AL-QA’IDA AND ASSOCIATED TRENDS: Al-Qa’ida (AQ) and associated networks remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners in 2007. It has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri. Although Usama bin Ladin remained the group’s ideological figurehead, Zawahiri has emerged as AQ’s strategic and operational planner.
. . .and this year.
AL-QA’IDA AND ASSOCIATED TRENDS: Al-Qa’ida (AQ) and associated networks continued to lose ground, both structurally and in the court of world public opinion, but remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners in 2008. AQ has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri. Worldwide efforts to counter terrorist financing have resulted in AQ appealing for money in its last few messages.
Same old stuff.
Anyhow, let’s look at it. Here are some extracts from “Chapter 1. Strategic Assessment” and my comments. I invite yours.
Report: Al-Qa’ida (AQ) and associated networks continued to lose ground, both structurally and in the court of world public opinion, but remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners in 2008.
Comment: AQ is the greatest terrorist threat but it’s losing ground. How great is greatest? Americans are more in danger of injury from a bath-tub slip then they are by a terrorist, to say nothing or cancer, heart disease and auto accidents. Almost a year ago the CIA Chief was interviewed: “On balance, we are doing pretty well,” he said, ticking down a list of accomplishments: “Near strategic defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al-Qaeda globally.
Report: The Taliban and other insurgent groups and criminal gangs, some of whom were linked to AQ and terrorist sponsors outside the country, control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan and threaten the stability of the region.
Comment: Oops — AQ is losing ground but they have a hand in threatening regional stability? Which is it? The US overthrew the Taliban government in Afghanistan and has pursued its members both in Afghanistan and Pakistan with missiles and rockets, killing many civilians and causing significant unrest in Pakistan, in effect recruiting for the Taliban, and it’s “The Taliban and other insurgent groups and criminal gangs” which “threaten the stability of the region?” When the US overthrows a government its members become insurgents? That’s cute.
How about this version: The US military and other insurgent groups and criminal gangs, some of whom were linked to the UK and terrorist sponsors outside the country, control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan and threaten the stability of the region.
Report: . . .the Taliban’s efforts to convince Afghanis that ISAF forces and corruption in the Afghanistan government are the source of Afghani pain has fueled the insurgency and curtailed legitimate efforts to influence Afghanis to reject violent extremism.
Comment: So the stupid Afghans are falling for the propaganda line that NATO rockets and Afghanistan government corruption are big problems, when actually they aren’t? By the way, “Afghani” is the basic unit of money in Afghanistan. The people are called Afghans. So much for the US State Department — Diplomacy In Action.
Report: Iran remained the most significant state sponsor of terrorism.
Comment: Here we have to shift gears. While AQ remains “the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners” it’s the entirely unrelated Iran government that remains “the most significant state sponsor of terrorism?” The Saudi sheiks who provided and funded the 9/11 terrorists, and who fund Al Qaeda and the madrassahs in Pakistan which provide the recruits for AQ and the Taliban don’t get mentioned. Well they do get mentioned if you move on to Chapter 2:
“Terrorism and criminality are the enemies of every religion and every civilization. They would not have appeared except for the absence of the principle of tolerance.”–King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia
That’s Saudi Arabia, a bastion of tolerance where women can’t vote. Saudi Arabia, where further down in Chapter 2: “The Saudi government continued to build its counterterrorism capacity and efforts to counter extremist ideology.” Saudi Arabia, which provides and funds madrassahs and presumably Al Qaeda.
The latest annual report by the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom names 13 countries as serious violators of religious freedom. The 13 countries named as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) in this year’s report are Burma, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. So much for tolerance in Saudi Arabia.
Report: Iran has long employed terrorism to advance its key national security and foreign policy interests, which include regime survival, regional dominance, opposition to Arab-Israeli peace, and countering western influence, particularly in the Middle East.
Comment: Regime survival isn’t a bad thing, particularly when a nation has to deal with economic sanctions, military threats and a huge naval fleet just offshore. Regional dominance by Iran? Iran doesn’t dominate the ME. Opposition to Arab-Israeli peace? Evidenced by support to Palestinians attacked by Israel? Like the US has done anything for I/P peace recently? And countering western influence? I’d say that was a natural right. This idea that the world would be a better place if every country were “westernized” is bogus, particularly coming from a department whose slogan is “Diplomacy in Action.”
Report: Iran continues to rely primarily on its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force to clandestinely cultivate and support terrorist and Islamic militant groups abroad, including: Lebanese Hizballah, Palestinian terrorist groups such as HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, certain Iraqi Shia militant groups, and Islamic militants in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and elsewhere. Throughout 2008, the Qods force continued to provide weapons, training, and funding to Lebanese Hizballah to advance its anti-Israeli campaign and undermine the elected Government of Lebanon.
Comment 1: Hizballah is undermining the elected Government of Lebanon? It’s part of the elected government. Here’s Helena Cobban: — “Hizbullah was formed in the 1980s from networks that actively resisted the Israeli troops who had occupied southern Lebanon since 1982. It is reviled by Israel and the U.S. as only a terror organisation, but it has competed in Lebanese elections since 1992 and has always performed well. It has also on occasion – including now – had members in the country’s government.”
Comment 2: Hamas is the elected government of Gaza, a result of elections promoted by the US in 2006. Get used to it, State.
Comment 3: Islamic militants in Afghanistan? Iran is strongly anti-Taliban and assisted the US-led invasion in 2001.
Report: An holistic [anti-terrorist] approach incorporates efforts aimed at protecting and securing the population; politically and physically marginalizing insurgents; winning the support and cooperation of at-risk populations by targeted political and development measures; and conducting precise intelligence-led special operations to eliminate critical enemy elements with minimal risk to innocent civilians.
Comment: The US practice of “protecting and securing the population” has been to bomb and shoot them. It hasn’t worked anywhere.
Report: Working with allies and partners across the world, we have created a less permissive operating environment for terrorists, keeping terrorist leaders on the move or in hiding, and degrading their ability to plan and mount attacks. Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Jordan, the Philippines, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other partners played major roles in this success. Dozens of countries have continued to pass counterterrorism legislation or strengthen pre-existing laws that provide their law enforcement and judicial authorities with new tools to bring terrorists to justice.
Comment: Way to go. Bring the troops home.
Report: The commitment by governments to work with each other, the international community, private sector organizations, and their citizens and immigrant populations remains a key factor in coordinated efforts to confront violent extremism. Local communities and religious leaders are also a vital part of countering radicalization strategies.
Comment: Way to go. Bring the troops home.
Final comment: Overall, it’s a pretty lousy report. It’s just a cut-and-paste from last year, long on propaganda and largely bereft of logic and facts. Just as in the past administration, it slams democratic movements like Hezbollah and Hamas and gives a free pass to undemocratic, terrorist-supporting Saudi Arabia. It’s a political document, something you might expect from a department headed by a career politician with no expertise in foreign affairs. No wonder there’s no change from last year.
Why must we be subjected to garbage like this which was a staple of the last administration and has continued into this one with a continuing free ride for Saudi Arabia and its support of terrorism? Haven’t we purged the oil-patch criminals from the US government?
Am I overlooking something? Or have I been too kind?
Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket. Other articles by Don Bacon may be found here and here.