Tag Archives: al-Qaeda

Mark Collins – Increasingly Kinetic US Small Ball Military Engagement in Somalia

POTUS has been considerably expanding the limited American involvement in this splendid little war in accordance with his small ball approach to intervention abroad–excerpts from a major NY Times article:

In Somalia, U.S. Escalates a Shadow War

The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993.

The Somalia campaign, as it is described by American and African officials and international monitors of the Somali conflict, is partly designed to avoid repeating that debacle, which led to the deaths of 18 American soldiers. But it carries enormous risks — including more American casualties, botched airstrikes that kill civilians and the potential for the United States to be drawn even more deeply into a troubled country that so far has stymied all efforts to fix it.

The Somalia campaign is a blueprint for warfare that President Obama has embraced and will pass along to his successor. It is a model the United States now employs across the Middle East and North Africa — from Syria to Libya — despite the president’s stated aversion to American “boots on the ground” in the world’s war zones. This year alone, the United States has carried out airstrikes in seven countries and conducted Special Operations missions in many more.

American officials said the White House had quietly broadened the president’s authority for the use of force in Somalia by allowing airstrikes to protect American and African troops as they combat fighters from the Shabab, a Somali-based militant group that has proclaimed allegiance to Al Qaeda.

In its public announcements, the Pentagon sometimes characterizes the operations as “self-defense strikes,” though some analysts have said this rationale has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is only because American forces are now being deployed on the front lines in Somalia that they face imminent threats from the Shabab…

About 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Kenya and Uganda to carry out more than a half-dozen raids per month, according to senior American military officials. The operations are a combination of ground raids and drone strikes…

The escalation of the war can be seen in the bureaucratic language of the semiannual notifications that Mr. Obama sends to Congress about American conflicts overseas.

The Somalia passage in the June 2015 notification is terse, saying American troops “have worked to counter the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida and associated elements of al-Shabaab.”

In June, however, the president told Congress that the United States had become engaged in a more expansive mission.

Besides hunting members of Al Qaeda and the Shabab, the notification said, American troops are in Somalia “to provide advice and assistance to regional counterterrorism forces, including the Somali National Army and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces.”

American airstrikes, it said, were carried out in defense of the African troops and in one instance because Shabab fighters “posed an imminent threat to U.S. and AMISOM forces.”..

AMISOM’s official website is here. The mission is authorized by the UNSC but not UN-run. Just like the NATO mission in Afghanistan, see from 2011: “Afghanistan: News You Won’t See in the Canadian Media“. One would fall off the chair if our government got the Canadian Forces involved in any way with UNISOM; they seem to make a theological distinction between operations mandated by the UN and those actually run by the organization.

Still relevant from 2013:

US Droning On Ever More Widely

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Counter-Terrorism: CSIS' New C-51 Powers Not So Threatening in Practice

The civil liberties sky has not fallen–and surely will not under the Liberal government:

John Ivison: Fear of oppressive surveillance by spy agencies under Tories’ anti-terror legislation unfounded

Remember how the Conservative anti-terror legislation was going to usher in a new era of omnipresent government surveillance?

Well, it hasn’t happened — at least not according to the scraps of information that are publicly available.

The latest figures made available were on electronic surveillance, released by the Department of Public Safety [report here].

As part of the anti-terror bill, it became a crime to “knowingly” advocate or promote the commission of a terrorism offence.

Critics claimed that there would be a rash of wiretap authorizations, as police sought to crack down on speech crimes.

But the numbers for 2015 suggest there were precisely two cases where the authorities were given authorization to listen in on people suspected of promoting terrorism.

We don’t know how many prosecutions resulted from the authorizations but it’s a good bet there were none…

CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, was [also] given wide-ranging powers to disrupt suspected terrorist plots, rather than just gathering information about them.

The new law gave CSIS the power to ask judges to approve warrants, even if its preventative measures breached rights or freedoms otherwise protected by law.

As critics Craig Forcese and Kent Roach have made clear, the law risked making judges “enablers of illegality [more here].”

Yet here again, it appears the security forces have not used their new powers.

When he was before a Senate committee last March, CSIS chief Michel Coulombe said the agency had used the disruption powers nearly two dozen times but had not sought judicial approval in any of the cases. Rather, the disruption powers were more benign — for example, talking to family, friends and community leaders close to the person suspected of being at risk of radicalization…

The Liberals are currently reviewing Canada’s national security laws. They have promised to repeal “problematic elements” of the legislation, and amending what Forcese and Roach call the “outer limits” to the speech-crime and threat-disruption provisions would seem to be a reasonable compromise between preserving freedoms and protecting Canadians…

Now see what the Aussies are planning:

Australia: Dangerous Terrorists? Just Keep’em Locked Up


Under PM’s Thumb: Proposed Canadian Parliamentary Security/Intel Review Committee

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Africa: UN's CAR MINUSCA Mission to be Canadian Forces' Schwerpunkt?

More trial-ballooning from the government (another recent example here on shipbuilding):

Canada peacekeepers seem set for Central African Republic deployment before end of year

The government’s decision on where in Africa to send Canadian peacekeepers will rank as one of its most portentous — if the Liberals get it wrong it could prove fatal to their prospects at the next election [that’s quite the stretch].

This helps explain why, a year after Justin Trudeau proclaimed that Canada is back on the world stage, Canada is not yet back.

The plans appear to have been drawn, scrapped and redrawn in recent months. But sources suggest that if a decision on deployment is not imminent, it will at least come down before the end of the year.

The most likely outcome is that the bulk of Canada’s resources [total up to 600 military, 150 police] will be sent to Central African Republic, the landlocked country of 5 million that ranks 187th out of 188 nations on the human development index [more here and see Canadian government’s advisory: “AVOID ALL TRAVEL“].

It sounds increasingly as if some military resources will also be deployed in neighbouring Mali, where the United Nations mission covets Canada’s Chinook helicopters [see “Canadian UN Peacekeeping in Mali? RCAF Helicopters?“].

But while the Trudeau government is conscious of the need to confront Muslim extremism in Mali, it is keen to resist calls to commit hundreds of combat [surely only if necessary] troops in a country where 32 UN peacekeepers have already died this year.

CAR is considered a much less risky bet for Canadian personnel — according to Walter Dorn, professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College of Canada [and a big booster of UN peacekeeping for Canada]…

The thinking at Global Affairs Canada [the new title of our foreign ministry] (admittedly, often not the same as the thinking inside the Department of National Defence), is that the conflict in the CAR is relatively self-contained — a quasi-peace where some armed groups have already signed up to a disarmament agreement introduced by the newly-elected government.

…a UN special report last spring said CAR has made “considerable progress” since early 2013, when Muslim Séléka rebels forced the government to flee, amidst fighting with mainly Christian anti-balaka militias.

There are currently 10,000 UN troops and 1700 police in the country keeping a kind of peace [Operation MINUSCA], despite outbreaks of violence between armed groups, and incidents like the murder this week of a senior army officer in the capital Bangui, which set off clashes that left 11 dead [see also: “Violence hinders aid delivery in northern Central African Republic: agencies”]…

It is striking how minuscule (good UN mission title?) is the European contribution to the CAR mission–scroll down from latter part of p. 2 PDF here. There are quite a few more Euros in the Mali mission, e.g. Germany, Netherlands, Sweden–p. 5 PDF here; and there is also a major French combat force around, Opération Barkhane.

Meanwhile we see this from the Chief of the Defence Staff; the dithering, to be polite, is getting embarrassing:

Gen. Jon Vance flips and flops on Africa

Posts on (killer) peacekeeping broadly:

Canadian UN Peacekeeping in Mali? RCAF Helicopters? Part 2

“The end of peacekeeping, and what comes next for Canada’s soldiers” [note “Comments”]

It remains ass-backwards to announce the number of military personnel one will commit before deciding on which missions–with which roles therein–one is willing to undertake.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Afghanistan "Worth It"–Don't Lose it

And keep in mind the truly nefarious role of miscreant Pakistan–excerpts from a major NY Times article, by a reporter with great Afghan experience, that is a clear message to the next American president (the current one really doesn’t care much):

15 Years in the Afghan Crucible
By CARLOTTA GALL [more here]

KABUL, Afghanistan — There is an end-of-an-era feel here these days. Military helicopters rattle overhead, ferrying American and Afghan officials by air rather than risk cars bombs in the streets. The concrete barriers, guarding against suicide attacks, have grown taller and stronger around every embassy and government building, and whole streets are blocked off from the public.

It has been 15 years since American forces began their bombing campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda on Oct. 7, 2001, and sometimes it feels as if we are back to square one, that there is nothing to show for it.

The recent American military drawdown has been drastic — from over 100,000 troops a few years ago to a force of 8,500 today. Thousands of Afghans have been made jobless as bases and assistance programs have closed. Meanwhile tens of thousands of Taliban are on the offensive in the countryside, threatening to overrun several provincial towns and staging huge bombings here in the capital…

For Afghans, and for many of us who have followed Afghanistan for decades — I have been visiting the country since the early 1990s — the times are reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s withdrawal in 1989 after a 10-year occupation. The Communist government and army that the Soviets left behind survived only three years before they were overthrown by the mujahedeen in 1992.

The Taliban, supported by Pakistan, seem intent on repeating that scenario, hoping to seize control of a section of territory along the Pakistani border and declare once more their Islamic Emirate. Since the Taliban temporarily overran the town of Kunduz last fall, many Afghans have lost confidence that the government can protect them…

Despite years of denials from Pakistan, it is now widely understood that the Taliban has all this time been mentored and equipped by the Pakistani intelligence agency. Yet President Obama has failed, as did his predecessor, President George W. Bush, to end Pakistan’s long flirtation with Al Qaeda and its brand of terrorism.

Osama bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahri, is still believed to be living in Pakistan, alongside the top Taliban leaders — and continues directing mayhem through his adherents across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. American Special Operations forces have been raiding Al Qaeda groups infiltrating back into Afghanistan over the last two years.

And the Pakistani military is ever more brazen in its support for the insurgents, even flying in retired military officers to train the Taliban by chartered helicopter — one crash-landed in a Taliban-controlled area of eastern Afghanistan in August bearing six retired military personnel and a Russian pilot.

Watching so many deadly attacks continue over the years with little done to prevent them at their source has been one of my hardest experiences as a reporter. And it is increasingly difficult to answer Afghans when they wonder how America could have been so blind or careless to ignore Pakistan’s role in sponsoring terrorism [see this interview with Ms Gall about a book of hers: “Pakistan, The Taliban And The Real ‘Enemy’ Of The Afghanistan War”]…

Reconstruction was frustratingly slow at first — even now, most of the country still does not have electricity — but has grown steadily. For years the roads were an agonizing trial of bumping and jolting, but these days journeys that used to take several days can now be completed in hours. In the provinces, administration buildings, schools, hospitals, clinics, police stations and even prisons have sprouted.

Over time I began to notice a new generation of trained professionals working in government offices: Young men with degrees in charge of district offices, teenage women teaching classes to the younger students, female graduates working in private universities, and officials in the ministries and embassies returning from abroad with master’s degrees and doctorates.

…Afghan friends and acquaintances rarely hesitate when asked whether the American intervention was worth it: “No question” is the usual response. There have been many painful mistakes, of course, but the building, the education, the defense and diplomatic support have all helped Afghanistan rise from the ashes.

Women especially have gained confidence…

Most Afghans say they will need American support in defense and diplomacy to counter the continuing threat of terrorism and to protect them from predatory neighbors beyond the 2017 deadline that President Obama has made for the drawdown. There is a real danger the Afghan Army could collapse next year if the fighting and casualties remain as intense, and so a continued United States military commitment will remain essential…

Peace will be a tall order and require a high level of American commitment for years more. But the result would be welcomed overwhelmingly by Afghans who have endured decades of war, and serve as a lasting tribute to the families of the American soldiers who died there.

Carlotta Gall, a senior foreign correspondent for The New York Times, spent nearly 12 years reporting in Afghanistan since 2001.

Meanwhile Canadians have essentially washed their minds of Afghanistan save for a wide-spread acceptance that it was not “worth it“. Fie on them; they should read Ms Gall’s entire piece.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – NJ/NY Bombings: How a Young Afghan-American Turned to Jihad

Ahmad Rahami’s sad story of a terrible inability to reconcile a clash of cultures–excellent in-depth reporting at the NY Times:

Journey From Class Clown to Suspect in Chelsea Bombing

If there was one child Mohammad Rahami had to worry about bringing shame upon the family, it was Ahmad. In the fifth grade, his teacher complained to Mr. Rahami that Ahmad acted like a king in class. In junior high, he broke a friend’s nose. Even worse was high school — after Mr. Rahami arranged for Ahmad to marry a good Afghan girl from Kabul, Ahmad dated a Dominican girl, getting her pregnant in his senior year.

The shame. They had falling-outs, so many of them. In the beginning, because Ahmad was just becoming too American for his conservative Afghan parents, who had moved to New Jersey after Mr. Rahami fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets as part of the mujahedeen in the 1980s. And then, in the last few years, they fell out over much darker fears. Ahmad spent hours watching videos on the internet espousing violent jihad, embracing some of the most prominent purveyors of that message: Bin Laden, Awlaki, Adnani, the men who in that world needed no first names. Mr. Rahami said he asked Ahmad to stop.

“This is wrong,” Mr. Rahami recalled telling his son, one of eight children. “You don’t know if they are real Muslims. You shouldn’t watch them. You have nothing to do with them.”

But nothing stopped Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, who now stands accused of bombings in New York and New Jersey and a string of other attempts

Ahmad Rahami in high school. He is seen third from left, with Maria Mena hugging him from behind…

[In high school] Maria Mena, whose family was from the Dominican Republic, became Ahmad’s sweetheart. A photograph shows the couple in a swimming pool, with another couple and three friends, a diverse group, Maria smiling broadly and hugging Ahmad from behind. Mr. Rahami was furious at the relationship. The family had arranged for Ahmad to marry a woman in Afghanistan. He told his son that he could not have a girlfriend while he was engaged to someone else.

No surprise, but Ahmad did what he wanted. By senior year, Maria was pregnant. The teenagers were excited, holding hands in the hallways, grinning and touching each other. In a prom picture, Maria is pregnant, wearing a shy smile and a white dress. Ahmad seems happy, too, wearing a shiny pink vest and a matching tie over a white shirt.

His father had had enough. One day, Ahmad came to school upset, Ms. Podhradsky said. His parents were forcing him to move back to Afghanistan after graduation.

In early July 2007, just after Ahmad graduated, he was put on a plane — to Pakistan, it turned out — leaving behind his girlfriend, who would give birth to their daughter without him…

Please read it all.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Islam, Jihads, Caliphates and End Times

Excerpts from a review article at the Times Literary Supplement:

Wars of Religion
THOMAS SMALL [more here]

This piece forms part of a TLS Special Feature, our primer on the complex politics and religions of the Middle East

A hadith (or saying of the Prophet Muhammad) considered sound by all major authorities and widely circulated among Sunni Islamists states that the history of the umma will go through five phases: first, the Prophet himself will rule over it and teach it the right way to live; then will come the time of caliphate, when caliphs will rule according to the Prophet’s teachings; then the time of benign kingship obtained by force, followed by the time of oppressive kingship; finally, the time of caliphate will rise again, where a caliph will rule once more in accordance with the Prophet’s teachings, and usher in the end of the world.

From this eschatological perspective, Ataturk’s abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1923 marked the end of the third of those five phases, the phase of benign kingship. Since then, the Islamic world has been suffering the injustice of oppressive kingship, whether at the hands of brutal dictators or morally bankrupt monarchs. And though jihadist groups differ over the best way to achieve it, they are united by an ultimate aim, which they share, broadly speaking, with all forms of Islamism: the restoration of the Caliphate as a necessary step along the way to the Last Judgement.

In June 2014 a particularly savage Al Qaeda splinter group achieved this aim – though not before falling out with its parent organization. Having conquered territory on either side of the Iraqi–Syrian border, the Islamic State announced that its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would henceforth be known as Caliph Ibrahim. From his base along the Euphrates in the Syrian city of Raqqa – where the most famous Abbasid caliph of them all, Harun al-Rashid, also based his court, moving it there from fractious Baghdad in AD 796 – the caliph and his followers now prepare for the End Times, which they believe are imminent, by purifying the world of idolaters and apostates.

The rise of the Islamic State is simply the latest twist in the unfolding tale of the various jihads that have plagued the Muslim world for two decades now, claiming well over a million lives, mostly Muslim. People are understandably struggling to know what to think about all this…

Ignoring or playing down the way Islam in particular sacralizes warfare is to obscure much. Islam was originally a political theology that went something like this: Out of all the peoples and tribes of the world, God chose a tribe of Arabia called Quraysh to carry out his final plan for humanity. From among their number he selected a prophet, revealed his will to him “in clear Arabic”, and instructed him to establish the quintessential divinely ordained polity at Medina. But the death of this prophet was still just the beginning of the story. The Quraysh remained God’s chosen instrument, despite the non-Qurashis swelling their ranks. And though the umma disagreed about how they could determine God’s will in the matter of who exactly was to be caliph — whether by tribal deliberation, patrilineal heredity, trial by combat, or a combination of the three — it was a matter of faith (except for some outlying schismatics) that God intended him to be a Qurashi, and that under his charismatic leadership the Qurashis would extend God’s sovereignty across the earth until every worldly power was placed under his dominion…

Very relevant, based on a major 2015 piece at The Atlantic:

“What ISIS Really Wants”: The End, My Friend

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Islamic Reformation? Moroccan Monarch Section

Further to this 2015 post based on the Egyptian president,

The call comes from a very interesting source–will many listen? This event has so far received much less Western media coverage than it should get…

we now hear from a descendant of the Muslim prophet (PBUH):

The boldness of a king’s speech
Bernard-Henri Lévy is a French author, philosopher and activist [more here].

The date is Aug. 20.

In Tangier, King Mohammed VI is giving a speech, as he does every year, to mark the revolution of Morocco’s king and people.

And, lo and behold, after anodyne remarks on the evils of underdevelopment, on Africa’s destiny and on the contribution of the Moroccan resistance to the Algerian revolution, he launches into an all-out attack against radical Islam and the dark string of murders recently committed in its name, leading off with the July 26 killing of a Catholic priest inside a Normandy church as an act of “unforgivable madness.”

A little thing? Yes and no.

To begin with, I am not aware of any other head of state in that part of the world who has spoken out with such a strong voice. But more important, Mohammed VI is not just any head of state. His very special standing in the Sunni Arab world, his titles of “Sharifian Monarch” and “Commander of the Faithful,” and especially his status as a “descendant of the Prophet,” give the least of his declarations a weight that they would not have in the mouth of another.

On the day of his speech, he is not content to declare war on the jihadis. He tells them that the war will be waged on Earth and in heaven. He places them outside the law, not only of men, but also of God.

He will meet them, he says, on the field of their belief and challenge the meaning that they give to this or that verse of the Koran. Relying on other verses, on commentary on the verses they cite, or simply on the sovereign authority of his own reading and interpretation, he will unmask them as imposters…

Like nearly all heads of state, Muslim and non-Muslim, he could have been content to intone, over and over, that there was “no link” between Islamic radicalism and Islam writ large.

Mohammed VI is doing the opposite. He is acknowledging the link and cutting it.

…at the beginning of his reign, he launched his great reform to promote equality of the sexes, fighting gender privilege with exegesis and consulting women’s organizations as well as religious scholars, with the result that, two years later, Morocco had a family code that was equally consistent with the precepts of Islam and the modern principles of human rights.

It was in just this way, too, that the emancipation of the Enlightenment began in Western Christendom, with the God of natural rights posed against that of the Inquisitors, and, once the new movement had taken root, with Locke’s and Bodin’s recognition that each of us contains a share of transcendence, the strongest guarantee of our inviolability and our rights…

On doit espérer. An earlier post based on BHL:

Frankreich Judenrein? Nein!

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds