5,000, from the 8,400 already there.

Mattis noted on Friday that the number of additional troops has not been “finalized yet,” adding that the Pentagon is waiting from input from the U.S. State Department.

Citing unnamed U.S. officials, CNN reports that as it currently stands, the strategy:

Encompasses a way ahead in Afghanistan, including the possibility of sending more troops, but also a look at new ideas for dealing with Pakistan, which the US believes is supporting or turning a blind eye to a number of terror groups operating inside the country.

The president made it clear he is not interested in any approach that resembles the strategies used by his predecessors and will not accept anything less than a dramatic overhaul, the official told Breitbart News.

Directly dealing with Pakistan’s support for terrorists fighting the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan would mark a significant departure from what America has done in the past.

Most of the 2,255 U.S. military fatalities and 20,245 injury incidents have taken place in provinces that border Pakistan.

The Pentagon spokesman defined what victory in Afghanistan means for the Trump administration, saying it utlimately involves a settlement with the Taliban and terrorists laying down their arms.

Stump told Breitbart News:

The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan remains centered on working with NATO allies, operational partners, and the international community to defeat the remnants of core al Qaeda and to defeat other violent extremist organizations and terrorist groups, such as ISIS-K [Islamic State], to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a safe-haven for groups to plan and execute attacks against the United States, U.S. persons overseas, or allies and partners; and continuing efforts to provide financial and advisory support to the Afghan Government and to enable a well-trained, equipped, and sustainable ANDSF [Afghan National Defense and Security Force] that provides security in Afghanistan.

The U.S. and Afghan Governments agree that the best way to ensure lasting peace and security in Afghanistan is through reconciliation and a political settlement with the Taliban. The United States supports an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process and supports any process that includes violent extremist groups laying down their arms.

Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the Washington Post (WaPo) reports that the current U.S.-Afghan war is framed around a four-year plan to degrade the Taliban this is unlikely to “yield significant results until its later stages.”

In recently issued reports, the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon have accused Pakistan of willingly serving as a safe-haven for the Taliban and its affiliates, including the deadly Haqqani Network.

The Taliban affirmed its relationship with al-Qaeda in December 2016.

Also see:

Updated Ramadan Rage 2017 Final Death Count: 1,639 in About 30 Countries

REUTERS/Mohammad Shoib

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, July 1, 2017:

The final fatality tally for jihadi attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan increased to 1,639, primarily fueled by victims who succumbed to their injuries, reveals an updated Breitbart News count of terror incidents during the period.

With a total of 3,343 casualties, including 1,704 injuries, Ramadan 2017 is one of the bloodiest holy months in recent history. The number of deaths this year marked a nearly four-fold increase from the estimated 421 people killed by Islamic extremists last year.

There were nearly 160 terror incidents in about 30 predominantly Muslim countries this year, including one jihadi attack in the United States.

Soon after the holiest month for Muslims ended last Saturday, Breitbart News reported that jihadist organizations had killed 1,627 people during Ramadan.

However, after taking into account people who succumbed to their injuries throughout the month and government entities changing the casualty count after Breitbart News initially documented the attacks, this news outlet has determined the final updated tally to be 3,343 casualties (1,639 killed, 1,704 injured).

The Afghan government updating the casualty tally for the May 31 terror attack that killed at least 150 people and injured more than 300 others had the most significant impact on changing the final count.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani changed the number of people wounded from at least 460to more than 300, driving the total number of deaths up and injuries down. The May 31 incident, allegedly carried out by the Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, is the deadliest attack of Ramadan 2017.

The Pentagon has deemed the Haqqani Network to pose the “greatest threat” to the United States military and its allies in Afghanistan. U.S. officials have accused jihadi sanctuaryPakistan of sheltering the group.

Breitbart News’ primarily gleaned its count from the Religion of Peace website in coordination with news reports.

After analyzing every documented Ramadan terror incident, Breitbart News removed two events mentioned by Religion on Peace — May 31 assault in Sinjar and June 6 attack in Mosul, Iraq — because there were no credible news reports to back them.

Moreover, two attacks that occurred on the last day of Ramadan were added to the tally after Breitbart News published the article noting that Islamic terrorists had killed 1,627 people.

Breitbart News’ count excludes casualties directly linked to battles between U.S.-led coalition and Iranian- and Russian-backed troops loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Furthermore, it only includes some of the attacks in Iraq and Syria that involved the death of civilians, mainly women, and children, at the hands of jihadi groups.

News outlets and government officials may update some death tallies from individual attacks that occurred over the last few days of Ramadan as some of the injured victims succumb to their injuries after Breitbart News publishes this report.

The final Ramadan death toll could be higher. Most “Ramadan Rage 2017” victims are Muslims. As in previous years, the fatalities have included women, children, and members of the Christian minority.

In addition to Muslims, there are members of a wide variety of ethnic and religious groups among the victims: Westerners of all ethnicities, Christians, Asians, Sunnis, Shiites, and Arabs, among others.

The West, particularly London, has not been immune to the Ramadan carnage this year.

Most Muslims follow the Ramadan tradition of abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking, having sex, and other physical needs each day, starting from before the break of dawn until sunset.

However, Islamic extremists perceive Ramadan as a time when martyrdom and jihad are doubly rewarded in paradise, prompting a spike in the terrorist attacks during the period every year.

All the terrorist attacks during Ramadan 2017, as documented by Breitbart News, include:

May 27 — Uruzgan, Afghanistan — Suspected Taliban terrorists ambush checkpoint in the Charchino district, killing 11.
May 27 — Badghis, Afghanistan — Taliban kills 14, including eight civilians, injures 17 in Qadis district.
May 27 — Khost, Afghanistan — Taliban suicide bomber targets National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), killing 18, wounding six others, including children.
May 27 — Punjab, Pakistan — “Honor Killing” — Brother hacks his 18-year-old sister to death in the Khanewal district for denying to abide by pre-arrange marriage.
May 27 — Marawi, Philippines — Jihadists kill 19 including women and a child for “having betrayed their faith.”
May 28 — Bay, Somalia — Al-Shabaab jihadists bury man to his neck, stone to death for adultery in Ramo Adey village.
May 28 — Mosul, Iraq — ISIS sets hospital ablaze and kills a dozen people inside, including young people.
May 28 —Salahuddin, Iraq — ISIS rocket attack kills child and her parents in Shirqat district.
May 28 — Borno, Nigeria — Boko Haram kills at least seven villagers before returning the the next village two days later to kill 14 more.
May 28 — Paktika, Afghanistan — Suspected Taliban kill Shakhil Abad district governor and his son inside their home.
May 28 — Diyala, Iraq — Suicide bomber kills three, injures up to 16 others outside court in city of Baqubah.
May 28 — Borno, Nigeria — Boko Haram beheads five people in Nguro village.
May 29 — Ghat, Libya — Suspected Islamic terrorists kill one, injure four.
May 29 — Salahuddin, Iraq — Islamic shrapnel dismembers a child, injures seven in Shirqat district.
May 29 — Baghdad, Iraq — ISIS launches suicide attack against families breaking their Ramadan fast at ice cream parlor, killing at least 17, wounding 32.
May 29 — Baghdad, Iraq — Sunni ISIS attack targeting Shiites kills 14 killed, 37 injured. ISIS attacked Shiites.
May 30 — Peshawar, Pakistan — Suspected Islamists gun down four peace committee members in Mattani village.
May 30 — Peshawar, Pakistan — Suspected jihadist shoots senior member of Hezb-i-Islami terrorist group while he was leaving a mosque.
May 30 — Mosul, Iraq — ISIS shoots 60 civilians in the head, including women, elderly, buries them in mass grave in al-Shifa district.
May 30 — Deir Ezzor, Syria — ISIS mortar kills 14, wounds over 40, including woman and children, in government controlled  al-Joura district.
May 30 — Kirkuk, Iraq — ISIS kills two Iraqi guards, wounds one other at the Bai Hassan oil field.
May 30 — Baghdad, Iraq — Suspected ISIS jihadists kill seven, injure 19 in a blast.
May 30 — Diyala, Iraq — A bomb explosion at mosque kills seven, wounds six in the cit of Baqubah.
May 30 — Anbar, Iraq — Suspected ISIS suicide bomber kills 15, injures 23 in the town of Hit.
May 31 — Borno, Nigeria —Boko Haram kills 14 after killing seven in a nearby village two days earlier.
May 31 — Garissa, Kenya — Suspected al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab burns down school, kills one teacher, wounds three police officers in Fafi village.
May 31 — Mosul, Iraq — Suicide bombers kill seven members of the same family in Mashahda region.
May 31 — Mangai, Kenya — Al-Shabaab suspected on planting IED that killed eight, including seven police officers.
May 31 — Kabul, Afghanistan — Suspected Haqqani Network, linked to Taliban and al-Qaeda, kills at least 150, wounds more than 300, including 11 Americans .
June 01 — Abala, Niger — Suspected jihadists kill six guards.
June 01 — Al-Jaws Yemen — Islamic terrorists kill 10, wound 15 in al-Hazm.
June 01 — Nangarhar, Afghanistan — Suicide bomber kills one, wounds another near airport in Jalalabad.
June 01 — Nangarhar Afghanistan — Suicide bomber kills one, wounds five, including a security guard near the airbase in Behsud district.
June 01 — Oldenburg, Germany — Muslim kills one for smoking during Ramadan and refusing to fast.
June 01 — Mosul, Iraq — ISIS kills seven, wounds 23 in the Zanjili district for trying to flee caliphate.
June 02 — Kolofota, Cameroon — Islamist use two girls as suicide bombers: 11 killed, including two children, and 30 wounded.
June 02 — Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia — Jihadist beheads one man.
June 03 — Marawi, Philippines — Islamic sniper kills elderly woman.
June 03 — Baghdad, Iraq — Four suicide members kill one, injure three in al-Halabsah district.
June 03 —London, England — ISIS-linked jihadists plow into pedestrians, then stab people, killing seven, injuring 48.
June 03 — Mosul, Iraq — ISIS kills 50 in  Zanjili district for trying to flee caliphate.
June 03 — Kashmir, India — Hizb-ul-Mujahideen kill two security troops, injure four.
June 03 — Sindh, Pakistan — “Honor Killing:” Man kills sister-in-law and lover for alleged adultery in Nawabshah.
June 03 — Kabul, Afghanistan — Jihadi suicide bomber kills 20, injures 87.
June 03 — Ferkane, Algeria — Muslim extremists kill two local soldiers, injure four.
June 03 — Burkina Faso, Soum — Suspected jihadists kill five.
June 03 — Mosul, Iraq — United Nations reports ISIS killed 231 civilians between May 26 and June 3 in al-Shifa district alone, as they tried to escape the city.
June 04 — Bijapur, India — “Honor Killing” — pregnant Muslim woman burnt alive by her family for marrying Hindu man.
June 04 — Kandahar, Afghanistan — Afghan police insider attack leaves six dead, one injured.
June 04 — Balochistan, Pakistan — Two Shiites from Hazara minority group killed in Quetta.
June 04 — Singh, Pakistan — “Honor Killing” — Father kills 18-year-old daughter for allegedly “having an affair” in Tando Allahyar district.
June 04 — Mosul, Iraq — Suicide bombers kill 32, injure four in Zanjili district and  al-Shifa district.
June 04 — Punjab, Pakistan — Suspected Sunni terrorist kills one Shiite Hazara barber in Quaidabad.
June 05 — Melbourne, Australia — ISIS-linked migrant from Somalia kills man, takes woman hostage, an injures three.
June 05 — Baghdad, Iraq — Suspected ISIS terrorists fire mortar into family home, killing 10-year-old boy, injuring four of the same family.
June 05 — Kismayo, Somalia — al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab detonates bomb, killingthree, injuring 20.
June 06 — Sinai, Egypt — Suspected Islamic extremists kill two police officers.
June 06 — Paris, France — Jihadist wounds one cop with a hammer outside Notre Dame cathedral.
June 06 — Herat, Afghanistan — Terrorist kill seven, injure another 16 near the northern gate of the Great Mosque of Herat.
June 06 — Garissa, Kenya — Suspected al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab jihadists kill four aid workers with land mine.
June 06 — Mandera, Kenya — Unknown jihadist kill one woman, injure one.
June 06 — Kandahar, Afghanistan — Terrorists attacked refugee camp in Kandahar province, killing three, including two children and wounding eight, including women.
June 07 — Tehran, Iran — ISIS claims responsibility for attacking parliament, shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini , killing  12, injuring  up to 46, marking first time the Sunni extremist group carries out attack in Islamic Republic.
June 07 —Borno, Nigeria — Boko Haram kills 14, wounds 24 in Maiduguri.
June 08 — Puntland, Somalia — al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab kills 70, including some women who were decapitated, and wounds up to 20.
June 08 — Diyala, Iraq — ISIS, kills 13 civilians, wounds 4, including two Iraqi soldiers.
June 08 — Mosul, Iraq — ISIS fires chlorine-filled bombs at civilians, killing 13, mostly women and children.
June 08 — Baluchistan, Pakistan — ISIS claims to have killed two Chinese nationals kidnapped on May 24.
June 09 — Kerbala, Iraq — ISIS kills at least 30, wounds 35 in Shiite holy city.
June 09 — Kerbala, Iraq — ISIS attacks main bus station in Shiite city, killing three, wounding 15.
June 09 — Adamawa, Nigeria — Suspected Boko Haram jihadists kill two children, wound three others.
June 09 — Hambagda, Cameroon — Boko Haram slits throat of four villagers, kidnaps six.
June 09 — Paktia, Afghanistan — Suspected Taliban/Haqqani Network jihadists killthree civilians, wound nine others while praying in mosque.
June 10 — Salahuddin, Iraq — ISIS kills 38 civilians, Iraqi troops, wounds 40 others in Shirqat district.
June 10 — Mosul, Iraq — ISIS kills eight civilians, wounds five others.
June 10 — Kobane, Syria — ISIS landmine kills two children, wounds three other civilians.
June 10 — Far North Region, Cameroon — Three Boko Haram-recruited girls, between ages 11 and 15, killed as suicide bombers in Mayo-Sava border region.
June 10 — Nangarhar, Afghanistan — Taliban claims insider attack against U.S. troops, killing three, wounding one other.
June 11 — Baluchistan, Pakistan — Lashker-e-Jhangv jihadists kill three police officers, wound one civilian in “hit-and-run attack.”
June 11 — Borno, Nigeria — Boko Haram kills eight members of civilian militia in the Kayamla village.
June 11 —  Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan — Suspected jihadists kill one journalist in Haripur district.
June 11 — Diyala, Iraq — Suspected ISIS suicide attacker kills two, wounds five others.
June 12 — Baddah, Yemen — Al-Qaeda kills two local soldiers.
June 14 — Far North Region, Cameroon — Suspected Boko Haram suicide attack killsone, injures nine in locality of Sandawadjiri.
June 14 — Far North Region, Cameroon — Suspected Boko Haram suicide bomber kills himself, but no one else in locality of Amchide.
June 14 — Mogadishu, Somalia — Al-Shabaab kills at least 31 people, including women, at the Posh Hotel and wounds 40 others.
June 14 — Borno State, Nigeria — Boko Haram kills five civilians, six others missing.
June 14 — Helmand, Afghanistan — Suspected Taliban kills five, wounds four from breakaway faction.
June 14 — Ghazni, Afghanistan — Taliban kills one civilian, wounds three others, including police officer.
June 14 — Paktika, Afghanistan — Jihadists kill five civilians, including women and children, wound seven others.
June 14 — Mosul, Iraq — ISIS launches wave of suicide attacks in Mosul, killing  at least 15, including 11 police officers and four civilians.
June 15 — Kabul, Afghanistan — Suspected jihadists kill four, wound eight in mosque suicide attack.
June 15 — Wardak, Afghanistan — Clash between Taliban and security forces leaves three children dead, one woman wounded.
June 15 — Kashmir, India — Jihadists kill Indian police officer.
June 15 — Kashmir, India — Islamic militants kill one police officer, wound another in Srinagar.
June 15 — Limani, Cameroon — Boko Haram female suicide bomber kills three, including three-year-old child wounds at least seven others.
June 15 — Yarang, Thailand — Suspected Islamic insurgents shoot 52-year-old Buddhist in the head.
June 15 — Balcad, Somalia — Al-Shabaab kills three soldiers, wounds seven others.
June 16 — Marawi, Philippines — Clashes between ISIS-linked Abu Sayyaf jihadists leaves an estimated 100 people dead.
June 16 — Kirkuk, Iraq — ISIS-linked female jihadi and her two sons, ages six and nine, found dead.
June 16 — Baghdad, Iraq — Jihadi detonated explosive device wounds  four people.
June 16 — Kurdistan, Iraq — Suspected ISIS jihadists wound five civilians at a mosque.
June 16 — Diyala, Iraq — Suspected jihadist shoots civilian in the head in Baquba.
June 16 — Baghdad, Iraq — Suspected terrorists kill one civilian, wound three others.
June 16 — Diyala, Iraq — Jihadi killed when bomb he was trying to plant exploded.
June 16 — Mandera, Kenya — Al-Shabaab kills four civilians, injures 11 others.
June 16 — Kashmir, India — Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) kills, mutilate faces of six Indian police officers with bullets. Two civilians caught in crossfire.
June 16 — Jerusalem, Israel — Palestinian jihadists, linked to ISIS, kill one policewoman, injure four others before security forces took them down.
June 16 — Laghman, Afghanistan — Suspected Taliban terrorists kill four civilian workers in explosion.
June 17 — Bakol, Somalia — Clashes between al-Shabaab and Somali army leaves at least five dead, 12 others injured.
June 17 — Kashmir, India — Jihadists kill civilian in Pulwama.
June 17 — Kashmir, India — Clashes between Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Indian security forces leave two civilians and three jihadists dead.
June 17 — Mosul, Iraq — Suspected ISIS suicide bomber kills seven local police officers.
June 17 — Bintagoungou, Mali — Jihadists kill five, injure eight others.
June 17 — Mosul, Iraq — Iran-backed Shiite militias kill family of five.
June 17 — Mudug, Somalia — Al-Shabaab kills cleric inside mosque in  Towfiq village.
June 17 — Cairo, Egypt — Suspected ISIS jihadists kill one, wound four in roadside bomb attack.
June 17 — Borno, Nigeria — Boko Haram kill five civilians in Gumsuri village.
June 18 — Paktia, Afghanistan — Taliban attacks police headquarters, killing six police officers, wounding 30 others, including 21 civilians.
June 18 — Bamako, Mali — Jihadists kill two, wound 14 at resort.
June 18 — Mosul, Iraq — Two ISIS suicide bombers killed.
June 18 — Mosul, Iraq — Five ISIS-linked suicide bombers, including killed in al-Farouk area.
June 18 — Diyala, Iraq — Police kill suspected ISIS suicide bomber in  Baqubah.
June 18 — Salahuddin, Iraq — Suspected ISIS jihadists fire rocket, killing one civilian, injuring another.
June 18 — Daraa, Syria — ISIS-linked militia kills five of its own fighters on charges of apostasy.
June 18 — Borno, Nigeria — Female suicide bombers, likely linked to Boko Haram, kill12 people, injure 11 others in the terrorist group’s birthplace.
June 18 — Kirkuk, Iraq — ISIS kills 34 civilians.
June 19 — Mosul, Iraq — ISIS IED kills three journalists, wounds one other.
June 19 — Baghdad, Iraq — Suspected ISIS terrorists kills one Sunni tribal fighter, wounds two others.
June 19 — Pattani, Thailand — Jihadists kill six soldiers, wound four others.
June 19 — Paris, France — Authorities take down “known extremist” who attempted to carry out terrorist attack at the Champs-Élysées.
June 19 — Parwan, Afghanistan — Taliban kills eight border guards near largest U.S. military base in Bagram, wounds two others.
June 19 — Adamawa State, Nigeria — Two female suicide bombers, likely linked to Boko Haram, blow themselves up, resulting in their death. No other casualties.
June 20 — Mogadishu, Somalia — Al-Shabaab kills at least 15 civilians, injures 18 others in suicide car bomb.
June 20 — Brussels, Belgium — Authorities kill ISIS-linked suicide bomber at train station.
June 20 — Nangarhar, Afghanistan — Terrorists kill judge, wound three other civilians.
June 21 — Michigan, United States — Canadian terrorist Amor Ftouhi, 49, stabs and wounds police officer in the neck while yelling praises to Allah.
June 21 — Deir Ezzor, Syria — ISIS kills two civilians, wounds eight others.
June 21 — Borno State, Nigeria — Suspected Boko Haram jihadists kill two civilians, wounds six others.
June 21 — Far North Region, Cameroon — Two suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers kill six civilians in Kolofata.
June 22 — Helmand, Afghanistan — Taliban kills an estimated 30, including soldiers and civilians, and wounds at least 60 others.
June 22 — Kashmir, India — Pakistani terrorists kill two Indian soldiers.
June 22 — Baghdad, Iraq — Suspected ISIS jihadists kill two, wound four others in car bomb attack.
June 23 — Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Pakistan — Lashkar-e-Jhangvi jihadists kill up to 67 and wound more than 261 in double bombing in the jihadi stronghold along the Afghanistan border.
June 23 — Mosul, Iraq — Suspected ISIS suicide bomber kills at least a dozen civilians, including women and children, and wounds 20 other civilians trying to flee the city.
June 23 — Baluchistan, Pakistan — ISIS and Pakistani Taliban linked jihadists from Jamaat ur Ahrar kill 13 people, including seven police officers, wound 19 others, including nine security guards, in car bomb attack.
June 23 — Mosul, Iraq — Suspected ISIS suicide bombers kill three people, including a police officer, and wound at least nine others.
June 23 — Anbar, Iraq — Suspected ISIS suicide bombers kill eight civilians, one soldier, wound 11 others.
June 23 — Mandera, Kenya — Suspected al-Shabaab jihadists kill five people, including two police others, wound an unknown number of others.
June 23 — Karachi, Pakistan — Jihadists kill four off-duty police officers, wound two others in drive by shooting.
June 23 — Mosul, Iraq — Suspected ISIS jihadists fire rocket into marketplace, killing10, wounding 40.
June 23 — Mosul, Iraq — Suspected ISIS suicide bombers blew themselves up inside mosque, killing four, injuring others.
June 24 — Aleppo, Syria — Suspected Sunni militants kill 12, including three children and four women, and wound dozens.
June 24 — Mecca, Saudi Arabia — Suicide bomber planning to attack Grand Mosque blows himself up, injuring six foreigners and five security force members.
June 24 — Kashmir, India —Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) jihadists kill one security officer, wounds another one and a civilian.
June 24 — Kirkuk, Iraq — Suspected ISIS jihadists kill ten civilians trying to flee homes, wound six others, including women and children.
June 24 — Herat, Afghanistan — Taliban jihadists kill 10 Afghan soldiers, wound four at Salma Dam ahead of Afghan president’s address holiday marking end of Ramadan.

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Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Taliban: The Terror Groups That Have Called Qatar Home

Mohamed Farag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, June 13, 2017:

The government of Sunni-majority Qatar has long hosted and legitimized political leaders from the terrorist organizations known as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the Hamas Palestinian movement, and more recently the Afghan Taliban.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, and Bahrain have severed ties with their fellow predominantly Sunni nation Qatar, accusing it of destabilizing the Muslim region with its support for Islamic terrorist organizations and plunging the Arab Gulf nations into a diplomatic crisis.

Qatari officials have repeatedly denied the allegations, dismissing them as “unjustified” and having “no basis in fact.”

“Qatar became a central target of the Saudi-Emirati-Israeli joint lobbying efforts for its perceived role in promoting the Muslim Brotherhood and hosting members of Hamas’ political bureau,” reports Al Jazeera.

In 2013, Qatar allowed the Afghan Taliban to open an official political office in its capital Doha. Although the Qatari government allegedly shut it down, Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to be still operating in Doha.

A senior Qatari official recently told Al Jazeera that Doha hosted the Taliban at the “request of the U.S. government,” led by former President Barack Obama at the time.

Under President Donald Trump, who has recently expressed strong support for Saudi Arabia, the United States joined the Sunni kingdom’s allies in condemning Qatar for supporting and assisting Iran and jihadist groups.

Hamas, officially deemed as a terrorist group by the United States, is considered one of Iran’s terror proxies.

Echoing comments made by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Tuesday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) blasted Qatar’s ties to terrorism on the same day.

Qatar “must stop supporting Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Jubeir told reporters.

During a hearing held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa hearing titled, “Challenges and Opportunities for the U.S.-Saudi Relationship,” Chairman Royce declared:

Qatar’s relationship with Hamas remains very concerning. Senior leaders of Hamas and the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood – which is an Islamist group designated as terrorists by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates – all reside in Qatar today.

And earlier this month – and I think this is what is most concerning for all of us here – more Hamas tunnels were found under two U.N. Relief Works Agency schools in Gaza. Found underneath the schools in Gaza. So Hamas is still using civilians and children to hide its activities. And that, to me, does not sound like a legitimate resistance movement.

Qatar’s foreign minister recently referred to Hamas as “a legitimate resistance movement.”

The Sunni country “has doubled down on its relationship with Hamas,” noted Congressman Royce, later adding, “This practice needs to end now. There is no such thing as a ‘good terrorist group.’”

According to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Hamas is responsible for for the death of more than 400 Israelis and at least 25 American citizens.

“Palestinian terrorism represents a grave threat to Israeli security and the prospects for a two-state solution,” said New York’s Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House panel, in a statement issued on May 26.“Congress must work to stop international support for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and foreign supporters of these organizations must understand the risks associated with perpetuating this perverse violence.”

The Obama administration refused to officially deem the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group despite requests from Republican lawmakers.

President Trump is expected to support efforts to label MB a terrorist organization.

Unlike its predecessor, the Trump administration did not hesitate to refer to the Afghan Taliban as a “terrorist” group.

The U.S. has officially labeled the Afghan Taliban a terrorist organization.

Qatari foreign minister’s special envoy on counterterrorism told Al Jazeera that Doha allowed the Afghan Taliban to establish an office at the “request of the U.S. government” in 2013 and as part of the country’s “open-door policy, to facilitate talks, to mediate and to bring peace.”

Qatar “was facilitating the talks between the Americans, the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan,” claimed Mutlaq Al Qahtani, the FM’s envoy.

Also see:

Zawahiri lectures on global jihad, warns of national boundaries

LONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | June 10, 2017

Sometime in the last few years, al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri got an editor. Known for his long-winded lectures, Zawahiri has increasingly recorded shorter messages with more focused arguments. The latest of these came yesterday, when As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, released the seventh episode in Zawahiri’s “Brief Messages to a Victorious Nation” series. The message is titled, “One Ummah, One War on Multiple Fronts.”

Zawahiri emphasizes a core part of his organization’s ideology: jihad is an obligation for Muslims around the globe, especially when non-believers infringe of Muslim lands. Of course, many Muslim authorities are deemed illegitimate in this view of the world, as they do not adhere to the same version of Islam espoused by the jihadists.

The message opens with images of: Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood; Izz Ad-Deen Al-Qassam, a Syrian Islamic thinker who preached jihad; Abdullah Azzam, co-founder of the predecessor to al Qaeda and godfather of modern jihadism; al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Suri, an ideologue whose teachings are influential; Abu Muhammad al-Turkistani, a co-founder of the al Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic party; and Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Zawahiri and As Sahab portray these men as part of the same jihadist tradition, stretching back into the early 20th Century.

“Our Ummah today is up against a global war in which Western and Eastern (Orthodox) Crusaders, Chinese, Hindus, Safavi Rawafidh [meaning the Iranians and allied Shiites] and secular nationalists are partners in crime,” Zawahiri says. “From the coasts of al-Maghreb (Western North Africa) to Eastern Turkistan, you will find a Muslim world confronted by aggression, occupation, repression, bombardment, and international alliances working hand[s] in gloves with client regimes, which are outside the pale of Islam and work for the interests of the leading international criminals.”

Al Qaeda has repeatedly argued that Muslims are confronted by this supposedly grand alliance. It is an enlargement of the alleged “Zionist-Crusader” conspiracy that Osama bin Laden first made the cornerstone of his thinking in the 1990s.

Zawahiri is forced to explain how so many parties, which are often at odds with one another, are really part of the same unified effort.

“In terms of peculiarities, one region may differ slightly from another, but there are obvious common denominators, namely fighting Islam in the name of the ‘Fight against Terrorism’ and subservience to an ‘International System,’ cleverly crafted by the victors of World War II for the mutual division and theft of the natural resources of the world – specifically the Muslim world,” Zawahiri says.

The al Qaeda leader argues that the US is still the main enemy. “You will find that the major role in this criminal alliance belongs to the Americans, and then the roles gradually differ as per the power wielded by each partner and its stakes in the system,” he claims.

Zawahiri preaches unity in the face of these overwhelming odds. He quotes an Islamic verse — “And hold on strongly to the rope of Allah and be not divided amongst yourselves” — that al Qaeda routinely peppers throughout its productions.

And he says the “jurists” long ago “ruled that the lands of the Muslims have the status of a single domain.”

Zawahiri continues: “There is a consensus amongst the jurists that if the disbelieving enemy occupies a Muslim land, it becomes obligatory on its residents to defend that land, and if they find themselves unable to do so, this obligation expands in a circular fashion to those nearest to them, and so on until it encompasses Muslims all over the globe.”

Muslims “have always risen up to defend their lands regardless of nationality or race,” he continues. And this was the “prevailing norm until the demise of the Ottoman state, which had defended the lands of Islam for five centuries.”

“After the fall of the Ottomans,” Zawahiri says, “the concept of nation-states with boundaries demarcated by the infidel occupiers started holding sway, and among Muslims arose some proponents of this notion. This is why the callers of the Islamic revival actively fought against this concept.” (Supporters of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s Islamic State were quick to point out online that Zawahiri wanted to keep the jihad in Iraq separate from the war in Syria, which they say contradicts his stance.)

The al Qaeda emir then lists the men he counts as key revivalists, pointing out that they waged jihad far outside of their native lands.

Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian, organized “battalions for the liberation of Palestine.” Izz ad-Deen al-Qassam, a Syrian, waged “jihad in Palestine.” Abdullah Azzam, the Palestinian, awakened “the ummah to defend Afghanistan” and declared “most unequivocally that jihad has been a Fardh Ayn (a compulsory individual obligation) since the fall of al-Andalus (Muslim Spain).”

“Then emerged the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [the Taliban’s state], and we saw Afghans and emigrants alike pledging allegiance to it,” Zawahiri says. “Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al Suri – both Arabs – and Abu Muhammad al-Turkistani” pledged “allegiance to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Afghani (may Allah have mercy on each one of them).”

“So may Allah reward these pioneers, who revived the spirit of one united ummah confronting a disbelieving enemy,” Zawahiri says toward the end of his talk.

He then warns that some seek to divide the jihad according to national boundaries, which is unacceptable. It is an argument he has made in other recent productions. While it is a general point that al Qaeda has made often in the past, it is likely something that Zawahiri wants to emphasize, once again, as jihadi ideologues are currently debating the appropriate course in Syria.

“But today, there are some who want to push us back behind the lines of division drawn by disbelieving occupiers…Pakistan for Pakistanis, Syria for Syrians, Palestine for Palestinians…in the interest of whom, may we ask?” Zawahiri concludes: “May Allah help us gather our strength, bring our hearts closer, unite our ranks, and not deprive us of victory because of our sins.”

Zawahiri’s message was released with an English transcript. As Sahab and al Qaeda’s regional branches have increasingly released English-language content over the previous year. It is an indication that their media efforts have been substantially improved after facing multiple disruptions in 2014 and in the years thereafter.

[For context on the debate regarding the jihadist project in Syria, see FDD’s Long War Journal reports: Pro-Al Qaeda ideologue criticizes joint bombings by Russia and Turkey in Syria; Hay’at Tahrir al Sham leader calls for ‘unity’ in Syrian insurgency; and Ayman al Zawahiri warns against ‘nationalist’ agenda in

Screen shots from “One Ummah, One War on Multiple Fronts”:

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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Al Qaeda preaches world conquest of all religions and peoples. @billroggio @thomasjoscelyn @followfdd John Batchelor Show