29 January 2010

Terrorism on Trial: Countering AQ's Phase IV Strategy

There has been buzz in the news throughout the morning about the legal framework US authorities, led by the Department of Justice, ought to use to try terrorists. Al Sahwa has previously explained the main options available while discussing the case of Nidal Malik Hasan.

The reporting, and accompanying conversation, is circling the case of
Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day, underpants, would-be bomber. The Washington Post has two articles here and here that beg us, once again, to question the interconnecting elements of terrorism with our Constitution - as well as our social fabric and the values and traditions celebrated by them.

You may read complimentary articles on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's (KSM) trial from the
NY Times, and/or the implications for our prison population (that I discussed previously in the link provided) from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

I propose beginning with the U.S. Constitution, in particluar
Article I, Section 8, which establishes the right of Congress "to constitute Tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court." Moreover, the definition of "Piracies and Felonies committed on the high seas" should be understood to descriptively include Terrorism committed on land, seas, and air. Such an alteration can successfully give way to "make[ing] Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water" which shall also include airspace.

The intention and purpose is to provide the preservation of liberties and protection of their daily engagements of, by, and for U.S. citizens.

On this last point, cases such as Abdulmutallab and KSM's raise the importance of the possible utilization of habeas corpus if/when not suspended during terrorism trials.
Article I, Section 9 states, "The Priviledge of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the Public safety may require it."

Please see legal information of U.S. Code, "the codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States," pertaining to habeas corpus

It is clear in the language used by the drafters and signers of the Constitution that the Founding Fathers, Statesmen, and citizens framed their arguments according to the possible perils they faced on land and water. As such, the definition of "making rules" for capture followed the logic inherent in their own language. Thus, "terrorism" is not mentioned and/or defined simply because the trecherous activity was not in and on the minds of the US leaders and citizens.

As we all have known for some time, US leaders and citizens face threats unfamiliar and unimaginable to the Founders. In light of the practicality sought by the Obama Administration on matters of law and terrorism, it is of utmost concern to raise further questions bound to the aformentioned constitutional concepts.

Firstly, what is the meaning of the independent right to life as a US citizen, and the adjoining rights possessed by one's citizenship? Amendment XIV, Section 1 grants to citizens naturalized rights. If terrorists are granted miranda rights, tried in civilian court [and convicted or acquitted], then by default what other rights shall be granted to suspected terrorists? Common sense tells me that constitutional rights grant me equal protection of the laws, but that equality can not be shared by foreign, enemy combatants.

Secondly, shall the US provide comprehensive rights to suspected terrorists being tried in civilian court? Amendment VI grants persons being tried in criminal prosecutions, for example, the right to a speedy trial and public trial. This must be judged by an impartial jury. Shall we also, then, apply the Brady rule if a terrorist or his/her [public] defender think evidence was withheld? (Also see Brady and its probable implications for terrorism trials here and here). Common sense tells me that the circumstances particular to a US citizen's trial rightfully imply a speedy, public trial, but that presumption of innocence can not be prescribed to foreign, enemy combatants.

Thirdly, and lastly, if suspected terrorists are granted any amount of rights also held by US citizens (gained through birth or application), when are the accused terrorists in fact charged with treason as holders of US rights? Article III, Section 3 states that all persons "levying War...or in adhering to Enemies, giving them Aid or Comfort" shall be charged with treason. Common sense tells me that the Attainder/Conviction of treason leads back to the situation suspected foreign terrorists face in the first place: "The loss of all civil rights by a person sentenced for a serious crime."

It is important to note that an attainder can apply to both an individual and group. According to the Constitution, an attainder results in the sentencing of the convicted to death.

The argument is being made that "broad consensus" holds that terrorism trials are best decided on a case-by-case basis (pg. 5). Must we, then, form courts and complimentary structures, systems, and procedures to meet the demands of such variety? For example, what is the difference in trying US citizens compared to enemy combatants when considering Al-Awlaki, a US-born, AQAP, radical Islamic cleric? What ought we to say about or how ought we to decide on Nidal Hasan or Abdulhakim Muhammad?

Margaret Thatcher said in a 1981 speech, "To me consensus seems to be the process of abandoning beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects—the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead."

Sadly, I think the deterioration of all US/Western economic and legal structures lies at the heart of the long-term strategic plan of AQ: It is what makes us great, and that which AQ seeks to attack. This method of deterioration that causes our confusion will increasingly be paired with direct attacks on the US homeland. We have the will and the power to prevent both; to protect, preserve, and prosper.

28 January 2010

Leaked QDR Draft

A draft copy of the QDR was recently leaked. CPT Hyphen tweeted a link to the Small Wars Journal, who provided a link to Abu Muqawama, who grabbed it from Inside Defense.com, who had the document originally leaked to them. So I thought why not us! Its more rewarding if you start at the CPT Hyphen tweet and follow the cyber trail.

27 January 2010

The Yemen File: Promising Beginnings for 2010

Abdul Mutallab thrust Yemen into the lime light, thus increasing the media's coverage of our attempt at a collective solution in 2010. It is important enough for Secretary Hillary Clinton to be in London tonight, instead of attending the State of the Union address. Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in late January to provide the State Department's way forward. Feltman outlined a two front strategy that focuses on strengthening the government's ability to provide security, and address the economic crisis. Surprisingly, there is more information about our counter terror efforts than our economic efforts.

The Washington Post sheds some rare light on the counter terror partnership between Yemen and the United States, here. Yemen will most likely be a successful template for future terror hot spots. The US footprint on the ground is minuscule, which allows the host nation government a degree of deniability. This should prevent a mass appeal for disenfranchised Yemenis to attack Ali Abdullah Saleh's government due to having Western soldiers on their land. The soldiers and civilians who are supporting Ali Abdullah Saleh's CT efforts are second to none. In addition to man power, our government will pony up $63 million solely for increased security efforts. We will continue to see success by enabling Yemen's lethal targeting against AQAP, here, here, here, and here. Where I am most concerned is the economic front, Jeffrey Feltman's second front.

The Yemeni government quantifies their economic needs as $50 Billion of aid over the next 10 years. The Yemeni calculus behind this figure is what they believe is needed to raise their rank on the list of the least developed countries. Today in London, World leaders are meeting to discus ways and areas that the collective community can pull Yemen from the brink of economic collapse. The United States is pressuring Saleh's government to follow a 10 point plan to improve economic and government accountability. This is a crucial aspect. The reason being, Europe and the West pledged over $5 billion in aid, but only 20% ever made it to Yemen. The corruption in Yemen is so great that it basically equates to lining Yemeni pockets with aid money. If the US and other world leaders fail to fix the corruption aspect, we will never be able to stop the inevitable disaster heading for us when Yemen runs out of oil, in 2017. Secretary Clinton is also making the cease fire for the Houthi Rebel conflict a top priority. The conflict with the Houthi Rebels alone soaked up over 10 million dollars in aid from the USAID and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.

I tittled this post "Promising Beginnings" because I believe Yemen may be the first true holistic governmental approach to foreign policy from the United States. The right military foot print is in place and the State Department can effectively act in Yemen due to the size of the problem. Iraq and Afghanistan were just too big for the State Department's budget and personnel size to effectively handle. Al Sahwa will continue to follow Yemen closely, stay tuned.

Afghanistan: Two Important Reads

Wanted to share links to two important documents that were released/leaked today. I'm bogged down with work at my "real" job so far this week, so don't have much time for analysis. Both are well worth a read if you have a chance...

1) Ambassador Eikenberry's Afghanistan Cables - leaked to the NY Times and published today. Read the summary article here and view the full document below:

2) MG Flynn's Afghanistan Assessment (from 22 Dec): published by Peter Bergen at CNN. Although the full document is not viewable, the content outlined in Bergen's article sounds very similar to the slides I shared from COL Thompson (MG Flynn's deputy) several weeks ago in a previous post here. Key highlights from Flynn's assessment include:

  • The Taliban's organizational capabilities and operational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding and the group is capable of much greater frequency of attacks and varied locations of attacks.
  • The insurgency can now sustain itself indefinitely because of three factors: 1) The increased availability of bomb-making technology and material; 2) The Taliban's access to two major funding streams, one from the opium trade and the other from overseas donations from Muslim countries, which reach the Taliban by courier or through a system of informal banks known as "hawalas" that operate across much of the Islamic world; and 3) The Taliban's continuing ability to recruit foot soldiers based on the perception that they "retain the religious high-ground," and factors such as poverty and tribal friction.
  • Detained insurgents said the Taliban saw 2009 as the most successful year of the war, because violence had expanded and because the Afghan presidential election on August 20 was marred by low turnout and fraud. Detainees also told interrogators that the Taliban see al Qaeda as a handicap - a view that is spreading as the Taliban try to present themselves as a nationalist group seeking to liberate Afghanistan from foreign forces.
  • The Taliban are effectively creating a parallel government, in competition with the Kabul government. [For more on the Taliban's shadow government, see my recent post here] The Taliban's strategy in 2010 includes expanding into the north and west of Afghanistan, where the Taliban traditionally have had scant support; continuing aggressive operations during winter, when warfare has traditionally eased in Afghanistan; and increasing Taliban influence around the key cities of Kabul and Kandahar.
  • Taliban weaknesses include: disagreements among local Taliban leaders, the group's dependence on marginalized ethnic Pashtuns, and over-reliance on "external support," a reference to Taliban havens in Pakistan.

24 January 2010

Bin Laden Claims Christmas Day Plot

Al Qaeda Central leader, Osama bin Laden, claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day bomb plot in a video released by Al Jazeera. He called Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab "an heroic warrior" similar to AQ 9/11 terrorists.

The time between the attempted attack and OBL's message is enough to think that this is an attempt by the leader himself to project his supremacy. Also, it is a follow-up opportunity to spread AQ's false ideological message once again, as documented in al Sahwa's mission:
"Under the banner of the blessed awakening which is sweeping the Islamic world...Your brothers in Palestine and in the land of the two Holy Places are calling upon your help and asking you to take part in fighting against the enemy - your enemy and their enemy - the Americans and the Israelis. They are asking you to do whatever you can, with one's own means and ability, to expel the enemy, humiliated and defeated, out of the sanctities of Islam"
(Osama bin Laden, Aug 1996).
Department of State spokesman, P.J. Crowley, is correct is stating that this is an attempt to remain relevant. I think OBL's actions here may internally anger AQAP leadership who most likely planned the attack independently.

As you may know, al Sahwa has been engaging in dialogue about whether or not AQ is structured and strategically operating as a conglomerate, or if the conventionally accepted theory remains true that AQ is a franchise. OBL's message presents good reason for further exploration on this matter, as it helps to determine an effective counter-terrorism targeting strategy.

I propose examining OBL's rhetoric, as it will undoubtedly identify his overarching philosophy: Palestine. He stated in today's message that it is "unfair for the West" to live as it does while "brothers in Gaza [suffer]." Accurately assessing where his "heart" lies, what he is knowingly concerned about, why he repetitively acknowledges the reason for continuing jihad, will enable professionals to understand and target past attacks. Most important to our mission, it will empower us to project future attacks.

Examining the leader's rhetoric will also enable us to identify the aligning ideologies of AQCL affiliates and determine whether or not they are actually a part of a "franchise" or "conglomerate" base. For example, AQAP is concerned with liberating Muslims throughout the Arabian Peninsula,while LeT seeks to liberate Muslims in India (Kashmir). The ideological thread will further highlight the correlation between where ideologies differ and how attacks are planned and executed.

In conclusion, what I think is happening - and my colleagues will most likely agree with me on this point - is that AQ and its affiliates are collectively strengthening their efforts to bring the jihad directly to the US. Even though OBL's message was delayed, it is important to point out that he still successfully has the perceived ability to reach his AQ network. The Christmas Day attempt was only one of many plots against the US in 2009. Especially due to documented increase of the use of the internet, jihadists, either American-born or foreigners to the US homeland, will continue to seek religious and tactics training in Yemen and Pakistan [amongst other nations].

23 January 2010

Taliban's Shadow Government: “Community-Level” Governance

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially released the State Department’s “Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy” on Thursday [read the full report here]. The NY Timesprovides a great summary of the key elements of what has been referred to by many as the “civilian surge” in Afghanistan (and Pakistan). Explaining that, “Our civilian engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan will endure long after our combat troops come home,” the report goes on to outline several key initiatives including: 1) a civil-military agriculture redevelopment strategy; 2) efforts to improve governance at the provincial, district, and local level, where most Afghans encounter their government; 3) a bolstering of justice and rule of law programs; 3) support to Afghan-led efforts to reintegrate Taliban who renounce al-Qaeda, cease violence, and accept the constitutional system; and 4) a complementary expanded civilian presence at both the national and local levels to implement these initiatives.

While it’s encouraging to see Secretary Clinton embrace the State Department’s important role in a “whole-of-government” approach, it will be a long and extremely difficult struggle to improve governance and essential services at the community level (district/village). Ultimately, until the people of Afghanistan see their local government meeting their basic needs, their only other option will be to turn to the Taliban. It’s clear from recent reports in Afghanistan that the Taliban has the upper hand right now in terms of influencing the “key terrain” of Afghanistan – the local populace. As Clinton explains, “The Afghan government is under assault from the Taliban and struggling to provide security, jobs, and basic justice to a society devastated by 30 years of war.”

In the remainder of this post, I will discuss the greatest obstacle the US faces in its efforts to successfully implement this civil-military strategy: the Taliban’s “shadow government.” As GEN McChrystal’s Afghanistan assessment highlighted this summer, the Taliban has established a formalized “shadow government” system across the country, with Taliban shadow governors appointed in 33 of 34 provinces. The ISAF assessment provides a good summary of the roles and functions of these shadow governors in providing an alternative source to meet the people’s needs in terms of governance, essential services, and justice:

The QST [Quetta Shura Taliban] has a governing structure in Afghanistan under the rubric of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They appoint shadow governors for most provinces, review their performance, and replace them periodically. They established a body to receive complaints against their own "officials" and to act on them. They install 'shari'a' courts to deliver swift and enforced justice in contested and controlled areas. They levy taxes and conscript fighters and laborers. They claim to provide security against a corrupt government, ISAF forces, criminality, and local power brokers. They also claim to protect Afghan and Muslim identity against foreign encroachment. In short, the QST provides major elements of governance and a national and religious narrative.”

The Times of London provides an excellent profile of what the shadow government looks like on the ground in a recent article here. Highlighting the story of a local woman, Habiba, who lives inJaghatu district, Wardak province, a short drive south of Kabul, the article tells the story of her attempt to resolve a dispute between her husband and a neighbor over water rights. Habiba traveled for hours to see Mullah Zafar Akhund, the Taliban’s shadow governor for the district.Within a matter of days, he had ruled on the dispute and sent several Taliban fighters to Habiba’s village to enforce his decision, something that the local government had been unable to accomplish for months. Another neighbor of Habiba’s summarized his similar experiences with the Taliban’s justice and governance system, explaining that, “If you complain to the Government it takes years; they ask you for bribes and you have to go to their offices every day…That’s why people choose the Taliban.” For more background and coverage of the Taliban’s shadow governance efforts, also check out this excellent story from the Washington Posthighlighting the Taliban’s shadow government in Laghman province, this article from McClatchythat discusses the increasing Taliban efforts in RC-North, and my previous post on the Taliban’s shadow government in Nuristan province.

As these articles illustrate, the greatest challenge in countering this shadow government will undoubtedly occur at the community level, particularly in the multitude of districts and villages across Afghanistan’s South and East. Clinton clearly recognizes this, stating, “The provinces and districts are where our most consequential programs will be delivered, where we must help the Afghan government provide economic opportunities that increase stability and reduce the strength of the insurgency – and where we are most visibly expanding our civilian commitment.” But will our efforts be enough? While the Taliban has an extensive network of governors, ministers, intelligence sources, and fighters to rely upon, the US currently relies primarily on our Soldiers and Marines. Clinton’s civilian surge will help by more than tripling the number of civilians on the ground to over 1000, but this still pales in comparison to the numbers that the Taliban already has in place.

So, what’s the solution? Clearly, we all agree on the need to greatly increase the number of civilian advisors at both the national and local levels. But what should they be focused on? And how can we leverage the thousands of troops stationed across the country to compliment the “civilian surge”? In his must-read article published in the most recent issue of Joint Forces Quarterly, COL Chris Kolenda offers one solution. His article, entitled “Winning Afghanistan at the Community Level,” essentially advocates the “population-centric COIN” approach outlined in FM 3-24 (and emphasized by GEN McChrystal in his recent COIN Training Guidance), but with a major focus on providing governance at the local community level. Rejecting the argument that Afghanistan is incapable of governing itself, Kolenda explains that, “The current state of weak and bad governance is at the heart of political dissatisfaction, not the existence of government itself. Although several institutions have made significant progress and many national level ministers have proven quite capable, the same is not true at the subnational levels where the government meets the people.” In Kolenda’s plan, the main effort must be to re-establish capacity at the local level to provide basic governance, requiring “mobilization at community rather than tribal levels.” This runs counter to the arguments of many (like MAJ Jim Gant in his paper “One Tribe at a Time”) who have recently advocated engagement at the tribal level as the best (and only) method for success.

Kolenda argues, correctly in my opinion, that, “The community level will be decisive – and that support is entirely up for grabs.” By focusing our efforts on community leaders (which would include a combination of local government and tribal leaders, selected based on an informed intelligence analysis of key local power brokers), we can mobilize a segment of the populace that to this point has been on the fence, essentially afraid to commit in any one direction. Kolenda highlights this sentiment with a quote from a local elder who explains, “We are robbed by our government, bombed by international forces, and beaten by the Taliban.” We must win the support of this target audience in order to tip the balance in our favor and away from the current de facto power brokers – the Taliban shadow government. In order to do this, Kolenda offers three specific recommendations to improve sub-national governance: 1) increasing the numbers of technical experts at provincial and district levels to help develop basic public administration systems while providing necessary overwatch to ensure accountability; 2) expanding the concept of official governance by incorporating traditional structures such as village and district shuras to provide an effective check and balance to district officials through programs like The National Solidarity Program Community Development Councils and District development Assemblies (similar to the bolstering of the NACs and DACs across Iraq to complement the military surge operations in 2007-2008); and 3) developing and establishing effective local dispute resolution mechanisms that can outmatch the rough justice meted out by extremists like Mullah Zafar and other Taliban shadow governors.

Clinton’s plan is a good first step and it at least mentions the importance of focusing our limited resources at the local level. However, in reality, most of the State Department’s focus is still at the national level, with very few resources being pushed down to improve governance at the district/village level and create bridges between Karzai’s government and the provincial/district government entities. In order to truly tip the scales in our favor, we need to drastically increase the number of civilian personnel deployed to Afghanistan and we must ensure that they are focused to provide effects at the critical point – the community level. If we don’t do this right, we risk missing the opportunity to exploit the improved security provided by the military surge, leaving us without an enduring system of local governance that can replace the Taliban.

22 January 2010

Rehabilitation for Al Qaeda: The Limits of Soft Counterterrorism

I am looking forward to Pat's upcoming analysis on "...the wider strategy that the US is waging against AQAP." He plans to take an holistic and comprehensive look at our diplomatic, information, military, and economic efforts in Yemen. For the time being, I wish to focus on one more of the many important strategic aspects for countering AQ, namely, psychological rehabilitation. It is increasingly becoming more a part of US discussions as a viable avenue for achieving diplomatic and economic success.

On 14 December, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton designated AQAP as a foreign terrorist organization. This step is important for two reasons: a) it enables the U.S. to target and prosecute AQAP members and their network affiliates; and b) it opens the door for further cooperation with the Yemeni Government. For example, officially adding top-tier leaders such as Nasir al-Wahishi and Said al-Shihri, as well as al-Zindani, to the F.B.I.'s Most Wanted List empowers the Department of Justice to work in cooperation with President Salih's Prime Minister for Security and Defense, Rashad Muhammad al-Alimi along with others.

The work is already beginning, as Clinton has met with Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi to discuss effective ways to "control [Yemen's] borders, conduct counterterrorist activities, [and] improve services to the people of Yemen. But, it is imperative to note, as al-Qirbi stated earlier, that "Yemen welcomes U.S. and foreign troops for training, intelligence and logistical support." In confirmation of this, President Obama has stated repetitively that "grounds troops" will not be sent, and the US is only seeking to further aid the host nation with its capabilities and resources throughout 2010 as General Petraus says here.

Christopher Boucek of the Carnegie Endowment reiterates al Sahwa's perspective that a successful counterterrorism strategy must be holistic, and adds that professionals have reason to conduct a "greater evaluation" of soft security measures such as psychological rehabilitation programs that incorporate prevention and aftercare methods. He quotes that the program now being used by the Saudi Arabian Government, which has treated 3,000 prisoners, boasts an 80-90% success rate. Such a program surely promises a multi-disciplinary approach to combating extremism, but is it a viable aspect of a comprehensive strategy?

U.S. local, state, and federal police organizations have traditionally used rehabilitation methods to combat gang-warfare and culture in order to protect citizens and families and prevent socio-economic hardship. Speaking in terms of statistics alone, 80-90% is not successful or promising when considering the objective of defeating Al Qaeda. When the percentage is applied to both criminal gang activity and international/transnational terrorist jihad, it simply means that 1-2:10 persons remain either committed to or openly vulnerable to becoming committed once again to carrying out micro and/or macro attacks.

At first glance, soft counter-terrorism methods offer only a positive perspective and limited promise for realistic results. It is positive because it does give reason to evaluate further as Boucek argues, but it is limited because a) it may only work for certain regional populations and/or b) it has proven to work only to a certain degree.

As Bill Roggio examines on LWJ, Shihri himself was released from Guantanemo Bay in 2007 and wasted no time getting back into the game. Furthermore, an interesting article in Foreign Policy (15 January, 2010) entitled, "Camp Nowhere," states;
"Indeed, between 2000 and 2005, the Sanaa government supported a rehabilitation program for its own prisoners, the Yemeni Committee for Dialogue...Reports suggest that several graduates returned to their violent ways, many of them in Iraq. Moreover, plans for renewing and improving deradicalization efforts [through religious dialogue and reintegration into society] are still in the very early stages."

The fact that even a small percentage returns to jihad is enough reason to not implement such a program into the holistic and comprehensive strategy. Moreover, as I learned in my "Crisis Management" course while an MBA student, it is not always the amount of times an event happens but the severity of one event happening that results in broader disruption and/or destruction. The return of 1-2 AQ fighters is enough to determine the global impact of its network; for these members spread harm on many fronts.

The implications inherent in the philosophy of soft counter-terrorism techniques begets the argument once more that "Al-Qaeda is an organization to be destroyed, not to be negotiated with in any manner..." President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and participating agencies such as the FBI can successfully protect America by "continuing to press the Yemenis to defeat al-Qaeda, not to talk with them."

After further assessment, soft counter-terrorism methods seem to not dismantle a terrorist's personal and group willingness - and if I may say, inner yearnings. Another case paramount to understanding the dynamic which we are facing is that of Othman Hadi al-Umari, an AQ weapons smuggler who surrendered to Saudi Arabia authorities in 2004. He was, at the time, number 25 of 26 on their most wanted list. Al-Umari (also written Omari) "renounced his earlier thinking but later rejoined the organization and was captured [in 2009] with the cell of 11 terrorists" The Interior Minister has affirmed that AQ uses the rehabilitation program to further their ideological objectives, stating that "Al-Qaeda has managed to lure back about 11 returnees from Guantanamo that had benefited from the programs."

In conclusion, despite the return rate of "rehabilitated" terrorists to jihad, psychological programs cannot be implemented into a comprehensive strategy at this time but need to be explored further so that the US and host nations can identify successful soft counterterrorism techniques to evaporate jihadi extremism and prevent radicalization amongst the youth populations. I argue, above all proposals, that educational programs promise the greatest deliverance from ideological growth and violent activity. This is where such a program can be as effective as police-oriented gang programs.

As an aspect of my next post, I plan to discuss the effectiveness of the F.B.I.'s Community Outreach Program (C.O.P.) and its opportunity to integrate business networking, educational institutions, and religious communities to combat terrorism. The analysis will be important for understanding further how host nations such as Yemen can potentially implement a framework for community programs to aid in the disruption of AQ networks.

For now, "The economic issue is key to Yemen's challenge in shutting down al Qaeda -- not just in re-educating militants, but in preventing militancy." It is evident that in order for this to be successful, the US and Saudi Arabia must aid in the stabilization of Yemen's economy, as I discussed here.

21 January 2010

White House Middle East Optimism

What, honestly, could the White House have expected to accomplish in one year that every President in a half century has been unable to achieve during their entire term? This issue runs deeper than most anyone in the US can understand; our frame of reference does not stretch back far enough to fully comprehend the complexities of a conflict that is referenced in centuries. A solution to this conflict will only occur when both parties want a solution, which would in turn mean that each is willing to offer real conciliatory offers to the other. Only then will the US be able to assist in truly fruitful negotiations. This is yet to happen. Read more here.

Shabaab World Cup Threat

Al Shabaab (HSM) would have to be crazy to stage an attack in South Africa this summer during the World Cup. Somalia would have the largest military coalition of soccer-loving countries ever assembled.

In all seriousness, the articles do highlight a connection between HSM and personnel in Cape Flats (an extremely poor area of greater Cape Town), which is extremely interesting and a line I haven’t previously heard about. The Cape Town-HSM connection is feasible, as it is a great place to launder money and execute other supply and logistics-type operations. I’ve been digging into this connection for most of the night, but unfortunately have been unable to locate any additional information.

South African authorities are likely taking the threat of terrorism more seriously after the Togolese National Team was ambushed earlier this month crossing into Angola. A threat of terrorism obviously exists anywhere there is such a diverse crowd at an event being broadcast across the world. But, if I were heading to Cape Town or Jo’Burg this summer, I’d still be more worried about getting mugged or car jacked than anything else.

18 January 2010

Progress Against AQAP

AQAP's key leaders appeared together in a video from early 2009. Pictured (from left to right) are: Qasim al Raymi (possibly EKIA), Said Ali al Shihri (possibly detained), Nasir al Wuhayshi, and Muhammad al Awfi

Just wanted to highlight two major events that happened over the weekend in the fight against AQAP. If reports from the inside Yemen are true, government forces struck a major blow against the top tier leadership of AQAP. Neither US authorities or AQAP have confirmed the claims of the Yemeni government, but both claims still deserve mention due to the potential impact on AQAP's operational capability over the next 1-2 months.
  • On 15 January, an airstrike in the Aljasher region resulted in 6x EKIA, reportedly including the AQAP Military Emir - Qasim al Raymi aka Abu Hurayah. As usual, Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal has excellent coverage and background on the strike. Also, for an even more in-depth bio on Qasim al Raymi, check out the great coverage at Waq al Waq, a must-read for anyone interested in Yemen. AQAP responded quickly with a denial of his death, but we'll likely have to wait a few more days for final confirmation. Many analysts believe that Qasim al Raymi (who was the former overall emir of AQ in Yemen prior to their merger into AQAP) was the most critical target within the AQAP network based on his extensive experience and connections across the wider AQ movement.
  • On 18 January, the Yemeni government claimed that they captured AQAP's deputy emir - Said Ali al Shihri in the Sylan district in Shabwa. According to Bill Roggio at LWJ, the initial report from the Yemen Observer explains the circumstances of capture: reportedly al Shihri and several other militants were traveling in a car that flipped when trying to bypass a flash checkpoint established by Yemeni government forces. Al Shihri was appointed the deputy to AQAP Emir Nasir al Wuhayshi after the formation of AQAP in early 2009. Previously, al Shihri (a Saudi citizen) had served as a travel facilitator in Iran and also spent time fighting in Afghanistan. He was released from detention at Guantanamo Bay in 2007 and placed into the Saudi rehab program, but quickly returned to his terrorist activities. Several months later, he played a major role in the attack on the US Embassy in Sanaa in September 2008.
If these claims prove true, there will clearly be a significant impact on AQAP's ability to conduct operations in the near to mid-term. However, I believe that they already likely have a major operation (or multiple operations) near the point of execution. Since these attacks would already be quite far along in the operational timeline, the capture/death of al Shihri and al Raymi will have minimal impact in preventing them.

While it's difficult to predict methodology and target selection, I believe we are likely to see two specific attacks in the next 1-3 months: 1) Coordinated suicide strike against the US Embassy in Sanaa (or other known US/Western target). This was recently attempted, and foiled by the Yemeni police, last month and I expect AQAP will keep trying until they get it right; 2) Another strike(s) against US airlines along a similar vein of the failed Christmas Day attack. I believe that Anwar al Awlaki (the dual US-Yemen citizen and radical cleric linked to both the failed Dec 25 attack and the Ft. Hood attacks) is playing an increasingly important role within the organization. His efforts to recruit Western and non-Arab youth are aimed at developing a cadre of suicide bombers with access to the US via their visas (for example, Canada is a perfect example and an area we've seen can be fertile for recruiting). Also, I expect AQAP (and other AQ-affiliated groups) to attempt an attack against the homeland using female suicide bombers. They continue to heavily recruit women and it's just a matter of time until they can put together an attack (similar to the spike in female suicide bombers we witnessed in Iraq in 2008).

In addition to considering future attacks being planned by AQAP, we must also take a step back and put the recent successes of the Yemeni government (likely with US assistance) into a larger context. Lethal targeting of top and mid-tier leaders is a critical element in our fight against AQAP, but there's much more we need to be doing to counter the group's growing influence and capability. In an upcoming post, I plan to examine the wider strategy that the US is waging against AQAP - taking a holistic and comprehensive look at our diplomatic, information, military, and economic efforts in Yemen.

In the meantime, for some great background on Yemen and AQAP, check out the West Point CTC Sentinel's Special Issue on Yemen.

Somalia Update

It appears Harakat Shabaab Mujhaideen’s (HSM) push north may have finally stalled, for the time being. Two weeks ago I wrote about fighting in Dhuusa Marreeb, where HSM penetrated deep into Ahlu Sunna wal Jamma (ASWJ) controlled territory with the intent of disrupting the ASWJ Abudwaq Conference. ASWJ and TFG forces launched a counter-offensive into Hiraan region last week with the intent of capturing Beledweyn. Both sides are essentially gridlocked at this point, with forces positioned along defensive fronts.

HSM has a weakened position this far north, and is forced to operate alongside Hizb ul Islam (HI) throughout much of Hiraan and Galguduud regions. What I find particularly interesting about an HI/HSM joint force is that these groups fought extensively for control of Somalia’s southern regions. HSM has previously maintained a modus operandi of absorbing or destroying weaker Salafi groups, and to this extent has battled HI for control of much of southern Somalia. On the Sufi side of the war the TFG and ASWJ appear, for the time being, to feel they are operating from a position of strength. Yesterday a TFG military commander ruled out any negotiations with Salafi insurgents. The ground truth is obviously much different; except for minor setbacks, HSM steadily continues to consolidate power and move forward toward capturing the ultimate prize: Mogadishu. As noted by Dr Michael Weinstein, ASWJ (the strongest pro-TFG paramilitary group) consists of only a few sub-clans, while HSM draws recruits from every major clan in Somalia. The steady attrition of ASWJ forces cannot be replenished at the same rate as HSM. If the war continues to progress at the current rate, HSM will essentially bleed out the most capable pro-TFG fighting force.

Unity of Command: Who is Calling the Shots in Afghanistan/Pakistan

The attack on FOB Chapman proves just how intertwined the multitude of terrorist organizations truely are in the Afghanistan, Pakistan region (AfPak). How did a Pakistani focused Taliban groups (TTP) get in contact with a Jordanian double agent, cook up a story about having information on Ayman al-Zawahiri (AQ), and conduct an operation in the Haqqani network's (HQN) front yard? I can't think of a better time to analyze the relationships between the prominant groups operating in the AfPak region in an attempt to understand how their relationships will affect our COIN/CT operations. I hope this post will generate some arguments that will allow all of us to walk away with an accurate assessment of how the different factions interact with one another. First, I want to cover a very BRIEF overview of the groups who's relationships we will analyze.

Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) is the original Taliban faction that was established with the help of the Pakistani ISI. The ISI likes to create organizations that operate along the boarder regions with Afghanistan and India. The Taliban's control of Southeastern Afghanistan pre-9/11 was Pakistan's way of providing a buffer West of their boarder. Mullah Omar is the overall leader of the QST. The QST home base is Quetta Pakistan with their primary area of operation in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Mullah Omar is currently a figurehead in the QST while Mullah Barader runs the day to day operations.

Al Qaeda senior leadership chose to establish a base of operations in Afghanistan with the approval of Mullah Omar. Following the Tora Bora battle, AQ senior leadership moved into Pakistan with the support of the tribal elders in the FATA/NWFP. Al Qaeda has two focuses; 1) Maintain a permissive environment in the AfPak region that will allow them to execute focus # two, 2) Conduct worldwide terror operations that will facilitate the eventual establishment of the Islamic Caliphate.

The Haqqani Network (HQN) is one of the many Taliban movements and currently operates along the AfPak boarder. Their home base is in Miram Shah, North Waziristan. Their offensive operations are focused in Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Logar, Wardak, and Kabul. The Pakistani ISI is in active contact with the HQN and even coordinated an attack on the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan using HQN fighters. The HQN provides essential services in North Waziristan while maintaining a capability to attack targets in Afghanistan, which means they will most likely never be targeted by the Pakistani military or ISI.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is a Taliban movement that focuses their operations inside of Pakistan. Their late leader, Baitullah Mehsud, was responsible for a wave of terrorist attacks to include the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Their home base is in the Pakistani FATA region and is an organizational umbrella for up to 13 Pakistani Taliban groups. The TTP continue to target Pakistani population centers in an attempt to erode public support for the military advances in the NWFP/FATA.

Hezb-e-Islami Glubuddin is a insurgent faction that operates in the Nuristan and Kunar Provinces of Afghanistan. They opposed the Taliban and lost their control over Kabul in 1996, at the hands of Mullah Omar's Taliban. The group is currently aligned with the Taliban because of their mutual relationship with Osama bin Laden and their common desire to expel the western invaders. This post will not analyze the relationship between HIG and the rest of the groups because I believe their relationship is superficial and will likely change once the common desire to expel the ISAF is removed.

Al Qaeda and all of the Taliban factions swore an oath of loyalty to Mullah Omar himself. When Osama bin Laden returned to Afghanistan in the 1990's, Mullah Omar was the most influential leader of the Taliban. Omar's rise to prominence occurred after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Mullah Omar was a brave fighter for the Mujahideen; however, the catalyst for his rise to power was his actions against a local war lord who kidnapped girls for sex. Mullah Omar's rise to prominence is a powerful narrative and I believe that Osama bin Laden chose to align with Mullah Omar because of his magnetic narrative. A strategic alliance with Mullah Omar would not only provide AQ with a place to build up their operational capacity, but also a possible pool of future fighters if OBL became the true dominant personality in the area. It is obvious that Mullah Omar did not completely understand OBL's global aspirations, and he was just as shocked with the rest of the World when the World Trade Center collapsed. OBL assassinated Ahmed Shah Masoud, Mullah Omar's greatest threat, one day prior to 9/11 for two possible reasons. 1) Since OBL did not get permission from Mullah Omar to launch attacks against the US, he might have needed to do a good deed to counter balance his unauthorized strike. 2) OBL knew that if 9/11 was successful, America would enlist the support of the Northern Alliance, so removal of their charismatic leader was a prudent move. Mullah Omar's Taliban was ousted from Afghanistan in 2002 because of OBL's attack. This fact probably would have caused a rift between OBL and Mullah Omar if they didn't need to remain united in order to survive. I believe the ISAF operational focus on the Helmand province is causing the QST to loose some of its control over the remainder of the Taliban factions. I think perceived weakness provides space for more powerful leaders to fill the voids. To sum up the assessment on Mullah Omar; he is a figurehead running the QST that is solely focused on their control over the Helmand and Kandahar provinces, with minor influence over the actions of the TTP or HQN.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) has the unique distinction being that the Pakistani ISI did not have a hand in their creation or control. This is why we see the TTP heavily involved in targeting the Pakistani government. They are the most effective Pakistani Taliban organization that conducts terrorist attacks deep into Pakistan's population centers. To me the interesting part of the relationship between the TTP and other groups came out of the death of Baitullah Mehsud. The TTP 22 man Shura Council met to vote on the next leader of the TTP. The meeting was held in the Arakazi agency and lasted two days until they unanimously decided to appoint Hakeemullah Mehsud as the new leader. Faqir Mohammad was the interium leader and is now Hakeemullah's Deputy. The critical part to understanding the relationship piece to AQ, HQN, and QST is that Siraj Haqqani blessed off on Hakeemullah's appointment through his two deputy Taliban commanders Mullah Nazir (North Wazirstan) and Hafiz Gul Bahadar (South Waziristan). We can deduce that this information alludes to Hakeemullah's role as operationally focused in Pakistan but that Siraj Haqqani has some command authority over him and the TTP.

Siraj Haqqani has the closest ties to AQ and controls the most effective branch of the Taliban, the Haqqani Network. The Kagan's provide some great bullet points describing Al Qaeda's relationship with the QST and HQN. Osama bin Laden had close ties with Jalalhuddin Haqqani when they crossed paths in Saudi Arabia fundraising for the Mujahideen in the 1980's. Jalalhuddin invited OBL to establish some training camps in the Paktia, Paktika, and Khost region (P2K) in the 1990's. Also in the 1990's, Jalaluddin had a deputy style relationship with Mullah Omar. Like Mullah Omar, Jalaluddin has more of a figurehead role now, while his son Sirajuddin runs the day to day operations. Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported that Siraj Haqqani voices loyalty to Mullah Omar even though the HQN secretly sent a letter asking the QST to remove Mullah Omar. This is an important fact because it shows that the HQN most likely runs their own operations with little regard to what the QST is doing in Southern Afghanistan. Another indication that the HQN is assuming a larger command role over other Taliban groups (minus QST), was Siraj's ability to bring together Hakeemullah, Mullah Nazir, and Hafiz Gul Bahadar for a face to face meeting in the region of Khost. One of the reason for the meeting was to restart the initiative that Baitullah Mehsud started in an attempt to keep the multitude of tribes within the Taliban from continuing local feuds. Mullah Omar and OBL provided Baitullah with guidance concerning easing the feudal tensions between factions. Siraj Haqqani is AQ's conduit for providing guidance and intent to the Pakistani Taliban movements. Because of Siraj's unifying ability and his father's relationship with OBL, he most likely earned a spot on the AQ Shura Council. In a rare interview, Siraj Haqqani denied ever meeting Al Qaeda's senior leadership and simply stated that he supports what they are doing.

I have arrived at several conclusions about the command relationships after compiling and analyzing the multitude of reports located on the LWJ and ISW, including this great report I found about 90% of the way though my research.
1) AQ senior leadership will provide guidance to the Taliban factions they live with, in order to increase AQ's capacity to facilitate global operations. Currently they are concentrating on the protection of their permissive environment. OBL's strategic goal of establishing the Caliphate will in no way challenge any of the Taliban factions' local initiatives. This will ensure a unified front between Osama bin Laden and the Taliban movements that support him. In return for Taliban safe haven, AQ provides the Taliban with a very effective fighting element, the "Shadow Army", that the Taliban can join with for major offensive operations.
2) Mullah Omar still carries enough respect to allow his guidance and intent to reach groups like the TTP and HQN. I believe the QST is not as dynamic in their aspirations and current operations as the HQN or the TTP. This could have future implications on Mullah Omar's aura of leadership. As the QST looses ground in Afghanistan, I think groups like AQ, HQN, and the TTP will be less likely to follow Mullah Omar's QST after a possible victory over the ISAF.
3) Siraj Haqqani is the most prolific day to day operational commander the US military faces. The Pakistani government will not openly challenge the HQN and the ISI maintain ties that allow them to use the HQN for offensive operations. I believe that the HQN is growing stronger and will possibly over take Mullah Omar's role after he dies of old age under the protection of the Pakistani ISI.
4) The TTP is the only major Taliban network that does not enjoy any collusion with the Pakistani government. This creates a strange predicament between the ISI, HQN, and the TTP. The HQN has some degree of control over Hakeemullah Mehsud who is targeting the Pakistani military and government. The ISI has a working relationship with the HQN. There are no open source reports of the ISI attempting to rein in the TTP through the HQN that I can find. This means that either the ISI doesn't have a solid handle on the HQN, or the HQN can't control the focus of the TTP's actions. I believe that since Siraj Haqqani played a role in Hakeemullah's ascension to power and brought the TTP in with the Waziristan Taliban factions, that it proves the ISI can't or won't convince the HQN to rein in the TTP.

Taking another look at the groups associated with the FOB Chapman attack, it now appears that Siraj Haqqani was the possible link between Al Qaeda's Jordanian and Hakeemullah Mehsud. There is something about Hakeemullah Mehsud's propaganda tape with al-Balawi that still seems out of place to me. After Baitullah Mehsud's death, the majority of predator drone attacks were focused on Al Qaeda and the HQN. I think it is possible that AQ and HQN wanted to shift the focus of our drone program to Hakeemullah's TTP, so they did all the leg work for the attack while Hakeemullah gets the credit. This conveniently helps the ISI because the full weight of our program is targeting the primary Taliban group conducting terror attacks in Pakistan.

OBL's grand vision doesn't conflict with the QST, HQN or TTP, thus making AQ the leading faction because of their global aspirations, Mullah Omar is the current leader of all Taliban groups but his power may not transfer to his deputy after his passing, because the HQN is the rising power and will someday direct the majority of the Taliban factions.

I used The Long War Journal and the Institute for the Study of War as my sources of information because both sites offer convenient search capabilities to their expert analysis. My hope is that readers can bring their personal experience and/or other puzzle pieces of information to help us create an accurate working model of the command relationships of our enemies in the AfPak region.

17 January 2010

Spitting Cobra Photo Essay

I wanted to bring this photo essay from Michael Yon to everyone’s attention. Michael Yon visited my Battalion in 2008 and I was immediately impressed with the depth and breadth of his knowledge of Iraq as a whole. This photo essay of 3-17 FA in Afghanistan helps highlight the tremendous work our 13-series Soldiers and NCOs are doing in Afghanistan, and makes me seriously doubt the branch naysayers who constantly speak of MOS atrophy.

Spend the next ten minutes checking out these photos.

16 January 2010

Who's Who The Terrorist Edition: Sirajuddin Haqqani

Sirajuddin Haqqani
Occupation: Leader of the Haqqani Network (Taliban)
Born: 1970 (Wiki), 1980 (NEFA video)
Education: No official education known, most likely attended Manba Ulom Madrassa in Miram Shah North Waziristan.
Employer: Legacy leader of the Haqqani Network, previously run by his father. Their operation expands over the following Afghani provinces; Kabul, Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Wardek, Logar, and in North Waziristan Pakistan.
Career Highlights: Facilitated the Jan 14, 2008 Serena Hotel attack in Kabul targeting a Norwegian delegation. April 27, 2008 attack on a military parade in Kabul with Hamid Karzai in attendance. November 10, 2008 kidnapped reporter David Rohde. June 30, 2009 captured PFC Bowe Bergdahl. November 28, 2009, facilitated the suicide attack on the UN Guest house with al Qaeda's help.
Family: Jalaluddin Haqqani (Father), Omar Haqqani EKIA (Younger Brother who is 1 of 6 Haqqani family martyrs since 2001, their family also lost 30 during the war with the Soviet Union)
Address: Currently on the move, but he traces his roots back to Miram Shah North Waziristan Pakistan. Other known locations; Warzala Khost Province
Assessment Summary: Siraj Haqqani's importance for the Taliban's success will continue to grow. He is an irreconcilable jihadist and will remain one of the top personalities on the US CT High Payoff Target List. A more substantial post will follow shortly.

15 January 2010

The Exchange: Stay Ahead of the Cycle in Yemen

The reason why Josh's latest series of posts is extremely important is because it enables us to determine the operational attack strategies and methods of Al-Qaeda. Terrorists intend to spread a political message through violent activity, and continuously target economic sources and activities to do so. A 2007 RAND (Center for Terrorism Risk Management Policy) study entitled, "Economically Targeted Terrorism," explains that Al-Qaeda either attacks a) interdependent economic streams to break down activity, such as transportation, or b) economic networks that spread effects, such as food or water contamination.

AQ's ability to plan and execute either small or large-scale attacks relies on their own economic stability; i.e. funding. "Truly hobbling a large, stable economy is likely to be beyond the means of most terrorist groups. However, a variety of potential terrorist operations could produce sufficiently...sizable numbers of casualties and damage or destroy large amounts of property..." It is important to identify that the objectives of AQ are witnessed in two ways, namely, to generate a) broad disruption and/or b) large-scale destruction.

Ironically, but not surprising, the economic stability of AQ depends largely on the economic instability of other nations. This is a trend that I established concerning the criminal activity of trafficking. AQ thrives in impoverished areas. For example, The Economist declared that the worst country on earth in 2010 is Somalia, home of "piracy, poverty, and perdition." Similarly, Al Shabaab calls it home, too: "...according to the UN’s World Food Programme, more than 40% of the population need food aid to survive, and one in every five children is acutely malnourished. The constant fighting has internally displaced more than 1.5m people, with a third living in dire, makeshift camps. Aid workers have been able to supply them with less than half the daily water needed."

Conditions such as these have caused both the US and international agencies, such as the UN, to provide financial, nutritional, and military support. As I discussed with US Operation Restore Hope, scenarios as the one Somalia and other countries face - as they have faced in the past and continue too now - can be miscalculated and result in financial loss and/or military conflict. As The Economist article states, "The world's most failed state, regrettably, threatens to become a bigger problem for the rest of the world."

Sadly, this theory holds true, as the 2009 worst country on earth was none other than Afghanistan. Michael E. O'Hanlon, Director of Research and Senior Fellow of Foreign Policy at The Brookings Institute, identified Afghanistan as the first crisis region in a report entitled, "Four Global Crisis Spots." He discusses the strategic opportunities for the US as well as the multi-disciplinary resources needed to counter terrorist growth, increased violence, and social and economic hardship.

Mr. O'Hanlon's former colleague (Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy, 2006-2009) and now US Ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual, has recently co-authored "Confronting Poverty" with Susan E. Rice - (December 2009). He argues that due to the connections between poverty and fragile states, "alleviating poverty and shoring up weak states are not only humanitarian and economic imperatives, but key components of a more balanced and sustainable US national security strategy." The "War on Terror" has taught us - and shown us over and over again more than we like - that the most sustainable US strategy should not focus on singular states but interconnecting states within a region, as AQCL is now affiliated with terrorist and criminal organizations operating throughout regions like a spider. It is a chess game.

The most effective counterterrorism strategy, then, is forward thinking, matrix-like, and multidimensional, especially when combating a morphing and expanding ideology and image, tactics and strategies. My colleague, Pat, makes a fantastic point, stating: "As we consider the future of irregular warfare and terrorism, it’s critical to monitor the threat posed by regionally-based terrorist groups who become increasingly mobilized in line with a global Islamist ideology." Pascual/Rice argue that the US needs to "invest in poverty alleviation and capacity building in weak states to break the vicious cycle of poverty, fragility, and transnational threats." If The Economist's theory holds true again, then we need to act now in order for the cycle not to worsen in Yemen; for our common human experience alone shows that once the cycle begins it is rarely broken but only slowed or subdued.

We need to stay ahead of the emerging, developing, threat of Yemen becoming the fertile land of AQCL and/or affiliates. As a result, AQAP and Al Shabaab, and perhaps AQIM's, tentacles will grow: The region will become within the next decade the haven for AQ to plan micro and macro terrorist plots targeting economic activities and networks to generate broad rupture and/or large-scale destruction. Al Sahwa does not want Yemen to be the worst country on earth in 2011. If so, then criminal activities such as trafficking will regularly occur like it has in Afghanistan and social displacement will increase as witnessed in Somalia. As stated before, the scenario "threatens to become a bigger problem for the rest of the world."

In conclusion, Yemen is directly connected to Afghanistan and Pakistan; it is gradually becoming the rook of AQ. In order to stay ahead of the cycle in Yemen, the US needs to win The Exchange by taking the rook and using the knights (Iraq, Afghanistan - forking) and the bishop (Pakistan - endgame) to our advantage: We will set ourselves in a strategic location to successfully disrupt, dismantle, and work towards defeating the morphing and expanding AQCL and affiliates.