Global War on Terror has become more dangerous

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s June 6, 2014 blog post.

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The Obama Administration has increased the risk of Islamist attacks against Americans with the release of five–most dangerous and seasoned–jihadists from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp (GITMO). They are as brutal as Osama bin Laden, and capable of planning major terrorist attacks. They have had over twelve years in isolation to think about targets. GITMO still holds over 150 battle hardened enemy combatants. Sending the five to Qatar, the headquarters for the Taliban, will be like a homecoming—a brief period of rest and recuperation.

Qatar is one of the main financial supporters of Islamist groups throughout the Middle East and Africa. Returning the Islamists to war-torn Afghanistan will not be necessary to carry out their evil deeds. It was while Osama bin Laden was in Sudan from 1991 to 1996 that he planned numerous strikes against to United States, including the attacks on U.S. and UN soldiers in Somalia in 1993, the World Trade Center garage bombing in 1993, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the two U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; later while in Afghanistan the USS Cole bombing in the Port of Aden in 2000, and the horrific attacks on September 11, 2001.

Saudi Arabia has experimented with the re-education of Islamists, by moderating their radical views, with only limited success. One needs to understand that these Islamists were indoctrinated at a very early age by radical preaching that justifies armed jihad.  The U.S. has used drone missile attacks targeting similar Islamists believing we can defeat the terrorists, however with the collateral damage we have only rallied support for their cause.

The September 2013 report by the director of national intelligence discussed the 600 insurgents that left GITMO between 2002 and 2013. Of the 100 prisoners tracked they all returned to their terrorist activities, seventeen others died, while twenty-seven ended back in custody (CNN). Now to gain release of the remaining enemy combatants, all the Taliban needs to do is take thirty Americans hostage, knowing the U.S. will negotiate for their release. Then we will spend millions of dollars to track them, and drones to find them. Meanwhile they will commit additional attacks against Americans—how ludicrous is this!

Qatar, as a U.S. ally, was supposed to ship arms to Syrian opposition rebels, but instead—somehow–the weapons reached al-Qaeda linked Islamist groups. This has added to the chaos in Syria. Hence people will continue to be killed with expanding instability throughout the region. GITMO’s detainees are in the hands of the Qataris, which have been major suppliers of weapons and financing to Islamist extremists in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Somalia—need I say more!

Regime change through military action has failed in Libya, and will fail in Syria. Col. Muammar Gadhafi has been killed and his Warfalla tribal members slaughtered by Islamists, who have now taken control of many towns and Libya’s major oil production centers. Their goal is to turn Libya into an Islamic state ruled under Shariah law—the same is the goal for Syria.

Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad this week was re-elected for another seven year term. With 15.8 million registered voters out of a population of 22.4 million, 11.6 million or 73 percent cast their ballot—although rebel occupied areas were problematic in participating. Similarly in Mali’s presidential election last August, where French forces had barely liberated two-thirds of the country that had been controlled by Islamists, and several towns did not receive ballots timely, the voter turnout was 46 percent. With a population of 16 million, and 6.8 million registered voters, 3.1 million cast their ballot, which was considered a good turnout. Yet in Syria the  U.S. continues to press for regime change, which could bring the country closer to becoming an Islamic state.

While serving as U.S. Ambassador to three island nations in Africa I was instructed by the State Department to approach the government of Mauritius, a peaceful country of 1.2 million–with a Muslim population of 16 percent—to request the resettlement of five Uighur Islamists captured in Afghanistan, and held prisoner at GITMO. Of the twenty-two Uighurs held, fifteen were scheduled to be released. They claimed their fate would be unknown if they returned to China, so they were seeking asylum–fearing torture or death. The Uighur’s were considered a radical Islamic movement in Xinjiang, a northwestern province of China. The Islamist group had been involved in numerous known terrorist attacks.

Mauritius, Tanzania, Namibia, Angola, and Sri Lanka–all with an active Chinese and Muslim community were the U.S. choice for reintegrating these detainees. The Mauritian government responded “Under no circumstances”. They already had a sensitive situation with the Muslim community and didn’t want this additional distraction. I expected that response, which was only natural with their insurgent backgrounds. What if these detainees were really brutal terrorists?  A Muslim government leader had told me it would be difficult to know their intent: “When they come, they also bring their behavior with them. It is the behavior inside of them that we do not know. We can search them for weapons, but we cannot search their mind”.

In 2002 the U.S. designated the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which was affiliated with the Uighurs, as a terrorist organization resulting from the planned attack on the U.S. Embassy in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. They evidently had also worked with al-Qaeda in planning attacks against U.S. interests. In recent years the Uighur Islamists had undertaken attacks on several railway stations, and a market in Xinjiang; in Tiananmen Square several people were killed in a car bomb attack.

GITMO has been a good choice for holding enemy combatants–off-shore–until they could be put on trial for their alleged terrorist activities. We need to remember that a terrorist is not a foot soldier, but rather someone who lurks around waiting for the opportunity to attack anyone, including blood relatives. They have no mercy, no style, no compassion, and no conscience. They have been indoctrinated by radical imams, interpreting that armed jihad is justifiable. Once they are indoctrinated, there is no way of bringing them back into a normal society or rehabilitating them to live side by side with nonbelievers, whom they consider infidels.

There is no question that U.S. national security has been compromised by allowing the five enemy combatants to be released from GITMO. They are all disciples of Osama bin Laden–nowback on the streets. Removing our troops from Afghanistan does not end the war–as we have seen in Iraq where Islamists attack innocent people daily. The Global War on Terror has just been dangerously expanded. I believe Americans are more at risk today, with the political decision to close  GITMO—and the release 150 more Islamist extremists.

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