Archive for the 'Islamists' Category



Losing the Forest for the Trees: Drone Strike Kills al-Libi

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 1 month ago

Hat tip to Hot Air.

The New York Times as well as other media outlets are now confirming, along with the Obama Administration, that Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, has been killed by a drone strike in a remote, Pakistani village last week:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Central Intelligence Agency drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal belt killed Al Qaeda’s deputy leader, Abu Yahya al-Libi, American officials said on Tuesday, dealing another blow to the group in a lawless area that has long been considered the global headquarters of international terrorism but the importance of which may now be slipping.

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The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said that as a result of Mr. Libi’s death, “there is no clear successor to take on the breadth of his responsibility, and that puts additional pressure” on Al Qaeda, “bringing it closer to its ultimate demise than ever.”

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If his death is borne out this time, it would be a milestone in a covert eight-year airstrike campaign that has infuriated Pakistani officials but that has remained one of the United States’ most effective tools in combating militancy.

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One American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described Mr. Libi as one of Al Qaeda’s “most experienced and versatile leaders,” and said he had “played a critical role in the group’s planning against the West, providing oversight of the external operations efforts.”

As damaging as these “decapitation operations” may be to Al Qaeda, we seem to be losing the forest for the trees.

While the U.S. focuses on sending missiles through the windows of every, significant Al Qaeda leader that remains (and each, new one that sprouts up), the war against Militant Islam has long since moved on to other, more threatening venues.  Iran, for example, is a declared enemy of the United States, bent on developing nuclear weapons, but U.S. policy has never reflected anywhere near the seriousness accorded to Al Qaeda, despite the fact that Iran poses a threat that is orders of magnitude greater than Al Qaeda.  Islamists appear poised to take absolute control of the most populous Arab state in Egypt and are actively taking advantage of the civil war in Syria where U.S. intransigence has created a vacuum among the rebel forces.  Turkey is moving doggedly toward an Islamist state that will seek to dominate the region in direct conflict with U.S. national interests.   Pakistan seems to be increasingly in the grip of Islamists who occupy key positions in its military and intelligence services.   More ominously, Europe is increasingly subject to the influence and intimidation of Islamist immigrants who regularly resort to violence to undermine traditional, Western values.   In the U.S., any talk of Islamists or their ideology is forbidden throughout the federal government.

For all that George W. Bush may have gotten wrong during his eight years in office, and in particular with his war planning, he did understand that the United States (and the West at large) was not fighting only or even primarily against Al Qaeda, but against a broader ideology– islamofascism, if you will– that motivated not only Al Qaeda but an entire movement of muslims determined to impose fundamentalist Islam upon the world.

As a last, side note on the al-Libi assassination, we should be careful what we wish for.  The U.S. may succeed in debilitating Al Qaeda’s operation capabilities to such an extent that they will change tactics and resort to the sort of “lone wolf” terror tactics that traumatized Israeli society in the intifada days of a decade ago.  Anyone who lived as I did in the Washington, D.C. area in the Fall of 2002 well remembers how just two persons, acting on their own in seemingly random fashion, could seriously disrupt an entire region.  It is a wonder that the Islamists have not resorted to this tactic in any concerted way.  Let’s hope that they don’t.   But, considering how little strategic thinking seems to be going on in D.C., “hope” may be the only thing left.

Does the U.S. Have A Moral Duty to Fix Afghanistan (or anywhere else)?

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 2 months ago

In an article for National Review Online, Patrick Brennan illuminates the thinking of General David McKiernan, commander of ISAF in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009.

To the extent that Brennan accurately reflects McKiernan’s thinking and, more importantly, that McKiernan is at all representative of widely-held views in the U.S. military,  it goes a long way to explaining the seeming paralysis of U.S. force projection in Afghanistan and globally.

Fundamentally, Gen. McKiernan is a true believer in what seems to be called the Pottery Barn Rule of U.S. power projection:

In my conversation with him in his Boston office, General McKiernan demonstrates a vast knowledge of the problems of Afghanistan, as well as a keen concern for the fate of the country and NATO’s mission there. “In my experience with many different operations in the military over the years, when you intervene on the ground in a country, ‘breaking the china’ in that country and changing the regional status quo, you then own the problem,” he says. The U.S. is therefore obligated, at the very least, to live up to the commitments it has made to Afghanistan’s civil and military leaders, including fulfilling the new strategic partnership by allocating sufficient funds, which will become a year-to-year concern. A military intervention such as the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 inevitably means the obliteration of a country’s existing political order, as chaotic or oppressive as that might be. Without a continuing commitment to restore some semblance of order and stability to Afghanistan, McKiernan argues, we will fail in our moral duty and abandon our strategic interests.

At the conclusion of the article, Brennan sums up Gen. McKiernan’s thinking:

The U.S. was right to invade Afghanistan in order to exact revenge against al-Qaeda and eliminate the region’s terrorist havens. But McKiernan has seen the catastrophic side effects of that invasion, and they represent something of a geopolitical sin. With a more targeted, locally nuanced, and efficient strategy as penance, the United States can help the Afghan government construct and enforce some degree of order, General McKiernan believes. If we do not do so, we abandon our moral commitment to repair Afghanistan, and we will leave a gapingly insecure region that would remain fertile ground for international terrorism.

Pardon the gag reflex.  There is much else in the article that is deserving of comment and it is worth reading.  For example, Gen. McKiernan seems to recognize that Afghanistan is not a nation state in any true sense of the word but is, instead, a collection of different tribes, ethnicities and sects.   His takeaway from this fact, however, is to double down on the formation and training of a national army and police force that can someday, somehow hold the centrifugal differences of the country together.   As illogical as this seems, it is necessitated by the “you break it, you own it” philosophy embraced by McKiernan and others.

So this seems to me to be the fundamental debate for American foreign policy, not only for Afghanistan but for the next ten to twenty years as we face no lack of failing or failed states that become incubators for Militant Islam: what, if any, obligation does the U.S. have to another country or people when the U.S. uses military force in exercise of its national interests?

First let’s clarify some of General McKiernan’s muddled thinking.

According to his moral universe, when a nation “breaks the china” by intervening with force of arms to somehow change the status quo of another nation or region then the intervenor “own[s] the problem” and incurs a “moral duty” to “restore some semblance of order and stability…”   In the case of Afghanistan, this is nonsense.   The status quo of Afghanistan’s “political order” in September 2001 was, as the General himself describes, “chaotic” and “oppressive.”  By his own theory, then, the U.S. need only ensure that Afghanistan ends up no more chaotic or oppressive than it was pre-invasion.  The 2001 invasion alone made a vast improvement upon the existing political order by eliminating a pariah regime that gladly hosted international terrorists and imposed a cruel authoritarianism on its population.   If the U.S. had walked out of Afghanistan in January 2002, the situation in Afghanistan would have been vastly improved with the Northern Alliance in control of most of the country.

In fact, it is arguable that the U.S. only started to destroy the status quo of Afghanistan when it began meddling in its internal, political affairs with arrogant notions of 21st Century democracy and centralized government.  The problem, then, is not that the U.S. created a mess in Afghanistan by toppling the Taliban in October 2001, but that the U.S. stayed after toppling the Taliban in order to somehow save the Afghans from their own backward and stunted culture.   This was the “geopolitical sin” if Gen. McKiernan must find one.

What of General McKiernan’s larger premise, that the U.S. cannot intervene militarily without incurring a “moral commitment to repair” that nation?

This is a fundamentally flawed and mistaken view of U.S. power projection.  Originally espoused by General Colin Powell in 2002, Powell claims to have advised President Bush that any invasion of Iraq would be akin to breaking a dish and thereby taking ownership.  The so-called Pottery Barn school of  thought to which McKiernan subscribes assumes the existence of an unbroken Dish prior to U.S. involvement.  This is simply a fiction and a dangerous one at that.

Iraq was already in pieces under Saddam Hussein when the U.S. invaded in March 2003.   Once the Dictator and his police state were dismembered, the “dish” was already in infinitely better shape than its pre-invasion condition.   The U.S. would have been perfectly justified from a moral point of view in packing up and heading home at that point.   So, too, with Afghanistan: the “dish” was in far better shape after the removal of Al Qaeda bases and the Taliban than it was pre-invasion.

The Pottery Barn doctrine simply does not pertain to the exercise of U.S. military intervention at any point in U.S. history.   I cannot think of a single instance where the metaphorical dish was not already broken when the U.S. intervened.  If someone wants to argue about Nazi intervention in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria and France, that is a different matter.   The U.S. is not an imperial power that topples healthy, functioning nation states and the application of the Pottery Barn doctrine to the U.S. may say far more about how people like Colin Powell and David McKiernan view U.S. power projection than it does about the actual world as we have it now.

American leadership needs to forcefully and decisively reject this wrong-headed notion of moral commitments to fix other nations.  It is not and has never been about moral commitments.  It is ever, only about the U.S. national interest.  That is the only way to rationally debate both the decision to intervene militarily and the decision, once intervention occurs, of how and when to leave.  This is not to say that our national interest does not align with notions of morality.  Very often it does and morality certainly forms a part of defining what the “national interest” is in the first place.   But evaluating policies, tactics and strategy from a moral viewpoint rather than the national interest leads to all kinds of fuzzy thinking and misguided efforts.   Afghanistan is, perhaps, the textbook example of these hazards.

To give but a few examples:  what is the U.S. national interest in pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into road, school, hospital and other construction in Afghanistan?  It certainly is a nice thing to do, a moral thing to do.  But how, precisely, does this make America more secure?  In a predominating culture that is so alien (indeed hostile one could say) to American values, the idea of changing that culture with billions in aid money can only be driven by a moralistic– an almost missionary– zeal that simply has no place in American foreign policy.   The national interest is solely concerned with ensuring that Afghanistan does not become a threat to American security again.   That was the only reason we invaded in 2001 (contrary to Gen. McKiernan’s idea of “revenge”).  There are many ways that this fundamental, U.S. interest could be achieved without any resort whatsoever to changing Afghan culture.

To look at another example briefly, consider Syria.

From the moralistic, Pottery Barn approach, intervening in Syria is a case of balancing the suffering of the Syrian people under the Dictator Assad with the unavoidable suffering of the people after a military intervention (whether that is invasion, air strikes, covert support for rebels, etc…).   This is why the Obama Administration and much of U.S. punditry is tied up in knots over Syria: there is no, clear way to evaluate human suffering in this manner.   (Anyone who doubts this need only look at Libya where, again, the scales of suffering seemed to tilt in favor of ousting Qaddafi only to find, now, that the increasing lawlessness and rise of Militant Islamists is beginning to make Qaddafi look rather tame by comparison).

Instead of playing these sorts of moral games, U.S. leadership should be looking at Syria from our own interests.   This clarifies things immediately.   Syria under Assad is an enemy of the U.S. and moves in lockstep with arch-enemy Iran.   This is a very, very broken dish (to use their parlance).  Toppling Assad by itself does not worsen the dish and is certainly in the U.S. national interest as it enhances our security immensely.

There is, of course, the question of what sort of government will replace Assad.   Here again the moralists and national interest part ways.   The moralists would say that the U.S. would “own” all of Syria’s problems if it intervened which means, presumably, another 10 or 20 year program of building schools, hospitals roads and civic institutions.   The national interest, at a bare minimum, however, doesn’t really care so much what comes after Assad so long as it is not worse than Assad.  We do not care, for example, if Syria falls into civil war so long as Syria cannot be the cat’s paw for Iran.   It is certainly in the national interest to back rebels that are sympathetic to U.S. values and goals, but if they are at least hostile to Iran and global jihad, that is enough.

In essence then, to the extent that U.S. policies and strategies are guided by the approach espoused by General McKiernan, we will find ourselves a vulnerable paralytic Power unable to intervene in the world where critical U.S. interests are at stake because to do so would automatically obligate us to an endless commitment of fixing the “broken dish.”   In such a world, we leave it to hostile powers all around us to shape things to their liking, one that will be little to our own.

U.S. Outsources Syrian Policy to Islamists

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 3 months ago

One month ago I advocated here that arming selected groups of Syrian rebels would best serve the U.S. national interests in the Middle East.

According to this report, however, it appears that the Obama Administration is on the verge of outsourcing this important task to Islamist countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  (Hat Tip Drudge Report)

The US and its allies have warned president Bashar al-Assad that unless he halts his attacks on the Syrian population and implements a UN-backed peace plan, the rebels fighting him will be given more weapons,[sic]

The move, made at an Istanbul conference of the Friends of Syria, a grouping of more than 70 countries, in effect gives Washington’s blessing to a Saudi Arabian bid to arm the opposition.

It contrasts with the administration’s previous stance that arming the rebels could drag Syria deeper into civil war and increase the risk of innocent people being killed.

US officials made clear there was no prospect of Washington itself providing the rebels with weapons, not least because of a UN arms embargo on Syria. Countries such as the UK and Turkey also rule out arming the opposition themselves.

But all three signalled [sic] on Sunday that they could welcome Saudi and Qatari efforts to give weapons to the rebel Free Syrian Army.

If this report is at all accurate, it serves as further proof that this Administration cannot find its own rear end when it comes to U.S. interests.

First, arming the Syrian rebels only makes sense to the extent that the rebels serve U.S. interests to some extent in exchange for weapons and other support.   As pointed out in my prior post, there are many groups of fighters in Syria vying for dominance in the struggle to overthrow the Assad Regime.   The U.S. has important national interests in ensuring that the Regime is not replaced with an Islamist one.   Now is the time to identify and nurture any rebel groups in Syria that oppose an Islamist takeover.  Second, if we are not going to step on the scales in favor of rebels friendly to U.S. interests, we certainly should not be supporting efforts to arm rebels who are hostile to the U.S.

All of this is elementary stuff.   It should be crystal clear to the White House that the last people to entrust with arming the Syrian rebels are the Saudis and Qataris, some of the biggest Islamists on the planet.

It is, perhaps, understandable that the U.S. may want to filter military aid through another country to preserve at least a shred of plausible deniability.   But the Saudis and Qataris?  For God’s sake, there must be someone less noxious who would be willing to funnel weapons to the rebels than these extremist countries.

It is almost as though the Obama Administration had no clue that U.S. interests do not align with those of Saudi Arabia and Qatar (and Turkey, for that matter).  We can only hope that this sort of bad policy is the result of clownish incompetence and not deliberate.

Lessons Learned in the War With Militant Islam, Part Two: Disproportionate Response

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 6 months ago

This is the second installment of a little series I have started on TCJ which attempts to summarize some of the important lessons that America should have learned in its ongoing war with Militant Islam.

Part One of the series, “Naming the Enemy,” is here for those getting in late.

Lesson Two

Respond to asymmetrical attacks with overwhelming firepower and force, Proportional Response Doctrine Notwithstanding.

Hopefully we have learned that the American military is at its best when it is unleashed to do its worst.   When U.S. forces are allowed to employ the full range of firepower against the enemy, the results are not only devastating but a true blow on behalf of peace and freedom.

Recall the infamous Highway of Death leading out of Kuwait in 1991.  U.S. air assets created a literal hell on earth for the fleeing Iraqi military, blasting apart everything that tried to move along the highway out of Kuwait.  Because of the demonstration of air power and lethal force, the Iraqi resistance completely collapsed.   You can be sure that the memory of that torment was alive and real in the minds of Iraqi soldiers when the U.S. military came rolling into Iraq in 2003.   And many, many lives were spared as a result.   The Iraqis knew what the American military was capable of doing to them and wisely chose to disband rather than to undergo a similar baptism of fire.

This was the exact lesson drawn by General William T. Sherman in the American Civil War and by George S. Patton in World War II.  War is the worst experience of the fallen, human condition.   The horror of war, therefore, must be brought home to the enemy in sufficient measure so that any illusions about continuing the fight are forever banished.   General Sherman to this very day is hated by many in the South simply by virtue of his ruinous campaign of 1864-1865, the infamous, March to the Sea.   But Sherman’s devastation of large parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina brought the war home to the Confederacy in a way nothing else could have and helped prevent a Confederate guerrilla war after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

Patton, too, believed that the surest way of saving lives and ending war most quickly involved brutal, relentless, wholesale envelopment and destruction of the enemy armies en masse.   Patton was a fierce critic of Eisenhower’s plodding tactic of attrition which Patton considered cruel and contrary to the very nature of the American fighting man.   The strategy of head-on attack in the face of a fortified enemy caused thousands of needless deaths of American soldiers.   It has been suggested by historian Victor Davis Hanson that Patton could have saved the lives of millions of Holocaust victims if he had been supplied and allowed to push his attack across the Rhine in 1944.  Similarly, the U.S. bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan in World War II were brutal but considered necessary to disrupt industry and break German morale.

Somehow the U.S. attitude has evolved into a nonsensical “kinder and gentler” way of war.  Perhaps this is the result of the doctrine of “Proportional Response” that is embedded in the additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions in 1977 (protocols to which the U.S. is not a signatory).   This doctrine aims to limit both the resort to armed force and the type of actions undertaken once armed force has been initiated.   Proportional Response, however, took its modern form in the aftermath of total war in World War II.   The limitations attempt to spare civilian populations from the horrors of war, particularly where no, legitimate military advantage can be gained.

Unfortunately, warfare in the 21st Century has side-stepped the best intentions of the Geneva protocols.   And, I would argue, this is actually a deliberate development by asymmetric enemies such as Militant Islam that shrewdly recognize the weakness of States which feel bound to the protocols even where the Islamists do not.  So, for example, it has become routine practice for Al Qaeda to insinuate itself in the midst of civilian populations for the deliberate purpose of using the population as a shield against attacks by U.S. forces.   The Taliban practice this as well to devastating effect, forcing U.S. commanders to let enemy combatants go free or risk being brought up on charges like the Haditha Marines.

In Afghanistan we see the insidious effect of these ever more rigid and paralyzing rules of engagement, including restrictions on the use of artillery and close air support that result in higher U.S. casualties and more enemies who live to fight another day.   In Iraq, we failed to crush Al Sadr and his Iranian-sponsored militia on several occasions, leaving them intact to terrorize and intimidate legitimate political opposition groups.  Iraq to this very day is paying a heavy price for the survival of Sadr.

Such self-restraint, in the final tally, gains the U.S. nothing.   Such restraint has not garnered us any respect or appreciation from our Militant Islamic enemies nor even from the Middle Eastern population at large.  They view restraint as weakness.    The enemy has taken every advantage of this restraint with perhaps the best example being the Taliban who fire at U.S. forces and then promptly drop their weapons because they know the ROE’s prevent return fire on “unarmed civilians.”   The U.S. is thus held in contempt.   The result of such contempt can only be an incitement to the enemy to multiply plans for attacks against the U.S.

Surely a clear lesson in all of this is that the U.S. must employ overwhelming force in the face of asymmetric attacks.  The alternative of investing tens of thousands of ground forces to conduct anti-insurgent operations with one hand tied behind the back must never be repeated.

Lessons Learned In The War with Militant Islam, Part One: Naming the Enemy

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 7 months ago

December in Western Culture is always an appropriate time of year for reflection– remembering that all-important point in history when God invaded our world in human form.   This particular December, however, is especially appropriate for reflection on what has variously been termed “The Long War” or, “World War IV,” or, by this Administration as, “Overseas Contingency Operations” as the President has unilaterally declared that the Iraq War is over and the books are closed.

It is my intention, then, to offer up over the next weeks what I consider to be the lessons we have learned in the 30-plus years since the re-birth and rise of Militant Islam in 1979.   I wish I could preface this series with optimism and confidence of victory.   I wish I could write that the West is winning, however slowly, the great struggle against this latest fascist incarnation, but reality will not permit.

It is time to face this awful situation squarely, not with fatalism or despair but with determination.   It is impossible to ignore the steady drumbeat of politically correct programs that hamstrings our efforts, or another miserable candidate who garners applause with 1920′s style isolationist rhetoric.  American leaders seem all too adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and mistaking our friends and enemies.

Barring the advent of national leadership which is nowhere evident, or a miracle of some kind– of which history is not replete— we must bravely conclude that, for now, the American public at large will not rouse itself to effective action.   We are caught in yet another national whirlpool of apathy, denial, distraction and delusion— just as we were in the 1930′s and the 1990′s– from which the only escape is a national trauma on the scale of a Pearl Harbor or September 11th calamity.  We have pushed our luck far too many times and refuse to get serious about taking the fight to the enemy– indeed, a president is applauded when he promises to “bring the troops home” without regard for consequences.   Ear-pleasing platitudes are what the Public demands, so it is no wonder that the politicians serve it up by the plateful.

If there is any ground for optimism in this Long War, it may be found in the capacity of our enemy to bouts of incredible stupidity.  To be sure, the U.S. is no less prone to such lapses, so in this respect the Long War is like a game of football in which the side committing the fewer mistakes will win.   I take from this a grim hope that the inevitable attack against the U.S. by the Islamists will be limited to a similar scope and scale of the 9-11 attacks.   Is it too ironic to pray that the Islamists be so stupid again?

As terrible as such an attack would be, American history suggests that we are only roused to great and decisive action by such, limited attacks.    If the Japanese had not attacked Pearl Harbor, it is difficult to say when the U.S. would have openly entered World War II against the Nazis.   Without an American entry in December 1941, it is doubtful that Normandy is invaded in 1944.    Without an invasion of Normandy in 1944, it is possible that Hitler’s scientists finish development of an atomic bomb.

To reference more recent history, it is clear that the U.S. would not have invaded Afghanistan nor deposed Saddam Hussein without the September 11 attacks.  It is perhaps a sign of our timidity and half-hearted approach that we have failed to achieve any, definitive victory in the War even 10 years later.   Nonetheless, it is clear that the September 11th attacks stirred America to a unity of action and purpose (albeit squandered and now cooled) that has not been seen since 1945.

To be clear: I do not wish any, such attack against the homeland.   I do believe, however, that such an attack is increasingly inevitable.   It is only right, therefore, that we consider all of the lessons learned in the 10-plus years since September 11, 2001 in the hopes that we not repeat those mistakes.   With the frightening prospect of an attack lingering on the horizon, I offer the first of at least nine lessons from this Long War:

Lesson #1:  Clearly identify those responsible and what they represent.

Regular readers will know that I detest the moniker, “War on Terror.”

As many pundits and writers have pointed out, “terror” is a tactic.   It is not something we can fight and defeat.   And to the extent that we refuse or avoid recognizing the Enemy and calling it by the proper name, we splinter our efforts, lessening the odds of prevailing.   In this season of presidential campaigns, Americans should insist that the Republican candidates at the very least make a clean break from political correctness and honestly name the enemy.   Militant Islam, Radical Islam, Islamofascism.   The point is that all Americans and the world must understand that these attacks originate from an ideology and not simply from a criminal enterprise or a fringe group of shadowy “terrorists.”

The 9-11 attackers were trained and motivated, at the very least, by an interpretation of the Koran and Islam that joyfully and obediently embraces a violent and decisive confrontation with anyone, muslim or not, who does not adhere to their doctrine.  It is a seething belief that the entire world must be conquered and subdued to the will of their god, Allah.  It is not an ideology that can be appeased or reasoned with any more than other, authoritarian doctrines.    The West should have learned from its experiences with the Nazis and Communists that an ideology embraced with religious fanaticism cannot be appeased or mollified but must be defeated and discredited.

Militant Islam may very well prove to be the most virulent of the authoritarian ideologies to manifest itself since the rise of the Ottoman Empire.   We are fighting against a body of believers numbered in the tens of millions, even if they only consist of a minority of muslims.  This is not a fringe group.  Islamists are spread across continents and ethnicities.   Compounding this danger is the apparent surge of power and influence of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East.

Since 9-11, the U.S. has been rightly pursuing the militants, not only in Afghanistan but literally across the globe.   But while the U.S. military has worked wonders in places like Fallujah, Ramadi, Marjah and the Philippines, the larger U.S. government has acted like an adolescent who cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.  Too often the focus on military operations has resulted in a complete failure to engage in the larger war of ideas in places that are not hot zones but are no less critical.   Worse still, the U.S. State Department has often worked at cross-purposes with the military.

Consider Lebanon.  The U.S. invasion of Iraq, despite all the hand-wringing and wailing of the Left Wing Media, created a powerful opportunity for the rise of a non-Islamist coalition.  We forget that the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon came on the heels of the capture of Saddam Hussein and even anti-U.S. figures such as Walid Jumblatt were reluctantly praising the elections in Iraq:

The January 2005 vote in Iraq also appeared to play a role since it supported the notion that Arabs craved democracy. (Lebanese Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt gave credence to the importance of these developments when he said, “It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. . . . When I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.”)

But the U.S. simply could not summon the will to support democratic groups in any, meaningful fashion.  The U.S. foreign policy establishment preferred to coddle and reach out to thugs like Bashir Assad in Syria.   And so Lebanon has slipped ever more deeply into the control of Hezbollah, funded and controlled by Iran through Syria.

Recently we have seen Egypt, Tunisia and Libya sliding into the Islamists’ camp.   The U.S. seems not only oblivious to this developing disaster but actively supportive.  Whether this folly is generated by a fear of offending muslim sensibilities or an arrogance that the U.S. can co-opt or mold the Islamists once they are in power, the net result is the same.   Ironically, the Obama Administration does not want to be seen as meddling in the internal affairs of Egypt or Iran, but has no such qualms with interfering with formerly pro-American allies like Honduras and Colombia.

This refusal to acknowledge the enemy will forever cripple our war efforts and will enable the enemy.   A muslim who does not subscribe to the Wahhabist version and rejects militant Islam should be no more offended when we target the Islamists than a 1940′s German would be offended by our targeting of Nazis.   In fact, our refusal to clearly identify the enemy in this case creates a dangerous confusion in the minds of non-muslims and muslims alike.   Muslims need to clearly and unequivocally choose sides in this War.   Are they with us or with the Islamists?

The current taboo allows and encourages a shadowy world where loyalties remain unknown and ambiguous.  It is no interference with freedom of religion to ask whether a mosque is preaching Militant Islam.   No one has ever asserted that freedom of religion includes a right to advocate for the subversion and overthrow of our Constitution and nation.   It is incumbent on members of any congregation, muslim, christian, jewish, or mormon, to report and, if necessary, testify against leadership that advocates violence against others in society.   Personal knowledge of violent plots combined with a refusal to report them constitutes at least passive participation in a criminal conspiracy.    In time of war, however, the failure to expose the efforts of the enemy to recruit for and advance attacks is treasonous.

For some mysterious reason, however, no Administration has ever dared to clearly identify militant Islam as the enemy.  Instead, we have tried to fight Islamists as a criminal enterprise  (Reagan, Bush I and Clinton); as nameless, religionless “terrorists” (Bush II); and now as a “specific network” consisting only of Al-Qaeda (Obama).  We cannot defeat an enemy we dare not name.

Iran Trumps Up Charges Against Youcef Nadarkhani

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 9 months ago

From CNN:

Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani will be put to death for several charges of rape and extortion, charges that differ greatly from his original sentence of apostasy, Iran’s semi-official Fars News agency reported Friday.

Gholomali Rezvani, the deputy governor of Gilan province, where Nadarkhani was tried and convicted, accused Western media of twisting the real story, referring to him as a “rapist.” A previous report from the news agency claimed he had committed several violent crimes, including repeated rape and extortion.

“His crime is not, as some claim, converting others to Christianity,” Rezvani told Fars. “He is guilty of security-related crimes.”

In a translated Iranian Supreme Court brief from 2010, however, the charge of apostasy is the only charge leveled against Nadarkhani.

“Mr. Youcef Nadarkhani, son of Byrom, 32-years old, married, born in Rasht in the state of Gilan is convicted of turning his back on Islam, the greatest religion the prophesy of Mohammad at the age of 19,” reads the brief.

Of course that’s the way the brief reads.  The Iranians are lying.  The reason, by the way, that Islam requires Muslims to execute those who “apostatize” from Islam is that Islam is epistemologically vapid and vacuous, and logically uncompelling.   When your belief system lacks an intellectual edifice, you have to militarize its expansion and ability to retain “adherents.”  This is what puts incidents like the forced “conversion” of Steve Cenntani in context.  Those who are confident in their faith don’t require the use of weapons for influence.

Any Spooks Left in the CIA Attic? Aiding the Syrian Army Defectors

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 10 months ago

I just want to know.

General Petraeus.  Once you get settled in over at the C.I.A., can you check around the closets or under the desks at Langley and see if there are any covert ops people left?   I know we are too high-tech for that sort of thing nowadays, but every so often a job comes up that just can’t be done by the drones or the snooping satellites or wire intercepts.

The Washington Post publishes this article concerning the rising numbers of Syrian soldiers defecting to the opposition:

WADI KHALED, Lebanon — A group of defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army is attempting the first effort to organize an armed challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, signaling what some hope and others fear may be a new phase in what has been an overwhelmingly peaceful Syrian protest movement.

For now, the shadowy entity seems mostly to consist of some big ambitions, a Facebook page and a relatively small number of defected soldiers and officers who have taken refuge on the borderlands of Turkey and Lebanon or among civilians in Syria’s cities.

Many of its claims appear exaggerated or fanciful, such as its boasts to have shot down a helicopter near Damascus this month and to have mustered a force of 10,000 to take on the Syrian military.

But it is clear that defections from the Syrian military have been accelerating in recent weeks, as have levels of violence in those areas where the defections have occurred.

“It is the beginning of armed rebellion,” said Gen. Riad Asaad, the dissident army’s leader, who defected from the air force in July and took refuge in Turkey.

The article goes to great lengths to point out that the group does not have much clout at the moment but also notes:

There are nonetheless signs that the Free Syrian Army is expanding and organizing as reports of violent encounters increase. The group has announced the formation of 12 battalions around the country that regularly post claims on the group’s Facebook page, including bombings against military buses and ambushes at checkpoints.

This type of reporting is to be taken with more than a grain of salt, particularly in light of the lack of any reporters inside of Syria verifying the claims  (Calling Geraldo:  report to your choice of border crossings into Syria).  At the same time, it is only natural that protesters who are regularly attacked, beaten, tortured and killed will want to take up arms and at least try to defend themselves.   Given that the Assad Regime has been a major supplier of insurgents and armaments into Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and actively does the bidding of Iran in Lebanon, the U.S. has a keen interest in seeing him toppled.

What perfect justice for the U.S. to return the favor to Assad tenfold by infiltrating weapons into Syria from western Iraq.

But does the U.S. even have that capability?  And if we do, would this Administration actually follow through?

How does the U.S. influence the future of Syria?  At some point, when the Assad Regime continues to kill and torture its citizens, the U.S. must do more than just offer a rhetorical bone to the opposition.    Connections are made and relationships formed by providing material assistance (even if covert) to the opposition groups in Syria who at least have a willingness to work with the U.S.   How do we know that we will not be supplying weapons and training to Islamist militants?

That requires actual intelligence officers and human sources inside Syria.

General Petraeus, do you have anyone like that around the office?

Civilizational War 10 Years After 9-11: Can the West Recover?

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 10 months ago

It is appropriate to consider, ten years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, what has transpired and where we find ourselves.

A number of excellent writers have undertaken to do this, so I will not re-invent the wheel.  At the same time, however, there are a few points that seem to be missing from the analysis.

So, for example, Barry Rubin over at Pajamas Media has an article titled, “Ten Years After September 11: Who’s Really Winning The War On Terrorism?”  Rubin has an excellent summary of the Al Qaeda strategy and its place in the larger context of Islamic militancy:

Let’s be clear. Al-Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon to achieve several goals:

–To become the leader in a worldwide jihad.

–To persuade Muslims that America is weak and can be defeated.

–To stir far more Muslims to jihad, that is a Holy War that today can be defined as an Islamist revolution.

–To mobilize forces in order to challenge and eventually to overthrow all of the existing regimes in the Sunni Muslim areas, replacing Arab nationalism in many of those countries with Islamism as the main ideological force.

I would suggest that al-Qaeda’s September 11 attacks largely succeeded in three of those four goals. Only in the first did it fail, and for a very good reason. Precisely because it carried out the attacks, al-Qaeda became the main target for U.S. efforts and repression by leaders in Muslim-majority countries. Consequently, it has suffered greatly from losses.

By the same token, however, other Islamist forces have largely been left alone by the West or faced far less pressure. Such groups include the Muslim Brotherhood groups, Hamas, Hizballah, and the pro-Islamist regimes in Syria and Iran. In fact, Islamist groups and Islamism as an ideology have advanced impressively, especially in the last few years.

I would differ with Rubin that Al Qaeda did not succeed in becoming the leader in worldwide jihad.  Clearly, in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, Al Qaeda was easily the most visible terror group and most heralded in the Islamist world.  The fact that Al Qaeda has suffered a disproportionate number of decapitation operations by the U.S. does not mean that it did not accomplish its goal of jihadi leadership. In fact, it could be argued that Al Qaeda has succeeded brilliantly in this regard to the extent that the U.S. has been distracted from fighting other no-less dangerous groups which share the wider goals of Islamist domination of the West.

Indeed, Rubin alludes to this as the very problem afflicting U.S. policy:

Where is terrorism weaker? Other than Algeria, where it was defeated in a bloody civil war, it is hard to find any such examples, though in other places  like Morocco and Saudi Arabia — terrorism has not made gains.

In many places in Europe, the Brotherhood and even more radical groups have made important strides in gaining hegemony in neighborhoods and over Muslim communities. Governments have not combatted this and even have encouraged it, arguing that the organizations are not presently using terrorism. But with growing radical Islamist ideas, the level of terrorism and intimidation also increases.

A key factor is the failure of the U.S. government, which basically defines anything that isn’t al-Qaeda as not being a threat. Within the United States, a major terrorist attack has been averted, though luck seems to play a role here (underpants bomber; Times Square bomber). At the same time there have been many more small-scale attacks. One way the U.S. government achieves positive statistics is to redefine specific events — a shooting at the El Al counter in Los Angeles, an attack on a Jewish community center in the Pacific Northwest, the murder of a military recruiter in Arkansas, and even the Ft. Hood killer — as non-terrorist, non-Islamist criminal acts.

So are things much better a decade after the September 11 attacks? Aside from the very important aspect of avoiding a huge successful terror attack on the United States, the answer is “no.”

Another PJM article by Raymond Ibrahim emphasizes this point as well.

The unfortunate fact is that, even if al-Qaeda were totally eradicated tomorrow, the terror threat to the West would hardly recede, since al-Qaeda has never been the source of the threat, but simply one of its manifestations. The AP report obliquely reflects this: “Senior al-Qaeda figures have been killed before, only to be replaced,” even as the Obama administration is optimistic that “victory” is at hand.

To get a better perspective on the overall significance of the latest killing of an al-Qaeda member, consider how at the turn of the 20th century, the Islamic world was rushing to emulate the victorious and confident West — best exemplified by the Ottoman empire itself, the preserver and enforcer of Islam, rejecting its Muslim past and embracing secularism under Ataturk. Today, 100 years later, the Muslim world has largely rejected secularism and is reclaiming its Islamic — including jihadist — heritage, lashing out in a manifold of ways. Consider how many Islamist leaders, organizations, and terrorists have come and gone in the 20th century alone — many killed like bin Laden — only for the conflict between Islam and the West to continue growing by the day.

This is the essence of where we stand today.  By and large, the Obama Administration and its supporters on the Left refuse to face the fundamental nature of the conflict.   While it is true that Al Qaeda carried out the attacks of September 11, 2001, those attacks were merely a manifestation of what has been a perpetual civilizational conflict between Islam and the West since the militant spread of Islam after 632 A.D.  The militant strain of Islam has always sought to expand and dominate non-muslim peoples and it always will.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson writes in Carnage and Culture:

In the century between [the death of Muhammad and the critical battle of Poitiers, France in 732 A.D. which stopped the incursion of Islam into Southern Europe], a small and rather impotent Arab people arose to conquer the Sassanid Persian Empire, wrest the entire Middle East and much of Asia Minor from the Byzantines, and establish a theocratic rule across North Africa…. [B]y the mid-eighth century, the suddenly ascendant kingdom of the Arabs controlled three continents and an area larger than the old Roman Empire itself.

The Arab conquests were a result of two phenomena: prior contact with Byzantines, from whom they borrowed, looted, and then adapted arms, armor, and some of their military organization; and the weakness of the [Persian Empire and remnants of barbarian conquests of Asia and North Africa].

***

[The conquests by early Islamic militants goes beyond adopted technologies and weak adversaries]. There was to be a novel connection between war and faith, creating a divine culture that might reward with paradise the slaying of the infidel and the looting of Christian cities.  Killing and pillaging were now in the proper context, acts of piety.

***

For the rest of the ninth through tenth centuries, the war between [Islam and the West] would break out in northern Spain, southern Italy, Sicily, and the other larger islands of the Mediterranean [which] became the new line of battle between the two entirely antithetical cultures.

(pages 146-149).

Although Hanson is commenting upon distant history, it is remarkable how applicable these observations remain today and how little the nature of Islam has changed in 1300 years.   Militant Islam in the 21st century still maintains the “novel connection between war and faith” and a “divine culture that might reward with paradise the slaying of the infidel.”   True, militant Islam has traded in the scimitar for  suicide bomber vests and I.E.D.s, but the subjugation of unbelievers remains the same.

We seem to be making a fundamental mistake in the West when we fail to see the broader context of the struggle.   September 11, 2001 was not a “tragedy” but an act of war.  A tactical strike by militant Islam at the financial, military and (it was hoped) political heart of the West.   And it was not the first such strike.  Militant Islam has been on the march in modern times since at least 1979 with the founding of the theocratic state of Iran.  As Mr. Ibrahim writes in his article, the muslim world is quickly turning (or, more exactly, re-turning) to militant Islam as a means of forcing an expansion of power, in the Middle East in the short term and in Europe and even North America in the long term.  This is not some new phenomenon to any student of history but a continuation of a struggle between two civilizations: one based upon Greek and Roman thoughts of law and liberty with Christian overlays (Western democracy) and one based upon the all-encompassing rule of the Koran which sublimates the individual in every aspect of life.   The two cultures are thoroughly incompatible and the history of the world has shown that peace has only, ever reigned between the two when Islam was too weak to force its will upon the West.

This, then, should be the take-away from 9-11:  we are in a desperate struggle for civilizational survival that is being fought on the battlefield, certainly, but also in the courtroom, in the media, in politically correct driven government policy and think tanks, and in the very essence of our culture— how we view our basic freedoms and the means we are willing to employ to cherish and defend them.

Sadly, I see little evidence, ten years after the attacks of 9-11, that America’s leaders are at all willing to face this larger context.  It is too frightening.  The risk of being called xenophobic, or Islamophobic or chauvinistic is too intimidating.   So we will fight where we find it convenient to fight.  Drone attacks that take out an Al Qaeda leader but leave in peace Iranian leaders  who have killed far more Americans than Al Qaeda or the Taliban.   We will look for the first opportunity to declare victory, as when Osama Bin Laden was killed, but ignore the mortal threats to peace and economic security posed by a nuclear Iran or a growing Hezbollah or Hamas.   We will sacrifice precious blood and treasure gaining great victories in Iraq and Afghanistan only to throw it away in hasty withdrawals under the smokescreen of “transition.”

Can the West recover in time?

How’s That Democracy Thing Working For You? Egypt and the U.S. Face Reality

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 11 months ago

This is not looking good.

According to this report in The Wall Street Journal, the secular, pro-democracy movement in Egypt received a beat-down by the Egyptian military and ordinary Egyptian citizens who are increasingly backing the Army and Islamist groups like The Muslim Brotherhood.

CAIRO—Mobs of ordinary Egyptians joined with soldiers to drive pro-democracy protesters from their encampment in Tahrir Square here Monday, showing how far the uprising’s early heroes have fallen in the eyes of the public.

Six months after young, liberal activists helped lead the popular movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the hard core of these protesters was forcibly dispersed by the troops. Some Egyptians lined the street to applaud the army. Others ganged up on the activists as they retreated from the square that has come to symbolize the Arab Spring.

Squeezed between an assertive military and the country’s resurgent Islamist movement, many Internet-savvy, pro-democracy activists are finding it increasingly hard to remain relevant in a post-revolutionary Egypt that is struggling to overcome an economic crisis and restore law and order.

As if this is not bad enough the Muslim Brotherhood used this occasion to demonstrate its muscles, gathering “hundreds of thousands” to Tahrir Square a few days before:

Monday’s turmoil in Tahrir followed a massive Friday demonstration on the same square by hundreds of thousands of Islamists, who called for transforming Egypt into an Islamic state—and railed against the liberal and secular youths who had helped motivate millions to rise up against Mr. Mubarak.

The Islamists’ numbers dwarfed those of the activists who have re-occupied Cairo’s central square since July 8, criticizing the slow pace of reforms, calling for police accountability and pressing for speedier trials of Mr. Mubarak and his associates. The Tahrir sit-in was organized by the April 6 Movement, one of the uprising’s main planners, other youth groups and relatives of protesters killed in the weeks before Mr. Mubarak’s ouster on Feb. 11.

The repercussions of an Islamist Egypt could hardly be worse.  Besides the obvious threat to Israel, there is every chance that Egypt could align itself closely with the increasingly Islamist Turkey and join what appears to be the makings of an Islamist Bloc including not just Turkey, but Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Gaza.

The timing could hardly be worse for U.S. interests.  Under the just-completed debt ceiling legislation, defense spending could be slashed with dire consequences for U.S. force-projection capabilities.  Compounding this is the ongoing refusal of the Obama Administration to take the choke-hold off of oil and gas leasing approvals, resulting in an increasing shortage of domestic production and ever-greater dependence on foreign oil.  Add to this the growing influence of China and Russia in the Middle East and the U.S. is facing the prospect of having very little influence in this critical part of the world at a time when we need it most.

Perhaps worst of all, the WSJ piece ends on a note that reverberates right here in the United States:

Unlike in previous skirmishes, the activists interviewed Monday didn’t allege to be the victims of thugs paid by the government.

“The people were beating us and helping the army,” said protester Mahmoud Abdallah, catching his breath in a side street off Tahrir as an army truck hauled away detainees. “The people don’t know what is good for them. They don’t have any awareness. They just want to make money.”

As he spoke, Tareq Shawky, a 42-year-old toilet equipment vendor, interrupted the conversation. He said he had heard about the army moving against the protesters, and drove to the square so he could help dismantle the encampment.

“The Egyptian citizen wants only two things—security and low prices,” Mr. Shawky shouted. “The millions of Egyptians will do anything that the army tells us to do.”

This is the bottom line, isn’t it?

When Government-provided security and subsidies become the paramount concern of citizens, then democracy no longer exists.  There are no, real limits on Government under this mindset.

Egypt seemed to be emerging from an authoritarian legacy with dreams of founding a new society where basic, human rights were protected and valued.   Sadly, it seems that most Egyptians care more for safety and free bread.

And here in the United States, in a little over 200 years, we have, generation by generation, bartered away our independence for Government promises of security and subsidies:  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance,Pell grants, Minimum Wage, Farm subsidies, Ethanol subsidies… the list is endless.   Even when faced with imminent, national bankruptcy, the thought of any change whatsoever to these entitlements is unthinkable for most Americans.   To merely revise bargaining rights of a public employee union results in riots and the occupation of government buildings.

In the recent “crisis” over the debt ceiling, several polls showed that a lopsided majority of Americans wanted government to reduce spending, but not at the expense of any of their favorite programs.  There is only one place where this attitude leads:  systemic failure leading to societal collapse leading, inevitably, to authoritarianism.

But, hey, why let a little thing like financial collapse ruin the party?

The Morphing of the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

Joshua Foust is both a genuinely good guy and an expert on the affairs of Central Asia.  I am neither.  With that said, I strongly disagree with the theme of his analysis of the question of whether all militants are the same?  He weighs in thusly.

Max Boot thinks all militants are the same.

Of greater immediate concern are al Qaeda’s allies: the Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqani network and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HiG), which among them deploy thousands of hardened terrorists. These groups, in turn, are part of a larger conglomeration of extremists based in Pakistan including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (the Pakistani Taliban), Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed…

The major difference among them, at least so far, has been one of geographic focus. The Taliban, the Haqqani network and HiG want to seize power in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban aspires to rule in Islamabad. Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are primarily focused on wresting Kashmir away from India, although there have been reports of the former’s network expanding into Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Only al Qaeda has a global focus—so far.

Apart from rightly noting that al Qaeda is the only one of these groups that poses even a remote threat to the U.S. homeland, this is basically all wrong—so wrong I’m curious if it is the result of maliciousness or just laziness. Boot engages in some worrying conflations and conceptual fuzziness. Assuming the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban groups work together, are equally associated with al Qaeda, or pose an equal and in some way interchangeable threat is, put simply, dramatically at odds with our understanding of those groups, their goals, and their methods. There is no ” a larger conglomeration of extremists,” as he asserts, as that term implies an interoperability that just doesn’t exist in the real world.

Mullah Omar, contrary to what Boot writes, was not closer to Osama bin Laden than Hafiz Muhammed Saeed — and that sort of formulation misses the point anyway. Similarly, and again in contrast to Boot’s portrayal, there ARE a number of signs that the Afghan Taliban (NOT the Pakistani Taliban or Kashmir-focused terror groups, all of which Boot confuses) is seeking a way to break with al Qaeda — and we have reports of these signs going back at least to 2008.

We’ll start with this bit.  I am of the opinion – based on what I have studied – that most of the so-called Afghan “Taliban” who have sought to “reconcile” with the Karzai government are washed-up has-beens who want an easier life as they go into their golden years.  They play us and the Afghan government for fools, and they don’t legitimately represent either the Quetta Shura or Tehrik-i-Taliban (or any allied or affiliated or similar group).

Moving on, it might have been legitimate to have discussed divisions, subdivisions and categories of Taliban and al Qaeda ten or even six years ago.  Things have changed since then.

… they have evolved into a much more radical organization than the original Taliban bent on global engagement, what Nicholas Schmidle calls the Next-Gen Taliban. The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! “We are al-Qaida!”  There is no distinction.  A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same.

Nick Schmidle – who is also a genuinely good guy and a scholar – gave us a learned warning shot over the bow.  It was reiterated by David Rohde who was in captivity by the Taliban.

Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.

More recently we have a report at the Asia Times from Syed Saleem Shahzad on Maulvi Nazir.

Extremely loyal to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and a part of the Afghan Taliban, Nazir began as a conventional Talib guerrilla and a follower of the populist traits of the Taliban movement.

This changed in 2006, when, like many others including Sirajuddin Haqqani, Nazir became inspired by al-Qaeda and realized that fighting a war without modern guerrilla techniques meant draining vital human resources for no return.

That led to the advancement of the skills of Nazir’s fighters, and it also came with rewards.

In Afghanistan, if a commander sticks solely to his relations with the Taliban, he will never climb the ladder to prominence and the Taliban can only provide a limited number of local tribal fighters and meager funds. But if a commander allies with al-Qaeda, he is given the opportunity for joint operations with top Arab commanders who arrange finances for those operations.

Similarly, breakaway factions of Pakistani jihadi organizations like the Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Laskhar-e-Taiba and the Harkatul Mujahideen also supply an unending stream of fighters to those commanders associated with al-Qaeda.

Nazir’s affiliation with al-Qaeda seems to have passed unnoticed by the United States and NATO, which are investing heavily in a reconciliation process with the “good Taliban” and they appear not to understand the drastic changes that have taken place among the top cadre of the Taliban …

“What is the rationale of dialogue after NATO’s withdrawal?” Nazir asked rhetorically. “Then, the Taliban and NATO can hold a dialogue on whether the Taliban would attack their interests all over the world or not, and what treaties should be undertaken in that regard.”

Taken aback by this statement from a Taliban stalwart who is not perceived as being a global jihadi but simply a guerrilla fighting against occupation forces in Afghanistan, I intervened. “Hitting Western targets abroad might be al-Qaeda’s agenda, but it is not the Taliban’s, so why should the West negotiate that with the Taliban?”

“Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are one and the same. At an operational level we might have different strategies, but at the policy level we are one and the same,” Nazir said, surprising me further.

I’m usually hesitant to cite Syed Saleem Shahzad since he is a mouth piece (witting or unwittingly) for the Taliban.  But occasionally he scores significant interviews, and those tend to be very productive and informative.  For this particular interview, the only thing that surprises me is that Syed Saleem Shahzad is surprised.

To be sure, there are factions within the TTP, and in fact, the Taliban are an amalgam of groups, subgroups, factions, leaders, and so on and so forth, some of whom disagree and even level threats at each other.

So what?  We all knew that.  The question redounds to threat, or some approximation thereof.  And so here is the crux of the issue.  Back to Foust as he opines “If these groups do not pose a threat to the United States, then it is not our problem to “fix” them. Period.”  And he summarizes.

I had hoped that the death of Osama bin Laden would at least temporarily tamp down on the irresponsible fear-mongering over a few crazies with guns in mountains whose names we cannot pronounce and who cannot and do not pose an existential threat to our existence. I guess my hope was mistaken.

Well, yes, no and maybe, depending upon point and inflection.  Let’s dissect.  I agree that it’s not the task of the U.S. to fix all of the world’s problems if there is no national security interest.  In fact, I couldn’t agree more.  While it’s laudable that we might want women treated better in Afghanistan, that’s not a reason for war.  We cannot be the policemen of the world, nor does the world want us as policemen.

But this issue of threat is more complex.  Don’t forget that the Hamburg cell headed for Afghanistan intent on receiving training and returning to Germany to perpetrate violence there.  It was OBL who persuaded them to pull off an attack in the States, and we know it as 9/11.  It was actually a fairly simple attack, and if there is any mistake that the AQ leadership is making at the moment it is that they are focusing on big, flashy attacks when they should be focusing on the simple.  I am thankful for this error in judgment.

I have already described an attack that America simply cannot absorb despite the ignorance of the current administration (who claims that we’re just fine).  The unfortunate truth is that American infrastructure, from bridges to malls, from buildings to roads, from airports to power plants, from water supplies to electrical grid, hasn’t been hardened since 9/11.  It would cost too much money to do it, far more than waging a counterinsurgency campaign in the hinterlands of the earth for the next decade.

As for threat, I never really believed that Baitullah Mehsud could actually pull off an attack on Washington, D.C.  What’s important is that he wanted to.  With enough time, money, motivation and several hundred dedicated fighters, I could bring the economy of the United States to its knees.  So can any smart Taliban leader.

Unlike Josh who believes that Max believes that all militants are the same, I see his mistake differently.  Max Boot makes the mistake of subdividing the Taliban, as if these are neat, clean, Aristotelian categories into which we can drop an organization.  This is wrong in my estimation.  They have swam in the same waters for the last decade with globalists galore, and this ideology has morphed the Pakistani Taliban into something they weren’t.  To a lesser extent this has happened with the Afghan Taliban.  Lesser extent, I admit, but it’s still there.  The mistake Joshua makes is that he sees no threat.  Again, this is wrong in my estimation.

I can play the subdivision game too.  I know the various groups of militants in the Pech River Valley, Hindu Kush, Kandahar, Helmand, FATA and NWFP.  It just doesn’t matter as much as it might have a few years ago, and to some extent I see it as pedantic and braggadocios to list out all of the names (and it’s even more impressive if you pronounce the names right – and for heaven’s sake, pronounce “Pech” correctly as “Pesh”).

But at some point I think this is all being too smart for our own good, and fiddling while Rome burns (or in this case, Central Asia).  The death of Bin Laden will have little affect on the global insurgency.  He and his ilk were but one manifestation of the globalist Islamist movement, the larger framework being the Muslim Brotherhood.  With the air of respectability, the MB will proceed apace.  Their military manifestation will still be seen in AQ, the TTP, Hamas, Hezbollah and others.  Bin Laden is dead.  The war continues.


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