Posts Tagged ‘al Qaeda’

U.S. Policy Advisors on the Middle East Region

September 30, 2015

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

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s September 28, 2015 blog post.

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The world is wondering why the United States has moved so slowly to wipe out radical Islamist groups, as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that are destabilizing much of the Middle East and parts of Africa. Battle-hardened rebels have been waiting for military assistance from the U.S. to attack the ISIS strongholds in Syria. The recent resignation of General John Allen leaves a major void in the U.S. military strategy to support the rebel groups. Reportedly, Allen did not receive the necessary authority for action against the radical Islamists, which has allowed their rapid expansion to continue throughout the region.

In Afghanistan the Taliban has affiliated with ISIS, despite the 10,000 U.S. peacekeeping forces there. The new president, Ashraf Ghani also has not been able to bring peace, as terrorist attacks continue daily.

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The 14th Anniversary of Terrorist Attacks on America

September 15, 2015

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

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s September 14, 2015 blog post.

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As I sat in our New York apartment on Friday looking across Central Park I could see the early morning runners, bike riders, and people just leisurely walking through the maze of tree lined walkways. It suddenly dawned on me today was September 11, the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that changed the world forever.

On that disastrous morning in 2001, I watched on television as the first jet airliner crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 am, followed by a second airliner hitting the second tower shortly thereafter. We had been to the U.S. Open Tennis finals the day before. In the dim light of a beautiful sunset we took a photo with the twin Towers in the background. They stood as architectural obelisks reaching towards the sky. We did not dream that they would be gone the next day. We also did not envision that terrorists could again reach our soil so easily. Involved in the attacks were nineteen Islamists affiliated with al-Qaeda. Fifteen came from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt and one from Lebanon. All were well trained and radically indoctrinated young Muslim men.

I left that night, leaving behind the ‘Big Apple’ the home to many people who immigrated to this land of liberty, freedom and opportunity. As I was working out early the next morning the chaotic attacks were already taking place just a few miles south in the financial district. I was utterly shattered about what was happening in New York. The streets were suddenly empty, although there were some people wandering around–dazed, confused and speechless. Traffic was at a standstill. Everything seemed to come to a halt. No one was in a hurry to go anywhere.  Looking at views of the downtown area, all you could see was heavy smoke billowing into the sky.

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It’s time for Muslim Nations to take the Lead

October 2, 2014

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

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s October 2, 2014 blog post.

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On Tuesday September 30, 2014 I appeared on a segment of Bloomberg TV’s Bottom Line with Mark Crumpton, focusing on the U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates. Mark asked what the U.S. should have known when our troops left Iraq 2011. I noted that it opened the door to al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate. but did not elaborate on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which has undertaken numerous attacks against the Iraqi military and civilians.

In 2003 after the U.S.-led incursion into Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi founded a small militia group that subsequently morphed into the larger Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). Al-Baghdadi was held at Camp Bucca, a U.S.-Iraqi detention center from 2005 to 2009, and released since he was not considered an enemy combatant. Al-Baghdadi resumed leadership of ISI in 2010, undertaking numerous attacks including a mosque in Baghdad, and killing a Sunni lawmaker. After Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011 he retaliated with an attack south of Baghdad in which twenty-four policemen were killed. In 2012 he orchestrated a series of suicide attacks, car bombings and roadside bombings killing and wounding hundreds of people throughout Iraq.

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Osama Bin Laden Could Have Been Captured Earlier

August 7, 2014

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

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

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On May 1, 2012, I wrote an article on Osama bin Laden noting that he could have been captured before 1996. I had spent five years researching al-Qaeda’s terrorist activities in the Horn of Africa, Arabian Peninsula and Middle East for my book “When the White House Calls”. I served as U.S. ambassador, from 2002-2005, to three island nations in the East Africa Indian Ocean region. At the embassy our regional security officer constantly received information on the possible whereabouts of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, one of the most wanted lieutenants of Osama bin Laden, who came from the Union of the Comoros. Since his wife and children, and other family members still lived there we believed the information to be credible. Some of the data possibly could have led to other al-Qaeda operatives-even Osama bin Laden. Today the debate continues on whether bin Laden and other al-Qaeda operatives could have been captured long before 2011.

The U.S. State Department didn’t respond to the detailed cables as to Fazul’s travel, even when informants told us he would be visiting his family in Comoros, or on nearby islands. Fazul was raised in Comoros, an island nation of 600,000 Muslims. Pakistani imams had infiltrated the religious madrassas on the main island of Grande Comore, where Fazul was indoctrinated by their radical teachings. Offered a scholarship to study computer science in Pakistan, he ended up at the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) center where many of the Taliban were trained. He was then sent to Afghanistan where he eventually joined bin Laden.

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A Caliphate has been declared in the Middle East

July 8, 2014

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

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s July 3, 2014 blog post.

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Osama bin Laden’s death in May 2011 did not diminish al-Qaeda’s quest to destroy Western civilization. “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it” was the ‘fatwa’ issued by bin Laden in 1998. Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri, the aging Egyptian Islamic theologian who leads al-Qaeda today, is having difficulty controlling the newly formed Islamist affiliates.

The U.S.-led incursion into Libya in 2011 emboldened a new breed of Islamist extremists—young, eager and brutal—wanting to take control. In addition they have infiltrated the Maghreb and Sahel regions in Africa, and the Middle East.  Al-Qaeda’s mission of destroying western interests will continue, while the newer Islamist groups have a more territorial plan–creating Islamic states, ruled under Sharia law.

New recruits have been inspired by radical Wahhabist and Salafist clerics believing Islam has been disenfranchised and want to create a caliphate, taking the region back to the 12th century when Islam reigned under Sultan Saladin, and more recent past under the Ottoman Empire. The irrational borders created by the European powers after World War I separated tribes and religious factions, which is at the heart of the conflicts today, with everyone wanting their piece of the turf.

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It’s not too late to reengage with Iraq

June 24, 2014

Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Afghanistan (2011-2012), Iraq (2007-2009), Pakistan (2004-2007), Syria (1998-2001), Kuwait (1994-1997) and Lebanon (1990-1993)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Crocker’s June 19, 2014 op-ed in the Washington Post.

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The news from Iraq is, quite frankly, terrifying. And it was utterly predictable.

I have been saying for months that we must do everything we can to support Syria’s neighbors — Jordan, Lebanon and especially Iraq — to ensure that the al-Qaeda contagion in Syria does not spread. It has. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) now occupies much of the area between Kurdistan and Baghdad. Although the capital is unlikely to fall into its hands, ISIS has effectively established a radical Islamic state.

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Global War on Terror has become more dangerous

June 6, 2014

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.

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Regime Change Will Not Diminish Al-Qaeda Attacks

June 2, 2014

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

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s May 30, 2014 blog post.

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In Syria how will the U.S. clearly define moderate opposition groups? That has become a major difficulty as well in Libya. Rebel groups break down into tribes, clans, and broader religious factions—some with fundamentalist beliefs, while others have a more radical interpretation of Islam which includes armed jihad. In any event we do not know their ultimate goals. A Muslim diplomat once told me it is difficult to know the mission of a person carrying a weapon: “When they come, they also bring their behavior with them. There is one baggage that doesn’t weigh much–it is the behavior that is inside of them–the behavior in their mind–the attitude that they have. We can search their pockets for weapons–and see the one’s on their shoulders–but we cannot search their mind”.

Syria over the last three years has been in a chaotic civil war in which no one has clearly defined the “moderate” opposition that could rule democratically, if we take out President Bashar al-Assad. I have written articles saying, “regime change without an endgame plan is fraught with disaster”, as we witnessed in Libya after the U.S.—NATO incursion in 2011 that led to the downfall of the ruler Col. Muammar Gadhafi. Armed Islamist militias have since taken over large swaths of the country.

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Special Panel on Benghazi Needed for Answers

May 12, 2014

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

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s May 12, 2014 blog post.

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We could have learned a lesson from the terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassies in Lebanon and Kuwait in 1983. The State Department did not heed these early warnings. In 1998 terrorists again attacked two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The State Department needed to protect Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, but instead turned a blind-eye on that fateful night in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, when brutal Islamists killed the ambassador and three other Americans. This is a serious matter that needs answers, since the credibility of the White House and State Department are on the line.

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Mali is in al-Qaeda’s Cross-Hairs

February 20, 2014

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

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s February 19, 2014 blog post.

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On Friday February 7, 2014 near the northern Mali town of Tamkoutat, thirty-one people were killed in two ambush attacks by Islamists. The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) was responsible for the attacks, according to Mali’s interior ministry. Last week near the Niger border there was a clash between Tuareg villagers and Islamists—seventeen civilians and thirteen MOJWA were killed. In Niger, Boko Haram based in Nigeria was recently staging an attack–more than twenty of the Islamists were captured. In January eleven Islamists preparing for a mission were killed by French troops in Mali, and a large cache of weapons seized. In another incident a UN military vehicle struck a land mine near the town of Kidal—injuring five soldiers.

These attacks have all occurred since the French-led troops drove the Islamists from Mali’s northern towns. In January 2013 the incursion had stopped the Islamists’ advance from Konna to Bamako, the capital, a distance of 300 miles. By March most of the Islamists had been dispersed into the vast desert and mountainous region. MOJWA, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Ansar Dine Islamists have since carried out targeted attacks against Malian, French and UN troops.

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