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Mark Caserta: Obama’s denial emboldens terrorists

12 Feb
 Why will this president go to any length to protect the Islamic religion?
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FSP Editorial
Feb. 12, 2015 @ 12:01 AM

Displaying a level of brutality, shocking even by the standards of the previous horrific murders committed by the Islamic terrorist group ISIS, First Lieutenant Muath al Kaseasbeh, a Jordanian pilot, was recently burned alive inside a locked cage in the name of radical Islam. The barbarous act, which shocked the world, clearly defined the group’s willingness to viciously propagate the violent extremism of the Islamic State.

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But two days later, rather than simply condemn the act as a violent display of Islamic terrorism, Barack Hussein Obama used the bully pulpit at the National Prayer breakfast to persuade the world that violence rooted in religion isn’t exclusive to Islam, but has been carried out by Christians as well. In fact, he compared the ISIS atrocity to violent acts committed by Christians in the Crusades. He also said Christ was used as justification for slavery and radical discrimination in the United States.

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ,” the president said.

The comments were considered outrageous to many.

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“The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime,” said former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, a Republican. “He has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.”

Catholic League’s Bill Donohue says Obama should apologize for using the Crusades as an example of “terrible acts” by Christians, saying the crusades fought against Islamic jihad.

“The president should apologize for his insulting comparison,” Donohue said. “Obama’s ignorance is astounding and his comparison is pernicious.”

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Now, this president has always dismissed the idea of American exceptionalism. And frankly, his decision over the past six years to have the White House avoid the term “radical Islam” has brought to question Obama’s loyalty to America and the foundational principles on which our great nation was built.

Yet, anyone honestly assessing terrorism can easily conclude that Islamic extremism is at the very heart of murder and destruction in the world today. In fact, according to the non-partisan website, The Religion of Peace, over the last 40 years there have been 74 attacks on American soil by Islamic terrorists resulting in the murder of thousands of innocent people. We just simply don’t see attacks of this magnitude in the name of any other religion.

Let’s be clear. Islamic terrorism is flourishing under this president’s rule. His purposeful choice not to properly identify our enemy is indeed emboldening their mission.

As Obama continues to reject the notion that America is in a religious war based on the fundamental beliefs of the Islamic State, American’s lives are increasingly being placed at risk.

Mark Caserta is a conservative blogger, a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.

ALERT: STATE DEPARTMENT WARNS OF TERROR THREATS TO U.S. CITIZENS

27 Nov

Worldwide Caution

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Bookmark this link for quick Homeland Security updates: http://www.nationalterroralert.com/

Last Updated: October 10, 2014

The Department of State is updating the Worldwide Caution to provide information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. This replaces the Worldwide Caution dated April 10, 2014.

The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. On September 22, 2014, the United States and regional partners commenced military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated  terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq. In response to the airstrikes, ISIL called on supporters to attack foreigners wherever they are. Authorities believe there is an increased likelihood of reprisal attacks against U.S., Western and coalition partner interests throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Kidnappings and hostage events involving U.S. citizens have become increasingly prevalent as ISIL, al Qa`ida and its affiliates have increased attempts to finance their operations through kidnapping for ransom operations. ISIL, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are particularly effective with kidnapping for ransom and are using ransom money to fund the range of their activities. Kidnapping targets are usually Western citizens from governments or third parties that have established a pattern of paying ransoms for the release of individuals in custody.

Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests. Examples of such targets include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations both in the United States and abroad where U.S. citizens gather in large numbers, including during holidays.

U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Extremists have targeted and attempted attacks on subway and rail systems, aviation, and maritime services. In the past, these types of attacks have occurred in cities such as Moscow, London, Madrid, Glasgow, and New York City.

EUROPE: Current information suggests that ISIL, al-Qa’ida, its affiliated organizations, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. and Western interests in Europe. Authorities believe the likelihood of a terror attack in Europe is increased as European members of ISIL return from Syria and Iraq. Additionally, there is a continuing threat in Europe from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis.  In the past several years, organized extremist attacks have been planned or carried out in various European countries. European governments have taken action to guard against terrorist attacks, and some have made official declarations regarding heightened threat conditions.

MIDDLE EAST and NORTH AFRICA: Credible information indicates terrorist groups also seek to continue attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa. The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests.

No part of Syria should be considered immune from violence. The security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable as a civil war between government and armed anti-government groups continues throughout the country. There is an increased threat of terrorism from groups such as ISL, al-Nusrah, as well as other extremists whose tactics include use of suicide bombers, kindappings, use of small and heavy arms, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Since the start of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in March 2011, the United States has received reports of numerous foreigners kidnapped in Syria, many of whom are still in captivity.  The majority of the victims are journalists and aid workers. U.S. citizens and other Westerners have been murdered by ISIL in Syria. Violent extremists from various countries operate in Syria and may be planning attacks against the United States and other Western targets.

A number of extremist groups also operate in Lebanon and the potential for death or injury in Lebanon exists because of periodic terrorist bombing attacks throughout the country. As a result of spillover violence from the Syria crisis, Sunni groups are active and Hizballah, a group designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, has been present and active for many years.

U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence. Numerous insurgent groups, including ISIL, previously known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq, remain active and terrorist activity and violence persist in many areas of the country. ISIL and its allies control Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and have captured significant territory across central Iraq and continue to engage with Iraqi security forces in that region.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and al-Murabitun remain active and operate primarily in southern Algeria, southwestern Libya and Tunisia in the wake of French and African intervention in northern Mali. In Algeria, terrorists sporadically attack Westerners and Algerian government targets, particularly in the Kabylie region, and near Algeria’s borders with Libya and Mali. In September, a French tourist was kidnapped and murdered by an Algerian-based terrorist group. Terrorists have targeted oil processing plants in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. In Libya, various groups have called for attacks against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests. Terrorist organizations continue to be active in Yemen, including al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

AFRICA: Al-Qa’ida  continues to operate primarily in North Africa. Vestiges of extremist elements, including AQIM, MUJAO, and al-Murabitun continue small scale operations in northern Mali mostly related to planting land mines on lines of communication used by UN peacekeeping troops. The major parts of these groups were forced to move to southern Algeria, southwestern Libya and Tunisia in the wake of French and African intervention in northern Mali. Terrorist groups have stepped up their  rhetoric calling for additional attacks or kidnapping attempts on westerners and others, particularly those linked to support for international military intervention.

Additionally, the terrorist group AQIM has declared its intention to attack Western targets throughout the Sahel (an area that stretches across the African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea to include Senegal, Mali, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Eritrea). It has claimed responsibility for kidnappings, attempted kidnappings, and the murder of several Westerners throughout the region, including southern Algeria.

Al-Shabaab assassinations, suicide bombings, hostage taking, and indiscriminate attacks in civilian-populated areas are frequent in Somalia. Terrorist operatives and armed groups in Somalia have demonstrated their intent to attack Somali authorities, the African Union Mission in Somalia, and non-military targets such as international donor offices and humanitarian assistance providers. Al-Shabaab retains its demonstrated capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory in Somalia and in neighboring countries such as Kenya and Djibouti.

Boko Haram, an extremist group based in northeast Nigeria, has claimed responsibility for many attacks, mainly in northern Nigeria. The first months of 2014 have seen a continued increase in Boko Haram attacks and clashes with Nigerian government security forces in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram has also targeted women and children for kidnapping, reportedly kidnapping women in northern states for marriage as “slave brides,” and kidnapping more than 200 school girls from a private school in Borno state. Boko Haram is known to descend on whole towns, robbing banks and businesses, attacking police and military installations, and setting fire to private homes. U.S. citizen missionaries in northern Nigeria have received specific written threats to their safety and well-being, although none have yet been harmed.

U.S. citizens considering travel by sea near the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, or in the southern Red Sea should exercise extreme caution, as there have been armed attacks, robberies, and kidnappings for ransom by pirates. The threat of hijacking to merchant vessels continues to exist in Somali territorial waters and as far as 1,000 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, Yemen, and Kenya in international waters. There has also been a recent rise in piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, including hijackings.

U.S. government maritime authorities advise mariners to avoid the port of Mogadishu and to remain at least 200 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia. In addition, when transiting around the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, or in the Red Sea, it is strongly recommended that vessels travel in convoys and maintain good communications at all times. U.S. citizens traveling on commercial passenger vessels should consult with the shipping or cruise ship company regarding precautions that will be taken to avoid hijacking incidents. Commercial vessels should review the Department of Transportation Maritime Administration’s Horn of Africa Piracy page for information on maritime advisories, self-protection measures, and naval forces in the region.

SOUTH ASIA: The U.S. government continues to receive information that terrorist groups in South Asia may also be planning attacks in the region, possibly against U.S. government facilities, U.S. citizens, or U.S. interests. The presence of al-Qa’ida, Taliban elements, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, indigenous sectarian groups, and other terror organizations, many of which are on the U.S. government’s list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, poses a potential danger to U.S. citizens in the region. Terrorists and their sympathizers have demonstrated their willingness and ability to attack locations where U.S. citizens or Westerners are known to congregate or visit.

The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan. Across the country, terrorist attacks frequently occur against civilian, government, and foreign targets. Attacks have included armed assaults on heavily guarded sites, including Pakistani military installations and airports. The Government of Pakistan maintains heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities. Terrorists and criminal groups regularly resort to kidnapping for ransom.

No province in Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence and crime, and the strong possibility exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against U.S. and other foreign nationals at any time. Elements of the former Taliban regime and members of other terrorist organizations hostile to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and foreign nationals remain active in every province of the country.  Furthermore, travel to all areas of Afghanistan remains unsafe due to ongoing military combat operations, landmines, banditry, armed rivalry between political and tribal groups, and the possibility of insurgent attacks, including attacks using vehicle-borne or other improvised explosive devices. U.S. citizens are increasingly targeted for kidnapping. The threat situation in Afghanistan is still considered critical and is expected to remain so through the current political and military transition.

India continues to experience terrorist and insurgent activities which may affect U.S. citizens directly or indirectly. Anti-Western terrorist groups active in India include Islamist extremist groups such as Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Indian Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e Tayyiba. Past attacks have targeted public places, including some frequented by Westerners, such as luxury and other hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and restaurants in large urban areas. Attacks have taken place during the busy evening hours in markets and other crowded places, but could occur at any time.

CENTRAL ASIA: Supporters of terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qa’ida, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement remain active in Central Asia. These groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. government interests.

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC: Information from credible sources suggests that there is a continued risk of armed terrorist and criminal groups operating and planning attacks against foreigners, including U.S. citizens, in the East Asian and Pacific region. Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf Group, have cells operating throughout Southeast Asia and JI is linked to al-Qaida and other regional terrorist groups.

There is a risk of travel to the southern Philippines, specifically related to kidnapping threats in the Sulu Archipelago and the ongoing threat of violence on the island of Mindanao, particularly in Central Mindanao.

Over the past year there have been several kidnappings-for-ransom targeting foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia and in the southern Sulu Sea area by terrorist or insurgent groups based in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines. In addition to incursions on the coastal and island resorts themselves, criminal or terrorist bands may attempt to intercept boats ferrying tourists in the area.

Indonesian security forces have disrupted a number of terrorist cells, including JI, a terrorist organization that carried out several significant bombings in Jakarta and Bali over the past decade. Although Indonesian counterterrorism efforts have been successful in preventing terrorists from conducting large-scale attacks in recent years, extremists in Indonesia may demonstrate a willingness and ability to carry out small-scale violent attacks with little or no warning.

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Before You Go
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The Department of State urges U.S. citizens living overseas or planning to travel abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  When you enroll in STEP, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.  Enrolling will also make it easier for the Embassy to contact you in the event of an emergency.  You should remember to keep all of your information in STEP up to date; it is particularly important when you enroll or update your information to include a current phone number and e-mail address.

U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.  For additional information, please refer to Traveler’s Checklist.

U.S. government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert.  These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture.  In those instances, U.S. embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens.  U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

As the Department of State continues to develop information on potential security threats to U.S. citizens overseas, it shares credible threat information through its Consular Information Program documents, including Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, Country Specific Information, and Emergency and Security Messages, all of which are available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at http://travel.state.gov.  Stay up to date by bookmarking our website or downloading our free Smart Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

In addition to information on the internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, from other countries, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, Eastern Time (except U.S. federal holidays).

U.S. Suspects More Direct Threats Beyond ISIS

21 Sep

OBAMA VIEWED AS SLUGGISH ON TERROR THREATS

By MARK MAZZETTI, MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and BEN HUBBARD

SEPT. 20, 2014

ISLAMIC STATE IN BLACK

WEARY TRAVELERS Thousands of people journey daily between Iraqi Kurdistan and territory controlled by the Islamic State. Credit Andrea Bruce for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — As the United States begins what could be a lengthy military campaign against the Islamic State, intelligence and law enforcement officials said another Syrian group, led by a shadowy figure who was once among Osama bin Laden’s inner circle, posed a more direct threat to America and Europe.

American officials said that the group called Khorasan had emerged in the past year as the cell in Syria that may be the most intent on hitting the United States or its installations overseas with a terror attack. The officials said that the group is led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a senior Qaeda operative who, according to the State Department, was so close to Bin Laden that he was among a small group of people who knew about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks before they were launched.

There is almost no public information about the Khorasan group, which was described by several intelligence, law enforcement and military officials as being made up of Qaeda operatives from across the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa. Members of the cell are said to be particularly interested in devising terror plots using concealed explosives. It is unclear who, besides Mr. Fadhli, is part of the Khorasan group.

JAME CLAPPER

The director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., said on Thursday that “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.”

Some American officials and national security experts said the intense focus on the Islamic State had distorted the picture of the terrorism threat that has emerged from the chaos of Syria’s civil war, and that the more immediate threats still come from traditional terror groups like Khorasan and the Nusra Front, which is Al Qaeda’s designated affiliate in Syria.

Mr. Fadhli, 33, has been tracked by American intelligence agencies for at least a decade. According to the State Department, before Mr. Fadhli arrived in Syria, he had been living in Iran as part of a small group of Qaeda operatives who had fled to the country from Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. Iran’s government said the group was living under house arrest, but the exact circumstances of the Qaeda operatives were disputed for years, and many members of the group ultimately left Iran for Pakistan, Syria and other countries.

OBAMA FOREIGN POLICY

In 2012, the State Department identified Mr. Fadhli as Al Qaeda’s leader in Iran, directing “the movement of funds and operatives” through the country. A $7 million reward was offered for information leading to his capture. The same State Department release said he was working with wealthy “jihadist donors” in Kuwait, his native country, to raise money for Qaeda-allied rebels in Syria.

In a speech in Brussels in 2005, President George W. Bush referred to Mr. Fadhli as he thanked European countries for their counterterrorism assistance, noting that Mr. Fadhli had assisted terrorists who bombed a French oil tanker in 2002 off the coast of Yemen. That attack killed one and spilled 50,000 barrels of oil that stretched across 45 miles of coastline.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is viewed as more focused on consolidating territory it has amassed in Syria and Iraq than on attacking the West. Some even caution that military strikes against the Islamic State could antagonize that group into planning attacks on Western targets, and even benefit other militant organizations if more moderate factions of the rebellion are not ready to take power on the ground.

James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, identified the group called Khorasan as a danger “to the homeland.” Credit T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

The Islamic State’s recent statements, including a video using a British captive as a spokesman, have sought to deter American action against the group and threatened attacks only as revenge for American strikes.

At the same time, the rise of the Islamic State has blunted the momentum of its rival groups in Syria, including the Nusra Front, once considered to be among the most capable in the array of Syrian rebel groups. The Islamic State’s expansion across northern Iraq and in oil-rich regions of eastern Syria has sapped some of the Nusra Front’s resources and siphoned some of its fighters — who are drawn by the Islamic State’s battlefield successes and declaration of a caliphate, the longtime dream of many jihadists.

It is difficult to assess the seriousness and scope of any terror plots that Khorasan, the Nusra Front or other groups in Syria might be planning. In several instances in the past year, Nusra and the Islamic State have used Americans who have joined their ranks to carry out attacks inside Syria — including at least one suicide bombing — rather than returning them to the United States to strike there.

Beyond the militant groups fighting for control of territory, Syria has become a magnet for Islamic extremists from other nations who have used parts of the country as a sanctuary to plot attacks.

“What you have is a growing body of extremists from around the world who are coming in and taking advantage of the ungoverned areas and creating informal ad hoc groups that are not directly aligned with ISIS or Nusra,” a former senior law enforcement official said.

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Spokesmen for the C.I.A. and the White House declined to comment for this article.

The grinding war in Syria, well into its fourth year, has led to a constant shifting of alliances among the hard-line rebel groups.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of Al Qaeda, anointed the Nusra Front as its official branch in Syria and cut ties with the Islamic State early this year after it refused to follow his orders to fight only in Iraq. Officials said that Khorasan was an offshoot of the Nusra Front. According to fight only in Iraq. Officials said that Khorasan was an offshoot of the Nusra Front. According to a new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, the rifts among these various groups “threaten to create a conflict throughout the jihadist movement that is no longer confined to Syria and Iraq.”

While Nusra has been weakened, it remains one of the few rebel organizations that has active branches throughout Syria. Analysts view the organization as well placed to benefit from American strikes that might weaken the Islamic State.

Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria analyst with the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, said that American strikes could benefit the Nusra Front if the United States did not ensure that there was another force ready to take power on the ground.

“There is definitely a threat that, if not conducted as a component of a properly tailored strategy within Syria, the American strikes would allow the Nusra Front to fill a vacuum in eastern Syria,” she said.

She noted that the Nusra Front had been the primary force in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour before it was pushed out by the Islamic State earlier this year, and that the group had maintained better relationships with the local tribes than ISIS had. This could make it easier for the group to return if ISIS is chased out by American airstrikes.

MILITARY AIR

While the Nusra Front does not openly call for attacks on the West, it remains loyal to Mr. Zawahiri, whose clout among jihadists has waned with the rise of the Islamic State.

A great deal remains uncertain about the Nusra Front’s ultimate aims inside Syria. Hamza al-Shimali, the head of the American-backed rebel group the Hazm Movement, said that he and his allies did not trust the Nusra Front. He said he feared that one day he would have to fight the Nusra Front in addition to the Syrian government and the Islamic State.

American intelligence officials estimate that since the Syrian conflict began, about 15,000 foreigners, including more than 100 Americans and 2,000 Europeans, have traveled to the country to fight alongside rebel groups. Syria’s porous borders make it relatively easy to get in and out of the country, raising concerns among Western officials that without markings on their passports they could slip back undetected into Europe or the United States.

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Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt reported from Washington, and Ben Hubbard from Gaziantep, Turkey. Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.

RADICAL ISLAMISTS IN SYRIA COULD BRING FIGHT TO U.S.

2 Sep

BY Yochi Dreazen

Yochi Dreazen is managing editor for news for Foreign Policy, overseeing a team of reporters covering national security, foreign policy, energy, diplomacy, and the global economy. He is also writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security, where he is working on a book about military suicide that will be published by Random House’s Crown division this October. The book, The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in the Era of Endless War, was the finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, jointly awarded by the Columbia Journalism School and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism.

 

 

Matthew Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum that the ranks of foreigners taking part in the war against Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad now number at least 12,000, up from 7,000 a few months ago, including at least 1,000 Europeans and at least 100 Americans. Olsen said those estimates likely understate the actual numbers.

“The numbers are growing as the conflict there continues,” said Olsen, who has run the counterterrorism center for three years and is slated to step down later this year. “It remains a magnet for extremists around the world.”

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, speaking on the same panel, said the intensifying conflict in the Gaza Strip threatened to further “fuel” the ranks of foreign fighters inside Syria. “It may contribute to the number of individuals who feel that they want to become part of the fight, but not necessarily in Gaza,” Mueller said.

Neither conflict shows any signs of slowing. Last week included the bloodiest 48-hour period to date in the three-year-old Syrian civil war, with an NGO monitoring the conflict estimating that more than 700 Syrians were killed on Thursday and Friday. More than 170,000 people have died in the conflict since it began in March 2011. Elsewhere in the region, violence flared in the West Bank Friday for the first time since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began in Gaza on July 8. At least five people were killed, pushing the Palestinian death toll to more 800. Israel has lost 35 people, including 33 soldiers.

For the moment, Syria poses the far greater threat to the United States. The Western fighters there on European and American passports could return home to carry out strikes far more easily than other militants could. Olsen said some of those 100 Americans have already come back to the United States, though he emphasized that the FBI is monitoring and tracking many of them.

The counterterrorism chief said that the U.S. intelligence community’s persistent difficulty in collecting detailed information about the fighting in Syria made it hard to trace the American and European militants once they made it to the battlefield.

Those challenges continue when the fighters return home. Olsen said it was difficult to identify and track those militants because they included both Syrians living in the United States and fighters from other ethnicities and nationalities. He said the Islamic State, which is leading the fighting in Syria, runs sophisticated English-language websites designed to help radicalize even larger numbers of Westerners and potentially convince them to join the battle.

Olsen said that once there, the militants would find a growing swath of territory inside both Syria and Iraq that is rapidly turning into a safe haven for militants interested in launching attacks both there and elsewhere in the world. He said there were senior al Qaeda leaders in Syria training foreign fighters and taking advantage of their ability to plan attacks elsewhere with little interference.

Syria, Olsen said, was providing safe havens that were starting “to be reminiscent of what we faced before 9/11 in Afghanistan.”

Al Qaeda Calls for ‘preemptive jihad’ against USA…

31 Aug

 

 President Obama may not have a strategy for defeating the Islamic State, but the Islamic State has a strategy for the U.S. In fact, that strategy is set out, in part, in an al-Qaeda manual recently translated for the benefit of the U.S. military.

A guerrilla war proceeds in phases, according to Abd al-Aziz al-Muqrin’s A Practical Course for Guerrilla War, a strategic and tactical guide to mujahideen intent on establishing “a pure Islamic system free from defects and infidel elements.” It was written after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The first phase is “attrition (strategic defense),” the time for carrying out attacks, “spectacular operations, which will create a positive impact.” The terrorists use the attacks as a recruitment tool and a morale boost for potential jihadis.

Phase two is the time of “relative strategic balance,” when the jihadis build an army to hold territory that has been wrested from the incumbent regime. “There the mujahidin will set up base camps, hospitals, sharia courts, and broadcasting stations, as well as a jumping-off point for military and political actions,” al-Muqrin writes.

The third phase, a time of internal discord and political upheaval for the “collaborationist” regime, is “decisive.” The terrorists use their conventional army to launch dramatic assaults.

“By means of these mujahadin conventional forces, the mujahidin will begin to attack smaller cities and exploit in the media their successes and victories in order to raise the morale of the mujahidin and the people in general and to demoralize the enemy,” al-Muqrin writes in a passage that brings to mind the Islamic State’s rampage across northern Iraq. “The reason for the mujahidin’s treating of smaller cities is that when the enemy’s forces see the fall of cities into the mujahidin’s hands with such ease their morale will collapse and they will become convinced that they are incapable of dealing with the mujahidin.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that the Islamic State “is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” That’s true insofar as al-Qaeda did not build a conventional army or declare itself a state. He shouldn’t be so surprised, though. The U.S. national-security apparatus has been following this jihadist ambition for years.

The manual, translated in 2008 by a research fellow at the Marine Corps University, shows how the Islamic State’s efforts to build an army and establish a caliphate reflect a longstanding goal. An Islamic caliphate has been al-Qaeda’s dream from the beginning. Using principles and tactics similar to al-Qaeda’s, the Islamic State has come closer to realizing that dream.

Al-Muqrin’s primary concern was to explain how al-Qaeda could wage war against the Saudi Arabian regime, but the text was intended as an education tool for jihadis in other areas as well. Discussing the book during an interview with National Review Online, Mary Habeck of the American Enterprise Institute noted a Reuters report (of July 8) on a notebook found at a former al-Qaeda “leadership camp” in Yemen. It’s almost certain that the al-Qaeda student who took those notes was being taught al-Muqrin’s ideas.

“This notebook has word for word” a paragraph from al-Muqrin’s book, “slightly differently translated by the two Arabic interpreters,” Habeck pointed out. Many of these terrorists, she explains, “have their intellectual and military roots in al-Qaeda, and this is what al-Qaeda is attempting to do.” The translator, Norman Cigar, wrote that al-​Muqrin’s ideas were disseminated to Iraqi insurgents as early as 2005.

The Islamic State “has a long history and an origin dating back to AQI, al-Qaeda in Iraq,” White House deputy national-security adviser Ben Rhodes reminded reporters. Obviously, Islamic State terrorists are not constantly referring to al-Muqrin’s book for their next move. Regardless, the manual itself warns, “One must be careful that these characteristics not become a rigid template or a ‘school solution,’ but rather, that they remain adaptable to circumstances in the region.”

OBAMA ON ISIS: “WE DON’T HAVE A STRATEGY”

29 Aug

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Washington Post

By Editorial Board August 29 at 6:59 PM

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S acknowledgment that “we don’t have a strategy yet” in Syria understandably attracted the most attention after his perplexing meeting with reporters Thursday. But his restatement of the obvious was not the most dismaying aspect of his remarks. The president’s goal, to the extent he had one, seemed to be to tamp down all the assessments of gathering dangers that his own team had been issuing over the previous days.

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This argument with his own administration is alarming on three levels.

The first has to do with simple competence. One can only imagine the whiplash that foreign leaders must be suffering. They heard U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power denounce Russia as “today . . . they open a new front . . . Russia’s force along the border is the largest it has been . . . the mask is coming off.” An hour later, Mr. Obama implicitly contradicted her: “I consider the actions that we’ve seen in the last week a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now . . . it’s not really a shift.”

Similarly, his senior advisers uniformly have warned of the unprecedented threat to America and Americans represented by Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq. But Mr. Obama didn’t seem to agree. “Now, ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and to people throughout the region,” he said. “My priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISIL made in Iraq are rolled back.” Contrast that ambition with this vow from Secretary of State John F. Kerry: “And make no mistake: We will continue to confront ISIL wherever it tries to spread its despicable hatred. The world must know that the United States of America will never back down in the face of such evil.”

The discrepancies raise the question of whether Mr. Obama controls his own administration, but that’s not the most disturbing element. His advisers are only stating the obvious: Russia has invaded Ukraine. The Islamic State and the Americans it is training are a danger to the United States. When Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. says the threat they pose is “in some ways . . . more frightening than anything I think I’ve seen as attorney general,” it’s not because he is a warmonger or an alarmist. He’s describing the world as he sees it. When Mr. Obama refuses to acknowledge the reality, allies naturally wonder whether he will also refuse to respond to it.

Which is, in the end, the most disturbing aspect of Mr. Obama’s performance. Throughout his presidency, he has excelled at explaining what the United States cannot do and cannot afford, and his remarks Thursday were no exception. “Ukraine is not a member of NATO,” he said. “We don’t have those treaty obligations with Ukraine.” If Iraq doesn’t form an acceptable government, it’s “unrealistic” to think the United States can defeat the Islamic State.

OBAMA FOREIGN POLICY

Allies are vital; the United States overstretched in the Bush years; it can’t solve every problem. All true. But it’s also true that none of the basic challenges to world order can be met without U.S. leadership: not Russia’s aggression, not the Islamic State’s expansion, not Iran’s nuclear ambition nor China’s territorial bullying. Each demands a different policy response, with military action and deterrence only two tools in a basket that includes diplomatic and economic measures. It’s time Mr. Obama started emphasizing what the United States can do instead of what it cannot.

 

Mark Caserta: ISIS to Christians: Convert to Islam

21 Aug

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Aug. 21, 2014 @ 12:00 AM
 

“Let the terrorist group, ISIS, see the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ,” decreed Pastor Chuck Lawrence this past Sunday during the morning worship service at Christ Temple Church in Huntington.

Pastor Lawrence referenced the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s recent rampage of violence and religious cleansing across northern Iraq following the return of a Christ Temple missionary from the troubled region. On Wednesday of last week, the humanitarian crisis was upgraded by the United Nations to a “Level 3 Emergency,” the organization’s highest ranking of severity.

ISIS jihadists have now declared the captured territories a new Islamic State, restoring “caliphate” in the Middle East. Multiple reports confirm that religious minorities, including Christians, are enduring horrific atrocities for refusing to denounce their religion and convert to Islam.

Understand the scope of all Islamist movements from their earliest inception was to re-establish the Islamic Caliphate, which is believed to be the panacea to every Muslim ill around the world.

But Islamic jihadists are ruthless in their approach to eradicating Christianity.

While addressing the plight of Christians in Mosul, national spokesperson for Iraqi Christians, Mark Arabo, said the “evil” being carried out by ISIS militants in Iraq now shockingly includes beheadings of children.

“They are systematically beheading children, and mothers and fathers,” Arabo told CNN’s Jonathan Mann. “There’s actually a park in Mosul that they’ve actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick.” Mann described the acts as the “most heartbreaking” things imaginable.

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Reportedly, Christians were given three options: convert to Islam, pay a fine or die by the sword. Those fleeing to neighboring areas of Iraq harbor little hope of returning.

“They’ve marked the red stamp of death on Christian homes and basically saying we know who you are and if you come back, you will be killed,” said Arabo.

In his weekly address, President Obama told Americans the U.S. will not be dragged “into fighting another Iraq war” despite his authorization of military air strikes in the region.

But I submit that if the president hadn’t completely ignored the escalating unrest in the region and misled the American people for almost two years, ISIS may never have been allowed to balloon into such a regional power.

Experts agree that while these ISIS jihadists are now a distinctly different organization, they were parented by al Qaeda. Yet, Barack Obama described al Qaeda as having been “decimated,” “on the path to defeat” or some variation at least 32 times since the attack in Benghazi, according to White House transcripts.

Excuse me, Mr. President, but how did this group become so powerful in just a few months? Your recent disclaimer to being responsible for the decision to withdraw troops from Iraq is very telling. Apparently, once again, you see failure on the horizon and want to re-write history and blame your predecessor.

So I’m certain you shoulder no blame for the thousands of Christians being persecuted for a faith many are simply willing to die to protect.

May Pastor Lawrence’s heavenly request be honored and Iraqi Christians be protected by God’s mighty hand.

THE CROSS

Mark Caserta is a conservative blogger, a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.

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