New Taliban & Al Qaida Strategy

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 8 months ago

A new strategy is becoming apparent with Al Qaida in Iraq, the Taliban and Al Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This new strategy is working hand-in-glove with the left in America.

The Counterterrorism Blog has a very interesting commentary on the most recently released statement of Zawahiri.  As an editorial note, I have stopped dismissing these media releases as the rantings of an unhinged, deranged old coot, and I have started paying close attention to the contents.  I probably should have done this far sooner than I did.

Zawahiri tells us — whether by accident or intent — his strategy for the future.

Al Qaida number two, Dr Ayman Zawahiri issued a new tape calling on the Afghans to “rise against the Infidels (Kuffars) and their agents (the Karzai Government).” Following are few points of analysis and evaluation:

1) Attacking the US for its “killing of innocent Afghans and torture of Muslims.”

وندد الظواهري ?ي الشريط الذي بث على شبكة الإنترنت بمقتل مدنيين أ?غانيين على يد جنود أميركيين ?ي كابل يوم مايو/أيار

الماضي. واعتبر أن ذلك الحادث سبقته “سلسلة طويلة من قتل الأبرياء والاعتداء ?ي كابل وخوست وأورزغان وهلمند وقندهار وكونار،

Zawahiri develops two lines of attacks. One against Karzai by exposing what he calls “the US role in killing Afghan civilians in Kabul, Khust, Urzogan, Helmind, Kunar and Kandahar.” The accusation by Zawahiri of these killings comes at a time when Karzai himself is complaining (and has been for a while) about “civilian losses” in the ongoing battles with Taliban and al Qaida fighters. The design by Zawahiri is to corner Karzai with his own words. As shown clearly from al Jazeera’s panels, the strategy of the Jihadi propaganda and policy architects is to corner Karzai with accusations by Taliban and supporters that he is covering up for these losses. The Afghan Government would be walking on fine lines between responding to Zawahiri, as Karzai did, but also criticizing US and allies for their “faulty tactics.? In the mind of the Jihadi architects of politics, attacking Zawahiri won’t have additional effects on anyone, but criticizing one’s allies will have an effect on all parties: The US, Karzai and the Afghani public. 

Now, we knew some of this earlier, whether by real experience of the troops or by reporting.  For instance, Knight Ridder was reporting back in 2005 that the Taliban had reemerged as a revitalized and evolved force to deal with:

The Taliban insurgents have adopted some of the terrorist tactics that their Iraqi counterparts have used to stoke popular anger at the Iraqi government and the U.S. military. They’ve stalled reconstruction and fomented sectarian tensions in a country that remains mired in poverty and corruption, illegal drugs and ethnic and political hatred.

Their tactics include attacks with homemade explosives, and beheadings, assassinations and kidnappings targeting public officials and others who cooperate in international democracy-building efforts and reconstruction.

Also, this little gold nugget is informative.  Ed Morrissey makes the following point after reading that the Taliban “used women and children as human shields as they tried to escape into the mountains of Afghanistan.” Morrissey writes:

This has two purposes for the Taliban. First, it keeps Western forces from firing on them, as they know that Coalition troops will try to protect civilians where possible. Secondly as just as importantly from a strategic point of view, any women and children killed in the battle will almost certainly be blamed on the Western forces by the Western media. It allows the Taliban to continue their propaganda blitz against the West, one in which the media has unwittingly (in most cases) found themselves a pawn to the Islamists. 

The Taliban and Al Qaida had already known how to fight as a guerrilla organization using guerrilla tactics.  But this was only the beginning of the evolution to asymmetric warfare.  The terror, the beheadings, the kidnappings, the IEDs and so forth, all are part of this evolution to completely asymmetric war and away from conventional tactics.  The final part, it would seem, is very pragmatic and far less ideological than the Taliban and Al Qaida of old.  It is not too long ago that we grew tired of hearing about the godless infidels in the West and the intent on the part of Al Qaida to conquer the West for Allah.

The core of Al Qaida and the Taliban (and the insurgents in Iraq) still believe those things, but terror rather than ideology is the primary tool now of changing the hearts of the people.  The change does not so much have to be a love for Islam or Al Qaida, but rather, a hatred for the West and all of its alleged brutality.  Witness the attempt to convince the people that the West is perpetrating acts of torture on innocents in Afghanistan in the tape.

Also witness the same attempts in Iraq.  Whether Hamdaniya, Haditha or any other instance happens to be real or fabricated, the idea is the same.  Plant the seed in the minds of the people in order to sew hatred and discontent.

The leftist press in the U.S. becomes dupes of Al Qaida by publishing ridiculous pictures and making obscene moral equivalence arguments (see Andrew Sullivan’s twisted logic on Mark Levin).

Make no mistake about it.  The tactics of the future will be some or all of the following:

  1. Beheadings
  2. Kidnappings 
  3. Body mutilations and torture of those captured or kidnapped (don’t ever forget that “The bodies were mutilated so badly that positive identification could not be made in Iraq.”)
  4. Use of women and children as shields
  5. Despicable acts of brutality, made to look as if coalition forces perpetrated the acts.
  6. “Witnesses” who saw coalition forces perpetrating the acts.  These “witnesses” will most likely be Sunni Iraqis.  The “witnesses” in Afghanistan will be mostly Taliban sympathizers.
  7. Vociferous media releases — whether Aljazeera, tapes by Zawahiri, “witnesses” who tell U.S. media embeds about “atrocities” committed by the U.S. troops, etc.  The goal will be simply to get the story out by whatever means is necessary.

Yes, the enemy has gotten quite clever and has adapted well to the importance of U.S. public perception.  He no longer cares about moving his ideology forward by preaching Islam, per se.  That will come later.  Winning the war, in his mind, requires tactics that are more practical and effective than he has employed before.  The aim will be to make U.S. troops less certain of what they are aiming at and less willing to pull the trigger, and consequently, to make Iraq a much more dangerous place for the U.S. troops. The corollary is that the U.S. public will tire of seeing these brutalities and support for the war will wane.  So goes the thinking, and this represents a real paradigm shift in their tactics.  The storied Bin Laden rebuke of Zarqawi for brutal tactics was either (less likely) a decoy, or (more likely) has been repudiated in order to increase effectiveness of the forces of terror.

It will work to the extent that the public vacillates on their support for the troops.  John Podhoretz made an excellent point last night over FNC, and more completely in a New York Post commentary he entitled “Torturers’ Hope.”  It is worth the reading, and so I will quote him at length:

But the kidnapping and apparent torture/murder of Privates Tucker and Menchaca may represent a new strategy. If similar kidnap efforts are successful, if this event was not a fluke but an ambitious new tactic to throw Coalition forces off-balance, then things are going to change in Iraq.

Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq likely hopes to make service personnel believe themselves at risk of death by torture from any band of Iraqis they encounter – so that they’ll act differently: cautious, suspicious, with the hypervigilance of someone in the midst of a battle. If it works, civilians who mean our armed forces no harm may find themselves shot or killed by mistake as a result of the hair-trigger posture our forces will have to assume to keep themselves safe.

Could anyone blame them?

The answer, of course, is yes. If this is a new strategy, it exists not only to terrorize American and Coalition forces but also to divide them from Iraqis – to sow fear and hostility that will go both ways, to cause an upsurge in resentment and anger toward U.S. forces.

Here at home, we know there is a very serious constituency for stories about Americans committing massacres against Iraqis – from news magazines that print unconfirmed accounts and run them as gospel to congressmen like John Murtha who feel free to say that servicemen and women as yet charged with no offense in the Haditha incident committed murder “in cold blood.”

Until now, it has been possible for Murtha and others to say their consuming interest in the alleged misconduct of U.S. forces is a fearless effort to get at the truth of what is going on in Iraq. They claim to speak on behalf of the servicemen and women who are, they believe, fighting in a pointless and useless war.

And even as they do so, they often can’t help but draw a complete moral equivalence between the actions of U.S. forces in Iraq and the conduct of the insurgent terrorists. Consider these sentences, published yesterday by the liberal blogger Jeralyn Merritt: “It’s hard to express the sinking feeling this news brings. What can you say to the families of these young men to help reduce their grief? When does it end? Torture is disgraceful. But the United States does not have clean hands.”

Before word came that the two Americans of blessed memory were possibly beheaded, the ur-blogger Andrew Sullivan wrote that he prayed for the safety of our soldiers but wondered how America could say it would be wrong for the insurgents to torture our guys when we supposedly torture their guys.

What will such people say about the actions of the military men and women who must do their jobs now in the wake of the unspeakable murders of Tucker and Menchaca?

Will this increasingly passionate refusal to draw distinctions between the actions of Americans at arms and the behavior of Islamofascist monsters continue?

Will they show support for our troops at the moment they most need it – real support, as opposed to crocodile tears and the displays of profound disrespect for their mission? Or will they continue to use any means possible – including harsh judgments of the horrifying split-second choices made by young men in a dangerous situation who have put their lives on the line for the rest of us – to get at the president whom Sullivan, with his typical tone of reserved understatement, yesterday called “shallow, monstrous, weak and petty”?

Will the news media treat our men and women at arms well at such a time by giving them the benefit of the doubt, or will they make another choice?

We shall see whether “I support the troops” is a phrase that means something.

Like a well-orchestrated and well-directed symphony, a symphony of death and torture, our enemies have found a weakness in the U.S. will … a chink in the armor as it were.

Will the U.S. “support the troops,” indeed?

You are currently reading "New Taliban & Al Qaida Strategy", entry #53 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Terrorism,War & Warfare and was published June 23rd, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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