May 28, 2003
Winning the Islamist War
U.S. News has a good article on the unseen counter-terrorism war against al-Qaeda. Since September 11 the good guys have been winning:
Al Qaeda's wounds run deep. Over half of its key operational leaders are out of action, officials tell U.S. News. Its top leaders are increasingly isolated and on the run. Al Qaeda's Afghan sanctuary is largely gone. Its military commander is dead. Its chief of operations sits in prison, as do some 3,000 associates around the world. In the field, every attempt at communication now puts operatives at risk. The organization's once bountiful finances, meanwhile, have become precarious. One recent intercept revealed a terrorist pleading for $80, sources say.
Cofer Black, former head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center (CTC) had plans before September 11 to kill bin Laden--Osama went after him in the 90s--but those plans were squashed "on the order of higher-ups." After the attacks on Washington and New York City, Black created a Matrix more deadly than anything Keau Reeves could dream up:
Within days, Black's team came up with its answer to al Qaeda. They called it the Worldwide Attack Matrix. It was an operational war plan, a no-holds-barred leap back to the agency's heyday of covert action. As detailed in Bob Woodward's book Bush at War, the Matrix called for a worldwide campaign to root out its cells in 80 countries. Intelligence officials confirmed to U.S. News the dramatic scope of the Matrix and related proposals. The new plans authorized the use of deadly force, break-ins, and psychological warfare. They allowed the CIA to pour millions of dollars into friendly Arab intelligence services and permitted the once gun-shy agency to work with any government--no matter how unsavory--as long as it got results. On September 17, six days after the attack, President Bush signed an executive order approving virtually everything the CIA had asked for.
Even with the CTC's success, there's information they haven't been able to get through since they measure the incoming data in terabytes. What secrets are waiting to be discovered? Will this info glut prevent us from stopping another September 11-type attack?
The story describes two al-Qaedas. One is a group of international "franchises" who are ideologically connected to bin Laden. Then there is the inner sanctum, the "real" al-Qaeda, a "Mafia-like grouping with its own rules, finances, and 'made' members."
To no surprise to those who have been following the Islamist War, this article shows Saudi Arabia to be the venture capitalist for al-Qaeda. While many thought bin Laden personally funded his terrorist cause, the CIA learned money was actually provided "through a network of Islamic charities, most of them based in Saudi Arabia and tied to influential Saudis." To use Glenn Reynolds' words, "The Saudis are not our friends."
Kudos have to go out to the Bosnians. Because of them the CIA discovered a computer in Sarajevo filled with al-Qaeda's history. Kudos also go to Jordan for interrogating prisoners and to Pakistan for helping capture key al-Qaeda leaders.
To understand the Islamist's mind, there's this about a captured Arab sitting in Guantanamo Bay:
The Arab fighter had come to Gitmo, as the base is called, weighing a bare 66 pounds last year. He had shrapnel wounds, suffered from tuberculosis, and had lost a lung. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey vividly remembers his first encounter with "Bob." Dunlavey ran interrogations at the base until November of last year. By the time they met, Bob was making a rapid recovery. He had put on 50 pounds and, sitting across a table from Dunlavey, he thanked him for the food and medical treatment. "General, you are probably a good Christian," Dunlavey recalls him saying. "And you are probably a good man. But if I ever get free, I will kill you."
Dunlavey went on to say, "These people are implacably committed to apocalyptic terrorism." Their goal is the absolute destruction of America as we know it."
There's no reason to negotiate with Islamists. Since they want to die so badly, the best thing we can do is oblige them.
Read the whole thing. There's lots more in it for us to chew on.