The American Kafir

2011/10/06

Counter-Terrorism, Common Sense and Words of Wisdom

Filed under: CIA, Hezbollah, Jihad, National Security, Obama, Shari'a Law, Terrorism — - @ 7:22 am

Source Article Link: Family Security Matters

Counter-Terrorism, Common Sense and Words of Wisdom

By John Miller

Jihadists of AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), depicted in Issue 6 of “Inspire” magazine, p.23, posing with a vehicle they had captured.

The very nature of all intelligence work is its fluidity and unpredictability.  What can be taken as stone cold fact and held to be true at the time, in retrospect and in future projections does not work in several areas of intelligence endeavor.  By its very nature, terrorism and counterterrorism work if is something of an elusive beast and an elementary Google search will produce many differing definitions and hairsplitting differences.  I could waste a great deal of time and effort in pointing out some examples but one will suffice. There are many different takes on the role of suicide bombers.  There is an influential group emanating from the University of Chicago which maintains that religion plays no part in the motivation for suicide bombing, a view which I do not share and I think is borne out by experience.  Only this past week, a former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was apparently prominent in drawing up a framework for discussions between the Taliban and the US and allies about a drawdown of military forces was killed by a suicide bomber who had slipped through the security cordon with explosives secreted in a turban.  I fancy this will not be popular with Sikhs.

Since the death of Osama bin Laden there has been the systematic elimination of senior members of Al Qaeda, including Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who was credited with a keen insight into the US psyche. While hailing this action the Obama administration has warned US nationals travelling to Yemen about reprisals.  The BBC in reporting his death on September 30, noted that this was another significant blow against Al Qaeda and especially against its global media campaign.  He was, according to a report filed by Seth Jones of the Rand Corp., the quintessential modern day terrorist, mixing adroit use of social media as propaganda, with operational support for violence against the West.  He was credited with knowledge and appreciation of the use of the Internet and social networking and for being an advocate of suicide bombing.  It is a significant blow against Al Qaeda to have him removed by a Predator drone at a time when that body has suffered losses and is redeploying in different ways.  I will admit to being something of a dystopian when it comes to counterterrorism because the ideology that drives fundamentalist Islamic terrorism is difficult to counter and break down, especially because of its deep cultural roots.  I have said many times that not all Muslims are terrorists but most terrorists are Muslims and it is my current view that decapitation of the leadership of Al Qaeda has been beneficial in terms of raising Western morale but it has compounded the counter terrorist problem by forcing Al Qaeda and affiliated groups to adopt a far more decentralized structure, based on cells and correspondingly harder to detect and counter.

I view a great deal of the study of terrorist groups with a measure of skepticism because those that speak the loudest and appear to have the most influence are to be found in universities and very few of those who lecture students in the theory and practice of terrorism have any first-hand knowledge.  Universities are not known for hiring recently retired intelligence officers as specialist lecturers or experts, at least in this part of the world.  The mainstream media has captured quite a number of retired CIA and FBI counterterrorist specialists but the press, being part of the political scene, has to tread very carefully in reporting or offering expert knowledge. Even think tanks with qualified staff cannot guarantee success in gazing into the crystal ball.  In the short term, some have been quite accurate, while others have missed critical incidents but I am not disposed to point out examples.  After years of writing about terrorism, I would like to go to meet my Maker without any of my predictions coming to pass.  In short, I would be please to be proven wrong.  However, for the moment, we must struggle on militarily and in maximizing intelligence sources until the price of terrorism becomes too high for its disciples to undertake but we are dealing with religious fanatics who care little for human life: where we are soft(er) they are uncompromisingly hard and have no qualms about using women and small children as suicide bombers..

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was very pleased to see that the Heritage Foundation had produced a special report as a precursor to the commemoration of 9/11 entitled: “A Counterterrorism Strategy for ‘The Next Wave’.” (SR 98, August 24, 2011) which this had been largely reproduced in Right Side News and deserves to be read carefully.  I regard this publication as being well-written and entirely appropriate for the times and for many reasons.  I am not acquainted with any of the writers, although some are known by name and I think they deserve congratulations for a job well done.  It has long been my contention that think tanks work best when they manage to draw all the material together and as a friend of mine observed, “sort out the flies from the horse puckey.”  For anyone baffled by this statement, basically it means analyzing all the data available, extracting facts from wishful thinking and providing a framework congruent with political policies and military reality.

If I have one criticism of commentators in the media in general with respect to the so-called “Arab Spring” in the Middle East, it is that most appear to have very little understanding of the cultures involved.  To read such esteemed journals as the New York Times leaves the average reader with the impression that the uprisings against tyrannical rule  have been and are in favor of freedom and democracy, and greatly facilitated by twitter and Facebook.  Unfortunately this is an extremely superficial view as events are already proving.  While it is true that many who put their lives on the line to remove tyrants espoused freedom, their principal objectives concerned a higher standard of living, more work, better pay and conditions, including access to consumer goods; more of a say in how they are to be governed but by no means does this translate into a longing for Western-style democracy.

The new regime in Egypt and the recently recognized government of Libya have both stated that sharia (Shar’ia) law will apply in the future governing of their countries.  It is not possible to determine exactly how rigorously sharia will be implemented but Islam will remain the dominant religious force and very little has been said about tolerance of other religions.  It would appear that freedom of religion does not enter the equation at present and the change in the balance of forces in the Middle East is still ongoing and there are few certainties in sight.  It could well be that Syria, which so far has held out against domestic unrest will fall and there are intriguing signs of a rift between Damascus and its principal supporter in Tehran. If any certainty can exist, it will be that scores will be settled and the different strains of Islam will continue to fight one another as well as the common enemy, which happens to be the US and its allies, especially Israel, and there has been some disconcerting speculation in the media about war between Israel and Iran before the latter obtains too many nuclear weapons and more than a little doubt about US support for Israel.  The call for the recognition of Palestine as an independent state is currently before the UN and while the US might use its veto, it would appear that the leaders of Palestinian organizations (Hamas and Hizbollah) and Israeli PM Netanyahu are on a collision course. [1]

With a great deal of American attention focused on domestic issues, especially the presidential election next year, it is hard to raise the sights and many will be basing their future activities on the US administration being diverted from foreign policy issues especially the Middle East, and more particularly within the past few days, the relationship with Pakistan.  Not that it is often described as such but working in intelligence sometimes engenders a feeling that too many pieces are missing from a puzzle or alternatively there is an elephant in the room.  In the struggle against terrorism, the politically correct in the West have captured the language and I need hardly repeat the weasel words of senior administration officials about the nature of various terrorist plots and activities over the past few years. If common sense is to prevail, talk of “deranged individuals” and the like needs to be strictly contextualized. It says a great deal for the Heritage Foundation that part of the report mentioned earlier contains a section entitled: “The U.S. Must Name the Enemy.”  It’s extremely easy for commentators with a low profile and not very well-known such as myself to speak those highly charged and politically incorrect words “fundamentalist Islamic terrorism” without any qualification and it is very refreshing to find that an organization with a good reputation is prepared to break the dominant paradigm.  Perhaps the most important paragraph in the Heritage Foundation report states: “Radical groups employing terrorism against governments and civilians have an agenda, and that is to destroy certain governments, challenge Western values of civilization, and erect in their place is if their own governments and notions of culture and religion.  Extremist ideology alone is not the problem.  Rather, the issue is that Islamist extremists are using terror as a weapon, employing their ideology as justification to kill in the name of Islam in order to further their radical agenda.”  And the writers of the report ask quite legitimately whether there is something wrong with the US government’s stated policy if you cannot articulate an obvious fact about the strategic aims and further, show reluctance and blur the identity of the enemy and what is at stake.  (Page 8)  (Heritage Report)

If, as we are repeatedly told, the West is not at war with Islam then there needs to be a corresponding gesture from Muslim communities in the West and a change in the activities of Muslim governments around the world.  Only when Muslim community spokesmen condemn terrorism and become as outraged as non-Muslims when terrorists kill in the name of their religion will there be any progress made.  Even then, to quote a former US President we must use the maxim of: “Trust but verify,” because the techniques of taqiyya and kitman [2] are widely used by Muslims and involve complex disinformation and decomposition operations against political opposition.  The honeyed words of an Islamic spokesman following any given atrocity cannot be taken on trust, especially when communities rejoice at the death of US and allied soldiers or civilians.  Many US electronic journals have pointed to organizations which specialize in trying to disarm the population by a mixture of professed indignation and words of peace and concord, usually uttered in the most sincere fashion but designed to deceive.  It is regrettable that many senior Christian clergy have entered into dialogue with so-called Islamic clerics and the public has been fed the illusion that Muslims are peace loving “people of the book” on the same basis as Christians and Jews.  At present, any dialogue with Muslims domestically or with foreign governments must be viewed with the gravest suspicion.  The simple reason is that until change is made manifest and accompanied by action, the only things radical Muslims wish to discuss are the terms of our surrender.

We should be very much aware of this problem in any dialogue with the Taliban in Afghanistan especially since the retiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen boldly spoke what many know to be the truth in relation to the situation in Pakistan and the links between the Pakistani ISI and the Haqqani group.  This is a far lesser known outfit than the Taliban or Al Qaeda but equally lethal, being described by US military sources as one of the most resilient networks if.  Its inception apparently dates from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and members fought alongside the mujahedin, despite being predominantly Pakistani and hailing from the troublesome Northwest frontier provinces, more frequently known as the federally administered tribal areas (NWFTA).  Given the fluid nature of the borders between Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, tribal groups pass fairly easily through the notional borders left after the British withdrawal from the subcontinent following World War II.  According to US press sources, the Haqqani Group makes extensive use of suicide bombers in Afghanistan and appears able to recruit foreigners to the cause.  Like the Taliban, the Group shares the same ideology as Al Qaeda – fundamentalist Islam and according to some commentators is too difficult to target for the Pakistani government to eradicate, provided it decided to take this course of action. The group finds sanctuary in North Waziristan, one of the virtually ungovernable NWFTAs.

Unlike some US officials, Adm. Mullen spoke up boldly and truthfully when describing links between the Pakistani ISI and the Haqqani group although it should be noted that Pakistani intelligence has always had operational links with the groups that fought against the Soviets and were collectively known as the mujahedin.  Indeed, a former director of the ISI, Lieut. Gen. Hamid Gul, who was heavily involved in organizing resistance against the Soviets later became more open about his support for the Taliban and opposition to the US and its allies.  As the saying goes: “With friends like those, who needs enemies?” Although the US administration treads very carefully when talking about Pakistan, the stark fact remains that it is close to being a failed state, albeit with nuclear weapons and the distinct cooling in relations between Washington and Islamabad especially since the stepped-up use of predator drones has prompted the Pakistani government to reach out to China.  While there have been detailed negotiations between the two governments, there have been suggestions that the Chinese might not be too keen to get closer to Pakistan, which was a US ally during the Cold War, especially as they have their own problem with fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups especially the Uighurs.

While I very much admire the outspokenness of Adm. Mullen, it comes at the end of his tenure and the impact of his statement has been judiciously hosed down by the White House and State Department officials, although President Obama was forthright in dumping the mess squarely into the lap of the Pakistani government and surprisingly perhaps, Haji Mali Khan, the senior Haqqani commander in Afghanistan was captured in late September, although the news only broke over the weekend.  However, as recently as October 1, there were reports from Europe that the Afghan government had gone cold on negotiations with the Taliban and some might be wondering whether it is in their interest to have the US and allied forces withdrawn.  I have changed my mind on the subject within the last year because I have always recognised that it is impossible to graft Western-style democracy on feudal and tribal societies and the degree of difficulty is increased by the religious element.  I felt that the Heritage group could have gone further in talking about Western diplomacy and relations with Islamic countries.   Diplomats in the West engaging with other Western and European countries have evolved a style of diplomacy which stresses personal relationships between leaders, which are not always reflected in official communiqués as Wikileaks has shown.  Nevertheless, there are certain modes of behavior that are understood on both sides.  Even during the Cold War, there were a number of back channels between the Soviet Union and the US and a certain amount of posturing was just that.  “Diplomacy” with Muslim leaders is a deep and murky process and Westerners need to know who and what they are dealing with in negotiations.

Ali Saleh, a jihadist in Yemen, whose “martyrdom” from a U.S. drone attack was celebrated in Al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine # 6 (Summer edition, August 2011, page 26).

Now more than ever, State Department officials are at risk serving abroad even in non-Muslim countries as we have seen in Africa.  European security and intelligence is usually tied in to the overall Western effort and American embassies tend to be well guarded.  One of the dreadful ironies of the Middle East is that the US has close ties with Saudi Arabia.  This is an absolutist monarchy, with a theocratic government; where the King has graciously permitted women to vote – in 2015.  The rights of women in Saudi Arabia are severely circumscribed.  They are not permitted to drive nor are they usually allowed to travel unaccompanied.  Nevertheless there are a considerable number of very well educated Saudi women especially in science and computer technology. But the iron rule from the Islamic clergy ensures that they remain second-class citizens.

An Australian academic of my acquaintance has written a great deal about funding from Saudi Arabia of schools and universities in the West and the great number of young Saudi Arabian men travel to the West to study. [3] Western governments allow this funding which comes with some conditions such as the right to build schools and mosques.  By contrast, no Christian church has been able to establish itself in Saudi Arabia because it is illegal. The only moderation in recent years has been to conduct executions behind closed doors.  At one stage, football stadiums were execution grounds where those found guilty of capital crimes were ritually beheaded.  Their compassion extends to minor infringements such as amputating limbs under anesthetic and providing follow-up treatment.  This is what we are dealing with – an unreconstructed oil rich feudal kingdom held together by a royal family, which is split into various groups.  It hardly needs to be mentioned that Osama bin Laden originally hailed from Saudi Arabia and although the Saudi government took action against his followers it and holdings, we simply do not know whether tacit approval for terrorism exists.  What we do know is that the export of fundamentalist Islamic ideology is active and widespread.  The long-term danger is the build up of Islamic communities, which can and do provide support for terrorists.  Needless to say, the Saudi government plays a very deep and long game in its diplomacy with the West and we should not forget their role in the first oil crisis of 1973.  Whether the wave of unrest sweeping the Middle East hits Saudi Arabia and makes an impact remains to be seen but strategically, the importance of this nation to the US and the security of Israel remains vital, even while Saudi clerics and diplomats routinely speak in vituperative terms about Israel.  Once more there is more than a little hypocrisy because some of the Wikileaks demonstrated quite clearly that more than a few governments in the region would be happy to see Israel take-out Iran.

If the recent setbacks for the jihadist cause provides a modicum of quiet pleasure in Western capitals, it should not be taken for an occasion to break out expensive champagne. I tend to categorise it as taking out the trash – a routine affair.  We cannot forget that the conflict in Afghanistan is by far the longest that the US and certain allies have been at war and the effects on the budget, weapons and matériel and troops is cumulative.  It would be tempting at times to agree with certain US commentators that the US should pull out unilaterally, especially as the war is not popular domestically.  However, the nature of the struggle with fundamentalist Islam will remain.  Like the Chinese, the Muslim nations are patient and believe they have time on their side.  Even as I was preparing this piece, it was driven home to me that there had been over 40 foiled terrorist plots in the US alone and last week a neat sting operation prevented yet another attack on US soil and the arrest was announced of a senior member of the Haqqani group in Pakistan.  The basic problem is that while we continue to accept Islamic migration in the West, there is correspondingly a higher degree of understanding of the ways of our society being known and the mere fact that Al Qaeda and affiliates have become technologically savvy and use the Internet, Facebook, twitter and just about every other form of communication familiar to us portends a greater threat.  Where our religions have become diluted, fragmented and largely meaningless to so many, the reverse is true in the Muslim world.  There is no sign of any reformation such as that experienced by the Christian church and while there are various factions in Islam, straying too far from the path constitutes apostasy with the appropriate punishment.  Even as Westerners have sat in their armchairs and cheered the events of the Arab Spring, the fact that during battle, prayers are observed promptly give cause for considerable thought.  Modern 21st century Western man may well enjoy a reasonable lifestyle, even with the current economic difficulties, but we have no grand plan for countering the greatest threat to our way of life. Burying heads in the sand is not a substitute for a clearly articulated policy.

Notes 

1. In short, there is an analogy with the Cold War and the split between the USSR and China: this we used to say, neither side had any doubts about the burial of capitalism, only the time of the funeral.  For those hoping that internecine fighting between strains of Islam will alter the ultimate objective, they are doomed to great disappointment.

2. I am pleased to be able to cite the work of a former Australian intelligence analyst who conducted groundbreaking studies into Taqiya and Kitman without a great deal of recognition. Originally published in the National Observer (Aust) in 2005, it is available from Amazon and entitled Taqiyya: how Islamic extremists deceive the West. A companion paper Taqiyya and the Global War on Terrorism can be obtained online National Observer (Council for the National Interest, Melbourne),  No. 66, Spring 2005, pages 26-36.

3. Mervyn F. Bendle (Dr) “Secret Saudi funding of radical Islamic groups in Australia”, National Observer No.72, Autumn 2007, pp.7-18. (Part One)

Mervyn F. Bendle (Dr) “How to be a useful idiot: Saudi funding in Australia” — Part II National Observer, No.77 Winter 2008, pp. 8-24.

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor John W. Miller is a former senior intelligence officer with NATO and allied forces, with considerable experience in Russian (Soviet) affairs and counterterrorism.A version of this article first appeared at Right Side News.

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