11:42 AM, Apr 16, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
A video of a large al Qaeda gathering in Yemen has raised eyebrows in the press. Nasir al Wuhayshi, the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), as well as general manager of al Qaeda’s global network, can be heard saying to a crowd of more than 100: "We must eliminate the cross. ... The bearer of the cross is America!"
CNN’s Barbara Starr first reported on the brazen meeting, pointing out that “the CIA and the Pentagon either didn't know about it or couldn't get a drone there in time to strike.” When Obama administration officials and some within the U.S. intelligence community speak about al Qaeda its sounds like the group’s senior leaders are cowering in fear somewhere, waiting for the next missile to strike. They are not supposed to be openly hosting a large anti-American rally.
And then there is how American officials speak about AQAP and Wuhayshi. They are supposedly “affiliates” of al Qaeda, distinct from al Qaeda’s “core” in South Asia. But this is simply not true. Wuhayshi is as “core” as they come.
Wuhayshi was Osama bin Laden’s protégé. The first head of al Qaeda handpicked Wuhayshi to serve as his aide-de-camp out of a group of Yemenis who had traveled to Afghanistan to serve as bodyguards. Bin Laden saw Wuhayshi’s potential and decided to groom him to be something more than muscle. The diminutive, but brilliant, Wuhayshi faithfully served at bin Laden’s side through the Battle of Tora Bora in late 2001. He eventually fled to Iran, where he was detained for a time, before being shipped off to his native Yemen. There, in 2006, he took part in a prison escape that freed up al Qaeda “core” talent to do the organization’s bidding in bin Laden’s ancestral homeland.
Al Qaeda’s goal has always been to launch insurgencies in Muslim countries it thinks are ripe for a jihadist takeover. Saudi Arabia and Yemen have been high on al Qaeda’s list in this regard. But a fierce counterterrorism campaign begun by the Saudis in 2003 quashed al Qaeda’s post-9/11 push inside the kingdom. Some al Qaeda leaders fled to Yemen, but it was Wuhayshi’s newfound freedom, alongside other prison escapees and Guantanamo returnees that really rejuvenated al Qaeda’s leadership in Arabia.
It was Ayman al Zawahiri, then Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, who first publicly recognized Wuhayshi as al Qaeda’s leader in the Arabian Peninsula. In early 2009, Wuhayshi relaunched AQAP, swearing allegiance to al Qaeda’s senior leadership in the process. And, in the summer of 2013, Zawahiri appointed Wuhayshi to the position of al Qaeda’s general manager. Wuhayshi’s appointment coincided with a large-scale terrorist threat. This was detected when U.S. intelligence officials learned that Zawahiri had hosted an internet-based communication with more than 20 of his subordinates, including Wuhayshi. More than 20 U.S. diplomatic facilities were shuttered in early August 2013 as a result.
Al Qaeda’s general manager serves a “core” function, which was previously filled by terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The position gives Wuhayshi broad power within al Qaeda’s network far outside of Yemen. Even before Wuhayshi’s official appointment AQAP was busy expanding its geographic footprint.
For instance, AQAP helped Muhammad Jamal, a longtime subordinate to Zawahiri, establish his own al Qaeda network after his release from an Egyptian prison in 2011. Jamal has since been re-imprisoned, but his organization (dubbed the Muhammad Jamal Network, or MJN, by Western intelligence authorities) continues to operate in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere.
11:08 AM, Feb 12, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Gossip in Jerusalem suggests that many Israelis misunderstand John Kerry’s obsession with the peace process: They believe that the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate is using Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as a platform to challenge Hillary Clinton for the 2016 nomination. That’s not likely. Instead, it’s in comparing Kerry’s dogged efforts to that of his predecessor that Kerry’s real motives become clear. Clinton left a light footprint as secretary of state because she didn’t want anything sticking to her when campaign season rolls around.
9:43 AM, Feb 12, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
President Obama recently characterized al Qaeda as a nearly-spent force “on the path to defeat,” an organization whose “remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us.”
1:35 PM, Feb 5, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
A lawmaker at a Benghazi hearing stumped U.S. intelligence officials yesterday with this question:
10:11 AM, Feb 4, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The U.S. ambassador to Djibouti, Geeta Pasi, says that "The preeminent security threat to the United States continues to be from al-Qa'ida and its affiliates and adherents around the world." Pasi made the remarks at the 2014 Gulf of Aden Regional Counterterrorism Forum in Djibouti, according to a transcript released by the State Department.
11:11 AM, Feb 3, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Al Qaeda is not on the run. And John Kerry, according to a report in Bloomberg, is finally admitting it.
"[T]he al-Qaeda threat is real, it is getting out of hand,” Kerry told a delegation.
It's in stark contrast to President Obama's repeated claims. “A day after 9/11, we are reminded that a new tower rises above the New York skyline, but al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and bin Laden is dead,” Obama said in the run up to his reelection in 2012.
Feb 10, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 21 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
For five years, the Obama administration has touted its success in the war against al Qaeda. In formal addresses, daily press briefings, and campaign speeches top administration officials have celebrated the “decimation” of al Qaeda and predicted its imminent extinction.
Why are the Benghazi killers still at large?Jan 27, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 19 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES and THOMAS JOSCELYN
Months and months ago, when Barack Obama could be bothered to say anything at all about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, the president promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. That was before White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the attacks as something that “happened a long time ago.”
It’s been 16 months. The U.S. government has neither captured nor killed a single participant in those attacks, which left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.
12:38 PM, Jan 15, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The Senate Intelligence Committee has now released its declassified review of the intelligence surrounding the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. The bottom line is this: Multiple parts of al Qaeda’s international terrorist network were involved.
'In many cases...'7:12 AM, Jan 15, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Secretary of State John Kerry covered a broad range of topics with his counterpart Pietro Parolin at the Vatican in Rome on Monday. Besides Syria, the Middle East peace process, Sudan, and Cuba, the subject of poverty came up during their discussions.
11:03 AM, Jan 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The State Department today publicly announced a $10 million reward "for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any individual responsible for the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks." The announcement for the reward is posted on rewardsforjustice.net.
10:19 AM, Jan 10, 2014 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The State Department today designated three Ansar al Sharia organizations, as well as three of their leaders, as terrorist entities. The State Department reports that Ansar al Sharia in Derna was “involved” in the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi. Former Guantanamo detainee Sufian Ben Qumu, who long served al Qaeda, is named as “the leader” of Ansar al Sharia in Derna.
Al Qaeda’s grand strategyJan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
In the summer of 2008, Barack Obama, senator and presidential candidate, toured the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama had endeared himself to the antiwar left by denouncing President Bush’s decision to topple Saddam Hussein and repeatedly claiming that the war in Iraq had diverted resources from defeating al Qaeda and its allies in South Asia. Obama did not tone down this criticism even as he spoke with CBS News from Kabul on July 20, shortly before proceeding to Saddam’s former abode. “We got distracted by Iraq,” Obama said.
Jan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By MAX BOOT
Arthur Schlesinger posited the existence of cycles in American political history alternating between “public purpose” and “private interest”—his jaundiced labels for liberalism and conservatism. There are also cycles in American foreign policy alternating between interventionism and noninterventionism, the latter sometimes verging on downright isolationism. Normally when one trend backfires in some spectacular fashion, the other trend becomes dominant, until it too burns out and the cycle starts again.