Friday, January 09, 2009

It's Not Easy Working For Al-Qaeda

First, excerpts from a “good news report” in today’s Washington Post. Then I offer a few comments below the star line.

WaPo begins - - -

A New Year's Day CIA strike in northern Pakistan killed two top al-Qaeda members long sought by the United States, including the man believed to be behind September's deadly suicide bombing at a Marriott hotel in the Pakistani capital, U.S. counterterrorism officials confirmed yesterday.

Agency officials ascertained this week that Usama al-Kini, a Kenyan national who was described as al-Qaeda's chief of operations in Pakistan, was killed in the Jan. 1 missile strike, along with his lieutenant, identified as Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, the sources said.

Both men were associated with a string of suicide attacks in Pakistan in recent months and also allegedly helped plan the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Kini, who had been pursued by U.S. law enforcement agencies on two continents for a decade, was the eighth senior al-Qaeda leader killed in clandestine CIA strikes since July, the officials said. …

The CIA declined to comment on the strike, citing the extreme secrecy of its operations along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where al-Qaeda is believed to be based. However, a U.S. counterterrorism official confirmed that the two died in a CIA strike on a building that was being used for explosives training. …

Terrorism experts have cautioned that al-Qaeda has shown surprising resilience, quickly replacing leaders who are killed or captured. Still, there have been few occasions since 2001 when the group lost so many top operatives so quickly.

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and Georgetown University professor, said the agency's tactics appear to be cutting dramatically into al-Qaeda's top ranks with strikes deep into a lawless border region that insurgents long regarded as a sanctuary.

"It is a stunning testament of the accuracy of intelligence that the United States is obtaining," Hoffman said. "Either we have built up an impressive network of sources that facilitates such precision targeting, or the Pakistani authorities are cooperating big-time."

The entire WaPo story’s here.



When an attack like the one on Jan. 1 occurs, the major and most immediate problem for al-Qaeda is not replacing the leaders killed. It’s finding out who gave away the information that enabled the CIA to “drop the dime” and why.

Al-Qaeda must first check to make sure no one within its organization deliberately or inadvertently transmitted information.

That’s a very rough, almost always murderous process.

Imagine what it’s like to be surrounded by a group of sociopaths who’ll kill anyone, even innocents; and they’re searching for traitors and they haven’t ruled many of the group out, including you.

There has to be a lot of al-Qaeda killing al-Qaeda going on now in Pakistan.

Some of that could be because there’s actual hard evidence pointing to turncoat(s).

But for sure some of the bad guys are using the “I found the traitor” excuse to eliminate rivals and settle scores.

How do I know that without having “inside” knowledge?

Because at times like this, that’s what always happens within groups like al Qaeda. I had a friend who served in the OSS during WW II. He once said, “We took out some Nazi agents, but not as many as the Nazis did themselves.”

The al Qaeda against al Qaeda “search and destroy missions” are a wonderful kind of “collateral damage” from the attack described in the WaPo story.

Add to that the problems al Qaeda in Pakistan has as it wonders, as terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman does, whether “the Pakistani authorities are cooperating [with the CIA] big-time."

I try never to underestimate al Qaeda. It’s very likely the world hasn’t yet seen its worst.

But today’s WaPo story is a “good news report.” I look forward to many more such stories in 2009.

Hat tip: Drudge Report


Anonymous said...

This is also the main reason it's so difficult to penetrate groups like Al Qaeda. To establish your bona fides, you have to either kill someone or blow something up. The intelligence community tied its own hands during the Carter years when it phased out human intelligence (HUMINT) in favor of the technical means like SIGINT and IMINT. Unfortunately, they failed to understand you need all the disciplines in order to know not only capabilities, but intentions as well. Only HUMINT can get you the intentions and we don't have that capability any more thanks to Carter and the rest of the leftist worms. Panetta will follow the worm route.
Tarheel Hawkeye