February 5, 2008

Al-Qaeda "Movin' On Out?"

Hatched by Dafydd

According to prepared testimony delivered by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- chaired, oxymoronically enough, by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IVth (D-WV, 60%) -- al-Qaeda has largely been thwarted in their attempts to launch attacks in Iraq; so they are focusing on conducting future operations from the "lawless" regions of Pakistan along the Afghanistan border. But they are still aggressively pursuing a strategy of carrying out major attack on the West, and have indeed tried several already (which we and our allies shut down):

Last summer, for example, with our allies, we unraveled terrorist plots linked to al-Qa’ida and its associates in Denmark and Germany.... The death last week of Abu Layth al-Libi, al-Qa'ida’s charismatic senior military commander and a key link between al-Qa’ida and its affiliates in North Africa, is the most serious blow to the group’s top leadership since the December 2005 death of then external operations chief Hamza Rabi’a.

Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) suffered major setbacks last year, although it still is capable of mounting lethal attacks. Hundreds of AQI leadership, operational, media, financial, logistical, weapons, and foreign fighter facilitator cadre have been killed or captured. With much of the Sunni population turning against AQI, its maneuver room and ability to operate have been severely constrained. AQI’s attack tempo, as measured by numbers of suicide attacks, had dropped by more than half by year’s end after approaching all time highs in early 2007. We see indications that al-Qa’ida’s global image is beginning to lose some of its luster; nonetheless, we still face multifaceted terrorist threats.

Unfortunately, they are also making progress towards once again being able to attack the United States directly:

Al-Qa’ida’s central leadership based in the border area of Pakistan is its most dangerous component. Last July, we published a National Intelligence Estimate titled, "The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland," which assessed that al-Qa’ida’s central leadership in the past two years has been able to regenerate the core operational capabilities needed to conduct attacks in the Homeland.

In particular, here are McConnell's concerns:

  • That "Al-Qa’ida has been able to retain a safehaven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)." It's not as large or secure as the one that used to be in Afghanistan; but it can be used for training purposes and as a platform whence to stage attacks "in Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the United States."
  • They have managed to maintain a cadre of somewhat skilled lieutenants and operations officers in the Pakistan border region.
  • And they have managed to recruit a number of Westerners to their Pakistan safe haven to carry out major attacks on the West.

One very positive note from the DNI:

AQI tactics, tradecraft, and techniques are transmitted on the Internet, but AQI documents captured in Iraq suggest that fewer than 100 AQI terrorists have moved from Iraq to establish cells in other countries.

So the spirit is willing, but the investment of flesh is weak.

Also, interestingly enough, it appears that, like Dr. Frank-N-Furter, AQI's mission is a failure, their lifestyle's too extreme: Numerous religious leaders formerly associated with al-Qaeda have begun denouncing them and their violence (against Moslems, that is); and fewer unconnected terrorist groups and extremists see AQ, or especially AQI, as the model for their own hirabah (unholy war).

I think it increasingly clear that the current situation in Pakistan is unacceptable: Americans can go up to but not across the border between Afghanistan and Pakisan, while President Pervez Musharraf pledges to crack down on the militants in Waziristan and Balochistan and then breaks his pledge. (Whether out of mendacity or simple inability to make headway against the Taliban and al-Qaeda and their supporters is irrelevant.) We must either negotiate a new arrangement with Musharraf -- or else implement one in spite of him.

Later, speaking abour Iran's WMD programs, Mike McConnell clarifies some of the conclusions of the infamous National Intelligence Estimate that said Iran had stopped its nuclear program. What the NIE actually meant, says the Director of National Intelligence is:

  • Iran stopped "warhead design and weaponization" and covert attempts to enrich uranium;
  • They have not stopped declared programs to enrich uranium (perhaps even weaponizing it);
  • And they have actually accelerated their ballistic-missile program, closing in on being able to fire a missile from Iran and hit targets in the United States mainland.

About the other elements of Iran's WMD program:

We know that Tehran had a chemical warfare program prior to 1997, when it declared elements of its program. We assess that Tehran maintains dual-use facilities intended to produce CW agent in times of need [sound familiar...? -DaH] and conducts research that may have offensive applications. We assess Iran maintains a capability to weaponize CW agents in a variety of delivery systems.

We assess that Iran has previously conducted offensive BW [biological warfare] agent research and development. Iran continues to seek dual-use technologies that could be used for biological warfare.

Finally, McConnell noted that, like Iraq, the Afghan army is growing slowly and becoming more and more effective; while the Afghan National Police has grown more quickly -- but "corruption, insufficient training and equipment, and absenteeism hamper their effectiveness."

McConnell concluded on a hopeful (if not Pollyannic) note:

I, my colleagues, and the Intelligence Community we represent are fully committed to arming our policymakers, warfighters, and law enforcement officers with the best intelligence and analytic insight we can. This is necessary to enable them to take the actions and make the decisions that will protect American lives and American interests, here and around the world.

Considering that the Senate I-Com, the very body that DNI Mike McConnell was addressing, now sports such stalwarts of the aggressive collection and distribution of intelligence as Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD, 100%), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI, not yet rated), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Dianne "DiFi" Feinstein (D-CA, 90%) -- not to mention their Republican counterparts, including Sens. Chuck Hagel (NE, 75%), John Warner (VA, 64%) (for the rest of this year), and Olympia Snowe (ME, 36%) -- the idea that they will make any decision or take any actions at all about anything significant is charming... but about as realistic as the idea that Ron Paul would aggressively pursue the war against global hirabah.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 5, 2008, at the time of 11:51 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Evilned

My predictions:

Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States.

Hillary and her cronies will roll the clock back to 9/10/2001, throw open the borders and pass amnesty for illegals.

We WILL suffer mass casualty attacks from Islamic terrorists, not excluding the detonation of a nuclear weapon in the United States.

President Clinton will do nothing other then make sure she maintains power uber alles.

An author I read, who just retired from the Army wrote on a forum that he thinks Al Qeda has several nukes tucked away. He also thinks they haven't tried to use them because they have degraded to the point of uselessness.

I don't believe he was in a position to know this, he probably heard things at the officers club or something.

Nukes actually have a shelf life and need to be serviced constantly, mostly having to to with the electronic.

I am not hopeful for the future of this nation. :(

The above hissed in response by: Evilned [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 4:37 AM

The following hissed in response by: David M

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/06/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 8:08 AM

The following hissed in response by: LarryD

Evilned, the more sophisticated nukes also suffer from tritium decay.

Hillary's negatives are too high, I think Obama will be the Dems nominee.

And the MSM, which has been giving McCain a lot of subtle support, will turn on McCain if he gets the nomination.

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 9:20 AM

The following hissed in response by: Geoman

"Like Dr. Frank-N-Furter, AQI's mission is a failure, their lifestyle's too extreme"

See, this is what I come for, the gen-x salad of obscure oddly apropos cultural toasties. Keep up the good work.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 6, 2008 10:58 AM

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