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Thread: Assessing Al-Qaeda (merged thread)

  1. #241
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
    Carl,

    What do you think it is about this religion that motivates them?
    I don't know. It is probably more useful to say what is it about religion rather than to speak about "this religion". If you go that track it still doesn't really matter about the details of belief and religion's place in the human heart. It matters that religion can be used as the reason to kill, conquer, rape and steal. It hasn't been widely fashionable lately but it is making a comeback in a big way.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  2. #242
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Al-Qaeda’s Playbook: Persistence toward the Caliphate

    A short review by Professor Bruce Hoffman:http://news.siteintelgroup.com/blog/...-the-caliphate

    Starts with:
    Once again, the conventional wisdom in Washington about al-Qaeda (AQ) and the broader jihadi terrorist threat has been proven wrong. The wishful thinking passing for analysis since the beginning of the year that the split within the movement resulting in the expulsion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from the AQ fold would simultaneously weaken both Core AQ and ISIS—now pretentiously re-named the Islamic State (IS)—has been dramatically disproven by the latter's lightning thrust into Iraq and seizure of the northern and western parts of the war-torn country.
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  3. #243
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    Default Al Qaeda opens branch in the 'Indian Subcontinent

    http://www.longwarjournal.org/archiv...ranc-print.php

    As Sahab, al Qaeda's official media outlet, released a lengthy video promoting the creation of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent today. The video, which was published on various Internet video sites, including YouTube, features Ayman al Zawahiri as well as Asim Umar, the new emir of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, and Usama Mahmoud, the group's spokesman. The video was translated by the SITE Intelligence group.

    "A new branch of al-Qaeda was established and is Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian Subcontinent, seeking to raise the flag of jihad, return the Islamic rule, and empowering the Shariah of Allah across the Indian subcontinent," Zawahiri says in the opening of the video, according to the translation by SITE.
    Business should be good for this franchise since it is focused on of the most densely populated areas in the world with a wide spectrum of social and political issues, and questionable security forces.

    Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh will need to cooperate at unprecedented levels to cut out this cancer before it metastasizes.

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    I think the AQ's evolving strategy, to include the associated two-arm strategy is showing a level of strategic maturity not seen before. I know there are many who think AQ can't establish a presence in India, but I think that is wishful thinking. India has more people living in abject poverty than all of Africa, and much of its large Muslim population lives in poverty and has a history of being discriminated against. Islamic terrorist events happen in India periodically already, so it is probable AQ will enjoy some success, how much depends on a lot of factors.

    http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Libra...ail/?id=184986

    Al Qaeda's "Resurgence" Focuses on Indian Subcontinent

    AQ's new magazine is released, and it principally focuses on South Asia.

    The reasons for the delay in its release are not publicly known. At 117 pages, the magazine covers a variety of jihadist topics. But the content of the magazine is heavily focused on recent events, especially al Qaeda's activities in the Indian Subcontinent.

    It was produced by As Sahab, al Qaeda's propaganda arm. However, "(Subcontinent)", has been appended to As Sahab's name, suggesting that the media wing has rebranded at least part of its operation to focus on the region.

    Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri and other senior jihadists announced the creation of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), al Qaeda's newest regional branch, in early September. Much of "Resurgence" is devoted to AQIS propaganda.
    It also addresses economic targeting, and demonstrates knowledge of the impact of insurance costs on commercial shipping if the perception of the threat rises.

    there is an "energy umbilical cord which [sic] sustains western economies" and "stretches across hundreds of miles of pipelines and sea lanes." This "represents the Achilles heel not just of the energy market, but also of western economies dependent on oil from the Muslim world."

    Khalid argues that a strategy of "sustained disruption in this supply system would not only increase insurance costs for international shipping, but also affect the price of oil globally, making the theft of our petroleum resources an expensive venture for the West." Khalid then delves into an in-depth assessment of various "choke points," explaining the relative virtues of striking them.
    Khalid believes that the time is coming for a sustained campaign of "economic warfare
    They have been doing their homework, and for those that study strategy they'll see some familiar themes from the Cold War, but updated for current conditions. I suspect we'll start seeing something along the lines of "unrestricted warfare" from non-state groups who will operate not only in the human domain, but the cyber, maritime, and with UAVs in the air domains.

    http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2014/...ref=world&_r=0

    Officials Fear Al Qaeda Grooming Indian Militants for Big Attacks

    But Indian security agencies said evidence they had gathered pointed to growing ties between al Qaeda and IM, a home-grown movement hitherto known for low-level attacks on local targets using relatively crude weapons like pressure cooker bombs.

    Weeks after al Qaeda announced the formation of a South Asia wing to strike across the subcontinent, agencies said they had discovered IM members were training with al Qaeda and other groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan for major attacks.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 11-09-2014 at 02:24 AM. Reason: add one more article

  5. #245
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Why India is important and unfriendly to AQ

    Bill,

    In response and citing only one section:
    I know there are many who think AQ can't establish a presence in India, but I think that is wishful thinking. India has more people living in abject poverty than all of Africa, and much of its large Muslim population lives in poverty and has a history of being discriminated against. Islamic terrorist events happen in India periodically already, so it is probable AQ will enjoy some success, how much depends on a lot of factors.
    It is interesting that AQ has to date been unable to have a presence in India, even though the jihadist cause has some adherents and can launch effective attacks (I exclude Mumbai as being an external operation).

    From a global perspective it is important that the jihadist cause fails in India. Elsewhere there are posts, if not threads, debating whether AQ plus gains most where there are poor Muslims discriminated against.
    davidbfpo

  6. #246
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    There is a new (forthcoming?) book that may assist readers: 'The Evolution of the Global Terrorist Threat: From 9/11 to Osama bin Laden's Death', which is part of the Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare. The editors are Bruce Hoffman (from Georgetown Uni) and (Spainiard) Fernando Reinares:http://www.amazon.com/The-Evolution-...283155&s=books

    No reader reviews yet, although comments by SME like Peter Bergen.

    There is a very short review here. I note Hoffman now says the 7/7 attacks were not an independently launched attack; Fernando has in the past upset officials by saying the Madrid railway station bombings were directed by AQ.

    Link:http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-...-0-231-16898-4
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-10-2014 at 10:53 AM. Reason: Correction
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  7. #247
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    India often describes itself as the "World's largest democracy"; but I have heard others state that condition of governance from the other perspective, as "The World's largest oppressed minority."

    If that is true, and if that minority is Sunni, then AQ will have a market to leverage.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  8. #248
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    I suspect there are thousands of Muslims in India and Bangladesh willing to support AQ. They already support other terrorist/insurgent/separatist movements in this region. AQ needs to win over just a slice of this spectrum to he effective in creating a crisis of confidence. Furthermore their attack on the Pakistani naval vessel may have failed, but it was sophisticated and bold. AQ linked elements failed the first time they attacked the WTC. We only fool ourselves when we dismiss these threats.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 11-11-2014 at 02:58 AM.

  9. #249
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Bruce Reidel writes again - taking a global, strategic look - in a 'War of Ideas' commentary and concludes:
    The defeat of Islamic extremism requires both hard and soft power responses. Drones need be matched with deeds that expose the false precepts of Al Qaeda's narrative. Today the hard power part of our war effort is stretched across Africa and Asia. And the soft-power part of the strategy? That appears, at best, to be feeble, at worst to have atrophied altogether.
    Link:http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...-no-idea.html?
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  10. #250
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Bruce Reidel writes again - taking a global, strategic look - in a 'War of Ideas' commentary and concludes:

    Link:http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...-no-idea.html?
    Bruce is clearly uninformed. Just because soft power efforts don't make headline news, doesn't mean they are a major effort. They would be less effective if they were advertised. Those pretending to be experts should at least have topical knowledge of the topics they like to preach to others about. It far beyond time to have a counter elitism movement.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 11-11-2014 at 01:02 PM.

  11. #251
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    Default Convergence

    A negative development, at least in part due to our approach for targeting ISIL and an al-Nusra element planning to target western interests. Al-Nusra is affiliated with AQ, although there is some debate on how close al-Nusra is to al-Qaeda core in Pakistan. ISIL and al-Nusra have apparently agreed to work together, even if it is an uneasy partnership. This appears to be a balance of power decision for both organizations.

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Ne...6#.VGVJh5t0zIU

    Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS Reach Agreement in Syria

    “Islamic State” (ISIS) leaders together with those of the Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra convened last week at a farmhouse in northern Syria to form an agreement on a plan to stop fighting each other and to join forces against their opponents, according to what a high level Syrian opposition official, together with a rebel commander, told to the Associated Press.
    These two groups allegedly will combine to target U.S. backed rebels.

    Our response?

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article..._syria_options


    Rout of Moderate Rebels Leaves Obama With Vexing Syria Options

    The Obama administration is edging closer to establishing a safe zone in northern Syria that will allow rebel fighters to remain in the country without being forced out by President Bashar al-Assad's regime and rival militant groups, according to analysts.

    Setting up such safe zones inside Syria will also address a key demand by Turkey, which sees the Assad regime as a greater threat than the self-proclaimed Islamic State, and has been pushing the United States to set up such areas as a condition for fuller participation in the coalition against the Sunni militant group that is also known as ISIS and ISIL.
    This is probably doable, and should have been done a long time ago IMO. It would have relieved the humanitarian crisis to some extent, and given our forces an achievable objective (not unlike the Southern and Northern no fly zones in between the Iraq wars). Can't recreate history, but if have done this first, and then targeted ISIL it all would have been in accordance with international law. Protecting innocent civilians from being targeted, especially since chemical weapons were used, and then targeting terrorists. Apparently Turkey wanted this, and like them or not, Turkey is key to the solution. It also would have maintained our credibility with the Syrian people who now feel betrayed. I don't know if removing Assad would be legal without some sort of UN mandate, but creating safe havens would have probably led to his fall over time with less blood shed.

    It would also be nice if there was at least one other country besides the U.S. that would be willing to step up and take the lead.

  12. #252
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    Default ISIS overtakes al Qaeda: What’s next?

    http://www.fpri.org/geopoliticus/201...eda-whats-next

    Those who assessed that bin Laden’s death would be of no consequence for al-Qaeda have been proven wrong. Bin Laden, along with a select few of his top lieutenants and protégés who’ve been eliminated by drones, provided the last bits of glue that held a declining al-Qaeda network together. As discussed in the 2012 post “What if there is no al-Qaeda?”, al-Qaeda for many years has provided little incentive in money or personnel for its affiliates and little inspiration for its global fan base. Things have gotten so bad that rumors suggest Ayman al-Zawahiri may dissolve al-Qaeda entirely, that’s right, al-Qaeda might QUIT! I’ll address these rumors in a separate post next week. Until then, here is what I see as the good and bad for al-Qaeda and ISIS this year.
    A few tables and graphs at the link showing the growth of ISIS influence and the decline of AQ's influence.

    Compares good and bad news for both. While we sought to weaken the cohesion of these various groups, it is apparent that these divided loyalties have only contributed to an increase of terrorist activity.

  13. #253
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Jihadi Fractures: two charts

    The 2015 Chart



    The 2014 Chart
    davidbfpo

  14. #254
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    Default Video of Islamic State capabilities impresses military experts

    Video of Islamic State capabilities impresses military experts

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/04/2...abilities.html

    But beyond the outcome of the refinery battle, military analysts who’ve viewed the video find it alarming because it shows that the Islamic State retains a surprisingly high level of military skill despite months of daily airstrikes by U.S. aircraft and their coalition allies.

    “The overall takeaway from this and several other videos like it, and this opinion is borne out by the facts on the ground, is that Daash remains better trained, more motivated, better led and supported by a logistical infrastructure that the Iraqi government is literally incapable of delivering to their own troops,” said one former British special forces soldier who consults with the Iraqi Kurdish government on military affairs. He spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of his role in Iraq. Daash is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
    Much more in the report, well worth the read. It is an honest assessment from folks on the ground who are not spinning a narrative. It raises important questions on why ISIS is producing more competent foot soldiers than Iraq. I suspect the answers will make us uncomfortable, which normally results in an organizational state of denial.

  15. #255
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    One strategic lesson for the US should be this:

    "Military capacity built in support of a fundamentally illegitimate government by a foreign power cannot stand up to a legitimate foreign challenger, or an illegal domestic challenger perceived as legitimate by it's followers."

    Consider the track record of the United States in this regard. Since emerging on the global stage in 1900 the United States implemented a strategy of creating governance we perceived as good for US interests and the development of military capacity to secure those de facto illegitimate governments in the following places:

    Philippine Islands, 1900-1941: Defeated by the Japanese in short order (though the subsequent Filipino resistance for far more legitimate rationale proved quite strong)
    Vietnam 1955-1975
    Iraq 2003 - present
    Afghanistan 2001 - present

    All with the same result. Helping a sovereign partner with governance perceived by it's population as legitimate is a good investment in regional security. We have a solid track record of this with many nations around the globe. But investing in the security of governance lacking in popular legitimacy as in the four examples above is a proven failure.


    As to ISIL vs AQ: AQ conducted a non-state approach to UW, and their great strength was their non-state status. It gave them sanctuary from state action, having no territory or population to defend; and it relieved them of the duties of governance having no territory or population to govern. But to win they had to become tangible, and that would destroy both these strengths, so they remained the champion of a virtual Caliphate.

    ISIL, on the other hand, sought purposely to create and emerge as a de facto state, and a tangible nucleus for a physical "Caliphate" (the names scares us, but in effect little more than a state dedicated to the laws and values of Sunni Muslims that is free from excessive external influence). This resonated with the same revolutionary movements and populations engaged by AQ, and many, grown weary of the promise of virtual Caliphate, are embracing the opportunity for something real that ISIL offers. This is the strength of the ISIL state-based approach to UW; but it also saddles them with the burden of governance, and gives them all the liabilities common to small, weak states.

    I don't think the West has accurately characterized either organization, and have therefore not handled either particularly well. We exaggerate the dangers, we confuse the rationale for their existence and appeal, and we seek to make them be what we want them to be, rather than to deal with them for what they actually are.

    How well ISIL fights is actually a clear metric of the inherent legitimacy they possess. We would do well to ponder on that thought.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    How well ISIL fights is actually a clear metric of the inherent legitimacy they possess. We would do well to ponder on that thought.
    That uncomfortable thought is certainly part of the reason. I would add that a unifying ideology is critical to bring together civilians (in this case from around the world) and turn them into a disciplined fighting force. And of course, a statement of the obvious, they must have excellent trainers. It also appears they're a learning organization.

    A lot of folks we train around the world don't believe in their cause (probably most, thus the value of the legitimacy argument), they have weak and dishonest leaders they don't trust, and they're not learning organizations capable of adapting (based on poor leadership). There are a lot of intangibles involved in unit effectiveness that will undermine our tangible capacity to train and equip.

  17. #257
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Video of Islamic State capabilities impresses military experts

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/04/2...abilities.html



    Much more in the report, well worth the read. It is an honest assessment from folks on the ground who are not spinning a narrative. It raises important questions on why ISIS is producing more competent foot soldiers than Iraq. I suspect the answers will make us uncomfortable, which normally results in an organizational state of denial.
    After watching the propaganda video in question, I'm not sure what the experts are seeing that I'm not (the video is accessible through a link in the story itself).

    All you really see is a couple of ranger files of guys walking towards Bayji carrying bottled water. Proper spacing is hard to figure out, but it's not like these guys are doing a squad assault. Then there's about 2:30 of closeups of jihadis firing full auto. Some are firing from the shoulder, a few are doing controlled bursts. But the vast majority are just doing Rambo-style jihadi-cool full auto at something vague in the distance - a few are firing from the hip and aiming at the clouds. Most of these are likely posed.

    I agree that ISIS has shown it can outfight the ISF - but I think that's because the ISF has degenerated from an already parlous state, not because ISIS is any good in a stand-up fight.

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    Thanks for sharing the link to the video, this is the fourth video I have seen of ISIS in combat, and it only adds to the assessment of the analysts quoted in the article. Again we're assessing relative combat effectiveness, so I disagree with you that they couldn't stand up to a real Arab Army anywhere in the Middle East. The Syrian Army is quite good relatively for the region, and ISIS does moderately well in stand-up battles against them.

    0:55 the automated command, control, computers, communications, and intelligence (supported by a drone) is relatively impressive. Probably something we'll see more of around the world due to the availability of this technology.

    starting around 1:35 the use of mostly conventional crew served weapons is impressive. Acquiring them in battle is one thing, employing them effectively is another. They have done both. Results starting around 6:40, with numerous IA vehicles destroyed including at least one tank.

    I tried to find it, but I suspect it was removed from the internet , there is one video that is impressive showing ISIL storming an occupying building. They took some hits in the way in, but in a disciplined manner persisted with the attack until they were successful.

    People much less well trained and equipped made life difficult for our guys in Fallujah, so I wouldn't underestimate the challenge. No doubt we can defeat them, but at times it would be become a slug fest.

  19. #259
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Bill - agreed with all your main points. They've showed they can defeat their adversaries, and that's what counts. Short of the fall of Baghdad, a MEU or a US armored division is not coming over the horizon.

    I think that one of the main things that requires research is ISIL's ability to maintain C4IR and logistics across a very large battlespace in the face of US airpower. Right now I don't think anyone outside of ISIL's command structure itself and maybe the US Gov really knows just how autonomous the different emirs or regions are, or how ISIL's internal supply network works. That they managed to sustain combat in Kobane as long as they did in the face of crippling strikes was pretty impressive to me, even if they did retreat in the end.

    That ISIL shows the sort of internal cohesion and leadership to outmatch the Iraqi government, as feeble as that task may be, shows just how important those two qualities are in the face of billions of dollars in aid and equipment.

    I think Iraq is in the process of forming a genuine national identity that can command real loyalty to a nation irrespective of governmental identity. Unfortunately this appears to have an exclusively Shia Arab phenomenon at the moment. Not sure where this goes in the end - probably not towards the sort of Iraq we wanted in 2003.

  20. #260
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Key phrase being "...what we wanted."

    Some day we will learn that we are far better served by what we need (a partner with a government possessed of local popular legitimacy - regardless of the form that government might take), than we are by a government we want that is inherently lacking in popular legitimacy by all but those who have sold out to the US to gain power under our protection.

    Every time we have adopted a strategy of building a military to defend such a government it has been an abysmal failure. In order, Philippines pre-WWII, South Vietnam, Iraq and (collapsing as soon as we leave) Afghanistan.

    I used to think our approach of not controlling such forces was far superior to the British model of recruiting units from such places to serve Britain, rather than their born homelands. But the British model has a legitimacy all of it's own. Those men join to serve Great Britain. We train units to serve government who are created by us. My apologies to Brits who I have chided in the past on this matter.

    Better still are units serving a national government possessed of broad popular legitimacy, but that is not something we can create. We often support such partners and allies, but to attempt to create is to render them fatally flawed from inception.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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