31 May 2007

Terrorists on the decline?

At American Thinker, Ray Robison looks at the problems al Qaeda is having in: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the forces behind those problems. Each of these has different point sources and may point to a larger strategy to confront al Qaeda based on a wide and deep understanding of regional and ethnic differences between the Arab, Wahhabi oriented al Qaeda and locally oriented resistance to them. Actually, given the inability of US Foreign Policy to understand those things, I am hesitant to put that conception forward as something coming from Foggy Bottom and, with the problems of the CIA, even from Langley. What does describe this better is special forces/special ops work and that 5-sided building in Arlington, VA playing a key role. And when trying to think of how to fracture the Islamic Jihad movement from the Muslim Brotherhood side of things that is a difficult task.

Today the most adaptable part of the US Government to combat terrorism is the Armed Forces and NOT those other places that so many like to point to as places of deep thought and cogitation... I go over the problems with 'Realism' in foreign policy and still, to this day, see that as a guiding outlook on such because of the entrenched bureaucracy there. Looking at the 'group think' of the INTEL Community via the NIE reviews I did (here and here) and in this article on Taming the Turf Wars and more endemic problems government-wide in Iraq and the Turf Wars.

To get a multi-prong, coherent approach to the political, social, and ethnic atmospheres of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan requires a lot of actual on-the-ground knowledge and in some depth so as to figure out the best way to approach each area. That is not descriptive of the CIA's HUMINT capability nor of the State Dept., but is highly descriptive of all the Special Forces and Elite Forces sent over to these places by Coalition Nations. Lets take a quick look at the instances that Mr. Robison cites and see what they would entail. Thus the posited concept and its follow-ons.

The Global Islamic Jihad Movement is Breaking Up

To get an idea of what this entails, we first have to look at the mover behind the Islamic Jihad movement: the Muslim Brotherhood. My most thorough look at the MB was in Rep. Hoyer seeking moderates amongst terrorists, which drew heavily upon previous documents for integrated analysis: Follow the money.... where?, Thoughts stirred on the global connectivity of al Qaeda, Syrian weapons purchases: the unbarked dog, Iranian influence: Bosnia, Dropping the dime on the 'oil drop' , Building the Mosaic of Iraq, Getting to today in, Iran starting in 2000, Dumb Looks time on: Post-Warism!, Creating an Army, The Faultlines shifting the Status Quo, Peace in the Middle East: The Checklist, and the two foundational views on Transnational Terrorism - Template of Terror and The web of the supernote.

Not that I have been looking at Transnational Terrorism for awhile or anything!

The major part of any fraying will be between al Qaeda affiliates and the Muslim Brotherhood which acts as a sort of 'startup' and 'incubator' for Sunni Jihadis, and then as a source of 'venture capital' for establishing and expanding organizations and influence. From it nearly every other terrorist organization on the planet is at most one intermediary away and often there is a direct link for zero degrees of separation. Think of it as 'Jihadi Terror Central'. In truth it operates on a quasi-criminal basis for goods and funds and as a religious institution for radical Islamic placement (the actual putting down of Mosques or sending instructors to established ones).

Any concentrated attack to start breaking up al Qaeda *must* address MB as it is the source of the personal contact network for most of Sunni Radicalism and even has strong contacts with Iran and Shia radicals. Globalsecurity lists the known resource bases of the Hamas, which is a direct military organization of the MB, and al Qaeda would have access to those plus its own networks separate from MB/Hamas ones. That listing is as follows:

Gulf States - A considerable proportion of the aforementioned funds originate from various sources in the Gulf States (The Gulf Cooperation Council States). Most of the funding is from Saudi Arabian sources, with a total value of $12 million a year.

Iran - Its contribution is estimated at $3 million a year.

Charitable associations in the Territories - Funds are raised for the Hamas through the mosques (a convenient domain for fundraising and recruitment of members) and through charity associations and foundations.

Charity associations overseas.

Fundraising abroad and in the territories.
In addition to that, al Qaeda would also need to hit friction between its own organization and its affiliate network and wider network of associates, of which MB is only one. This network of associates and affiliates is as follows, from the Globalsecurity listing for al Qaeda:
Armed Islamic Group
Salafist Group for Call and Combat and the Armed Islamic Group
Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Egypt)
Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya
Jamaat Islamiyya
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
Bayt al-Imam (Jordan)
Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad (Kashmir)
Asbat al Ansar
Hezbollah (Lebanon)
Harakat ul Ansar/Mujahadeen
Harakat ul Jihad
Jaish Mohammed - JEM
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam
Laskar e-Toiba - LET
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (the Philippines)
Abu Sayyaf Group (Malaysia, Philippines)
Al-Ittihad Al Islamiya - AIAI (Somalia)
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
Islamic Army of Aden (Yemen)
Yes, a veritable panoply of organizations, that, plus the listing later cites al Qaeda getting training and support from Iran. Globalsecurity and Terror Knowledge Base both have good references for all of these organizations, between them. So with those as a 'rough and ready' we can hit the rest of Mr. Robison's article!

Problems seen in Pakistan:
First, that reporting from Pakistan showed friction among al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic Party of Gulbudden Hekmatyar. Second, that funding to these groups was drying up due to the loss of state sponsors. While these groups (representative of, but not the entirety of global jihad) continue to receive private donations and surely some rogue regime funding, the loss of Saddam, Libyan, Pakistani and the U.A.E. support could only increase their woes.
Now Gulbudden Hekmatyar sounds familiar! And on Afghanistan Online we can get a biography of him, which is something always handy to have around, needless to say, when looking at individuals. From the opening there we learn the critical associations of him:
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, originally from Baghlan, is the head and founder of Hezbi Islami. Hekmatyar, who is now in his late forties, first studied at the military academy; then in 1968, he switched to the engineering department of Kabul University.
A very dangerous man to combine military AND engineering skills, even if he did not graduate with a degree. Now TKB has a rundown on on Hezbi-e-Islami and offers this bit:
Current Goals: The Hizb-I-Islami split in the late 1970s, with Maluvi Mohammad Yunus Khalis’s faction breaking away from the dominant group led by Hikmaytar. Recent reports suggest that the fragmentation of the Islamic Party has continued, with a group led by Khalid Farooqi proclaiming to support the transitional regime of Hamid Karzai and end their struggle against the Afghan government and coalition troops. Farooqi has claimed that his faction of the group has cut off all contact with Hikmatyar, who remains at large. The precise balance of power within the Hizb-I-Islami remains unknown.
They are undergoing internal factional strife due to the Coalition invasion of Afghanistan and trying to decide who to support. Note that in many terrorist incidents we get the leader in question refered to as a 'Warlord'. There are also connections to the Al-Badr organization of Pakistan/Kashmir from Hizb-e-Islami and this note at TKB on its funding:
Al-Badr has found it increasingly difficult to raise funds and many of its training camps have been closed. However, some Indian intelligence officials believe that Pakistan’s ISI is still feeding funds and logistical support to the group. In addition, Indian intelligence services are currently investigating links between al-Badr and al-Qaeda.
While a smaller group than Hizb-e-Islami, the support of the Pakistani ISI is very troubling as it serves as an independent State source for it. From that we can see that Hekmatyar is a critical individual for al Qaeda to get localized funding from *both* Hizb-e-Islami and al-Badr organizations. And a pass-through from Mr. Robison's citing of further fracturing between al Qaeda and Hizb-e-Islami is this article citing smuggling operations of the latter group in gems, lumber and opium. Over at History Commons we get a bit more on Hekmatyar's influence in the region and their citation of articles pointing to his connections:
Afghan opium production rises from 250 tons in 1982 to 2,000 tons in 1991, coinciding with CIA support and funding of the mujaheddin. Alfred McCoy, a professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Wisconsin, says US and Pakistani intelligence officials sanctioned the rebels’ drug trafficking because of their fierce opposition to the Soviets: “If their local allies were involved in narcotics trafficking, it didn’t trouble [the] CIA. They were willing to keep working with people who were heavily involved in narcotics.” For instance, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a rebel leader who received about half of all the CIA’s covert weapons, was known to be a major heroin trafficker. Charles Cogan, who directs the CIA’s operation in Afghanistan, later claims he was unaware of the drug trade: “We found out about it later on.” [Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996; Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/30/2001]
Yes, the CIA funds from 1982-1999 were going through Hezb-e-Islami to the tune of 50% of them. A bit after that we get this from 1983:
Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar emerges as the most powerful of ISI’s mujaheddin clients, just as Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) and CIA Director William Casey, along with Saudi Intelligence Minister Prince Turki al-Faisal, are pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of new and more lethal supplies into ISI warehouses.” Hekmatyar is among the most ruthless and extreme of the Afghan Islamic warlords. [Coll, 2004, pp. 119] He receives about half of all the CIA’s covert weapons directed at Afghanistan despite being a known major drug trafficker (see 1982-1991). He develops close ties with bin Laden by 1984 while continuing to recieve large amounts of assistance from the CIA and ISI (see 1984).
We can see connections between Rep. Charlie Wilson, CIA Director William Casey and Saudi Intelligence Minister Turki al-Faisal sending money and goods to Hekmatyar to resist the Soviets. So his 1980's funding sources are wide and disparate, stretching from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia to the CIA. This offers him a wide opportunity to find personal contacts to use later for additional funding, training and supplies. Hekmatyar meets up with bin Laden in 1984:
Bin Laden moves to Peshawar, a Pakistani town bordering Afghanistan, and helps run a front organization for the mujaheddin known as Maktab al-Khidamar (MAK), which funnels money, arms, and fighters from the outside world into the Afghan war. [New Yorker, 1/24/2000] “MAK [is] nurtured by Pakistan’s state security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the CIA’s primary conduit for conducting the covert war against Moscow’s occupation.” [MSNBC, 8/24/1998] Bin Laden becomes closely tied to the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and greatly strengthens Hekmatyar’s opium smuggling operations. [Le Monde (Paris), 9/14/2001] Hekmatyar, who also has ties with bin Laden, the CIA, and drug running, has been called “an ISI stooge and creation.” [Asia Times, 11/15/2001]
To get to a long-standing relationship between al Qaeda and Hezb-e-Islami requires eroding the trust/patience of Hekmatyar himself. And in 2002, this is what happens to him:
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Iran is supportive of US efforts to defeat the Taliban, since the Taliban and Iran have opposed each other. In 2006, Flynt Leverett, the senior director for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council in 2002 and 2003, will recall this cooperation between Iran and the US in a heavily censored New York Times editorial. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious Afghan warlord with close ties to bin Laden (see 1984), had been living in Iran since the Taliban came to power in the 1990s. Leverett claims that in December 2001 Iran agrees to prevent Hekmatyar from returning to Afghanistan to help lead resistance to US-allied forces there, as long as the Bush administration does not criticize Iran for harboring terrorists. “But, in his January 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush did just that in labeling Iran part of the ‘axis of evil’ (see January 29, 2002). Unsurprisingly, Mr. Hekmatyar managed to leave Iran in short order after the speech.” [New York Times, 12/22/2006] Hekmatyar apparently returns to Afghanistan around February 2002. He will go on to become one of the main leaders of the armed resistance to the US-supported Afghan government. Iranian cooperation with the US over Afghanistan will continue in a more limited manner, with Iran deporting hundreds of suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives who had fled Afghanistan, while apparently keeping others. But the US will end this cooperation in 2003. [BBC, 2/14/2002; USA Today, 5/21/2003; New York Times, 12/22/2006]
I am sure he was in Iran for purely personal reasons! And as for the US 'ending' the 'cooperation' with Iran, are we sure it wasn't more of a revolving door affair with al Qaeda operatives cycling in and out and only citing the outbound flow and not the inbound? Well, I am sure that ever venturesome reporters DID background that... or not.

But even more interesting is the citation via RAWA that Hekmatyar had links with the Soviet KGB! From their reprint of an 08 OCT 1992 article 'Gulbudden Hekmatyar had links with KGB' from The News International by Imran Akbar:

PARIS: The US House Republican Research Committee of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare has severely criticized the Central Intelligence Agencies and Inter-Services-Intelligence for their gross negligence and cover-up of the misconduct of the Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan during the 13 year Afghan civil war.

The report also alleged that the ISI propped Hekmatyar as an ultimate Muslim choice, while knowing all along that he was actually working for the ex-Soviet KGB, the intelligence agency of the Soviet Union.

The 19-page report submitted in March 1990 and now doing rounds here, claims that the ISI had created Hekmatyar only to serve the military regime of General Ziaul Haq. The report states: "needless to say, the picture of Hekmatyar's success in the civil war created by the KGB-Khad (propaganda) closely fits the biases of Ziaul Haq and ISI. This Islamist leadership was subsequently adopted by Ziaul Haq because of the ISI's claims of tight control over the radical revivalist Islamist movements as well the ensuring ideological endorsement from Pakistan's Jamat-e-Islami and the Saudi Arabian leadership. (The new prime minister) Benazir Bhutto cannot afford to disavow and disassociate herself from the Afghan leadership built by her father, let alone confront the ISI on the conduct of its Afghan operations."

The report further states, "Given this, the reports of Hezb-e-Islami victories served the ISI's intrinsic interests so well that it had no desire to doubt them and indeed politically could not afford to. With the Zia regime wholeheartedly committed to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, any attempt to challenge or verify his (Hekmatyar's) claims was swiftly crushed by Islamabad's highest echelons. Moreover, it was in the personal interest of numerous ISI senior officers and operatives who were embezzling the ever-growing flow of US and Saudi military and financial assistance to ensure that the process should continue."

The false information from Islamabad to Washington through CIA resulted in the termination of aid in 1989 and the ISI plan to launch a massive attack on Jalalabad.

The debacle was so huge that even today the last body count has not yet been confirmed and neither the original planner brought to justice. The worse part of the story is that the Hekmatyar group was already working for the KGB and had in fact co-operated with the Soviet troops in persecution and subsequent defeat of other resistance factions.

Hekmatyar is also termed in the report as a commander who killed more Mujahideen than Soviet Afghan soldiers. The report recalls a curious incident where the ISI had to lose its two top agents in order to protest Hekmatyar and his KGB network from being exposed to the media. In the spring of 1985, a senior resistance commander's source in the Soviet intelligence network agreed to disclose the Hekmatyar dossier in Moscow in the return for the safe passage for his family. As the CIA prepared itself the task, the whole network was betrayed to the Soviets after a call for a top-level meeting by resistance commanders was intercepted by Hekmatyar.

Within twenty-four hours, a Soviet special flight IL-63M plane was arranged which flew the source to Tashkent never to be heard of again. The aftermath indicated the Hekmatyar was afraid that the credible source would expose his true identity. For the ISI, recognizing the gravity of the betrayal meant doubting the reliability of Hekmatyar and the self-serving empire built around his myth. Therefore, the ISI decided to suppress the incident eve though two of its won/operatives were amongst those arrested and transferred to Tashkent.

Hekmatyar's meteoric rise came after his expulsion from the Kabul Military Academy. Till then, he was a staunch communist and later infiltrated into Muslim fundamentalist groups on the behest of the KGB and Khad. He arranged his first professional assassination of a Maoist communist leader in Kabul in 1972 and then entered the Muslim Brotherhood as the older leadership began to be killed under mysterious circumstances.

The KGB-Hekmatyar co-operation could be judged from the fact that the resistance commanders in the Maidan area were afraid to ambush Soviet envy's for fear of reprisal from Hezb-e-Islami. Hekmatyar also managed to destroy two ammunition depots and five weapons trucks stripping Jamaiat-e-Islami leader Ahmed Shah Massoud of weapons near the Pakistani border of Garan Chashma.

The ISI, the Task Force reports states, monitored the ambush of Tekhar province where senior Jamiat commanders were killed. Some of them were brutally tortured. The communication system and messages exchanged were on the same frequency range as that of the ISI. The tussle between Ahmed Shah Massoud and ISI reached the peak in 1988, when Massoud refused to surrender to ISI pressure. In return, his aid was completely cut off forcing him to buy weapons from the black market.

The assassination of Afghan liberal intellectual, Majrooh, was orchestrated by the Hezb-e-Islami in Peshawar where the Hezb hit-team included a SPETNAZ commando from the Soviet Union. The ISI briefed Hekmatyar and with KGB KHAD assistance, the gulf between Pashtuns and other nationalities widened, Today an average of 200 people are killed daily in Afghanistan in continued battles between ethnic and sectarian minorities.
Have I pointed out that Mr. Hekmatyar is well connected? And to those worrying about the 'horrific death toll in Iraq' may it be pointed out that in Afghanistan, in 1992, the daily death toll was 200 due to ethnic and sectarian violence? Just thought you would like to see what a REAL civil war gets you. But that is what happens when you are being an 'equal opportunity' Warlord and cooperating with everyone against their enemies in the hopes of killing them all off and being the last one standing. Tricky game, but has advantages if it works out.

Now, popping up to 1994 at Cooperative Research we get this little item, which is of interest:
The Boston Herald reports that an internal CIA report has concluded that the agency is “partially culpable” for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993) because it helped train and support some of the bombers. One source with knowledge of the report says, “It was determined that a significant amount of blowback appeared to have occurred.” A US intelligence source claims the CIA gave at least $1 billion to forces in Afghanistan connected to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. More than a half-dozen of the WTC bombers belonged to this faction, and some of the CIA money paid for their training. The source says, “By giving these people the funding that we did, a situation was created in which it could be safely argued that we bombed the World Trade Center.” Those connected to the bombing who went to Afghanistan include Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Clement Rodney Hampton-el, Siddig Siddig Ali, Ahmed Ajaj, and Mahmud Abouhalima. [Boston Herald, 1/24/1994] Additionally, Ramzi Yousef trained in Afghanistan near the end of the Afghan war, and there are claims he was recruited by the CIA (see Late 1980s). “Intelligence sources say the CIA used the al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn—founded to support the Afghani rebels fighting Soviet occupation—to funnel aid to Hekmatyar, setting the stage for terrorists here to acquire the money, guns and training needed to later attack the Trade Center. CIA support also made it easier for alleged terrorist leaders to enter the country.” [Boston Herald, 1/24/1994]
Isn't this just peachy? Yes, those committed anti-Soviet fighters led by Hekmatyar who would switch sides to cooperate with the KGB, helped him to fund and train terrorists for the 1993 WTC Bombing. Do remember, that the 1993 WTC Bombing was, apparently, a cooperative effort by multiple terrorist organizations and with some support from Iraq for getting things like passports and such. The full testimony on 07 OCT 1994 can be found at this link with Globalsecurity.

Any problems between al Qaeda and Hezb-i-Islami needs to be something pretty bad given that Hekmatyar and bin Laden *both* matriculated from the Muslim Brotherhood and would have a large degree of common contacts and support via that. The Jamestown Foundation has an article giving an overview of Hekmatyar's life and that he may now be trying to get into the Afghani government (dated 27 JAN 2005), which would be a major break with bin Laden. And, even worse to al Qaeda eyes, is the involvement of Hezb-e-Islami in the narcotics trade to support themselves, as seen at US News & World Report in an article on 27 NOV 2005 citing the strong involvement of Hekmatyar with the heroin trade, which is something that al Qaeda wants no part of. So while a radical Islamist, Hekmatyar is just of a slightly different stripe than that of bin Laden and al Qaeda. And as Western history can attest, the tiniest of religious differences can fester until they become the main problem in a relationship between two sects that have high degrees of similarity.

From all of this, however, we can see that Gulbudden Hekmatyar has multiple sources of income distributed across Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Kashmir region. Further, al Qaeda, itself, has distributed income sources as identified by The National Bureau of Asian Research with this paper (in pdf) on Funding Terrorism in Southeast Asia: The Financial Network ofAl Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah by Zachary Abuza (DEC 2003). From that we can get a look at the affiliate structure of al Qaeda and how those affiliates assume responsibility for self-funding while al Qaeda uses its wider ranging contacts for its own funding (pp. 7-9):

Al Qaeda’s financial network is very sophisticated and complex, and dates back to the late-1980s. Osama bin Laden set out to establish an organization that would be self-sustaining over time; in part self-reliant, but in part reliant on the ummah—the Muslim community. Beneath bin Laden and his senior lieutenants is the shura majlis, the consultative council. Four specialized committees, military, religious-legal, finance, and media, report to bin Laden and the shura majlis. The finance shura was traditionally the largest of the four, with about 20 members. As Rohan Gunaratna notes, “Al Qaeda’s finance and business committee—comprising professional bankers, accountants, and financiers—manages the group’s funds across four continents.” A Council on Foreign Relations task force notes that:
"Al Qaeda’s financial backbone is built from the foundation of charities, non-governmental organizations, mosques, websites, fund-raisers, intermediaries, facilitators, and banks and other financial institutions that helped finance the mujiheddin throughout the 1980s. This network extended to all corners of the Muslim world."

“The goal of counter-terrorism,” according to Mathew Levitt, “should be to constrict the environment in which terrorists operate,” including “their logistical and financial support networks,” which “denies terrorists the means to travel, communicate, procure equipment and conduct attacks.” This is arguably the most difficult part in the war on terrorism, as terrorist organizations use myriad ways to fund their operations, both legal and illegal, overt and covert, some with paper trails, and some without. It has also never been a priority for law enforcement or counter-terrorism officials. Terrorist financing was always seen as ancillary to counterterrorist operations, but never a priority in its own right.

How does Al Qaeda fund its operations in Southeast Asia? How does its regional affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah support itself? While Jemaah Islamiyah and Al Qaeda are linked, through some joint membership, financial support, and expertise, Jemaah Islamiyah has its own agenda and is not subordinate to Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda does not control JI operations, although it has provided financial support and expertise to JI. Malaysian intelligence officials believe that Hambali, the head of JI’s operations and a member of Al Qaeda’s shura, had approximately $500,000 in assets at his disposal for use in operations. A senior Al Qaeda operations chief, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who himself had considerable experience in Southeast Asia, was known to be impressed with Hambali’s financial management. According to Mohammed’s interrogation report, Hambali and JI, “Unlike Gulf Arabs, were poor, and therefore take great care in how they spend money for operations.”

JI has wisely and effectively diversified its sources of revenue; relying on no single mechanism. There are eight primary sources of income, both internal and external, though most funds come from external sources. As Ali Ghufron (Mukhlas), the leader of the cell that perpetrated the Bali bombings, said, “Hambali is not known to have any big [local] funding sources.” To that end, Indonesian investigators unequivocally stated that “Jemaah Islamiyah’s jihad operations were funded by Al Qaeda.” The primary sources of funding include:

• Cash brought into the country on person;
• Funds skimmed from Islamic charities;
• Corporate entities
(some legitimate business, others front companies for terrorist activities);
• Proceeds from hawala (underground banking) shops;
• Gold and gem smuggling;
• Contributions (zakat and infaq) from JI’s own members and outside supporters;
• Al Qaeda investments and accounts already established in the region, especially in the
Islamic banking system; and
• Proceeds from petty crime, racketeering, extortion, gun-running, and kidnapping.
Al Qaeda, while it does have inroads to State sponsors, does not overly rely upon them and has worked to distribute its income capabilities so that no single strike or set of strikes, even on a global scale, can seriously impact its cash flow base. The Taliban, however, is more highly dependent upon such support and may be feeling a pinch in funds and trying to tap al Qaeda for same. And if Hekmatyar is trying to get in with the new government, he would be unwilling to fund al Qaeda if those funds go to help the Taliban - that indirect support would be traced back to him and ruin chances to get any sort of clemency or inroads to the new government. That is very speculative, but then that is the case with Transnational Terrorism no matter how you deal with it.

Funding does not appear to be an issue with groups like al Qaeda, Hezb-i-Islami or Jemaah Islamiyah as they have worked to get low level, continuous and sustainable sources either through local contacts, like smuggling of heroin, gold and such, criminal work such as kidnap for ransom, and via religious contributions and donations. To clear up that latter one must get the religious institutions and charities to end their funding or put them out of business entirely.

Ray Robison then looks at the Anbar Awakening phenomena and what it is doing:
In the last few months independent war reporting from Iraq has discussed the "anbar awakening." The term refers to the move by Sunni tribal chieftains in the al Anbar province to reassert power by fighting al Qaeda, allying with the Coalition and somewhat with Iraqi government forces. Even the mainstream media has begun to catch up and has reported the new development.

Recent reporting from Pakistan shows a similar but not so friendly development. There is little question that the new power broker of the Taliban, Maulvi Nazir is outwardly anti-U.S. and pro-al Qaeda. Yet at the same time he has adopted a "not in my backyard" stance as his Pashtun forces have killed and run off "Uzbeks" a colloquialism for al Qaeda used to refer to Arab and other foreign fighters (Pashtun and Uzbek ancient rivalries contribute to this designation). It is the age old story of infighting for power but this time it benefits the U.S. by reducing al Qaeda support and capabilities. The Sydney Morning Herald, in a fascinating series of interviews with different elements involved in the saga, quotes a Pakistani Governor about the treatment of "foreigners" - Arab jihadists:
"Virtually all of the tribes are ready to fight the militants. Yesterday the southern tribes held a jurga [council] and decided that any foreigner was to be shot dead and any tribesman supporting the foreigners would be banished from the area or killed too. They have declared jihad and their plan is to annihilate any of the foreigners who refuse to leave."
As a matter of fact, this sounds a lot like what is happening in Iraq. While this certainly does not make the Taliban leader a friend, it is much better to have the enemies killing each other off. It provides solid evidence that al Qaeda is losing a foothold in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. The earlier reporting from the region predicted bin Laden might leave the region and now we might have a better idea why.
One of the things I noted last year starting in AUG 2006 or so was that the various weapon's caches found in Iraq had literal tons of guns, explosives and ammunition but no one to guard them. The Riverine Campaign that ended in Tal Afar started to rip up the transportation capabilities of insurgent groups and start the job of isolating them by region. Groups could often get truckloads of supplies in, but getting the people necessary to actually use them was becoming difficult. This 17 AUG 2006 post looks at a couple of weeks of MNF-I reports and in the summation this point sticks out:
4) The entire insurgency is turning into a high-cost, low personnel affair. When you have lots of extra weapons, often 2:1 or 3:1 per individuals captured, and so much damn ammo, what you are seeing is pre-preparation in *hopes* of doing something to get lots more recruits. If any of these groups could get a major foothold in Iraq to do *that* the Nation *would* descend into chaos. And this is at a time when the new Iraqi Army has *proven* itself capable of independent operations and is capable of handling tricky situations on their own. That said that is only their battle-tested groups. Green troops probably are getting rotated through Baghdad and a couple of other hot spots and then rotated *out* to the provinces they control for more normal patrol duties. But with their skill, they are now catching the individuals that are acting like insurgents. After first-hand experience they are seeing things that untrained troops would overlook.
Note that the amount of extra equipment, weapons, ammo and such, goes beyond backups for *everyone* but goes deeper than that to tertiary and more. Equipment is easy to get and put in place, but people who can utilize them are harder to come by. This was a major turning point in sapping the al Qaeda part of the insurgency and its Ba'athist attendants, who may or may not have been using stored funds to keep the supplies coming from Syria. One of the things that any manager learns when scoping out work to be done, be it ditch digging or putting together a robust database or opening a restaurant is this: Equipment is *cheap*, People are *expensive*.

The cost overhead of maintaining a staff are immense: finding them, interviewing them, training them, ensuring they understand the work rules, enforcing said rules, getting productive labor from them, ensuring that they are not doing something to ruin the business or work environment, ensuring that access to food and necessary facilities is provided... The list is endless and all of it is overhead and continuing expense to keep a workforce going. All terrorist operations must face a pared down version of this, but even the average 'walk in and blow yourself to bits' suicide bomber needs to be: found, recruited, trained in the basics of operation, trained in enough COINT work so as not to be caught, taught the basics of security for themselves and the organization and the operation, making sure that the bomber will actually *get* to where they are needed, feeding, care until last day, transportation, entertainment, etc., etc. Those are all non-recoverable costs sunk *in* to someone who will die and the time, money and effort to get those very basic things done cost the organization. Also, as effective personnel are used up, you get less effective newbies. And when skilled managers are lost, like in raids, bombings, etc. the cost to replace them with someone even approaching those skill levels is astronomical.

Buying guns, explosives, det. cord, ammo, cars, and so on is *easy* and fast.

Finding someone to guard them is slow and expensive.

Only at the very highest level of a Nation State does one begin to see anywhere near parity in cost, say with Nuclear Aircraft Carriers with all of their equipment. And that is because the sunk cost of capital is, in and of itself, extraordinary and requires a high and continuous investment in personnel and maintenance to keep it operational. At the very low end, the human costs start to rapidly exceed the cost of equipment value, and 'terrorism on the cheap' is possible only once some of the training and such can be automated or skillfully reduced to its essentials for expendable operatives. For the non-expendable ones, the cost rapidly increases over time so that their skill sets may advance with their position and allow them to become more capable at their work. One of the wonderful ideas from warfare is trying your best to not kill an incompetent general on the other side: he is of more value to you alive and operating poorly with the enemy than he is dead and a somewhat more skilled replacement taking his place. Skilled managers are the main target of counter-terrorism work - you want to get them out of the scene and have someone less skilled and able replace them.

In Anbar and, increasingly, Diyala, and now it appears in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the local tribes have had enough of having their traditional power structure threatened or killed. Especially in Afghanistan that has an ancient warrior custom, the concept of protecting skilled leaders because they have such a high value to the organization because of their skill is paramount. Any outside organization or group that threatens that is then threatening the social cohesion of the tribe, clan or family involved. I go over that sort of background in my Creating an Army document, and it is vital to understand how that tribal culture *undermines* authoritarian Arab Armies. Norvell B. De Atkine goes through that in Why Arab Armies Lose Wars, and it is vital to understand the social structure underlying that outlooks: it is used as a factional basis to pit tribes against each other but not endanger the power structure. By doing so Arab regimes can remain in power by constantly 'stirring the pot' of ethnic, religious, tribal and familial differences so as to prevent any ability to counter the regime. What it does NOT do is make an effective Army, however.

Contrarily, when the social structure of tribalism is upheld by larger government and encouraged, there comes commitment to that government for greater protection against rival tribes and, finally, against outsiders. This is something Afghanistan has had for ages as it is so remote, but this is something that in Iraq has yet to be fully formed. The strength of the Afghan warrior ethos is based upon strong tribal adherance and respect of those tribes by higher government. That is why Communism and the Taliban could only rule by force: they did not respect that basis of social autonomy and so were a threat to it. That authoritarian view at that lowest basis has been in operation for similar ages, but in the Middle East it is used for factional division and in-fighting and is pervasive across the Middle East in nearly every single government there, save Israel. Even Nations that have strong ethnic identities have similar problems with that sub-ethnic stress of tribe and family pulling away from an authoritarian National structure that sees that as a threat.

In my Building the mosaic of Iraq article I look at that via all of the reporting going on from Iraq that is dispersed, diverse and independently funded. Yes, these are bloggers 'paying their own way' and they have offered the most incisive view of Iraqi culture and problems that has ever been done for any similar situation. You cannot get ethnographers, sociologists and anthropologists that can give such good first hand reporting and documentation without turning it into a jargon-based festival of dense linguistic spaghetti. That basic sort of reporting offers us insight by giving the actual folks on the ground their direct say with *no* interpretation by journalists and editorial boards and censors and such. One of the most shocking things to hear was from Bill Ardolino of INDC Journal in this entry, on Fallujah. The town is not only insular, and has been for as long as anyone can remember, but beyond that the very first thing that people wanted rebuilt is highly telling of what has happened to them. It is not the water mains, sewers, electrical grid, streets repaired, schools refurbished, police stations opened up... not even getting shops going.

No they wanted the walls on their family compounds repaired.

I cannot imagine a society that has been so degraded by generations of fighting as to see that as the most basic form of security: the walls around the family compound. There is very little in Western tradition that has ever gotten that bad over time as to require that, although the modern 'gated communities' come pretty close to it. But even those are not actual barriers between families. That is not just 'bunker mentality' nor 'siege mentality'. That is 'the world is out to kill us and we will go down fighting' mentality. I dare say that no one in the Dept of State or CIA or even in DoD prior to getting to Fallujah even had something like that in their mental space for how bad a society can *get*. In Fallujah the Iraqi Army was trusted *more*, even with them being mostly Shia, than anyone the next town over. Yes, absolute strangers with a different religious background and unassociated with anything local could gain more trust by just trying to work with people there than their very own neighbors!

So the Anbar Awakening concept is one that has government backing and is now, from what I have read, heading towards its own autonomous political organization that has this strange idea that technocrats are needed to run things and keep the damned religion out of it. Yes, secular government so that religious minorities will not be oppressed! Damned funny how that crops up from time to time in human history.

And when the provincial elections happen in Iraq, a number of provinces will have starkly different ruling organizations than that of the National Parties. And as the provinces will be getting their equal share, via population, of the oil profits, they will have significant power. There is a word for this, when local governments can wield power for their more regional areas and do it better than National government: Federalism. Strange how that crops up, too. Bill Roggio has been doing excellent work on the Iraq Rising parties in Anbar, Diyala, Salahadin and Babil. Here is a bit from Anbar Rising on 11 MAY 2007:
Col Koenig expects the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Anbar Awakening will be rival political parties. But while the rhetoric between the rival parties may be heated at times, the differences have not led to political violence. The two parties are well aware of the dangers of infighting, and are cooperating in the security sphere.

"We don't want to be like the Palestinians," Col Koenig said is a common refrain among member of both parties, in reference to the fighting between the rival Fatah and Hamas groups in Gaza and the West Bank. "[The Awakening and Iraqi Islamic Party] are like two feuding brothers who ultimately want what's best for their family, and unite against outside attacks," referring to fighting al Qaeda.

A provincial meeting

The first full provincial council meeting was held on May 3. Of the 49 members on council, 40 were in attendance for the 8 hour meeting. The majority of the provincial council is made up of technocrats - lawyers, judges, engineers and educators. Most are aligned with the Iraqi Islamic Party, however an American military intelligence source informed us eight members on the council affiliated with the Iraqi Islamic Party have defected to Sattar's Awakening party. Tribal sheikhs are also on the council, and the Anbar Awakening has been allotted eight seats.

Last week's provincial council, which Sheikh Sattar attended, is viewed as a great success. "Up until one month ago, the focus of government meetings was on security and fighting al Qaeda in Iraq and extremists," said Col Koenig. "Now the council is entering a transition phase, from fighting to governing." The security situation was considered stable enough in most of Anbar the focus of the May 3 meeting was on governance and reconstruction.

As security situation is improving, representative have left hiding or self imposed exile, and are now claiming government funding and performing their functions as government employees. The economic situation is "picking up speed like a flywheel gaining momentum... as security improves," said Col Koenig.
Local autonomy that is at odds with religious parties is taking rood in Iraq and working hard to kill off insurgents and convince neighbors that they have to stop supporting them. That is the Patreaus strategy to get things calm enoug so that other, infamous, 80% can START.

Unfortunately this, from the point of view of purely local organizations, is not something I would call a 'strategy' with a pointed aim to actually get the tribes fighting against al Qaeda.

What it *is* an outgrowth of is that of the Citizen Soldiers of the United States sharing their views on what makes democracy work and why federalism is a good thing for a Nation. It is also that strange view that all people are created equal and should have the right to associate with each other as they like without harming other groups within society. That is an outgrowth of this lovely idea of religious tolerance. It was started in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia. What is seen in Anbar, Diyala and Afghanistan is the outlook towards local autonomy through localized democracy, even if it IS through traditional clan arrangements: who are we to say that our version in the United States fits all conditions at all times for all peoples?

That thing being offered is a perspective and outlook upon individuals, what it means to partake in society and why it is important to have a government that *protects* those things. That tends to come and go in Afghanistan, but the local democratic version of councils and such have been around for generations. The Taliban and preceding civil war and Soviet occupation was an interruption of that, not an ending of it. In Iraq they have had very little long term experience with localized self-rule that was *not* dictated by a government. In just a handful of years they are making a jump from tyrannized tribes being played against each other to coalescing into localized self-rule and government. In some places like Fallujah this may be the first time in living memory that has happened, and, if the written accounts are correct, this may be the first time *ever* there.

It is this thing known as 'enlightened self-interest' and 'local government being respected' that is the threat to authoritarian concepts around the world, be they Communist, Fascist or Islamic. The self-autonomous Nation State that affords religious freedom within its borders and rules itself with any sort of reciprocity internally to its People is something that is known as the advance of liberty and freedom. And there is *always* a high price to pay to create that and sustain it.

That Tree of Liberty is, indeed, sustained by the blood of tyrants and patriots.

I can't really call it an obvious strategy... but it has been going on since 1776. It doesn't always succeed the first time and its enemies are legion. And fighting against those enemies is the job of the folks at that 5-sided building in Arlington. And whenever our Citizen Soldiers arrive someplace they do not forget their Citizenship and what it takes to safeguard it. That is why this comes from there, although it is representative of America, only our Citizen Soldiers can carry that light with them to other lands.

It is too bad our political class no longer sustains that light of liberty wherever we go.

Liberty will end because of that if not addressed, and our own will be the hardest hit.

"Americans are not a perfect people, but we are called to a perfect mission."
- Andrew Jackson

[08 JUN 2007] Just a quick post-script - Do notice that I do not see any high level friction between al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood. From that the problems are not systemic nor endemic for al Qaeda, but very localized. Problems with a key contact and his organization in Pakistan and definite problems with sustainment of operations in Anbar and tough going in the other Awakening Provinces. Those problems, especially in Iraq, may prove to me a bit too much to overcome, and the movement to use new recruits in Lebanon is actually a *good* sign that al Qaeda is realizing that Iraq is eating up their seed-funds and organization multiple times and demonstrates no weakness to it. I don't think the expected the Lebanese Army to go after their new organization structure in Lebanon, either.

So there is long-range structural weakness in al Qaeda by lack of having good middle management and even upper management. The question is where will they shift training operations to? My guess is they are trying Sudan and a few other areas. They are, however, finding their strong-arm tactics are winning enemies, quickly. I would not be surprised to see a reversion to Chechnya, Bosnia, Algeria and, perhaps, even Latin America to get those areas out of the 'recruitment for operations' and into the 'recruitment for running al Qaeda'. And that does need to be watched for... and somehow a wedge driven between al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood to end a stream of interim managers. That isn't happening, to-date, and is buying vital time for al Qaeda to re-organize.


Unknown said...

very informative, thanks!

A Jacksonian said...

Ray - My thanks!

Trying to fit the pieces together and I don't see the hallmarks of obvious coordination but of convergent themes based on the outlook brought by the United States and the cultures involved. We tend to forget that we are culture that brings inherent order with it to deal with chaos, and that order has aims and goals. That, from what I see, is at work in Iraq and Afghanistan and, to a lesser degree, Pakistan. Not necessarily a strategy, but a directive force none the less for that.