Archive for the 'al Qaeda' Category

Taliban and al Qaeda Ideological Alignments

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 5 months ago

In Connection Between the Taliban and al Qaeda we discussed the first hand account by David Rohdes of the New York Times after he was kidnapped by the Afghan Taliban, transported to Pakistan, spent time among both Afghan and Pakistan Taliban, and then finally escaped some seven months later.  His experience, coupled with data we had previously cataloged and analyzed, is convincing and compelling evidence of the hardened and more extremist theological alignment of the Taliban, and thus of their alignment with transnational insurgents and global actors such as al Qaeda.

Over those months, I came to a simple realization. After seven years of reporting in the region, I did not fully understand how extreme many of the Taliban had become. Before the kidnapping, I viewed the organization as a form of “Al Qaeda lite,” a religiously motivated movement primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan.

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.

But questions remain.  There are some (not identified in this article) that have weighed in saying that Rohdes is merely offering perspective or speculation, not facts.  There are others who have gone on record with analyses (parsing the Taliban into many different factions) that seems at the outset to cast doubt on Rohdes’ observations, at least, in a normative sense.  Myra MacDonald, for instance, outlines the main insurgent groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and weighs in questioning whether some of them share the global aspirations as al Qaeda.  In this same analysis she links Vahid Brown writing for Jihadica who even questions whether the Taliban and al Qaeda may be diametrically opposed.

Mullah Omar’s Afghan Taliban and al-Qa’ida’s senior leaders have been issuing some very mixed messages of late, and the online jihadi community is in an uproar, with some calling these developments “the beginning of the end of relations” between the two movements.  Beginning with a statement from Mullah Omar in September, the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta-based leadership has been emphasizing the “nationalist” character of their movement, and has sent several communications to Afghanistan’s neighbors expressing an intent to establish positive international relations.  In what are increasingly being viewed by the forums as direct rejoinders to these sentiments, recent messages from al-Qa’ida have pointedly rejected the “national” model of revolutionary Islamism and reiterated calls for jihad against Afghanistan’s neighbors, especially Pakistan and China.  However interpreted, these conflicting signals raise serious questions about the notion of an al-Qa’ida-Taliban merger.

We covered the al Qaeda rejection of the nationalistic model for jihad in The Globalization of Jihad in Palestine, and there is no question that the infighting between insurgent groups can become deadly.  It’s this supposed rift between factions of the insurgency that the U.S. administration wants to exploit.

… the Obama administration has indicated that it intends to make a fresh attempt to engage more moderate Taliban groups in talks with the Afghan government – in a determined effort to woo at least some of them away from the fighting that is claiming increasing numbers of American and other Nato forces’ lives.

Mullah Mutawakkil, once a confidant of the one-eyed Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, was held at a US base in Kandahar in 2002 after he gave himself up to American troops.

Now he is being politely wooed by a stream of senior US officials who make discreet visits to his villa, which is guarded by armed police, to hear his thoughts on what the Taliban mood is like and whether any of its leaders are ready for talks.

A soft-spoken and intelligent man who was one of the Taliban regime’s youngest ministers, Mullah Mutawakkil is cautious about what can be achieved, but even so his thinking is music to tired Western ears.

He believes that the Taliban would split from what he called their al-Qaeda “war allies” if a deal was within reach. Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph in the guest room of his Kabul home, he insisted that a settlement to end the war was possible – and that it would be the West’s best chance of stopping terrorists from turning Afghanistan back into their base again.

“If the Taliban fight on and finally became Afghanistan’s government with the help of al-Qaeda, it would then be very difficult to separate them,” he warned.

But there is, he says, another option. Taliban leaders are looking for guarantees of their personal safety from the US, and a removal of the “bounties” placed on the head of their top commanders. They also want a programme for the release of prisoners held at the notorious Bagram US air base in Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay.

In return, he says, the Taliban would promise not to allow Afghanistan to be used to plan attacks on America – the original reason for American invervention (sic), and the overriding aim of US policy in the region.

A Morton’s Fork to be sure.  Settle with Taliban who might bring back al Qaeda safe haven, or send more troops in what may prove to be an increasingly unpopular war.  But perhaps not.  Perhaps the choice is clearer.  Commenter Amm Sam at Jihadica offers a clear and unvarnished view of the debates between the globalists and the nationalists.

The Taliban’s statements of late have to be understood in the context of the US debate on what strategy to pursue in Afghanistan. Mullah Omar is trying to influence the debate by signaling to the Obama Administration that they aren’t a threat – but should we take Mullah Omar’s word for it? Of course not. If you look at the discourse of the Taliban, from spokesmen and commanders to the footsoldiers quoted in David Rhodes’ excellent 5-part NYT series, you see that the Taliban as a semi-coherent movement has drifted into the global jihadist perspective over the last several years. They are still primarily focused on the region, but less so now than ever.

Only now do we see this shift from Omar in the heat of Washington deliberations on Afghanistan.

In fact, the Haqqani group, the Taliban who held foreign al Qaeda fighters in such high esteem in the Rohdes account with the New York Times, is operationally allied with Mullah Omar who is said to be ready to jettison al Qaeda’s presence after a return to power.

Most violence in the province has been linked to the Haqqani network, which operates out of havens on both sides of the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border and has taken responsibility for dozens of attacks around Afghanistan.

The group was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who made his name as a leader of the Islamist uprising against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. More recently, the militants introduced the use of suicide bombings to Afghanistan.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, Jalaluddin’s son, said his fighters didn’t want to capture heavily populated areas because the operations would likely result in significant casualties among insurgents and civilians. Still, he made clear his group had no intention of abandoning its focus on Khost. “Every now and then we want to carry out coordinated group attacks,” he said.

An American military official who recently served in eastern Afghanistan said the U.S. had intercepted communications suggesting the Haqqani leadership was closely coordinating its activities in Khost with Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s leader, who is believed to be in Pakistan. “It’s a division of labor, with each group focusing on a different part of Afghanistan,” the official said.

The official said some U.S. intelligence officers suspect that the Haqqani leadership had offered to conquer Khost in exchange for a promise from Mullah Omar that the family would be allowed to rule large swaths of eastern Afghanistan if the armed group eventually retook control of the country.

And it’s now believed that the Taliban and / or al Qaeda are helping the Gaza insurgents to fabricate much more sophisticated bombs for use in their terrorist efforts.  The battles between certain factions of the Taliban and al Qaeda must be seen as internecine spats – as intramural struggles.  They don’t represent a terminus.  They are quite public debates over strategy and tactics rather than policy and doctrine.  It’s important not to conflate one with the other.  Believing that any faction of the Taliban would actually risk their lives to battle al Qaeda because of the former’s focus on the region and the focus of the later on the globe is not only unwise, it is profoundly bad logic.

As for David Rohdes, everything and everyone else takes second place (or less) to direct, first hand knowledge to someone who has been there and seen these things first hand.  Rohdes is now in the position of being a subject matter expert – perhaps the foremost and most knowledgeable one in the world.  Rejection of his analysis because it creates discomfort for one strategic option (i.e., separating the “good” Taliban from the bad) is paramount to rejection of the preeminent scholar in the field of study.  From his time with the Taliban, Rohdes has earned the equivalent of a Doctorate in Jihadist Islamic studies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Finally, the fact that certain jihadi web sites may be “abuzz” with emotion over a coming split between the Taliban and al Qaeda simply isn’t important.  It’s as irrelevant and insignificant as the silly and gross exaggerations of U.S. and NATO casualties inflicted by the Taliban at the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Voice of Jihad).

The Connection Between the Taliban and al Qaeda

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 6 months ago

David Rohde with The New York Times was kidnapped months ago by the Afghan Taliban while attempting to gain an interview with a Taliban commander.  He is writing about his first hand experiences in The New York Times in what may be the most compelling reading I have done in months.  I highly recommend that you set aside some time and study his account.

There is much to be learned from David, but one thing in particular has stuck out in his articles thus far.

Over those months, I came to a simple realization. After seven years of reporting in the region, I did not fully understand how extreme many of the Taliban had become. Before the kidnapping, I viewed the organization as a form of “Al Qaeda lite,” a religiously motivated movement primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan.

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.

[ … ]

The trip confirmed suspicions I had harbored for years as a reporter. The Haqqanis oversaw a sprawling Taliban mini-state in the tribal areas with the de facto acquiescence of the Pakistani military. The Haqqanis were so confident of their control of the area that they took me — a person they considered to be an extraordinarily valuable hostage — on a three-hour drive in broad daylight to shoot a scene for a video outdoors.

Throughout North Waziristan, Taliban policemen patrolled the streets, and Taliban road crews carried out construction projects. The Haqqani network’s commanders and foreign militants freely strolled the bazaars of Miram Shah and other towns. Young Afghan and Pakistani Taliban members revered the foreign fighters, who taught them how to make bombs.

[ …]

After about 15 minutes, the guards returned to the car and led me back to the house. The missiles had struck two cars, killing a total of seven Arab militants and local Taliban fighters. I felt a small measure of relief that no civilians had been killed. But I knew we were still in grave danger.

Baitullah Mehsud’s threats against Washington and London may or may not have been bluster, but there is no doubt that they would have eventually attempted to pull off an attack directly in the homeland.  As I have previously noted:

… 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.

We have known about the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) for some time, but what we learn from David Rohde’s report is that the TTP swims freely among the Afghan Taliban, and vice versa.  And so does al Qaeda.  They swim freely among both groups of Taliban, and are even revered by them.

If anyone has been harboring secret hopes that the Taliban (Pakistan or Afghan) would reject the presence of al Qaeda if they returned to power, those hopes should be forthwith abandoned.  David Rohde has given us a clear enough picture to reach this conclusion with certainty.

A Strange New Respect for our Afghan Policy?

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 6 months ago

I’m sorry to steal Paul’s Mirengoff’s thunder (i.e., post title), but it’s too good to pass up.

Fareed Zakaria contends that a troop surge is not necessary in Afghanistan because we’re succeeding there. Our central objective, he notes, is to deny al Qaeda the means to reconstitute, to train, and to plan major terrorist attacks. In this, says Zakaria, we have been successful for the past eight years.

Zakaria’s position is a plausible one and we have flirted with it on Power Line. But was Zakaria this sanguine about Afghanistan when Barack Obama and other opportunistic leftists were attacking President Bush for allowing the situation there to become “dire” while the U.S. focused on Iraq? Or does Zakaria’s assessment depend on which party occupies the White House?

In either case, Zakaria’s analysis, though plausible, is not terribly persuasive. He assumes the situation in Afghanistan is sufficiently static that the status quo will be maintained if the U.S. simply maintains present troops level. But war tends not to work that way. The U.S. may elect to stand still in Afghanistan but it’s unlikely that the other players will. For example, tribes and their leaders surely are trying to determine whether the U.S. is committed to defeating the Taliban and protecting local populations. If they conclude we are not, they are likely to gravitate towards the Taliban, to the detriment of the U.S.

Al Qaeda is also watching from across the border in Pakistan. If Zakaria is correct that the Pakistanis are stepping up their efforts against al Qaeda, then we can expect that elements of that terrorist outfit will gravitate back to Afghanistan if the U.S. is unwilling to surge and the situation contines to deteriorate. Worse, a weakened U.S. position in Afghanistan might well produce gains for al Qaeda in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. For, as the Washington Post concluded after interviewing Pakistan’s foreign minister, the Pakistanis are unlikely to persevere against al Qaeda if they see the U.S. falter.

Fareed Zakaria is little more than a court jester, a clown in a funny costume performing funny antics.  It has always been this way.  Paul’s brief analysis is the only thing that is plausible – that is, that this is all politically motivated.  The Captain’s Journal hates it when war is politicized at home when real leadership is needed and the lives of our warriors is at stake.  Paul is wrong.  It is wholly implausible that what Zakaria says is correct.

Having been said so many times before it probably doesn’t bear repeating, but it will be anyway by quoting Bruce Riedel.

One more thing: the view that you can win the war against al-Qaeda by just bombing al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan–you don’t think that can work, do you?


That’s part of the fairy tale?

That’s part of the fairy tale. We are doing a brilliant tactical job in degrading al-Qaeda today in Pakistan. It depends upon an intricate network of intelligence sources. At any time that network could start to dry up. At any time al-Qaeda could change operational procedures which would make it harder. Al-Qaeda operates in a syndicate of terror in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It swims among these groups: the Afghan Taliban, the Pak Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and others. And for eight years now, it has been able to successfully operate there by swimming in this environment. The notion that you can somehow selectively resolve the al-Qaeda problem while ignoring the larger jihadist sea in which [al-Qaeda] swims has failed in the past and will fail in the future. That’s what President Pervez Musharraf tried to do in Pakistan and it failed utterly. That, in many ways, is what [former President George W.] Bush and [former Vice President Dick] Cheney tried to do and it failed utterly. It’s a fairy tale, and it’s a prescription for disaster.

Speaking of swimming in the environment of the Pashtun region, commenter rrk3 observes:

I love the way the adminstration is now saying we can seperate the Taliban from al-Qaeda when the evidence to the contrary is right in front of everyone to see. The Taliban are actually laughing at at impudence because they know exactly how to exploit our tactical and now strategic policies.

It does look like that Pakistanis are going into South Wazeristan. We need to prepare for an influx of fighters from the FATA and hopefully meet some of the coming across the border.

Kinetic operations are a precourser to a successful COIN strategy not the other way around. It is better to have fewer insurgents to protect the people from. The only way to do this is to meet the insurgents in the field.

rrk3 and Bruce Riedel know what The Captain’s Journal knows.  There is no border, and AQ swims freely amongst the Taliban everywhere, stolid claims to the contrary.`

Al Qaeda Safe Haven in the Hindu Kush

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 10 months ago

Rich Lowry with National Review is encouraged at the signs of tribal uprising against the Pakistan Taliban.  The Captain’s Journal is far less encouraged.  We have pointed out that Baitullah Mehsud specifically targeted tribal elders in his rise to power, killing some 600 elders after they spoke out against him.  Mehsud has globalist intentions, and now the distinction between al Qaeda and the Tehrik-i-Taliban has been all but erased.  The Taliban fighters shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! “We are al-Qaida!”

Philip Smucker recently observed that al Qaeda has essentially chosen Baitullah as their front man in Pakistan, and further observed that:

Most Afghanistan-Pakistan insurgent groups, led by Mahsud and Mullah Omar’s Afghan Taliban, have not officially adopted the “al-Qaeda” brand name, but they have essentially sworn their allegiance to bin Laden, say leading experts on the terror network.  They claim that al-Qaeda has learned from the mistake of going into business under its own name in Iraq and it prefers, instead, to remain behind the scenes, protected by local gunmen on the one hand, but capable of influencing the fight against US and foreign “infidels” in South Asia on the other hand.

This alliance knows no borders, and hence it’s pointless to refer to the campaign as Afghan, Pakistan or otherwise as pertaining to nation-states.  Syed Saleem Shahzad has recently described the safe haven that al Qaeda has created for itself throughout the Hindu Kush.

The Eastern Hindu Kush range, also known as the High Hindu Kush range, is mostly located in northern Pakistan and the Nuristan and Badakhshan provinces of Afghanistan.

This chain of mountains connects with several smaller ranges, such as Spin Ghar, the Tora Bora, the Suleman Range, Toba Kakar, and creates a natural corridor that passes through the entire Pakistani tribal areas and the Afghan border provinces all the way to the Pakistani coastal area in Balochistan province.

By 2008, al-Qaeda had taken control of the 1,500-square-kilometer corridor – something it had planned to do since fleeing Afghanistan when the Taliban were defeated by US-led forces in December 2001.

Al-Qaeda decided then to build a regional ideologically motivated franchise in South Asia to thwart the strategic designs of Western powers in the area.

While US forces were vainly trying to hunt down al-Qaeda in the Tora Bora mountains, the group was focused on establishing links with organizations such as the Jaishul al-Qiba al-Jihadi al-Siri al-Alami and Jundallah in the Pakistani tribal areas and organizing the recruitment of Pakistanis and Afghans to those organizations. The underlying reason for doing this was to destroy the local political and social structures and in their place establish an al-Qaeda franchise.

The plan worked. Today, in many parts of the Hindu Kush corridor, centuries-old tribal systems and their connections with the Pakistani establishment through an appointed political agent have been replaced by a system of Islamic warlordism.

The old breed of tribal elders, religious clerics and tribal chiefs, loyal to Pakistan and its systems, has been wiped out, to be replaced by warlords such as Haji Omar, Baitullah Mehsud, (slain) Nek Mohammad and (slain) Abdullah Mehsud. They are all al-Qaeda allies, and allow al-Qaeda freedom of movement in their areas within the corridor.

Al-Qaeda members from abroad also use the corridor to enter the Pakistani tribal areas.

This sounds very much like our observation in Games of Duplicity and the End of Tribe in Pakistan, and serves as an even more recent warning that the desired tribal military action against the Taliban probably won’t materialize.  Dead elders, a separate political system, a separate legal system, and terror plus patronage have almost ensured that if the Taliban are to be defeated, it won’t be at the hands of indigenous fighters.

Baitullah Mehsud Targets Punjab

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 10 months ago

More than one month ago we observed that Punjabi militants under the authority of Tehrik-i-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud had begun to target the Punjab province, the most populous province in Pakistan.  Today, Tehrik-i-Taliban spokesmen claimed credit for the most recent terrorist attack in Lahore as well as others throughout the North West Frontier Province.

Four bombs exploded at separate locations in Pakistan’s north-west on Thursday shortly after the Taliban warned that they were beginning a broader bombing campaign in retaliation for the army’s offensive in Swat.

Two of the bombs went off in a market in the old quarter of Peshawar, the northern frontier city, killing at least seven people and injuring 40.

Shortly after the Peshawar blasts, a suicide bomber attacked a paramilitary checkpost in another part of Peshawar, in which at least five people were killed. Police later said that two gunmen had been killed and two suspects detained after gunmen opened fire from a rooftop following the attack.

Later, a bomb blast in the city of Dera Ismail Khan killed at least two people while five more were hurt. A senior security official in Islamabad said: “These attacks strongly indicate a new terrorist campaign.”

The violence came after the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s suicide car-bomb and gun attack in the eastern city of Lahore that killed up to 35 people, saying it was in revenge for an offensive in the Swat region.

Speaking before the Peshawar blasts, Hakimullah Mehsud, a militant commander loyal to Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, warned of more violence.

“We plan major attacks against government facilities in coming days and weeks,” he told Reuters by telephone. The government has ordered cities to be on alert.

Baitullah Mehsud was the prime suspect for the bomb blasts in the Peshawar, a senior government official said on Thursday.

“We had already concluded that Baitullah Mehsud was behind this attack (in Lahore) but now he is claiming responsibility,” said another Pakistani senior intelligence official. “I believe the attack in Peshawar also bears the hand prints of Mehsud.”

This isn’t some disjointed campaign, but one which is correlated to the ongoing Taliban and al Qaeda operations throughout the region.  Said one al Qaeda spokesman:

“The Pakistan army could then have launched an all-out war in the tribal areas, and we could have retaliated with equal strength. In that process, Pakistan would have become a battleground and enemies like India and the US would have received the chance to intervene. Although in our files Pakistan does not exist, we of course don’t want enemies of Islam to take advantage of any situation.”

The battle against Pakistani forces isn’t one in which either the Taliban or al Qaeda want to engage.  But there is a strategic reason for doing so.

Al-Qaeda’s main priority is to use natural landmarks as boundaries against the security forces. The first success has been in securing an area all along the Hindu Kush mountains from Terah Valley in Khyber Agency up to the Turban district of Pakistan’s Balochistan province bordering Iran.

The second target is to push Pakistani forces back beyond the Indus River. The source of the Indus is in Tibet; it begins at the confluence of the Sengge and Gar rivers that drain the Nganglong Kangri and Gangdise Shan mountain ranges. The Indus then flows northwest through Ladakh and Baltistan into Gilgit, just south of the Karakoram range. The Shyok River, Shigar and Gilgit streams carry glacial waters into the main river. It gradually bends to the south, coming out of the hills between Peshawar and Rawalpindi in Pakistan.

It essentially means that militants would allow the writ of the state up to Punjab and Sindh provinces, but they want complete control in parts of NWFP and parts of Balochistan …

Al-Qaeda repeated that its goal was to make the Pakistani security forces neutral in the “war on terror”. The overall object is to win the war in Afghanistan. To this end, al-Qaeda will continue to engage the security forces in the Swat area.

The simple reason is that al-Qaeda fears that the military, under US pressure, has plans in place to move into North and South Waziristan, where al-Qaeda and the Taliban have key resources vital to their struggle in Afghanistan. So it is better to keep the military pinned down in Swat.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban is an arm of al Qaeda, or actually, the two are so joined in ideology now that both are global in their import, and Mehsud, the man whom The Captain’s Journal loves to hate, may be the most powerful of all Taliban with more fighters at his disposal than any other leader, whether Taliban or al Qaeda.

The goal is first to retake Afghanistan, and insofar as Pakistan is in the way, it is seen as coupled with the “enemy” and is to be at least kept at bay.  Later, their globalist ideology would manifest itself in larger geographical campaign against the West, the sanctuaries not being limited to Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan.  After recent threats by Baitullah Mehsud to attack Washington, various analysts went on record saying that he was basically a regional threat but that he lacked the capabilities or resources to attack outside his area of influence.

That assessment is profoundly shortsighted.  We have seen from the Hamburg cell that a successful attack against the West requires money, ideology, weapons and tactics training and language training.  Mehsud’s organization currently has three out of the four prerequisites (and may have all four), and language training doesn’t take long.  Do not underestimate Baitullah Mehsud.

Al Qaeda helped the Taliban, so the Taliban will help al Qaeda

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 11 months ago is carrying an informative interview with a Taliban commander whose name is undisclosed.  The interview rambles for a while, but several salient points are lifted out and repeated below.

“We do not have the weapons the Americans have, we have no airplanes, but we have suicide bombings.” He is somewhat nonchalant when asked about the Taliban’s links with al-Qaeda militants. “Al-Qaeda helped the Taliban so the Taliban will help al-Qaeda,” he shrugs.

But, he adds, the Taliban’s goals are limited to Afghanistan. “We want peace in our land and an Islamic government,” he explains …

Asked why he joined the insurgency, [another Taliban commander] responds with another question. “If I came to your home and started fighting you, what would you do?” He complains about US air strikes that result in civilian casualties. “Why do the Americans attack our villages from the air, our wedding parties? Why do they kill small children in this way? They won’t come fight us face to face . . . I don’t like war but I have to fight the Americans.”

There is a wealth of information given to us in these short sentences.  First of all, for those whose plans revolve around settling scores and negotiating with the Taliban, it should be known that the Taliban don’t intend to force al Qaeda out of Afghanistan.

We have analyzed in detail the globalist sentiments of the Tehrik-i-Taliban (or Pakistan Taliban), who are perhaps more oriented towards a world wide insurgency than is the Afghan Taliban.  But with respect to Afghanistan as a safe haven for al Qaeda, there is little pragmatic difference between globalists and those who would give globalists sanctuary.

The second thing we learn is that we are utterly failing at the information war.  This Taliban commander cannot be swayed.  He will live [and perhaps die] as a fighter on the field of battle with the U.S.  But the telling part of the interview is that he is willing to inform the interviewer that he will support al Qaeda, and yet is willing to posit the question “If I came to your home and started fighting you, what would you do?”

“But you did,” the interviewer should have said.  Your having offered sanctuary to al Qaeda allowed the Hamburg cell to receive money, ideological training, support and motivation within Afghanistan, and here is a picture of some of the 3000 people who died that awful day as a result of your policy.

Then again, this kind of hard ball questioning might have gotten the interviewer killed on the spot.  But in spite of the softball interview, we learn that the Taliban still believe that it’s effective in front of their own people to parrot this ridiculous meme about the Americans coming to their doorstep to war against Afghans.

We simply must do better at communicating to the Afghan people what is really going on and what’s at stake.  The Taliban have the upper hand in this information and communications warfare, and they are using it to their tactical advantage.

New al Qaeda Recruits Gravitate to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 11 months ago

We pointed out over a year ago that by early 2007, new al Qaeda recruits were heading for Pakistan rather than Iraq.  This trend has been growing, and yet Yemen is also heavily in the mix.

The flow of foreign militants to Pakistan worries Western governments, which fear the south Asian country has replaced Iraq as the place to go for aspiring Islamists planning attacks on the West …

The goal today for these young men is to fight U.S. forces in neighbouring Afghanistan or to gain the skills to carry out attacks back home in the Middle East, Africa or the West.

Now, porous borders, corrupt officials and inventive smugglers mean a determined foreigner has little problem simply entering Pakistan, experts say, although reaching a camp in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas can be harder due to U.S. drone attacks and tougher security checks by militant groups.

Counter-terrorism experts also say that Somalia and Yemen are also emerging as destinations for aspiring al Qaeda fighters.

Rob Wainwright, Director of the European Union police agency Europol

“We see a pattern which shows Afghanistan and Pakistan seem to have replaced Iraq as preferred destinations for volunteers wishing to engage in armed conflict … We still see that recruits travel to training camps as part of their radicalisation process.

“Those who get training on the Pakistani-Afghan border are from various backgrounds — for example European converts and persons with Arab, North African and Turkish backgrounds.”

Richard Barrett, coordinator of the U.N.’s al Qaeda-Taliban monitoring team.

“Training over the last couple of years has typically taken place in small compounds which you find throughout the area of northwest Pakistan, rather than in large purpose-built camps. I have also heard of it taking place in apartments or houses in places like Karachi. It is hard to spot and quantify.”

Brian Glyn Williams, Associate Professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

“I’ve seen epitaphs of Kazakhs, Turks, Azerbaijanis, and Uzbekistanis on recent jihadi websites (related to the Afghanistan-Pakistan conflict zone).

Raphael Perl, Head of the Action Against Terrorism Unit at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“There’s no question that people are still going and the campaign to recruit people has intensified greatly.

“A small percentage go into active operations immediately. Some are just used for cannon fodder, in that part of Asia. And some of the very capable ones are sent back and told blend into society.”

Noman Benotman, Libyan former anti-Soviet fighter in Afghanistan.

“I think the message many Arabs receive from al Qaeda leaders nowadays is – don’t come here (to Pakistan). We don’t need you here: Go to Yemen’.”

“And we have seen a move to Yemen, mainly by Saudis, to strengthen the al Qaeda base there. It represents a big danger.”

Pakistan is front and center in terms of the training and indoctrination of globalist Jihadi fighters, and the three locations to which they are being sent, if not for their homelands to lay low until used, are Pakistan / Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.  Finally, there has been an evolution in the training of the jihadists.

Mustafa Alani, Gulf Research Centre

(Whether in Pakistan or Yemen), the major al Qaeda investment is in recruitment, not training. Most action now involves suicide bombers or exploding a car by remote control. This mainly requires influencing the mind of the subject, while most of the physical training can be done in a room. The old-style camps we saw on the publicity videos, where fighters climb over obstacles or go across fires, are mostly in the past. The groups have passed this stage. Now it is about how to evade things like monitoring in an airport. And that is a response to the new technology of counter-terrorism.”

There is good news and bad news.  First the good.  The drone attacks have been at least moderately successful, and so the recruits have been driven indoors or onto smaller compounds.  This means that classical guerrilla warfare conducted with hit and run attacks by small arms fire, small munitions, and so forth, may be training that the recruits have not had.

Now for the bad news.  The new recruits may know how to avoid detection in transit, and may in fact have uttered vows of death as they strap suicide bombs to themselves.  And for more bad news.  The recruits who are sent to the front lines in Pakistan or Afghanistan learn guerrilla warfare with haste.  There is no replacement for human intelligence, and we must be pursuing direct knowledge of these operations.

Is Pakistan the Next Failed State?

BY Herschel Smith
15 years ago

Concerns are being raised about the potential instability of the most populous province in Pakistan.

Taliban insurgents are teaming up with local militant groups to make inroads in Punjab, the province that is home to more than half of Pakistanis, reinvigorating an alliance that Pakistani and American authorities say poses a serious risk to the stability of the country.

The deadly assault in March in Lahore, Punjab’s capital, against the Sri Lankan cricket team, and the bombing last fall of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the national capital, were only the most spectacular examples of the joint campaign, they said.

Now police officials, local residents and analysts warn that if the government does not take decisive action, these dusty, impoverished fringes of Punjab could be the next areas facing the insurgency. American intelligence and counterterrorism officials also said they viewed the developments with alarm.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand the gravity of the issue,” said a senior police official in Punjab, who declined to be identified because he was discussing threats to the state. “If you want to destabilize Pakistan, you have to destabilize Punjab.”

Attacks intended to intimidate and sow sectarian strife are more common. The police point to a suicide bombing in Dera Ghazi Khan on Feb. 5. Two local Punjabis, with the help of Taliban backers, orchestrated the attack, which killed 29 people at a Shiite ceremony, the local police said.

The authorities arrested two men as masterminds on April 6: Qari Muhammad Ismail Gul, the leader of a local madrasa; and Ghulam Mustafa Kaisrani, a jihadi who posed as a salesman for a medical company.

They belonged to a banned Punjabi group called Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, but were tied through phone calls to two deputies of the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, the police said.

“The phone numbers they call are in Waziristan,” said a police official, referring to the Taliban base in the tribal areas. “They are working together hand in glove.” One of the men had gone for training in Waziristan last summer, the police said. The operations are well-supported. Mr. Kaisrani had several bank transfers worth about $11 million from his Pakistani account, the authorities said.

people complain that landowners and local politicians have done nothing to stop the advance and, in some cases, even assist the militants by giving money to some of the religious schools.

“The government is useless,” said Mr. Ali, the local landlord. “They live happy, secure lives in Lahore. Their children study abroad. They only come here to contest elections.”

The police are left alone to stop the advance. But in Punjab, as in much of the rest of Pakistan, they are spread unevenly, with little presence in rural areas. Out of 160,000 police officers in Punjab, fewer than 60,000 are posted in rural areas, leaving frontier stations in districts virtually unprotected, police officials said.

Analysis & Commentary

As feared by the senior police official in Punjab, a lot of people truly don’t understand the gravity of the circumstances in Pakistan.  The Captain’s Journal is not one of them.  Six months ago we said that Pakistan was on the brink of collapse, and just recently David Kilcullen sounded the alarm.

Pakistan could collapse within months, one of the more influential counter-insurgency voices in Washington says.

The warning comes as the US scrambles to redeploy its military forces and diplomats in an attempt to stem rising violence and anarchy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We have to face the fact that if Pakistan collapses it will dwarf anything we have seen so far in whatever we’re calling the war on terror now,” said David Kilcullen, a former Australian Army officer who was a specialist adviser for the Bush administration and is now a consultant to the Obama White House …

Laying out the scale of the challenges facing the US in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Dr Kilcullen put the two countries invaded by US-led forces after the September 11 attacks on the US on a par – each had a population of more than 30 million.

“But Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American army, and the headquarters of al-Qaeda sitting in two-thirds of the country which the Government does not control,” he told the Herald.

It’s really worse than just the concern for al Qaeda.  We’ve discussed the morphing of al Qaeda and the Tehrik-i-Taliban into a conglomerate globalist organization with the Pakistan Taliban being led by Baitullah Mehsud. (who had made threats against both the U.S. and Britain).  There are now even indications that the Afghan Taliban may have morphed into a more globalist organization than before under the influence of al Qaeda.

Control over the North West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas has allowed the Taliban and al Qaeda to merge ideologies, recruit fighters and extort money for their operations.  In fact, the recent Pakistani approval of the “peace” agreement in Swat has allowed more recruitment through the local Mosques in that area.  Each successive agreement with the Taliban strengthens the Taliban and weakens the Pakistani government.

It is not apparent yet that the Pakistani army has lost its neurotic obsession with India and begun to focus on the internal threat within.  But army headquarters in Ralwalpindi is at risk as much as any other city in Pakistan.  So are Pakistan’s nuclear assets.

Somewhere in the recesses of the Pentagon, gaming should be occurring concerning use of U.S. military assets to ensure the security of the Pakistani nuclear ordnance, because if it becomes necessary to implement these plans, it will be no game.  But the continual degradation of logistics through Pakistan has led us to strongly recommend another route, free from influence by Russia.

From nuclear assets to logistics, to potential Taliban operations in Kashmir and certainly the affects to the campaign in Afghanistan, the failure of Pakistan will indeed dwarf the previous problems that we have seen in that region of the world.  Comprehensive planning should be underway to address the exigency of Pakistan as the next failed state.

Al Qaeda and Taliban Planning More 9/11-Style Attacks

BY Herschel Smith
15 years ago

This is very important testimony from someone in Pakistan who should know.

Al Qaeda and Taliban are planning to stage terrorist strikes similar to the 9/11 attacks in the US and Europe, NWFP police chief Malik Navid told the National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior on Monday.

The briefing, on the law and order situation in NWFP, informed the committee that the extremists were spreading throughout Pakistan, adding they planned to destabilise the Middle East to have a launch pad for terrorist attacks on the US or Europe. He said Arabs and people from other countries had entered Afghanistan in large numbers between 1979 and 1995, adding some had expertise in making biochemical weapons. He urged the government to focus on curbing militancy in the country, saying the activities of militants were rapidly increasing.

Responding to question from Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) lawmaker Wasim Akhtar on whether the Taliban were moving towards the country’s major cities, including Karachi and Lahore, Navid said the Taliban were in every city and town. Most groups choose to operate secretly, he added. “Their people are present in every city and town. In some places they are active, in others dormant. The Taliban’s philosophy is to create pockets everywhere,” he said.

He said the Taliban were currently moving towards southern Punjab with intent to eventually reach the financial hub of the country, Karachi. He said the attack on the police academy in Lahore had proven that they were now established in the city.

The NWFP inspector general of police said there was a 1,000-mile porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, adding the neighbouring country was the major source of the weapons in the Tribal Areas. He claimed the Taliban were trying to turn the Tribal Areas into the Islamic Emirates of Waziristan.

Madrassas: According to Navid, Al Qaeda is expert in indoctrinating suicide bombers within a three-month period. He said five to 10 percent of the country’s madrassas were also involved in this. Al Qaeda operative Qari Hussain is training the bombers, he added. The police chief said the militants were composed of Pakistani Taliban, jihadis, local groups, criminals and Afghan Taliban, adding the major component was Al Qaeda. He said the Taliban choose to challenge the writ of the government and target army installations, law enforcement agencies, government buildings, schools, barbers, music shops, NGOs and Internet cafes. He said six suicide attacks had occurred in the NWFP during 2006, 125 in 2007, 62 in 2008 and five in the past three months. He said the Taliban had very sophisticated weaponry, adding police personnel required capacity building to match their opponents.Two men on a motorcycle threw a bomb at a truck carrying an excavating machine to NATO troops in Afghanistan, halting traffic Wednesday along a supply route through Pakistan’s southwest, officials said.

In Baitullah Mehsud Threatens Washington we discussed his most recent threat within the proper context of our year-long investigation of Baitullah’s globalist ambitions.  The news of his latest threats sparked some interest and analysis.  One such comes to us from FOXNews.

Steve Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, said that of the many terrorists who have issued “blustery threats” in recent years, Meshud is considered a “rising young star” among militants.

“He’s a dangerous guy,” Emerson told “It just reaffirms the fact that Washington is a major target.

“He seems to be a pretty bloody, bold guy who is not afraid to have a marker on himself and knows how to exact publicity … The real issue is what U.S. intelligence knows.”

Malou Innocent, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said Mehsud’s attacks have “significantly altered” the political dynamics in Pakistan and provide a major test for President Asif Ali Zardari. But any direct threat Mehsud poses to the United States will be through his link with Al Qaeda, she said.

“If he did have the reach, it would be because of Al Qaeda,” she said. “This is more posturing on his behalf.”

Steve Emerson is correct, but let’s be clear in our own analysis.  Malou Innocent has not yet plugged into the danger that Baitullah poses, and her analysis suffers because of it.  Al Qaeda lives and trains with safe haven in South Waziristan because Baitullah allows it, not vice versa.  It is believed that he has between 20,000 and 100,000 fighters, including a number of well-indoctrinated suicide bombers.  While his “links” with al Qaeda may extend his global reach, rest assurred that he has more fighters at his disposal than al Qaeda could ever hope for.

The testimony above is sobering, and points to what we have always known at The Captain’s Journal.  The model – assumed by Ms. Malou Innocent – of a precise parsing and delineation between groups, sects and factions within the Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan is arcane, outdated and obsolete.  To be sure, they have internecine struggles and jockeying for power.  But the basic axiom of Islamist domination is the same.

Forget about the pretend internet jihadists, because the Taliban are going to destroy connectivity for the masses.  The legitimate hard core fighters have threatened the West yet again, and we believe that they mean business.  The training and plans for their attacks are in the works at the present moment.

The Afghanistan Strategy

BY Herschel Smith
15 years ago

The administration has announced its Afghanistan strategy, parts of which are reproduced below.

Let me start by addressing the way forward in Pakistan. The United States has great respect for the Pakistani people. They have a rich history and have struggled against long odds to sustain their democracy. The people of Pakistan want the same things that we want. An end to terror, access to basic services, the opportunity to live their dreams and the security that can only come with the rule of law. The single greatest threat to that future comes from Al Qaida and their extremist allies. And that is why we must stand together …

So, today, I’m calling upon Congress to pass a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by John Kerry and Richard Lugar that authorizes $1.5 billion in direct support to the Pakistani people every year over the next five years, resources that will build schools, roads, and hospitals, and strengthen Pakistan’s democracy …

Now, we must make a commitment that can accomplish our goals. I’ve already ordered the deployment of 17,000 troops that have been requested by General McKiernan for many months. These soldiers and Marines will take the fight to the Taliban in the south and the east and give us a great capacity to partner with Afghan security forces and to go after insurgents along the border.

This push will also help provide security in advance of the important presidential elections in Afghanistan in August. At the same time, we will shift the emphasis of our mission to training and increasing the size of Afghan security forces so that they can eventually take the lead in securing their country. That’s how we will prepare Afghans to take responsibility for their security and how we will, ultimately, be able to bring our own troops home …

The additional troops that we deployed have already increased our training capacity. And later this spring, we will deploy approximately 4,000 U.S. troops to train Afghan security forces. For the first time, this will truly resource our effort to train and support the Afghan army and police.

Every American unit in Afghanistan will be partnered with an Afghan unit, and we will seek additional trainers from our NATO allies to ensure that every Afghan unit has a coalition partner. We will accelerate our efforts to build an Afghan army of 134,000 and a police for the of 82,000 so that we can meet these goals by 2011 …

At a time of economic crisis, it’s tempting to believe that we can short change the civilian effort. But make no mistake, our efforts will fail in Afghanistan and Pakistan if we don’t invest in their future. And that’s why my budget includes indispensable investments in our State Department and foreign assistance programs.

These investments relieve the burden on our troops. They contribute directly to security. They make the American people safer. And they save us an enormous amount of money in the long run because it’s far cheaper to train a policeman to secure his or her own village that to help a farmer seed a crop or to help a farmer seed a crop than it is to send our troops to fight tour after tour of duty with no transition to Afghan responsibility.

Analysis & Commentary

We fear that this strategy will be disastrous in the superlative degree.  Several points are in order prior to summary and conclusion.

  1. This strategy places too large of a bet on similarities between Americans and Pakistanis.  We weighed in concerning the Pakistani elections one year ago amid the celebration among U.S. politicians that the Pakistanis had rejected religious extremism, saying that their analysis missed the point.  The elections rejected the incompetence of the official Islamic clerics who had poorly governed the tribal regions, but the party that had been put into power represented what those who were more familiar with Pakistani politics had feared – a voter rejection of the war on terror.  The Tehrik-i-Taliban (Taliban of Pakistan) and their supporters boycotted the elections and were untouched by the votes.
  2. More money is exactly what the Pakistan government wants.  As one former Pakistani official told Dexter Filkins,  The reason the Pakistani security services support the Taliban, he said, is for money: after the 9/11 attacks, the Pakistani military concluded that keeping the Taliban alive was the surest way to win billions of dollars in aid that Pakistan needed to survive. The military’s complicated relationship with the Taliban is part of what the officialcalled the Pakistani military’s “strategic games.” Like other Pakistanis, this former senior officialspoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of what he was telling me.  “Pakistan is dependent on the American money that these games with the Taliban generate,” the officialtold me. “The Pakistani economy would collapse without it. This is how the game works.”As an example, he cited the Pakistan Army’s first invasion of the tribal areas — of South Waziristan in 2004. Called Operation Shakai, the offensive was ostensibly aimed at ridding the area of Taliban militants. From an American perspective, the operation was a total failure. The army invaded, fought and then made a deal with one of the militant commanders, Nek Mohammed. The agreement was capped by a dramatic meeting between Mohammed and SafdarHussein, one of the most senior officers in the Pakistan Army.“The corps commander was flown in on a helicopter,” the former official said. “They had this big ceremony, and they embraced. They called each other mujahids. ”“The army agreed to compensate the locals for collateral damage,” the officialsaid. “Where do you think that money went? It went to the Taliban. Who do you think paid the bill? The Americans. This is the way the game works. The Taliban is attacked, but it is never destroyed. “It’s a game,” the official said, wrapping up our conversation. “The U.S. is being taken for a ride.”
  3. 17,000 troops have not been requested by General McKiernan.  This additional force presence meets only around 2/3 of what McKiernan had requested as of February 2009.  Furthermore, this request should be seen in the light of the fact that the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan are so under-resourced that contractors are now being sought to provide Forward Operating Base (FOB) force protection.  Quite literally, contractors will be used to stand post at FOBs because there aren’t enough troops supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
  4. As we have pointed out before, the Afghan National Army is the most trusted institution in Afghanistan, and so the campaign must eventually expand, empower, train and equip the Army to protect the population.  The Police aren’t far behind in the trust the population places in it, but there are extreme problems with both corruption and drug abuse (on duty) within the police.  The Afghan Army is shot through with drug abuse as well.  The campaign has lacked force projection and destruction of the enemy’s power to intimidate the population, and it simply isn’t the time or season for the effort to rely so heavily on indigenous forces.
  5. We have supported efforts at reconstruction and agricultural assistance, but it must be remembered that agricultural efforts won’t rid the country of Taliban.  We’ve pointed out a clever plan to replace poppy and opium as the crop of choice with pomegranates.  Asked about the how this plan might affect the Taliban, the proponent said “In the complexity of the tribal system in Afghanistan, the Taliban are in every element of society.  When I talked at the three tribal gatherings, the Taliban were present. I believe that if we don’t communicate with every faction of this problem, we’re not going to solve it.”  So the plan to replace poppy with pomegranates redounds to fixing Afghanistan as the opium supplier of the world while it continues to strengthen the Taliban because the plan has no parallel line of effort to kill the Taliban.

In a sign of how under-resourced and poorly constructed this plan is, the administration plan was met with praise from both Presidents Zardari and Karzai – Zardari because Pakistan gets the right answer to their query to “show me the money,” and Karzai because he wants international forces to play a secondary role to Afghan forces.

It should be remembered that Karzai has aggressively sought a Status of Forces Agreement similar to the one under which the U.S. currently operates in Iraq.  Karzai also happens to be the Afghan President who said to Taliban leader Mullah OmarMy brother, my dear, come back to your homeland. Come back and work for peace, for the good of the Afghan people. Stop this business of brothers killing brothers.”

The Afghan Army and Police aren’t ready for a rapid or massive turnover of authority to them.  The government isn’t prepared to be the foundation for these institutions due to the endemic corruption, and the U.S. shouldn’t be ready to settle with any insurgents without first having a fight.

Finally, the most troubling aspect of the administration plan is its failure to address the issue of the Taliban.  Al Qaeda is mentioned, but the hosts for AQ training camps receive little attention.  In fact, while disparate and factious, the Taliban mission has steadily harmonized over the past few years: to “support the regional war and then the global war against Western hegemony; this is the concept driving the neo-Taliban.”

The globalist jihad movement of al Qaeda has been merged with the Tehrik-i-Taliban of Pakistan.  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.

TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud has said “We want to eradicate Britain and America, and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York, and London.”  Now there are even indications that the original Afghan Taliban under Mullah Omar have morphed into an organization that desires regional Islamist revolutions.

There are some indigenous poor who might be able to be stripped away from the hard core Taliban fighters, but the campaign is much more than a counterterrorism operation against some al Qaeda fighters.  It is a full blown insurgency that must be defeated with a full orbed counterinsurgency.  Anything else won’t do.  There still aren’t enough troops in the plan, and it is more likely to cause the diminishing of respect for American troops across the globe than simply withdrawing completely and going back in to topple the next problematic regime.

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