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Thread: Assessing Al-Qaeda (merged thread)

  1. #261
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    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.
    A lot of factors need to be aligned for capacity building to work, both tangible and intangible. We focus too much on the tangible things we can count and convince ourselves we're making progress. Heck, we have stats to prove it

  2. #262
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    Frame for failure, and failure is inevitable. Frame for success, and success is possible.

    We have always been so sure of our rightness, that we tend to assume that will overcome the shades of wrongness we impose upon others to ensure our own interests. It doesn't.

    Or said another way, we are too quick to rationalize why it is ok to deny for others the very things we demand for ourselves. 100 years ago one could sort of still get away with that. Today it is an impossibility.

    If we swapped our current NSS for Washington's farewell address we would be far better served as a nation. Partners grown overly dependent would quibble, as would the neocon hawks, but it would lead to approaches much better suited for the world we live in today.
    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)

  3. #263
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    Default How Isis crippled al-Qaida: a long read

    A long newspaper article to read in The Guardian, which on the first read covers many points and links on SWC. The key feature appears to be access to two Jihadist clerics, Abu Muhammed al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada, now both resident in Jordan:http://www.theguardian.com/world/201...pled-al-qaida?

    Here is a taster:
    Now the man US terrorism analysts call “the most influential living jihadi theorist” has turned his ire toward Isis – and emerged, in the last year, as one of the group’s most powerful critics. ..... Maqdisi released a long tract castigating Isis as ignorant and misguided, accusing them of subverting the “Islamic project” that he has long nurtured.

    As Qatada poured tea into small glass tumblers, he began reeling off images to better communicate the depth of his loathing for Isis. He likes speaking in metaphors. The group, he said, was “like a bad smell” that has polluted the radical Islamic environment. No, they were better described as a “cancerous growth” within the jihadi movement – or, he continued, like the diseased branch of a fig tree that needs to be pruned before it kills the entire organism.
    Violent groups often reject their mentors IIRC. Now whether the two clerics can influence how ISIS develops is a moot point. At a minimum it may restrain those jihadists who have read their tracts not to go to join ISIS.
    davidbfpo

  4. #264
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    Pinker has an article in the Guardian about decline in violence that triggered the following blog post. Tangentially related to this thread

    http://brownpundits.blogspot.com/201....html?spref=fb

    relevant extract:
    by the way: I think the US has caused state failure in Iraq and contributed to it in Syria (and now has a supporting role in the attempted state failure in Yemen; in Yemen I think the Saudis are the prime movers of the idiocy. There is no reason to accept the Eurocentric Metropolitan Racist view that only White people have agency. The Subaltern may speak )
    Why has the US caused these state failures? I dont think it was deliberate. But I do think it shows you that it is not just the SJWs/Postmarxist academics who don't appreciate how important the state is; even the decision makers of the most powerful state in the world don't seem to get it. Or rather, they don't seem to have sufficient grasp of where the asabiya or legitimacy of a state comes from: it comes from genuine fellow feeling, or it comes from colonial structures that happened to be this way and within which the necessary fellow feeling builds over time. EITHER can work. Both together are even better. But remove both, and the #### will hit the fan...
    Which is also why groups like the Kurds can fight better than any fake army put together by US advisers alone. US advisers PLUS genuine national feeling (Afghanistan, if the US had not allowed us to mess it up) can work though
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-12-2015 at 08:13 AM. Reason: Cited text in quotes

  5. #265
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    Default A Global Strategy for Combating al Qaeda and the Islamic State

    A Global Strategy for Combating al Qaeda and the Islamic State

    Entry Excerpt:



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  6. #266
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default IS -v- AQ: The War within

    Hat tip to WoTR for this long article:http://warontherocks.com/2016/01/the-islamic-state-vs-al-qaeda-the-war-within-the-jihadist-movement/?

    Taster:
    The Islamic State’s rise has reshaped the global jihadist landscape, which for nearly two decades was dominated by al-Qaeda. With the Islamic State seizing the world’s attention, the age of unipolarity within the jihadist movement is over, replaced by intense internal conflict. Each group is firm in the belief that its organizational model is superior to that of its opponent.
    davidbfpo

  7. #267
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    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/ar...n-afghanistan/

    Pentagon Given New Authority to Target ISIS in Afghanistan

    The White House has granted the Pentagon new authority to target ISIS and its affiliates in Afghanistan, a decision that for the first time expands the military’s legal authorization to carry out offensive operations against the group beyond Iraq and Syria.
    While this is good news, it also points to the dysfunction of the U.S. approach to strategy. Two brief points, first ISIS (or ISIL) is a transnational movement that has a presence in many locations around the world beyond Iraq and Syria. This is recognized by policy makers, so why did our policy wonks ignore this challenge until it became a crisis in Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere? For Afghanistan, it would seem logical that any combatant that challenges the government we're partnering with would be fair game since they're part of the collective challenge to the security and stability we are assisting the Government of Afghanistan pursue. Our repeated efforts to provide support to countries to go after a small part of a larger problem fails us repeatedly.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 01-24-2016 at 10:47 PM.

  8. #268
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    A so-so article that suggests ISIL is gaining support in SE Asia because Al-Qaeda's support for the region has not been persistent.

    http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/a...852b8-62731673

    ISIS vs. Al-Qaida: How Do Affiliates Choose?

    The few al-Qaida-affiliated emissaries and financiers active in Southeast Asia since 9/11 and the 2002 Bali bombings have been widely disrupted by counterterrorism efforts. When emissaries and financiers can no longer travel and are prevented from interaction, and when attention, support and financing languishes, the ground for switching allegiances is laid, particularly for those groups that have not developed or retained a strong ideological link to al-Qaida.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 02-01-2016 at 03:14 PM. Reason: Missing word

  9. #269
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Three from Brookings

    Catching up the output from Brookings, three recent articles (two by Will McCants and one is a Q&A with Clint Watts):

    http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/marka...elsohn-mccants

    http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/marka...oKpS2M.twitter

    http://www.brookings.edu/research/pa...alqaida-lister



    davidbfpo

  10. #270
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    Default AQ or ISIS: the threat from

    Jason Burke, of The Guardian, returns to the fray with an overview 'A more dangerous long-term threat': Al-Qaida grows as Isis retreats':https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...-isis-retreats
    davidbfpo

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    Default Panel to HASC: Fighting Islamic State, Al Qaeda Could Take 15 More Years

    Panel to HASC: Fighting Islamic State, Al Qaeda Could Take 15 More Years

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  12. #272
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    Default Bin Laden’s Son Steps Into Father’s Shoes as al-Qaeda Attempts Comeback

    Bin Laden’s Son Steps Into Father’s Shoes as al-Qaeda Attempts Comeback

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  13. #273
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    Default How Al-Qaeda survived drones, uprisings and the Islamic State

    A 124pgs WINEP report 'How Al-Qaeda survived drones, uprisings and the Islamic State', reflecting a one day workshop in March 2017 and with a very strong American content. From the introduction:
    The event was organized thematically around four topics: (1) al-Qaeda’s strength from an international and domestic perspective; (2) al-Qaeda’s strongest branch in Syria, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham); (3) al-Qaeda’s major branches outside Syria (AQAP, AQIM, al-Shabab, and AQIS); and (4) al-Qaeda’s financial structure. This provided a rich portrait of al-Qaeda’s current stature and the nature of the threat it poses in the broader Middle East as well as in Western countries, including the United States.
    Link:http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/u...s153-Zelin.pdf
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-07-2018 at 12:34 PM. Reason: 252,219v when reopened for merging
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    Default Moderator at work

    I have reviewed a number of threads on Al-Qaeda and merged six of them. The title was slightly changed from Assessing AQ's future. All prompted by the next post.
    davidbfpo

  15. #275
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    Default Al-Qaeda’s Resurrection

    A CFR Expert Brief by Professor Bruce Hoffman, sub-titled:
    With the demise of the Islamic State, a revived al-Qaeda and its affiliates should now be considered the world’s top terrorist threat.

    (Later) Al-Qaeda has systematically implemented an ambitious strategy designed to protect its remaining senior leadership and discreetly consolidate its influence wherever the movement has a significant presence.
    Link:https://www.cfr.org/expert-brief/al-qaedas-resurrection?

    Looking for a short read try the last passage?
    davidbfpo

  16. #276
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    Default Al-Qaeda Is Thriving, Despite Our Endless War. Can We Ever Defeat It?

    An article by Ali Soufan that poses this question, although it can be applied to other Islamist groups. A passage that summs up his views (lightly edited):
    Today’s al-Qaeda can boast tens of thousands of fighters under its command, and that is not even counting the thousands more who still swear allegiance to al-Qaeda’s wayward progeny, the Islamic State.Why have jihadi groups survived and grown? In short, because their ideology remains strong. That evolution, Fazul predicted, would make al-Qaeda much harder to defeat. Unfortunately, he was right. Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other jihadi groups have become adept at luring disaffected young men with false claims of an epochal war between Islam and the West and fraudulent promises of history-shaping adventure.
    He has some thoughts, none startling, on as he concludes:
    we must dedicate ourselves to undermining the resource that underpins each of its branches: its store of ideas.
    Link:https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article...qaeda-thriving

    Very little seems to be done on the 'store of ideas', even after a succession of events that have undermined the optimism in the 'West' that terrorism is a rare, painful event. Then we look around parts of the world and as the author writes there is little room for optimism where most deaths form Islamist activity happens.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 2 Weeks Ago at 10:02 AM. Reason: 2852v when stand alone post
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  17. #277
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    Default The 'war on terror' has been a 'terrifyingly expensive failure'

    A short article from a UK Business News website, the actual title is: 'There are nearly four times as many jihadist militants today than on 9/11, and the 'war on terror' has been a 'terrifyingly expensive failure'. BLUF:
    • There are nearly four times as many jihadist militants across the world today as there were on September 11, 2001, according to a new report.
    • Foreign policy analysts say it's yet another sign the war on terror has been a colossal failure.
    • There are approximately 230,000 Salafi jihadist fighters across almost 70 countries, according to the report.
    On a quick read it appears to be based on a CSIS report published this week.
    Link:http://https://www.csis.org/analysis...ihadist-threat

    Link to the website article:http://uk.businessinsider.com/there-...8-11?r=US&IR=T
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-23-2018 at 08:40 PM. Reason: 302,829v today, 50k up since June 2017
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  18. #278
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A short article from a UK Business News website, the actual title is: 'There are nearly four times as many jihadist militants today than on 9/11, and the 'war on terror' has been a 'terrifyingly expensive failure'. BLUF:
    On a quick read it appears to be based on a CSIS report published this week.
    Link:http://https://www.csis.org/analysis...ihadist-threat

    Link to the website article:http://uk.businessinsider.com/there-...8-11?r=US&IR=T
    All wars are necessarily politicized, but President Bush took it to a new level when he justified invading Iraq partially on their non-existent support for al-Qaeda. We couldn't reverse course, because any opposition to the war was drown out by the repeated claim (proven false later) that anyone who opposed it was weak on countering terrorism. After the tragedy of 9/11 no politician could afford to be seen as being weak on terror. Onward we marched to pursue the neo-conservative vision of the End of History, based on the belief that if we converted Iraq into a democracy it would gradually spread across the region. In fact, it is now hard to discern the difference between our global counterinsurgency approach and real counterterrorism operations focused on killing terrorists. Our efforts to remake the Middle East and broader Umma globally into stable democracies has been an expensive disaster that has promoted greater instability. Not only is the U.S. spending itself into irrelevance over the long run as the article states, we have let our conventional military capabilities and readiness decline to a dangerous level based on the nauseating COINdista rhetoric that insurgency was existential threat to U.S. interests, and the possibility of state on state war was non-existent.

    We confused by, with, and through as a strategy, rather than a means. When the means proved inadequate we thought the answer was to throw more resources at the failed means and ways. The argument that by, with, and through is more cost effective is only true if that approach achieves the desired goals. I suspect a more honest evaluation would present a supportable argument that it would have been more cost effective if we just did it ourselves in some cases. We're not going to effectively address underlying causes in most cases, and spending billions on economic development to solve a problem that isn't economically based is another way we bleed out our resources in pursuit of ends that simply don't matter.

    Another argument against over reliance on the by, with, and through approach is the moral hazard associated with it. No problem of accepting risk if they're doing it and we're not. In many cases where we rely on a by, with, and through approach we wouldn't be involved if we had to do it, because we know the threat to our interests doesn't justify the investment. Yet, we can continue by, with, and through indefinitely by arguing the turning point is this year (year after year).

    Outlined above is our failures, and they are expensive failures. However, if we narrow the metric to assessing our success in disrupting attacks on the homeland and our allies I think that war or security measures has been relatively successful. That requires sustaining a network of willing partners globally that detect and disrupt terrorists (not insurgents) as needed. That war is largely fought in the shadows, just as it was prior to 9/11 at a sustainable level. It must sustainable, because terrorism will never be defeated. It is a viable tactic for the weak, and even the strong if they want to shape an outcome without committing conventional forces. The USSR supported terrorist groups for decades as an element of their statecraft.

    Our new defense strategy tells us to reduce spending on counterterrorism sustainable levels, which is different than quitting because we're tired. We can do this smartly, but the probability of being 100% successful is very low. How we react after the next terrorist attack will determine if we can hold the line on reducing the industrial scale counterterrorism efforts we're engaged in now, or if political rhetoric will convince Americans that the attack was due to reduced efforts in Afghanistan, etc. I have great faith in our military leadership to make rational decisions based on our national interests. I have almost no faith in our political leadership to do the same.

  19. #279
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    Default Four times as many jihadist militants today than on 9/11: a contrary view

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A short article from a UK Business News website, the actual title is: 'There are nearly four times as many jihadist militants today than on 9/11, and the 'war on terror' has been a 'terrifyingly expensive failure'. BLUF:
    On a quick read it appears to be based on a CSIS report published this week.
    Link:http://https://www.csis.org/analysis...ihadist-threat

    Link to the website article:http://uk.businessinsider.com/there-...8-11?r=US&IR=T
    A short explanation by Alex Thurston (who has been cited before IIRC) on why CSIS is wrong.
    Link:https://sahelblog.wordpress.com/2018...urrounding-it/
    davidbfpo

  20. #280
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A short explanation by Alex Thurston (who has been cited before IIRC) on why CSIS is wrong.
    Link:https://sahelblog.wordpress.com/2018...urrounding-it/
    More accurately, it is the author's "opinion" on why he thinks the report is wrong. He has his own political agenda that he readily admits to. The take away from the CSIS in my opinion is we won't be able to apply sufficient military force to compel jihadists to cease their jihad or deter them from further attacks. They're true believers in their cause, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves if just give them a little economic assistance they'll stop. Therefore, an active defense is probably the most sustainable and effective strategy to mitigate risks to our collective interests. An active defense includes offensive operations, but the focus is on disrupting attacks and eliminating known cells to protect our homeland that of our allies, not on conducting industrial scale COIN, which conflates insurgency with transnational terrorists.

    Getting back to the fuzzy math, I agree with the author that the Taliban are not transnational terrorists, they are insurgents who use terrorist tactics. All insurgents do, and I doubt there were any successful insurgencies in history that didn't apply terrorism to some level to control certain elements of the population who didn't willingly rally around their cause. Mao sure as heck used a great deal of terrorism to compel compliance, so much for the siren song of legitimacy. However, back to 2018, the Taliban are not seeking to conduct terrorist attacks on our homeland. Looking at it from the perspective of hard core transnational terrorist networks like al-Qaeda members and subsequent groups like ISIS, and comparing their impact now to 9/10/2001 and prior, my gut tells me there are a lot more now than the few hundred of hard AQ operatives that existed then. They are dispersed globally through Syria, Libya, Iraq, UK, mainland Europe, West Africa, East Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, etc. Some are transnational terrorists, which are the greatest threat to our security, and others are insurgents.

    In defense of the original CSIS report, I think their argument about the expansion of jihadist militants (not necessarily hard core al-Qaeda/ISIS types, but local insurgents) is clearly justifiable. There are many more active jihadists movements around the world now than there were in prior to 9/11. The actual number of militants isn't immaterial, but it is unknowable. What is knowable is the scale of the threat has expanded significantly. Most of these are insurgents seeking to impose their version of Sharia within their country/region.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 12-01-2018 at 07:06 PM.

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