Tag Archives: terrorism

Ahmed Rashid explains why ISIS attacked Paris & where they learned to do so

Summary: Amidst the mad cries for reprisals to the Paris attacks, cries for a wider war and more bloodshed, a few voices speak rationally about the causes of the attacks, our foe’s reasoning, and likely ways to end (rather than expand) the war. This essay by Ahmed Rashid is one of the best I’ve seen. Unfortunately I suspect these voices will be shouted down by louder voices using the attacks for their personal political and economic gains, as they were after 9/11.

“In fact none of these targets is random. What they show is that ISIS is now determined to launch attacks against those states that are waging war against it. … Nothing would be more effective in combating ISIS than the successful conclusion of the joint peace plan that is now being negotiated between the big powers and Syrian groups,…”

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, from the Feb 2015 issue of Dabiq

Undated photo of Abdelhamid Abaaoud from the Feb 2015 issue of Dabiq, ISIS’ English-language magazine.

From Mumbai to Paris

By Ahmed Rashid
Blog of the New York Review of Books
16 November 2015
Posted with their generous permission

The massacre of innocents in Paris has brought to the forefront a dramatic shift in ISIS’s tactics and strategy. For some time it has been widely believed that ISIS’s overriding aim is to capture and hold territory and create a single caliphate out of the present borders of the Middle East, rather than trying to bomb the West or pull off spectacular attacks like the toppling of the Twin Towers in New York. Such raids on the so-called “far enemy,” aimed at bringing down the capitalist order, have long been the mission of al-Qaeda; whereas the much newer ISIS, in seeking to conquer the “near enemy” in the Levant, has given priority to establishing its caliphate now.

Yet the recent string of ISIS attacks across the Middle East and now in Europe suggests that its aims, and methods, are more complicated. In October a bombing in Ankara that killed 102 people was blamed on ISIS by the Turkish government. A few weeks later, ISIS’s Sinai affiliate claimed to have brought down a Russian airliner, killing 224 people. On November 12, ISIS claimed responsibility for a double-suicide bombing of a busy shopping street in a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut that left forty-four people dead. There were bombings in Baghdad. And then there was Paris.

In fact none of these targets is random. What they show is that ISIS is now determined to launch attacks against those states that are waging war against it. Turkey has just given the US government permission to use some of its airbases for strikes against ISIS; Hezbollah is helping Bashar al-Assad fight ISIS. The Russians are now bombing ISIS and other groups, while the French are crucial partners in the anti-ISIS coalition. French warplanes bombing ISIS from runways in the Gulf states are about to get a fresh boost as the French government sends its only aircraft carrier to the Gulf.

ISIS’s message is thus clear — the group is waging an all-out deliberate war against all those countries that are lining up to fight it.

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After Paris: will we think first, or just repeat what’s already failed?

Summary: The call goes out just as it did after 9/11: kill, kill, kill — more evidence that we’ve learned nothing from our expensive post-9/11 wars that have set the Middle East aflame. So we’ll double down on stupid, testing to see if our great power can overcome our blindness, arrogance, and ignorance.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

River of Blood

First we begin with the myth-making, just like after 9/11, as in this by Zalmay Khalilzad (senior official in Bush Jr’s administration) in the National Interest

Under President Obama, America maintained robust policies on homeland security and counterterrorism, but adopted a passive and reactive approach to transforming the region. The administration withdrew from Iraq, provided minimal support to the opposition in Syria, and allowed safe havens to emerge after toppling the Qaddafi regime in Libya.

Khalilzad relies on our amnesia about recent history (much like Republicans blaming Obama for the slow response to Katrina). Bush signed the SOFA that ejected us from Iraq; Obama expanded our wars in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria; there was no support in the US for the massive intervention necessary to stabilize Libya after Gaddafi; etc.

On this foundation of fiction hawks build their case for a more intense and wider war. Some are coy about the specifics, as in this typically vague bluster from Mitt Romney: “Obama must wage war on the Islamic State, not merely harass it” — not saying what actions America must take.

Other voices are explicit: “We can’t stop the Islamic State with a ‘Desert Drizzle’“, David A. Deptula (General, USAF, retired; dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies), op-ed in USA Today.

“We have it within our capacity to destroy the Islamic State leading to the elimination of their sanctuary for terror. However, to do so will require moving beyond the current anemic, pinprick air strikes, to a robust, comprehensive use of airpower — not simply in support of indigenous allied ground forces, but as the key force in taking down the Islamic State.”

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Stratfor: After Paris, France Contemplates a Reckoning

Summary: Here is Stratfor’s follow-up analysis about likely implications of the Paris attacks. Now it’s time for the West to double down on stupid, repeating our tactics since 9/11 — more intensely. Expect few mentions of France’s acts of war against the Islamic State, but many calls for revenge against ISIS’s unprovoked attacked against innocent France. This distorted view of events is what causes wars.

“It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh, against France.”
President François Hollande speaking to the people of France. He didn’t mention the 273 strikes by French aircraft against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (flying almost 1300 missions).

Stratfor

After Paris, France Contemplates a Reckoning

Stratfor, 14 November 2015

Summary

Details are still emerging as to precisely who was responsible for the Nov. 13 Paris attacks. Sorting through the jumble of misinformation and disinformation will be challenging for French authorities, and for outside observers such as Stratfor.

While the Islamic State has claimed credit for the attack, it is still uncertain to what degree the Islamic State core organization was responsible for planning, funding or directing it. It is not clear whether the attackers were grassroots operatives encouraged by the organization like Paris Kosher Deli gunman Ahmed Coulibaly, if the operatives were professional terrorist cadres dispatched by the core group or if the attack was some combination of the two.

Analysis

French President Francois Hollande publicly placed responsibility for the Nov. 13 attack on the Islamic State, declaring it an act of war. This French response to the Paris attacks is markedly different from that of the Spanish Government following the March 2004 Madrid train bombings. Instead of pulling back from the global coalition working against jihadism, it appears that the French will renew and perhaps expand their efforts to pursue revenge for the most recent assault. The precise nature of this response will be determined by who is ultimately found to be the author of the Nov. 13 attack.

To date, there has been something akin to a division of labor in the anti-jihadist effort, with the French heavily focused on the Sahel region of Africa. The French have also supported coalition efforts in Iraq and Syria, stationing six Dassault Rafale jets in the United Arab Emirates and six Mirage jets in Jordan. On Nov. 4, Paris announced it was sending the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to enhance ongoing airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. To date, French aircraft have flown more than 1,285 missions against Islamic State targets in Iraq, and only two sorties in Syria.

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Stratfor: What to Expect After the November 13 Paris Attacks

Summary: Here is Stratfor’s same day analysis of the terror attack on Paris, and speculation about its implications and what comes next.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Stratfor

What to Expect After the November 13 Paris Attacks

Stratfor, 13 November 2015

Summary

Update (6:00 CST): According to French media reports, French security forces have stormed and secured the Bataclan theater. The attackers apparently used grenades inside the main concert hall, Aujourd’hui Paris reported Nov. 13. Details are still emerging.

As many as 60 people died Nov. 13 in multiple terrorist attacks throughout Paris. At least five gunmen – likely jihadists judging from witness’s accounts – conducted the attacks.

Timeline of the Attack

The attacks, which were clearly coordinated, took place in multiple locations and involved different methods. In the first wave, two suicide bombers detonated their explosives at locations near the Stade de France, where a soccer match between France and Germany was taking place. (French President Francois Hollande himself was at the stadium at the time of the attack. He was escorted from the scene and met with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in a closed meeting shortly thereafter.) It is unclear whether grenades or other explosives were used, and it is possible a suicide bomber may have been involved.

Meanwhile, gunmen also opened fire, reportedly with Kalashnikov rifles, on a tightly packed Cambodian restaurant in a drive-by shooting. Shots were also fired at the Bataclan concert hall, where a hostage situation in now underway.

Roughly 25 minutes later, gunmen also opened fire on Rue de Charonne. And about an hour after the initial attacks, attacks by other terrorist cells took place at the Louvre and Les Halles.

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The unspoken issue of the election: America’s descent into darkness

Summary:  Perhaps the most valuable information, & the most difficult to obtain, is not that about the world, but about ourselves. Hence these posts seeking “mirrors” in which we can see how we have changed and what we’ve become. This post looks at the results of the war on terror. Not the effects on the terrorists (who seem either unaffected or even stronger) but on our national character. It’s the most important issue never to be mentioned during this campaign.

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
— Aphorism 146 in Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (1886).

Statue of Liberty in the darkness

 

Assassination of jihadist leaders. Torture by the CIA, added by doctors. Torture in Abu Ghraib prison. A mass campaign of assassination, even including American citizens. Etc, etc; we all know the list. After 14 years of moral decay we have become a New America. But we were warned about the danger of this path.

“The French … The Israelis … The Americans … {these deeds} proving that he who fights terrorists for any period of time is likely to become one himself.”
— Martin van Creveld in The Transformation of War: The Most Radical Reinterpretation of Armed Conflict Since Clausewitz (1991).

We concealed this transformation from ourselves — if not from others — with hypocrisy, as describe in “The Uses of al-Qaeda” by Richard Seymour in the London Review of Books, 13 September 2012.

Alan Krueger’s authoritative What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism (2007) was notable for being unable to define its subject. Krueger admits that it might have been as well to discard the word in favour of the more cumbersome ‘politically motivated violence carried out by sub-state actors with the goal of spreading fear within the population’.

This excludes state violence, narrowing the field to insurgency or subversion of various kinds, but not all insurgent groups that Krueger – or the State Department – calls ‘terrorist’ make it a strategic priority to target civilian populations. Insofar as they do, they don’t necessarily differ in their methods from state actors. In the ‘war on terror’, a cardinal claim of ‘civilised’ states was that, unlike their opponents, they did not target civilians. Suicide attacks cause indiscriminate slaughter and are an indicator of barbarism; surgical strikes are the gentle civilisers of nations. There is little evidence for a distinction of that sort in the prosecution of recent wars.

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