Tag Archives: Osama bin Laden

​Chaos theory: ISIS & Western foreign policy

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014.

by Dr. Roslyn Fuller – As ISIS/ISIL cuts a swathe through the Middle East, retroactively transforming Osama Bin Laden into the highbrow arm of modern Islamic terrorism, we’ve quite naturally begun the game of deciding who to blame for its existence.

In fact, Tony Blair showed admirable consistency in sticking to the doctrine of preemptive self-defense by firing off a statement that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant had nothing to do with his policies in Iraq – the moment they made their big break into mainstream television.

This back and forth over responsibility is really at the heart of the matter, but in a far deeper way than we usually get around to discussing.

After all, a good deal of Western foreign policy post-Cold War has revolved around NATO states voluntarily assuming responsibility for issues that were, strictly-speaking, not their responsibility. Someone needs to ‘police the world’, ‘bring the bad guys to book’, exercise their ‘R2P’ (‘responsibility to protect’ – yes, we have descended into text-speak) and ‘nation-build’.

It looks good on paper.

But if you really look at how this policy has played out on the ground, you will notice that far from nation-building, this voluntary ‘assumption of responsibility’ has instead sown a level of chaos and dissension that cannot plausibly be blamed purely on ‘mistakes’ or ‘unforeseeable circumstances’.

Instead, it seems to be the old divide and conquer strategy at work and we probably have keen minds like Richard Perle and Bill Kristol of the neo-conservative think tank Project for a New American Century (PNAC) to thank for this modern take on an old classic. We will return to the thoughtful documents penned and disseminated by PNAC shortly. But first, let’s try to figure out what is really going on beyond the rhetoric when it comes to our ‘responsibilities’ around the world.

I think we can discern a few key trends.

The first trend is that Western countries do engage in what could be termed nation-building activities in a few select, small countries, provided those countries have for one reason or another really made headlines. Think of Timor L’Este (now independent after a mere 30 years of occupation); Rwanda (yes, 800,000 people were killed, but we did give them a tribunal once activists remembered to play the racism card), and Kosovo (presents a somewhat more contested narrative, but it was too close to the EU’s future borders for comfort).

Other troubled nations like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire (another contested narrative) have certainly seen their fortunes improve in recent years, thanks in part to international peacekeeping missions and efforts to facilitate community reconciliation and post-conflict justice.

But those are, in a certain sense, ‘the lucky few’. In most other places, we have chosen to ‘take responsibility’ along more Blair-ish lines, which means that our sense of responsibility tends to come and go with astonishing rapidity. Consider the following:

Somalia

The failed state par excellence. Americans were apparently willing to ‘take responsibility’ for restoring law and order in Somalia until 19 of them were killed. That was too much ‘responsibility’ and Somalia was left minus a government and awash with weapons next to one of the greatest shipping lanes in the world. All things considered, it took Somalis a surprisingly long time to master modern piracy.

A Somali Al-Shebab fighter

Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo

All rocking around on the cusp of failed statehood for decades now; in the case of the DRC ever since Western countries decided to rid the world of Patrice Lumumba back in the ’60s.

Mali

Currently a respectable No. 38 on the Fund for Peace’s Failed State Index, but Taureg rebels control an impressive hunk of territory.

Ukraine and Pakistan

Both pretty nearly failed states, run along semi-feudal lines by leaders who are openly oligarchs, whether that be the ‘new money’ of Ukrainian industrialists or the ‘old money’ of tribal leadership in Pakistan.

Libya

Currently rated an uneasy No. 54 on the Failed State Index, down from a comfortable No. 111 in 2010 (on par with South Africa) before we decided to get rid of Gaddafi, only to be instantly stricken with amnesia about the country he ran for 42 years.

Yemen

Despite having the latest technology in drone strikes lavished upon it, Yemen maintains a virtually unbroken record in the top 10 failed states, currently at No. 6.

Syria

Locked in a civil war, which has seen a once secular-oriented nation become the home of armed jihadists, who were permitted to obtain their weapons and cash with remarkable ease. Apparently ‘getting rid of Assad’ was the sum total of our planning abilities on what should happen in Syria.

Egypt

Round and round she goes, and where she stops nobody knows. Spiraling somewhere.

Iraq and Afghanistan

I’m not even sure what the correct term for Iraq and Afghanistan, rated No. 11 and No.7 respectively on the Failed State Index, would be these days. Suffice it to see that after more than a decade of nation-building, we are having difficulty discerning progress on these construction sites, which I’m pretty sure haven’t even gone one day without a work-related accident. Of course, the already abysmal ratings were handed out before ISIS went big last week. (Interesting fact: current ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who, unlike many detainees, truly did have a history of terrorist involvement, was captured by Americans in Iraq in 2004 but released in 2009. You had one job…)

Then there are places like Western Sahara, Transdniester and Palestine, which cannot fail because they do not even count as states. To add to our woes, the UN recently announced that there are more displaced persons today than at any time since the end of WWII.

These are a lot of open problems to have for a world hegemony so bent on nation-building and stability, especially when you consider that its citizens spend something like a trillion dollars annually on ‘defense’.

Members of a newly formed brigade of Iraqi Shiite fighters parade in military fatigues with their weapons on June 24, 2014 in the southern city of Basra as thousands of Shiite volunteers join Iraqi security forces in the fight against Sunni Jihadist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities.

When you are forking over that kind of money, you like to see results, and not hear excuses about the world’s instability being ‘also’ rooted in local problems. I can see very well that organizations like ISIS are ‘also’ rooted in local problems. However, I am also fairly certain that if some alien power used its superior resources to bomb us back to the Stone Age and then failed to provide any meaningful replacement infrastructure, that our ‘local’ problems would begin to get uglier too. And the reason is that they would have destroyed the social fabric and rule of law that keeps any place running as well as it does. Create that kind of power vacuum and anything can happen. To expect ‘the locals’ to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and jolly well carry on because we have suddenly lost interest in our overwhelming ‘responsibility’ to them is little short of delusional.

The second trend that I think emerges is closely linked to the first.

It is the deliberate ripping of the social fabric within states that are still relatively stable and prosperous. That this could in any way be connected to the first trend occurred to me while reading ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm’, which was written by Richard Perle for Benjamin Netanyahu back in the 1990s. Now – and I do not say this lightly – not only does this document have a title that sounds like its composer was experiencing LARP-withdrawal at the time he wrote it, the text itself resembles the creation of an eight-year-old who was subjected to a crash course on international relations followed by a heavy dose of LSD. There are sudden switches in topic, where the free associative connection is at first less-than-obvious to the sober reader.

One of these switches was an abrupt change from harping on Israel’s alleged need to pursue a no-compromises peace strategy to urging a comprehensive privatization plan on the state. According to this paper, efforts to salvage Israel’s socialist institutions were undermining the legitimacy of the State of Israel and “Israel can become self-reliant only by, in a bold stroke rather than in increments, liberalizing its economy, cutting taxes, re-legislating a free-processing zone, and selling-off public lands and enterprises — moves which will electrify and find support from a broad bipartisan spectrum of key pro-Israeli Congressional leaders, including [then-]Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.”

Why Newt Gingrich’s support was synonymous with self-reliance was left unexplained.

However, like many things that happen on acid, ‘Securing the Realm’ has a weird strain of truth to it, because it combined, albeit clumsily, two separate ways to erode the social fabric. The first was to become much more aggressive externally and seek to crush foreign entities as oppose to negotiate with them, even when those negotiations had yielded results, most notably under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated just one year before ‘Securing the Realm’ was written. The second was to actually work on eroding Israel’s alleged socialism from within by selling off the same public goods, which they under no circumstances would give to Palestinians, to private bidders.

I would argue that we can see both of these strains at work around the world, in that we push aggressive, no compromises foreign policy to its limits (witness Ukraine and Syria) without much thought for the destabilization that this engenders, not to mention its quite extreme effect on our own bank balance.

We are also hard at work undermining our own prosperity. Western countries are the most prosperous on earth. We unequivocally enjoy the highest standard of living. China, India and Brazil are still a long way off the kind of lifestyle most of us are accustomed to. And enjoy that lifestyle partly because we were pretty successful at ripping other people’s wealth off them in the past and partly because we invented a brilliant economic system after WWII which centered on what Richard Perle – aka the Prince of Darkness – would probably designate ‘socialist institutions’.

Western nations may not have fully gotten the knack for doing good in the world, but there was certainly what I would term growing interest and truly altruistic concern for people in other parts of the world among ordinary Western citizens pre-9/11.

Thanks to policies like those the Prince of Darkness so thoughtfully outlined for Netanyahu all those years ago, we have privatized, liberalized and cut taxes to the point that most people in Western nations are now experiencing a deterioration in their own living standards and society is increasingly divided between the haves and have-nots. We are, in other words, tearing up our own social fabric.

What that means is that the place that would have been most able to use its resources to truly stabilize and improve those parts of the globe most in need now not only refuses to do so (which was bad enough), in the future it might be unable to so do. We may, in short, be destabilizing the rest of the world, while simultaneously reducing our own capabilities to ever put it back together.

The natural consequence of being responsible in short, sharp bursts.

Related articles

Advertisements

Opinion : Bush’s toxic legacy in Iraq

George W. Bush

George W. Bush

(CNN) — ISIS, the brutal insurgent/terrorist group formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq, has seized much of western and northern Iraq and even threatens towns not far from Baghdad.

From where did ISIS spring? One of George W. Bush’s most toxic legacies is the introduction of al Qaeda into Iraq, which is the ISIS mother ship.

If this wasn’t so tragic it would be supremely ironic, because before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, top Bush officials were insisting that there was an al Qaeda-Iraq axis of evil. Their claims that Saddam Hussein’s men were training members of al Qaeda how to make weapons of mass destruction seemed to be one of the most compelling rationales for the impending war.

After the fall of Hussein’s regime, no documents were unearthed in Iraq proving the Hussein-al Qaeda axis despite the fact that, like other totalitarian regimes, Hussein’s government kept massive and meticulous records.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency had by 2006 translated 34 million pages of documents from Hussein’s Iraq and found there was nothing to substantiate a “partnership” between Hussein and al Qaeda.

Two years later the Pentagon’s own internal think tank, the Institute for Defense Analyses, concluded after examining 600,000 Hussein-era documents and several thousand hours of his regime’s audio- and videotapes that there was no “smoking gun (i.e. direct connection between Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaeda.)”

How should the U.S. intervene in Iraq?

Is the U.S. Embassy safe in Iraq?

Expert: ISIS went for ‘easy pickings’

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded in 2008, as every other investigation had before, that there was no “cooperative relationship” between Hussein and al Qaeda. The committee also found that “most of the contacts cited between Iraq and al Qaeda before the war by the intelligence community and policy makers have been determined not to have occurred.”

Instead of interrupting a budding relationship between Hussein and al Qaeda, the Iraq War precipitated the arrival of al Qaeda into Iraq. Although the Bush administration tended to gloss over the fact, al Qaeda only formally established itself in Iraq a year and a half after the U.S. invasion.

On October 17, 2004, its brutal leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi issued an online statement pledging allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Zarqawi’s pledge was fulsome: “By God, O sheikh of the Mujahideen, if you bid us plunge into the ocean, we would follow you. If you ordered it so, we would obey.”

Zarqawi’s special demonic genius was to launch Iraq down the road to civil war. In early 2004, the U.S. military intercepted a letter from Zarqawi to bin Laden in which he proposed provoking a civil war between Sunnis and Shia.

Zarqawi’s strategy was to hit the Shia so they would in turn strike the Sunnis, so precipitating a vicious circle of violence in which al Qaeda would be cast as the protector of the Sunnis against the wrath of the Shia. It was a strategy that worked all too well, provoking first sectarian conflict in Iraq and later civil war.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI, regularly attacked Shia religious processions, shrines and clerics. The tipping point in the slide toward full-blown civil war was al Qaeda’s February 2006 attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra, which is arguably the most important Shia shrine in the world.

Three years into the Iraq War, AQI seemed all but unstoppable. A classified Marine intelligence assessment dated August 17, 2006, found that AQI had become the de facto government of the western Iraqi province of Anbar, which is strategically important because it borders Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia and makes up about a third of the landmass of Iraq.

In addition, AQI controlled a good chunk of the exurban belts around Baghdad, the “Triangle of Death” to the south of the capital and many of the towns north of it, up the Tigris River to the Syrian border.

Thus AQI controlled territory larger than New England and maintained an iron grip on much of the Sunni population.

In other words, the Bush administration had presided over the rise of precisely what it had said was one of the key goals of the Iraq War to destroy: a safe haven for al Qaeda in the heart of the Arab world.

By 2007, al Qaeda’s untrammeled violence and imposition of Taliban ideology on the Sunni population provoked a countrywide Sunni backlash against AQI that took the form of Sunni “Awakening” militias. Many of those militias were put on Uncle Sam’s payroll in a program known as the “Sons of Iraq”.

The combination of the Sunni militias’ on-the-ground intelligence about their onetime AQI allies and American firepower proved devastating to al Qaeda’s Iraqi franchise. And so, between 2006 and 2008, AQI shrank from an insurgent organization that controlled territory larger than the size of New England to a rump terrorist group.

But AQI did not disappear. It simply bided its time. The Syrian civil war provided a staging point over the past three years for its resurrection and transformation into the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” or ISIS. And now ISIS has marched back into western and northern Iraq. Only this time there is no U.S. military to stop it.

via Opinion: Bush’s toxic legacy in Iraq – CNN.com.

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.

Malaysia Flight MH370 : 11 Terrorists Arrested on Suspicion of Involvement in Disappearance of Flight

669000

  • Suspects were arrested in the capital Kuala Lumpur and the state of Kedah
  • Said to members of violent new terror group said to be planning attacks
  • Interrogations came after demands from agencies including FBI and MI6
  • Manifest revealed presence of consignment but did not reveal its contents
  • Airline has admitted 200kg of lithium batteries was among the items
  • It refused to say what else, citing ‘legal reason’ related to ‘ongoing’ probe

Terrorists with links to Al Qaeda may have been behind the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

11 terrorists, who were reportedly arrested in the capital Kuala Lumpur and in the state of Kedah last week, have been interrogated on suspicion of being involved in the disappearance of the missing aircraft.

The suspects are said to be members of a violent new terror group who have been planning bomb attacks in Muslim countries.

Aged from 22 to 55, the militants are said to comprise students, odd-job workers, a young widow and business professionals.

An officer with the Counter Terrorism Division of Malaysian Special Branch said the arrests had heightened suspicion that the flight’s disappearance may have been an act of terrorism.

“The possibility that the plane was diverted by militants is still high on the list and international investigators have asked for a comprehensive report on this new terror group,” the officer said.

News of the interrogations comes two months after the Beijing-bound plane with 239 passengers on board disappeared from trace on March 8.

An international search operation was implemented with ships and planes deployed to scour the seas to find the wreckage of the aircraft, which was believed to have gone down in the Indian Ocean.

However, the rescue effort, costing hundreds of millions of pounds, has failed to recover any debris or signs that the aircraft had indeed crashed.

Explanations for its possible disappearance have been focused on a range of theories, from equipment failure, damage to the fuselage, a suicide mission and a terror attack implicating the pilots.

The mystery of the vanished Malaysia Airlines flight took a new twist with the international team probing the incident, considering the possibility that the plane may have landed rather than ended up in the Indian Ocean.

A Russian newspaper had earlier claimed that flight MH370 was hijacked and landed in Afghanistan where passengers were being held hostage.

The theory has been attributed to an alleged source within the country’s FSB secret service, according to newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets.

In interviews conducted so far, suspects have admitted to planning “sustained terror campaigns” in Malaysia, but denied being involved in the disappearance of the airliner.

It was reported that during the trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama Bin Laden‘s son-in-law, Saajid Badat, a British-born Muslim from Gloucester, trained at a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, said he had been instructed to give a shoe bomb to the Malaysians.

“I gave one of my shoes to the Malaysians. I think it was to access the cockpit,” he said.

Badat, who spoke via video link and is in hiding in the UK, told the New York court the Malaysian plot was being masterminded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of 9/11.

Investigators were earlier exploring the possibility that pilot Zaharie Ahmed Shah had ‘deliberately’ redirected the plane off course.

Shah was also known to be a ‘fanatical supporter’ of Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party, the opposition party which has been the principal thorn in the side of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which has ruled Malaysia for 56 years.

Relatives of the 239 passengers and crew on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 were recently issued with death certificates.

The latest reports of possible terrorist involvement in the flight’s disappearance will further fuel the speculation that the passengers may have been held captive by a terrorist organisation.

The news comes as Malaysia Airlines said it will close assistance centres in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur for the families of the 239 passengers and crew on board the Boeing 777-200ER jet.

Related articles

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Islamic Front ‘will not fight the al Qaeda organization’

While denying rumors of a purported meeting between the US and the newly formed Islamic Front, a Syrian jihadist group that cooperates with al Qaeda’s branches in Syria, US Secretary of State John Kerry said today that such a meeting is possible. From Reuters:

“The United States has not met to date with the Islamic Front but it’s possible it could take place,” Kerry told a news conference in Manila where he is visiting.”There is an effort afoot among all of the supporting nations of the Syrian opposition to want to broaden the base of the moderate opposition and broaden the base of representation of the Syrian people in the Geneva two negotiation,” he added.

Meanwhile the Islamic Front was also busy denying it met with US officials. And a member of the “political bureau” said that the group would not fight al Qaeda. From Asharq Al Awsat:

Meanwhile, an official of the Islamic Front’s political bureau, Abdallah Al-Hamawi, denied the reports and said they were “lies, and their objectives were clear, and we will not allow them to cause sedition”.He added on his Twitter account that the Islamic Front “will not fight the al Qaeda organization because it [Islamic Front] was founded to form a link for jihadists”, and that it would not fight a proxy war or cause division between the jihadists.

Take all of that in, and then go read Thomas Joscelyn’s report on Abu Khalid al Suri (or Mohamed Bahaiah), a senior leader of Ahrar al Sham, a large brigade in the Islamic Front that routinely fights alongside al Qaeda’s branches in Syria. Bahaiah previously served as Osama bin Laden‘s courier and now serves as Ayman al Zawahiri’s personal representative in Syria (he is mediating a dispute between the leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham and the Al Nusrah Front).

Should the US consider the Islamic Front to be part of what Secretary Kerry calls the “moderate opposition”?

The Islamic Front ‘will not fight the al Qaeda organization’ – Threat Matrix.

Hero Bin Laden doctor decries treatment in letter smuggled out of Pakistani prison

The hero doctor jailed in Pakistan for helping the U.S. kill Usama bin Laden bared his frustration with the country’s tribal court system in a letter smuggled out by a supporter last week. “My legal right to consult with my lawyers is being denied,” wrote Dr. Shakil Afridi, who worked with the CIA on a vaccination ruse that helped confirm the Al Qaeda leader’s presence in an Abbottabad compound, paving the way for the May 2011 SEAL mission in which he was killed. The one-and-a half page letter, handwritten in Urdu and smuggled out of the Peshawar Central Jail, comes as Afridi awaits a Dec. 18 decision which could result in a new trial. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison for colluding with terrorists, although the conviction was widely seen as punishment for aiding the U.S. in an operation that proved embarrassing for Pakistan. Afridi’s cousin, Qamar Nadeem, verified the letter’s authenticity by matching it to letters Afridi previously wrote before prison authorities barred him from meeting with family and legal advisers in September 2012 after he gave an exclusive interview to Fox News speaking from his jail cell. In the letter, which was reviewed by FoxNews.com, Afridi wrote that he is being held in complete isolation. “What sort of court and justice is this?” wrote Afridi, decrying the inhumane treatment he’s been subjected to while kept in complete isolation. Qamar said Afridi’s words speak volumes of the suffering and mental torture he is coping with daily, but also show he isn’t ready to accept his fate without a fight. Afridi’s legal journey has been long and arduous. Regarded as a hero in the U.S., he is seen in many quarters of Pakistan as a traitor. A judge who overturned his sentence and ordered a retrial in August died in a gas explosion at his Islamabad apartment several weeks ago, raising suspicions he was killed. The trial court refused to grant the new trial and, as a final appeal of that decision nears, local authorities have drummed up a host of old charges against Afridi. His supporters believe the new charges, including one of murder for the death of a boy he treated for appendicitis in 2007, are meant to ensure that Afridi remains behind bars even if the collusion charges are thrown out. A three-member tribunal, which operates under the archaic tribal law system, heard arguments on the merits of a new trial at a court in Peshawar on Monday. The tribunal’s decision, which could force local authorities to launch a new trial, is expected on Dec. 18. “We are confident that Dr. Shakeel Afridi would be freed after a free and fair trial”, said Afridi’s lawyer, Samiullah Afridi. But others from the defense team feel the case has been crafted on political rather legal grounds and a favorable verdict is unlikely. One of Afridi’s lawyers fears the letter going public could hurt the doctor’s bid for freedom. Hero Bin Laden doctor decries treatment in letter smuggled out of Pakistani prison | Fox News.

عزام الأمريكي يدعو لموجة هجمات عالمية ردا على اعتقال أبوأنس

دبي، الإمارات العربية المتحدة (CNN) —

نشرت مواقع إلكترونية على صلة تنظيم القاعدة رسالة صوتية للعنصر الأمريكي في التنظيم، آدم غدن، المعروف بلقب “عزام الأمريكي”، خصصها لانتقاد عملية اعتقال قوات أمريكية لـ”أبو أنس الليبي” قائلا إن الهدف منها هو “صرف الأنظار” عن أزمات واشنطن، ودعا إلى موجة عالمية من الهجمات على المصالح الغربية

وقال غدن، في الرسالة التي تزيد مدتها عن 17 دقيقة، ولا يمكن لـCNN تأكيد صحتها بشكل مستقل، إن عملية “اختطاف” الليبي جرت على يد من وصفها بـ”العصابة المسلحة التابعة للدولة الأمريكية المارقة بتواطؤ مع حفنة من الخونة والمرتزقة” مضيفا: “إنها حلقة جديدة من الغطرسة الصليبية التي لا تحترم الحدود ولا القانون، بل تعتبر العالم بأسره مسرحا لها لتفعل ما شاءت”

وتابع غدن بالقول إن أمريكا تعرف بأن “أبوأنس الليبي” لم يكن “عضوا ناشطا في القاعدة،” كما أضاف أن التهم الموجهة إليه بضرب السفارتين الأمريكيتين في نيروبي ودار السلام “في صحتها نظر كبير،” خاصة وأن القيادي الراحل في تنظيم القاعدة، فاضل هارون، أحد المشرفين على العملية، لم يذكره من في مذكراته

ولم يستبعد غدن أن تكون واشنطن قد خلطت بينه وبين “أبوجهاد النوبي” الذي شارك بالفعل في التحضير للعملية، وكان يلقب أيضا بـ”أبي أنس” قبل مقتله, وتابع بالقول: “لقد وصلت الرسالة وهي تقول إن (الرئيس الأمريكي باراك) أوباما وعصابته قاموا بهذا العمل لصرف النظر عن حالة أمريكا المزرية وإخفاقاتها المتكررة وانزلاقها المتسارع نحو الهاوية بعد أن واجهت أزمات خطيرة على جميع الأصعدة السياسية والدبلوماسية والاقتصادية”

ولفت غدن إلى أن العملية تزامنت مع احتجاجات لموظفي الدولة الأمريكية بعد توقفهم عن العمل خلال أزمة رفع سقف الدين، كما جاءت في أعقاب إلغاء رحلات أوباما إلى آسيا وتراجعه عن توجيه ضربة عسكرية إلى سوريا وقال: “اختطاف الشيخ أبي أنس لن يثنيا عن مواصلة جهادنا ضد أمريكا وحلفها الصليبي الصهيوني بل سيزيد إصرارنا وعزمنا على ضرب هذا الحلف الفاجر حتى نحرر أسرانا من سجونه”

وتوجه غدن إلى الليبيين والمسلمين عامة بالقول: “لا تتركوا هذا العمل الجبان يمر دون عقاب، علموا الصليبيين أن أرض الإسلام لا مكان فيها لقواعدهم وعلموها أن بلادنا واحدة وإذا أسر مسلم في المغرب وجب على أهل المشرق إنقاذه وتخليصه.. أعيدوا لنا أمجاد نيروبي ودار السلام وعدن ونيويورك وواشنطن وفورت هود وبنغازي وبوسطن، اضطربوا مصالح الصليبيين واليهود في كل مكان في بلادنا وبلادهم فحربنا معهم لا تعرف حدودا” على حد قوله

عزام الأمريكي يدعو لموجة هجمات عالمية ردا على اعتقال أبوأنس – CNNArabic.com.

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.

The Next Bin Laden – Michael Hirsh – The Atlantic

Al-Qaeda’s new mastermind favors small, opportunistic strikes over spectacular attacks. Are we scaling back the NSA at the very moment we need it most?

Ever since the death of Osama bin Laden, President Obama and his senior lieutenants have been telling war-weary Americans that the end of the nation’s longest conflict is within sight. “Core al-Qaeda is a shell of its former self,” Obama said in a speech in May. “This war, like all wars, must end.” That was the triumphal tone of last year’s reelection campaign, too.

The truth is much grimmer. Intelligence officials and terrorism experts today believe that the death of bin Laden and the decimation of the Qaeda “core” in Pakistan only set the stage for a rebirth of al-Qaeda as a global threat. Its tactics have morphed into something more insidious and increasingly dangerous as safe havens multiply in war-torn or failed states—at exactly the moment we are talking about curtailing the National Security Agency’s monitoring capability. And the jihadist who many terrorism experts believe is al-Qaeda‘s new strategic mastermind, Abu Musab al-Suri (a nom de guerre that means “the Syrian”), has a diametrically different approach that emphasizes quantity over quality. The red-haired, blue-eyed former mechanical engineer was born in Aleppo in 1958 as Mustafa Setmariam Nasar; he has lived in France and Spain. Al-Suri is believed to have helped plan the 2004 train bombings in Madrid and the 2005 bombings in London—and has been called the “Clausewitz” of the new al-Qaeda.

Whereas bin Laden preached big dramatic acts directed by him and senior Qaeda leaders, al-Suri urges the creation of self-generating cells of lone terrorists or small groups in his 1,600-page Internet manifesto. They are to keep up attacks, like multiplying fleas on a dog that finds itself endlessly distracted—and ultimately dysfunctional. (A classic Western book on guerrilla warfare called The War of the Flea reportedly influenced al-Suri.) The attacks are to culminate, he hopes, in acts using weapons of mass destruction.

Recent terrorist attacks against U.S. targets, from the murderous 2009 spree of Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood to the Boston Marathon bombings last year, suggest that al-Suri’s philosophy dominates al-Qaeda‘s newly flattened hierarchy. The late Yemeni-American imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who preached this strategy and induced Hasan’s attack, is said to have developed his ideas from al-Suri’s. Meanwhile, with new refuges in North Africa, Syria, and Yemen, jihadists have much more territory from which to hatch plots unmolested.

Yet the politics at home are changing as the threat abroad is growing. The revelations dribbled out by fugitive leaker Edward Snowden have outraged members of Congress and world leaders, including those of close allies such as Germany and France. They say they are aghast at American overreach. Writing in Der Spiegel, Snowden justified himself this way: “Instead of causing damage, the usefulness of the new public knowledge for society is now clear, because reforms to politics, supervision, and laws are being suggested.” Thanks to him, Congress will almost certainly rein in the National Security Agency’s data-trolling methods—though it’s not yet clear how much.

But the agency’s opponents may not realize that the practice they most hope to stop—its seemingly indiscriminate scouring of phone data and emails—is precisely what intelligence officials say they need to detect the kinds of plots al-Suri favors. For the foreseeable future, al-Suri’s approach will mean more terrorist attacks against more targets—albeit with a much lower level of organization and competence. “It’s harder to track. Future attacks against the homeland will be less sophisticated and less lethal, but there’s just going to be more of them,” says Michael Hayden, the former NSA director who steered the agency after 9/11 toward deep dives into Internet and telephonic data. Adds Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, “I think al-Qaeda‘s capabilities for a strike into the United States are more dangerous and more numerous than before 9/11.” For better or worse, the only hope to track them all is an exceptionally deep, organized, and free-ranging intelligence apparatus, experts say.

Intelligence officials who are well briefed in the technical aspects of NSA surveillance also note that global communications are vastly more complex than they were as recently as 9/11, not just in terms of speed and bandwidth but also in the kinds of digital paths they can take. Messages can travel partly by air and partly by cable, for example, and the NSA must keep up. “If you take the diffuse physical environment [of more failed-state havens] and you layer that with the diffuse communications environment, and then you layer that with the diffuse ideological environment—more lone wolves, for example—that makes for a far more generally dangerous environment,” says a knowledgeable U.S. government official who asked to remain anonymous.

All of which means that despite very legitimate questions about whether the National Security Agency is going beyond what the law and Constitution allow, Americans probably need the NSA now more than ever.

In the early 2000s, the world seemed a lot smaller to Western intel analysts. Qaeda leaders had been chased from several countries and could settle only in Afghanistan. Back then, just after 9/11, Washington had a slew of allies in the Muslim world providing regular updates. In the early 2000s, even Syria helped track Sunni Islamists before cooperation ended in 2006, according to an intelligence expert who works on contract with the Pentagon. Syrian intelligence helped avert two major attacks—against the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa and a Navy base in Bahrain, he says. Back then, total information awareness was less essential.

No more. With the exception of Egypt—where the military has cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood—the Arab Spring uprisings have opened up huge swaths of ungoverned territory in Muslim nations that once cooperated with Washington against terrorism. The toppling of strong autocratic leaders has led not to secular democracy but to fractionalization, allowing some Islamist groups to seize territory in which they might host terrorists cells in the way the Taliban welcomed bin Laden. “There are at least 25 failed states in the world, an unprecedented number,” says Pascal Boniface, head of the Paris-based Institute for International and Strategic Relations. They stretch from Yemen and Somalia to Syria and Libya and Iraq.

Beginning with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the attempted “underwear bomber” of 2009, more attacks have emanated from Yemen, home to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, than from the “core” in Pakistan. It’s only a matter of time before other failed states begin yielding plots as well, intelligence experts say. Even Afghanistan, despite America’s 12-year war there, is expected to harbor new threats; NATO officials concede that large sections of that country along the border with Pakistan will remain ungoverned indefinitely.

Full Story :

The Next Bin Laden – Michael Hirsh – The Atlantic.