Archive for the ‘Islamic State’ category

Did Obama’s Libyan War Lead to Manchester Arena Bombing?

May 24, 2017

Did Obama’s Libyan War Lead to Manchester Arena Bombing? Front Page Magazine (The Point), Daniel Greenfield, May 24, 2017

(According to an article just posted at Fox News,

Manchester bomber Salman Abedi apparently wasn’t the only member of his family to harbor extremist views as a Libyan counter-terrorism force arrested the suicide bomber’s younger brother late Wednesday — and as reports emerged about their father’s past as a member of an Al Qaeda-backed group.

Hashem Abedi, who was born in 1997, was arrested in Tripoli on Wednesday evening by the Libyan counter-terrorism force Rada on suspicion of links to the Islamic State, a Libyan spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday.

— DM)

We know that Salman Abedi, the Muslim terrorist who perpetrated the Manchester Arena bombing, was a second-generation refugee. His parents were refugees from Libya. While some such refugees were indeed fleeing tyranny. Europe and America all too often took in Islamists who plotted takeovers from European bases. That’s why the Muslim Brotherhood and the Ayatollah both operated that way.

US officials are supposedly saying that Abedi went to Libya a few weeks before the attack and came back several days before the attack. 

Two obvious issues

1. Major parts of Libya are now controlled by ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Anyone traveling there should be flagged.

2. If Salman Abedi traveled to Libya to get training or motivation for the attack, which seems likely, then this is another bloody atrocity (like Benghazi) that is on Obama’s dirty hands. His war to empower Islamists in Libya was illegal and widely opposed by the American people. It led to the murder of four Americans, three in Benghazi, and now a number of young girls in Libya.

If anything deserves a special prosecutor, the role of Obama, Hillary and their associates in this illegal war and its horrifying consequences does.

Manchester: Europe Still ‘Shocked, Shocked’

May 24, 2017

Manchester: Europe Still ‘Shocked, Shocked’, Gatestone InstituteJudith Bergman, May 24, 2017

After hearing of the Manchester terrorist attack, politicians once more communicated their by now old-routine of “shock” and “grief” at the predictable outcome of their own policies.

Most dumbfounding of all, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she was watching the developments in Manchester “with grief and horror” and that she found the attack “incomprehensible”.

Every time a European leader publicly endorses Islam as a great faith, a “religion of peace”, or claims that violence in Islam is a “perversion of a great faith”, despite massive evidence to the contrary, they signal in the strongest way possible that with every devastating attack, the West is ripe for the taking.

When ISIS attacked the Bataclan Theater in Paris in November 2015, it did so because, in its own words, it was “where hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice.” A year earlier, ISIS had forbidden all music as haram (forbidden). Many Islamic scholars support the idea that Islam forbids the ‘sinful’ music of the West.

It should, therefore, not be a surprise to anybody that Islamic terrorists might target a concert by the American pop singer Ariana Grande in Manchester on May 22. In addition, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned last September that terrorists are focused on concerts, sporting events and outdoor gatherings because such venues “often pursue simple, achievable attacks with an emphasis on economic impact and mass casualties”.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Manchester suicide bombing, in which a device laced with screws and bolts was detonated. Twenty-two people, children and adults, were murdered in the explosion that ripped through the Manchester concert area; more than 50 people were wounded. While the media is describing the use of nail bombs at the concert hall as a new and surprising tactic, it is in fact an extremely old one, practiced by Arab terrorists on Israelis for decades.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 23: A police officer stands guard close to the Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)

Nevertheless, after hearing of the Manchester terrorist attack, politicians once more communicated their by now old-routine of “shock” and “grief” at the predictable outcome of their own policies. The usual platitudes of “thoughts and hearts” being with the victims of the attack, accompanied professed shock.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk, tweeted: “My heart is in Manchester this night. Our thoughts are with the victims.” Leader of the British Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, condemned the “shocking and horrific” attack. British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said it was a “tragic incident”, while Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn called it a “terrible incident”. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his citizens were “shocked by the news of the horrific attack in Manchester tonight”. Most dumbfounding of all, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she was watching the developments in Manchester “with grief and horror” and that she found the attack “incomprehensible”.

After 9/11 in the United States; the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed nearly 200 and wounded 2000; the 2005 attacks on London’s transit system where 56 people were killed and 700 wounded; the 2015 attacks in Paris, where ISIS killed 130 people and wounded nearly 400; the March 2016 attacks on the Brussels airport and metro station, where 31 people were killed and 300 wounded; the July 2016 attack in Nice, where 86 people, including ten children, were killed and more than 200 people wounded; the December 2016 attack in Berlin, where 12 people were killed and almost 50 wounded; the March 2017 attack on Westminster that killed three people and wounded more than 20; the April 2017 attack in Stockholm, where 5 people were killed, including one 11-year-old girl; let alone countless attacks in Israel, Western leaders have run out of all conceivable excuses to be shocked and surprised at Islamic terrorism occurring in their cities at ever-increasing frequency.

All the above-mentioned attacks are just the spectacular ones. There have been innumerable others, sometimes at the rate of several attacks per month, which barely made the headlines, such as the Muslim man who, a little over a month ago, tortured and stabbed a 66-year-old Jewish woman in Paris and then, while shouting “Allahu Akbar”, threw her out of the window; or the Paris airport attacker in March, who came “to die for Allah” and accomplished his goal without, miraculously, taking any innocent bystanders with him,

After the last spectacular terrorist atrocity in the UK, which aimed at the very heart of European democratic civilization by targeting the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge, British PM Theresa May said: “It is wrong to describe this as Islamic terrorism. It is Islamist terrorism and the perversion of a great faith”.

It is impossible to fight back against that which you refuse to understand or acknowledge, but then again, European leaders seem to have no intention of fighting back, as they have evidently chosen an entirely different tactic, namely that of appeasement.

Every time a European leader publicly endorses Islam as a great faith, a “religion of peace”, or claims that violence in Islam is a “perversion of a great faith”, despite massive evidence to the contrary — the actual violent contents of the Quran and the hadiths, which include repeated exhortations to fight the “infidels” — they signal in the strongest way possible to organizations such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah and Hamas, that with every devastating attack, the West is ripe for the taking. The terror organizations and their supporters see European leaders’ immense fear of causing even the slightest offense, despite protestations to the contrary from leaders such as Theresa May.

The fear is accompanied by a persistent resolve to pretend, at whatever cost — even that of the lives of their citizens — that Europe is not at war, even though it is blindingly clear that others are at war with it.

These terrorist organizations perceive that when ministers in countries such as Sweden, where according to news reports, 150 ISIS fighters have returned and are apparently walking around freely, propose the integration of Islamic State jihadists back into Swedish society — as a solution to terrorism! — it will not take much more effort to make these leaders submit completely, as Sweden almost certainly has. This “solution” can only work on terrorists as encouragement to carry out even more terrorism — as is overwhelmingly evident from the increasing frequency of terrorist attacks on European soil.

While European politicians, incredibly, believe that their tactics are preventing terrorism, they are in fact empowering it as much as possible: Terrorists do not react to heartfelt sympathy, teddy bears and candlelit vigils. If anything, it arguably makes them even more disgusted with Western society, which they want to transform into a caliphate under Islamic sharia law.

Politicians seem to lose sight all the time of the Islamist goal of the caliphate. Islamic terrorism is not “mindless violence” but clearly calculated terror to force the eventual submission of the targeted society. So far, with the West inert and in denial, the terrorists seem to be winning.

In Clear Attempt to Sabotage U.S. Relations, Intel-Leakers Tell Media What Trump Did NOT Tell the Russians

May 18, 2017

In Clear Attempt to Sabotage U.S. Relations, Intel-Leakers Tell Media What Trump Did NOT Tell the Russians, The Jewish PressJ. E. Dyer, May 18, 2017

The way to get ahead of this severe problem for the rule of law and the proper functioning of government is for Trump to have the leakers identified, and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.  It’s obvious that Congress is paralyzed by sheer sclerosis, starting with terror of the media.  It’s also obvious that there are so many Obama holdovers left in the federal bureaucracy, it will be hard for the Trump administration to find people who can be trusted.

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{Originally posted to the author’s website, Liberty Unyielding}

It’s time to call a halt to the leak problem from the U.S. intelligence community.  This is beyond a “leak problem.”  It is spilling over into outright sabotage of America’s national interests, all in the quest to bring President Trump down.

After yesterday’s story by the Washington Post was repudiated by H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson, and Dina Powell, McMaster made additional comments Tuesday morning to clarify exactly how false the story was.

The gist of the original story was that President Trump, in speaking to the visiting Russians last week about an ISIS “laptop plot,” revealed highly classified details that would have allowed the Russians to determine what the source of some of the intelligence was.  The WaPo article made reference to the sensitive intelligence of a foreign ally, and to Trump disclosing the city in which the intel was gained. (N.B. — WaPo could only have gained this impression from people who weren’t there, but who are bound by oath to not reveal exactly the sort of intelligence they allege Trump revealed.)

This morning, McMaster stated in no uncertain terms that not only did Trump not make these disclosures — Trump didn’t even know the source of the intelligence, or the city it was obtained in.  Thus, the president could not possibly have exposed the information as alleged in the WaPo piece.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster on Tuesday said President Trump did not jeopardize intelligence assets by revealing highly sensitive information to Russian officials, adding that Trump did not know where the intel came from. …

McMaster said Trump could not have endangered national security because he did not even know the source of the information he discussed.

“The president wasn’t even aware of where this information came from,” he said. “He wasn’t briefed on the source.”

There is nothing unusual about this latter point.  Presidents are selective about when and why the source of intelligence matters to them.  Most of the time, they have too many other things to think about to probe the matter.  They understand the scope and general nature of national capabilities, but it’s only in very specific cases that they care about sources — or that their officials highlight sources to them, for some reason.

In this case, General McMaster made clear that Trump didn’t know the details WaPo‘s source alleges he exposed, and therefore, he couldn’t have exposed them.

This is good news.  Bottom line:  Trump didn’t expose sensitive information about intelligence sources and methods.  (Keep that in mind.  Trump has not exposed anything.)

But the leakers who ply the mainstream media with sensitive national intelligence in order to defame Trump have now come out to expose that information themselves.

In the New York Times this morning, an article alleged that Israeli intelligence was the source, citing “a current and a former American official familiar with how the United States obtained the information.”  The NYT article then went on to blithely speculate about how that disclosure could damage U.S. relations with Israel — and, my goodness, just before Trump’s first visit there as president, to boot.

Hard on the heels of the NYT piece, the Wall Street Journal came out with one stating even more categorically that the source was Israel.  Just so you won’t miss it, apparently, the authors made “Israel” the very first word of the story:

Israel provided the U.S. with the classified information that President Donald Trump shared last week with Russian officials, according to officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

The intelligence came from a particularly valuable source of information about the Islamic State terrorist group’s ability to build sophisticated explosives that could evade aviation-security measures and be placed on aircraft, these officials said. The source of the information was developed before Mr. Trump’s election in November, they said.

And, of course, the WSJ piece goes on to speculate about how this will damage U.S.-Israeli relations.  Both pieces (NYT and WSJ) also allude to the damage it will do to America’s intelligence partnerships with all our allies.

Apparently, the news choreographers behind this orchestrated leak campaign think we’re stupid.  Trump didn’t cause this damage.

They did.

If you don’t think at this point that there’s a “deep state” or “shadow government” trying to sabotage Trump, well, bless your heart.  The actors in the deep state — if it’s actually true that Israel is the source of the intelligence about the “laptop plot,” and that they had direct knowledge of that — have just committed an indisputable felony by telling that to the media.

If America’s relations with Israel, and with our intelligence partners in general, are damaged out of this, it’s the leakers who are at fault.  That could not be established more clearly.

I don’t want you to forget that it’s the responsible officials in the government who are at fault here.  The media complicity is disgusting, but the clear felony is what the government officials did.

It’s the same felony they committed, in fact, by revealing national intelligence information about monitoring the Russian ambassador’s phone calls, and unmasking Michael Flynn.  But in this case, the sanctimonious chatter about “damage to national interests” is on a larger scale.  And the potential for such damage is indeed great.  The leakers have created that potential.

The way to get ahead of this severe problem for the rule of law and the proper functioning of government is for Trump to have the leakers identified, and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.  It’s obvious that Congress is paralyzed by sheer sclerosis, starting with terror of the media.  It’s also obvious that there are so many Obama holdovers left in the federal bureaucracy, it will be hard for the Trump administration to find people who can be trusted.

Adam Kredo had a must-read post on that at the Washington Free Beacon on Monday.

Trump administration insiders likened the problem to a game of whack-a-mole, a children’s game in which players must hit a group of moles as they pop out of their holes.

“The problem is that the Obama administration left holdovers all over the government, so you get rid of one Obama loyalist and the replacement is another Obama loyalist,” said one national security insider close to the Trump administration.

But there appear to be trustworthy officials still in DOJ and the FBI.  Fear of how the media and Democratic leaders will spin it must not stop Trump from identifying the leakers and prosecuting them.  I think Trump will have to reach past the major MSM outlets to make his case to the people.  But there is a legitimate, law-based case to be made, and a path of law to follow.  Revealing national secrets and imperiling national interests is what the leakers have done — not the president.

Pretending that going after those leakers might be illegitimate, as Trump’s opponents are likely to do, would be a supreme exercise in self-deceit, at best.  At worst, it would clearly be the argument of a faction with only evil intentions, determined to destroy the rule of law and thwart the legitimate operation of government.

New ISIS mobile tactics against US in Syria, Iraq

May 8, 2017

New ISIS mobile tactics against US in Syria, Iraq, DEBKAfile, May 8, 2017

The effect of this tactic has been disastrous. Capable of penetrating as far as 10 km inside Iraqi lines, the deadly vehicles and suiciders have managed to slow the US-Iraqi advance and, in some places, brought it to a halt. The method has won the title of “crust mobile defense” from American commanders in Syria and Iraq

In short, the Mosul offensive, estimated to last a couple of months, is going into its eighth month with no end in sight.

A live example of this method was seen in Iraq Sunday, May 7, when at least five ISIS suicide bombers detonated their explosives vests against Kurdish Peshmerga forces outside the K1 base near the northern oil city of Kirkuk where US instructors are deployed. At least two Kurdish servicemen were killed.

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It is important to get the spate of reported successes by US-backed forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in proper proportion – in particular, the impression that ISIS is falling back from its strongholds in Mosul and Raqqa and that its certain defeat is just around the corner.

On Monday, May 8, it was disclosed that Sheikh Abdul Hasib, Islamic State commander in the Afghan province of Khorasan was killed in a raid on April 27 by US and Afghan special operations forces, in which two US Army Rangers lost their lives.

All these reports are accurate as far as they go, but they don’t take into account the upbeat sense prevailing in the ISIS command. The Islamic organization’s strategists, former officers of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein regime and Baath party, are confident they have found a convincing tactical answer to the American push for crushing them in Mosul. They don’t believe they are close to defeat or that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s caliphate is anywhere near collapse.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources offer six reasons for the jihadists’ confidence, which the Mosul battle has if anything solidified:

1.  The numbers of ISIS fighters still fighting in the Old City of Mosul is seriously underestimated as 300-400 by American and Iraqi military sources. The true figure is ten times larger – 3,000-4,000.

2.   The American and the Iraqi commands have not worked out how to counter the ISIS forces’ device of connecting tunnels running under buildings, which are accessed through holes blown through the walls of attached buildings. The jihadists can therefore move around between battles unobserved.

3.  The only force able to combat ISIS tactics is the Iraqi Gold Division, the one elite force available to the US-Iraqi command. It is not however large enough to fight in more than one arena at once and is, moreover, too slow-moving to overwhelm the swift, invisible ISIS fighters. Most other Iraqi army units have been withdrawn from the Mosul front after being decimated.

4.  ISIS has given up the strategy of defending large urban areas, pursued early in its campaign of conquest in such places as Ramadi, Tikrit and Fallujah – and the start of its defense of Mosul. Instead, their commanders have split them up into small detachments of no more than 10-15 fighters each for commando and suicide raids against their adversaries. These detachments are supported by a large group well behind the front lines which is running assembly lines of booby-trapped cars for delivery to the commando detachments.

Each is provided with more than a dozen explosive cars for release against Iraqi and US troops for maximum losses, as well plenty of exposive vests for multiple suicide attacks.

5. The effect of this tactic has been disastrous. Capable of penetrating as far as 10 km inside Iraqi lines, the deadly vehicles and suiciders have managed to slow the US-Iraqi advance and, in some places, brought it to a halt. The method has won the title of “crust mobile defense” from American commanders in Syria and Iraq

In short, the Mosul offensive, estimated to last a couple of months, is going into its eighth month with no end in sight.

A live example of this method was seen in Iraq Sunday, May 7, when at least five ISIS suicide bombers detonated their explosives vests against Kurdish Peshmerga forces outside the K1 base near the northern oil city of Kirkuk where US instructors are deployed. At least two Kurdish servicemen were killed.

6. High on the success of their tactics in Iraq, ISIS chiefs are duplicating it at the Raqqa battlefield in Syria. They have begun relocating their northern Syrian command centers to the eastern Deir ez-Zor region and Euphrates Valley, which straddles the Syrian-Iraqi border. The terrorist organization has selected the small desert town of Al-Mayadin east of Deir ez-Zor as the next seat for its central command, mainly because of its isolation. Only five roads access the town, most of them not fit for vehicular traffic and so any approaching enemy is quickly exposed.

ISIS is now planning to post its “crust mobile defense system” squads along the 170km of road linking Al Mayadin to Raqqa.

Sebastian Gorka Speech at the Republican National Lawyers Association

May 6, 2017

Sebastian Gorka Speech at the Republican National Lawyers Association, C-SPAN via YouTube, May 5, 2017

(Dr. Gorka addresses the Islamic Caliphate, aka the Islamic State, its history and how to defeat it and its affiliates. Please see also, President Trump slams the book down on calumny campaign against Dr. Gorka. — DM)

 

Mosul quietly fills with Iran-backed Shiite militias using battle for revenge on Sunnis

April 30, 2017

Mosul quietly fills with Iran-backed Shiite militias using battle for revenge on Sunnis, Washington Times, Seth J. Frantzman, April 30, 2017

An Iraqi Special Forces vehicle displays a Shiite flag bearing the likeness of Imam Hussein and Imam Ali with Arabic words reading “At your service Hussein” in Mosul, Iraq. State

HAMAM AL-ALIL, Iraq — The road to Mosul is littered with the detritus from almost three years of war: burned M1117 armored vehicles, sandbagged berms and trenches from defensive positions once manned against Islamic State fighters, houses pancaked by airstrikes. The long supply line of the Iraqi army stretches through villages, with bulldozers, camouflaged trucks and temporary base camps.

Particularly noticeable are the frequent checkpoints manned by young armed men. But the fighters often aren’t from the Iraqi army or the Federal Police, but are members of various Iran-supported Shiite militias in the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Units.

While taking part in the U.S.-backed assault on the Islamic State group’s last major stronghold in Iraq, many of these units fly flags celebrating Shiite religious figures such as the Imam Hussein, and some have posters of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Life in those areas under control of the Shiite militias provides a window into Iran’s influence and the sectarian tensions that still dog Iraq as the campaign for Mosul enters its seventh grinding month.

A tour of these areas shows that Shiite militias and Iran have been empowered in the fight and that Iraq remains a state even more divided along religious and ethnic lines.

The battle for Mosul, once a city of more than 2 million residents, began in mid-October. In a lightning assault in 2014, the Islamic State, a radical Sunni Muslim group, took the city, expelled Christians and massacred Shiite and other minorities, and dynamited shrines and archaeological sites as part of its Salafi policy. When the Iraqi army began its campaign last fall, Mosul’s population had been reduced to around 1 million people.

Complicating the battle has been the presence of thousands of fighters allied with the Popular Mobilization Units. Composed of numerous militias that answered a 2014 fatwa by Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to fight the Islamic State, the units have many leaders with shadowy pro-Iranian pasts.

Qais Khazali was a follower of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who attacked U.S. troops in Karbala in 2007 and now runs the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia. Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Badr Organization, fought alongside Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, also fought with the Iranians in the 1980s.

In December, the PMU was incorporated as an official paramilitary force of the Iraqi government. But fears remain that its role in northern Iraq will inflame tensions with Sunni Arabs and the Kurdish population.

In an October speech, Mr. Khazali called the battle for Mosul the “revenge for the killing of Hussein.” He was referring to a historic killing that Shiites blame on Sunnis and tying it to the modern sectarian war with the Islamic State.

“If they exact widespread revenge against the Sunnis and expel them, this might create a conducive environment for ISIS to come back,” Kawa Hassan, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Brussels-based EastWest Institute, told a European Parliament hearing in November.

Quietly expanding

The worst fears of mass revenge killings and expulsions have not been realized in or around Mosul to date. Instead, Shiite militias are more quietly extending their presence and visible control in a new part of the country, as a tour of the region repeatedly demonstrates.

Driving out of the Kurdish autonomous region from Irbil, the closest major city to Mosul, one leaves the Kurdish flags behind and immediately enters the uncertain terrain of militias. In the Christian town of Hamdaniyeh, the Nineveh Plains Protection Units, a Christian militia paid by and affiliated with the PMU, guards the entrance and exit. Its members are relaxed and friendly. Most of them live in the Kurdish region, where they fled the Islamic State and have only recently returned.

After Hamdaniyeh, the road crosses hillocks and fields with long-dilapidated chicken coops and the militias are from a Shabak unit. The Shabak are a local minority, some of whom are Shiite and recently joined the PMU’s Badr Organization.

For some Shabak and Iraqi Christians, the PMU are liberators. Last year, the PMU released a video showing the church bells of Mosul ringing again, sending the message that they would liberate the city from the Islamic State and make it safe for Christians. Militia members hand out “Imam Hussein” flags to children in local hamlets.

But in some Sunni Arab villages, there is obvious fear of the militia members who wander the streets, rifles over their shoulders, peering into mud-caked compounds.

Leaving the Shabak behind, the road skirts the ruins of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, which Islamic State fighters blew up in 2015. A floating pontoon bridge over the Tigris is all that connects the western and eastern sides today. Airstrikes have demolished the old bridges.

The pontoon bridge is in such bad shape that it washed out during flooding in April and took days to repair. Civilians trod this road, and Iraqi nongovernmental organizations bring food to some of the estimated 160,000 civilians who have fled the battle of Mosul for refugee camps.

One car flying a white flag drove by with a corpse in the back, transported for burial across the river.

But each civilian vehicle, often packed with people, must pass a strict checkpoint on both sides. The checkpoint stops are tense. Soldiers and militia members ask where the Arab passengers are from and check the cargo. They are looking for Islamic State fighters. A Shiite flag with the sketch of a sword dripping blood flutters on the bridge.

As the road from the Tigris nears Mosul, it merges with a large highway that runs to Baghdad and the presence of the militias appears to thin out. The Iraqi army and Federal Police take the lead at checkpoints. Many vehicles of the Iraqi armed forces display Shiite flags, but the militias are not playing an official role in the battle for the city — only in rural areas around it.

A massive new United Nations camp at Hamam al-Alil is largely unoccupied. A giant sign by the PMU indicates that Shiite militias control access to the camp and claim they are “confirming the [safety]” of the camps and will provide aid equally.

The Shiite militias know that they are viewed by many with suspicion and are accused of discrimination and sectarianism. When a reporter tries to enter an older part of the Hamam al-Alil camp, militia members wearing black balaclavas and masks with skulls on them block the way.

Civilians in these neighborhoods have transitioned from Islamic State rule to another form of religious rule, with militarized checkpoints controlling their movements. A young man who fled one of these villages when the Shiite arrived and now lives in a reformatory in Irbil said the Shiite militias don’t belong in his Sunni village or northern Iraq.

In many ways, civilian life has an air of normalcy — even in Mosul with the sound of gunfire in the background. Women in black abayas wait for food to be distributed. Men stand around smoking, observing. Children play, some with visible burns from the war.

Most of these people have lived with years of war. Since the 1980s and particularly since 2003, they have witnessed rounds of violence. In January 2008, for instance, the city was hit by more than a dozen attacks a day, including improvised explosive devices, car bombs and shootings.

By contrast, life under the Islamic State was relatively peaceful for many pious Sunnis, many of whom greeted the takeover warmly in 2014.

“This too shall pass,” seemed to be the overall feeling in and around Mosul. Saddam came and went, then the Americans, the jihadis, the Americans, the Islamic State and now the Shiite militias. If Shiite militias continue to hoist flags over Sunni mosques in the city and the militias continue to man dozens of checkpoints in the rural countryside, then it is likely only a matter of time before insurgent attacks begin again.

Afghanistan’s terrorist resurgence: Al Qaeda, ISIS, and beyond

April 27, 2017

Afghanistan’s terrorist resurgence: Al Qaeda, ISIS, and beyond, Long War Journal, April 27, 2017

More than 15 years after the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda, the group maintains a persistent and significant presence in the country. Despite the Obama administration’s surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012, the Taliban, which has maintained its close alliance with al-Qaeda, is resurgent and today holds more ground in the country since the U.S. ousted the jihadists in early 2002.

And the threat posed by jihadist groups in Afghanistan has expanded. The Islamic State has established a small, but significant, foothold in the country. Pakistani jihadist groups that are hostile to the U.S. – such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen – operate bases inside Afghanistan as well.

For nearly seven years, the Obama administration wrote off al-Qaeda as a spent force. The group has been described as “decimated.” After Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, President Obama said the “core of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on a path to defeat.” The Obama administration pushed this narrative hard, with many counterterrorism analysts adopting the line that al-Qaeda was either defeated or close to it.

Between 2010 and 2016, Obama administration officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta, as well as other U.S. military and intelligence officials, characterized al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan as minimal and consistently told the American public that the group has a presence of just 50 to 100 fighters. “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in tribal areas of Pakistan,” Panetta said on ABC News This Week.

 

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Editor’s note: Below is Bill Roggio’s testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation. A PDF of the testimony, with footnotes, can be downloaded here.

Chairman Poe, Ranking Member Keating, and other members of this subcommittee, thank you for inviting me here today to speak about the terrorist groups based in Afghanistan and their continuing threat to U.S. national security.

More than 15 years after the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda, the group maintains a persistent and significant presence in the country. Despite the Obama administration’s surge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2012, the Taliban, which has maintained its close alliance with al-Qaeda, is resurgent and today holds more ground in the country since the U.S. ousted the jihadists in early 2002.

And the threat posed by jihadist groups in Afghanistan has expanded. The Islamic State has established a small, but significant, foothold in the country. Pakistani jihadist groups that are hostile to the U.S. – such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen – operate bases inside Afghanistan as well.

U.S. Estimates on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan Were Incorrect

For nearly seven years, the Obama administration wrote off al-Qaeda as a spent force. The group has been described as “decimated.” After Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, President Obama said the “core of al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on a path to defeat.” The Obama administration pushed this narrative hard, with many counterterrorism analysts adopting the line that al-Qaeda was either defeated or close to it.

Between 2010 and 2016, Obama administration officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta, as well as other U.S. military and intelligence officials, characterized al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan as minimal and consistently told the American public that the group has a presence of just 50 to 100 fighters. “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in tribal areas of Pakistan,” Panetta said on ABC News This Week.

This assessment, which contradicted the U.S. military’s own press releases announcing raids against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, was consistently repeated by U.S. intelligence and military officials. In June 2015, the U.S. military claimed in its biannual Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan report that al-Qaeda “has a sustained presence in Afghanistan of probably fewer than 100 operatives concentrated largely in Kunar and Nuristan Provinces, where they remain year-round.” The December 2015 report claimed that al-Qaeda is “primarily concentrated in the east and northeast.

This estimate of al-Qaeda’s strength, which consistently downplayed al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, came crashing down in mid-October 2015, when the U.S. military and Afghan forces orchestrated a large-scale operation against two al-Qaeda camps in the Shorabak district in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.

The scale of al-Qaeda’s presence at the two camps in Shorabak quickly disproved the longstanding 50 to 100 estimate. A U.S. military statement, quoting spokesman Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, described the raid as “one of the largest joint ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan.” It took U.S. and Afghan forces more than four days to clear the two camps, with the aid of 63 airstrikes.

Shoffner’s description of the al-Qaeda facilities indicated that they had been built long ago. “The first site, a well-established training camp, spanned approximately one square mile. The second site covered nearly 30 square miles,” Shoffner said. “We struck a major al-Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland,” he added.

Weeks later, General John F. Campbell, then the commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support mission, described one of the camps, which was run by al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), al-Qaeda’s branch in South Asia, as “probably the largest training camp-type facility that we have seen in 14 years of war.”

It has been estimated that at least 150 al-Qaeda fighters were killed during the raids on the two camps in Shorabak. This is 50 more al-Qaeda fighters than the upper end of the Obama administration’s estimate of al-Qaeda’s strength throughout all of Afghanistan. And the al-Qaeda members were killed in southern Afghanistan, not in the northeastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, where we have been told they were concentrated.

The U.S. military was ultimately forced to concede its estimate of al-Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan was wrong. In mid-December 2016, General Nicholson admitted that the U.S. military killed or captured 50 al-Qaeda leaders and an additional 200 operatives during calendar year 2016 in Afghanistan.

In April 2016, Major General Jeff Buchanan, Resolute Support’s deputy chief of staff, told CNN that the 50 to 100 estimate was incorrect based on the results of the Shorabak raid. “If you go back to last year, there were a lot of intel estimates that said within Afghanistan al-Qaeda probably has 50 to 100 members, but in this one camp we found more than 150,” he said. The estimate of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan was revised upwards to about 300.

However, well before the Shorabak raids, it was evident to those of us closely watching the war in Afghanistan that al-Qaeda was stronger in Afghanistan than the official estimates, and was not confined to small areas in the northeast. Al-Qaeda consistently reported on its operations throughout Afghanistan, and the U.S. military, up until the summer of 2013, reported on raids against al-Qaeda cells in multiple provinces.

Surely, there was something seriously wrong with the CIA and the U.S. military’s ability to properly report on al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda’s footprint inside Afghanistan remains a direct threat to U.S. national security and, with the resurgence of the Taliban, it is a threat that is only growing stronger.

The Enduring Taliban-al-Qaeda Relationship

Al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has not occurred in a vacuum. It has maintained its strength in the country since the U.S. invasion, launched a new branch, AQIS, and established training camps with the help and support of the Taliban.

When Generals Campbell and Buchanan discussed al-Qaeda in the wake of the Shorabak raid, they described the group as resurgent. Campbell described the Taliban-al-Qaeda relationship as a “renewed partnership,” while Buchanan said it “has since ‘grown stronger.’”

But like the estimate that al-Qaeda maintained a small cadre of 50 to 100 operatives in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2016, the idea that the Taliban and al-Qaeda have only recently reinvigorated their relationship is incorrect. Al-Qaeda would not have been able to maintain a large cadre of fighters and leaders inside Afghanistan, conduct operations in 25 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, establish training camps, and relocate high-level leaders from Pakistan’s tribal areas to Afghanistan without the Taliban’s long-term support.
Al-Qaeda has remained loyal to the Taliban’s leader, which it describes as the Amir al- Mumineen, or the “Commander of the Faithful,” since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Osama bin Laden maintained his oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s founder and first emir. When bin Laden died, Ayman al-Zawahiri renewed that oath. And when Mullah Omar’s death was announced in 2015, Zawahiri swore bayat (an oath of allegiance) to Mullah Mansour, the Taliban’s new leader. Mansour publicly accepted Zawahiri’s oath.

The close relationship between the two jihadist groups is also evident with the assent of the Taliban’s new deputy emir, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who leads the powerful Taliban subgroup known as the Haqqani Network. Sirajuddin and the Haqqani Network have maintained close ties to al-Qaeda for years. The relationship is evident in the U.S. government’s designations of multiple Haqqani Network leaders. Two documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound show that Siraj has closely coordinated his operations with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Taliban-al-Qaeda relationship remains strong to this day. And with the Taliban gaining control of a significant percentage of Afghanistan’s territory, al-Qaeda has more areas to plant its flag.

Rise of the Islamic State

Shortly after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the caliphate in 2014, announcing the formation of the Islamic State, a small number of disgruntled jihadists from the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, as well as al-Qaeda, discarded their oaths to the Taliban, pledged their fealty to Baghdadi, and established the so-called Khorasan province.

While the Islamic State dominates the jihad in Iraq and is a major player in Syria, the group has posed a smaller threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan when compared to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and their jihadist allies. The U.S. military estimated the group had upwards of 2,000 fighters at the beginning of 2016, but had lost between 25 and 30 percent of its men in the months that followed. While U.S. military estimates of the strength of jihadist groups in Afghanistan must be taken with a grain of salt, this number is likely in the right ballpark.
The Islamic State has a much smaller presence in Afghanistan when compared to the Taliban. While the Taliban controls or contests more than 200 of Afghanistan’s 400 districts, the Islamic State only controls terrain in several districts in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The group also reportedly has a presence in the Afghan north.

The Islamic State’s Khorasan province has remained entrenched in Nangarhar and has withstood multiple U.S.-backed offensives over the past two years. The U.S. military has had success in killing key leaders, but the group has proven resilient.

Still, the so-called caliphate’s Khorasan province has remained on the margins of the Afghan war. It has conducted a limited number of suicide attacks and other operations in the Afghan capital of Kabul and elsewhere, but has not come close to matching the Taliban’s operational tempo.

Khorasan province has had a difficult time gaining traction throughout much of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as it is unwilling to cooperate with other, long-entrenched jihadist groups. In fact, the Taliban crushed the Khorasan province’s forces in Helmand, Farah, and Zabul after they demanded that the Taliban’s fighters swear allegiance to Baghdadi.

Pakistani Jihadist Groups Operating in Afghanistan

In addition to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State, numerous Pakistan-based jihadist groups are known to operate in Afghanistan. For the most part, these organizations remain in the Taliban and al-Qaeda sphere, and leaders of the groups often backfill leadership positions when al-Qaeda commanders are killed in U.S. airstrikes.

The three largest Pakistani groups operating in Afghanistan are the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Harakat-ul-Muhajideen.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) is largely made up of Taliban groups from Pakistan’s tribal areas. It is closely allied with the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda. In 2010, the TTP organized the Times Square bombing plot.

The TTP has taken advantage of the turbulent and ungoverned Afghan-Pakistani border to shift its base of operations when the Pakistani military targets it in offensives. The U.S. has killed several TTP leaders in airstrikes in Afghanistan.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is a dangerous jihadist group that is backed by Pakistan’s military and Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. The LeT is known to operate training camps in Afghanistan and attacked the Indian Consulate in Herat in 2014.26 The U.S. has killed several senior LeT operatives in airstrikes in northeastern Afghanistan over the years. The U.S. has also listed several senior LeT operatives, including Hafiz Saeed, the group’s emir, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

Harakat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) is another Pakistani jihadist group that is known, as of August 2014, to operate training camps in Afghanistan.27 HuM has been involved in numerous acts of terror in the region, including hijacking an Indian airplane, attacking the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, and murdering Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.