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Posts Tagged ‘al Qaeda’

It’s Good News When Terrorists Break Up

February 24th, 2014

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What happens when you’re the meanest player on a team with a history of violence (say, the Philadelphia Flyers from the 1970s), but you disobey the coach too many times? No matter how good on the field, pitch or ice you may be, the head office has no choice but to cut you from the roster.

This happened recently in the world of international terrorism, where al-Qaida Central became fed up with one of its franchises and disavowed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, or ISIS. This is the first time al-Qaida cut ties with one of its regional groups — surprisingly so since ISIS has been successfully driving the jihadist agenda in the heart of the Middle East.

This split is good news for the U.S. and its allies. Here’s why:

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For Syrian Weapons, Quick-and-Dirty Beats Slow-and-Steady

September 20th, 2013

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Now that Syria has ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, the international community’s focus is shifting to how to destroy the country’s stockpiles of chemical weapons. The choice is simple: either the slow and methodical approach stipulated by the treaty that could take up to 10 years or more, as it has in the U.S., Russia and other countries; or a faster, cheaper approach that has been used in other countries such as Iraq after the Gulf War.

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Chill Out About the American Embassy Closings

August 7th, 2013

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From the tiny island-nation of Mauritius to mighty Saudi Arabia, numerous U.S. diplomatic facilities are being shuttered this week because of an intercepted message by al-Qaida’s chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, calling for the head of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasir al-Wahishi, to strike American targets

But, dear reader, there is no need to freak out, because the system is working. Here are three reasons why:

1) America caught wind of the terrorists’ plot. This signals intercept shows that that the mission of the much-embattled National Security Agency remains critical to thwarting terrorist attacks. Given that this communication occurred between two terrorists living abroad, the U.S. government’s overseas signals collection effort did not impinge on Americans’ civil liberties or privacy. Stopping or thwarting terrorist plots is exactly why the U.S. has these sophisticated tools and techniques – and we can see it here in action.

It’s not like the U.S. intelligence community’s intercept capabilities work in a vacuum. The embassy closures were based upon a “broad range of reporting” – presumably from information derived from other American intelligence agencies and foreign liaison services.

This is not new. For example, the CIA has worked with other intelligence services in the region, helping to thwart AQAP attacks in 2010 and 2012. America’s lethal counterterrorism tactics have taken key AQAP operatives (such as the group’s second in command) “off the battlefield” – though some argue this broad effort is ultimately counterproductive. Read the rest of this entry »

This Is No Way to Run a Jihad

June 12th, 2013

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CEOs don’t like it when they discover massive changes within their corporations from the media – but that’s what happened this spring to Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Qaida’s chief awoke one day to discover al-Qaida in Iraq, or AQI, had announced it was merging with Jabhat al-Nusra, currently waging jihad in Syria against Bashar al-Assad. Zawahiri then dashed off a three-page letter to both groups annulling the merger.

But CEO Zawahiri will soon discover that his ability to influence his franchises through his words – not backed up with money, men, and arms – has little impact on the twists and turns of the Iraq-Syria conflict. Once again, the diminished share price of the AQ ticker symbol will be evident to the brokers of terrorism in the exchange of global jihad.

A little background: Jabhat al-Nusra came into being as an AQI offshoot and quickly became one of the most effective (and brutal) groups fighting the Syrian government. In December 2012, the State Department announced that al-Nusra and AQI were one and the same; it was unsurprising then when AQI head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a new AQI-Jabhat al-Nursa group, the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” or ISIL, in April 2013. Read the rest of this entry »

Fighting al Qaeda in the Post-bin Laden Era

February 6th, 2013

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This piece was originally published in U.S. News & World Report.

It’s welcome news to hear French and Malian troops have almost fully liberated northern Mali from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, and the other jihadists who turned much of the country into a neo-Taliban state. Let’s take this opportunity to reflect on how to wage war against al Qaeda in the post-Osama bin Laden era.

1. Let our allies shoulder the security burden. For more than a decade, the United States has led the world’s efforts to crush al Qaeda. But let’s be honest: The United States has little experience in the vast, lawless Sahel, despite the much-ballyhooed stand-up of the Pentagon’s Africa Command a few years ago. America’s knowledge of the region remains sparse—chances are you can probably count the number of Bambara or Tuareg speakers in the U.S. government on one hand, if you lop off a few fingers.

Other allies—most notably France, but also Great Britain—know more about the region, the turf, and locals than we ever will. And remember: French and Malian soldiers are doing the fighting, the killing, and the dying. So in this fight, America should support them and provide them with assistance: reconnaissance drones, advanced munitions, refueling capacity, intelligence support—you name it.

They certainly need it. In this hot war, Paris has struggled to move men and materiel to the front lines. And Mali’s army is beset by numerous problems. But let’s not criticize our allies; now is the time to help them. After all, if we can hammer another nail into the coffin of an al Qaeda franchise, it’s certainly worth leasing France a few more C-17s.

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Obama rallies his troops in SOTU

January 25th, 2012

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This piece originally appeared in Politico.

A speech about fairness is bound to be divisive. Mitt Romney figured that out. In a “prebuttal” delivered hours before President Barack Obama’s  spoke on Tuesday night, Romney said, “It is shameful for a President to use the State of the Union to divide our nation.”

There was only one problem. He didn’t. The president did talk about fairness. He even demanded that millionaires pay higher taxes. But he found a way to do it that wasn’t divisive. He used the image of all Americans fighting together as a team.

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