In a tea room in Sulaimani’s old bazaar that’s dense with the smoke of scores of cigarettes, bunches of grizzled, middle-aged men — some wearing traditional Kurdish baggy trousers, other wearing suits without ties — are arguing furiously about the great question of the day:
What happens to Iraq after ISIS loses the key Iraqi city of Mosul?
For the moment, the Iraqi army, Kurdish peshmerga forces, Shia militias and Sunni tribal units are all united in fighting ISIS. But even in Sulaimani, an Iraqi-Kurdish city close to the border with Iran that is one of the most stable corners of a very unstable Middle East, there is considerable worry about what comes next.… Seguir leyendo »
In his final days hiding out in a compound in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden was still trying to control his global terrorist enterprise, while also taking an intense interest in the welfare of his some two dozen children from his five wives.
It’s another side of the al Qaeda leader that was revealed in 49 documents released Thursday. The new material, which comprises many hundreds of pages, is the fourth group of bin Laden documents to be released by the US government since 2012. They were seized from bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad during the raid by US Navy SEALs that resulted in his death five years ago.… Seguir leyendo »
So it begins: The long-envisioned assault on Mosul, the hugely symbolic Iraqi city where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared ISIS’ self-styled “caliphate” more than two years ago.
Not only is Mosul Iraq’s second largest city, it is also a key to ISIS’ claim to have installed for the first time since the collapse of the Ottoman empire a genuine caliphate with millions of subjects and territory that once encompassed lands the size of the United Kingdom.
There is little doubt that ISIS will lose Mosul and likely before the next US president takes office. On Monday, the commander of the anti-ISIS coalition, US Lt.… Seguir leyendo »
There have been eight lethal terrorist attacks in Europe since 2014, five of them in France alone, carried out by ISIS or by “lone wolves” inspired by the terror group or by al Qaeda.
What do these attacks have in common? The terrorists are almost invariably criminals who have either served time in the French or Belgian prison systems, or they have been convicted for lesser offenses but have avoided jail time.
Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who killed at least 84 people Thursday in Nice, France, had a long record of petty crimes. Bouhlel assaulted a motorist last year for which he received a six-month suspended sentence.… Seguir leyendo »
After a terrorist attack like the one in Florida on Sunday, one of the first questions people always ask is: Why? Why would someone take the lives of innocent civilians who are total strangers? That is a question to which I have long sought an answer. But my search has led me instead to another question: Is an answer even possible?
To try to figure out why terrorists do what they do, researchers at the think tank New America and I reviewed court records in more than 300 cases of people charged with jihadist terrorism in the United States since Sept.… Seguir leyendo »
On Tuesday morning, Brussels was hit by terrorist attacks at transportation hubs — at the airport and at a subway station. Sadly, we have seen such multiple, deadly assaults on transportation targets in Europe before.
In London on July 7, 2005, four al Qaeda-trained British citizens bombed commuters traveling on three trains on the city’s Underground and on a bus, killing 52. In Madrid the previous year, a group of largely first generation North African immigrants to Spain detonated bombs on commuter trains, killing 191.
A key to understanding to such attacks — including Tuesday’s in Brussels — are the explosives used in the bombings.… Seguir leyendo »
In the last months of his life, an isolated Osama bin Laden was in a serious dispute with the two brothers who had been pretty much his only connection to the outside world for the previous eight years.
The brothers — two longtime members of al Qaeda whose family hailed from northern Pakistan, not far from where bin Laden was hiding in the city of Abbottabad — did everything for bin Laden.
Worried about the CIA hunting for him, bin Laden was confined to one building inside the large compound in Abbottabad, which the brothers had moved him to in 2005.… Seguir leyendo »
The attack unfolding Friday at the Radisson Blu in Mali shows that terrorists are particularly interested in striking targets with prominent American brand names that cater to Westerners.
Hotels are in the hospitality business and can’t turn themselves into fortresses, while hotels that house Westerners are, of course, prime targets for ISIS as well as for al Qaeda and its affiliates. These two factors make hotels a particularly attractive target for jihadist terrorists.
The scourge of these attacks on American brand-name hotels and hotels catering to Westerners in the Muslim world is, unfortunately, likely to continue because of the relative ease of access to many of these hotels that terrorists can achieve.… Seguir leyendo »
In a speech in 1942, Winston Churchill said that a recent British victory against the Nazis in North Africa was “not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Might the coalition arrayed against ISIS also be at the end of the beginning of the campaign that eventually will destroy the organization?
Over the past 24 hours the coalition has scored two important tactical victories. The first is the reports of the assassination of “Jihadi John” the notorious British terrorist, who starred in many of ISIS’ beheading videos. U.S. officials now say they are “reasonably certain” that he was killed in a drone strike.… Seguir leyendo »
He is as mysterious in his reported death as he was mysterious in life. Mullah Omar, one of the world’s most wanted men, died in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, more than two years ago, according to Afghan government officials. U.S. officials say they believe this to be a “credible” account.
This is of a piece with Mullah Omar’s life. He rose from being an obscure village mullah to run the country of Afghanistan in the years before the 9/11 attacks, yet he rarely appeared in public and he was almost never photographed. (Indeed, CNN obtained one of the few photographs of Mullah Omar that exist, which was given to me by an Afghan contact shortly after 9/11).… Seguir leyendo »
In one several-hour time period on Friday, the world saw jihadist terror attacks on three continents: In Europe, in North Africa and in the Middle East.
The three attacks underline the diversity of global jihadist terrorism today, both in terms of the types of tactics being used by Islamist terrorists and their choice of targets, demonstrating that such terrorism is no monolith, but can take several forms: “homegrown” extremists in the West, as well as well-trained gunmen and suicide attackers in the Arab world attacking a range of targets from an American commercial venture overseas, to Western tourists in the Arab world and Shia targets.… Seguir leyendo »
The death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may provide some kind of justice for the families of the four people that he and his older brother Tamerlan murdered, as well as the 16 victims who lost limbs in the bombings. But the decision gets us no closer to the big question: Why do this? Why set off a bomb that kills Martin Richard, an angelic 8-year-old boy? Or Lingzi Lu, 23, a graduate student in mathematics from China?
According to Tsarnaev’s own writing as the police closed in on his final hiding place, a boat dry-docked in a backyard in the Boston suburb of Watertown, it was about U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
Seymour Hersh is one of the giants of investigative journalism. Early in his career he broke the story of the My Lai massacre during which hundreds of unarmed civilians were killed by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam in 1968.
Hersh was still going strong after 9/11, breaking (along with “60 Minutes”) the story of the prisoner abuses by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq for The New Yorker in 2004.
Now comes another blockbuster from Hersh in which he asserts, “The White House’s story (about the 2011 U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden) might have been written by Lewis Carroll.”
Hersh’s article appeared in the London Review of Books, not in The New Yorker where he has been a contributor since 1993.… Seguir leyendo »
It was only a matter of time before this would happen in the United States.
Violence in the West aimed at those who draw cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed has become increasingly common.
In January, 12 people were killed by two gunmen at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris, which had run a number of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
A month later in Copenhagen, Denmark, at an event featuring Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who had also drawn cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, one of the attendees was killed by a gunman who had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
On Sunday, two men opened fire outside the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland, Texas.… Seguir leyendo »
The first state visit to the United States of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, which begins this week, was supposed to take place in early March. But the visit was delayed because Republican leaders had invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress during the same time period.
According to two Afghan government officials involved in the planning for the visit, the Afghan government believed American media attention would be largely focused on Netanyahu, so the first U.S. visit of the new Afghan president was delayed by two weeks, which is a useful reminder that there is a sound reason why congressional leaders shouldn’t unilaterally extend invitations to foreign leaders.… Seguir leyendo »
Wednesday’s terrorist attack, which killed 23 people, hit Tunisia where it hurt by targeting its flourishing tourism industry.
The deadly attack on the prominent Bardo Museum near Tunisia’s parliament in the country’s capital, Tunis, is the latest instance of an armed assault carried out by gunmen willing to fight to the death, a tactic that has been widely adopted by jihadist terrorists in recent years, including in North Africa.
Such attacks mimic the 2008 Mumbai assaults in which 10 gunmen from Pakistan went on a rampage in the massive Indian port city. They took hostages and killed more than 160 people over a three-day period, in an attack that drew sustained global TV coverage.… Seguir leyendo »
Newly released al Qaeda documents, including letters to and from Osama bin Laden in the year or so before his May 2011 death, show an organization that understood it had severe problems resulting from the CIA drone program that was killing many of the group’s leaders in Pakistan’s tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.
As a result of this pressure, al Qaeda officials were seriously considering relocating elements of the organization to other countries such as Afghanistan or Iran. They also entered into ceasefire discussions through intermediaries with elements of Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI, although the documents suggest that nothing came of these discussions and there is no evidence in the documents indicating that the Pakistani government had any clue about bin Laden’s location or presence in Pakistan.… Seguir leyendo »
In the past eight months, ISIS has seeded itself in some dozen countries around the globe. Indicative of this was the announcement on Saturday that the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram had pledged its “allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims,” ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.
The global spread of ISIS raises key questions about whether these new affiliates signal an intensification of the threat of terror. It also has important implications for the debate in Congress over Obama’s request for a new authorization to fight ISIS.
Lt. Col. Michael Waltz, a U.S. Special Forces reserve officer who has just returned to the States after advising the Nigerian Ministry of Defence in its fight against Boko Haram, told me, “So far the pledge (to ISIS) seems to be legit.”
Waltz says there is some debate about the timing of the pledge, because Boko Haram has recently come under effective attacks by Nigerian forces allied with the armies of neighboring African countries that are also threatened by the group: “Some folks in the region are saying it’s a sign of desperation, as the regional offensive by Nigeria and its neighbors has knocked Boko Haram on its heels and out of a number of its sanctuaries.… Seguir leyendo »
How big a threat is Al-Shabaab to the United States? Despite the Somali terrorist group’s calls over the weekend for attacks on malls in the West, including the vast Mall of America in Minnesota, the group isn’t much of a threat at all to Americans.
The reality is that Al-Shabaab has shown scant abilities to conduct operations outside of Somalia or neighboring countries such as Kenya. Indeed, the only operation anyone associated with the group has attempted in the West is when a Somali man armed with an ax in 2010 forced himself into the home of Kurt Westergaard — a Danish cartoonist who had depicted the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban — and tried unsuccessfully to break into the fortified safe room where Westergaard was hiding.… Seguir leyendo »
Whenever ISIS carries out a new atrocity, whether it’s beheading a group of Egyptian Christians or enslaving Yazidi women in Iraq or burning its victims alive, the big question most people have is: Why on Earth is ISIS doing this? What could possibly be the point?
Adding to your list of enemies is never a sound strategy, yet ISIS’ ferocious campaign against the Shia, Kurds, Yazidis, Christians, and Muslims who don’t precisely share its views has united every ethnic and religious group in Syria and Iraq against them.
ISIS is even at war with its most natural ally, al Qaeda in Syria.… Seguir leyendo »