Still Looking for Gitmo
6:27 PM, Mar 31, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
If Guantanamo were really one of al Qaeda’s principal recruiting tools, as President Obama and members of his administration have repeatedly claimed, then the facility would probably be referenced regularly in the terror group’s propaganda. It is not. Instead, other themes dominate Osama bin Laden’s and Ayman al Zawahiri’s messaging.
The latest illustration of Guantanamo’s irrelevance to al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts was released online this week with the publication of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s new edition of Inspire. It is the fifth edition of the all-English webzine AQAP has published.
Guantanamo is mentioned once.
Qasim al Raimi, AQAP’s military commander, mentions the facility offhandedly in an interview (emphasis added):
In the 70-page Inspire publication that is the only mention of Guantanamo. AQAP is much more focused on the turmoil in the Middle East.
This is not surprising. In two of the four previous editions of Inspire, Guantanamo was not mentioned at all. In the other two, Guantanamo was mentioned but it was not used as a recruiting tool per se. It was simply part of the biography of some of AQAP’s senior leaders, several of whom were once detained in Cuba.
In some ways, the absence of Guantanamo is striking. For instance, the new Inspire webzine contains a critique of the Saudis’ decision to take in former Tunisian president Zine al Abidine Ben Ali. The article was written by Ibrahim Rubaish, a former Guantanamo detainee who is currently AQAP’s mufti (he provides theological arguments to justify AQAP’s terrorism). The editors of Inspire did not even bother to point out to readers that Rubaish is a former Gitmo detainee. That is, it was so unimportant to them that they did not even insert a single line referencing Rubaish’s time in detention.
As for Qasim al Raimi, one of his brothers is in fact still detained at Guantanamo. His name is Ali Yahya Mahdi al Raimi. During his combatant status review tribunal (CSRT) at Gitmo, Ali Yahya admitted that he received training at al Qaeda’s notorious al Farouq camp in pre-9/11 Afghanistan. He also admitted that he retreated to the Tora Bora Mountains in late 2001, just as other Taliban and al Qaeda members were ordered to do. Ali Yahya was then captured in December 2001 and transferred to Guantanamo in 2002.
It is likely that, if he wasn’t captured and held in Guantanamo, Ali Yahya would have joined his more infamous brother in AQAP’s ranks.
So, while the latest edition of Inspire does not buttress the Obama administration’s argument about Guantanamo being an effective recruiting tool, it does point to one jihadist who would probably be up to no good if he wasn’t held there.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.