The American Kafir

2012/05/09

Wily bomb maker fast in race with technology; informant ID’d device

Wily bomb maker fast in race with technology; informant ID’d device

By Shaun Waterman

Al-Asiri

Al Qaeda’s top bomb maker in Yemen is so ruthless that he recruited and equipped his own brother for an underwear-bomb suicide attack against a top Saudi royal in 2009.

“Even for al Qaeda, that’s cold,” said author Peter Bergen, who has studied the group since the late 1990s.

Now Ibrahim al-Asiri, 30, is suspected of making a new underwear bomb designed for use against a U.S.-bound airliner in a plot uncovered last month by U.S. and Saudi intelligence and thwarted within the past few days.

The supposed would-be bomber was an informant working for the CIA and Saudi Arabian intelligence, U.S. and Yemeni officials said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. The informant, who delivered the bomb to authorities, is safely out of Yemen.

The revelation, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, shows how the CIA was able to get its hands on a sophisticated underwear bomb well before an attack was set into motion, the AP reported.

Underwear bombs and other explosive devices, such as the converted printer cartridges used in the foiled October 2010 air-cargo bomb plot, are al-Asiri’s trademark, President Obama’s senior counterterrorism adviser said.

Al-Asiri “has demonstrated real proficiency as far as concealment methods as well as the materials that are used in these” bombs, John Brennan said Tuesday in an interview on NBC-TV.

A Saudi national who has served time in the kingdom’s prisons, al-Asiri is the son of a pious retired military man, according to the Saudi Gazette newspaper. The U.S. designated him a terrorist kingpin last year, and he is wanted by the Saudis and by Interpol.

He is believed to be one of the top targets of the recently stepped-up U.S. campaign of lethal drone attacks in Yemen.

The FBI, which is examining the underwear bomb, said it is “very similar” to devices used in plots by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terrorist network’s affiliate in Yemen, “including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations.”

That clearly is a reference to the August 2009 attempt to kill Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, who was injured slightly when al-Asiri’s brother Abdullah blew himself up at a meeting he had requested to turn himself in to authorities.

Initial reports suggested that the bomber had concealed the bomb in his rectum, but Saudi investigators concluded that the device was an underwear bomb, said Mr. Bergen, who was briefed by Saudi officials at the time.

They discovered that the device, made of a plastic explosive called PETN, used a chemical detonator, had no metallic components and could not be detected by conventional metal-detector screening.

On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate a similar underwear bomb aboard a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner. The detonator failed, probably because Abdulmutallab had sweated through his underwear and dampened the detonator, officials told The Washington Times last year.

The latest version of the underwear bomb has an improved detonator, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

The bomb “was a threat from the standpoint of the design,” Mr. Brennan told ABC News. “And so now we’re trying to make sure that we take the measures that we need to prevent any other … similarly constructed [bomb] from getting through security procedures.”

Abdulmutallab’s underwear bomb was not spotted by metal detectors at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport.

After the failed attack, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sped up its deployment of advanced imaging technology screening devices, which have become notorious as the “naked X-ray” machines.

Analysts generally agree that the imaging machines should be able to spot the new underwear bomb, said Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

But in an interview with CNN, he cautioned that this was just a “preliminary conclusion. … We don’t know all of the facts yet.”

The key to imaging detection of underwear bombs is generally the detonator because it has to emerge from the clothing in which the explosives are concealed, said Erroll G. Southers, a homeland security scholar at the University of Southern California.

The TSA has deployed about 700 imaging machines at more than 180 U.S. airports, according to agency figures. The machines cost between $130,000 and $170,000 each, and the agency has spent nearly $167 million so far to buy, test, deliver and install them.

TSA has faced keen scrutiny of its efforts to roll out the machines and questions about the effectiveness of deploying them in the United States because all previous al Qaeda attacks against U.S. aviation have originated overseas.

“That is a huge gaping hole,” Mr. Southers said.

Inconsistencies in technology and policy from country to country undermine public confidence, he said, noting reports that the European Union this year will relax the no-liquids rule for air passengers’ hand luggage, which would put the European Union out of step with the U.S. The ban is designed to defeat another kind of nonmetallic explosive.

Investigators from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will report at a congressional hearing Wednesday that TSA deployed the imaging technology at airports without evaluating it properly.

“Additionally, various reports, studies and independent testimony all suggest that TSA is ineffectively deploying security technology and equipment at commercial airports,” reads a staff memo for the hearing.

2012/05/07

New video of US aid worker kidnapped in Pakistan

Please keep Warren Weinstein and his family in your prayers for a save return..W

Source link  TownHall

New video of US aid worker kidnapped in Pakistan

New video of US aid worker kidnapped in Pakistan

A 70-year-old American aid worker kidnapped nine months ago in Pakistan said in a video released by al-Qaida that he will be killed unless President Barack Obama agrees to the militant group’s demands.

The video posted on militant websites Sunday followed one issued in December in which al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri said Warren Weinstein would be released if the U.S. stopped airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. He also demanded the release of all al-Qaida and Taliban suspects around the world.

“My life is in your hands, Mr. President,” Weinstein said in the new video. “If you accept the demands, I live; if you don’t accept the demands, then I die.”

It was unclear when the video was recorded.

The White House had no comment Monday on al-Qaida’s demands or Weinstein’s plea.

A woman who answered the phone Monday at a number listed for Weinstein in Rockville, Md., said she had no comment when an Associated Press reporter identified herself. Phone messages left for Weinstein’s relatives were not immediately returned.

Weinstein was abducted in August in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore after gunmen tricked his guards and broke into his home. He was the country director in Pakistan for J.E. Austin Associates, a U.S.-based firm that advises a range of Pakistani business and government sectors.

“It’s important you accept the demands and act quickly and don’t delay,” Weinstein said in the video, addressing Obama. “There’ll be no benefit in delaying. It will just make things more difficult for me.”

Weinstein spoke while sitting down in front of a white background. He wore a white shalwar kameez, the loose-fitting clothing common in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Several books and what appeared to be a plate of food were set in front of him. Weinstein took several bites of food as he spoke.

He appealed to Obama as a father. If the president responds to the militants’ demands, Weinstein said, “then I will live and hopefully rejoin my family and also enjoy my children, my two daughters, like you enjoy your two daughters.”

The video was released by Al-Sahab, al-Qaida’s media arm. It was first reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant messages.

After his kidnapping, Weinstein’s company said he was in poor health and provided a detailed list of medications, many of them for heart problems, that it implored the kidnappers to give him.

In the video released Sunday, Weinstein said he would like his wife, Elaine, to know “I’m fine, I’m well, I’m getting all my medications, I’m being taken care of.”

Mike Redwood, a friend of Weinstein’s from Somerset, England, said he watched the video Monday morning and said he had mixed feelings. He said he was grateful that Weinstein is alive _ or at least was alive when the undated video was shot _ but remains dismayed to see his friend in such dire circumstances.

“He’s more capable of withstanding these circumstances than anybody else I know,” Redwood said, “But it doesn’t take away from feeling really depressed at seeing him there.”

He said he thought Weinstein’s neutral delivery was appropriate under the circumstances.

“I think he said it in measured tones that indicate that while he’s under duress and in captivity, he knows what he’s doing and in control and capable of managing himself, which was always what you would expect of Warren,” Redwood said.

Redwood said he hoped he could take Weinstein at his word that he was getting his medications and being treated well. He said the poor image quality of the video made it difficult to gauge his health.

Redwood, a leather industry consultant, met Weinstein when they worked together on a plan to enhance the Pakistani leather industry. He has not spoken to Weinstein’s family.

____

Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols and Karen Mahabir contributed to this report from Washington.

2012/03/27

Toulouse attacks expose, and overexpose, French jihadism

Source France 24

Toulouse attacks expose, and overexpose, French jihadism

Toulouse attacks expose, and overexpose, French jihadism

The recent attacks by Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah have put the spotlight on the threat of French Islamist terrorism. But how widespread is the phenomenon of French-born jihadists and why have they not risen up the terror ranks?

By Leela JACINTO

Shortly after September 11, 2001, a French-born jihadist, Zacarias Moussaoui – sometimes called “the 20th hijacker” – shot into the spotlight when US prosecutors charged him as a conspirator in the 9/11 attacks.

More than a decade later, another French-born, self-confessed jihadist, Mohamed Merah, captured international headlines during a nail-biting, 32-hour siege in Toulouse after he killed seven people – including three children – in a shooting spree in southwest France.

Merah was killed in a police commando raid in Toulouse at the end of the siege while Moussaoui was convicted and is currently serving a life sentence in a Florida prison.

In death and in life, Moussaoui and Merah share similarities in more ways than one.

Both French nationals of North African origins, Moussaoui and Merah were brought up by single mothers in southern France. Like most European-born militant Islamists, their radicalisation process involved at least one trip to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. By most accounts, the two men felt marginalized in the country of their birth.

In the shocked aftermath of the Toulouse attacks, French as well as international news organisations were quick to highlight the fact that Moussaoui and Merah were not the only ones with a shared background.

Concentric circles of Islamisation

Stirred by a plethora of Islamist contents on the Internet, some young French Muslims with bleak socio-economic prospects in the suburbs of France’s cities are being increasingly radicalised.

Their disenchantment with the French state has been stoked on the domestic front by the government’s ban on the niqab (the full Islamic veil) and the ruling party’s focus on French identity, which critics say fuels resentment against the country’s Muslim community.

On the foreign policy front, the presence of French troops in Afghanistan is a common grievance among French Islamists – as is the Palestinian issue.

Estimates of the number of French Islamist militants in global jihadist circles are hard to come by and vary depending on the source.

French authorities believe that between 20 and 30 French nationals are tied to jihadist groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area. But according to CNN, a 2010 French intelligence estimate put the potential number as high as 200 or 250.

Mathieu Guidère, a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at the University Toulouse II-Le Mirail, breaks down Islamists according to their ideological fervor into what he calls four concentric “circles” of extremism.

“The largest circle, that of radical Islamists, are against Western culture and democracy because they believe in the presence of divine law,” said Guidère, adding that these radical Islamists are not violent. He estimates that there are between 400 and 500 French Muslims worldwide in this group.

A smaller circle of Salafists are those revivalists who emphasise the salaf (ancestors), referring to the 7th century companions of the Prophet Muhammed. Guidère believes that there are between 150 and 200 Salafists of French origins.

Islamist jihadists, or the ones who take up jihad or violent action to achieve their goals, number between 10 and 20, according to Guidère’s count.

Finally, there’s the terrorist who has actually turned ideology into lethal action. Guidère believes that since the mid-1990s, there has been just one example of a French-born terrorist who has successfully applied violence, taking it past the plotting or the conspiracy to plot stage: the Toulouse gunman.

Effective security and the influence of ‘French culture’

In a country that is home to Europe’s largest Muslim community – estimates range from 3 to 5 million since the French state does not officially tally religious groups – that is not as alarming as some news reports suggest.

Noman Benotman, a former Libyan jihadist who now works for the London-based counter-extremism think tank, the Quilliam Foundation, notes that, “As far as I can see, there has not been a single incident of a French national conducting a suicide attack – neither in Iraq nor Afghanistan nor Europe”.

Benotman believes there are two reasons for the absence of French-born suicide bombers. “The first definitely has to do with security,” he said. “Security is very effective in France, there’s no doubt about that. The second is the influence of French culture, I believe it’s still very powerful.”

When asked what exactly he meant by the influence of French culture, Benotman chuckled, “You know when you’re French, it’s the way you dress, the taste of food, the way you enjoy the finer things, it’s a lifestyle. This kind of influence will shape your worldview. I believe that French individuals, regardless of their ethnic group, are still under the influence of French culture, including the French values of liberty and democracy. Despite their feelings or their grievances about their situation, they are still within the context of a French culture,” he said.

Ironically, despite the well-documented identity crisis that many children of immigrant parents in the West undergo, Benotman suggests that the strong French cultural identity makes them less willing to offer themselves up on suicide missions and even less disposed to the austerity of jihadist training camps.

A former commander of the now defunct, al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), Benotman had met with senior al Qaeda leaders such as Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri before he publicly renounced violence after the 9/11 attacks.

Benotman is familiar with the rigors of jihadist training camps such as the ones in the Pakistani border region. “It’s not easy at all. They’re in a camp, you can’t do whatever you like, you have to follow orders even if you don’t like it. You think what the hell is this? Why should I listen to all this?” he explained.

French-born jihadists have not risen high up the ranks in global terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, unlike some of their fellow French-speaking comrades who were born and raised in Muslim-dominated former French colonies such as Algeria.

“I think there is a difference within the francophone sphere,” said Benotman. “The Algerians are part of francophone culture but they have a very different experience. They have come out of the 1990s jihad [in Algeria] and the terrorist campaigns there,” he said, referring to the brutal Algerian civil war between the Algerian military and government-backed security services on one side, and various Islamist groups including the GIA (Armed Islamist Group), which splintered into the GSPC (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat), which in turn merged with al Qaeda’s North African branch, AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), on the other.

The ‘lone wolf’ as a model

In the Toulouse gunman’s case, security experts have noted that Merah was a classic example of the “lone wolf” operator who is not closely linked to an organized network, making it easier for him to slip through security radars.

A ‘small minority’ of French jihadists

Like the case of Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-born US citizen who attempted the failed May 2010 Times Square attack, Merah was an individually radicalised, legal resident of a Western country who sought training in the Pakistani border region.

But Benotman is careful to note that, “Tactically they are lone wolves, but strategically, in terms of theory and philosophy, they are part of the global jihadist insurgency led by al Qaeda. This is very important,” he said. “Without this, you can do nothing.”

Following the Toulouse attacks, jihadist websites have been inundated with praise, according to Benotman, with many followers quoting Merah’s boast of bringing “France to its knees”.

Benotman however does not believe Merah’s attack will increase the profile or the respect accorded to French-born jihadist recruits. That, he noted, depends on an individual’s commitment and training. But, he adds Merah’s case could serve as a model for radicalised young men seeking the path to jihad. “That’s the danger,” said Benotman. “If you’re a French Muslim looking for a war with French society, maybe you will look to Merah as a model.”

Syrian violence drives 50,000 Christians from homes

Source Catholic News Agency

Syrian violence drives 50,000 Christians from homes

Damascus, Syria, (CNA).- Almost all Christians in the conflict-torn Syrian city of Homs have fled violence and persecution, amid reports that their homes have been attacked and seized by “fanatics” with links to al-Qaida.

With ninety percent of Christians having reportedly left their homes, the violence is driving fears that Syria could become a “second Iraq” with church attacks, kidnappings and forced expulsions of believers.

The exodus of 50,000 or more Christians has taken place largely in the past six weeks. It is part of al-Qaida-linked militant Islamic groups’ “ongoing ethnic cleansing” of Christians, according to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Homs has been home to one of Syria’s largest Christian populations and Church sources say that the faithful have borne the brunt of the violence. They have escaped to villages, many of which are in mountains 30 miles outside the city.

Islamists have allegedly gone from house to house in the Homs neighborhoods of Hamidiya and Bustan al-Diwan and have forced Christians to leave without giving them a chance to take their belongings.

The crisis in Homs has increased fears that Islamists are gaining influence in the region in the power vacuum left by the overthrow of other Arab governments in the “Arab Spring.”

The comparisons with Iraq are also ominous. Anti-Christian violence in Iraq has helped drive the Christian population from 1.4 million in the late 1980s to less than 300,000 today.

In both Syria and Iraq the Church is being targeted for its perceived close links with regimes under attack from opposition parties and rebel groups.

The uprising in Syria started in March 2011 with protests advocating political reform. The uprising has become increasingly militarized. More than 8,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the past year, U.N. figures say.

Many in the opposition are from the country’s Sunni majority, while religious minorities continue to back President Bashar al-Assad. The exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has said it will not monopolize power in a new regime but will back a democratic state with equality for all citizens and respect for human rights.

On March 26, Syrian government forces shelled Homs and carried out arrest raids. A human rights group says that government forces appear to be preparing to retake rebel-held parts of the city, the Associated Press reported.

The government has accused insurgents of terrorism and international conspiracy, while the government itself faces accusations of torture and massacres of civilians.

The Christian community has suffered from terrorist attacks in other cities.

On March 18, a car bomb explosion targeted the Christian quarter of Aleppo, close to the Franciscan-run Church of St. Bonaventure. Aid to the Church in Need is helping families of the victims.

“The people we are helping are very afraid,” said Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, who is overseeing the aid program. “The Christians don’t know what their future will hold. They are afraid they will not get their homes back.”

The displaced people of Homs are desperate for food and shelter. Aid to the Church in Need has announced an urgent $100,000 aid package to relieve their needs.

Each family will receive $60 each month for basic food and lodging. Organizers of the assistance hope that they can return home by the summer.

Bishop Audo told Aid to the Church in Need that it is very important to help those in distress.

“Pray for us and let us work together to build peace in Syria,” he said.

2012/03/26

France’s Jihadist Shooter Was No Lone Wolf

Filed under: al Qaeda, France, Jihad, National Security — Tags: , — - @ 5:42 pm

Source Wall Street Journal

France’s Jihadist Shooter Was No Lone Wolf

Mohamed Merah was practically a prince in violent extremist circles.

By Jytte Klausen

Zuma Press
Mohamed Merah

Mohamed Merah, the Frenchman who assassinated three French paratroopers of North African background and then launched a terrible attack on a Jewish school—murdering a teacher, his two young sons and an 8-year-old girl—claimed to act for al Qaeda. Skeptics have dismissed the claim, saying al Qaeda barely functions anymore. But Merah was no “lone wolf” and did indeed bear the imprint of al Qaeda.

Young and alienated, Merah had served two years in a juvenile prison for robbery. Was he rejected by French society because of his Algerian background? “He snapped,” say friends. After prison, he was completely cut off from reality, said his lawyer.

In fact, Merah was practically a prince in French jihadist circles. His mother is married to the father of Sabri Essid, a leading member of the Toulouse radical milieu who was captured in Syria in 2006. Essid and another Frenchman were running an al Qaeda safe house in Syria for fighters going to Iraq. In a 2009 trial that came to be known in the press as “Brothers for Iraq,” they and six others were convicted in France of conspiracy for terrorist purposes. Essid was sentenced in 2009 to five years imprisonment.

Family contacts could have been instrumental in setting up Merah’s jihadist contacts and facilitating his travels to South Asia. Le Monde reports that the Pakistani Taliban and the Uzbek Islamic Movement trained Merah to become a killer. In 2010, he was captured in Afghanistan (reportedly by Afghan forces) and handed over to the French government, yet French media report that he was able to return to Northwest Pakistan in 2011.

The French police have confirmed that Merah was under periodic surveillance in recent months. That he slipped through and was able to carry out his attacks will become a source of criticism and self-recrimination on the part of the generally efficient French police. It certainly suggests that he had help from a network.

In executing his attacks, Merah did everything by the jihadist textbook. He made sure he would die a martyr’s death that would be witnessed on television screens around the world. He murdered with a video camera strapped to his body, making him star and director of his own epic. He told journalists his videos would soon be uploaded. In the attack at the Jewish school Monday morning, Merah held a little girl by her hair while he paused to reload his gun. He then shot her. In a recording found in his apartment he tells another victim, a soldier: “You kill my brothers, I kill you.” This is theater.

The Internet was his friend. “I have changed my life . . . on video,” said one of his last tweets (in French) during the siege. His account ID featured a black knight on a horse holding high the flag of jihad.

He signed that last tweet “Mohamed Merah-Forsane Alizza.” Forsane Alizza, or “Knights of Glory,” is a France-based jihadist media organization that was banned in January by French authorities after they discovered members preparing to train in armed combat. The ban made little difference, as content was uploaded to new sites. A website using the Forsane Alizza alias is still active—and registered with a domain name registrar and Web hosting company based in the state of Washington.

Two hours before the police arrived at his apartment, Merah was calling a French TV station. He appears to have had the media on speed-dial and was an active user not only of Twitter but of Facebook and YouTube. (Authorities took down his online outlets one-by-one on Wednesday.)

Merah’s shootings in Toulouse again shatter the illusion that counterterrorism can be 100% successful. Jihadist terrorism exploits our freedoms and opportunities in a global campaign linking foreign insurgencies and extremist activism in the West. Highly scripted and planned with the assistance of accomplices in and outside of France, Merah did not act in isolation.

Ms. Klausen. a professor of politics at Brandeis University and author of “The Cartoons That Shook the World” (Yale University Press, 2009), is founder of the Western Jihadism Project, which tracks and analyzes the development of jihadi networks in the West.

Qaeda group claims kidnap of German in Nigeria: report

Filed under: al Qaeda, Germany, Nigeria — - @ 4:52 pm

Qaeda group claims kidnap of German in Nigeria: report

Source Modern Ghana

A map locating the northern states in Nigeria. By (AFP/Graphic)

A map locating the northern states in Nigeria. By (AFP/Graphic)

NOUAKCHOTT (AFP) – Al-Qaeda’s north Africa branch said Wednesday it was holding a German engineer kidnapped in Nigeria two months ago, and that it wanted to swap him for a jailed Muslim woman, a private news agency in Mauritania said.

“We inform you that your compatriot Edgar Fritz Raupach is a prisoner of fighters from AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb),” the group said in a statement published by the ANI agency, demanding the release of a woman who it said had converted to Islam.

The woman, Felis Lowitz, whose Muslim name was given as Um Seiv Al-Islam-Al-Ansariya, was said to be detained in Germany where she was being “tortured”.

A video obtained by ANI and seen by AFP showed Raupach, his hands tied behind his back, surrounded by masked gunmen.

In the video he called on his “parents, friends and German public opinion” to convince Berlin to “bring an end to the torture of our Muslim sister”, adding that only her liberation will save his life.

AQIM warned that any attempt to rescue Raupach will lead to his death, as happened in the case of Italian engineer Franco Lamolinara and British colleague Chris McManus, killed earlier this month during a failed rescue bid by Nigerian forces.

Raupach, ANI said, is an engineer who was kidnapped in northern Nigeria on January 25.

Germany has confirmed one of its nationals has been kidnapped in northern Nigeria, and the German construction company Bilfinger Berger has said he is one of their employees.

2012/03/24

Europe faces ‘jihadist’ threat

Filed under: al Qaeda, Europe, Jihad, Muslim Brotherhood, National Security — - @ 1:49 pm

Source Pakistan Daily Times

Europe faces ‘jihadist’ threat

* Experts believe al Qaeda’s new strategy is to stop acting like network

BERLIN: With France’s deadly attacks, terrorism has apparently struck once more in the heart of Europe – and authorities say there’s a dangerous twist: the emergence of homegrown extremists operating independent of any known networks, making them hard to track and stop.

“We have a different kind of jihadist threat emerging and it’s getting stronger,” Europol chief Rob Wainwright told The Associated Press in an exclusive telephone interview from The Hague. “It is much more decentralised and harder to track.”

France’s motorcycle gunman traumatised a nation heading into presidential elections and spread fears across the continent that the specter of al Qaeda was once again threatening daily life.

Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, sowed his terror over the course of a week, killing paratroopers, Jewish children and a rabbi. He died on Thursday in a shootout after police raided the Toulouse apartment where he had been holed up.

Wainwright warned that Europe faces a tough challenge ahead.

Other European terror authorities echoed that view, saying that apprehending suspicious individuals with no clear connections to terrorist networks is legally problematic.

German officials expressed the same frustration in the case of Arid Uka, a Kosovo Albanian who gunned down two American airmen and wounded two others last year at the Frankfurt airport before being captured. Aside from illegally acquiring a handgun, the 22-year-old, who was convicted last month, had committed no crime until he shot his first victim in the back of the head.

Some experts believe that al Qaeda’s new strategy is, in fact, to stop acting like a network.

Encouraging individuals to carry out terrorist attacks, without organising them in cells, has become integral to the terrorist organisation’s modus operandi, said Noman Benotman, a former extremist with links to al Qaeda and who now works for the London-based Quilliam Foundation.

“They are part of the overall al Qaeda strategy, and they are part of the instructions – or suggestions, if you will – for groups and individuals seeking guidance or inspiration,” he said.

A British security official said the key to targeting this brand of individualised terror was figuring out whether people were simply thinking extremist thoughts or would truly turn violent.

Authorities are trying to determine whether Merah’s 29-year-old brother, Abdelkader, was involved, and are searching for accomplices who might have encouraged Merah to kill or furnished the means to do so.

Merah told negotiators he killed to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and to protest the French army’s involvement in Afghanistan as well as France ‘law against the burqa.

French authorities have acknowledged that Merah had been under surveillance for years and that his travels to Afghanistan and Pakistan were known to French intelligence, raising the question of whether security services might have been able to act against him before he was able to carry out his attacks .

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told German media that there were striking similarities between the Uka and Merah attacks, and that it drives home the need for a “security partnership” between intelligence services and extremist groups and communities.

2012/03/21

French officers surround apartment building in search for school shooter claiming al-Qaida links

Filed under: al Qaeda, France, Jews, Murder, Muslim Brotherhood — - @ 8:27 am

Source Article Link Sun Times

French officers surround apartment building in search for school shooter

ASSOCIATED PRESS

TOULOUSE, France — French police surrounded an apartment building where a gunman claiming al-Qaida links and suspected in the killings of three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers barricaded himself Wednesday and stopped talking to negotiators.

An early morning raid by hundreds of police to arrest the 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent erupted into a firefight. Three police officers were wounded, Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.

The suspect told police he belonged to al-Qaida and wanted to take revenge for Palestinian children killed in the Middle East, Gueant said. The suspect also said he was angry about French military intervention abroad, and had spent time in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gueant said.

The suspect threw a handgun out a window in exchange for a communications device, but he has more weapons, authorities said. An Interior Ministry official identified the suspect as Mohammad Merah, who has been under surveillance for having “fundamentalist” views. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Police swept in soon after 3 a.m. (0200 GMT; 9 p.m. CDT Tuesday) on the residential neighborhood in northern Toulouse where the suspect was holed up. At one point, volleys of gunfire heard around the neighborhood were exchanged. An elite squad was handling the negotiations.

It was part of a manhunt for the shooter who has killed seven people, including French soldiers and Jewish school children, in three attacks in the Toulouse area. In Monday’s attack, the three young children and a rabbi were killed.

“Terrorism will not be able to fracture our national community,” President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a declaration on national television before heading to the funeral services for two paratroopers killed and another injured in nearby Montauban.

The series of attacks — every four days since March 11 — began with the killing of another paratrooper in Toulouse.

The interior minister, who was at the scene of the standoff, said the suspect tossed from his window a Colt 45 used in each of the three attacks. He has other weapons, like an AK-47 machine gun, but is talking with police and said he would surrender in the afternoon, Gueant said.

Read all of the article at Sun Times

2011/10/10

God’s soldiers: Pakistan army’s ideology

Source Article Link: The Hindu
H/T Internet Haganah

God’s soldiers: Pakistan army’s ideology

Little-studied internal Pakistan army debates help understand just what the institution wants for itself and for the country it rules.

By Praveen Swami

Pervez Musharraf

In the autumn of 2002, at the end of a murderous 10-month stand-off with India provoked by the Jaish-e-Muhammad’s attack on the Parliament House in New Delhi, a small group of mid-level Pakistan army officers set about debating its lessons.

The overarching strategic lesson of the 2001-2002 crisis, wrote Brigadier Muhammad Zia, was clear: the West had come to the determination that “a nuclear (and Muslim) Pakistan has to be kept in control, lest it leads the Islamic world towards the formation of a new and powerful economic and military bloc in competition with or antagonistic to the western alliance.”

He then outlined Pakistan’s strategic response. “India is highly volatile on its internal front due to numerous vulnerabilities which, if agitated, accordingly could yield results out of proportion to the efforts put in.” Pointing to Kashmir, the northeast and Punjab, he suggested these faultlines could be employed as an “offensive option against India.”

General Pervez Musharraf, military ruler, described the 2002 Green Book, the volume recording the deliberations of Brigadier Zia and his brother officers, as a “valuable document for posterity.”

It is: Pakistan’s continued tactical patronage of jihadist groups operating against Afghanistan, India and the West is derived from the system of ideas outlined in the Green Books, records of the Pakistan Army’s internal deliberations. The ideas underpin the chain of events which have taken Pakistan ever closer to the abyss since the late 1970s.

Last month, Admiral Mike Mullen, outgoing Chairman of the United States’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, submitted a written testimony asserting that “extremist organisations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as U.S. soldiers.” He alleged that the Haqqani network, the most powerful of the Taliban’s constituent forces, was in fact “a strategic arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).”

Nothing he said was startling as experts, journalists and the U.S. intelligence community have known as much for years.

Ever since 9/11, the U.S. has hoped that the right forms of engagement and incentives will persuade Pakistan’s army to change course. The Green Books cast light on why this strategy has failed and will continue to fail.

Pakistan and the jihadist project

Six years ago, in a book published just before he became his country’s ambassador to the U.S., politician-scholar Husain Haqqani recorded that the Pakistan Army’s jihadist project was “not just the inadvertent outcome of decisions by some governments.” Instead, he argued, the Pakistani state’s use of Islam “gradually evolved into a strategic commitment to jihadi ideology.” The Green Books explain just what this strategic commitment entails.

The historical genesis of the Pakistan Army’s jihadist project is well known. Following colonial military thinkers like Francis Tuker, who headed the British India’s eastern command at the time of independence, Pakistan’s strategic community believed that India would collapse under the weight of its ethnic-religious strains.

From 1947-1948, Pakistan’s intelligence services thus conducted what Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru described as an “informal war”— a campaign of aid to secessionist insurgencies, in which clerics and religious ideology often had a key role.

Pakistan’s political élite also came to increasingly rely on the clerical class for legitimacy.

In 1956, the country’s first constitution declared Pakistan an Islamic republic — a notion unknown to classical theology — and mandated that no laws repugnant to the Koran and Hadith be passed.

Later, General Ayub Khan excised the prefix “Islamic” from Pakistan’s name, but nonetheless appointed a council of clerics to guide the state. His successor, the hard-drinking General Yahya Khan, allied with Islamists in Bangladesh and Kashmir. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in turn, bowed to clerical pressure, pushed forward with anti-minorities measures and declared Islam the state religion.

General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq oversaw the full bloom of this process: influenced by the ideas of Islamist ideologue Abul Ala Mawdudi, and inspired by the triumph of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, he set about rebuilding the state and the army with jihadist ideology at their core. The new model army Gen. Zia-ul-Haq built was principally concerned not with defending the state’s frontiers against its adversaries, but with reinventing Pakistan itself.

Commodore Tariq Majid laid out a road map for this new model army in the 1991 Green Book. He wrote: “the Islamic state, apart from the standing forces, keeps a volunteer force of the people and employs the other lot of able-bodied manpower to strengthen the other elements of the military system during wartime.” His “volunteer force of the people” would, in time, evolve into the ISI-backed jihadist networks Pakistan now sponsors.

Brigadier Saifi Ahmad Naqvi, writing in the 1994 Green Book, provided doctrinal flesh to this project. He began on the premise that “Pakistan is an ideological state, based on the ideology of Islam.” Therefore, “the existence and survival of Pakistan depend upon complete implementation of Islamic ideology in true sense. If the ideology is not preserved then the very existence of Pakistan becomes doubtful.” This, in his view, made the Army “responsible for the defence of the country, to safeguard [its] integrity [and] territorial boundaries, and the ideological frontiers to which the country owes its existence.”

Brigadier Muneer Mahmood explained, in 2002, why Pakistan needed to patronise jihadist groups. Pakistan was being cast as the “torch-bearer of the Muslim ummah [nation] by the biased western media and Jewish lobby.” In time, it was “likely to be the target of these forces.” Even though the prospect of a “conventional war between India and Pakistan appears remote, the environment [therefore] looks ripe for a LIC [low-intensity conflict] confrontation.”

Even as Pakistan became increasingly mired in counter-insurgency operations in the northwest after 2002, elements within its officer corps harboured substantial misgivings about the project. In 2008, for example, Brigadier Waqar Hassan Khan argued in the Green Book that “the superpower’s entry into [the] Middle-East and West Asia [sic] was not possible without a Pearl Harbour; 9/11 was either created or supported to be labelled as the second Pearl Harbour.”

“Now,” he asserted, “it has come in the open that people have been missing the jungle for a tree; the so-called Pakistani Taliban was a bogey created by RAW, MOSSAD, and probably the U.S.-led coalition to keep the Durand Line on fire and destabilise Pakistan internally to achieve the ultimate objective of undermining the only nuclear Islamic state on this earth.”

Major-General Muhammad Ahsan Mehmood, then-Director General of Weapons and Equipment, wrote a companion-essay explaining why Pakistan ought not to aid the U.S.’ anti-jihadist campaign.

Pakistan’s counter-insurgency commitments, he insisted, raised an “issue of legitimacy.” “If a section of society,” he wrote, “is not convinced about the moral standing of the task and a general perception on the similar lines also exists among the masses, it seriously erodes the performance of the military, which gets affected by the societal pressures. Military operations inside one’s own country make it fundamental that the troops feel just and fair with regards to the operations being undertaken and popular support of the masses exists. Unless it happens, no amount of training, motivation and technology differential will deliver.”

Pakistan’s army simply could not, this line of argument suggested, engage in a war against jihadist militia it had fathered without undermining the foundations of its own legitimacy.

Less than six months before Admiral Mullen’s dramatic testimony, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certified that Pakistan had demonstrated a “sustained commitment to and is making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups.” Pakistan, she wrote, had ceased support to “extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against the United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan.”

Islamabad had also helped, Ms Clinton wrote, in “preventing al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, from operating in the territory of Pakistan, including carrying out cross-border attacks into neighbouring countries.”

Her empirically ill-founded declaration enabled the U.S. administration to continue funnelling aid to Pakistan, even as its army paid proxies to kill American troops.

Notwithstanding the furore provoked by Admiral Mullen’s testimony, little is likely to change: in Washington, D.C., continued engagement is seen as the least-awful of a basket of bad choices.

Insanity, Albert Einstein is believed to have said, consisted of doing the same things again and again, but expecting different results. The Pakistan army’s jihadist commitment is not merely a tactical tool to project influence or win legitimacy: it is, instead, the paradigm through which the institution comprehends the world and seeks to shape it. The jihadists the U.S. hopes to bribe and cajole the Pakistan army to abandon are in fact soldiers of the nation the institution seeks to build — a dystopia that dollars, ironically enough, will continue to underwrite.

2011/10/01

Al Awlaki is gone but his Jihadists are multiplying

Al Awlaki is gone but his Jihadists are multiplying

By Dr. Walid Phares

Imam Anwar al Awlaki held two important positions in the cobweb of international Jihadi terror. First, he was one of the emerging younger leaders of al Qaeda after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Out of Yemen, from which his family originates, he had built a network of recruits capable of performing missions in the Arabian Peninsula, but also communicating with the Shabab of Somalia and many cells inside the West. His reach in recruitment was as far as Jihadists have been indoctrinated. The Nigerian Abdelmutalib, known as the Christmas day bomber in the US, was also connected to the Yemeni-based cleric. In a sense, al Awlaki was one of the most effective al Qaeda international officers. His loss will undoubtedly be felt –at least for a while – within the ranks of the network.

But his other position is even more important to Americans. The New Mexico-born Jihadist had established a web of American citizens, indoctrinated and incited to strike against US national security. Shazad, the terrorist who tried to blow up a car in Times Square, and Major Nidal Hassan, who massacred more than a dozen military in Ft Hood, are just two sinister examples of the American Jihadi network linked to al Awlaki. His writings in American English, his speeches and his savvy knowledge of American culture and politics made him in reality the “emir” of US citizens who followed the Jihadi ideology. Thus, his killing is in fact a strike at the head of the most dangerous network operating inside American borders, not just internationally. From that perspective, the “coalition against terror” has scored a point in its war with al Qaeda. But, although this could be coined as a major tactical victory, it is not a strategic one.

As I made the case with Osama Bin Laden’s elimination, the US is not at war with a mafia of criminals who would be impressed with the elimination of the capo. The Jihadists who have already been indoctrinated won’t be deterred by the missiles or bullets that took the lives of their emirs or commanders. In fact, just the opposite will occur. The “martyrdom” (al Istishaad) of these al Qaeda leaders will be viewed from the prism of the ideology that transformed their universe. Osama and Anwar are now seen as floating in the Jenna (heaven) while the Jihadi mission will rest upon the shoulders of the next wave, and on and on. Western-minded people, or non-Jihadi individuals in the Arab world, understand the concept of deterrence. The Jihadists, Salafists or Khomeinists, are brought up to feed from the martyrdom of their leaders and brothers in arms and take strength from that, so that they don’t react in fear.

The reason behind this clone-like phenomenon is ideology, which is in fact the center of al Qaeda, not its leaders. The ideology was created by Jihadism, not the other way around. When a product of this ideologic doctrine is eliminated, this doesn’t affect the factory; it will keep producing more, and will use their eliminations to mobilize further.

There is not now, and won’t be, any victory in the War on Terror (or the war with the Jihadists) unless there is a victory in the War of Ideas, which means that the ideology producing and inspiring the terrorists and would-be terrorists has to be identified and responded to. Naturally, the best parties to engage in this counter campaign are the societies where it has been breeding, in the Greater Middle East where there are the anti-Jihadists, civil societies and secular forces.

Unfortunately the current Administration and the bureaucracy of the past Administration did just the opposite. Instead of identifying the Jihadi ideology, they covered up for it. And instead of partnering with the secular and democratic forces in the Arab Spring, Washington today is flirting with the Muslim Brotherhood. Hence, while our intelligence and military are successful in their part of the war by eliminating the war lords of Jihadism, our foreign policy and domestic policies are allowing the Jihadists, with their Islamist ideological roots, to grow. Therefore the killing of al Awlaki is a small victory in an ocean of defeat.

The immediate question in mind is: who is next. Remember that al Awlaki operated within the US openly, as he even was invited to lecture at the Pentagon. Major Hassan, too, delivered lectures within our defense establishment. Also, In the past decade, a prominent member of an Islamist lobby group, Ismael Royer, was part of a terror training network in Virginia. The list is long. So the undeniable outlook for the future is quantitative: al Awlaki is gone but his Jihadists have been multiplying.

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Confrontation: Winning the War Against Future Jihad and The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East. He is a Professor of Global Strategies in Washington DC. He advises members of the US Congress and the European Parliament.

Source Article Link: Family Security Matters

2011/09/30

Issue VII of ‘Inspire,’ the English-Language Magazine of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – A General Review

Source Link: MEMRI.org

Issue VII of ‘Inspire,’ the English-Language Magazine of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – A General Review

By: Steven Stalinsky*

On September 27, 2011, the media wing of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released the seventh issue of the English-language jihadist magazine Inspire.

The cover of the 20-page issue, which is dated Fall 1432 (2011), shows an image of the World Trade Center made out of dollar signs. The cover story, written by editor-in-chief Yahya Ibrahim and titled “The Greatest Special Operation of All Time,” is dedicated to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The magazine was released 16 days after the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and was provided exclusively to the Al-Fida forum, which is operated by Al-Qaeda’s media company Al-Fajr. It can be assumed that the venue was Al-Fida because the main jihadi forum Shumoukh Al-Islam, which released all previous issues of Inspire, went offline on September 26, 2011, after loading slowly for several days. A message posted by one of its administrators on Al-Fida claimed that Shumoukh Al-Islam had been shut down for maintenance and would be back online shortly. However, Al-Fida members speculated that Shumoukh had been the target of a cyber attack. The magazine was released about 24 hours after Shumoukh went offline.[1]

Shumoukh reappeared online about five hours later, and this incident is similar to what happened prior to the release of the first issue of Inspire, in June 2010.   According to media reports, a debate was underway about Inspire magazine within the U.S. government and military; there were also reports of the U.K. government’s handling of online jihad, and Inspire magazine in particular.  A June 2, 2011 article in The Guardian revealed that U.S. Cyber Command chief Gen. Keith Alexander had argued that blocking the online release of the magazine was a legitimate counterterrorism objective, while the CIA argued that such an action would expose sources and methods and disrupt an important source of intelligence. According to the report, the CIA won out, and the proposal to block the magazine’s online release was rejected. But as the debate was underway within the U.S. government, British government cyber-warriors went ahead with their own plan, and corrupted the original release.[2]

The following is a general review of issue seven of Inspire:

Letter From the Editor: 9/11 is “Merely An Episode in a Long, Protracted War”

Issue VII of Inspire includes a letter from editor-in-chief Yahya Ibrahim stating that this issue is a “special supplement to the great events of the Expeditions of Washington DC and New York, as Shaykh Usama would call it, or simply 9/11. As America mourns and we celebrate this glorious event, we look into what 9/11 means ten years on.” He praises Osama bin Laden, noting that “9/11 has left a permanent scar on the American psyche and will live long after in the hearts of every American. The pain, suffering and agony that Shakyh Usama brought to America is fair payback.” He also warns that 9/11 was “merely an episode in a long, protracted war that started at the time of the Messenger of Allah.”

Al-Qaeda Criticizes Iran for Promoting 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

An op-ed by “Abu Suhail” – which, according to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and as noted in a previous MEMRI report on Issue V of Inspire,[3] is an alias once used by American Al-Qaeda operative Adam Gadahn[4] – claims that Iran has promoted conspiracy theories about who is really behind 9/11 because it is envious of Al-Qaeda’s prowess and accomplishments: “Iran and the Shi’a in general do not want to give Al-Qaeda credit for the greatest and biggest operation ever committed against America because this would expose their lip-service jihad against the Great Satan.”

This article is the latest in a dispute between Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Hizbullah. In April 2008, Al-Qaeda’s media wing Al-Sahab released a two-hour audio recording by Al-Zawahiri that was a response to questions posted on Al-Qaeda forums for him to answer, earlier that year. One question concerned “the theory that has circulated in the Middle East and elsewhere that Israel was behind the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.” Al-Zawahiri accused Hizbullah’s Al-Manar television of starting the rumor, saying, “The purpose of this lie is clear – (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it.”[5]

Yahya Ibrahim on “The Greatest Special Operation of All Time”

In the cover article, titled “The Greatest Special Operation Of All Time: The Expeditions Of Washington D.C. And New York,” editor-in-chief Yahya Ibrahim sets out the reasons behind the 9/11 attacks and the consequences of the attacks for the U.S. Ibrahim says that the 9/11 attacks were catalyzed by decades of American aggression [against Muslims], and by U.S. support for the state of Israel – support, he said, that is the main reason behind the continued Israeli occupation of the Holy Land. He enumerates further reasons for the 9/11 attacks: the U.S. attack and subsequent embargo of Iraq in the first Gulf War, which led to the deaths of over a million and a half Iraqis; the desecration of the Arabian Peninsula by its stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia; and U.S. support for authoritarian regimes [in the Arab world].[6]

Samir Khan Praises Online Jihad

In another lead article, U.S.-born Samir Khan hails Al-Qaeda’s “media jihad” as a component in the war against the U.S. that is equal in importance to actual attacks on it. Khan asserts that Al-Qaeda has won the preliminary stages of the battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims, thus ensuring that the organization’s ideology will live on. One of the reasons for this victory, he explains, lies in the fact that the West and the media present Al-Qaeda’s ideology as nothing but terrorism, whereas the organization’s creed is that of Islam, a fact that earns it the support of Muslims. Khan concludes the article by listing the four key elements which enable Al-Qaeda to win the media war: the technological savvy of Al-Qaeda’s media operatives, the U.S.’s failure to respond to Al-Qaeda’s propaganda, the U.S.’s media “blunders” which damage its image in Muslim public opinion, and the general suspicion with which Muslims view the U.S.[7]

A Decade in Photos – From 9/11 To Today

This section of Inspire comprises 10 pages of photos of the 9/11 attacks, with quotes from Al-Qaeda leaders, including  Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Khalid Hussain, Abu Musab Al-Suri, and Anwar Al-Awlaki. Also included are quotes from leaders of Al-Qaeda offshoots AQAP and Al-Shabab.

A Threat Against New York?

The last pages of the magazine include a quote by Faisal Shahzad, perpetrator of the failed May 1, 2010, Times Square car bombing: “Brace yourself for war with Muslims. I am just the first drop in what will be a flood.” The quote is superimposed on a photo of Times Square.

The last page is an image of Grand Central Station in New York City, with text noting that “coming soon” is an article by Anwar Al-Awlaki, titled “Targeting the Populations of Countries That Are At War with the Muslims.” Also promised as “coming soon” is an exclusive interview with Adam Gadahn, titled “The Arab Intifada, Hopes, Concerns and Dangers.”

It should be noted that Issues V and VI of Inspire promised an upcoming Q&A with Anwar Al-Awlaki that has not yet materialized. The announcement read: “Send your questions to Shaykh Anwar Al-Awlaki. We will hold an exclusive video interview with the Shaykh where he will answer your questions. See the contact page for details on sending an e-mail to al-Malahem.”

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to Readers: “How to Communicate With Us”

As in previous issues, Issue VII offers readers encryption codes for directly contacting them.[8] They also note to readers that they have changed their public encryption code.

*Steven Stalinsky is the Executive Director of The Middle East Media Research Institute.

Endnotes:

[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch Report No. 4166, “Uncertainty on a First-Tier Al-Qaeda Forum After Apparent Cyber-Attack – Followed By Release of Issue 7 of AQAP’s ‘Inspire Magazine’,” September 27, 2011.

http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5678.htm

[2] The Guardian, June 2, 2011.

[3] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Report No. 680, “Issue V of ‘Inspire,’ the English-Language Magazine of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – A General Review,” March 30, 2011. http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5155.htm

[5] BBC, April 22, 2008

[6] See MEMRI Special Dispatch Report No. 4168, “Inspire Editor Yahya Ibrahim On 9/11: “The Greatest Special Operation Of All Time,” September 27, 2011. http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5681.htm

[7] See MEMRI Special Dispatch Report No. 4169, “Issue 7 – American Jihadi Samir Khan: ‘A Powerful Media Production is as Hard-Hitting as an Operation in America,'” September 27, 2011. http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5680.htm

[8] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Report No. 704, “Al-Qaeda’s Embrace of Encryption Technology: 2007-2011,” July 12, 2011. http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5457.htm

2011/08/22

Egypt and Israel Caught in an Al-Qaeda Whirlpool?

Source Link: Jerusalem Center

Egypt and Israel Caught in an Al-Qaeda Whirlpool?

Written by Jacques Neriah

A clear strategic context explains the recent flare-up between Israel and the Palestinian extremist organizations in the Gaza Strip, which was sparked by the armed incursion into Israel, across the Egyptian border, of more than twenty Palestinian terrorists from the Popular Resistance Committees. This assault, which left eight Israelis dead, set off the latest round of fighting in southern Israel. It would not have been possible without the growing weakness of the Egyptian regime’s grip on Egypt as a whole and the Sinai Peninsula in particular, especially since the collapse of the police state maintained by ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

Israeli spokesmen as well as politicians repeatedly stressed the fact that Egypt had almost lost control in Sinai. Israelis noted that Egypt’s gas pipeline to Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon had been sabotaged five times since the inception of the post-Mubarak military regime. Israel also issued warnings to its citizens not to stay in Sinai since it had become a haven for terrorists, smugglers, and arms trafficking. Intelligence sources said there were about ten thousand Muslim extremists in Sinai, training and getting logistical support from local Bedouins.

Oddly enough, the Egyptians were ready to admit privately their own limitations in halting the massive smuggling from Sinai into Gaza. According to Wikileaks documents, it was the same Field Marshal Tantawi, today head of the Supreme Military Council and then defense minister under Mubarak, who negotiated with the U.S. administration ways to prevent the influx of weapons from Egypt to Gaza. At that time the Egyptians were contemplating building a steel wall to seal the border with Gaza hermetically (on April 12 the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that Egypt had ceased building this wall). Tantawi was also considering an American suggestion to use new technologies meant to destroy underground tunnels, which were used to channel the weapons into Gaza.

The same intelligence sources reported that since Mubarak’s resignation and a more sympathetic Egyptian policy toward the Palestinian cause coupled with a tougher approach to Israel, thousands of rockets along with ammunition and equipment had been smuggled into Gaza from Egypt. Israel was no longer in control of the border. The weapons were transported by Palestinian activists assisted by Bedouins living in Sinai, sometimes with the tacit acquiescence of the Egyptian authorities in the areas and usually without Egypt’s prior knowledge.

To stop the loosening of the Egyptian grip on Sinai, Israel agreed twice to significant Egyptian troop increases to their force deployment in the peninsula, thus changing the parameters set in the military annex of the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty. The latest deployment of more than a thousand troops was made only a few days before the terrorist incursion into Israel and was meant to boost Egypt’s efforts to regain its hold on Sinai. Assessing that the main threat to Egypt’s authority was in northern Sinai, where the gas pipeline splits toward the neighboring countries, Egypt decided to deploy its forces in that area, thus leaving the southern part diluted of forces and open to infiltrations.

However, from day one of the operations against the extremist organizations in northern Sinai, the Egyptian authorities realized to their dismay that the phenomenon is not limited to Sinai but engulfs the whole of Egypt. Islamist cells have been created all over Egypt so as to topple the regime by force. The network of Palestinian organizations in Gaza has already proved to be a threat to Egypt itself. In January 2011 Egypt’s former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, charged that the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamist group Jaish al-Islam was responsible for a New Year’s Eve attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria that left twenty-three Egyptian Christians dead. Jaish al-Islam is an Al-Qaeda affiliate and was formed by members of the Popular Resistance Committees, the organization responsible for last week’s attack within Israel.

Indeed, only two days before that event on Road 12 to Eilat, the Egyptian security forces mounted an attack east of the town of El-Arish in northern Sinai. This revealed yet another spillover of radical Islamic groups from Gaza into Sinai, which threatened Egypt and not just Israel. In the aftermath the following details were released:

  1. The members of the group were part of a Takfiri organization, that is, the same organization of Muslim zealots that assassinated President Sadat in 1981, some of whom subsequently joined the Al-Qaeda militants.
  2. The group was trained militarily in Gaza and in the region of Jabal Hilal in central Sinai, which is now the area where most of the fundamentalists fleeing the Egyptian security forces have found refuge. Jabal Hilal has been a notorious base for Al-Qaeda in the recent past and the location of difficult battles between Al-Qaeda and the Egyptian army, in which, in one case, an Egyptian general was killed.
  3. Those militants were part of the groups that sabotaged the gas pipeline to Israel.
  4. The leader of the Palestinians who allied with the Egyptian members of the El-Arish group was a member of Islamic Jihad in Gaza. He managed to reach El-Arish by using one of the underground tunnels. He had been in prison in Egypt but was able to escape to Gaza in the wake of the Egyptian revolution.
  5. The Egyptians associated with the Palestinians were highly educated (one a mechanical engineer, another with a BA in administration) and came from Suez, Alexandria, Qalyoubiah, and Suhaj. The Egyptian security forces were surprised, since this was the first time a Sinai terrorist cell included members from outside of Sinai.
  6. The interrogations revealed that there was a Takfiri presence almost throughout Egypt. El-Arish was a convenient location because it is close to Gaza and Israel, making it easier to obtain weapons.
  7. The group clearly had a theological, jihadist outlook. Basically they wanted to replace the regime by force according to the tenets of Takfir (in which one Muslim declares another an unbeliever) and of the Egyptian Salafist movement.
  8. Most of the Egyptian detainees had been members of fundamentalist organizations for years.
  9. Their main targets were Egyptian security forces (which they viewed as heretic) and strategic installations such as the gas pipeline.

Undoubtedly Mubarak’s fall and the military regime’s commitment to political openness have created a new reality that makes it difficult for the military to control the country as it would wish. One consequence is the weakening of the police structure and the strengthening of illegal opposition forces. On July 14 the new regime dismissed 4000 police officers, of whom 669 were high-ranking and 505 were police generals, while eighteen other generals and 19 brigadier generals also were released from duty but were deferred to justice so as to investigate their responsibility for the killings during the demonstrations. This dramatic move was but another aspect of the new regime’s efforts to “clean the stables.”

The process had begun in the aftermath of Mubarak’s fall with the elimination, in response to popular demand, of the entire repressive apparatus. Egypt’s removal of the police state and subsequent political reforms have made it difficult to maintain domestic security and keep militants under control. Indeed, militants are already taking advantage of the political openness. Moreover, the shakiness of the regime (Egypt has had three cabinet reshuffles since the revolution), which has been more permissive toward criticism of Israel and lax toward anti-Israeli demonstrations, has fostered an environment in which opposition groups feel encouraged not only to attack the regime and demand more freedom, but believe they can maneuver the regime into a hostile stance toward Israel.

Just as the political groups are “asking for the heads” of the former regime, the most extreme of them advocate a radical posture toward Israel that entails declaring the peace treaty null and void. The new era of openness has allowed Islamist actors to emerge as legitimate political entities. The rise of various Islamist factions (the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, Sufists, and others) that are striving for power makes it difficult for jihadists to directly threaten the regime’s stability. Realizing that they cannot (despite the broader Arab unrest) confront the Egyptian state head-on, the jihadists are trying to undermine the regime indirectly by exploiting the situation regarding Gaza and Israel and through renewed militancy in Sinai, and also by reviving religious tensions between Copts and Muslims, which reached an unprecedented level in the months after the revolution including the burning of churches, attacks on individuals, and so on.

Field Marshal Tantawi is under much stress both on the domestic and regional levels. Egypt is in the early stages of trying to manage both political and militant opposition in a tense climate, and it is unable to maintain internal security as effectively as it once did. Nevertheless, it seems the regime is realizing that the political openness is not so much to its advantage but rather to its detriment. That is why Tantawi decided to announce only in September the schedule for the constitutional reform, and also to take a tougher hand against demonstrators in Tahrir Square and Alexandria.
Particularly significant is that the cell captured in El-Arish shows that the Takfiri and jihadist movement in Egypt is very much alive and even gaining more terrain. It can be assessed that the Takfiri militants are either part of Al-Qaeda or working hand in hand with their Al-Qaeda operators. Indeed, for decades Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has wanted to undermine his home country, Egypt, and the Arab unrest now offers an opportunity. His rise to the top of the jihadist hierarchy could also herald an increasing role for Egyptians within the global jihadist network, which would make it easier for Egyptian Takfiri militants to work with Al-Qaeda.

The result is that Al-Qaeda can be expected to make its presence felt in the Egyptian-Gazan-Israeli border area. If so, it will not only complicate matters for Israel and its efforts to deal with Gaza, but could seriously damage the Egyptian-Israeli relationship that has existed since the 1978 Camp David Accords. Only a tight, effective, but mostly tacit partnership between Israel and Egypt can help both parties, each for its own reasons, cooperate in eradicating the fundamentalist cells in Sinai and beyond.

About Jacques Neriah
Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence

2011/04/04

Al Qaeda’s Latest Issue Of ‘Inspire’ Magazine

Source: Stratfor

Click on image below to watch video:

Vice President of Tactical Intelligence Scott Stewart analyzes the latest edition of al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula’s English-language jihadist magazine.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Last week, al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula released the fifth edition of “Inspire,” their English-language magazine. We’re going to take a look at “Inspire” now to see what it says about the organization.

Like many of the other editions of “Inspire,” this one has a wide range of articles. Some of the content is original, but much of it is borrowed from elsewhere. For example, there are two articles that reproduce speeches that were given by al Qaeda No. 2 man Ayman al-Zawahiri who’s an Egyptian doctor. One of the recurring themes we’ve seen in this magazine has been the theme of jihadists being radicalized in the West by this magazine but then conducting attacks in the West. This theme like in past editions has been echoed over and over and in fact we see at least three repetitions of it in this magazine.

The magazine also seeks to encourage these jihadists to conduct lone wolf attacks. Lone wolf assailants are really the most difficult type for government intelligence and security agencies to gather intelligence about. Really to find a lone wolf assailant, you need to monitor his activities closely and understand what’s going on inside his head if he doesn’t communicate to other people. Because of this, the lone wolf really presents a challenge to Western security and intelligence agencies.

Now, like the other editions of “Inspire” magazine, this magazine also is very slick production-wise. It’s meant to be appealing especially to younger aspiring jihadis in the English-speaking world. Places like the U.S., the U.K., Canada, even countries like Pakistan and India. One of the hooks that Samir Khan uses in this magazine to kind of draw in his readers is the use of lampoons with these fake advertisements that he puts in the magazine. In this current edition we see ads put in ridiculing Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan leader, also the Yemeni president, Saleh.

“Inspire” magazine has a regular feature called “Open Source Jihad.” And this is the feature that is intended to train these lone wolves and small cells in the West to conduct attacks and to provide them with the tools necessary to do attacks. However, in this edition of the magazine, the only article that’s in the “Open Source Jihad” section is an article on field-stripping the AK-47. And obviously that’s not a particularly useful skill for someone in the West looking to conduct a terrorist attack.

To help place “Inspire” in context, it’s important to remember that Samir Khan was raised in the United States and he was living in his parents’ house in North Carolina, publishing jihadist literature from the U.S. for several years. After receiving pressure from the FBI he moved over to Yemen and began publishing “Inspire.” But it’s important remember that he is really more of a jihadist cheerleader and not a real seasoned and battle-hardened veteran.

2011/04/03

CIA documents, the FBI and PF show how the acts of Islamic terror network in Brazil

Source Link: Veja

The Federal Police has evidence that al Qaeda and other extremist organizations use the four country to spread propaganda and plan attacks, finance operations and attract militants

The terrorist Osama bin Laden, leader of Al Qaeda (Disclosure / AFP)

Khaled Hussein Ali was born in 1970 in eastern Lebanon. Follower of the Sunni stream of Islam, military service. Then disappeared. In early 1990, reappeared in Sao Paulo. He married and had a daughter. Thanks to her, obtained in 1998 the right to live in Brazil. Lives in Itaquera, East Zone of São Paulo, and supports his family with the profits from an Internet cafe. Ali leads a double life. It is one of the chief propaganda arm of Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization headed by Osama bin Laden. São Paulo, the Lebanese extremist coordinates in seventeen countries. The text or video of Bin Laden’s disciples are not made available by its approval. More: it is for the Lebanese to give logistical support to al-Qaida operations. He is part of a terrorist network that extends its tentacles in Brazil.

Treated as “Prince” by his henchmen, Ali was followed by four months by the Federal Police until his arrest in March 2009. Besides the evidence of terrorism on the Internet, Federal Police found the computer of spam sent Ali to the U.S. to incite hatred of Jews and blacks. Approached by Veja, Ali denied his identity. This material, however, allowed the Federal Police to indict the racism, incitement to crime and gang formation. Saved himself from charges of terrorism because the Brazilian Penal Code does not provide for this crime. The Lebanese stayed 21 days in prison. He was released because the prosecutor did not report to the Federal Justice. Cases like Ali feeds the divergences of the U.S. government with Brazil.

Two months ago, SEE had access to reports of PF on the terror network in Brazil. Besides Ali, twenty militants of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and other groups use or have used Brazil as a hideout, logistics center, a source of raising money and planning attacks. The magazine report also obtained reports sent to Brazil by the U.S. government. These documents allow you to see pinpoints Ali and four other extremists. They live in Brazil as if they were ordinary citizens. Although the author of the research, PF takes an ambiguous behavior to comment on the findings of its staff. The institution dodges, saying it “does not label people or groups who could otherwise act with inspiration terrorist.” This discourse dubious and inconsistent not only facilitates the entrenchment of extremist organizations in Brazil and creates great risks for the immediate future.

2011/03/30

The Problem with Arming the Libyan Rebels

Source Stratfor

PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images A Libyan rebel poses next to a destroyed government tank March 26 in Ajdabiya

Summary

As the rebels fail to advance on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s strongholds in the western part of the country, allied powers enforcing the no-fly zone have increasingly floated the idea of providing the opposition fighters with weapons. Arming a rebel force can help level the playing field or nudge a conflict toward a certain conclusion, but taken alone, supplying arms cannot fix the fundamental problems that cause a force to be militarily inept.

Analysis

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Talk of arming the rebel fighters in Libya predates the March 17 decision to initiate an air campaign over the country but is again increasing as the rebels fail to show any sign of being able to successfully engage forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Before the imposition of the no-fly zone and coalition airstrikes, rebel defensive lines were collapsing in the face of an assault by Gadhafi’s forces, and the advance of the rebels from the contested city of Ajdabiya, just south of the rebel headquarters in Benghazi, to the outskirts of Sirte, Gadhafi’s hometown, was actually just rebels moving into territory from which loyalist forces had already withdrawn. As soon as the rebels encountered prepared defensive positions outside of Sirte, they were forced to beat a hasty retreat. Already there are reports that loyalist forces have retaken the town of Ras Lanuf, a key energy export hub.

The renewed talk of arming the rebels has its roots in the fundamental problems of a limited air campaign against Libya. Coalition airpower is capable of defeating Gadhafi’s air force, crushing his larger, more fixed air defense capabilities as well as taking out known command, control and communications hubs. But the use of airpower to eliminate Gadhafi’s ability to wage war would entail civilian casualties and collateral damage. If minimizing those casualties is a key objective, then it is simply not possible for airpower alone to force loyalist forces already embedded in urban areas to withdraw.


The Problem with Arming the Libyan Rebels
(click here to enlarge image)

If airpower is the wrong tool for the job and no country is willing to provide the right tool in the form of ground combat forces, providing weapons to the Libyan rebels is increasingly appearing to be the best alternative, at least to some of the coalition partners. In theory, this would provide the capability to do what airpower cannot and enable the rebels to provide the required ground presence. However, at no point in the Libyan civil war have the rebel fighters proved to be a competent military force, and their difficulties are not solely linked to their lack of arms. And without coherent organization, leadership, battlefield communications or command and control, as well as the ability to plan and sustain offensives logistically, no quantity of arms is going to solve the problem.

In the early days of unrest, opposition forces broke open Libyan military arsenals and appropriated an enormous quantity of small arms, ammunition, heavy weapons and related materiel, including armored vehicles and rocket artillery. Numerous reports have described rebels expending massive amount of ammunition to no purpose, firing small arms, rockets and recoilless rifles aimlessly into the air. Early on there were reports that a rebel SA-7 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile was used to shoot down one of the rebels’ own planes, and the rebels have even implicitly acknowledged their limitations by issuing a call for drivers capable of operating a T-55, an archaic Soviet tank and one of the oldest in even the Libyan arsenal.

Indeed, the longer-term problem in Libya is not too few arms, but too many. All of the arms that have been broken out of Libyan stockpiles will not be returned after the conflict ends. Everything from small arms to explosives to man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) will be proliferating around the region for years. There are also minor concerns that even within the rebel movement there are elements of al Qaeda and Hezbollah seeking to take advantage of the situation, though this is largely reflective of the overall lack of understanding by Western countries of the nature of the eastern opposition movement.

Unconfirmed reports have indicated Egypt and possibly Qatar may be involved in smuggling weapons to the opposition. But what the opposition needs is not more weapons but training that will enable them to be a competent fighting force that could advance with only limited outside support, as the Northern Alliance did against Kabul and the Taliban in 2001. Unfortunately, as recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrates, training requires time — usually years, not weeks or months — that neither the coalition forces nor the rebels have.

The necessity that training go along with any arms shipments to the rebel fighters has reportedly complicated the internal debate in Washington over whether this policy is the best course of action. The United States has been explicit in its opposition to deploying ground forces in Libya, fearing that placing even a small number of advisers in eastern Libya could suck the United States into a protracted conflict.

Arming an opposition or insurgent force can work when the group or a collection of groups are already composed of capable fighters and competent leadership. When the United States gave FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS to the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet occupation of the country, the mujahideen were a bloodied and battle-hardened force capable of planning and executing ambushes and assaults on Soviet positions. They were already slowly bleeding the Red Army in Afghanistan and may well have ultimately prevailed even without the Stingers. But the new missiles helped reduce a key Soviet advantage, their airpower. And when the Soviets and Chinese armed North Vietnam, the North Vietnamese had the basic military competencies not only to incorporate those arms into their operations but also to orchestrate the massive logistical effort to sustain them in combat and conduct large-scale military operations.

Today, the Taliban are winning in Afghanistan with Lee-Enfield rifles dating back to the 19th century and homemade improvised explosive devices, among other weapons. They are an agile and capable insurgent force that may ultimately prevail even without any expansion of limited outside assistance.

Taken alone, the act of supplying arms to a group cannot fundamentally alter the military reality on the ground. Also, rooting out competent forces from prepared defensive positions in fortified urban areas is a profound challenge for the best militaries in the world. Providing a ragtag group of rebels with additional arms and ammunition will not achieve that, though it may well make the conflict bloodier, particularly for civilians. And like the arms already loose in the country, any additional arms inserted into the equation will not be used only against Gadhafi’s forces, but around the region for years to come.

Why Washington is Reluctant To Arm Libya’s Eastern Rebels

Source Stratfor

NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe U.S. Adm. James Stavridis answered questions on the Libyan intervention before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, echoing the refrain voiced in Western capitals of knowing little about the exact nature of the eastern opposition. Though Stavridis labeled the rebel leadership as “responsible men and women” fighting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, he added that there have been “flickers” of intelligence indicating that elements of al Qaeda and Hezbollah exist among the eastern opposition’s ranks. The question of arming the eastern rebels now, when U.S. military officials have gone on record before Congress with such suspicions of Hezbollah and al Qaeda links, seems politically unpalatable to say the least. Indeed, Stavridis’ testimony came on the same day that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. President Barack Obama demurred on the notion that Washington is on the verge of sending weapons to Benghazi.

Of the three countries most committed to seeing Gadhafi removed from power – the United States, France and the United Kingdom – none have yet to come up with a clear strategy on how to they intend to see this through. All have been steadfast in the refusal to consider sending ground troops to combat Gadhafi’s forces. Obama drove this point home in his Monday night speech when he drew parallels between the road the United States went down in Iraq and the way things should not be done in Libya. Airstrikes alone, however, are ill equipped to achieve this type of mission. While sanctions are made to be broken and while hope exists that continued international pressure on Tripoli would force Gadhafi to eventually step down, as evidenced by Obama’s words on Tuesday, this creates the possibility for a very long wait. Relying on such an eventuality also increases the chance that the coalition, committed to the enforcement of U.N. Resolution 1973, will splinter and potentially leave Washington to pick up the pieces. What the United States really wants out of the Libyan intervention is an opportunity to transfer responsibility for a multilateral conflict to the Europeans.

If regime change without having to insert Western forces is indeed the end goal, and ground troops are the most expedient way to push Gadhafi out in a somewhat timely manner, it would seem that bolstering the rebel forces in the east with better weapons and training is the next logical step. After all, any doubts that rebel fighters are no match for the Libyan army were erased by the events that unfolded along the coastal stretch between Bin Jawad and Sirte on Tuesday. After several days of steadily gaining ground due to a calculated decision by Gadhafi’s troops to withdraw and dig in more defensible positions, opposition forces were forced to beat a hasty and chaotic retreat from the outskirts of the Libyan leader’s hometown. While arms transfers are believed to have been occurring unofficially, courtesy of Qatar and Egypt, they aren’t going to do the job, and it is not quite clear what level of materiel would. (This is to say nothing of the amount of training that would need to go along with any arms shipments to eastern Libya, as the rebels also have proven themselves to be lacking in command and control, communications and logistics capabilities.)

As Gadhafi’s forces pushed the rebels eastward away from Sirte, an international conference on Libya took place in London, where NATO member states and others that have supported the no-fly zone were attempting to come together and speak with one voice on how to proceed. Included at the conference was a delegation from the Libyan rebel leadership, representing the body known as the Transitional National Council (TNC), or, the “responsible men” fighting Gadhafi that Stavridis referenced in his Senate testimony. One of the TNC officials explicitly requested that fighters be supplied with bigger and better weapons to combat Gadhafi’s forces. This request was rebuffed, ostensibly due to restrictions on such military aid by the U.N. resolution. France suggested that there are ways to get around such restrictions, as did the United States, but neither was willing to go on record as saying that they are on the verge of changing their undecided policy on arming the eastern forces.

For the United States, this is a reflection of what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was saying over the weekend as he made the rounds on the Sunday talk show circuit. Intervening in Libya is not part of the Americans’ “vital national interests.” It may be in their interests to remove Gadhafi and have the Europeans demonstrate that they are capable of taking a greater role in joint military operations, but it is not absolutely critical. Washington has a history of arming rebel groups first, and asking questions later. The fact that it has allowed a lack of familiarity with whom, exactly, the TNC represents indicates that Libya, while certainly a high priority, is not on par with other recent crises that have spurred Washington into immediate action. Indeed, the United States was not an early proponent of the no-fly zone, and only came around after repeated insistences by the France and the United Kingdom (who have motivations of their own) gave it an opportunity to put the Obama doctrine of multilateralism and limited U.S. involvement on display.

In his Senate testimony, Stavridis also pointed out that if recent history is to be a guide, then a “foreign stabilization force” would likely be needed in Libya should the rebels ever successfully topple Gadhafi. Stavridis cited the examples of Bosnia and Kosovo as precedents. Such an assessment by NATO’S supreme allied commander in Europe might give American politicians even more pause to arming the rebels than the suggestion that some of its members may have links to al Qaeda and Hezbollah.

2011/03/29

Libya: Gadhafi May Leave, ‘Flicker’ Of Al Qaeda – U.S.

‘Flicker’???? Is that anything like, illegitimate,’ not illegal?

Source Stratfor

There is a “more than reasonable chance” Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi will leave because the international community is united against him, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the commander of U.S. European Command, U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, said March 29, Reuters reported. Intelligence on the Libyan rebels revealed “flickers” of al Qaeda or Hezbollah, but there is insufficient detail to suggest a significant presence, Stavridis said. The leaders of the opposition appear to be “responsible men and women,” he said.

2011/03/28

A Week in the War: Afghanistan, March 16-29, 2011

Filed under: Afghanistan, al Qaeda, National Security, Obama, Progressives, Taliban — Tags: — - @ 6:36 pm

Source Link:Stratfor

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Security Transition

Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced March 22 the first seven areas of the country where responsibility for security would be handed over completely to Afghans: the provinces of Panjshir, Bamian and Kabul (except the restive Surobi district, though the rest of Kabul’s security effectively has been in Afghan hands for years) and the cities of Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Lashkar Gah and Mehtar Lam.

Consistent with the American exit strategy of “Vietnamization” of the conflict, the real trick will not be the first areas handed over. The first are the easiest to hand over, like the already relatively calm and safe areas of Kabul. The main issue will be discovering whether Afghan forces are sufficient to hold the line against the Taliban in more contested areas. And in this sense, Mehtar Lam (not far from the Pakistani border in the east) and particularly Lashkar Gah (the capital of Helmand province in the country’s restive southwest) will be the most important to watch.

Cell Phone Towers and Taliban Intimidation

In Lashkar Gah, there have already been signs of a successful intimidation campaign by the Taliban ahead of the anticipated spring offensive. Cellular service providers in the capital have shut down service in compliance with Taliban demands, and that shutdown appears to be entering its second week. A shutdown of cellular towers at night has long been a common demand by the Taliban to prevent locals from informing on the Taliban’s nocturnal movements and activities, whether those be emplacing improvised explosive devices or other intimidation efforts. Despite assurances from Afghan security forces that cellular service providers, their families and their infrastructure, in particular the cell towers, would be protected, the providers have remained united in their observance of the Taliban demands.



(click here to enlarge image)

Lashkar Gah has been a focal point of the U.S. Marine-led campaign in Helmand to push out the Taliban and deny them the support of the population. In many ways, this has been considered a success. However, one of the most pervasive problems of providing security for the population is the insurgents’ inherent ability to move among the population and threaten retribution if their demands are not met.

The Taliban’s successful intimidation campaign in an area where Afghan government officials and security forces’ operations are concentrated is an ominous indication for International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) efforts as the fighting season heats up. It not only speaks to the Taliban’s ability to provoke fear and to the population’s susceptibility to intimidation but also serves as a potential indicator of the local population’s confidence in the Afghan security forces’ ability to provide for that security.

SGT. JEREMY ROSS/U.S. Marine Corps A 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance battalion LAV-25 in Helmand province

Community Police

Here is where community police can be particularly effective. Armed locals deny the insurgency some of the advantages that a guerilla movement enjoys against a foreign occupier. There have been many attempts at establishing coherent community police programs. Kabul has opposed them several times as they were often created outside the aegis of the Afghan government in arrangements made directly between ISAF forces and locals.

The attempt now under way in Logar province reportedly started on the governor’s initiative, which intended integration with the Afghan government in Kabul. It trains individuals nominated by the local elders who would be responsible for them (if, for example, they are caught fleecing the local population) and keeping them in their local communities — maximizing the utility of their unique knowledge of the local landscape. This is not unlike the Interim Security Critical Infrastructure (ISCI) program in Marjah, though ISCI was more directly facilitated by the ISAF).

Border Security

Meanwhile, Helmand’s border with Pakistan remains a concern. Raids and screening efforts by the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance battalion last year are resuming, aiming to provide a more sustained presence to deter the flow of fighters, weapons and material to and from Pakistan in a more coherent way. As Lashkar Gah and other portions of Helmand are turned over to Afghan security forces, Marines freed up from those efforts could be shifted south to reinforce efforts to lock down the border.

2011/03/22

America’s descent into strategic dementia

Source Link: J Post

Hat Tip NewsRealBlog

Written By CAROLINE B. GLICK

What the US foreign policy fights regarding Egypt and Libya indicate is that currently, a discussion about how events impact core US regional interests is completely absent from the discussion.

The US’s new war against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is the latest sign of its steady regional decline. In media interviews over the weekend, US military chief Adm. Michael Mullen was hard-pressed to explain either the goal of the military strikes in Libya or their strategic rationale.

Mullen’s difficulty explaining the purpose of this new war was indicative of the increasing irrationality of US foreign policy.

Traditionally, states have crafted their foreign policy to expand their wealth and bolster their national security. In this context, US foreign policy in the Middle East has traditionally been directed towards advancing three goals: Guaranteeing the free flow of inexpensive petroleum products from the Middle East to global market; strengthening regimes and governments that are in a position to advance this core US goal at the expense of US enemies; and fighting against regional forces like the pan-Arabists and the jihadists that advance a political program inherently hostile to US power.

Other competing interests have periodically interfered with US Middle East policy. And these have to greater or lesser degrees impaired the US’s ability to formulate and implement rational policies in the region.

These competing interests have included the desire to placate somewhat friendly Arab regimes that are stressed by or dominated by anti-US forces; a desire to foster good relations with Europe; and a desire to win the support of the US media.

Under the Obama administration, these competing interests have not merely influenced US policy in the Middle East. They have dominated it. Core American interests have been thrown to the wayside.

BEFORE CONSIDERING the deleterious impact this descent into strategic dementia has had on US interests, it is necessary to consider the motivations of the various sides to the foreign policy debate in the US today.

All of the sides have contributed to the fact that US Middle East policy is now firmly submerged in a morass of strategic insanity.

The first side in the debate is the anti-imperialist camp, represented by President Barack Obama himself. Since taking office, Obama has made clear that he views the US as an imperialist power on the world stage. As a result, the overarching goal of Obama’s foreign policy has been to end US global hegemony.

Obama looks to the UN as a vehicle for tethering the US superpower. He views US allies in the Middle East and around the world with suspicion because he feels that as US allies, they are complicit with US imperialism.

Given his view, Obama’s instincts dictate that he do nothing to advance the US’s core interests in the Middle East. Consider his policies towards Iran. The Iranian regime threatens all of the US’s core regional interests.

And yet, Obama has refused to lift a finger against the mullahs.

Operating under the assumption that US enemies are right to hate America due to its global hegemony, when the mullahs stole the 2009 presidential elections for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and then violently repressed the pro-Western opposition Green Movement, Obama sided with the mullahs.

Aside from its imperative to lash out at Israel, Obama’s ideological predisposition would permit him to happily sit on the sidelines and do nothing against US foe or friend alike. But given Obama’s basic suspicion of US allies, to the extent he has bowed to pressure to take action in the Middle East, he has always done so to the detriment of US allies.

Obama’s treatment of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is case in point.

When the Muslim Brotherhood-backed opposition protests began in late January, Obama was perfectly happy to do nothing despite the US’s overwhelming national interest in preserving Mubarak in power. But when faced with domestic pressure to intervene against Mubarak, he did so with a vengeance.

Not only did Obama force Mubarak to resign. He prevented Mubarak from resigning in September and so ensured that the Brotherhood would dominate the transition period to the new regime.

Obama’s most outspoken opponents in the US foreign policy debate are the neoconservatives.

Like Obama, the neoconservatives are not motivated to act by concern for the US’s core regional interests. What motivates them is their belief that the US must always oppose tyranny.

In some cases, like Iran and Iraq, the neoconservatives’ view was in consonance with US strategic interests and so their policy recommendation of siding with regime opponents against the regimes was rational.

The problem with the neoconservative position is that it makes no distinction between liberal regime opponents and illiberal regime opponents. It can see no difference between pro-US despots and anti-US despots.

If there is noticeable opposition to tyrants, then the US must support that opposition.

This view is what informed the neoconservative bid to oust Mubarak last month and Gaddafi this month.

The fracture between the Obama camp and the neoconservative camp came to a head with Libya. Obama wished to sit on the sidelines and the neoconservatives pushed for intervention.

To an even greater degree than in Egypt, the debate was settled by the third US foreign policy camp – the opportunists. Led today by Clinton, the opportunist camp supports whoever they believe is going to make them most popular with the media and Europe.

In the case of Libya, the opportunist interests dictated military intervention against Gaddafi. Europe opposes Gaddafi because the French and the British bet early on that his opponents were winning. France recognized the opposition as the legitimate government two weeks ago.

Once Gaddafi’s counteroffensive began, France and Britain realized they would be harmed politically and economically if Gaddafi maintained power so they began calling for military strikes to overthrow him.

As for the media, they were quick to romanticize the amorphous “opposition” as freedom fighters.

Seeing the direction of the wind, Clinton jumped on the European-media bandwagon and forced Obama to agree to a military operation whose goal no one can define.

WHAT THE US foreign policy fights regarding Egypt and Libya indicate is that currently, a discussion about how events impact core US regional interests is completely absent from the discussion. Consequently, it should surprise no one that none of the policies the US is implementing in the region advance those core interests in any way. Indeed, they are being severely damaged.

Under Mubarak, Egypt advanced US interests in two main ways. First, by waging war against the Muslim Brotherhood and opposing the rise of Iranian power in the region, Mubarak weakened the regional forces that most threatened US interests. Second, by managing the Suez Canal in conformance with international maritime law, Egypt facilitated the smooth transport of petroleum products to global markets and prevented Iran from operating in the Mediterranean Sea.

Since Mubarak was ousted, the ruling military junta has taken actions that signal that Egypt is no longer interested in behaving in a manner that advances US interests.

Domestically, the junta has embarked on a course that all but guarantees the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in the fall.

Saturday’s referendum on constitutional amendments was a huge victory for the Brotherhood on two counts. First, it cemented Islamic law as the primary source of legislation and so paved the way for the Brotherhood’s transformation of Egypt into an Islamic state. Under Mubarak, that constitutional article meant nothing. Under the Brotherhood, it means everything.

Second, it set the date for parliamentary elections for September. Only the Brotherhood, and remnants of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party will be ready to stand for election so soon. The liberals have no chance of mounting a coherent campaign in just six months.

In anticipation of the Brotherhood’s rise to power, the military has begun realigning Egypt into the Iranian camp. This realignment is seen most openly in Egypt’s new support for Hamas. Mubarak opposed Hamas because it is part of the Brotherhood.

The junta supports it for the same reason. Newly appointed Foreign Minister Nabil el-Araby has already called for the opening of Egypt’s border with Hamas ruled Gaza.

There can be little doubt Hamas’s massive rocket barrage against Israel on Saturday was the product of its sense that Egypt is now on its side.

As for the Suez Canal, the junta’s behavior so far is a cause for alarm. Binding UN Security Council Resolution 1747 from 2007 bars Iran from shipping arms. Yet last month the junta thumbed its nose at international law and permitted two Iranian naval ships to traverse the canal without being inspected.

According to military sources, one of the ships carried advanced armaments. These were illicitly transferred to the German merchant ship Victoria at Syria’s Latakia port. Last week, IDF naval commandos interdicted the Victoria with its Iranian weaponry en route to Gaza via Alexandria.

Add to that Egypt’s decision to abrogate its contractual obligation to supply Israel with natural gas and we see that the junta is willing to suspend its commitment to international law in order to realign its foreign policy with Iran.

ON EVERY level, a post-Mubarak Egypt threatens the US core interests that Mubarak advanced.

Then there is Libya. One of the most astounding aspects of the US debate on Libya in recent weeks has been the scant attention paid to the nature of the rebels.

The rebels are reportedly represented by the so-called National Transitional Council led by several of Gaddafi’s former ministers.

But while these men – who are themselves competing for the leadership mantle – are the face of the NTC, it is unclear who stands behind them. Only nine of the NTC’s 31 members have been identified.

Unfortunately, available data suggest that the rebels championed as freedom fighters by the neoconservatives, the opportunists, the Europeans and the Western media alike are not exactly liberal democrats. Indeed, the data indicate that Gaddafi’s opponents are more aligned with al-Qaida than with the US.

Under jihadist commander Abu Yahya Al- Libi, Libyan jihadists staged anti-regime uprisings in the mid-1990s. Like today, those uprisings’ central hubs were Benghazi and Darnah.

In 2007 Al-Libi merged his forces into al- Qaida. On March 18, while denouncing the US, France and Britain, Al-Libi called on his forces to overthrow Gaddafi.

A 2007 US Military Academy study of information on al-Qaida forces in Iraq indicate that by far, Eastern Libya made the largest per capita contribution to al-Qaida forces in Iraq.

None of this proves that the US is now assisting an al-Qaida takeover of Libya. But it certainly indicates that the forces being assisted by the US in Libya are probably no more sympathetic to US interests than Gaddafi is. At a minimum, the data indicate the US has no compelling national interest in helping the rebels in overthrow Gaddafi.

The significance of the US’s descent into strategic irrationality bodes ill not just for US allies, but for America itself. Until the US foreign policy community is again able to recognize and work to advance the US’s core interests in the Middle East, America’s policies will threaten both its allies and itself.

caroline@carolineglick.com

Yemen: 2 Al Qaeda Fighters Killed In Clash With Army

Source Link: Stratfor

Al Qaeda militants on March 22 surrounded a Yemeni army unit in Loder in the southern province of Abyan, leading to a firefight in which two militants died and a third was injured, a security official said, AFP reported. The official said five soldiers were injured in the three-hour clash, in which both sides used artillery, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. A witness said the bodies of three al Qaeda fighters were removed from the scene.

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