16 January 2008

The new fronts in the Global War on Terrorism - Part I

The following I started before my recent computer troubles... consider it to be Part I.

As I have characterized the state of global conditions as seen in the war on terrorism, we are currently in a phase of war where the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are purely defensive measures to shore up two Nations intimately involved with terrorism: Afghanistan under the Taliban was home to training camps for al Qaeda's distributed network of terror organizations as well as ones from Pakistan, Kashmir, and parts of Africa; Iraq was initiated to remove an unreliable government of a Nation that had openly used chemical weapons and was implicated in the research of bioweapons and nuclear capability (both radiological and atomic devices), plus hosted a wide range of terror organizations that spanned the political spectrum although concentrating on Arab ones.

In the post-9/11 world the United States would not abide by these two Nations that each had given cause to be attacked. Afghanistan by harboring outlaw radical Islamic terrorists that had attacked the US was seen as aiding and abetting them. Iraq by not abiding to its cease-fire agreements to cease firing at coalition forces, openly demonstrate the removal of all WMD programs from research and development to deployed systems, and by undermining the sanctions regime meant to curb those programs, had given sufficient cause for it to become a target of attack.

Today with Iraq shifting towards reconciliation between its internal tribes and political organizations and by fielding a multi-ethnic, multi-religious military capacity that is accountable to government, has felt the destruction of al Qaeda and Iran and had enough of it. Afghanistan, in a culturally and geographically more difficult area is making progress, but that will be a slow-go due to external political and tribal problems. In strategic terms Iraq has been significantly shored up to help stabilize the center of the Middle East and Afghanistan is fighting an attrition war against those that would destabilize it, with arms from the coalition providing some societal buffer to the ongoing attacks by various factions.

These conflicts were aimed at stemming the tide of radical Islamic terrorism in those areas and has succeeded.

al Qaeda has been working on a counter-offensive that has been taking some time to become apparent and has opened up new fronts in this conflict, by having seeded multiple organizations globally, it is now exploiting those in an attempt to expand this conflict. The initial phases of those started before 9/11 and the US started to address them in the 'forgotten fronts' of the GWOT.


This COIN conflict has gone almost unreported in the Western Media, and my thanks to Long Wars Journal for sending B. A. Patty there to report on this conflict (First Report, Second Report, Third Report). In this series of reports we get an overview of the history of the Philippines and the work of separating out the local insurgents (the Moros and their MNLF) from the more international form (al Qaeda's Abu Sayyaf). These two are tightly intertwined in Mindanao, and the history of the previous US COIN work at the start of the 20th century is still a remembered item amongst the local population. Here local issues drive the insurgency and how to address it is seen in this section from Part I:

The battles between the AFP and Abu Sayyaf and MNLF make the papers, but they miss the real story of the counterinsurgency in the Philippines. The real story is the movement of the populace away from support for conflict and toward a support for the peace processes. This has followed “a shift in strategy since April,” according to Raphael, to focus on what are called civil military operations, which focus on dealing with problems afflicting the people. “A lot of the villages have insufficient water,” the general said. “They have no schools. We are doing massive infrastructure projects.” Acting in cooperation with the JSOTF-P, the AFP have held numerous meetings at which medical treatment is provided to anyone who showed up, with any problem that could be handle in the field. The AFP has built schools and community centers.


The stick-and-carrot strategy is so successful that even the separatists are finding themselves pressed by it. Khaled Musa, a deputy chairman of MILF, said in April that the civilian military operations were “more lethal than brute force.” While he said that it could not end his insurgency – “Dedicated and rightly guided revolutionaries do not expect material rewards for sacrificing everything dear to them” – he also noted that the tactic reminded him of the collapse affecting the MNLF prior to its 1996 peace agreement, when “practically everybody surrendered to the government.”
Concentrating on civic work while countering insurgents is a recurrent theme in COIN, and necessarily so: without trust in stable and local government insurgency will flourish. Here concentrating on the MNLF, which is the older and local insurgent group, allows for the Abu Sayyaf outside group to be marginalized. As more territory settles differences with the MNLF, Abu Sayyaf has less room to work in and slowly becomes an external, disruptive presence that brings no good with it.

This COIN work has been going on for more than a decade and has rendered the original Moro Islamic Liberation Front into more amenable splinters, like the MNLF. That 'half-life' of COIN is a generally understood concept, that within 8-12 years half of the insurgency is rendered incapable of fighting or unwilling to fight, or they have been driven out and local society has become a barrier to them. Here the 1996 peace treaty caused the original group to settle and factions that were more radical splintered from it and allied with Abu Sayyaf. While towns and villages harbored MNLF they would also harbor Abu Sayyaf. Thus the course to settle local problems in fair administration and creating infrastructure (water, power, schools, sewage treatment) yields less reason for the MNLF to continue and a growing animosity to Abu Sayyaf that tries to destroy such infrastructure to keep the local population intimidated.

In the Philippines this is a long, hard task due to climate, lack of existing infrastructure and the remoteness of some of the islands involved. Still, the basics of COIN work to stop the bloodshed and create viable means for self-support remain primary drivers, and moving to get economic activity along with political buy-in work hand-in-hand with military affairs. In such an area getting self-reliant society functional that sees National government as a help, not a hindrance, is key. Often cultural animosities going back decades or even centuries need to be addressed and settled to end such insurgent campaigns.


The successful work of the Ethiopian Army, and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia along with US air cover (UAV,conventional air interdiction of ground forces and stopping of seaborne resupply) against the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) has met with success to the point of driving them to Eritrea. This was necessary due to the increasing lethality of the organization (also known as Shabab) with the help of a leader released in Kenya in FEB 2007 (Source: The Long War Journal) Sharif Ahmed. No real idea is given as to why he was released from Kenya, save for some possible US pressure. The Christian Science Monitor may hold a bit of insight in this 13 FEB 2007 article on Somalis fleeing to Yemen written by Ginny Hill:
The latest arrival, deputy ICU leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, flew from Nairobi, Kenya, to Sanaa last Thursday, as a guest of the Yemeni government. Sheikh Sharif joins the ICU 's foreign affairs spokesman, Ibrahim Adow, and two other ICU moderates who have been living under Yemeni protection in the southern port of Aden for more than a month.

One month after Somali and Ethiopian troops ousted Somalia's Islamists in a two-week offensive, groups tied to the Islamists are stepping up deadly guerrilla attacks across Somalia. And while an insurgency appears to be gathering steam, the US and its regional allies are hoping to co-opt individual leaders from within the ranks of the ICU 's diverse and scattered leadership to bolster the weak and faltering transitional government. Washington is targeting popular figures without links to terrorism who still command a strong following among many Somalis – and chief among them is Sheikh Sharif.

"The inclusion of the ICU moderates is the only way to stabilize Somalia," says Fran├žois Grignon, director of the International Crisis Group's Africa Program.

The quartet of ICU moderates now based in Yemen are viewed as central to creation of a future inclusive government in Somalia with a wide, stable power base. Their endorsement is also seen as crucial to the successful deployment of African Union peacekeepers. But, first, this core group must agree to a strategy among themselves in order to present a united front at multiparty peace talks.

"Sheikh Sharif is here as part of our efforts to encourage the moderate Somali Islamists to participate in dialogue with the transitional government," says Yemen's Foreign Minister, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi. "We are hoping he will attend Somalia's National Reconciliation Conference, as soon as the parties agree on a date."
That would not work out so well as the ICU would head back to Somalia soon afterwards.

Now as to this claim of being a 'moderate', Mr. Ahmed is seen giving that credential a bit of a working out in this BBC article of 22 JAN 2007:
During the six months they controlled Mogadishu, the Islamic courts were divided between moderates and hardliners, with Mr Ahmed viewed as the moderate leader.

Before the end of Islamist rule, the hardliners seemed to have gained the upper hand and Mr Ahmed also toughened his rhetoric, especially over the presence of Ethiopian troops alongside government forces.

At one point, he declared a Jihad (holy war) against Ethiopia and urged all Somalis to join the battle.

A few weeks later, however, he was on the run before giving himself up to the Kenyans.

Nevertheless, the US and the UN are urging the government to seek reconciliation with moderates such as Mr Ahmed.
Yes, one of those moderate jihadis!

He then resurfaced after the ICU was ousted from Mogadishu, as seen by this al-Reuters article of 05 DEC 2007 at boston.com:
In Eritrea, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, chairman of the opposition Alliance For the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) and considered a relative moderate among the Islamist movement, scoffed at the new prime minister's call for dialogue.

"Our problem is not with the old prime minister or the new prime minister. Our problem is Ethiopia's occupation," he said.

Ahmed's Islamist courts' movement ruled Mogadishu for six months last year, until it was routed by Ethiopia's army backing forces from the interim Somali government.

Hardline Islamists have led an insurgency against the government and Ethiopian troops throughout 2007.
Yes this has shifted from standard, open warfare to COIN, just as happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Caroline Glick at the Jerusalem Post looks a bit at the ICU in Eritrea with an article on 10 DEC 2007 (h/t Pamela at Atlas Shrugs):
THE SENIOR ICU leadership, including Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed have received safe haven in Eritrea. In September, the exiled ICU leadership held a nine-day conference in the Eritrean capital of Asmara where they formed the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia headed by Ahmed.

Eritrean President-for-life Isaias Afwerki declared his country's support for the insurgents stating, "The Eritrean people's support to the Somali people is consistent and historical, as well as a legal and moral obligation."

Although touted in the West as a moderate, Ahmed has openly supported jihad and terrorism against Ethiopia, Kenya and the West. Aweys, for his part, is wanted by the FBI in connection with his role in the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is a military leader in the organization al-Ittihaad al-Islami (AIAI) (Source: TKB) and a listed associate of al Qaeda at the UN, as well as being the leader of the ICU. Thus, by the end of 2007, the ICU would be greatly fragment, but still continuing an insurgency struggle. In this the ICU has recruited foreign fighters, funds and equipment from (Source: Wikipedia: Arab nations (Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Syria, Iraq), non-Arab Middle Eastern and African Nations (Kenya, Iran, Eritrea, Djibouti), other Nations (Russia) as well as other terrorist groups (al Qaeda, Hezbollah).

In particular Kenya's Garissa district has seen recruiting of youths with $400 payments to join the jihad in Somalia, and the resultant loss of life raised an outcry (Source: The Standard (Kenya)). For those following the preceding Kenya articles, this district turned out heavily for ODM and Raila Odinga (Source: NFDOnline) in the recent DEC 2007 elections. Ensuring that the ICU is routed in Somalia, then, requires a concentration by its neighbors to ensure that these forces do not have a chance to recover. Unfortunately with support coming across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea being supply sources or active havens (respectively) and active recruitment capability in Kenya, that may not be an easy thing to do. Working with Ethiopia is vital due to the long border and geography: utilizing C4I from there helps to coordinate overwatch of events between ground forces to counter insurgent forces.

The Balkans - Kosovo

I have previously looked at the problems of Kosovo and will use this as a chance to recap.

Kosovo has seen an influx of Saudi and Wahhabi influence in the way of cash and personnel that have slowly been inculcating themselves into the local Muslim population. This has seen the desecration of historical sites, including Ottoman Empire Mosques, as the radical imams and their followers work to deface the history of that area. While the KLA changed its name, the commander of it, Agim Ceku would come to prominence as Prime Minister until early this year. The reason that is important is that he was linked to Osama bin Laden during his time as commander in the KLA. He has been replaced by Hashim Thaci, the former political leader of the KLA (Source: BBC 09 JAN 2008).

As the KLA was supported by bin Laden and al Qaeda, and has helped bring in Wahhabists that have set up terror cells to attack Serbia, this cannot be seen as 'moderating' influence. The continued presence of such outside actors and their funds attacking local populations and culture is not an indicator of success in COIN or in driving out radical elements. While the leadership may have distanced itself from the extremist side of Islam the bloodshed, while lower, continues across borders with Bosnia and Serbia and now comes more directly from radical sources. Success in Kosovo is ensuring that radical Islamic terrorists do not find a home there and that, sadly, is far from the case today.

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