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Ahrar-ul-Hind, Ghazwa-e-Hind?

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — in which the “second shoe” of Islamist eschatology will land on India ]
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Bill Roggio, over in Long Wars Journal a day or two ago, posted an article titled Pakistani jihadists form Ahrar-ul-Hind, vow to continue attacks. In it, he introduces the group, Ahrar-ul-Hind:

A new global jihadist group that is unwilling to negotiate with the Pakistani government has announced its formation and vowed to continue attacks in the country despite the outcome of ongoing peace talks. The group, which is calling itself Ahrar-ul-Hind, said its goal is the establishment of sharia, or Islamic law, and that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan are still “our brothers” despite separation from the group.

Ahrar-ul-Hind emailed two statements to The Long War Journal on Feb. 9: one from its spokesman, and another that outlined its “aims and objectives,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which translated the communiques. Ahrar-ul-Hind has also posted both statements on its Facebook page.

He has much more to say about it, but what caught my eye was one observation in particular:

In the statement announcing its “aims and objectives,” Ahrar-ul-Hind threatened to wage war on the “Indian subcontinent” and beyond, with the ultimate goal of imposing sharia worldwide.

“We aim to carry an armed struggle on the Indian subcontinent with an aim to establish Islamic Shariah in the whole world,” one bullet announced.

A final, significant detail:

Mansour identified Ahrar-ul-Hind’s emir as Maulana Umar Qasmi

**

Readers of Zenpundit will be familiar with the idea of a Pakistani jihad aiming to take over India — the Ghazwa-e-Hind, about which we have written, among other posts:

  • One hadith, one plan, one video, and two warnings
  • So many browser tabs, so little time
  • Pakistan’s Strategic Mummery
  • Khorasan to al-Quds and the Ghazwa-e-Hind
  • In the last of those I quote from a discussion Ambassador Haqqani had with Bill Roggio:

    And then the other part is this famous Ghazwa-e-Hind, and the Pakistani groups use it – actually, just as jihad is the war, a holy war or war for religious purposes, ghazwa is a battle — and there is ostensibly a saying of prophet Muhammad that before the end times, the final, biggest war between good and evil and between Islam and kufr is going to take place in Hind, which is India, which is the land east of the river Indus.

    So Khorasan takes care of what is today Afghanistan and some parts of central Asia, and all of that – it means a lot to people who believe in it, these end times prophecies etcetera. So one of the unwritten books it has been my desire to write, I wrote a piece on it once, an article I think, which said, that, you know, Americans pay a lot of attention to their own end time prophecies, but getting into that whole theater, they have totally neglected this.

    And so far as recruitment is concerned I am totally agreeing with you, that failure in Afghanistan is going to be a big boon for both. The TTP — the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan — and the Pakistani groups are going to start saying, Right, now is the time to start recruiting, and fighting in that famous Ghazwa-e-Hind –let’s get ready for that. And the Arab groups are going to say, Ah, salvation is coming by joining up with the folks who are fighting in Khorasan.

    You might say there are two “shoes” to the end times jihad — one foot marching from Khorasan / Afghanistan with Jerusalem its objective, the other marching from Pakistan to take India. We have discussed the “army with Black Banners from Khorasan” theme, too, in these pages:

  • Iran or Afghanistan? The Black Flags of Khorasan…
  • Ali Soufan: AQ, Khorasan and the Black Banners
  • The matter of the Black Banners and Benghazi
  • Twitter combat, al-Shabaab, black banners, Tahrir and more
  • An army in Sham, an army in Yemen, and an army in Iraq
  • Those black banners / AQ flags, revisited
  • and pointed to Aaron Zelin, writing on al-Wasat:

  • On Flags, Islamic History, and al-Qa’ida
  • I am always on the alert for news of that second shoe…

    **

    Many people treat Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid, the loudest proponent of the Ghazwa, as a joke — there’s even a satirical blog attacking him — but our blog-friend Omar Ali put things in perspective in a comment here not so long ago:

    The major mistake of Western (and Western educated Pakistani left-liberal academics) is to regard this nonsense as so nonsensical that no sane person could possibly take it seriously.

    Manan Ahmed, a Pakistani historian blogging at Chapati Mystery, describes him as having:

    from most accounts, secured a niche similar to Glenn Beck in Pakistani media – combining ultra-nationalism with a taste for finding Zionist or Hindu involvement in the Pakistani sphere.

    And the “500 Most Influential Muslims” listing for 2013-14 includes him:

    One of the most influential television personalities in Pakistan, Zaid Hamid is a security consultant and strategic defence analyst by profession. He is also a popular political commentator, and is the founder of Brass Tacks, a Pakistani think tank on global politics. Hamid also hosts ‘BrassTacks with Zaid Hamid’ on News1 Channel Although he has been deemed by some as a conspiracy theorist, he maintains a substantial audience.

    **

    It is unlikely that Zaid Hamid would be enthusiastic about Ahrar-ul-Hind, since they are a TTP offshoot and Hamid has decried the TTP as khwarijites, ie sectarian extremists — and also because Hamid clearly sees himself as the leader of the Ghazwa, and Maulana Umar Qasmi, the emir of Ahrar-ul-Hind, is not Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid.

    Nevertheless, the appearance of a group specifically not affiliated with Hamid, but preaching the Ghazwa, may in fact represent a more serious and bdeadly version of Hamd’s vision — for as Omar Ali notes:

    What Zaid Hamid is saying is just an extreme version of the mainstream Paknationalist framework.

    **

    Also of possible note in this context is the late, brilliant, not always reliable Syed Saleem Shahzad‘s interview with Ilyas Kashmiri in Asia Times [Note: 2 pp.], in which the following exchange took place:

    “So should the world expect more Mumbai-like attacks?” I [Shahzad] asked.
    “That was nothing compared to what has already been planned for the future,” Ilyas replied.

    Once again, Bill Roggio noted this particular exchange (making this a triple hat-tip) — though his focus was more on Kashmiri’s interest in the American “far enemy” — in his report on LWJ, Asia Times interviews al Qaeda commander Ilyas Kashmiri.

    Addendum:

    Tying Ilyas Kashmiri and AQ’s 313 Brigade more closely into the “Ghazwa e-Hind” context from an Indian perspective, we have this article from Rediff News in 2009:

    Ilyas Kashmiri’s Ghazwa-e-Hind plans to spread terror in India
    Last updated on: October 16, 2009 20:47 IST

    Dreaded terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri runs Al Qaeda’s 313 Brigade. A few weeks ago the United States declared that Kashmiri had been killed in a drone attack. However, Kashmiri resurfaced with an interview to Asia Times this week, declaring he had survived the attack.
    In the interview Kashmiri said the 26/11 Mumbai attacks were nothing compared to what was really planned. While India has maintained that the attacks were masterminded by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Kashmiri’s statement has come as a surprise.

    Syed Saleem Shahzad, chief of Asia Times’s Pakistan bureau who interviewed Kashmiri, told rediff.com that the 313 Brigade is Al Qaeda’s commando force which trains youth for terrorist operations.

    Indian Intelligence Bureau sources suspect Kashmiri is planning terror strikes on the lines of the Mumbai attacks, but much larger in scope.

    Kashmiri’s statements indicates that the 313 Brigade was involved in the Mumbai attacks. Indian intelligence sources believe that while the Lashkar undertook a major part of the operation, including identifying the terrorists who participated in the attack, the 313 Brigade was also involved.

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    Them’s the breaks, I guess

    Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — a quick round up of prison breaks in Iraq, Libya and NW Pakistan ]
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    Mourners pray at the coffin of a victim killed during an attack on a prison in Taji, during a funeral at the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, July 22, 2013 / credit: Reuters

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    On July 22 2013, eight days ago, AP reported Hundreds escape in deadly insurgent attacks on Iraq prisons holding al-Qaeda militants:

    Iraqi security forces locked down areas around the infamous Abu Ghraib prison and another high-security detention facility on Baghdad’s outskirts Monday to hunt for escaped inmates and militants after daring insurgent assaults set hundreds of detainees free.

    Clint Watts quoted Reuters in a post titled Al Qaeda in Iraq’s Prison Break – Not Good!, two days later:

    Monday’s attacks came exactly a year after the leader of al Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, launc hed a “Breaking the Walls” campaign that made freeing its imprisoned members a top priority, the group said in a statement.

    and commented:

    Well, at least we didn’t see this coming.

    Laconically, AP also noted:

    Jailbreaks are relatively common in Iraq

    — a phrase eerily reminiscent of AFP’s comment:

    Jailbreaks and prison unrest are relatively common in Iraq

    from way back in 2011, in a piece which included a reference to 2006:

    Zambur said this was the third attempted jailbreak from the prison.

    The first was in 2006, when about 50 members of the Mahdi Army, radical anti-US Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s now-deactivated militia, managed to escape.

    Maybe it’s never-ending, this story.

    **

    Wind back just a year from today, though, to Bill Roggio‘s report Al Qaeda in Iraq claims nationwide attacks that killed more than 100 Iraqis in the Long War Journal, July 25, 2012:

    Baghdadi had originally announced the offensive in an audiotape released on July 21, just two days before the attack; it was his first audiotape announcement since becoming emir in 2010.

    “We give you glad tidings of the commencement of a new phase from the phases of our struggle, which we begin with a plan that we have dubbed, ‘Destroying the Gates.’ We remind you of your top priority, which is to release the Muslim prisoners everywhere, and making the pursuit, chase, and killing of their butchers from amongst the judges, detectives, and guard to be on top of the list,” Baghdadi said in the July 21 statement that was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

    So there we have it: “to release the Muslim prisoners everywhere” is Baghdadi’s “top priority” for the campaign.

    In the event, the targeting of that first wave of 2012 attacks was more widely drawn:

    In today’s statement, the ISI said that its “War Ministry” organized the offensive and deliberately targeted the military, government agencies, and both Shia and Sunni groups that have opposed al Qaeda.
    “The chosen targets were accurately distributed over governmental headquarters, security and military centers, and the lairs of Rafidah [Shi’ite] evil, heads of the Safavid [Iranian] government and its people, and its Sunni traitor lackeys [Awakening councils and Sunni political parties] who sold the religion, the honor and the land, and made the lands of the Muslims permissible along with their cities to the dirtiest people on the earth and the lowest of evils,” the statement continued.

    **

    About three months later, on October 12, 2012 Roggio wrote in LWJ Al Qaeda in Iraq claims credit for Tikrit jailbreak:

    The Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq’s political front, claimed credit for a complex assault on the Tasfirat prison in Tikrit that freed more than 100 prisoners, including dozens of terrorists.

    In a statement that was released yesterday on jihadist Internet forums and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, the Islamic State of Iraq said it executed the Sept. 27 prison break. The terror group said the operation was part of its “Destroying the Walls” campaign, which was announced at the end of July by Abu Du’a, the Islamic State of Iraq’s emir. In that statement, Abu Du’a said that emphasis would be placed on efforts “to release the Muslim prisoners everywhere.”

    Now that’s what you might legitimately call “first priority” targeting.

    **

    So that’s our background, up to about a week ago when the latest Abu Ghraib prison break took place.

    And since then?

    Well, as reported on July 27, More than 1,000 inmates escape from Libyan prison near Benghazi in mass jailbreak — and Reuters reports:

    Officials said there had been an attack on the facility from the outside, as well as a riot

    Interesting.

    And AP reported on the 29th, updated early this morning, Pakistani Taliban fighters overwhelmed guards in prison attack:

    DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — Prison guards said Tuesday that they were totally overwhelmed when around 150 heavily armed Taliban fighters staged a late-night attack on their jail in northwest Pakistan, freeing over 250 prisoners including over three dozen suspected militants.

    It was the second such attack by the Taliban on a prison in the northwest within the last 18 months. But even so, the security forces were totally unprepared for the raid, despite senior prison officials having received intelligence indicating an attack was likely.

    As Clint Watts said way up above, so say the Pakistani security folk:

    Well, at least we didn’t see this coming.

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    Of Omar Hammami — and dying more than once?

    Friday, April 26th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — dying more than once in hadith, in press reports, in Rumi and John of the Cross ]
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    The American mujahid in Somalia, Omar Hammami [see his Wikipedia bio], who has been tweeting back and forth with various “U.S. national security professionals” [see this Wired piece], reported yesterday that he had been shot in the neck “by Shabab assassin” [see this piece by Clint Watts at Selected Wisdom]. JM Berger, who has been in close correspondence with him, tweeted:

    Omar has indeed been in dispute with Shabab, the group he originally joined [see this LWJ post], and his own most recent tweets, sent eighteen hours ago as I write this, were these:

    Omar Hammami may or may not still be among us, although recent reports suggest with caveats that he survived the attack…

    That’s the background.

    **

    From my point of view, the most interesting discussion anyone had with Hammami in the last day or two was this exchange between Hammami and Jeremy Scahill, whose book Dirty Wars has just hit the stands:

    Characteristically, Omar has a light tone — yet speaks to the issue in the context of his theology…

    **

    There are, it seems to me, basically three ways that one might imagine dying more than once. The first — and it’s the one Hammami himself was referring to — is found in the hadith in Bukhari [Volume 4, Book 52, Number 54]:

    Narrated Abu Huraira:

    The Prophet said, “… By Him in Whose Hands my life is! I would love to be martyred in Allah’s Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred.

    Let the intensity of that hadith — and Hammami’s reference to it, a little earlier [?] on the same day he was shot — sink in.

    **

    The second, “secular” way to have “died” more than once is through faulty intelligence and / or journalism — and that’s what JM Berger is on about when he tweets:

    Indeed, such reports led to the 2011 release of a nasheed in his name, though he may not have sung it himself:

    Now Hammami has apparently resurfaced, with two new a cappella songs that appeared on the web earlier this week. In “Send Me A Cruise,” Hammami begs to be plastered by a tank shell, a drone attack or a cruise missile, so that he can martyred like some of the heroes he names, including Al Qaeda leaders Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Abu Laith al-Libi. In his trademark tuneless drone, he claims “an amazing martyrdom” is what he “strive(s) for and adore(s).” “Send me a cruise like Maa’lam Adam al Ansari/ And send me a couple of tons like Zarqawi,” chants Hammami. “Send me four and send me more, that’s what I implore.”

    More generally, false reports of AQ leaders dying hither and yon have become so common that I posted a DoubleQuote about it last year:

    **

    Here’s where it get’s most interesting…

    For a third view of dying more than once, we can turn to the mystical tradition. Thus the Prophet Muhammad is credited with the hadith “Die before death” by Jalaluddin Rumi, who in his Mathnawi, VI, 3837-38 writes:

    The mystery of “Die before death” is this, that the prizes come after dying (and not before).
    Except dying, no other skill avails with God, O artful schemer.

    The death before death here is the death of the nafs, the “self” — the true martyrdom of the greater jihad. As Peter Lamborn Wilson puts it in his Introduction to the Sufi Path:

    Man’s authentic existence is in the Divine; he has a higher Self, which is true; he can attain felicity, even before death (“Die before you die,” said the Prophet). The call comes: to flight, migration, a journey beyond the limitations of world and self.

    Of course, St John of the Cross wrote in much the same vein:

    This life I live in vital strength
    Is loss of life unless I win You:
    And thus to die I shall continue
    Until in You I live at length.
    Listen (my God!) my life is in You.
    This life I do not want, for I
    Am dying that I do not die.

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    Khorasan to al-Quds and the Ghazwa-e-Hind

    Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — expecting the unexpected — transcribing Bill Roggio on “something that everyone is overlooking” and Ambassador Haqqani on “one of the unwritten books it has been my desire to write” ]
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    I’ve talked about the “Black Banners” hadith and the Mahdi‘s victorious army marching from (roughly) Afghanistan to Jerusalem more than once, and perhaps less frequently, the other prong of the jihad, the Ghazwa-e-Hind, which flows from Pakistan into India. In the video that follows, Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal talks with Husain Haqqani, one-time Pakistani Ambassador to the US — and both have some striking things to say.

    We pick up the conversation close to the end of the first half of a two-tape session at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies — and I’ve provided a transcript after the video, for easier quotation and annotation.

    **

    BILL ROGGIO:

    One of Al-Qaida’s propaganda since it took a beating in Iraq was, that they made the Khorasan, which is an old Islamic empire basically in central Asia and South Asia, they said that this is where we are going to beat them, and once we win in the Khorasan, we’re going to move towards the Levant. So this has become a key part of AQ’s propaganda. What do we think is going to happen when we lose in Afghanistan, when the second superpower loses? That is going to be a huge recruiting boom for foreign terrorists operating in Afghanistan. I think this is something that everyone is overlooking as we’re running for the doors in Afghanistan.

    That’s a pretty powerful prediction, though prediction itself is a high risk enterprise. And it bears repeating that the Khorasan hadith is explicitly an “end times” prophecy. Ambassador Haqqani then doubles up on Bill Roggio’s concern, adding in the Ghazwa-e-Hind, which he describes as both “famous” and “the final, biggest war between good and evil and between Islam and kufr”…

    A lot of people make fun of the Pakistani analyst and Youtube personality, Zaid Hamid, who seems to be the main public proponent of the Ghazwa — take a look here to see a wild sampler! — which is why I find Ambassador Haqqani’s response particularly impactful.

    HUSAIN HAQQANI:

    You know, there are days when I think I should have stayed in the scholarship business and written some of that stuff I was writing at that time. This was one of the things, even before Iraq, I had pointed out. For example, bin Laden had given a statement at that time about Americans being the new Mongols, and nobody could understand what he was talking about, and I said he’s talking about the 1258 conquest of Baghdad, and he’s playing on Islamic history and Islamic mythology.

    And so Khorasan was an important element in that because, if you remember, the Abbasids rose to power through Khorasan, because that was an important element, they overthrew the Umayyads based on the argument that there is a hadith – which in my opinion is of relatively weak significance, but I am taking off my hat of a theologian since I never completed my religious training – but anyway, they used that, that there is a hadith, that the people from Khorasan will come and save the people of the Levant or whatever. And so that was used, and that was used again, and that has been part of the Al-Qaeda thing.

    And then the other part is this famous Ghazwa-e-Hind, and the Pakistani groups use it – actually, just as jihad is the war, a holy war or war for religious purposes, ghazwa is a battle — and there is ostensibly a saying of prophet Muhammad that before the end times, the final, biggest war between good and evil and between Islam and kufr is going to take place in Hind, which is India, which is the land east of the river Indus.

    So Khorasan takes care of what is today Afghanistan and some parts of central Asia, and all of that – it means a lot to people who believe in it, these end times prophecies etcetera. So one of the unwritten books it has been my desire to write, I wrote a piece on it once, an article I think, which said, that, you know, Americans pay a lot of attention to their own end time prophecies, but getting into that whole theater, they have totally neglected this.

    And so far as recruitment is concerned I am totally agreeing with you, that failure in Afghanistan is going to be a big boon for both. The TTP — the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan — and the Pakistani groups are going to start saying, Right, now is the time to start recruiting, and fighting in that famous Ghazwa-e-Hind –let’s get ready for that. And the Arab groups are going to say, Ah, salvation is coming by joining up with the folks who are fighting in Khorasan.

    And both those fronts are going to be a source of a lot of problems.

    Increased jihadist recruitment, and India as a second major front for the jihad — that’s quite a left lead and right cross combo…

    **

    Do you recall the opening of Aldous Huxley‘s final novel, Island?

    “Attention,” a voice began to call, and it was as though an oboe had suddenly become articulate. “Attention,” it repeated in the same high, nasal monotone. “Attention.”

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    Cross-grain thinking, 2: mapping the jihadist mind & AQ’s #3 spot

    Sunday, November 11th, 2012

    [ by Charles Cameron — the different types of “leaders” should give us an idea of the different mental operations in play in the individual minds of the led, as well as the “mind” of the organization — plus fun ]
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    credit for mind map aspect of composite image to valdis krebs

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    Okay, I made my basic point here quite nicely in that little tag-line that gives you the brief overview of each of my posts right next to my name, so I’ll just repeat it here, very slightly amplified for focus:

    The different types of “leaders” we identify in AQ should give us an idea of the different mental operations usually in play in the individual minds of jihadists, as well as within the “mind” of the organization itself.

    I tried to show how cross-grain thinking in general, and thinking that includes both “subjective” and “objective” realities specifically, might play a considerable role in understanding some pressing contemporary issues in my recent post on Mozart — a figure so removed from those problems that some of you may have skipped it. Here’s my ending, with the Mozart details safely removed:

    I think we should track that pattern, know as much as we can of that pattern, write the biography of the way in which some piece of music weaves between inspiration and thought, composer and instrument, mind and matter, performer and audience, studio and home digital music center…

    Then, perhaps, we could begin to map other patterns – in some ways simpler and more urgent ones.

    The sorts of “simpler and more urgent” patterns I was thinking of there include:

  • how discussions become deliberations and deliberations decisions
  • how scenarios are built and understood and sometimes poorly configured to our later detriment
  • how foreign policy plus feedback loops can create blowback and how to minimize it..

  • and specifically,

  • how the “jihadist” radicalization process moves from floating frustration and shame, via identification of a plausible “other” to rage against, to commitment, then via theology (!!) (for divine sanction of otherwise unpalatable acts) to the recognition of a binding moral obligation (fard ‘ayn in AQ terms) — and thence to camps for training in weaponry and the requirements and subtle limitations on Quranically sanctioned war…

  • **

    That last one has been an interest of mine, sitting in the back of my mind as an unanswered problem, quietly gathering data and forming insights for a while now, under a rubric along the lines of the question:

    Can we figure out a rough map of the workings of the “typical” mind of a potential jihadist as it radicalizes?

    It occurs to me that the leadership of an organization likely maps well to the organization’s functions, and those functions to the thought processes in which members are involved so a map of the aspects of leadership may well give us a rough draft of a mind-map for the individual member, including the passage from uninvolved observer to active participant: the process of radicalization.

    This may seem pretty obvious to some of you, but it’s a fresh idea for me, and to me it’s important because we already map communications networks and organizational flows, but the mind — the individual mind is one place we don’t seem to go.

    So I’m thinking in terms of sketching the mind of a “person” who is in some ways AQ as a whole, considered as if it were one sensate human-like being, filled with the usual variety of thoughts and emotions, ideals and pragmatisms, hopes and fears, hunches and hard data, clarities and confusions.. And I’m thinking of doing this by treating “leaders” as though they were distinct but coordinated processes in a single mind.

    We track and map people and their connections, we track and map groups and their connections, we track and map communications and their connections — are we tracking and mapping memes as such? ideas and their connections? minds?

    If we are already tracking ideas and minds — or if we aren’t doing that yet, but could — I’d be on the lookout for possible positive and negative feedback loops within the system, some that enhance the overall operation and could be disrupted, and some that fragment and damage it and could be amplified.

    So that, among other things, God willing, we could learn better ways to dampen some of the oscillations of hate…

    **

    I was looking at a comment in the recent ICSR report, Al-Qaeda at the Crossroads [h/t @azelin], and ran across this quote which struck me from an oblique angle:

    About ten core leaders have been subsequently killed, including Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, Abu Hafs al-Shahri, Samir Khan, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Abu Yahya al-Libi.

    Let’s take a look at these folk: Atiyah Abd al-Rahman was reported via Bill Roggio at Long War Journal as al Qaeda’s “operations chief” and a major planning a major attack on the US for the tenth anniverary of 9/11, as AQ’s “general manager” and bin Laden‘s “chief of staff”. Abu Hafs al-Shahri was another “operations chief”. Samir Khan was a publicist, the editor of the English-language magazine Inspire. Anwar al-Awlaki was a minor theologian with a talent for publicity and a decent understanding of his American audience…

    And as for Abu Yahya al-Libi, here’s an excerpt from an NYT piece about him:”I call him a man for all seasons for A.Q.,” said Jarret Brachman, a former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency who is now research director of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. “He’s a warrior. He’s a poet. He’s a scholar. He’s a pundit. He’s a military commander. And he’s a very charismatic, young, brash rising star within A.Q., and I think he has become the heir apparent to Osama bin Laden in terms of taking over the entire global jihadist movement.”

    On that telling, al-Libi alone would be almost enough for my purposes — but let’s go with the whole list. The AQ mindset involves courage, poetry, scholarship, punditry and command and control. Specify that the scholarship needs to include theology (AQ at one point sent al-Libi to Mauretania for advanced Islamic studies) as well as strategy and guerrilla warfare (think Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, who was well-read in Taber’s The War of the Flea, Chairman Mao, Che Guevara, and Vo Nguyen Giap), and the significant influences on the jihadist mind begin to swim into focus.

    **

    See, I’m nudging my way to something fairly close to the Lincoln mention in Fred Kaplan‘s Slate piece about Petraeus the other day:

    Toward the end of the war, as the senior planning aide to Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall, Lincoln realized that the Army needed to breed a new type of officer to help the nation meet its new global responsibilities in the postwar era. This new officer, he wrote to a colleague, should have “at least three heads—one political, one economic, and one military.” He took a demotion, from brigadier general to colonel, so he could return to West Point and create a curriculum “to improve the so-called Army mind” in just this way: a social science department, encouraging critical thinking, even occasionally dissent.

    How would we map these mental processes? How would we map the jihadist’s equivalent?

    **

    While I was fishing around for AQ leadership lists in search of an education, I ran across Robert Mackey‘s amusing piece on his NYT blog back in 2010, titled Eliminating Al Qaeda’s No. 3, Again, in which he mentioned as killed or captured claimants to the #3 spot Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, described as “a top financial chief for Al Qaeda” and quotes a colleague as saying “many of Mr. Yazid’s predecessors in Al Qaeda’s No. 3 slot” – from the Bush years alone, he lists Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Hamza Rabia and Saif al-Adel.

    Okay, we should definitely add “financial chief” to my list above.

    The humorist and the artist in me often lead the more serious analyst in me to insights I’d not otherwise have access to, and since I’m worrying away at the notion that analysis needs to feature both “interior” (mind, heart) and “external” (world) realities, I keep the artistry and humor in my analyses, and hope that makes them more rather than less accessible — so let’s run with the AQ#3 nonsense for a bit.

    Mackey’s is a slightly tongue in cheek treatment of a reasonably serious topic. On Twitter the humor gets more incisive, with Andy Borowitz claiming 9,000 AQ#3s have been killed, and AQ#3 in person setting up a twitter account and tweeting merrily away for a while, see the two sample tweets in this SPECS graphic:

    My sources for those two tweets were Bupbin and AlQaedaNumber3.

    To be honest, I find the AQ#3 business both irritating — since it shows how little depth our popular understanding of who we’re dealing with really has — and amusing — because it’s so very ripe for satire…

    **

    I’ve been working at this post so long I’m mentally cross-eyed, so feel free to fill me in or chew me out…

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