A couple of notable articles today…. one from ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER in the NYT’s today, documenting the migration of many AQ leaders and fighters from Pakistan to friendlier digs in Somalia or Yemen.
In communications that are being watched carefully at the Pentagon, the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency, the terrorist groups in all three locations are now communicating more frequently, and apparently trying to coordinate their actions, the officials said.
Somalia is now a failed state that bears some resemblance to Afghanistan before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, while Yemen’s weak government is ineffectually trying to combat the militants, American officials say.
The shift of fighters is still small, perhaps a few dozen, and there is no evidence that the top leaders — Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri — are considering a move from their refuge in the Pakistani tribal areas, according to more than half a dozen senior administration, military and counterterrorism officials interviewed in recent days.
Most officials would not comment on the record about the details of what they are seeing, because of the sensitivity of the intelligence information they are gathering.
Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, said in remarks here on Thursday that the United States must prevent Al Qaeda from creating a new sanctuary in Yemen or Somalia.
This truly can’t be much of a surprise. As I posted on April 16th, the Somalia pirates links to local jihad groups and their alliance with AQ is plainly out in the open. And since, in this economy, piracy seems to be the only job security for a desperate jihad group, Somalia is certainly a logical choice for their financial woes. Garnishing a percentage of the pirates booty shouldn’t be difficult to negotiate in exchange for favors, protection and arms.
And in fact, financial woes are playing a large part in the decision to shift AQ resources to Yemen and Somalia, according to CLEMENTE LISI in the New York Post today.
Plagued by money worries over the past year, al Qaeda leaders put out an appeal for more funds, saying they need charity in order to combat US forces.
In an audio message posted on various militant Web forums Wednesday night, the group’s leader in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, said terrorists were short on weapons, food and other supplies needed to fight American troops.
“In Afghanistan, we have a severe supply deficit. The main reason for the weakness in operations is insufficient supplies. Many mujahideen sit and wait and cannot fight for lack of supplies,” he said.
The plea — the latest by Qaeda leaders over the past 18 months — echoed a request just last week from terror lord Osama bin Laden for supporters’ “charity and support” for the militant network’s operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Experts agree the current money woes are a combination of tighter curbs on charities across the Arab world, a drop in al Qaeda kidnapping and extortion campaigns in Iraq and the global economic recession.
“Money’s in short supply. It’s a real issue,” Sajjan Gohel of the Asia-Pacific Foundation security think-tank told Reuters.
Although the terrorists have taken a hit in Iraq and Afghanistan, militants in Somalia and Yemen appear to have little difficulty in soliciting donations — both at home and in the West.
“Al-Qaeda leaders, unlike their Taliban hosts who are heavily involved in the lucrative drug trade, do not currently have significant financial resources,” said Richard Barrett, coordinator of the UN’s al Qaeda-Taliban monitoring team.
Naturally, with this mini-migration, Obama aides are trying to claim this as an Obama victory, saying it’s primarily the results of increased Predator drone attacks in Pakistan. I’m not sure what is more absurd… the idea that the addition of two more battlefronts is a victory in light of the fact that it’s not an offensive increase by the US, but an offensive increase by jihad? Or that drones – prominently used by the Bush admin for years – are the lone reason for the expanded operation plans?
While drone attacks thru both the Bush and Obama admins have resulted in putting many an AQ leader six feet under (as well as riling up the Pakistanis…), it’s hardly the lone, nor the most powerful puzzle piece to the jihad relocation. Instead, this “it’s all about me, Obama” talking point is a pathetic attempt to boondoggle a prozac nation into ignoring the additional realities – ala Pakistan’s constant and intense state of war with their Taliban/jihad elements, the US/NATO blockades on supply lines, and years of the financial crunch on AQ’s money flow with Bush imposed sanctions. Strapped for cash, assailed by the Pakistani Army, and land locked with iffy supply lines in rugged territory play a large part in eyeing new headquarters.
It becomes another manifestation of the cockroach theory.
The C.I.A. says its drone attacks in Pakistan have disrupted Al Qaeda’s operations and damaged the group’s senior ranks. American officials say that strikes have killed 11 of the top 20 Qaeda leaders in the past year. [Mata Musing: Note that includes missions under the Bush admin, which stepped up it’s activity as of late last year…]
“Al Qaeda has been hit by drones and it has generated a lot of insecurity among them,” said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general and military analyst in Islamabad.
“Many among them are uneasy and it is possible that they are leaving for Somalia and other jihadi battle fronts,” he said. “The hard core, however, will like to stay on.”
Without singling out any countries, Adm. Eric T. Olson, the head of the Special Operations Command, spoke in general terms last week about how the increased Pakistani military operations in the Swat Valley and early indications of a new Pakistani offensive in South Waziristan had put militants on the run.
“As the Pakistanis are applying pressure,” Admiral Olson told a House panel, “it will shift some of the sanctuaries to other places.”
In fact, the CIA asserts the status of Somalia as a failed state resembles pre 911 Afghanistan… offering a floundering jihad organization and inviting and prolific territory with unimpeded growth potential.
Meanwhile, US officials said al Qaeda leaders are moving their operation from Pakistan to Somalia and Yeman, places that resemble Afghanistan prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, The New York Times reported today.
The CIA believes the shift by the jihadists is meant as a way to regroup and return to the days prior to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
This places an interesting quandary on the Obama admin and their dedication to fight the perpetrators of 911… OBL and AQ… as per his campaign promise. In fact, he actually wages war with the Taliban as the primary enemy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That may be because, in reality, they are one in the same. Tho the POTUS speaks of AQ as if it were the only enemy, it again muddles just what AQ is… an “association” of morphing interest groups that share the same enemy… the west and the Jews.
These events mean Obama’s got himself a widened global battlefield he can no longer ignore, and one that is not “a war of choice” (as he calls Iraq). That it’s not by choice becomes, by it’s very nature, an operation of defense instead of offense. Never the best position to enjoy.
Top level AQ leaders like OBL and Zawahiri have given no indication they intend to relocate from their Pakistani digs, so NATO/US presence must be maintained there. But with new sanctuaries in Somalia and Yemen, the battlefield widens and add another two possible fronts to the “overseas operations contingency”. Yemen has always been a problem, similar to Pakistan. Somewhat an ally, but lacking in will and ability to contain the burgeoning jihad elements in the nation.
The Somalian situation has been festering since the early 90s, and has worsened with the high profile successes of piracy on the high seas in light of their linkage to jihad movements locally. While the world viewed this as merely protecting maritime interests, the tenacles go much deeper. Combine AQ with a financially secure piracy business, and a new ballgame (that was predictable) begins.
Yemen’s possible rise in status to another AQ haven plays heavily into Obama’s self-inflicted quagmire on releasing Gitmo detainees as Yemenis now make up about 40% of the remaining Gitmo population. And again, it comes down to funding a corrupt country who hasn’t been successful in tamping down the jihad elements in their midst.
The reason is not that the Yemeni prisoners are any more dangerous, say human rights advocates and lawyers. In fact, about a dozen prisoners from Yemen have been cleared for release since 2005. Yet the United States has been unable to reach an agreement with Yemen on how to repatriate these prisoners and ensure they don’t join Al Qaeda or otherwise pose a threat to the United States in the future.
“The reality is that release has never had anything to do with supposed dangerousness, but rather the ability of the [United States] to work out a diplomatic arrangement with another country,” said David Remes, a lawyer who represents 15 detainees from Yemen. “Almost all the western Europeans have been released,” he said. “All the English residents have gone back. But now you have the Yemenis, and the problem with reaching an agreement is complex.”
The problem is that U.S. officials don’t trust the Yemeni government — whose country has experienced a surge of violence and the growth of Al Qaeda and its supporters there — to handle the repatriated prisoners in a way that will ensure they don’t join terrorist groups upon their return. Yemeni authorities have promised to create a rehabilitation camp where former Guantanamo prisoners would receive counseling, job training and help re-integrating into the society. But as one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, it’s not clear how Yemen could afford to do that without significant foreign assistance. And while Yemen would like the United States to fund the effort, U.S. officials say they’re wary of handing large sums of money over to a government that’s notorious for corruption. They also want other Arab governments to share the costs.
Nothing to do with “supposed dangerousness”? A cavalier attitude in retrospect when you consider al-Shihri’s return to Yemen AQ leadership after being released in Saudi Arabia. And an even more absurd statement when you consider that, simultaneous with Obama’s EOs on Gitmo in the wee hours of his reign, Saudia Arabia was busy re’detaining Gitmo detainees the US dropped off there. At that time, Yemen was making preparations to repatriate 94 of their homeland Gitmo grads.
Then, of course, there’s that pesky DOD report that 1 in 7 Gitmo grads head right back to the battlefield and/or the jihad support network. “Supposed dangerousness” can only be construed as the uttering of a complete ingenue to reality.
One thing is certain… if AQ is successful in stepping up their presence in Yemen, the Yemeni Gitmo grads will find some familiar, friendly AQ faces waiting with open arms.
Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.