Tag Archives: alqaeda

What the U.S. Gave Up to Get Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Back

Mullah Mohammad Fazl, left, and Abdul Haq Wasiq are shown in these undated photos. Image credit: Department of Defense

WASHINGTON — Most of the reaction to Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release after five years as a captive of the Taliban has been celebratory, but a pair of lawmakers questioned whether the deal reached with the Taliban was legal and whether the price paid was too high.

The Army sergeant was held captive for nearly five years by the Taliban, mostly in Pakistan, U.S. officials believe, and the president, Defense secretary, secretary of State, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the sergeant’s parents all expressed relief and gratitude after 18 Taliban handed Bergdahl over to U.S. special forces in Afghanistan, spiriting him back into the care of the U.S. military.

Two senior Republican lawmakers, however, accused Obama of violating the law by failing to notify Congress 30 days before the deal to swap five members of the Taliban held at Guantanamo and voiced concerns that the U.S. gave up too much.

Bergdahl Freed After 5 Years in Taliban Captivity

Taliban Captive ‘Was Never Forgotten,’ Obama Says

The top Republicans on the House and Senate armed-services committees cautioned that “we must carefully examine the means by which we secured [Bergdahl’s] freedom,” warning that the U.S. had effectively reneged on its policy not to negotiate with terrorists.

So what exactly did the U.S. give up to get Bergdahl back?

The U.S. has released five Taliban prisoners kept at Guantanamo Bay — all of them either senior Taliban figures or Taliban officials with connections to Taliban leaders, and all labeled by the Pentagon as highly dangerous to the security of the U.S. and its allies if released. They are:

Mohammad Fazl, the former Taliban defense minister during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, chief of staff of the Taliban army, and commander of its 22nd Division. According to a U.S. Department of Defense document obtained by Wikileaks, Fazl is believed to be an associate of Supreme Taliban Commander Mullah Omar and was “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiites,” surrendered to the Northern Alliance commander Gen. Dostum in November 2001.

  • “Detainee is assessed to be a HIGH risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies,” his Guantanamo detainee file reads. “If released, detainee would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties with ACM [anti-coalition militia] elements participating in hostilities against US and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.”

Mullah Norullah Noori, a former Taliban military commander and Taliban governor of two Afghan provinces, who led Taliban forces against U.S. and coalition troops and was also “wanted by the United Nations (UN) for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims” as Fazl was, according to Noori’s Guantanamo prisoner file as obtained and posted by Wikileaks. He is also believed to be associated with Supreme Taliban Commander Mullah Omar.

  • Noori commanded the Taliban in the northern city of Mazar e-Sharif. Like Fazl, he surrendered to Gen. Dostum in 2001.Rated a “HIGH” threat to U.S. security interests if released, Noori is or was associated with members of al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin.
  • Mohammed Nabi, another senior Taliban official with ties to al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, and other anti-U.S., Taliban-allied groups, according to his Guantanamo Bay file as posted by Wikileaks.Also rated as a “HIGH” security threat if released, Nabi fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets. After that, he told the Americans who captured and detained him, he was an off-and-on Taliban member in the early 2000s, worked for the chief of the Taliban’s Border Department, which controlled smuggling. In early spring of 2002, he left the Taliban to sell used cars in a small village near Khowst and became a CIA informant.According to his Defense Dept. file, Nabi was involved in attacks against U.S. and coalition forces and facilitated smuggling routes for the Taliban and al Qaeda.
  • Khairullah Khairkhwa, a direct associate of Osama bin Laden according to his Defense Dept. detainee file obtained by Wikileaks, and a senior Taliban military commander who also served as the Taliban’s minister of Interior and the governor of Herat.He represented the Taliban at meetings with Iranian officials seeking to support actions against U.S. and coalition forces after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the document. He attended a meeting at the direction of bin Laden, reportedly accompanied by members of Hamas, the document says, and is believe to have been one of the major opium lords of western Afghanistan.In 2002, he sought to negotiate an integration into the new government through Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai who has been accused of corruption and drug smuggling, but was arrested by Pakistani border patrol and released by Pakistan into U.S. custody.

    He is also deemed a “HIGH” threat if released.

  • Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of intelligence, had direct connections to Taliban leadership and was “central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups” to fight against U.S. and coalition forces, according to his Defense Dept. file obtained by Wikileaks.He also used his position to support al Qaeda, assist Taliban personnel in eluding capture, and arranged for al Qaeda members to train Taliban intelligence staff, according to the file.He seems to have later turned informant, as his file notes that Wasiq was arrested after a meeting with two Americans and a translator, in which he was supposed to deliver information leading to the capture of Mullah Omar. Shortly after the meeting, U.S. forces arrested him.

“Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Berghdal’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk,” said House Armed Services Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., and Senate Armed Services Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., in a joint statement.

“In executing this transfer, the President also clearly violated laws which require him to notify Congress thirty days before any transfer of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and to explain how the threat posed by such terrorists has been substantially mitigated. Our joy at Sergeant Berghdal’s release is tempered by the fact that President Obama chose to ignore the law, not to mention sound policy, to achieve it,” they said in the joint statement.

A senior administration official responded: “Due to a near-term opportunity to save Sergeant Bergdahl’s life, we moved as quickly as possible. The administration determined that given these unique and exigent circumstances, such a transfer should go forward notwithstanding the notice requirement” of the National Defense Authorization Act, the law in which Congress levied the Guantanamo-transfer restrictions.

The detainees left Guantanamo this afternoon for Qatar, which will take them into custody. After that, it’s not clear exactly what their status will be.

Obama said today that he has received “assurances that [Qatar] will put in place measures to protect our national security,” and a senior Defense official told ABC that Qatar will be able to secure the detainees. They will also be subject to a travel ban for one year, the Defense official said.

It’s not entirely clear what freedom of movement and communication these now-former detainees will enjoy.

The exchange had been discussed previously, and an opportunity to pursue it arose this week, U.S. administration officials said. It was facilitated by Qatar and its emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, with whom Obama said he has spoken.

Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry thanked the Qatari leader in their statements on Bergdahl’s release.

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Material Support to Terrorism : The Case of Libya

Libya in 2011 marks the place and the time that the United States (U.S.) and the Obama administration formally switched sides in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). A mere 10 years after al-Qa’eda (supported by Hizballah and Iran) attacked the American homeland in the worst act of terrorism ever suffered by this country, U.S. leadership decided to facilitate the provision of weapons to jihadist militias known to be affiliated with al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood in order to bring down a brutal dictator who also just happened to be a U.S. ally in the GWOT at the time.

And the U.S. media were silent. The major broadcast, print, and Internet outlets said not a word about this astonishing turnabout in American foreign policy. To this day, they have not seemed even to recognize that the pivot to support al-Qa’eda took place. But it needs to be said. The American people deserve to understand that their most senior leaders, both elected and appointed, have violated their oaths to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

United States law is quite explicit about providing material support to terrorists: it’s prohibited. Period. 18 U.S. Code § 2339A and 18 U.S. Code § 2339B address Providing Material Support to Terrorists or Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Together, these two sections outlaw the actions of any U.S. person who attempts or conspires to provide, or actually does provide, material support to a foreign terrorist organization knowing that it has been designated a foreign terrorist organization or engages, or has engaged, in “terrorism” or “terrorist activity.” Conspiracy means agreeing or planning to provide such support, whether or not such support ever is actually delivered. Penalties for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism are stiff: imprisonment for up to 15 years and/or a fine of not more than $250,000. Penalties for actually providing or attempting to provide material support to terrorism are even harsher: imprisonment from 15 years to life, with a life sentence applicable if the death of any person results from such crime. Aiding, abetting, counseling, or procuring in support of a violation of Section 2339B is punishable by the same penalties as for the offense itself.

The Arms Export Control Act is another law that makes it illegal for the U.S. government to export “munitions” to any country determined by the Secretary of State to have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” While this provision applies specifically to those countries—Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Syria—that are designated as state sponsors of terrorism, the case of Libya stands out nevertheless. Removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2006, Libya by early 2011 was swarming with al-Qa’eda and Muslim Brotherhood militias and affiliates fighting to overthrow Muamar Qaddafi’s regime.

The identities of those jihadis and their al-Qa’eda affiliations were well known to the U.S. Intelligence Community, Department of State, and Tripoli Embassy long before the 17 February 2011 revolt broke out against Muamar Qaddafi. As with other al-Qa’eda branches, the Libyan al-Qa’eda affiliates such as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) trace their origins back to the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, which was founded in 1949 when Egyptian Brotherhood members “fled a crackdown in Cairo and took refuge in Benghazi,” according to a May 2012 study by the Brookings Doha Center. Colonel Muamar Qaddafi took over Libya in a 1969 coup d’état and showed little tolerance for Brotherhood activities. Brutal waves of repression kept the Brotherhood in check through the 1980s and 1990s when many Libyan fighters went to Afghanistan to join the mujahedeen in their battle against the Soviet Army. Some of those who fought there, like Abu Anas al-Libi and Abdelhakim Belhadj, would figure prominently in the revolt that ultimately ousted Qaddafi in 2011.

The LIFG was founded in 1990 by Libyan fighters returning from the Afghan jihad who were now intent on waging jihad at home. Qaddafi came down hard on the group, though, and crushed the LIFG’s 1995-1998 insurgency. Some LIFG members had moved to Sudan when Usama bin-Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri found refuge with Omar al-Bashir’s Muslim Brotherhood regime in the early 1990s and others (including Belhadj) eventually fled back to Afghanistan, where both bin-Laden and al-Zawahiri also had relocated by the mid-1990s. Abu Anas al-Libi is alleged to have taken part in the pre-attack casing and surveillance of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya a few years prior to the 1998 al-Qa’eda attack there.

By 1995, things were becoming hot for the jihadis in Sudan and while bin Laden and al-Zawahiri returned to Afghanistan about this time, others such as Anas al-Libi were offered safehaven by the British. In return for political asylum in the UK, MI 6 recruited Anas al-Libi’s support for a failed 1996 plot to assassinate Qaddafi. In all, Anas al-Libi lived in Manchester from 1995-2000—despite his known history of association with bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and other AQ leaders, as well as willingness to participate in assassination plots against national leaders, as I wrote in an October 2013 piece at The Clarion Project. The U.S.’s British partners also provided asylum to Abu Abdullah As-Sadeq, the LIFG’s top commander and allowed the LIFG to publish an Arabic language newspaper called al-Wasat in London. By 2000, though, as the FBI and other Western security services began to close in, Anas al-Libi and others were on the move again, leaving behind a 180-page al-Qa’eda terror training manual that became known as the “Manchester Document.” In the run-up to the 11 September 2001 attacks, Anas al-Libi, Abdelhakim Belhadj, Abu Sufian bin Qumu, and other known LIFG members reconnected with bin Laden in Afghanistan. As John Rosenthal points out in a 10 October 2013 posting, “The Inevitable Rise of Al-Qaeda in Libya,” in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, “the history of close cooperation between the LIFG and al-Qa’eda was so extensive that the Libyan group figured among the very first organizations to be designated as al-Qaeda affiliates by the UN Security Council.” In fact, according to Rosenthal who cites former LIFG member, Norman Benotman, Belhadj was actually present with bin Laden at Tora Bora in December 2001. The LIFG was formally accepted as an al-Qa’eda franchise by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the AQ deputy at the time, in 2007.

In the years following 9/11, various LIFG members were detained: Abu Sufian bin Qumu was captured in 2002 and sent to Guantanamo Bay (GITMO) and in 2004, both Abu Anas al-Libi and Abdelhakim Belhadj were captured. By the mid-2000s, GITMO detainees were being released to their home countries. Abu Sufian bin Qumu, for example, was released from GITMO and returned to Libya in 2007. Beginning about 2005, Qaddafi was under pressure from both the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli and his own son, Seif, to begin what came to be known as “the reconciliation process,” in which LIFG and other jihadist prisoners were released from Libyan jails. In this process, LIFG Muslim Brotherhood cleric Ali Mohammad Al-Sallabi was a key mediator. Abdelhakim Belhadj was released in 2008 (just as Christopher Stevens was appointed Deputy Chief of Mission to Tripoli) and Abu Sufian bin Qumu in 2010, after which he returned to Derna to begin plotting the revolt against Qaddafi.

Even as this “reconciliation process” was underway and Christopher Stevens was preparing for his new posting, Libyan jihadis were flowing out of eastern Libya in droves to join the al-Qa’eda jihad against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. According to a June 2010 study compiled by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq,” coalition forces in Iraq captured a stash of documents in October 2007 which documented the origins of the foreign fighters who’d traveled to Iraq to join al-Qa’eda between August 2006 and August 2007. Termed the “Sinjar Records” after the nearest town where these personnel records were found, the data showed that by far the largest contingent of foreign fighters per capita came from Libya. Across the spectrum, the most common cities of origin for foreign fighters in Iraq were Darnah, Libya and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Darnah is located in the eastern Cyrenaica region of Libya, long known as an incubator of jihadist ideology and the place which would become the cradle of the 2011 Islamic uprising against Muammar Qaddafi.

Nor was the new Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Christopher Stevens unaware of what was going on. A June 2008 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli that went out over Stevens’ signature was obtained by the London Telegraph from Wikileaks. The report was given the name “Die Hard in Derna,” after the Bruce Willis movie, and described the determination of the young jihadis of this eastern Libyan town to bring down the Qaddafi regime. Because they believed the U.S. government supported the Qaddafi regime and would not allow it to fall after it had abandoned its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) programs and begun to provide counter-terrorism support, and as documented in the West Point study of the “Sinjar Records,” the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) instead sent its fighters to confront the U.S. in Iraq, believing that was a way to strike a blow against both Qaddafi and his U.S. backers. A local Derna resident told the visiting Embassy officer that Libyan fighters who had returned from earlier battlefields in Afghanistan (1980s) and elsewhere sometimes went on for additional “religious training” in Lebanon and Syria; when they eventually returned to Libya in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they began the process of preparing the ground for “the eventual overthrow by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) of Muammar Qadhafi’s regime…”

Career Foreign Service Officer Christopher Stevens was first posted to the American Embassy in Tripoli, Libya in June 2007 as the DCM and later as charge d’affaires until 2009. For his second tour in Libya, Stevens was sent to rebel headquarters in Benghazi, Libya, to serve as special representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council. He arrived on a Greek cargo ship on April 5, 2011 and stayed until November. His mission was to forge stronger links with the Interim Transitional National Council, and gain a better understanding of the various factions fighting the Qaddafi regime. His reports back to Washington were said to have encouraged the U.S. to support and recognize the rebel council, which the Obama administration did formally in July 2011.

As is now known, under urging from Sen. John McCain and other Congressional members, the White House endorsed Qatar’s plan to send weapons to the Libyan rebels shortly after Yousef al-Qaradawi, the senior jurist of the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a 21 February 2011 fatwa that called for the killing of Qaddafi. Seeking a “zero footprint,” no-paperwork-trail profile itself, the U.S. instead encouraged both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to arm the Libyan jihadis, according to a key New York Times article published in December 2012. Knowing full well exactly who those rebel militias and their leadership were, and how closely they were connected with al-Qa’eda (and perhaps even mindful of the legal restrictions on providing material support to terrorism), the U.S. sought to distance itself as the source of these weapons, which included small arms such as automatic rifles, machine guns, and ammunition. The NY Times piece noted that U.S. officials made sure to stipulate the weapons provided would come from elsewhere, but not from the U.S.

But the fact that from the end of March 2011 onward, U.S. and other NATO forces completely controlled Libyan air space and the sea approaches to Libya means that the cargo planes and freighters transporting the arms into Libya from Qatar and elsewhere were being waved through with full U.S. knowledge and support. The U.S. mission in Libya, and especially in Benghazi, ramped up in this period to facilitate the delivery of the weapons to the Libyan al-Qa’eda terrorists.

What followed should hardly have come as a surprise to anyone. After NATO air support cleared the way to Tripoli, the Qaddafi regime fell in October 2011 and the Muslim Brotherhood political leadership and al-Qa’eda fighters took over. Abdelhakim Belhadj was named Tripoli military commander. Chaos reigned, especially in the eastern regions, and now the weapons flow reversed—out of Libya, and into the hands of jihadis in West Africa, the Sinai, and Syria. Some of that flow was wildly disorganized and some of it was directed, with the U.S. mission in Benghazi once again playing a key role as its teams on the ground facilitated the weapons delivery, now destined for the Syrian rebels, dominated by al-Qa’eda and the Muslim Brotherhood, who were fighting to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime. In this endeavor, the U.S. was allied with its new Libyan partner, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and once again, with Qatar.

The next chapter in the U.S. jihad wars was underway, with a new Presidential Finding, and material support to terrorism firmly established as official policy. Congress and the media and the military remained silent. The American people barely noticed.

Clare Lopez
Clare M. Lopez is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Security Policy and the London Center for Policy Research. She is also a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi.

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Qaeda Militants Seek Syria Base, U.S. Officials Say

WASHINGTON — Dozens of seasoned militant fighters, including some midlevel planners, have traveled to Syria from Pakistan in recent months in what American intelligence and counterterrorism officials fear is an effort to lay the foundation for future strikes against Europe and the United States.

“We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the Al Qaeda organization to recruit individuals and develop the capability to be able not just to carry out attacks inside of Syria, but also to use Syria as a launching pad,” John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, told a House panel recently.

The extremists who concern Mr. Brennan are part of a group of Qaeda operatives in Pakistan that has been severely depleted in recent years by a decade of American drone strikes. But the fighters still bring a wide range of skills to the battlefield, such as bomb-building, small-arms tactics, logistics, religious indoctrination and planning, though they are not believed to have experience in launching attacks in the West.

Syria is an appealing base for these operatives because it offers them the relative sanctuary of extremist-held havens — away from drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan — as well as ready access to about 1,200 American and European Muslims who have gone there to fight and could be potential recruits to carry out attacks when they return home. Senior counterterrorism officials have voiced fears in recent months that these Western fighters could be radicalized by the country’s civil war.

New classified intelligence assessments based on information from electronic intercepts, informers and social media posts conclude that Al Qaeda’s senior leadership in Pakistan, including Ayman al-Zawahri, is developing a much more systematic, long-term plan than was previously known to create specific cells in Syria that would identify, recruit and train these Westerners.

Al Qaeda has in the past blessed the creation of local branches in places like Yemen, where an affiliate has tried to strike the United States. But the effort in Syria would signify the first time that senior Qaeda leaders had set up a wing of their own outside Pakistan dedicated to conducting attacks against the West, counterterrorism officials said. It also has the potential to rejuvenate Al Qaeda’s central command, which President Obama has described as being greatly diminished.

The assessment by the United States, however, has some detractors among even its staunchest counterterrorism partners, which also see an increase in Pakistan-based veterans of Al Qaeda among Syrian rebel groups but which disagree over whether they are involved in a coordinated plan to attack the West.

“At this stage, it’s a lot less organized than a directed plan,” said one Western security official. “Some fighters are going to Syria, but they’re going on an ad hoc basis, not at an organized level.”

Most of the operatives identified by intelligence officials are now focused on attacking Syrian government troops and occasionally rival rebel factions. But the fact that these kinds of operatives are showing up in Syria indicates to American officials that Mr. Zawahri is also playing a long game — counting on easy access to Iraq and Qaeda support networks there, as well as on the United States’ reluctance to carry out drone strikes or other military operations against targets in Syria.

“A key question, however, is how using Syria as a launching pad to strike the West fits into Zawahri’s overall strategy, and if he’s soft-pedaling now, hoping to consolidate Al Qaeda’s position for the future,” said one American counterterrorism official. “Clearly, there is going to be push and pull between local operatives and Al Qaeda central on attack planning. How fast the pendulum will swing toward trying something isn’t clear right now.”

The new assessment is not likely to change American policy toward Syria any time soon, but it puts pressure on the Obama administration and its allies because it raises the possibility that Syria could become the next Afghanistan.

Top officials at the F.B.I., the National Counterterrorism Center and the Department of Homeland Security say they are working closely with European allies to track Westerners returning from Syria.

There are perhaps “a few dozen” Qaeda veterans of fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan in Syria, two top counterterrorism officials said. “What we’ve seen is a coalescence in Syria of Al Qaeda veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as extremists from other hot spots such as Libya and Iraq,” Matthew G. Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a Senate panel in March. “From a terrorism perspective, the most concerning development is that Al Qaeda has declared Syria its most critical front.”

In his first speech as secretary of Homeland Security in February, Jeh C. Johnson put it even more bluntly. “Syria has become a matter of homeland security,” he said.

The Qaeda veterans have multiple missions and motivations, counterterrorism officials say. Like thousands of other foreign fighters, many have been drawn on their own to Syria to fight the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Many others, like Abu Khalid al-Suri, a Syrian-born veteran of Al Qaeda, were sent by the terrorist group’s central command in Pakistan first to fight Mr. Assad, but also to begin laying the groundwork to use enclaves in Syria to launch attacks against the West, American officials said.

Mr. Suri, who is believed to have been close to Osama bin Laden and to have fought against American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, was sent to mediate conflicts between Al Qaeda’s main affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, and another extremist faction, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which Al Qaeda has disavowed. He was killed in a suicide attack in February by the rival group.

Many of the Qaeda planners and operatives from Afghanistan and Pakistan have clustered in the east and northwest sections of Syria, in territory controlled or heavily influenced by the Nusra Front, intelligence officials said.

Sanafi al-Nasr, a Saudi-born extremist who is on his country’s list of most wanted terrorists, traveled to Syria from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region late last year and emerged as one of the Nusra Front’s top strategists. Jihadi forums reported that he was killed in fighting last week, but American counterterrorism officials said those reports could not be confirmed.

“Al Qaeda veterans could have a critical impact on recruitment and training,” said Laith Alkhouri, a senior analyst at Flashpoint Global Partners, a security consulting firm that tracks militant websites. “They would be lionized, at least within the ranks, as experienced mujahedeen.”

While these senior Qaeda envoys have been involved in the immediate fight against Syrian forces, American counterterrorism officials said they also had broader, longer-term ambitions.

Without naming Mr. Nasr, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told a Senate panel in February that a “small nucleus” of Qaeda veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan in Syria who are “separate from al-Nusra harbor designs on attacks in Europe and the homeland.”

Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, agreed, saying, “The large majority of Al Qaeda-linked commanders now in Syria are there due to the potential for Syria to be the next jihadist safe haven.”

Hassan Abu Hanieh, a Jordanian expert on Islamist movements, said that launching attacks on Western targets did not appear to be a priority for the Nusra Front now. However, the group’s ideology, or a belief that it was under direct threat, could lead it to attack the West eventually, he said.

“As soon as they get targeted, they will move the battle outside,” Mr. Hanieh said.

via Qaeda Militants Seek Syria Base, U.S. Officials Say – NYTimes.com.

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Al Qaeda calls for car bombs in US cities, other ‘crusader’ countries

The spring 2014 edition of Inspire magazine, seen above, urges jihadists to target specific U.S. locations using car bombs. Detailed instructions and simple diagrams on every step are provided.

Al Qaeda is calling on terrorist affiliates to detonate car bombs in major U.S. cities, including New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, in the latest edition of its Inspire magazine.

The issue comes nearly a year after the Boston Marathon bombing, and as the city readies new security measures for this year’s race, being held next month. Inspire is the same magazine that included instructions for how to make pressure cooker bombs, which were used in last year’s Boston attack.

The magazine’s Spring 2014 issue urges jihadists to target heavily populated events such as political rallies and sporting events, both in the United States and abroad — including in Great Britain, France and other “crusading” countries.

“Choosing the place and time is a crucial factor to success in any operation,” the magazine reads. “Choose targets in your own country. You know the enemy better, you are within … The important thing is that you target people and not buildings.”

Would-be bombers also are urged to consider launching attacks during “election seasons” and between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Specific targets are also cited, including Chicago’s “Sears Tower” (now called the Willis Tower), military bases in northern Virginia and soccer stadiums in Great Britain, particularly during Premier League matches.

“Disguise yourself during the operation, appear fat (add some clothes on you), change your complexion, be a ‘clone’, use any mask (believe me embarrassment is the last thing you will think about), wear a mask suitable for the festival, white beards on 25th Dec,” it reads. “All in all, be creative brother. The most important part to hide is your eyes and around.”

The issue also contains extremely detailed, “absolutely simple” instructions on how to build such a bomb.

“My Muslim brother, before you start reading the instructions, remember that this type of operation, if prepared well and an appropriate target is chosen, and Allah decrees success for you, history will never forget it,” the magazine reads. “It will be recorded as a crushing defeat on the enemies of Islam.”

via Al Qaeda calls for car bombs in US cities, other ‘crusader’ countries | Fox News.

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Al-Qaeda’s Jihad Supported by Muslim Brotherhood | FrontPage Magazine

While some are convinced that the various Islamic organizations are discreet and disparate phenomena with divergent goals, once again information appears indicating that, all semantics aside, they are better viewed as branches emanating from one root — branches that complement and work with one another for the same goal: the empowerment of Islam, whether through jihad or suits and smiley faces.

Many are aware that the current al-Qaeda leader, the Egyptian Ayman Zawahiri is a former Brotherhood member (read here); yet few know that the original al-Qaeda leader, the Saudi (and “Wahhabi”) Osama bin Laden was also a Brotherhood member. While Zawahiri made as much clear in a recent video, more interestingly, he indicated that the Brotherhood also supported bin Laden’s jihad.

In Zawahiri’s words:

Sheikh Osama used to say: “I was evicted from my organization.  Although I was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, I was rejected by the organizations.”  Sheikh Osama bin Laden was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood group in the Arabian Peninsula. After the Russian invasion in Afghanistan, he immediately went to Pakistan to make the acquaintance of and work with the mujahidin. The group of Islamists gave him instructions to remain in Lahore to orchestrate aid; yet he was not to leave Lahore, but remain there and they would deliver aid and relief and he decide how to use it.

Interesting here is Zawahiri’s use of the term “the group of Islamists.”  While some may think this is a reference to al-Gam’a al-Islamiyya of Egypt — literally, “the Islamic Organization” — based on the context of his discussion, it is clear that Zawahiri is generically referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, as in that “group of Islamists.”

This only further confirms what recent events, especially in Egypt, demonstrate — that the Muslim Brotherhood is an inciter and supporter of the jihad around the world, also known in the West as “terrorism” — and that ousted president Morsi was in league with al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda’s Jihad Supported by Muslim Brotherhood | FrontPage Magazine.

كيري للمصريين: ندعم تحولكم وزعامتكم للمنطقة أقدم من أمريكا – CNNArabic.com

القاهرة، مصر (CNN) — قال وزير الخارجية الأمريكي، جون كيري، إن العلاقات بين أمريكا ومصر أكبر من قضية المساعدات التي اعتبر أن قطعها “ليس عقوبة” لمصر، كما أكد وقوف بلاده مع المصريين “في مرحلة التحول” التي تمر بها، ودعا إلى إجراء محاكمات مدنية، كما رفض الأعمال الإرهابية، وقال إن مصر تقود المنطقة منذ سنوات تفوق عمر الولايات المتحدة

وقال كيري، في مؤتمر صحفي مشترك مع نظيره المصري، نبيل فهمي، بعد اجتماعهما: “أتيت إلى هنا في هذه اللحظة المهمة نيابة عن الرئيس أوباما للتحدث عن مستقبل الشرق الأوسطومستقبل العلاقات مع مصر التي هي مهمة جدا، وأؤكد للمصريين بكل وضوح أن أمريكا صديقة للشعب المصري وشريكة لبلدكم “

وتابع كيري بالقول: “الولايات المتحدة تريد أن تنجح مصر ونريد أن نساهم في نجاحكم، نجاح مصر اقتصاديا وسياسيا مهم لمصر والمنطقة وأمريكا. مصر شريكة أساسية لنا وكدولة تحتوي على ربع الشعب العربي فهي دولة مهمة للغاية، وما يحصل هنا بصراحة مهم لنا وللشرق الأوسط “

وأضاف الوزير الأمريكي، الذي من المقرر أن يجتمع بالرئيس المصري المؤقت، عدلي منصور: “ليس سرا أننا في أوقات صعبة وأن السنتين الأخيرتين شهدتا أوقاتا عصيبة ولكن الشعب المصري أظهر اصراره وعزمه على التحول لتلبية طموحاته، ونحن نعرف أن الطريق إلى الأمام هو بيد الشعب المصري، وكما قال الرئيس أوباما نحن ملتزمون بالعمل معا والتعاون مع الحكومة المؤقتة، ولدينا الكثير لنعمل فيه”

وشدد كيري على العلاقة بين تقدم مصر الديمقراطي ونجاحها الاقتصادي الكلي، مضيفا: “التاريخ أكد أن الديمقراطيات تكون أكثر استقرارا ورخاء وقابلية للحياة من أي نظام آخر، وهناك شيء أكيد أن الاستثمارات الداخلية والخارجية تبحث عن الاستقرار، الاستقرار يجلب السياحة والاستثمارات وكذلك النمو في الوظائف وأمريكا تؤمن بأن الشراكة بين مصر وأمريكا ستكون في أقوى صورها عندما تمثل مصر حكومة منتخبة”

وأكد كيري ضرورة وجود دستور يحمي حقوق كل المصريين، ويضمن حرية التجمع والدين، كما دعا إلى ضرورة إجراء محاكمات مدنية عادلة ووقف كل أشكال الإرهاب التي أكد أن بلاده تدينها تماما، وعدد على سبيل المثال الهجمات على الكنائس ودور العبادة وأعمال العنف في سيناء وكذلك في الشوارع والهجوم على رجال الشرطة

وحول المساعدات التي قامت الولايات المتحدة بقطع بعضها مؤخرا قال كيري: “ناقشنا بإيجاز قضية المساعدات واتفقنا على أن علاقات مصر وأمريكا يجب ألا تحدد بالمساعدة فهناك قضايا أكبر بكثير تشغلنا في هذه العلاقة. قبل فترة كتب الرئيس منصور للرئيس أوباما رسالة اقترح فيها البدء بحوار استراتيجي، ويسرنا أن أقول نيابة عن أوباما قبول الدعوة مصر قائدة في المنطقة منذ سنوات تفوق عمر الولايات المتحدة”

وردا على سؤال حول القضية نفسها قال كيري إن وقف بعض المساعدات “ليس عقابا، وإنما إجراء اقتضنه السياسة الداخلية في أمريكا” مضيفا: “أنا هنا اليوم نيابة عن أوباما لأقول للمصريين نحن ندعمكم في هذا التحول الهائل”

أما فهمي، فأكد التطلع نحو المزيد من الحوارات مع الولايات المتحدة، وشكر كيري لزيارته إلى مصر في ظل “التغييرات بالمنطقة” وشدد على عمق العلاقات مع أمريكا وأهميتها لمصر “بناء على أولويات كل دولة” ووصف جولة المباحثات مع نظيره الأمريكي بأنها “جدية ومعمقة.”

ولفت فهمي إلى تصريحاته السابقة التي أشار فيها إلى وجود “اضطراب” في العلاقات مع الولايات المتحدة قائلا: “كنت قد قلت إن العلاقات مع أمريكا مضطربة، ولكن حديث الوزير الأمريكي اليوم يؤكد على نية استئناف العلاقات.”

كيري للمصريين: ندعم تحولكم وزعامتكم للمنطقة أقدم من أمريكا – CNNArabic.com.