In rhetoric and tactics, ISIS sounds a lot like an al-Qaeda manual.
By Joel Gehrke
President Obama may not have a strategy for defeating the Islamic State, but the Islamic State has a strategy for the U.S. In fact, that strategy is set out, in part, in an al-Qaeda manual recently translated for the benefit of the U.S. military.
A guerrilla war proceeds in phases, according to Abd al-Aziz al-Muqrin’s A Practical Course for Guerrilla War, a strategic and tactical guide to mujahideen intent on establishing “a pure Islamic system free from defects and infidel elements.” It was written after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The first phase is “attrition (strategic defense),” the time for carrying out attacks, “spectacular operations, which will create a positive impact.” The terrorists use the attacks as a recruitment tool and a morale boost for potential jihadis.
Phase two is the time of “relative strategic balance,” when the jihadis build an army to hold territory that has been wrested from the incumbent regime. “There the mujahidin will set up base camps, hospitals, sharia courts, and broadcasting stations, as well as a jumping-off point for military and political actions,” al-Muqrin writes.
The third phase, a time of internal discord and political upheaval for the “collaborationist” regime, is “decisive.” The terrorists use their conventional army to launch dramatic assaults.
“By means of these mujahadin conventional forces, the mujahidin will begin to attack smaller cities and exploit in the media their successes and victories in order to raise the morale of the mujahidin and the people in general and to demoralize the enemy,” al-Muqrin writes in a passage that brings to mind the Islamic State’s rampage across northern Iraq. “The reason for the mujahidin’s treating of smaller cities is that when the enemy’s forces see the fall of cities into the mujahidin’s hands with such ease their morale will collapse and they will become convinced that they are incapable of dealing with the mujahidin.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that the Islamic State “is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” That’s true insofar as al-Qaeda did not build a conventional army or declare itself a state. He shouldn’t be so surprised, though. The U.S. national-security apparatus has been following this jihadist ambition for years.
The manual, translated in 2008 by a research fellow at the Marine Corps University, shows how the Islamic State’s efforts to build an army and establish a caliphate reflect a longstanding goal. An Islamic caliphate has been al-Qaeda’s dream from the beginning. Using principles and tactics similar to al-Qaeda’s, the Islamic State has come closer to realizing that dream.
Al-Muqrin’s primary concern was to explain how al-Qaeda could wage war against the Saudi Arabian regime, but the text was intended as an education tool for jihadis in other areas as well. Discussing the book during an interview with National Review Online, Mary Habeck of the American Enterprise Institute noted a Reuters report (of July 8) on a notebook found at a former al-Qaeda “leadership camp” in Yemen. It’s almost certain that the al-Qaeda student who took those notes was being taught al-Muqrin’s ideas.
“This notebook has word for word” a paragraph from al-Muqrin’s book, “slightly differently translated by the two Arabic interpreters,” Habeck pointed out. Many of these terrorists, she explains, “have their intellectual and military roots in al-Qaeda, and this is what al-Qaeda is attempting to do.” The translator, Norman Cigar, wrote that al-Muqrin’s ideas were disseminated to Iraqi insurgents as early as 2005.
The Islamic State “has a long history and an origin dating back to AQI, al-Qaeda in Iraq,” White House deputy national-security adviser Ben Rhodes reminded reporters. Obviously, Islamic State terrorists are not constantly referring to al-Muqrin’s book for their next move. Regardless, the manual itself warns, “One must be careful that these characteristics not become a rigid template or a ‘school solution,’ but rather, that they remain adaptable to circumstances in the region.”
Secretary of State John Kerry was spotted kiteboarding Monday morning in Nantucket in a photograph obtained exclusively by The Daily Caller.
Kerry spent Labor Day enjoying himself while the Obama administration still admittedly has no strategy for dealing with the threat of ISIS in Iraq. Kerry was last seen kiteboarding in mid-August in Nantucket.
Kerry’s last documented work-related activity was seen in the pages of Saturday’s New York Times, in the form of an op-ed entitled “To Defeat Terror, We Need the World’s Help: The Threat of ISIS Demands A Global Coalition.”
During his 2004 presidential campaign, Kerry – whose wife inherited her late Republican husband’s ketchup fortune – genuinely believed that his enthusiasm for water sports would make him seem like a virile everyman opponent for George W. Bush.
Voters felt differently.
US jihadist fighters returning from conflict zones pose a “very serious threat” to US national security alongside British and Canadian nationals that also fought oversees as they can freely enter the American soil, top politicians say.
It is impossible to track every single person who might have visited a conflict zone such as Syria or Iraq, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers said, expressing concerns over American, British and Canadian jihadist fighters who potentially can pose a very serious threat to the US.
“I’m very concerned because we don’t know every single person who has gone and trained and learned how to fight,” Rogers told Fox News Sunday, urging the White House to aggressively prosecute Americans who had trained overseas.
Hundreds of US citizens had gone overseas, Rogers said, in addition to some 500 British citizens and hundreds more from Canada.
“The chances of error are greater than our ability to track every single area. It’s a very serious threat,” he said.
Meanwhile, he noted, the US is tracking “pretty serious” threats of planned attacks in the West by al-Qaeda.
Another member of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, echoed Rogers’ assessment.
“The biggest threat that I see to the United States right now are Americans and Brits who have passports that have the ability to come into our country without getting a visa,” Ruppersberger told CNN’s State of the Union program.
“We had the suicide American bomber who was radicalized, came home to visit his parents, went back and then killed himself. Now, that could have happened in the United States,” Ruppersberger said, referring to a man who became first known US suicide bomber after blew himself up in an attack in Syria in May.
On Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry called for an international coalition to combat the Islamic State and its “genocidal agenda” on a larger scale, as the US continues to hit jihadist positions in Iraq in limited airstrikes.
Over in Europe, Germany, which estimates to have at least 400 of its nationals fighting alongside extremist forces announced that it is facing an “increased abstract threat” while the government approved $70 million budget for arming Kurdish forces deterring IS in Iraq.
In Britain, meanwhile on Friday, authorities raised the terror alert level from “substantial” to “severe” over fears of possible jihadist attacks. A response is needed urgently, said British PM David Cameron, as the UK and its allies “could be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean bordering a NATO member.”
A British mother of two and former musician, who is believed to have gone to Syria to join the militant terror group Islamic State with her jihadist husband, has threatened to “behead Christians with a blunt knife.”
Calling herself Umm Hussain al-Britani, the woman has been identified by investigators as Sally Jones, from Chatham in Kent, a former member of an all-girl rock band.
She warned, “You Christians all need beheading with a nice blunt knife and stuck on the railings at Raqqa … Come here I’ll do it for you!” she wrote in a tweet which has since been deleted from her Twitter account.
It is believed that Jones, 45, married British computer hacker-turned jihadist Junaid Hussain, who is 25 years her junior, after an online romance. The couple is said to have travelled separately to Syria to join Islamic State (IS), formerly ISIS or ISIL.
The reference to Raqqa, an IS stronghold in northern Syria, relates to an ambush carried out by the militants last month, where at least 50 Syrian soldiers were executed and had their severed heads impaled on sticks around the city.
On August 10, Umm Hussain tweeted that she and her husband are now living in the ‘caliphate’ after being stuck in Idlib, north-western Syria, for seven months.
Her husband Junaid Hussain, 20, from Birmingham, fled to Syria earlier this year despite being on police bail. He travelled together with Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 24, a former rapper from west London. Bary reportedly posted an image of himself holding a severed head on Twitter with the caption: “Chillin’ with my homie or what’s left of him” last month.
In 2012, Hussain was jailed for six months for stealing sensitive information from an adviser of Tony Blair and blocking a government anti-terrorist hotline with prank calls. He is now thought to be helping the terror group with his hacking skills.
Both Hussain and Barry are potential suspects in the beheading of American journalist James Foley. Hussain, who tweets under the name Abu Hussain al-Britani, is pictured with a scarf over his face and a rifle in his hands.
In the early 1990s she was the lead guitarist in an all-girl rock band called Krunch, which played a series of gigs in southeast England. A video on YouTube from the early 1990s which has since been deleted showed her wearing a leather mini-skirt and playing guitar and singing.
One neighbor said Jones was very “scatty” and that “everything was always a drama, her children were unruly and she was extremely loud. Men came and went but she lived mainly as a single mum with her two boys,” the Daily Mail reported.
It is unknown what happened to her sons, said to be aged around 10 and 14.
Meanwhile, Muslim leaders in Britain have issued a fatwa, an edict issued by a learned Muslim scholar, condemning those who fight for extremists in Iraq and Syria.
Six senior Islamic scholars have reportedly endorsed the fatwa, describing Britons allied to IS cells as “heretics.”
It also emerged that one of IS’s key financiers was the director of a Muslim faith school in Birmingham, the Daily Mail reported.
The Islamic cleric, Dr Nabil al-Awadi, partly resided in south London until last year. He was recently stripped of his Kuwaiti citizenship after it emerged that the Kuwait Scholars’ Union, which he was the president of, channeled tens of millions of dollars to IS and other jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq.