Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category
Over the weekend news broke that Libya’s former intelligence services had links to the CIA and MI6. This news shouldn’t shock anyone who acknowledges that after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Libya agreed – through a process that included back-channel negotiations – to relinquish its nuclear weapons program. Reportedly, however, the relationship expanded after 2003, to include cooperation on counter-terrorism efforts. In this arrangement, Libya shared information on terrorist groups and took-in rendered suspected terrorists. Again, news that shouldn’t shock anyone.
However, criticism against the U.S. and NATO now centers on two things: 1) How immoral it was to collaborate with Qaddafi. And 2) How that collaboration may affect our role in the future government of Libya.
To the first point. Saying it was reprehensible to work with Qaddafi presumes that other options were more preferable. In reality, had the U.S. forgone collaboration it would have lost a strategic asset in Northern Africa and been worse off. Essentially, intelligence played the hand it was dealt.
To the second point. Rebel forces, unless oblivious, most likely had already suspected U.S. and NATO involvement with Qaddafi before the discovery of these documents. At worst, this could deepen suspicion of Western influence, but that does not deny they will still need Western support to survive. Lastly, it would have been significantly more difficult for Western intelligence to grapple with the rebellion in Libya, had it not already established a foothold in the country through Qaddafi. The reality did not present a choice between good and bad, but instead a chance to choose the less worse of two options.
Perhaps the most worrisome part of this story has been covered in the Christian Science Monitor. By relinquishing his nuclear weapons program, Qaddafi lost his most important security umbrella. This made it easy for NATO to turn on him and aid the rebels. Essentially, this has signaled to countries like Iran and North Korea that by giving up their nuclear weapons program they face greater risk of Western backed rebellion.
Just so everyone knows, that headline doesn’t belong to me. It’s from the cover of [reportedly] al Qaeda’s new English-language magazine “Inspire,” which the group is using to recruit and propagandize Westerners. Bear in mind, this rag doesn’t have to reach a wide readership to be effective. Instead, it only has to find the mind of a lone self-starter such as Fort Hood attacker Nidal Hasan or attempted Time Square bomber Faizal Shahzad.
The magazine is available online for downloading but I didn’t want to post a link from my website for two reasons. 1) I’d rather not propagate this kind of message. And 2) speculation is the document has become a cyber-battleground between jihadists and cyber-attackers using the platform to infect terrorist networks with trojan viruses. But for those interested, supposedly the magazine includes an interview with Abu Basir (formerly Nasir al-Wuhayshi), a leader of AQ in the Arabian Peninsula. And a message from Ayman al-Zawahiri. Stimulating reading, I’m sure (sarcasm).
Hammami, who grew up in Alabama a product of a middle-class family in a two-religion household, began his radicalization while in high school. According to the story, during his sophomore year in 2000 Hammami defended Osama bin Laden after a classmate suggested bin Laden be shot dead for his involvement with the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
“What if I said that about Billy Graham?” said Hammami to his classmate, a Christian.
“Billy Graham is a peaceable preacher,” said the classmate “Osama bin Laden is a terrorist.”
In reply, Hammami said “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
From here, the article takes the story of Hammami and reveals some insight into how individuals go from unlikely beginnings to become international terrorists.
In my opinion (*not a psychologist), Hammami had some behavioral traits that are fairly common amongst Islamic radicals who resort to terrorism. Specifically, recognition and popularity amongst Islamic peers seemed to drive Hammami’s participation in violent jihad. Reportedly, Hammami’s feelings towards the conflict in Somalia and the suppression of the Islamic armed group al Shabab hardened his resolve to fight. Paraphrasing from the article:
By 2006, Hammami had become convinced that “jihad had become an obligation.” And further, he wanted to help his “captive brothers and sisters” while helping himself “obtain the highest rank available” as a Muslim. In August 2006 Hammami wrote “where is the desire to do something amazing? Where is the urge to get up and change yourself — not to mention the world and other issues further off?”
Eventually, Hammami would travel to Somalia and join up with al Shabaab, which brings me to my next point: along with notoriety, I feel individuals become radicalized because they embrace conflict and have a proclivity towards merciless adventurism. In essence, they are jihad adrenaline junkies. I think this trait is shared amongst other jihadists, like the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Thus along with the ascetic of traditional Islamic life, these radicals also enjoy the popularity and adventure that violent jihad can give them.
The Washington Post reports that Saudi Arabia’s Air Force bombarded rebel bases inside of Yemen. Meanwhile, the Saudi government denies these allegations, saying that it only attacked Houthi rebels within Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, has become increasingly anxious about instability and militancy in Yemen, which is also facing separatist sentiment in the south and a growing threat from resurgent al Qaeda fighters.
“As of yesterday late afternoon, Saudi air strikes began on their positions in northern Yemen,” the adviser said, asking not to be named because operations were still going on.
“There have been successive air strikes, very heavy bombardment of their positions, not just on the border, but on their main positions around Saada,” he said, alluding to the capital of the northern province where the rebels have been battling Yemen government forces since August.
The al-Houthi rebels are followers of Zaydism, a branch of Shia Islam. The Yemeni government struggles with the Houthi rebellion based in northern Yemen, while also attempting to eliminate terrorist safe-havens and a Sunni separatist movements in the South.
Apparently, the German elections sparked an al Qaeda propoganda campaign because last week numerous videos and messages came from the group in a concerted effort to sway German public opinion. First there was Osama bin Laden’s message to Germany, warning the government there to pull out from Afghanistan before “the dust of war clears” and America abandons NATO’s mission.
Reportedly bin Laden continued:
“You are aware that oppression topples those who commit it and injustice has unhealthy consequences for the unjust, and that one of the greatest forms of injustice is to kill people without right, yet this is exactly what your governments and soldiers are committing under the umbrella of the NATO alliance in Afghanistan.”
This message coincides with statements by fun-loving Taliban threatening to bomb Oktoberfest.
Additionally, an al Qaeda cell in Germany appealed to the government to form an implicit mutual security agreement, which would require German troops to leave Afghanistan in return for safety from attacks at home.
Speaking for the group, Bekkay Harrach said:
“Allah commands us in Quran — al Anfal Surah, Verse 60 — to prepare what is possible of power against our enemy. But, if the enemy is responsive and found a peaceful solution by which to protect human souls, then Allah commands us to be kind and forgiving.”
“If the Germans took the side of peace now, the mujahideen will also take peaceful means, and with the withdrawal of the last German soldier from Afghanistan, the mujahid in Germany will be pulled out. This is a promise from al-Qaeda.”
These statements follow recent Zawahiri messages to Pakistan, eulogizing Baitullah Mehsud and calling Pakistan’s army a bunch of “non-Muslim” “collaborators” plundering the country of its wealth. Then calling President Obama a “fraud” to the Muslim world.
The NATO – U.S. strategic communications process has adopted the mantra “first with the truth” implying that no message would be filtered and the ongoing operations will now be depicted to the public as they are. Here the basic rational is honesty is the best policy. Now, it is said that terrorists and rebel groups rely on “propoganda of the deed,” but these messages seem more like a bad adaption to NATO-U.S. principles, in what could be called “first with the threat.”
Yes, George F. Will it is time to get out of Afghanistan. As General Patreaus has said, al Qaida is not operating in Afghanistan. And if our principle mission is – and should be – to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” AQ then we can do that mission better by using tactics focused on countering terrorists, instead of diverting attention to fight drug kingpins or battle for “hearts and minds” against an anti-Karzai insurgency.
After all, for how many years can we spend $68 billion in Afghanistan. If Anthony Cordesman is correct then “victory” is still years to come. Yet, it has already been more than 8 years of “democracy/state-building“, even though AQ hasn’t re-established a base there since October 2001. That was some sort of victory; maybe it is the only “victory” we need.
$68 billion is a lot of money but it is not enough to pay for the extra troops that General McChrystal says is needed to achieve “success”. Interestingly enough, $68 billion is about 100x more than the annual Afghan tax income of $715 million. Likewise interesting, Afghanistan is broke (surprise!) with a yearly deficit of nearly $2 billion.
But an Afghan budget deficit of $2 billion doesn’t even compare to the record-breaking US federal budget deficit of $1.6 trillion.
But all of this talk about money glosses over a more important aspect of US operations in Afghanistan, namely the extended troop deployments which have left America scarred with war causalities; and have strained families often to the point of break-up. Potentially endagering national security, these deployments have left our force structure stretched dangerously thin potentially ill-prepared for future conflicts.
To conclude, some other quick tidbits of factual information:
- Two months ago was the deadliest month for coalition forces; until it was surpassed by last month.
- When the US expelled AQ from Afghanistan in 2002, the total cost of the war was around $20 billion; eight years later costs are rising with the war budget this year exceeding the first three years of the war by nearly 3x as much.
- A two-fold increase in Afghanistan’s GDP would make it slightly less than North Korea’s, and comparable to Chad, Kenya, Bangladesh, Ghana, and Zambia.
- The Horn of Africa, Yemen, and United States are all places more likely to host terrorist threats that endanger US interests more than Afghanistan.
Some governments in the world have problems with a combination of illicit trafficking, international/regional terror movements, and local insurgencies. On their own these problems are considerable, but when combined together they give governments serious headaches without easy solutions.
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is morphing into an attempt to address these issues together. (*With the results of this countering strategy being debatable). What many do not realize is that OEF concerns more than just Afghanistan, but The Philippines and Horn of Africa as well. And in each of these areas, there is a blurry separation between what constitutes a trafficker, rebel and terrorist. This blurry line is what makes them difficult to counter.
- Afghanistan has its poppy growers, Taliban-like insurgents, and al Qaida affiliated groups.
- The Philippines has the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Abu Sayyaf, human-trafficking and banditry economy.
- The Horn of Africa has its warlords, pirating, and similar al Qaida-like groups.
But with each of these countries, an attempt to eliminate one problem can detriment attempts to counter another. As is the case with the debatable counter-drug policy in Afghanistan which could lead farmers into the hands of the Taliban. Or the counter-terrorism policy against Abu Sayyaf which can conflict with a reconciliation approach towards the MILF. Not to mention, that trying to do too much with too few resources can be counter-productive in its own right.
Peru is a special case, just like all the others.
There are two main rebel groups and a significant cocaine trade in Peru. Sendero Luminoso (or “Shining Path”) is the most internationally renown and violent of the two rebel groups. The second is Túpac Amaru, which gained worldwide notoriety after it took hostage Japanese embassy personnel in an attack that lasted over 4 months. Both of these organizations have been seriously weakened by decapitation that resulted in the arrests of top-level leadership.
In the Shining Path case, the arrest of Abimael Guzmán fractured the organization. While the Japanese hostage situation resulted in the deaths of 14 members of Túpac Amaru’s high-level command. These two episodes, occurring in 1992 and 1997, reduced the threat to the Peruvian state.
Yet, the danger for Peru is that both rebel groups will come back in force. However, it appears that both groups have shifted their focus from leftist rebellion to drug trafficking. Now Peru’s main countering strategy should be against the illicit drug economy, and not counter-terrorism or counter-insurgency.
But what is the best way to stop trafficking without stirring up rebellion?
Peru will have to diminish cash incentives for farmers that produce illicit crops, while simultaneously giving them economic alternatives. Intimidation spread by traffickers must be policed without corruption. And consumption must be reduced in a way that doesn’t necessitate interdiction or crop eradication, mainly this is because interdiction rises the profit-motive while eradication strengthens the link between farmers and rebels.
All of this is much easier said than done. But, in my opinion, the US can reduce the illicit drug economy if it truly takes on the problem with “smart power,” as is claimed to be the renewed focus of US foreign affairs.
Smart power would encompass an approach that was both domestic and international. It would include treatment at home with support for economic development abroad. It would include strategies that seek to address the drug problem at the two key nodes where it starts and ends: The farmers who produce and the users who consume. It would do this in a way that reduces criminality at both of these non-violent nodes of the production cycle.
Other gringo lost posts with a similar bend: