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Dan Darling Archives

January 10, 2006

The Waziristan Rebellion

By Dan Darling at 07:46

As indicated by this report and a stream of others, Pakistan is increasingly being challenged in Waziristan by al-Qaeda and its allies, a situation that has been steadily building in momentum ever since the failure of Pakistani troops to defeat al-Qaeda and its IMU allies in the spring of 2004.

This poses a difficult question for the US since our favored policy since late 2001 has been to support the Musharraf government in Pakistan and assist them in fighting al-Qaeda as an internal Pakistani affair. But if the Pakistani military is more or less thrown out of Waziristan as is now looking more and more as may be the case, I think it's fair to raise the question of what we do then given our current problems with regard to US overstretch and the delicate nature of the political situation there. I certainly don't have the answer, but I sure as hell hope that somebody does.

See all Winds coverage related to Waziristan.

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  • Mark Buehner: "With a slight adjustment of policy—or better interpersonal diplomacy—they’d read more
  • John: Remember when the Shias of Gilgit rose up in revolt? read more
  • liberalhawk: "Thats where all the paki-waki, urdu press, etc posts here read more

January 9, 2006

IRGC ground forces commander dies in plane crash

By Dan Darling at 09:38

Reuters and AP are reporting that an IRGC military plane has crashed, killing General Ahmed Kazemi, the commander of the IRGC's ground forces and former commander of its air force, and what looks like several other senior IRGC commanders. No word yet on whether or not Qassem Suleimani was among them, but I suspect we don't get that lucky.

In addition to the repercussions of General Kazemi's death, notably that this is going to be a lot more short-term power consolidated into the hands of IRGC's commander-in-chief Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi and his deputy General Mohammed Baqir Zolqadr (assuming that neither were on the plane, which I doubt since both are more prominent than Kazemi and would have been mentioned first), which seems to be part of a continuing trend in Iran. One thing I've noticed of late about the regime is that if you compare the frequency and prominence of current and ex-IRGC members in the current government to clerics you'll see that Iran looks less like a theocracy and more and more like a traditional military junta.

Oh, and it's worth noting what the US discovered the last time a plane full of IRGC crashed back in February 2003:

The tough line on Iran contemplated by the United States is partly driven by intelligence reports that Iranian revolutionary guards are sheltering al-Qaeda leaders at one of the former shah's hunting lodges, it has emerged. ... The trail of clues that led to a grand hunting lodge - now a military base - in the eastern highlands near the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan surfaced after an air crash in February outside the city of Kerman killed 200 soldiers from the revolutionary guards. A Washington source claimed the crash produced intelligence that the revolutionary guards were "hosting" the al-Qaeda leaders.

Definitely worth keeping an eye on.


The other dead IRGC commanders killed in the crash have been identified as follows:

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  • leaddog2: Can we possibly hope that ALL of the Revolutionary Guards, read more
  • Robert M: Sometimes fortune smiles upon us. read more
  • Trent Telenko: First there is a supposed assassination attempt on President Ahmadinejad read more

Analysis of recent al-Qaeda statements

By Dan Darling at 09:17

As a general rule, I tend to be wary of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, a wariness that I will happily justify on account of the fact that two of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world (Gamaa al-Islamiyyah and Egyptian Islamic Jihad) began their existence as offshoots of the Brotherhood. So it was with some interest that I listened to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's most statement (some of it narrated by American al-Qaeda member Azzam al-Ameriki, aka Adam Gadahn) that included yet another denunciation of the Brotherhood's participation in Egyptian politics. This denunciation itself isn't anything particularly new - al-Zawahiri once went as far as to publish a book called Bitter Harvest that more or less accuses the Brotherhood of betraying the goals of political Islam, though his letter to Zarqawi claimed that the version that reached the general public was only a rough draft that he believed had been circulated by the US to discredit him.

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  • Colt: A-Q have set up a small network in Samaria, as read more

January 6, 2006

Zarqawi's Blitz

By Dan Darling at 07:11

The tragic violence in Iraq that has left more than 160 dead over the last 2 days may strike some as disillusioning in the wake of the success and reasonably non-violent elections on December 15.

As I noted at the time:

As long as Zarqawi is still out there, though, I think it's naive to think that he isn't going to make a renewed effort to destroy whatever government comes to power following the election, which is why as Cordesman and others have noted that the neutralization of his network must serve as an integral part of any strategy for stabilizing Iraq.

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  • Soldier's Dad: IMHO, AlQueda specifically, and the so called "resistance" generally, have read more
  • J Thomas: Iraq is loaded down with weapons. Anybody who wants to read more
  • Aidan Maconachy: Defeating an enemy that blends with the population and strikes read more

January 5, 2006

Chavez revives deicide libel

By Dan Darling at 08:36

I imagine this'll probably get noted by our own HateWatch, but am I the only one who was more than a little freaked to learn that Hugo Chavez seems to have revived the deicide libel?

In a televised Christmas Eve speech, Chavez, a left-winger and a former soldier, said that "minorities, descendants of those who crucified Christ ... have grabbed all the wealth of the world for themselves."

There aren't any further excerpts from the speech, but judging from that one I'm guessing that it went downhill from there. I haven't blogged hardly at all about Chavez, but based on what I have seen of the situation he's getting better and better at his Fidel impression as he systematically dismantles the democratic machinery of Venezuela and is intending to spread his more or less communist ideology throughout Latin America that so far he seems to be succeeding. Both the US News and World Report story from awhile back documenting his support for FARC combined with an encounter I had with Venezuelan dissidents seeking American support last summer while I was in DC was more than enough to convince me that the man was bad news apart from whatever sick beliefs he has about some international Jewish conspiracy.

The problem, of course, is that Chavez isn't too likely to pay for these remarks because he has all the right enemies. Because of alleged CIA involvement in the brief 2002 attempt to depose him, many of his Western and Latin American admirers believe nothing less than that he can do no wrong and that his anti-Western and anti-American attitudes are more or less a good thing, at least as long as he's against the Bush administration. For some people, I guess, that means his heart's in the right place.

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  • J Aguilar: Because of alleged CIA involvement in the brief 2002 attempt read more
  • John-Paul Pagano: I've been mulling over this Chavez speech. Before coming to read more
  • PacRim Jim: Jews own Venezuela's oil? I suppose that to Chavez and read more

January 4, 2006

Further madrassa musings

By Dan Darling at 08:01

As kind of a follow-up to my earlier post in response to William Dalrymple's thoughts on madrassas in the New York Review of Books, the Pakistani newspaper Daily Times, as part of its ongoing and excellent coverage of the "Talibanization" of northern Pakistan over the last several years notes that Pakistani colleges like the Government Degree College in Mir Ali, North Waziristan are breeding grounds for al-Qaeda support and that a student from that university was among those fighters killed alongside senior al-Qaeda leader Abu Hamza Rabia, an event that sort of raises some questions in and of itself.

This anecdote is particularly telling:

A senior teacher at the college said that at least one in four families had lost a member to ‘jihad’ and the youth were inspired by the tribesmen against forces fighting the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. “The tribal youth are the biggest casualty of the war on terror in FATA. As you know the best education one can get is at home and there is no tribal family without pro-jihadi sentiments,” the teacher told Daily Times.

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  • Nitin: Joe, I agree with you one hundred percent. read more
  • Joe Katzman: To preach Islamist hate and death needs to become the read more
  • Kirk Parker: why I called for a major US commitment to read more

January 2, 2006

Madrassa Musings

By Dan Darling at 19:48

Via Belgravia Dispatch, I see that Greg is taking a look at William Dalrymple's piece in New York Review of Books on the role that madrassas play in international terrorism.

I take issue with Dalrymple's analysis on a number of points as far as the 7/7 bombers are concerned, most notably being that the madrassa at Muridke that Tanweer stayed at, for instance, wasn't just a religious school, it's the undisputed headquarters of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the group's "civil service wing," the Markaz ud-Dawaa wal Irshad. Once you understand and accept the connections between the LeT and al-Qaeda, it becomes pretty easy how Tanweer could have gone from being an Islamist into being a terrorist.

More broadly, what I think both Dalrymple and Bergen (whom I think influenced his perceptions of the madrassas) do not understand is that al-Qaeda does not simply a single organization that is always and exclusively focused on attacking Western targets but is instead a network of Islamic terrorist groups pursuing local conflicts (like the "Kashmir jihad" that Dalrymple mentions in the passing) as well as international ones and that this network includes a number of Pakistani organizations including the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Harkat ul-Mujahideen, and so on and so forth. For all of those latter groups, madrassa graduates provide most of the manpower and the cannon fodder and one can only distinguish at great pains between members of the LeT in particular and those of al-Qaeda at their own peril. Other instances of madrassa students providing cannon fodder for terrorist organizations linked to al-Qaeda are that of Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines, Basayev and Khattab's Chechen fighters, and most recently the terrorist groups that are carrying out their own bombing campaign in Bangladesh.

Dalrymple is quite correct to note that a lot of Islamic terrorists come not out of the madrassas but rather out of the hard science curriculums, many of them engineering graduates in the cases of the Egyptians. But I don't think that it's wise to adopt a mutually exclusive position with regard to where terrorists come from. The cannon fodder, particularly that used for guerrilla or at least paramilitary-esque style conflicts are usually made up of madrassa graduates, while many of the actual terrorists such as the bombmakers or the explosives experts tend to come out of the hard sciences. I also think that the US has a vested national security interest in minimizing the influence of or shutting down madrassas directly linked to groups like the Markaz ud-Dawaa wal Irshad if we are seriously interested in minimizing the pool of future al-Qaeda recruits.

One other thing I will say is that I think Marc Sageman's survey is being used far more broadly and authoritatively than I think he ever intended it to, particularly by people who are using it to "prove" that there was no major Iraqi component to international terrorism prior to the US invasion or that madrassa alumni are not a major component for al-Qaeda and its allies. It's a good book and an excellent study, but isn't the end-all be-all when it comes to al-Qaeda.

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  • liberalhawk: please note - my comment on gregs post was made read more

AP notices Sakra

By Dan Darling at 08:21

I see that this story on Louai Sakra (Loa'i Saqra) and his importance within al-Qaeda is finally making some serious rounds in English press, though I noted it back in August when he was captured. It's a pretty good summation of how Sakra managed to evade capture after bankrolling the November 2003 bombings, though I would contest labeling him a middle manager if he's as high-ranking as the Turks claimed at the time of his capture.

In addition to all of this, we get this wonderful anecdote:

Al-Saqa could also be extradited to Jordan, where a military court convicted him, al-Zarqawi and Jordanian-American Raed Hijazi in connection with the failed millennium terror attack. Jordanian prosecutors suggested in their indictment that al-Saqa was an agent coordinating between militants traveling through Turkey to Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Istanbul, Al-Saqa played host to Hijazi and two other militants, including a cousin of al-Zarqawi, helping to arrange their travel to Pakistan for training in neighboring Afghanistan, court documents said.

Now I've noted before, all of this presents major factual problems to all of the pundits out there who want to "prove" that the war in Iraq increased the threat of terrorism by claiming that Zarqawi wasn't involved with al-Qaeda prior to the US invasion of Iraq:

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  • mal: OT: excellent essay read more

December 30, 2005

2005 Year in Review

By Dan Darling at 23:48

This is probably my last post before New Year's as I've been more than a little distracted over the holiday break but I noticed this article that 2005 is a good year for al-Qaeda and its allies and figured I'd post my own take on the good, the bad, and the ugly for 2005.

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  • Colin: I think Putin will feature heavily in 2006. We have read more
  • Rob: 2005, a good year in a continuing fight against Al read more
  • Beard: The useful evidence that we are winning is the extent read more

December 21, 2005

Tidbits from Turkey on Iran

By Dan Darling at 18:02

CIA Director Porter Goss and FBI Director Mueller's visits to Turkey received extremely little attention in the Western press, but from the stuff that's leaked out in the Turkish press, there is reason to think that it might do well for all of us to pay attention to what's going on there.

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  • mitchell porter: Another thought - Iran is not like North Korea or read more
  • Trent Telenko: lewy14, And maybe horses will learn to sing, too, but read more
  • lewy14: Tom, I don't necessarily disagree, but I think there is read more

December 18, 2005

Clarke and Qods Force

By Dan Darling at 05:48

I see the New York Times review of Richard Clarke's novel The Scorpion's Gate is up and in it we find this wonderful tidbit:

In Clarke's novel, the United States has declared victory in Iraq and pulled out, leaving in place a Shiite government that's a puppet of Iran. Distracted by Iraq, America has ignored the far more serious threat posed by Iran and its little-known Qods (or Jerusalem) Force, "the covert action arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps," which Clarke asserts (here and in his nonfiction) has long been among Al Qaeda's chief backers. "Washington did Tehran's work for them," one of his characters explains. "While all the American attention was focused on car bombs in Baghdad, the Iranians secretly built nuclear weapons while denying it and tricking the Europeans and Americans into thinking that they were five years away from a bomb."

I seem to recall somebody else who was also raising the alarm bells on Qods Force back in October ...

Now Clarke, as I think even a cursory reading of Against All Enemies indicates, is about the last person to be in the tank for the Bush administration, so I just wanted to get rid of the canard that they're the only ones advancing this argument to begin with.

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  • C-Low: So does this mean Clarke and all those LLL's like read more
  • John Hadjisky: Is Iraq a distraction? No. The Pentagon and the White read more
  • Glen Wishard: "A novel about the perils of not listening to its read more

December 17, 2005

Cordesman Updated

By Dan Darling at 23:16

I'm becoming more and more convinced that this man doesn't actually exist and is instead a collective pen name for a whole think tank on his own right, but he has another update from December 9 on Iraq's Evolving Insurgency. I don't have time to go through all of it right now, but it looks very interesting and well worth reading, including stuff on public support for the war, a look at who's winning and losing as far as the insurgency is concerned, long-term projections, and lessons we can learn from the conflict.

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  • Dan Darling: John: As I mentioned before, I don't know a lot read more
  • John: Dan...please use. I seem to be slogging Tony but I read more
  • Demosophist: Just to be fair, there are several interpretations one might read more
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