Posted tagged ‘Pakistan’

IT Intrigue at the DNC

August 1, 2017

IT Intrigue at the DNC, Front Page MagazineLloyd Billingsley, August 1, 2017

Awan’s lawyer, Christopher Gowen, explains that the accusations are “the product of an anti-Muslim, right-wing smear job targeting his client and his client’s family.” 

Imagine a Russian-born IT man working for, say, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Imagine if this man smashed up computers, and purloined secret material from the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. Imagine if he was kept on the job despite financial misconduct, then attempted to flee to Russian with a wad of cash. The likely explanation would not be Russophobia, and even the old-line establishment media might think there was something to it.

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz made a name for herself last year when the Democrats booted her as Democratic National Committee boss. Now she’s back with a vengeance in a tale centering on her top information technology man, Pakistani-born Imran Awan.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, not limited to issues related to Russia, had been investigating Awan for theft and abuses related to cybersecurity. Awan had been feeling the heat and attempted to flee to Pakistan last week but the FBI arrested him at Dulles airport on a charge of bank fraud.

According to Andrew McCarthy, who prosecuted the “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel-Rahman, there’s a bit more to the story, even though Awan and his family have indeed been involved in swindles. As McCarthy has it, “this appears to be a real conspiracy, aimed at undermining American national security.”

Awan started as an IT man for Rep. Gregory Meeks, New York Democrat, then shifted to Wasserman Schultz. The Florida Democrat empowered him to add to the payroll his wife Alfi – she attempted to flee the country in March while a criminal suspect – brother Abid, Abid’s wife Natalia Sova, and Awan’s brother Jamal. As McCarthy notes:

“Awan and his family cabal of fraudsters had access for years to the e-mails and other electronic files of members of the House’s Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. It turns out they were accessing members’ computers without their knowledge, transferring files to remote servers, and stealing computer equipment — including hard drives that Awan & Co. smashed to bits of bytes before making tracks.” The smashing tactic recalls the Clinton crew during the last election cycle.

McCarthy wonders how Awan and his family achieved access to highly sensitive government information, which requires a thorough security clearance. In his judgment, the Awan cabal could not possibly have qualified for such clearance.

As the IT intrigue unfolded, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been pushing back at investigators, and objecting strenuously to inspection of a laptop belonging to Awan. McCarthy doesn’t know what information Awan and company may have ripped off, or whether he sent it to Pakistan. But the former prosecutor is certain that “this is no run-of-the-mill bank-fraud case.”

The Daily Caller has been all over the story and according to investigative reporter Luke Rosiak Wasserman Schultz employed Awan and his wife and “refused to fire either of them even after U.S. Capitol Police said in February 2017 that they were targets of the criminal investigation.” Wasserman Schultz charged the Awans were victims of anti-Muslim profiling.

Other members of Congress had dumped Awan and Company but Wasserman kept him on board and was going to pay him, “even while he was living in Pakistan.” Rosiak also observes that Wasserman Schultz’s record on cybersecurity is shaky and the Hillary Clinton ally “was the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee when it was hacked.”

Last Thursday, President Trump reposted a Townhall tweet charging “ABC, NBC, And CBS Pretty Much Bury IT Scandal Engulfing Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Office.” That prompted a New York Times piece by Nicholas Fandos headlined, “Trump Fuels Intrigue Surrounding a Former I.T. Worker’s Arrest.”

Fandos wonders if the ongoing intrigue is “the stuff of a spy novel, ripe for sleuthing,” but quickly shifts gears. Awan’s lawyer, Christopher Gowen, explains that the accusations are “the product of an anti-Muslim, right-wing smear job targeting his client and his client’s family.”

DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, called the security charges “laughable,” claiming that Awan was never employed by the DNC and that “the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia was behind the DNC hack.” As for the attempt to flee, with bundles of cash, Gowen said Awan received threats online and traveled to Pakistan to stay with family and save money.

As Cheryl Chumley observed in the Washington Times, Awan’s first employer, Gregory Meeks, suggested the authorities are targeting Awan because he was born in Pakistan and ethnicity “is a factor” in the attention the family is receiving. And now Democrats are rushing to defend Awan, Chumley writes, “saying he’s the target of massive federal Islamophobia. What a crock.”

True to form, with smashed computers, cybersecurity lapses and such, the idea that Awan might be some kind of spy is entirely plausible. So is the concept that, as Sean Hannity has suggested, Awan was the source of Democratic National Committee emails published by WikiLeaks.

Those who dismiss it all as Islamophobia, or a simple case of bank fraud, might consider this scenario.

Imagine a Russian-born IT man working for, say, House Speaker Paul Ryan. Imagine if this man smashed up computers, and purloined secret material from the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. Imagine if he was kept on the job despite financial misconduct, then attempted to flee to Russian with a wad of cash. The likely explanation would not be Russophobia, and even the old-line establishment media might think there was something to it.

In the style of Andrew McCarthy, some journalist might even flag “a real conspiracy, aimed at undermining American national security.” In the ensuing investigation, government investigators would doubtless leave no stone unturned.

Meanwhile, Awan has pleaded not guilty to one count of bank fraud, ordered to wear a GPS monitor, and surrender his passport. More details about his activities may emerge before his preliminary hearing on August 21.

Forget about Trump and the Russians. The real action is with the Awan brothers and Fusion GPS.

July 28, 2017

Forget about Trump and the Russians. The real action is with the Awan brothers and Fusion GPS., The American SpectatorScott Mckay, July 28, 2017

From a press release that hit on Thursday…

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Judiciary Committee Republicans today sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein calling for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate unaddressed matters, some connected to the 2016 election and others, including many actions taken by Obama Administration officials like Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The letter follows yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee approval of H. Res. 446, as amended, to request documents pertaining to the FBI’s investigation of former Secretary Clinton.

In their letter, the Judiciary Committee members express concern that the directive given to Special Counsel Robert Mueller is narrow in scope and many concerns arising out of the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath are not being investigated. The members call for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate grave concerns such as former Attorney General Lynch’s directive to former FBI Director Comey to mislead the American people on the nature of the investigation into former Secretary Clinton; the FBI and Justice Department’s investigative decisions related to the Clinton email investigation, including the immunity deals given to potential co-conspirators; selected leaks of classified information that unmasked U.S. persons incidentally collected upon by the intelligence community; and the FBI’s reliance on “Fusion GPS” in its investigation of the Trump campaign, among many others issues.

If you’re sick and tired of the never-ending “Trump And The Russians” scandal, which for all its hype has produced scant little actual evidence of anything other than desultory cooperation on the part of the president’s camp with an investigation it quite reasonably believes is a kangaroo court, this letter from Goodlatte’s committee might just be what the doctor ordered.

Because as Washington scandals go, Trump And The Russians doesn’t even make it out of Double-A ball. What Goodlatte and the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee want is a special counsel to take us up to the Triple-A or major league scandal level, because there are opportunities for playing time available.

The unmasking issue still has a lot of undiscovered meat on its bones; we’ve already seen a little evidence of that. The Lynch-Comey-Phoenix Airport nexus deserves a lot more scrutiny than it’s received, as do those immunity grants. And the leaks without a doubt deserve a full investigation, and some smug SOB’s from the Deep State surely deserve lengthy prison terms.

But the Fusion GPS business — and the long-simmering and now-burgeoning Awan brothers scandal — are monsters hiding in D.C.’s closet. Here’s to both those scandals continuing to crackle and spark over the next several months, on the way to full explosions the legacy media can no longer contain.

Readers of this column already have an understanding of the Awan brothers scandal, as this space covered a substantial amount of the background of it back in February when things first started happening. Click here to see that background; we’ll give a very short summary of it now.

The central figure in this scandal is a Pakistani national named Imran Awan, who appears to be connected in some way to his country’s intelligence service. Awan is an IT professional who was hired in 2004 to handle computer equipment for Florida Democrat congressman Robert Wexler, and he then picked up a job as a shared staffer to work for Wexler’s colleague Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Awan rode along with Wasserman Schultz as she ascended to the top of the Democratic Party structure, and soon not only was his boss the chair of the Democratic National Committee but Awan’s relationship with her led to his building a client list of some 80 Democrat House members who were using either Imran or other members of his family (a pair of brothers, one of their wives, his own wife) in a sizable little empire he’d built.

And in the meantime, the Awan family was engaging in a pattern of financial activities that looked a whole lot like a mafia operation — questionable real estate deals, bank fraud, kidnapping and extortion, a used-car dealership that might well have been a front for moving stolen cars to Pakistan for sale, and so on. Awan was arrested at Dulles International Airport on Monday as he tried to flee the country while the FBI and Capitol Hill Police were closing in on a bank fraud indictment. In January he had wired some $283,000 from the Congressional Federal Credit Union to two individuals in Pakistan; he was trying to board a flight to Lahore when he had the cuffs put on him.

But the real juice with the Awans isn’t the bank fraud or the possible stolen cars. The real scandal here is the stolen computers — and the stolen information. It’s alleged that the Awans illegally downloaded documents from their clients, some of whom were on the House Intelligence Committee and other sensitive committees, and even walked off with congressional computers. The FBI, in fact, seized a number of CPU’s and hard drives found at a house owned by Imran that he was renting to a military couple after the tenants had found the equipment partially destroyed in the garage and called the authorities. We don’t know what was on those hard drives.

There are even allegations the Awans were blackmailing their clients with information they’d found in their e-mails. Your imagination can likely conjure up all kinds of entertaining scenarios around that theme.

But the piece de resistance with the Awan brothers scandal is the revelation that Imran Awan, with his foreign intelligence connections, his criminal appearance and his persistent financial problems despite apparently not lacking in the ability to make a buck, had the password to Wasserman Schultz’ iPad from which she answered her e-mail… as DNC chair.

Forget about the Russians and their supposed hacking of the DNC e-mails. If you’re really curious about who got to that information and would have been in a position to shop it to the highest bidder, Imran Awan is the most likely culprit in the room.

Things are moving very quickly on this case, and it’s somewhat telling that Awan was released on bond after being caught trying to flee the country. He has a tracking bracelet on his ankle, but what makes more sense is that he may have turned states’ evidence in exchange for being let out of jail. Awan’s attorney is former Bill Clinton go-fer Chris Gowen, and the lawyer’s statement after he’d been arrested reads like a press release from a campaign operative rather than a criminal attorney; bizarrely so, one might say. It might be that Awan is rolling on Wasserman Schultz and the Clintons have decided to hang her out to dry in order to insulate themselves from whatever blowback the DNC e-mails might generate for them.

Or maybe that isn’t possible anymore. Former Washington police detective Rod Wheeler, who you’ve probably seen on Fox News from time to time and who most recently was in the news as having done some private snooping in the Seth Rich case, has intimated there is a connection between that case and that of the Awan brothers. We’re not going to try to connect those dots without more information, but one’s imagination might run riot with those.

Meanwhile, Republicans in both the House and the Senate are exceptionally curious about Fusion GPS, and with good reason. In case you’re not familiar with this outfit, it’s the “opposition research and strategic communications” firm co-founded by former Wall Street Journal reporters Peter Fritsch and Glenn Simpson which played a significant role in the 2016 election. It was Fusion GPS which commissioned the infamous and debunked “pee pee dossier,” written by former British spy Christopher Steele, sourced largely from Steele’s Russian contacts and containing a mountain of scurrilous and implausible allegations about Donald Trump’s misbehaviors. Fusion GPS was initially contracted by anti-Trump Republican donors, but after Trump got the GOP nomination it was Democrats paying the freight for their work product… and before it was over it looks like James Comey’s FBI, amazingly, was picking up the tab.

That last part is of special interest to Sen. Charles Grassley and the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has made a priority out of Fusion GPS, and had called Simpson to testify. He did, but only in private, and only after threatening to take the Fifth. That’s his right, but what does an oppo researcher need the Fifth Amendment for?

But there’s more with Fusion GPS. On Wednesday Tucker Carlson had as a guest on his show one Thor Halvorssen, a Venezuelan native of Norwegian descent who runs a watchdog outfit called the Human Rights Foundation, and Halvorssen told a harrowing story of Fusion GPS attempting to destroy his life with a smear campaign because he’d blown the whistle on a crooked contract one of Fusion’s clients had with the Venezuelan government to build power plants. That story also got told in a letter Halvorssen sent to Grassley’s committee. And then there is Fusion’s other client, Natalia Veselnitskaya, the “Russian lawyer” whose meeting with Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort has been bandied about as some sort of smoking gun proving collusion with the Russians. It turns out that Veselnitskaya had hired Fusion to help her push to overturn the Magnitsky Act, a sanctions bill targeting crooked Russian oligarchs and human rights abusers. In none of these cases did Fusion bother to register under FARA, the Foreign Agent Registry Act, which would put them on the wrong side of the law.

Grassley’s committee, and Goodlatte’s committee, would like to know if this entire Russian business was a setup cooked-up by Fusion’s dirty-tricks shop with the collusion of a few actors in the Obama administration. It’s hard to blame them.

There’s a lot of debate about Trump’s “drain the swamp” mantra these days, but nobody is really denying the swamp exists. And nobody can — not with Fusion GPS and the Awan brothers skulking around in the muck.

Canadian Islamist Groups Lose Charity Status Over Potential Militant Financing

July 19, 2017

Canadian Islamist Groups Lose Charity Status Over Potential Militant Financing, Investigative Project on Terrorism, July 19, 2017

(Please see also, U.S. Group Connected to Terrorists in Kashmir. — DM)

Canadian authorities have stripped two former affiliates of the Islamic Society of North America’s Canada chapter (ISNA-Canada) of their charitable status after discovering financial ties between the Islamic organizations and a Pakistani militant group.

ISNA Islamic Services of Canada and the Canadian Islamic Trust Foundation lost their charity status for “non-compliance” following a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) audit, according to records acquired by Canada’s Global News.

The CRA discovered several issues during the audit, including evidence that ISNA Islamic Services facilitated donations that may have ended up in the hands of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), a Kashmir-based militant group. According to the CRA report, the Toronto-based Jami Mosque raised and transferred funds to the ISNA Development Foundation “for remit” to the Relief Organization of Kashmiri Muslims (ROKM), a “charitable arm” associated with HM.

“Given the identified commonalities in directorship between ROKM and Jamaat-e-Islami and the Hizbul Mujahideen executive committee, concerns exist that the funds collected and disbursed as part of this relief fund may have been used to support the political efforts of Jamaat-e-Islami and/or its armed wing Hizbul Mujahideen,” the CRA said.

HM is designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union and India. In June, the State Department put HM’s leader, Syed Salahuddin, on its terrorist designations list, citing his threats to train suicide bombers in Kashmir and HM’s responsibility for several deadly terrorist attacks.

This development comes four years after Canadian authorities revoked ISNA Development Foundation’s charity status for similarly raising funds that may have reached militants in Kashmir. In July 2013, the Toronto Star reported that ISNA-Canada may have funneled $280,000 to ROKM.

The 2013 CRA audit found numerous issues within the ISNA Development Foundation, including missing documentation, misleading financial reports, and sending donations abroad to unapproved groups. The ISNA affiliated organization engaged in these activities despite a stated purpose of serving the poor and needy in Canada.

A 2010 CRA audit found that ISNA-Canada itself misused more than $600,000 in donor funds.

A “very small portion … is distributed to the poor and needy and the major portion is spent on the administration of the centre,” concluded the 2010 audit. “Spending for personal expenses out of the charity’s funds is unethical,” the auditor wrote, saying it is “tantamount to misappropriation of funds.”

U.S. Group Connected to Terrorists in Kashmir

July 17, 2017

U.S. Group Connected to Terrorists in Kashmir, Clarion ProjectRyan Mauro, July 17, 2017

(Please see also, Exclusive: Jihadi Cult Associate Arrested in NY With Firearms Stockpile. — DM)

The State Department recently blacklisted Mohammad Yusuf Shah (known as Syed Salahuddin), (2nd from right), leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist group (Photo: SAJJAD QAYYUM/AFP/Getty Images)

Neither Hizbul Mujahideen nor Jamaat ul-Fuqra (the original informal name of MOA) are on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

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The U.S. sanctioned the leader of an Islamist terrorist group in Kashmir named Hizbul Mujahideen late last month. The move targets an ideological ally of the U.S.-based Muslims of America organization (MOA), a cultish group known for its “Islamic villages” like Islamberg that is expressing support for the Kashmir terrorist group.

On June 26, the State Department blacklisted Mohammad Yusuf Shah (commonly known as Syed Salahuddin), the leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist group that fights in Kashmir against India and operates in Pakistan with backing from the Pakistani government.

Pakistan condemned the U.S. action.

Hizbul Mujahideen is the largest militant force in Kashmir. It condemns nationalism and democracy. It fights to create a theocratic Islamic state and caliphate. It is also closely linked to other Pakistani terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda affiliates.

MOA’s extremist leader, Sheikh Gilani, is based in Lahore, Pakistan and has long been involved in this circle of Pakistani terrorist groups. A 2003 FBI report says MOA acts as a conduit to groups in Pakistan affiliated with Al-Qaeda. This is substantiated by a former MOA member who went to Pakistan.

That is why it is so concerning that Muslims of America, a group that has boasted of having 22 “Islamic villages” in the U.S., is expressing solidarity with Hizbul Mujahideen.

MOA’s relationship with the group goes as far back as 1990.

Click here for FuqraFiles.com, the authoritative database on Muslims of America (also known as Jamaat ul-Fuqra)

On May 2, MOA announced a “multi-dimensional campaign” to “liberate” Kashmir from India. Its written statement was essentially a declaration to Muslims that Allah requires them to rally behind Hizbul Mujahideen.

It exalts the “charismatic leadership” of Burhan Wani, a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander killed last year. It credits him with inspiring “a new generation of fearless youth” and “freedom fighters.” MOA depicts the terrorist group as the face of the Kashmiri resistance to India.

In August 2016, MOA’s newspaper condemned India for killing a “top pro-independence militant leader.” Based on the wording, you’d think MOA was talking about a Kashmiri George Washington. Actually, it was Hizbul Mujahideen’s operations commander. MOA’s coverage presented the group as enjoying massive popular support.

In March 2017, MOA’s newspaper covered a battle between Indian forces and Hizbul Mujahideen and sided with the jihadists. It referred to them as “Kashmiri freedom fighters” contesting the “oppressive and violent treatment of the Kashmiri people by Indian forces.”

There’s good reason to suspect that MOA is providing Hizbul Mujahideen with more than sympathy.

MOA has a long relationship with the terrorist group. In 1990, MOA even wrote a public letter calling on all Muslims to contribute to jihad in Kashmir and to support the “Kashmir Freedom Front,” which was essentially another name for Hizbul Mujahideen.

Jihadis in Kashmir (Photo: SAJJAD QAYYUM/AFP/Getty Images)

 

On July 6, 2016, MOA published a public letter to the U.N. that said Muslims in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir are required to defend the Kashmiris against India “by every possible means.” Gilani and MOA have had a long presence in Kashmir, including a village named “Gillaniville.” Therefore, the letter is declaring that MOA is obligated to become involved “by every possible means.”

The letter also called on Muslim countries to unite into a single organization with a single force for intervention in places where Muslims are oppressed. In other words, to form a caliphate. MOA’s ideologyhas always been in favor of a caliphate, theocratic sharia law and violent jihad in places like Kashmir.

MOA’s May 2 press conference emphasized activism and humanitarian aid, but it did not reject violence or supporting violent elements.

In fact, MOA endorsed jihad by calling on Pakistan to intervene against the Indian military, an obviously violent action. Additionally, MOA’s claim that India is engaged in “genocide” would make jihad defensible, if not mandatory, to any Muslim audience.

The online statement announces its support for Kashmiris’ “struggle for self-determination.” Struggle is the synonym for jihad. That same statement heaps praise upon Hizbul Mujahideen for its jihad against India. MOA obviously chose to avoid using the eye-catching word in favor of the vaguer synonym, knowing that a Muslim audience would understand that it is referring to jihad.

MOA chief executive Hussein Adams, son of convicted terrorist Barry Adams, boasted at the May 2 press conference that MOA has been involved in supporting the Kashmiri “struggle” since the 1980s. Of course, he didn’t mention their involvement in jihad and soliciting of support for Hizbul Mujahideen.

Their own documents acknowledge this violent role in the Kashmir jihad. It is also seen in a secret video by Sheikh Gilani filmed and distributed among some MOA members in 1991-1993. Gilani explicitly says that MOA communes in North America can facilitate such training for jihad in places where Muslims are in battle, with Kashmir being the top priority. Training was open to Muslims outside of MOA.

Sheikh Gilani’s tape, which I was the first to publicly release long excerpts of, showed that MOA’s public face is different than what it says and does in private. This is undeniable proof that MOA was engaged in terrorism and that Gilani used his American camps to train and recruit terrorists for Kashmir and other places,” Martin Mawyer, president of the Christian Action Network told Clarion Project.

The Clarion Project later obtained and released a video of women at Islamberg receiving guerilla training that was filmed in 2001-2002.

MOA spoke of its providing of money, food, supplies and medical to Kashmiris using two fronts: The Kashmir American Friendship Society and the American Muslim Medical Relief Team. We know from government reports and prosecutions that MOA sends money, personnel and material to Gilani in Pakistan for more extremist purposes.

MOA complained that its applications for its “journalists” with its newspapers to go to Pakistan and Kashmir are not being approved. Obviously, the Pakistani government and/or the U.S. government don’t see their trips to Pakistan so innocuously.

This issue exposes a gap in America’s national security policy: Neither Hizbul Mujahideen nor Jamaat ul-Fuqra (the original informal name of MOA) are on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

A dozen Muslim organizations in North America have asked the State Department to review Fuqra/MOA for designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, as it fits the listed criteria. The case for designating Hizbul Mujahideen is much stronger, as the State Department has just acknowledged that it fits the criteria for its leader to be blacklisted as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

The State Department acknowledges that Hizbul Mujahideen fits the definition of a Foreign Terrorist Organization and it should now designate it as such. Doing so could sever whatever material relationship exists between Hizbul Mujahideen and Islamists in America like MOA and enable investigations and prosecutions of jihadists in America involved with the Pakistan-backed terrorist group.

US drone strikes ‘against spirit of ongoing cooperation,’ Pakistani Army chief says

June 15, 2017

US drone strikes ‘against spirit of ongoing cooperation,’ Pakistani Army chief says, Long War Journal, June 15, 2017

Bajwa insists that all the US needs to do is share intelligence, and the Pakistan military will handle the problem on its own. Yet it is well documented that when the US has given intelligence on groups such as the Haqqani Network, Pakistani officials have passed it along to the terrorists.

Pakistan often views many of these strikes as counterproductive because the US is killing leaders from their pet jihadist groups, such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, the Hafiz Gul Bahadar group, and the Mullah Nazir Group. Pakistani government and military officials have denounced strikes that have killed top leaders from these groups, which are known as “good Taliban” because they don’t actively oppose the Pakistani state. The irony is the good Taliban support the “bad Taliban,” which do fight the Pakistani state.

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Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa said today that US drone strikes and other unilateral actions “are against spirit of ongoing cooperation” and that any intelligence on terrorist whereabouts should be forwarded to the army for action. Bajwa made the statement despite the fact that Pakistani officials have routinely passed along actionable intelligence to terrorists to help them avoid raids, as well as supposed “counterproductive” drone strikes have historically been effective in killing scores of top tier terrorist leaders.

Bajwa’s view on drone strikes were summarized in an Inter-Services public relations press release that was issued on June 14, just one day after the US killed a Haqqani network leader and two of his deputies in an attack in Pakistan’s northwestern district of Hangu. From the ISPR press release:

COAS [Chief of Army Staff Bajwa] said that unilateral actions like drone strike etc are counterproductive and against spirit of ongoing cooperation and intelligence sharing being diligently undertaken by Pakistan. Pakistan Army is capable of taking effective measure if actionable intelligence is shared. He said that our focus now is to transform our operational achievements in FATA into enduring peace and stability for which early mainstreaming of FATA through reforms is essential and Pakistan Army fully supports all efforts towards that end.

Bajwa’s statement is astounding for many reasons, two of which will be addressed below:

When the US shared “actionable intelligence,” it has been passed along to jihadist leaders

Bajwa insists that all the US needs to do is share intelligence, and the Pakistan military will handle the problem on its own. Yet it is well documented that when the US has given intelligence on groups such as the Haqqani Network, Pakistani officials have passed it along to the terrorists. The Washington Post detailed two such incidents, when, in June 2011, the US passed along information to Pakistani officials on an al Qaeda facility in South Waziristan and a Haqqani Network bomb factory at a girls school in North Waziristan. Unsurprisingly, when Pakistani forces arrived, the two locations were empty.

The US has continued its drone program because the Pakistani military and its intelligence service, the Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate, could not be trusted.

Pakistan’s duplicity when it comes to supporting terrorist organizations in the region is well known. The Afghan Taliban would be a shadow of itself without the support and safe haven provided by the Pakistani government.

“Counterproductive” strikes have killed far more top tier leaders in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan than the Pakistani military

US drone strikes in Pakistan have killed more than 120 top tier jihadist leaders and operatives in the 396 recorded strikes in Pakistan since the program began in 2004. The jihadists killed come from a host of groups, including al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban its subgroup, the Haqqani Network, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Turkistan Islamic Party, Hizb Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Jhagvi, the Hafiz Gul Bahadar group, and the Mullah Nazir Group (FDD’s Long War Journal maintains a list, here).

Pakistan often views many of these strikes as counterproductive because the US is killing leaders from their pet jihadist groups, such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, the Hafiz Gul Bahadar group, and the Mullah Nazir Group. Pakistani government and military officials have denounced strikes that have killed top leaders from these groups, which are known as “good Taliban” because they don’t actively oppose the Pakistani state. The irony is the good Taliban support the “bad Taliban,” which do fight the Pakistani state.

Oddly enough, Pakistani officials even protest when the US kills members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which has killed tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians and soldiers in terrorist attacks and during its decade long insurgency in Pakistan’s northwest. Despite the fact that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is a mortal enemy of the state, the Pakistani military has a paltry record in killing top tier leaders of the group. But US drone strikes have taken out key leaders of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, including:

Hakeemullah Mehsud: Baitullah’s successor
Waliur Rehman Mehsud: Hakeemullah’s deputy and head of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in South Waziristan
Qari Hussain Mehsud: the head of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s suicide operations and director of suicide camps
Wali Mohammed: the head of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s suicide operations
Ibn Amin: a Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan military commander in Swat who was also a senior al Qaeda leader

These men were directly responsible for murdering numerous Pakistani civilians and soldiers, and had eluded Pakistani intelligence and military operations for years before they were killed by the US drone program. The killing of these top leaders even led to a schism within the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan for more than a year before the group could reorganize, with divisions that remain to this day.

Pakistani military and government officials have showed their gratitude by condemning most of these strikes.

However, despite Pakistan’s denouncement of the strikes, there is little the nation can do to halt them, short of deploying its air force and shooting down the US aircraft. In the past, the Pakistani government shut down NATO supply lines into Afghanistan in protest of the US raids. However, the US continued to target and kill top level jihadist leaders in cross-border attacks. The number of US drone strikes have decreased drastically from 117 during the peak year of 2010 to just three in 2016 and four so far this year.

Pakistani objections and international criticism have at times caused the US to halt the strikes, but only for a short period of time. Even though the US hates the optics of unilateral strikes on foreign territory without warning, the US has not reduced the number of strikes in 2016 and 2017 because of fear of retribution from Pakistan or international condemnation. Instead, the reduction can be attributed to several things: the US has shifted some resources and assets to other theaters to target al Qaeda in Somalia and Yemen, as well as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; and US intelligence incorrectly assessed al Qaeda’s presence in the region as diminished.

Pakistani Law Makes Ramadan a Dangerous Time for Religious Minorities

June 9, 2017

Pakistani Law Makes Ramadan a Dangerous Time for Religious Minorities, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Ammar Anwer, June 9, 2017

Irfan Masih

The unconscious man rushed to a Pakistani hospital was covered in filth. Irfan Masih was a sewer cleaner, and stricken by poisonous gases trapped inside a sewer hole. Time was of the essence. But emergency staff at the hospital in Pakistan’s Sindh province refused to treat Masih, a 30-year-old Christian, until he was thoroughly washed.

It is Ramadan and the doctors were fasting.

They cleaned Masih and pumped oxygen into him, but the pump was empty. Lying in the corner of the hospital, Irfan died gasping for air.

“My brother died during the process of cleansing the filth from his body,” Irfan’s brother, Parvez, told a local newspaper. Although Muslim medical professionals across the world do interact with patients in all sorts of conditions during Ramadan but according to Irfan’s mother, the doctors refused to treat him because they were fasting and said her son was ‘napaak’ (unclean).

In Pakistan, people from the Christian community face severe discrimination, and are often given jobs in sanitation. Angered at the doctors’ negligence, people from the Christian community staged a protest outside the press club in Umerkot.

During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and having sex during daylight hours. For non-Muslims in Pakistan, the holiday can be a dangerous time. Last year, police severely beat an elderly Hindu man for eating publicly during the holiday. He was eating food given to him by a charity.

Similarly, a 2013 video showed a man who said he was beaten up for eating publicly during the Muslim fasting month.

Critics blame Pakistan’s Ehtram-e-Ramadhan ordinance for creating this intolerant environment. Enacted in 1981, the ordinance seeks to ensure that the sanctity of the month of Ramadan is preserved.

Minorities are attacked even though article 3 of the ordinance refers to people who follow Islam:

1. No person who, according to the tenets of Islam, is under an obligation to fast shall eat, drink or smoke in a public place during fasting hours in the month of Ramadhan.

2. Whoever contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be punishable with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.

Although the law does not mention non-Muslims, the closing of all hotels, restaurants and even common food stores during the day does affect their lives.

The law defines a public place as “any hotel, restaurant, canteen, house room, tent, enclosures, road lane, bridge or other place to which the public have access.” It further requires that those places remain closed during fasting hours.

The ordinance states that it intends to protect the holiness of Ramadan, but while doing so it clearly violates the principles of fundamental freedoms. It forces all Muslims and non-Muslims not to eat in public, an act that could lead to fines and even imprisonment.

An amendment passed last month hikes the fine from Rs.500 to Rs.25,000 (about $388) for hotel owners who would violate the law. Television channels and theaters would pay a minimum fine of Rs.500,000 (about $7,7670) for violating the law.

I wonder whether we could protect the sanctity of any “blessed month” by adopting such harsh, coercive and tyrannical measures. Respect is earned, not imposed.

When the state starts legislating on religious grounds, it creates an environment of intolerance toward religious minorities and legitimizes discrimination. Pakistan has done this with the “Ehtram-e-Ramadhan ordinance.” Just last week, four people were arrested by the police for eating during fasting hours.

This ordinance enshrines intolerance and violates basic human rights. By closing down all the restaurants and food stores, it not only infringes upon the rights of various religious minorities in Pakistan, but also on those Muslims who do not want to comply with the ordinance.

Silence from the local media and Pakistani human rights groups over this controversial law that continues to allow maltreatment of minorities during the entire month of Ramadan is quite depressing.

Ammar Anwer is an ex-Islamist who writes for The Nation, Pakistan Today and other media outlets. He believes in secularism and democracy and aspires to see Pakistan become a pluralistic state.

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.