Posts Tagged ‘Khorasan’

US official reminds Pakistan it’s still on notice

June 22, 2018
US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G. Wells acknowledges during a congressional hearing that Pakistan “has an important role to play and has legitimate interests” in Afghanistan.
US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G. Wells acknowledges during a congressional hearing that Pakistan “has an important role to play and has legitimate interests” in Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON: The United States has reminded Pakistan that it’s still on notice to eliminate all terrorist sanctuaries from its territory, although relations between the two countries show some signs of improvement.

The reminder — conveyed by US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G. Wells at a congressional hearing on Wednesday — re-emphasises the point that Washington never fails to mention the need for Pakistan to eliminate terrorism.

Take a look: In tit-for-tat move, Pakistan imposes travel restrictions on US diplomats

“Pakistan is on notice that we expect its unequivocal cooperation ending sanctuaries that the Taliban have enjoyed since the remnants of their toppled regime fled into Pakistan in 2001,” said Ms Wells while reviewing one year of the Trump administration’s South Asia Strategy.

Islamabad has rejected such American allegations and urged Washington not to blame it for failures

In a New Year Day message this year, President Donald Trump too had put Pakistan on notice, accusing it of “taking billions and billions of dollars” from the United States while “housing the same terrorists” that it was supposed to fight. And a few days after the speech, Washington suspended more than two billion dollars of security aid to Pakistan.

Pakistan has rejected these allegations as unfounded and has urged Washington not to blame Islamabad for its failures in Afghanistan.

In her testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on “US policy toward Afghanistan”, Ms Wells acknowledged that the policy of coercing Pakistan into accepting US demands had not been very successful.

“Despite some positive indicators, we have not yet seen Pakistan take the sustained or decisive steps that we would have expected to see ten months after the announcement of the (Trump administration’s) South Asia strategy,” she said.

The senior US official acknowledged that Pakistan “has an important role to play and has legitimate interests” in Afghanistan, which “it wants to ensure are met during any peace process”.

The United States, she said, was not only aware of Pakistan’s interests but was also willing to work with Islamabad to ally its concerns.

“The dialogue that we have with Pakistan seeks to address those concerns while also encouraging additional concrete support for Afghan peace efforts,” she said.

Her statement indicates that the Trump administration has reached the same conclusion that their predecessors had after years of engagement in Afghanistan — it’s an unwinnable war.

“Of course, the Taliban remain a resilient foe. Afghan forces are still labouring to regain control of large areas of rural Afghanistan,” Ms Wells said.

“Equally – if not more troubling – IS Khorasan has increased the pace and scope of its attacks against urban targets, often with a devastating civilian toll”.

The US official noted that the attacks had increasingly focused on ethnic and religious minorities, and were clearly aimed at stoking sectarian and political tensions to undermine popular support for a peace process.

Ms Wells identified four key areas where the US was working to help bolster prospects for an eventual settlement: Supporting Afghan efforts to reduce violence and protect a peace process from spoilers, encouraging all political actors — including the Taliban — to participate in the peace process, supporting Kabul’s efforts to eliminate the conditions that cause militancy and encouraging Afghanistan’s close and distant neighbours to back the peace process.

For Pakistan, she had a clearer message: work with the US to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and arrest or expel those Taliban elements that do not join the peace process.

“More broadly, all of Afghanistan’s neighbours — from Iran and Russia, to India, China, and the Central Asian states — have repeatedly stated their support for an Afghan peace process,” said Ms Well, counting this among the indicators of success of the Trump administration’s Afghan policy.

Unfortunately, in the past such indicators did not lead to real peace in Afghanistan, which has been in a state of war for more than three decades now.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2018

For more live updates, follow’s official news Instagram


Senior Islamic State commanders killed in Afghanistan air strike: U.S. military

August 13, 2017

By Josh Smith


KABUL (Reuters) – Several senior members of Islamic State’s central Asian affiliate were killed in a U.S. air strike in Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The attack on Thursday killed Abdul Rahman, identified by the U.S. military as the Kunar provincial emir for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan, according to a statement from the command in Kabul.

“The death of Abdul Rahman deals yet another blow to the senior leadership of ISIS-K,” said General John Nicholson, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

Image result for Abdul Rahman, afghanistan, photos

Abdul Rahman

Three other senior ISIS-K members were also among those killed in the strike in eastern Kunar province.

Nicholson has vowed to defeat Islamic State militants in Afghanistan this year.

The group’s emir, Abu Sayed, was reported killed in a strike on his headquarters in Kunar in July, the third Islamic State emir in Afghanistan to be killed since July 2016.

In April, Nicholson deployed a 21,600-pound (9,797 kg) “Massive Ordnance Air Blast” bomb against Islamic State positions in neighboring Nangarhar province, one of the largest conventional weapons ever used by the United States in combat.

Image result for Nangarhar, afghanistan, photos

Smoke rises after the U.S. strikes positions during an ongoing operation against ISIS in Nangarhar province

On Saturday, Afghan officials said as many as 16 civilians, including women and children, had been killed by a U.S. air strike in Nangarhar, but American officials said only militants were killed.

As part of an increased campaign against both Islamic State and the Taliban, the dominant Islamist militant group in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force has dropped nearly 2,000 weapons in the country as of the end of July, compared to fewer than 1,400 in all of last year.

Despite some battlefield successes by Afghan and American special operations troops, Islamic State has continued deadly attacks around Afghanistan, fueling fears that the group is seeking to bring the group’s Middle East conflict to Central Asia.

Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Kim Coghill

Islamic States’ Drive for Global Jihad, Global Caliphate

February 23, 2015

ISIS—no longer a regional problem—is executing a complex strategy across three geographic rings

Islamic State militants on parade in the Libyan coastal city Sirte, in an image released Feb. 18 by the Islamist-propaganda media outlet Welayat Tarablos.  
Islamic State militants on parade in the Libyan coastal city Sirte, in an image released Feb. 18 by the Islamist-propaganda media outlet Welayat Tarablos. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
By Jessica Lewis McFate And Harleen Gambhir
The Wall Street Journal

Last week’s Pentagon briefing outlined plans for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to retake Mosul from Islamic State, also known as ISIS. This strategy largely assumes that if ISIS is expelled from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, pushed out of Anbar province and degraded in Syria, the organization will collapse because its narrative of victory will be tarnished and its legitimacy as a “Caliphate” will end.

Barack Obama speaks during the White House summit on countering violent extremism at the US State Department in Washington. “The notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie,” Obama insisted. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

That may have been true some months ago. But ISIS has adapted more quickly than U.S. strategy has succeeded, and it is pursuing a deliberate strategy to offset its tactical losses in Iraq and Syria with territorial gains in the Mideast and globally.

ISIS’s often stated objective is to “remain and expand.” This is not a mere defensive measure to preserve its combat power from destruction. Nor is it a mere recruiting slogan designed to replace some 6,000 ISIS fighters that Washington estimates have been killed since U.S.-led coalition airstrikes began in August. As Ms. Gambhir concludes in her recent Institute for the Study of War “ISIS Global Intelligence Summary,” open-source reporting indicates that ISIS is executing a complex global strategy across three geographic rings.

What the intelligence summary calls the “Interior Ring” is at the center of the fighting and includes terrain the group is named for, specifically Iraq and al Sham—i.e., the Levantine states of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel-Palestine. The “Near Abroad Ring” includes the rest of the Middle East and North Africa, extending east to Afghanistan and Pakistan. ISIS has claimed auxiliary operations or established what it calls “governorates” across this region.

The “Far Abroad Ring” includes the rest of the world, specifically Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Here ISIS is most focused on nearby Europe, which it terms “Rome” as a reference to the Byzantine empire, the great power adversary in decline during the rise of the early Islamic caliphs. ISIS distinguishes between established Muslim lands and those that host Muslim diaspora communities, and it uses different but interlocking strategies in each ring to expand its influence.

ISIS’s primary mission on the Interior Ring is defending the current territories it controls in Iraq and Syria from counterattack and undermining neighboring states. ISIS has suffered heavy casualties, mainly due to airstrikes by the U.S. and its allies and the effectiveness of forces on the ground, including Kurdish Peshmerga, the Iraqi Security Forces, and Iraqi Shiite militias. ISIS has lost the Syrian border town of Kobani, but it has not relinquished its strongholds in the Syrian cities of Raqqa or Deir Ezzour. Most important, its goal is to maintain control over Mosul, a city with more than a million residents, Fallujah and large swaths of Iraq’s Anbar province, where it is still carrying out sophisticated attacks.

This defensive stance in Iraq is one component of a larger strategy to regain the initiative elsewhere. ISIS’s recent foray into Libya, and its hostage-taking and executions of Egyptians and Jordanians, are a clear attempt to provoke offensive operations in those countries, and as such have largely succeeded. The goal is to polarize domestic populations to deter participation in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS. The longer-term goal is to cause multistate failure in the region that spreads from the Interior Ring.

The primary mission of ISIS in the Near Abroad is territorial expansion. ISIS recently announced so-called governorates in Libya, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria and “Khorasan,” the historic name for a region covering parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India. The list may soon include the Caucasus. Its strategy in the Near Abroad is to find organized local groups and seed them with resources and training to increase their combat effectiveness.

ISIS is also fostering relationships with local jihadist groups capable of conducting simultaneous, independent military operations, especially in Libya and Sinai. These satellite groups, such as the Islamic Youth Shura Council in Libya and Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in Sinai, can shape local conditions and prepare the ground for ISIS’s future expansion. Elements from the al Qaeda affiliate in the Caucasus, for example, recently defected to ISIS in part because of its more effective military organization.

The primary mission of ISIS in the Far Abroad is disruption of the current political order through terrorism and cyberattacks. As Ms. Gambhir notes in her ISIS intelligence summary: “ISIS-supportive hacking groups intensified cyberattacks throughout January 2015, striking a range of military, journalist, charitable, and government targets. . . . More than 19,000 cyberattacks targeted French websites in the week after the Charlie Hebdo shooting.”

Once focused on recruiting radical Islamists in Europe and elsewhere to join the fight in Iraq and Syria, ISIS now also encourages them to remain at home to recruit others and launch local attacks, such as those in France and Denmark. These attacks are intended to polarize Western societies and deter strikes on the ISIS core ruling stronghold in Iraq and Syria. ISIS believes this polarization will lay the groundwork for an all-out war with the West when the time comes.

In short, ISIS has adapted to the U.S.-led coalition campaign in Iraq and Syria by rapidly building a regional and global network that it can use to recruit and attack. In this way, it may well be able to sustain its global terrorist campaign if it loses terrain in Iraq and Syria—perhaps even if it is driven out of that region.

Nevertheless, the sustained control of territory in Iraq and Syria is essential to the legitimacy of ISIS by the terms they have set for themselves. Defeating ISIS there will deal the organization a severe blow. It will not, however, end the threat from ISIS either in Mesopotamia and the Levant or around the world.

The ISIS cancer has metastasized, as the al Qaeda cancer did before it. The two are now competing to see which can kill more people faster. It is past time to recognize the scale, scope and magnitude of the enemies America and its allies face and develop clearly stated global, regional and local strategies to fight them.

Ms. McFate, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is research director at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C., where Ms. Gambhir is a counterterrorism analyst.



Syria’s al Qaeda branch says West will be attacked in retaliation for U.S.-led air strikes

September 29, 2014


By Mariam Karouny and Jonny Hogg

BEIRUT/MURSITPINAR Turkey (Reuters) – The head of Syria’s al Qaeda branch said militants will attack the West in retaliation for U.S.-led air strikes in Syria and Iraq, and President Barack Obama acknowledged U.S. intelligence had underestimated the rise of Islamic State fighters.

U.S.-led air strikes hit a natural gas plant controlled by Islamic State fighters in eastern Syria, a monitoring body reported, part of an apparent campaign to disrupt one of the fighters’ main sources of income.

The monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said planes also struck a grain silo in northern Syria killing civilians. This could not be immediately confirmed.

U.S.-led strikes have so far failed to halt an advance by fighters in northern Syria on a Kurdish town: fighting raged between Islamic State militants and Kurdish forces near Kobani on the border with Turkey, where the past week’s battle caused the fastest refugee flight of Syria’s three-year civil war. Turkey returned fire after shells hit its side of the frontier.

The United States has been bombing Islamic State and other groups in Syria for nearly a week with the help of Arab allies, and hitting targets in neighboring Iraq since last month.

European countries have joined the campaign in Iraq, where the government has asked for help, but so far not in Syria.

Islamic State, a Sunni militant group which broke off from al Qaeda, alarmed the West and the Middle East by sweeping through northern Iraq in June, slaughtering prisoners and ordering Shi’ites and non-Muslims to convert or die.

It is battling Shi’ite backed governments in both Iraq and Syria, as well as other Sunni groups in Syria and Kurdish groups in both countries, part of complex multi-sided civil wars in which nearly every country in the Middle East has a stake.

The head of Syria’s al Qaeda branch, the Nusra Front, a Sunni militant group which is a rival of Islamic State and has also been targeted by U.S. strikes, said Islamists would carry out attacks on the West in retaliation for the campaign.

“Muslims will not watch while their sons are bombed. Your leaders will not be the only ones who would pay the price of the war. You will pay the heaviest price,” Abu Mohamad al-Golani said in an audio message posted on pro-Nusra forums.

The U.S. strikes have created pressure on Nusra to reconcile with Islamic State, a move that would potentially create a single Sunni Islamist force in Syria and widen territory under its control.

Obama has worked since August to build an international coalition to combat the fighters, describing them last week in an address to the United Nations as a “network of death”.

His acknowledgment in an interview broadcast on Sunday that U.S. intelligence had underestimated Islamic State offered an explanation for why Washington appeared to have been taken by surprise when the fighters surged through northern Iraq in June.

The militants had gone underground when U.S. forces quashed al Qaeda in Iraq with the aid of local tribes during the U.S. war there which ended in 2011, Obama told CBS’s “60 Minutes”.

“But over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swathes of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos.”

Some of the U.S. president’s opponents at home have seized on a remark he made in January using a sports metaphor to dismiss Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria, comparing them to a low-level school basketball team posing as professionals.

“If a JV (junior varsity) team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama told the New Yorker magazine in January.


Islamic State’s advance has not been halted in Syria, where it is fighting Kurdish forces near the border city of Kobani, where 140,000 refugees fled a week ago.

Gunfire rang out from across the border and a plume of smoke rose over Kobani as periodic shelling by Islamic State fighters continued. Kurds watching the fighting from the Turkish side of the border said the Syrian Kurdish group, the YPG, were putting up a strong defense.

“Many Islamic State fighters have been killed. They’re not taking the bodies with them,” said Ayhan, a Turkish Kurd who had spoken by phone with one of his friends fighting with the YPG. He said Kurdish forces had picked up 8 Islamic State bodies.

At Mursitpinar, the nearby border crossing, scores of young men were returning to Syria, many saying they would join the fight. Other returning refugees hoped fighting would soon end.

“If there’s no fighting we’ll stay, but if the fighting starts in Kobani we’ll come back. Of course we’re afraid,” said one man, Khalil, crossing with his young daughter.

Turkey has not permitted its own Kurds to cross to join the battle: “If they’ve got Syrian identity or passports, they can go. But only Syrians, not Turks,” said one Turkish official at the border where security has been tightened.

The Turkish general staff said on its website two mortar shells fired from Syria had strayed across the border on Sunday afternoon. The Turkish military “responded with fire in line with its rules of engagement”.

A NATO ally with the most powerful army in the area, Turkey has so far kept out of the U.S.-led coalition, angering many of its own Kurds who say the policy has abandoned their cousins in Syria to the wrath of Islamic State fighters.


The U.S.-led coalition includes Sunni Arab states who oppose Syria’s Assad, but does not include Assad or his main ally Iran, even though Islamic State’s sway in Syria grew from the revolt against Assad’s government .

Obama, who nearly ordered air strikes against Assad’s government a year ago only to cancel them at the last minute, said he recognised the apparent contradiction in opposing Assad while bombing his enemies. He still wants Assad to leave power, but considers Islamic State the more urgent threat.

“For Syria to remain unified, it is not possible that Assad presides over that entire process,” he said in his interview.

“On the other hand, in terms of immediate threats to the United States, ISIL, Khorasan group, those folks could kill Americans,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State and the name of a separate cell of al Qaeda figures targeted last week.

Saudi Arabia, the regional Sunni power which has joined the U.S.-led strikes, blamed other countries for supporting Islamic State, although it did not name them. Riyadh has in the past criticised Qatar for supporting Islamist movements.

Islamic State was formed not in a “haphazard fashion but under the auspices of states and organisations with all their capabilities and bad intentions,” Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef said. “We will firmly face this organization and others.”

The Syrian Observatory, which monitors the conflict with a network of sources on the ground, said U.S.-led strikes had hit a Conoco gas plant controlled by Islamic State outside Deir al-Zor city in eastern Syria, wounding several fighters.

The plant feeds a power station in Homs that provides several provinces with electricity and powers oilfield generators, the Observatory said.

The observatory also said warplanes had hit mills and grain storage areas in the northern Syrian town of Manbij, killing civilian workers. It was not immediately possible to verify the information and there was no immediate comment from Washington.

U.S.-led warplanes also hit areas of Hasaka city in Syria’s north east and the outskirts of Raqqa city in the north, which is Islamic State’s stronghold. Syria’s state news agency also said U.S.-led forces had carried out strikes in Raqqa province.

Some of Assad’s opponents worry that the U.S.-led bombing will help the Syrian leader stay in power by hurting his most powerful Sunni foes. Syria’s military has intensified its own bombing campaign in the country’s west, even as Washington has struck in the east. Overnight, Damascus carried out air raids in Aleppo province and in Hama, the Observatory said.

(Additiona reporting by Sylvia Westall in Beirut, Angus McDowall in Riyadh, Doina Chiacu and Peter Cooney in Washington; Writing by Sylvia Westall and Peter Graff)

Related Stories

What is the Khorasan group?

September 29, 2014

By Kaye Foley

There’s a new name in terror — the Khorasan group.

On Sept. 22, the U.S. and allies launched airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State militants. But the U.S. went on a solo mission that night as well, with eight separate airstrikes against the Khorasan group.

So who are these guys? Well, Khorasan actually stems from a familiar foe.

It is a small network of an estimated 50 or so al-Qaida veterans who set up shop in Syria, benefiting from the cover of civil war and the protection of the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusra Front. Although the group was brought to public attention in the past week, Attorney General Eric Holder said in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric the U.S. has been watching Khorasan for two years.

Muhsin al-Fadhli, Khorasan’s 33-year-old leader, reportedly was a member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle. Once the head of al-Qaida in Iran, al-Fadhli relocated to Syria to recruit people with Western passports.

Officials believe that the Khorasan group was creating undetectable explosives for hand-held devices and toiletries and planning an imminent attack on Western nations, particularly the United States.

It’s too bad there’s yet another terrorist group we have to become educated about.  But if knowledge is power, at least you can say, #NowIGetIt.


Still Many Questions on President Obama’s Authorization for Use of Military Force

September 28, 2014


White House national security adviser Susan Rice petitioned Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio) in a letter on Friday, July 25, 2014, to completely repeal the war authorization, officially known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq, or AUMF.

“We believe a more appropriate and timely action for Congress to take is the repeal of the outdated 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq,” Rice wrote, according to a copy of her letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

“With American combat troops having completed their withdrawal from Iraq on December 18, 2011, the Iraq AUMF is no longer used for any U.S. government activities and the administration fully supports its repeal,” Rice wrote. “Such a repeal would go much further in giving the American people confidence that ground forces will not be sent into combat in Iraq.”

This is obviously the same National Security Advisor that was telling people the Obama Administration has “decimated al-Qaeda.”

Suddenly — after ISIS began beheading Americans — the White House was saying the “Khorosan Group” suddenly went from anonymity to the “imminent threat” that became the rationale for an emergency air war and there was supposedly no time to ask Congress for authorization.


White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House. AP

Obama White House Still Insists “We Decimated Al Qaeda” — But The Truth Is: After More Than A Decade of “War” With The U.S., The Ideology Remains Strong

September 27, 2014

White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House. AP

President Obama ordered airstrikes this week in Syria, in part to take out a supposedly imminent threat from the Khorasan group. This group is linked to al-Qaeda, and Jonathan Karl asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest today how the White House can then say core al-Qaeda is decimated.

Karl asked if the White House wants to “revise and extend” that claim about core al-Qaeda. Earnest said the statement is still accurate. Karl challenged him and pointed out they’re obviously dangerous enough to strike because of an imminent attack.

Earnest shot back that al-Qaeda was so decimated, they fled to another country to plan more attacks, showing just how much in disarray they are. He continued to maintain “that network is gone,” even as Karl continued to press the matter.

See Video:


U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. Obama told the United Nations amid a U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State militants that he will build a coalition to "dismantle this network of death." (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014. Obama told the United Nations amid a U.S.-led bombing campaign against Islamic State militants that he will build a coalition to “dismantle this network of death.” (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Khorosan Group May Not Even Exist

It’s a fictitious name the Obama administration invented to deceive us.

By Andrew C. McCarthy

We’re being had. Again.

For six years, President Obama has endeavored to will the country into accepting two pillars of his alternative national-security reality. First, he claims to have dealt decisively with the terrorist threat, rendering it a disparate series of ragtag jayvees. Second, he asserts that the threat is unrelated to Islam, which is innately peaceful, moderate, and opposed to the wanton “violent extremists” who purport to act in its name.

Now, the president has been compelled to act against a jihad that has neither ended nor been “decimated.” The jihad, in fact, has inevitably intensified under his counterfactual worldview, which holds that empowering Islamic supremacists is the path to security and stability. Yet even as war intensifies in Iraq and Syria — even as jihadists continue advancing, continue killing and capturing hapless opposition forces on the ground despite Obama’s futile air raids — the president won’t let go of the charade.

Hence, Obama gives us the Khorosan Group.

The who?

There is a reason that no one had heard of such a group until a nanosecond ago, when the “Khorosan Group” suddenly went from anonymity to the “imminent threat” that became the rationale for an emergency air war there was supposedly no time to ask Congress to authorize.

You haven’t heard of the Khorosan Group because there isn’t one. It is a name the administration came up with, calculating that Khorosan — the –Iranian–​Afghan border region — had sufficient connection to jihadist lore that no one would call the president on it.

The “Khorosan Group” is al-Qaeda. It is simply a faction within the global terror network’s Syrian franchise, “Jabhat al-Nusra.” Its leader, Mushin al-Fadhli (believed to have been killed in this week’s U.S.-led air strikes), was an intimate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the emir of al-Qaeda who dispatched him to the jihad in Syria. Except that if you listen to administration officials long enough, you come away thinking that Zawahiri is not really al-Qaeda, either. Instead, he’s something the administration is at pains to call “core al-Qaeda.”

“Core al-Qaeda,” you are to understand, is different from “Jabhat al-Nusra,” which in turn is distinct from “al-Qaeda in Iraq” (formerly “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia,” now the “Islamic State” al-Qaeda spin-off that is, itself, formerly “al-Qaeda in Iraq and al-Sham” or “al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant”). That al-Qaeda, don’t you know, is a different outfit from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula . . . which, of course, should never be mistaken for “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” “Boko Haram,” “Ansar al-Sharia,” or the latest entry, “al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.”

Coming soon, “al-Qaeda on Hollywood and Vine.” In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if, come 2015, Obama issued an executive order decreeing twelve new jihad jayvees stretching from al-Qaeda in January through al-Qaeda in December.

Except you’ll hear only about the jayvees, not the jihad. You see, there is a purpose behind this dizzying proliferation of names assigned to what, in reality, is a global network with multiple tentacles and occasional internecine rivalries.

As these columns have long contended, Obama has not quelled our enemies; he has miniaturized them. The jihad and the sharia supremacism that fuels it form the glue that unites the parts into a whole — a worldwide, ideologically connected movement rooted in Islamic scripture that can project power on the scale of a nation-state and that seeks to conquer the West. The president does not want us to see the threat this way.

For a product of the radical Left like Obama, terrorism is a regrettable but understandable consequence of American arrogance. That it happens to involve Muslims is just the coincidental fallout of Western imperialism in the Middle East, not the doctrinal command of a belief system that perceives itself as engaged in an inter-civilizational conflict. For the Left, America has to be the culprit. Despite its inbred pathologies, which we had no role in cultivating, Islam must be the victim, not the cause. As you’ll hear from Obama’s Islamist allies, who often double as Democrat activists, the problem is “Islamophobia,” not Muslim terrorism.

This is a gross distortion of reality, so the Left has to do some very heavy lifting to pull it off. Since the Islamic-supremacist ideology that unites the jihadists won’t disappear, it has to be denied and purged. The “real” jihad becomes the “internal struggle to become a better person.” The scriptural and scholarly underpinnings of Islamic supremacism must be bleached out of the materials used to train our national-security agents, and the instructors who resist going along with the program must be ostracized. The global terror network must be atomized into discrete, disconnected cells moved to violence by parochial political or territorial disputes, with no overarching unity or hegemonic ambition. That way, they can be limned as a manageable law-enforcement problem fit for the courts to address, not a national-security challenge requiring the armed forces.

The president has been telling us for years that he handled al-Qaeda by killing bin Laden. He has been telling us for weeks that the Islamic State — an al-Qaeda renegade that will soon reconcile with the mother ship for the greater good of unity in the anti-American jihad — is a regional nuisance that posed no threat to the United States. In recent days, however, reality intruded on this fiction. Suddenly, tens of thousands of terrorists, armed to the teeth, were demolishing American-trained armies, beheading American journalists, and threatening American targets.

Obama is not the manner of man who can say, “I was wrong: It turns out that al-Qaeda is actually on the rise, its Islamic State faction is overwhelming the region, and American interests — perhaps even American territory — are profoundly threatened.” So instead . . . you got “the Khorosan Group.”

You also got a smiley-face story about five Arab states joining the United States in a coalition to confront the terrorists. Finally, the story goes, Sunni governments were acting decisively to take Islam back from the “un-Islamic” elements that falsely commit “violent extremism” under Islam’s banner.

Sounds uplifting … until you read the fine print. You’ve got to dig deep to find it. It begins, for example, 42 paragraphs into the Wall Street Journal’s report on the start of the bombing campaign. After the business about our glorious alliance with “moderate” allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who so despise terrorism, we learn:

Only the U.S. — not Arab allies — struck sites associated with the Khorasan group, officials said. Khorasan group members were in the final stages of preparations for an attack on U.S. and Western interests, a defense official said. Khorasan was planning an attack on international airliners, officials have said. . . . Rebels and activists contacted inside Syria said they had never heard of Khorasan and that the U.S. struck several bases and an ammunition warehouse belonging to the main al Qaeda-linked group fighting in Syria, Nusra Front. While U.S. officials have drawn a distinction between the two groups, they acknowledge their membership is intertwined and their goals are similar.

Oops. So it turns out that our moderate Islamist partners have no interest in fighting Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate. Yes, they reluctantly, and to a very limited extent, joined U.S. forces in the strikes against the Islamic State renegades. But that’s not because the Islamic State is jihadist while they are moderate. It is because the Islamic State has made mincemeat of Iraq’s forces, is a realistic threat to topple Assad, and has our partners fretting that they are next on the menu.

Meantime, though, the Saudis and Qatar want no trouble with the rest of al-Qaeda, particularly with al-Nusra. After all, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch is tightly allied with the “moderate opposition” that these “moderate” Gulf states have been funding, arming, and training for the jihad against Assad.

Oh, and what about those other “moderates” Obama has spent his presidency courting, the Muslim Brotherhood? It turns out they are not only all for al-Qaeda, they even condemn what one of their top sharia jurists, Wagdy Ghoneim, has labeled “the Crusader war against the Islamic State.”

“The Crusaders in America, Europe, and elsewhere are our enemies,” Ghoneim tells Muslims. For good measure he adds, “We shall never forget the terrorism of criminal America, which threw the body of the martyred heroic mujahid, Bin Laden, into the sea.”

Obama has his story and he’s sticking to it. But the same can be said for our enemies.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

Are these guys decimated?


Global Research, September 26, 2014

One of the bothersome aspects of the war escalation in Iraq and Syria has been the commitment of President Barack Obama’s administration to using language to conceal their war plans.

The White House has insisted this is not a war. The attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are a part of a “counterterrorism strategy.” The US has not launched a war because it has previously been dropping Hellfire missiles on suspected terrorists in various countries. Those strikes, though they have killed hundreds of civilians and were questionable in their legality and success in bringing about “security,” were part of a “strategy.”

“[ISIS] is waging a war against the broader international community. And the president is determined to build and lead an international coalition to take the fight to them. So in the same way that the United States is at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe, the United States is at war with [ISIS],” White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest told reporters in a briefing on September 12.

The administration also will not use the word “war” because, unlike the Iraq invasion in 2003, there is more international support for this US-led military action. Apparently, “war” is only appropriate when the US drops into a country all Rambo-like and does not care about the consequences.

Trevor Timm, columnist for The Guardian, wrote a piece on the recalibration of language by the Obama administration that contained a few more examples.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

The US bombed the “Khorasan Group” on September 23. The administration claimed this group posed an “imminent” threat to the US. Yet, as Timm noted, the Justice Department has its own definition of “imminent.”

[A]n “imminent” threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons will take place in the immediate future.

That means the Obama administration believes the “group” did not have to have a plot to immediately attack the US to be targeted. They just had to be capable of plotting against the US.  It is similar to how defenders of the Iraq War have said Saddam Hussein was capable of developing weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion and occupation.

The UK’s David Cameron convened the Parliament to get approval for the UK’s participation in the action against ISIS. President Obama acted without Congressional approval.

Additionally, the “Khorasan Group” does not exist. Imran Khan, a correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in Doha, contacted people to see if they had ever heard of this group. Nobody he spoke to from the Middle East or South Asia had heard of it. Even a blogger and activist who “openly supports” ISIS and has fought in Afghanistan had not heard the name.

…On the phone I spoke to Robert Ford, the former US Ambassador ‎to Syria who told me: “We used the term inside the government, we don’t know where it came from. It certainly didn’t originate inside the State Department. All I know is that they don’t call themselves that.”

Khorasan is almost certainly a term that the US government has coined. It’s suitably exotic. Geographically, it’s a historical region in the north east of Iran and includes Afghanistan and what is now Pakistan. This tallies with what I’ve been ‎told by my sources, and who the Americans claim, make up the group: a hardcore of former al-Qeada fighters who come from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran…

It is a name that, if repeated often enough, can help whip up support for war. “It pushes the idea that there are groups out there that operate in a shadowy manner and use ancient names to hark back to an ancient time,” as Khan put it.

There is also the idea that the troops being deployed to Iraq are not combat troops but advisers. Like wedding planners are not necessarily a part of a wedding, these war planners are supposedly not part of combat, even though they can be fired upon.

However, Clay Hanna, who served in the US Army from 2003 to 2008—and was “once a pair of ‘boots on the ground’ in Iraq, called Obama out for stating “American forces do not and will not have a combat mission.”

…It’s just not true. The only question is whether the American people will not be deceived for the umpteenth time as to what we are really doing. Like John F. Kennedy’s “advisers” in Vietnam, like the U.S. military secretly training Manuel Noriega (only to arrest him on drug charges later on), or the Reagan administration giving weapons to Saddam Hussein to fight the Iranians, or the CIA funding mujahedeen in the 1980s who were later to become al Qaeda, or the Bush administration using the threat of weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for invasion, this strategy to send in “advisers” to fight the Islamic State is subterfuge, and reflects conflicted leadership.

How can we stand up and call out Vladimir Putin for his deception in the Ukraine—for covertly using Russian soldiers and pretending they’re Ukrainian “separatists”—and at the same time say with a straight face that our “advisers” will not have a combat mission?…

Much of the language being created and employed by the Obama administration to appropriately brand this war is coming from the Pentagon. The White House has been making statements identical to military leaders. Rear Admiral John Kirby said, “This is not the Iraq war of 2002, but make no mistake, we know we are at war with [ISIS] in the same way we are at war and continue to be at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates.”

Recall, on July 23, 2003, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to General John Abizaid, who was the commander of US Central Command. Rumsfeld attached the definitions of “guerrilla warfare,” “insurgency,” and “unconventional warfare.” The definitions “came from the Pentagon dictionary.”

In the chilling documentary directed by Errol Morris, The Unknown Known, Rumsfeld explains, “It seemed to me that there are ways you can talk about what the enemy’s doing that help the enemy unintentionally and ways you can talk about what the enemy is doing that harm the enemy, that make its task less legitimate, more difficult.” He searched for the best words to that would benefit the US. And, as he told the press on July 24, they came from the Pentagon’s dictionary. He did not look at a “regular dictionary.”

Similarly, the Obama administration is using Pentagon speak when talking about this war. It appears to be aimed at ISIS because the administration does not want to give ISIS the war against the West, the “infidels,” that ISIS fighters desire. They think using different words will make it easier to undercut ISIS. But the words won’t matter as much as the images of bombs exploding. Whatever force is used against ISIS will be bigger propaganda for ISIS than any words the Obama administration develop for the media.

Now, what the invention of language will do is propagandize Americans. It will play some role in undercutting any antiwar opposition but could develop some level of legitimacy. It will serve the administration’s preferred media narrative that Obama is a reluctant warrior, a brilliant pragmatic and thoughtful tactician who did not want this w̶a̶r̶ counterterrorism strategy but stepped up when the world needed American leadership and inspired hope instead of fear.

Comedian George Carlin was highly critical of euphemisms, like the ones the Obama administration has used. From his 1990 album, “Parental Advisory”:

…Smug, greedy, well-fed white people have invented a language to conceal their sins. It’s as simple as that. The CIA doesn’t kill anybody anymore, they neutralize people…or they depopulate the area. The government doesn’t lie, it engages in disinformation. The Pentagon actually measures nuclear radiation in something they call sunshine units. Israeli murderers are called commandos. Arab commandos are called terrorists. Contra killers are called freedom fighters…

He said, “Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth so they invent kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it, and it gets worse with every generation.”

If the world is concerned about Iraq, Syria and the wider Middle East becoming an even greater quagmire—or, as the Obama administration might put it, “risky affair,” it will not allow language to conceal what is actually happening and delude us all into believing this is the singular and proper course of action that may even go according to plan.


U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey

By Adam Taylor

From The Washington Post

What’s in a name? When you’re an Islamist extremist group believed to pose an existential threat to the Western world, everything. In the past few months, we’ve seen the strange and somewhat revealing saga of what to call the group alternatively referred to as ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State and Daesh.

Now, within a timeframe of just days, the Islamic State has been sidelined by a new name in the world of Islamic extremism: “Khorasan.” U.S. officials say that Khorasan, often referred to as “the Khorasan group,” is a small al-Qaeda linked outfit operating in Syria. They are portrayed as a more direct threat to U.S. interests than the Islamic State, which is still largely focused on operations in Syria and Iraq.

U.S. officials say that their strikes against Khorasan appear to have been a success, killing the group’s leader, Mushin al-Fadhli. However, some analysts are perturbed by the lack of information about the group and why it was targeted. Even an examination of one of the most basic elements of the group – its name – paints a complicated and inconclusive picture of what the group actually is, and why it is being targeted.

A historical region

As most reports on the group have noted, Khorasan refers to a historical region that encompassed northeastern Iran, southern Turkmenistan and northern Afghanistan. It was established as a region by the Sasanian dynasty, the last Iranian empire before the rise of Islam, at some point in the 3rd century. Its name literally means “The Land of the Sun,” a reference to its eastern location.

After the region was taken over in an Arab conquest in the 7th century, Khorasan became a part of the Umayyad Caliphate, and with that, part of early Islamic culture. Notably, a widely discussed (though disputed) Hadith speaks of how “black banners will come out of Khorasan” in the end times. Will McCants of the Brookings Institute notes that the prophecies derive from the 8th century Abbasid revolution, a revolution that began in Khorasan and saw the end of the privileging of Arabs over non-Arabs in the Islamic empire.

Over the years, the Khorasan region had a fractious history, and was eventually swallowed up by a variety of different states. A part of Khorasan eventually became Khorasan state in modern Iran, and “Greater Khorasan” is generally used to refer to the larger historical region.

A modern concept

In part due to its place in Islamic history, the term Khorasan is used by modern Jihadist groups, especially those based outside Arab states. The online magazine of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is called “Vanguards of Khorasan,” for example, and J.M. Berger, an independent terror analyst, says that al-Qaeda has often signed its communiques as emanating from Khorasan over the years.

“Jihadists deny the legitimacy of most modern nation states; they prefer using historical terms, typically the ones that were used during the time of the great Caliphates (which is obviously what they want to go back to),” Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization, explained in an e-mail.

In particular, the hadith mention gives the reference added power. “The symbology of this has been important for jihadis since the so-called black banners being raised in Afghanistan, which is part of Khorasan, in the ’80s against the Soviets until now,” Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said, adding that Islamic apocalyptic literature has become a central theme for some jihadist groups fighting in the Middle East.

While there have been reports of groups in Pakistan taking on the Khorasan label, analysts cast doubt that the term is being widely used within Syria to refer to any distinct group. “There have been no jihadis in Syria or [Jabhat al-Nusra] to use that name when referring to themselves,”  Zelin said.  “Some online jihadis have even characterized it as laughable.”

Pieter van Ostaeyen, a historian and blogger who follows jihadist movements, writes in an e-mail that “in all of the official Jihadi accounts I follow(ed), the name never was mentioned.”

Even after the use of the phrase by U.S. officials, the Khorosan label still seemed obscure to many in Syria. The Post’s Loveday Morris said that most Islamist fighters she spoke to had never heard of any Khorasan group, and those that used the word used it to refer, more broadly, to fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan rather than a specific group.

A target

There seems little doubt that experienced al Qaeda operatives from the “Khorasan” region are now operating with the group’s official proxy in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra. Fadhli, who is believed to have been killed by U.S. strikes this weeks, was a Kuwaiti national who had been based in Iran. He is believed to have been sent to Syria by al-Qaeda’s core leadership to help it in a fight in which it had been sidelined.

What’s disputed is whether the Khorasan group is really any different from Jabhat al-Nusra, or whether it can even constitute a distinct entity at all. U.S. intelligence is reported to not see it so much as a rival group to Jabhat al-Nusra but as a group of foreign fighters “nested” with Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups.

Analysts agree this seems most likely. “The [Khorasan group] is al-Qaeda, and there are no indications that they have split from al-Qaeda,” Neumann explains. “Jabhat al-Nusra is al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, and this means — de facto — that they would be part of Nusra.”

The lack of information about Khorasan means that there is speculation about the nature of its relationships with other al-Qaeda groups. Neumann suggests that Khorosan might be “like a state within a state,” while Berger thinks it could be an internal label pointing toward an operational unit, designed to show where the “unit originated or to whom it answers.”

Among some analysts, there’s anger at what they see as a misleading use of the term. “[The name] is clearly U.S.-originated,” van Ostaeyen said, later adding that he believed that the United States “blew up this story” to justify its attacks on Jabhat al-Nusra. “It’s cute Pentagon is literally making up new group called ‘Khurasan’ when it’s just AQ AfPak/Iran guys in [Jabhat al-Nusra],” Zelin tweeted after the strikes against the group were announced.

That sense of distrust is amplified by conflicting reports about the threat posed by the group. While Army Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr., director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, initially told reporters this week that the group was in the “final stages of plans to execute major attacks against Western targets and potentially the U.S. homeland,” exactly what that plan was remains unclear. One senior U.S. official told the New York Times this week that the plot was “aspirational.”

No matter where the name “Khorasan” came from, its easy to see why it could be a positive for U.S. officials to use it. For one thing, by avoiding using the name al-Qaeda, the U.S. doesn’t remind the world that after more than a decade of the “War on Terror,” al-Qaeda is still an operational force. It also allows the U.S. to avoid mention of strikes on Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda group that enjoys a large amount of support in Syria and opposes both the Islamic State and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Finally, there’s the simple fact that Khorasan is a new and evocative name. Frankly, it’s something for the U.S. public to latch onto.

However, the lack of specificity is concerning – and there are signs that those in Syria are not buying it.

“If they hit Daesh and the regime, it’s okay,” Ali Bakran, commander of a moderate Free Syrian Army-linked brigade based in Idlib, told The Post on Wednesday, using the Arabic name for the Islamic State. “But why are they striking Nusra? Nusra are from the people — they are the people.”

Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
Are these guys decimated?

Airstrikes focus on ISIS’ deadly war booty

September 26, 2014


A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken early in the morning of Sept. 23, 2014. REUTERS

CBS News and The Associated Press

BEIRUT — U.S.-led coalition warplanes bombed oil installations and other facilities in territory controlled by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in eastern Syria on Friday, taking aim for a second consecutive day at a key source of financing that has swelled the extremist group’s coffers, according to activists.

American planes also continued to attack the militants themselves, and their machinery. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which is in control of all military operations in the region, said a total of 10 strikes by American aircraft hit ISIS targets in both Iraq and Syria between Thursday and Friday morning.

In Syria, CENTCOM said three strikes south and southeast of Deir Ezzor destroyed four ISIS tanks and damaged a fifth. The missiles fired on the Iraqi side of the border also focused on removing from the battlefield some of the many military vehicles and tanks — mostly stolen from Iraqi forces during ISIS’ rampage across northern Iraq earlier this summer.

In western Iraq, near the Syrian border, an airstrike “destroyed four ISIL armed vehicles, a command and control node and a checkpoint,” said CENTCOM, referring to the militant group by an alternate acronym.

In total, the strikes overnight destroyed or damaged at least 16 military vehicles in ISIS possession.

Activists in Syria said the strikes in that country — which likely included action by Arab nations which have joined the U.S. military action — hit two oil areas in Deir Ezzor province a day after the United States and its Arab allies pummeled a dozen makeshift oil producing facilities in the same area near Syria’s border with Iraq. The raids aim to cripple one of the militants’ primary sources of cash — black market oil sales that the U.S. says earn up to $2 million a day.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes overnight and early Friday hit the Tink oil field as well as the Qouriyeh oil-producing area in Deir Ezzor. It said air raids also targeted the headquarters of ISIS in the town of Mayadeen.

The Observatory said the strikes were believed to have been carried out by the coalition. Another activist collective, the Local Coordination Committees, also reported four strikes on Mayadeen that it said were conducted by the U.S. and its allies.


The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria, said there were reports of casualties in the strikes, but did not have concrete figures.

The Observatory reported another apparent coalition air raid on Islamic State positions outside the city of al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border.

The strikes there targeted another oil production area, as well as vehicles the militants had brought in from Iraq and tried to bury in the ground to protect them, according to Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman.

The U.S.-led coalition, which began its aerial campaign against ISIS in Syria early Tuesday, aims to roll back and ultimately crush the extremist group that has created a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border. Along the way, the militants have massacred captured Syrian and Iraqi troops, terrorized minorities in both countries and beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker.

The air assault has taken aim at ISIS checkpoints, training grounds, oil fields, vehicles and bases as well as buildings used as headquarters and offices.

Activists say the militants have cut back the number of gunmen manning checkpoints, apparently fearing more strikes. There has also been an exodus of civilians from ISIS strongholds.

“Everywhere where there are ISIS buildings, the people living around these buildings are leaving. They are moving far from ISIS buildings, either to other villages or to other areas in the same cities,” said Abdurrahman. “This has happened in Raqqa, in Deir Ezzor and in many towns and villages.”

Raqqa, an ancient city located on the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria, is the de facto capital of ISIS’ self-declared caliphate — a territory the group now refers to simply as the “Islamic State.”

Islamic fighters advance in Syria despite U.S. strikes

September 24, 2014

U.S. airstrike on a jihadist target in Syria.

U.S. airstrike on a jihadist target in Syria, September 23, 2014. Photo by AP

DAMASCUS/MURSITPINAR Turkey Wed Sep 24, 2014 4:02pm EDT

(Reuters) – U.S. planes pounded Islamic State positions in Syria for a second day on Wednesday, but the strikes did not halt the fighters’ advance in a Kurdish area where fleeing refugees told of villages burnt and captives beheaded.

U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking at the United Nations, asked the world to join together to fight the militants and vowed to keep up military pressure against them.

“The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force, so the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death,” Obama said in 40-minute speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

Islamist militants in Algeria boasted in a video they had beheaded a French hostage captured on Sunday to punish Paris for joining air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq. French President Francois Hollande confirmed the execution.

Execution: ISIS-linked militants in Algeria have beheaded French tourist Herve Gourdel after he was captured at the weekend. The group earlier made threats to kill Mr Gourdel if France did not stop bombing targets in Iraq

Execution: ISIS-linked militants in Algeria have beheaded French tourist Herve Gourdel after he was captured at the weekend. The group earlier made threats to kill Mr Gourdel if France did not stop bombing targets in Iraq

“My determination is total and this aggression only strengthens it,” Hollande said. “The military air strikes will continue as long as necessary.”

The United States said it was still assessing whether Mohsin al-Fadhli, a senior figure in the al Qaeda-linked group Khorasan, had been killed in a U.S. strike in Syria.

A U.S. official earlier said Fadhli, an associate of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, was thought to have been killed in the first day of strikes on Syria. The Pentagon said any confirmation could take time.

Washington describes Khorasan as a separate group from Islamic State, made up of al Qaeda veterans planning attacks on the West from a base in Syria.

Syrian Kurds said Islamic State had responded to U.S. attacks by intensifying its assault near the Turkish border in northern Syria, where 140,000 civilians have fled in recent days in the fastest exodus of the three-year civil war.

Washington and its Arab allies killed scores of Islamic State fighters in the opening 24 hours of air strikes, the first direct U.S. foray into Syria two weeks after Obama pledged to hit the group on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border.


An F-22 Fighter plane takes off at an airshow in the UK - 20 July 2010

However, the intensifying advance on the northern town of Kobani showed the difficulty Washington faces in defeating Islamist fighters in Syria, where it lacks strong military allies on the ground.

“Those air strikes are not important. We need soldiers on the ground,” said Hamed, a refugee who fled into Turkey from the Islamic State advance.

Mazlum Bergaden, a teacher from Kobani who crossed the border on Wednesday with his family, said two of his brothers had been taken captive by Islamic State fighters.

“The situation is very bad. After they kill people, they are burning the villages…. When they capture any village, they behead one person to make everyone else afraid,” he said. “They are trying to eradicate our culture, purge our nation.”

Fighting between Islamic State militants and Kurds could be seen from across the border in Turkey, where the sounds of sporadic artillery and gunfire echoed around the hills.


As Obama tried in meetings in New York to widen his coalition, Belgium said it was likely to contribute warplanes in the coming days and the Netherlands said it would deploy six F-16s to support U.S.-led strikes.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said parliament would be recalled on Friday from a recess to debate an Iraqi government request for airstrikes against Islamic State in the country.

The initial days of U.S. strikes suggest one aim is to hamper Islamic State’s ability to operate across the Iraqi-Syrian frontier. On Wednesday U.S.-led forces hit at least 13 targets in and around Albu Kamal, one of the main border crossings between Iraq and Syria, after striking 22 targets there on Tuesday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a body which monitors the conflict in Syria.

The U.S. military confirmed it had struck inside Syria northwest of al Qaim, the Iraqi town at the Albu Kamal border crossing. It also struck inside Iraq west of Baghdad and near the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil on Wednesday.

An Islamist fighter in the Albu Kamal area reached by phone said there had been at least nine strikes on Wednesday by “crusader forces”. Targets included an industrial area.

Perched on the main Euphrates valley highway, Albu Kamal controls the route from Islamic State’s de facto capital Raqqa in Syria to the frontlines in western Iraq and down the Euphrates to the western and southern outskirts of Baghdad.

Islamic State’s ability to move fighters and weapons between Syria and Iraq has provided an important tactical advantage for the group in both countries: fighters sweeping in from Syria helped capture much of northern Iraq in June, and weapons they seized and sent back to Syria helped them in battle there.

France, which has confined its air strikes to Iraq, said it would stay the course despite the killing of hostage Herve Gourdel, 55, a mountain guide captured on vacation in Algeria on Sunday by a group claiming loyalty to Islamic State.

In a video released by the Caliphate Soldiers group entitled “a message of blood to the French government”, gunmen paraded Gourdel’s severed head after making him kneel, pushing him on his side and holding him down.


The campaign has blurred the traditional lines of Middle East alliances, pitting a U.S. coalition comprised of countries opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against fighters that form the most powerful opposition to Assad on the ground.

The attacks have so far encountered no objection, and even signs of approval, from Assad’s Syrian government. Syrian state TV led its news broadcast with Wednesday’s air strikes on the border with Iraq, saying “the USA and its partners” had launched raids against “the terrorist organisation Islamic State.”

U.S. officials say they informed both Assad and his main ally Iran in advance of their intention to strike but did not coordinate with them.

Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have joined in the strikes. All are ruled by Sunni Muslims and are staunch opponents of Assad, a member of a Shi’ite-derived sect, and his main regional ally, Shi’ite Iran.

But some of Assad’s opponents fear the Syrian leader could exploit the U.S. military campaign to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of Western countries, and that strikes against Islamic State could solidify his grip on power.

In perhaps the strongest signal yet that Damascus wants to be seen as fighting the same battle as Washington, Syria’s minister for national reconciliation Ali Haidar told Reuters: “What has happened so far is proceeding in the right direction in terms of informing the Syrian government and by not targeting Syrian military installations and not targeting civilians.”


Even as Islamic State outposts elsewhere have been struck, the fighters have accelerated their campaign to capture Kobani, a Kurdish city on the border with Turkey. Nearly 140,000 Syrian Kurds have fled into Turkey since last week, the fastest exodus of the entire three-year civil war.

An Islamic State source, speaking to Reuters via online messaging, said the group had taken several villages to the west of Kobani. Footage posted on YouTube appeared to show Islamic State fighters using weapons including artillery as they battled Kurdish forces near Kobani. The Islamists were shown raising the group’s black flag after tearing down a Kurdish one.

A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the advance had been rapid three days ago but was slowed by the U.S.-led air strikes.

But Ocalan Iso, deputy leader of Kurdish forces defending Kobani, said more militants and tanks had arrived in the area since the coalition began air strikes on the group.

“Kobani is in danger,” he said.

More than 190,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict and millions have fled their homes. Gun battles, bombings, shelling and air strikes regularly kill over 150 people a day.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Steve Holland and Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations, Patrick Markey in Tunis, Tom Perry, Sylvia Westall, Mariam Karouny, Laila Bassam, Alexander Dziadosz in Beirut, Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, Anthony Deutsch in The Hague; Writing by Peter Graff and Alexander Dziadosz; editing by David Stamp and Chizu Nomiyama)

Philippine police investigate Islamist militants’ threat to kill German hostage

September 24, 2014

Philippine police are investigating apparent Islamist threats to kill one of two German hostages. The group has demanded a ransom of over $5 million (over 3.9 million euro) and an end to German anti-IS support.

Reports of images showing two German hostages held by Islamist militants in the southern Philippines are being investigated by the Philippines police, the SITE monitoring service said on Wednesday.

The photos showed Stefan Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55, who were taken hostage in April, surrounded by hooded armed militants, including one holding a machete.

The images, which have circulated on Twitter, were reportedly accompanied by a threat from Abu Sayyaf rebels to kill one of the two captives, unless a ransom of over $5.6 million (4.36 million euro) was paid and Germany ceases to support US attacks against the “Islamic State” (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

According to the SITE intelligence group, the group warned they “will slaughter one of (the) two hostages” if the demands were not met within 15 days.

“As far as such demands, we are verifying these,” said Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, police chief of the southern province of Sulu, where the German hostages are believed to be held by Abu Sayyaf rebels.

A German foreign ministry spokesperson said on wednesday that Berlin would not change its policy following the reports.

“We heard about the report and I would like to say one thing: threats are not an appropriate way to influence our policy in Syria and Iraq,” she said.

Okonek and Diesen are thought to have been seized by Abu Sayyaf rebels from their yacht at gunpoint off the western province of Palawan on April 25.

German weapons

Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf rose to prominence in the early 2000s by taking foreigners hostage with a focus on kidnap-for-ransom and other criminal activities, including beheadings and bombings. The group is also currently holding Dutch, Swiss, Japanese and Filipino hostages in the south of the predominantly Roman Catholic state.

On Wednesday, the German government also began its arms delivery to Kurds fighting against IS in Iraq. A day earlier, the US and its Arab allies bombed Islamic State targets inside Syria for the first time – also striking a little-known al Qaeda cell on Tuesday called Khorasan, which officials said presented a more urgent threat to the West.

ksb/bw (Reuters, dpa)