Since the 28th May the United States has carried out seven unmanned airstrikes:
June 10th: U.S. unmanned aircraft targeted a 'sprawling compound' in the village of Norak, North Waziristan, killing three suspected terrorists. Whilst the compound was known to be used by the Taliban no senior figures were reported killed. However on June 17th the Long War Journal reported that two al Qaeda commanders and a Turkish fighter were killed in this attack. The al Qaida casualties were confirmed as Sheikh Inshanullah, an 'Arab al Qaeda commander' and Ibrahim, commander of the Fursan-i-Mohammed Group. All three deaths were confirmed in a statement from Taifatul Mansura Group, a Turkish jihadist organisation operating along the Af-Pak border.
June 11th: Unmanned aircraft attacked two villages in North Waziristan. The airstrike targeted targeted Taliban safe houses in the villages of Bahader Khel and Khaddi, killing eleven and four terrorists respectively. Three 'foreigners' were reported killed in Bahader Khel, and two in Khaddi. The term 'foreigner' is used by Pakistani security forces to describe Arab or Central Asian al Qaida operatives. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban figures were reported killed at this time.
Three Islamic extremists - or common criminals as we prefer to call them - have been found guilty of conspiring to kill people in a terrorist bombing campaign. They were members of an al Qaida-inspired terror cell, a jury at Woolwich Crown Court found. Abdulla Ahmad Ali,27, Assad Sarwar 28, and Tanvir Hussain, 27, also admitted plotting a series of small-scale bomb attacks which dominated the news two years ago.
Despite the convictions, counter terrorism officials are said to be dismayed at the outcome where one has escaped all convictions and none have been charged with targeting an aircraft. Prosecutors have till the end of the month to consider a retrial.
By Bill Roggio, who reports daily in The Long War Journal
Anti Taliban mayor and 12 other s killed near Peshawar
Bombing in Charsadda kills 24 , 3rd attack in north west in 3 days
Ten Pakistani paramilitary troops and 10 Taliban fighters were killed during clashes in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of Mohmand. 8 missing.
Twelve Pakistanis have been reported killed and more than 40 wounded in an attack that targeted the headquarters of the Inter-Service Intelligence agency in the provincial capital. A second suicide attack killed five at a police station in Baka Khel, Bannu, NWFP.
Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org
By Scott Stewart, Stratfor
On March 19, military forces from the United States, France and Great Britain began to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which called for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized the countries involved in enforcing the zone to "take all necessary measures" to protect civilians and "civilian-populated areas under threat of attack." Obviously, such military operations cannot be imposed against the will of a hostile nation without first removing the country's ability to interfere with the no-fly zone — and removing this ability to resist requires strikes against military command-and-control centers, surface-to-air missile installations and military airfields. This means that the no-fly zone not only was a defensive measure to protect the rebels — it also required an attack upon the government of Libya.
Certainly, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has no doubt that the U.S. and European military operations against the Libyan military targets are attacks against his regime. He has specifically warned France and the United Kingdom that they would come to regret the intervention. Now, such threats could be construed to mean that should Gadhafi survive, he will seek to cut off the countries' access to Libyan energy resources in the future. However, given Libya's past use of terrorist strikes to lash out when attacked by Western powers, Gadhafi's threats certainly raise the possibility that, desperate and hurting, he will once again return to terrorism as a means to seek retribution for the attacks against his regime. While threats of sanctions and retaliation have tempered Gadhafi's use of terrorism in recent years, his fear may evaporate if he comes to believe he has nothing to lose.
By Nick Watts, Great North News Services Correspondent
Recent events in Libya have served to distract from the UK's main defence effort at the moment, Afghanistan. This morning at RUSI General David Petraaus commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) gave a presentation which served to remind the audience of the scale and complexity of the enduring Afghan campaign. In October 2009 Petraeus' predecessor Gen McChrystal gave a stellar exposition of the situation as he found it. At the time ISAF was struggling to understand the nature of the insurgency and the means necessary to deal with it. McChrystal had at least started asking the right questions.
Now the situation has moved on. The talk is of the end game and transfer of responsibility for the security of Afghanistan to its own army the ANA. To some extent Petraeus is a lucky general, just as his forebear was unlucky. He has inherited a situation which he summarised as "only recently have we got the inputs right". Only in 2010 was ISAF able to reverse the momentum of the insurgency, which Petraeus characterized as gaining momentum from 2005 onwards. He is referring not only to the uplift in troop numbers, but also to the way ISAF does business in terms of building up the governance of the country, and "getting the big ideas right". Up until then there were too many competing organizations working in silos without talking to each other. So part of the governance piece has been getting the NGOs and contractors as well as the UN and EU working together.
The NATO Lisbon summit committed ISAF to hand over responsibility for security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014. In addition President Obama has committed to the beginning of a draw-down of US forces, beginning in July this year. In answer to some questions on this aspect Petraeus made the point that both NATO and some troop contributing nations, including the UK, were discussing with the Afghan government arrangements for post 2014. He would not be drawn on specifics but mentioned that one key element of the Afghan security forces was still being developed, namely "enablers". These are the vital support functions such as artillery, medical and logistic services, as well as air lift and command and control functions. This might be taken to imply that some elements of NATO's on-going support after 2014 could involve surveillance and special operations forces.
One of Petraeus' earlier appointments had seen him re-writing the US Army's counter insurgency manual, so here was the man who wrote the book explaining how it works on the ground. He was at pains to stress that the military element was only one piece in the jigsaw of COIN. He has also previously been quoted as saying that Afghanistan "is all hard, all of the time"; so he does not see that progress is yet irreversible. He also stressed how important it is to keep our own public opinion supportive of the costly nature of the campaign.
An intriguing piece of the COIN jigsaw is what is called "reintegration" by which is meant the various strands being used to encourage members of the insurgency to lay down their arms altogether or to change sides. On this matter Petraeus was matter of fact, but opaque. There are efforts in hand to encourage both the lower echelon fighters to stop fighting, as well as the higher echelons. More emphasis is being put into tackling local corruption, which is often one of the grievances which cause people to join the insurgency.
There is also recognition by the Karzai government that the culture of patronage has to be dealt with, including his own family. On their own none of these things is a winner; but added to the improvements in ISAF's tactical situation, they all add up to reasons for wavering insurgents to remain at home, or to change sides. A British officer, Maj Gen Phil Jones is in charge of the force reintegration effort, to get ex-Taliban insurgents into the ANA.
Petraeus' presentation was much more assured than the one given by McChrystal in 2009. Back then ISAF was striving for credibility in the capitals of the NATO nations, never mind how it was doing in the campaign against the insurgents. Petraeus has managed his tenure well and things seem to be going reasonably well, although he didn't want to sound complacent. He said that there was still hard fighting ahead. It is to be hoped that should there be setbacks, as there may well be, Petraeus will not also find himself carpeted by his President, but given the top cover he needs to finish the job.
By Raoul Sherrard
Air travel is the most visual aspect of international terrorism. It is one which we see most often in the media and provides the most tangible evidence for the threats that may face UK citizens as they pass through customs. In comparison to most of the work done by counterterrorism forces it is much easier to look at the success rate of packages making onto planes and the ensuing chaos in the aviation industry. In this respect the Yemeni printer cartridge bomb threats have been reported to show how terrorists have adapted and challenged our increased security by utilising unassuming office parcels.
Thankfully the response was quick enough to defuse the bombs before they exploded, with unofficial reports of 17 minutes left circulating as if from a movie scene. The governments involved in defusing the plot have subsequently banned cartridges over 435g, along with cargo from Yemen and Somalia. Yet this is a surreal reaction when one considers that thousands of tonnes are being transported through numerous circulating routes at this moment in time, often stopping, refuelling, and shifting through several dozen trade routes. Do we expect others attempting to replicate this plot to fail to take into account the new weight restrictions? Or that new extra screening will result in increased vigilance throughout these networks?
In the same circumstances x - ray machines which take full 'naked images' in combination with stricter and more invasive body searches are being routinely used to prevent would be hijackers. The inconvenience of this most vivid and public act of security is tolerated in the knowledge that few of us would travel on planes where no security was in place if given the choice. We would rather feel better with some action being taken, no matter the effectiveness, than none at all. Yet in Israel, the long lines of passengers that these searches cause have provided opportunities for terrorists to detonate explosives.
It is difficult to argue that new technology has made passenger travel objectively safer. What we see is described best by Schneier in Beyond Fear and as a mere 'security theatre'. Airport security is for the most part a play, undertaken more for the benefit of the passengers than the security forces. We are encouraged to be involved to make us and those who are responsible for us feel as if they have taken every possible avenue, trading inconvenience for increased safety.
So what is the answer to this problem if current measures are not enough? How much more time, resources and manpower would be needed to stop terrorists with access to a cargo company and an ink jet cartridge from bringing down an aircraft? The truth is that this is largely impossible to gauge given that every year 80 million tonnes of cargo and 4.8 billion passengers make trips around the world.
Security is subjective in the same way that you cannot ask an insurer to protect you against all acts that could ever happen; neither can you make air travel impregnable against terrorist attacks. Furthermore, security measures are inevitably brought in to question after they fail to do their job effectively. Critics would then probably claim that the expense and inconvenience was utterly wasteful and better spent elsewhere.
We cannot ever truly defend against every terrorist plot to attack civil aviation. Instead we manage the risk of what is one of the safest modes of transport by providing a trade off between allowing air travel to flourish at its current levels with increasingly pervasive security measures. The biggest issue is that this will never be a fine art. It is why we often see the cracks of logic that allow hidden drugs routinely making their way onto planes but visible and declared bottled water being stopped.
Those involved in working for civil liberty and defence should be well gauged in the risks posed by the threat of international terrorism. It is important they do not fall for the trap of overreaction, which can be damaging to successful counterterrorism. If we follow the trends of demonising a wide target, creating fear and overreaction you leverage the actual risk of terrorism becoming more powerful than it is.
The work of those who aim to protect aviation should be considered in contrast to the reaction of trying to provide security with measures that only increase workloads. In this example is it truly the right course of action to expect that bomb squads should check every conceivable package with special attention to ink cartridges, instead of following intelligence and reasoning to high security threats? Or should we look to remain composed and focused on credible ways to stop threats before they even make it to the airport scanner?
By Rikke Haugegaard
In this essay, the author calls for increased gender awareness in counter-insurgency operations. The main focus is to draw attention to the potential roles of local women in counterinsurgency, especially in Afghanistan. How can local women contribute to the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan? How can ISAF and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan gain terrain by building alliances with local women?
The Taliban movement is harassing, threatening and killing local women who are working as professionals for the Afghan government or as leaders of women's networks in the province of Helmand (teachers, headmasters, police, health workers and leaders of women's groups/centres). Sometimes threats and violence have been imposed on their husbands too.
In recent years, NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) has been performing counterinsurgency activities in Afghanistan. The southern and eastern provinces in the country are strongly influenced by different insurgent groups, such as the Taliban, drug lords and local war lords. The province of Helmand is currently one of the most dangerous provinces in Afghanistan.
Women are harassed on their way to work or school. The Taliban movement wants to prevent the mobility and freedom of women. Their general aim is to enforce strict Sharia laws on the local population, and to enforce a gender balance with the men ruling the women - and a strict separation of women from men, as well as boys from girls, in public as well as in private life. The Taliban is inspired to apply these rules in society by their radical interpretation of Sunni-Islam.
By Eugene Chausovsky
Tajikistan's military continues to conduct security sweeps in the Rasht Valley in the eastern part of the country to catch roughly two dozen high-profile Islamist militants who escaped from a Dushanbe prison in August. The chairman of Tajikistan's State National Security Committee announced Nov. 9 that these special operations have been successful and would soon be completed. However, the Tajik military has announced it will retain its presence there, and the Defense Ministry is setting up special training centers from which to base operations into the mountainous region surrounding the Rasht Valley.
These security sweeps began just over two months ago, and there are conflicting accounts of how successful they have been in rounding up the militants. Tajik military and government spokesmen have said that most of the escapees have been either captured or killed and that roughly 80 Tajik soldiers have been killed hunting them down. However, Tajik media have given higher estimates of the number of military casualties, and STRATFOR sources in Central Asia have said the number of deaths and injuries in various firefights might actually be closer to a few hundred. The region's remoteness and the sensitive nature of the security operations have made such reports difficult to verify.
The very purpose of these security operations has also been called into question within the country and the wider region. The official reason for the sweeps is to round up the escaped militants, but according to STRATFOR sources, preparations for these special operations in the Rasht Valley were being made long before the jailbreak. There are also unconfirmed reports that none of the escapees were from the Rasht Valley, and while the valley's mountainous terrain does make it a good location to seek refuge, it does not guarantee that locals there would willingly harbor the fugitives. The security forces' ultimate goal could center on growing concerns that remnants of a previously key regional militant group — the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — could be regaining strength in the country.
By Scott Stewart
The Oct. 29 discovery of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) inside two packages shipped from Yemen launched a widespread search for other devices, and more than two dozen suspect packages have been tracked down so far. Some have been trailed in dramatic fashion, as when two U.S. F-15 fighter aircraft escorted an Emirates Air passenger jet Oct. 29 as it approached and landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. To date, however, no other parcels have been found to contain explosive devices.
The two parcels that did contain IEDs were found in East Midlands, England, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and both appear to have been sent by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda's jihadist franchise in Yemen. As we've long discussed, AQAP has demonstrated a degree of creativity in planning its attacks and an intent to attack the United States. It has also demonstrated the intent to attack aircraft, as evidenced by the failed Christmas Day bombing in 2009 involving Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate an explosive device concealed in his underwear on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
A tactical analysis of the latest attempt suggests that the operation was not quite as creative as past attempts, though it did come very close to achieving its primary objective, which in this case (apparently) was to destroy aircraft. It does not appear that the devices ultimately were intended to be part of an attack against the Jewish institutions in the United States to which the parcels were addressed. Although the operation failed in its primary mission (taking down aircraft) it was successful in its secondary mission, which was to generate worldwide media coverage and sow fear and disruption in the West.
By George Friedman
Last week's events off the coast of Israel continue to resonate. Turkish-Israeli relations have not quite collapsed since then but are at their lowest level since Israel's founding. U.S.-Israeli tensions have emerged, and European hostility toward Israel continues to intensify. The question has now become whether substantial consequences will follow from the incident. Put differently, the question is whether and how it will be exploited beyond the arena of public opinion.
The most significant threat to Israel would, of course, be military. International criticism is not without significance, but nations do not change direction absent direct threats to their interests. But powers outside the region are unlikely to exert military power against Israel, and even significant economic or political sanctions are unlikely to happen. Apart from the desire of outside powers to limit their involvement, this is rooted in the fact that significant actions are unlikely from inside the region either.
By Scott Stewart
On the afternoon of Sunday, May 30, an Aeromexico flight from Paris to Mexico City was forced to land in Montreal after authorities discovered that a man who was on the U.S. no-fly list was aboard. The aircraft was denied permission to enter U.S. airspace, and the aircraft was diverted to Trudeau International Airport in Montreal. The man, a Somali named Abdirahman Ali Gaall, was removed from the plane and arrested by Canadian authorities on an outstanding U.S. warrant. After a search of all the remaining passengers and their baggage, the flight was allowed to continue to its original destination.
By Scott Stewart
One of the things we like to do in our Global Security and Intelligence Report from time to time is examine the convergence of a number of separate and unrelated developments and then analyze that convergence and craft a forecast. In recent months we have seen such a convergence occur.
The most recent development is the interview with the American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki that was released to jihadist Internet chat rooms May 23 by al-Malahim Media, the public relations arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In the interview, al-Awlaki encouraged strikes against American civilians. He also has been tied to Maj. Nidal Hasan, who was charged in the November 2009 Fort Hood shooting, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the perpetrator of the failed Christmas Day 2009 airline bombing. And al-Awlaki reportedly helped inspire Faisal Shahzad, who was arrested in connection with the attempted Times Square attack in May.
By Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum
Over the past few years American and European counterterrorism officials have grown increasingly wary of the threat posed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). EUROPOL's 2008 Terrorism Situation and Trend Report said that France, Italy, Spain and Portugal all considered AQIM as a threat to their national security. Because of its proximity to the Maghreb Italy believes it is a particularly attractive transit route for AQIM into Europe. Despite initially limiting its activities to North Africa AQIM has declared that all Western states are targets. The increasing confidence of AQIM will require a robust counter-terror response on both a global and regional level. Yet recent regional initiatives appear to be compromised by an imbalance of appropriate tools and geopolitical rivalry.
By George Friedman
With U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement of his strategy in Afghanistan, the U.S.-jihadist war has entered a new phase. With its allies, the United States has decided to increase its focus on the Afghan war while continuing to withdraw from Iraq. Along with focusing on Afghanistan, it follows that there will be increased Western attention on Pakistan. Meanwhile, the question of what to do with Iran remains open, and is in turn linked to U.S.-Israeli relations. The region from the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush remains in a war or near-war status. In a fundamental sense, U.S. strategy has not shifted under Obama: The United States remains in a spoiling-attack state.
As we have discussed, the primary U.S. interest in this region is twofold. The first aspect is to prevent the organization of further major terrorist attacks on the United States. The second is to prevent al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups from taking control of any significant countries.
U.S. operations in this region mainly consist of spoiling attacks aimed at frustrating the jihadists' plans rather than at imposing Washington's will in the region. The United States lacks the resources to impose its will, and ultimately doesn't need to. Rather, it needs to wreck its adversaries' plans. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the primary American approach consists of this tack. That is the nature of spoiling attacks. Obama has thus continued the Bush administration's approach to the war, though he has shifted some details.
The Jihadist Viewpoint
It is therefore time to consider the war from the jihadist point of view. This is a difficult task given that the jihadists do not constitute a single, organized force with a command structure and staff that could express that view. It is compounded by the fact that al Qaeda prime, our term for the original al Qaeda that ordered and organized the attacks on 9/11 and in Madrid and London, is now largely shattered.
While bearing this in mind, it must be remembered that this fragmentation is both a strategic necessity and a weapon of war for jihadists. The United States can strike the center of gravity of any jihadist force. It naturally cannot strike what doesn't exist, so the jihadist movement has been organized to deny the United States that center of gravity, or command structure which, if destroyed, would leave the movement wrecked. Thus, even were Osama bin Laden killed or captured, the jihadist movement is set up to continue.
So although we cannot speak of a jihadist viewpoint in the sense that we can speak of an American viewpoint, we can ask this question: If we were a jihadist fighter at the end of 2009, what would the world look like to us, what would we want to achieve and what might we do to try to achieve that?
We must bear in mind that al Qaeda began the war with a core strategic intent, namely, to spark revolutions in the Sunni Muslim world by overthrowing existing regimes and replacing them with jihadist regimes. This was part of the jihadist group's long-term strategy to recreate a multinational Islamist empire united under al Qaeda's interpretation of Shariah.
The means toward this end involved demonstrating to the Muslim masses that their regimes were complicit with the leading Christian power, i.e., the United States, and that only American backing kept these Sunni regimes in power. By striking the United States on Sept. 11, al Qaeda wanted to demonstrate that the United States was far more vulnerable than believed, by extension demonstrating that U.S. client regimes were not as powerful as they appeared. This was meant to give the Islamic masses a sense that uprisings against Muslim regimes not dedicated to Shariah could succeed. In their view, any American military response — an inevitability after 9/11 — would further incite the Muslim masses rather than intimidate them.
The last eight years of war have ultimately been disappointing to the jihadists, however. Rather than a massive uprising in the Muslim world, not a single regime has been replaced with a jihadist regime. The primary reason has been that Muslim regimes allied with the United States decided they had more to fear from the jihadists than from the Americans, and chose to use their intelligence and political power to attack and suppress the jihadists. In other words, rather than trigger an uprising, the jihadists generated a strengthened anti-jihadist response from existing Muslim states. The spoiling attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in other countries in the Horn of Africa and North Africa, generated some support for the jihadists, but that support has since diminished and the spoiling attacks have disrupted these countries sufficiently to make them unsuitable as bases of operation for anything more than local attacks. In other words, the attacks tied the jihadists up in local conflicts, diverting them from operations against the United States and Europe.
Under this intense pressure, the jihadist movement has fragmented, though it continues to exist. Incapable of decisive action at the moment, it has goals beyond surviving as a fragmented entity, albeit with some fairly substantial fragments. And it is caught on the horns of a strategic dilemma.
Operationally, jihadists continue to be engaged against the United States. In Afghanistan, the jihadist movement is relying on the Taliban to tie down and weaken American forces. In Iraq, the remnants of the jihadist movement are doing what they can to shatter the U.S.-sponsored coalition government in Baghdad and further tie down American forces by attacking Shiites and key members of the Sunni community. Outside these two theaters, the jihadists are working to attack existing Muslim governments collaborating with the United States — particularly Pakistan — but with periodic attacks striking other Muslim states.
These attacks represent the fragmentation of the jihadists. Their ability to project power is limited. By default, they have accordingly adopted a strategy of localism, in which their primary intent is to strike existing governments while simultaneously tying down American forces in a hopeless attempt to stabilize the situation.
The strategic dilemma is this: The United States is engaged in a spoiling action with the primary aim of creating conditions in which jihadists are bottled up fighting indigenous forces rather than being free to plan attacks on the United States or systematically try to pull down existing regimes. And the current jihadist strategy plays directly into American hands. First, the attacks recruit Muslim regimes into deploying their intelligence and security forces against the jihadists, which is precisely what the United States wants. Secondly, it shifts jihadist strength away from transnational actions to local actions, which is also what the United States wants. These local attacks, which kill mostly Muslims, also serve to alienate many Muslims from the jihadists.
The jihadists are currently playing directly into U.S. hands because, rhetoric aside, the United States cannot regard instability in the Islamic world as a problem. Let's be more precise on this: An ideal outcome for the United States would be the creation of stable, pro-American regimes in the region eager and able to attack and destroy jihadist networks. There are some regimes in the region like this, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The probability of creating such stable, eager and capable regimes in places like Iraq or Afghanistan is unlikely in the extreme. The second-best outcome for the United States involves a conflict in which the primary forces battling — and neutralizing — each other are Muslim, with the American forces in a secondary role. This has been achieved to some extent in Iraq. Obama's goal is to create a situation in Afghanistan in which Afghan government forces engage Taliban forces with little or no U.S. involvement. Meanwhile, in Pakistan the Americans would like to see an effective effort by Islamabad to suppress jihadists throughout Pakistan. If they cannot get suppression, the United States will settle for a long internal conflict that would tie down the jihadists.
A Self-Defeating Strategy
The jihadists are engaged in a self-defeating strategy when they spread out and act locally. The one goal they must have, and the one outcome the United States fears, is the creation of stable jihadist regimes. The strategy of locally focused terrorism has proved ineffective. It not only fails to mobilize the Islamic masses, it creates substantial coalitions seeking to suppress the jihadists.
The jihadist attack on the United States has failed. The presence of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has reshaped the behavior of regional governments. Fear of instability generated by the war has generated counteractions by regional governments. Contrary to what the jihadists expected or hoped for, there was no mass uprising and therefore no counter to anti-jihadist actions by regimes seeking to placate the United States. The original fear, that the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan would generate massive hostility, was not wrong. But the hostility did not strengthen the jihadists, and instead generated anti-jihadist actions by governments.
From the jihadist point of view, it would seem essential to get the U.S. military out of the region and to relax anti-jihadist actions by regional security forces. Continued sporadic and ineffective action by jihadists achieves nothing and generates forces with which they can't cope. If the United States withdrew, and existing tensions within countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan were allowed to mature undisturbed, new opportunities might present themselves.
Most significantly, the withdrawal of U.S. troops would strengthen Iran. The jihadists are no friends of Shiite Iran, and neither are Iran's neighbors. In looking for a tool for political mobilization in the Gulf region or in Afghanistan absent a U.S. presence, the Iranian threat would best serve the jihadists. The Iranian threat combined with the weakness of regional Muslim powers would allow the jihadists to join a religious and nationalist opposition to Tehran. The ability to join religion and nationalism would turn the local focus from something that takes the jihadists away from regime change to something that might take them toward it.
The single most powerful motivator for an American withdrawal would be a period of open quiescence. An openly stated consensus for standing down, in particular because of a diminished terrorist threat, would facilitate something the Obama administration wants most of all: a U.S. withdrawal from the region. Providing the Americans with a justification for leaving would open the door for new possibilities. The jihadists played a hand on 9/11 that they hoped would prove a full house. It turned into a bust. When that happens, you fold your hand and play a new one. And there is always a hand being dealt so long as you have some chips left.
The challenge here is that the jihadists have created a situation in which they have defined their own credibility in terms of their ability to carry out terrorist attacks, however poorly executed or counterproductive they have become. Al Qaeda prime's endless calls for action have become the strategic foundation for the jihadists: Action has become an end in itself. The manner in which the jihadists have survived as a series of barely connected pods of individuals scattered across continents has denied the United States a center of gravity to strike. It has also turned the jihadists from a semi-organized force into one incapable of defining strategic shifts.
The jihadists' strategic dilemma is that they have lost the 2001-2008 phase of the war but are not defeated. To begin to recoup, they must shift their strategy. But they lack the means for doing so because of what they have had to do to survive. At the same time, there are other processes in play. The Taliban, which has even more reason to want the United States out of Afghanistan, might shift to an anti-jihadist strategy: It could liquidate al Qaeda, return to power in Afghanistan and then reconsider its strategy later. So, too, in other areas.
From the U.S. point of view, an open retreat by the jihadists would provide short-term relief but long-term problems. The moment when the enemy sues for peace is the moment when the pressure should be increased rather than decreased. But direct U.S. interests in the region are so minimal that a more distant terrorist threat will be handled in a more distant future. As the jihadists are too fragmented to take strategic positions, U.S. pressure will continue in any event.
Oddly enough, as much as the United States is uncomfortable in the position it is in, the jihadists are in a much worse position.
(c) Stratfor www.stratfor.com Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved
By Zainab Al-Deen
Arabs are a proud people, and as one would thus expect, a very stubborn people. We've lived following the same rules and practices for over 1400 years, and no matter how much one criticises, no one outside is going to understand... it's an Arab thing.
When the Western media speak of Arab culture, it is implied there is a single united society. In fact, there are many differences between the Arab countries, differences so diverse that Arabs from one country can be entirely alien to the customs, traditions and dialects of another. It is more appropriate to speak of Arab cultures, shaped by the individual political histories of each country. Obviously there is a common heritage. The Arab Muslim civilisation of past derived from the most advanced empire of its time and laid the foundations for subsequent civilisations (including much that was absorbed by Western/Christian societies). But the modern history of the entire region has been plagued with conflict that unites the states against a perceived shared adversary.
By Scott Stewart
Last week, rumours that Adam Gadahn had been arrested in Karachi, Pakistan, quickly swept through the global media. When the dust settled, it turned out that the rumours were incorrect; the person arrested was not the American-born al Qaeda spokesman. The excitement generated by the rumours overshadowed a message from Gadahn that the al Qaeda media arm as Sahab had released on March 7, the same day as the reported arrest. While many of the messages from al Qaeda figures that as Sahab has released over the past several years have been repetitive and quite unremarkable, after watching Gadahn's March 7 message, we believe that it is a message too interesting to ignore.
By Zainab El-Deen
Just as Catholics are famous for their burden of guilt; so it is with Muslims and their burden of responsibility for the Ummah. From a very young age, one is taught that the plight of Muslims the world over is a single battle, one in which we are all a part.
Having been brought up in the UK, my own opinion as well as that of many of my counterparts has been shaped by the fortunate opportunity to have the best of both worlds. Living in a liberal society one is allowed to experience all aspects of life and culture, whilst at the same time maintain one's own religious and moral beliefs. My friends and I have managed to form strong relationships with those around us, openly discussing all aspects of our lives: All aspects that is apart from one.
By Scott Stewart
On Oct. 25, militants in Iraq conducted a coordinated attack in which they detonated large vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) at the federal Ministry of Justice building and the Baghdad Provincial Council building nearly simultaneously. The two ministries are located in central Baghdad near the Green Zone and are just over a quarter of a mile apart.
The bomb-laden vehicles were driven by suicide operatives who managed to detonate them in close proximity to the exterior security walls of the targeted buildings. The attack occurred just before 10:30 a.m. on a workday, indicating that it was clearly designed to cause maximum casualties -- which it did. The twin bombing killed more than 150 people and wounded hundreds of others, making it the deadliest attack in Baghdad since the April 18, 2007, attacks against Shiite neighborhoods that killed more than 180 people.
By Scott Stewart
On the evening of Aug. 28, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister — and the man in charge of the kingdom's counterterrorism efforts — was receiving members of the public in connection with the celebration of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. As part of the Ramadan celebration, it is customary for members of the Saudi royal family to hold public gatherings where citizens can seek to settle disputes or offer Ramadan greetings.
By Kamran Bokhari
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia historically has played a major role in the development of jihadism. Key pillars of the Saudi state - oil, Wahhabism (a conservative form of Sunni Islam) and the strength of tribal norms - were instrumental in facilitating the rise of Islamist extremism and terrorism around the world prior to 9/11. These same pillars allowed Riyadh to contain al Qaeda within Saudi Arabia in the wake of the insurgency that kicked off in the kingdom in 2003-2004. After this success on the home front, Riyadh is still using these pillars to play an international role in counterjihadist efforts - a role welcomed by the United States.