Monday, February 15, 2010
Two items. First, Newsweek is reporting (breathlessly and supposedly exclusively) on an intelligence breakthrough in the Persian Gulf.
U.S. intelligence officials appear to have obtained access to what could turn out to be a significant trove of phone numbers, photographs and documents detailing the links between Al Qaeda's leaders in northwest Pakistan and the terror group's increasingly menacing affiliate in Yemen, two counter-terrorism sources tell Declassified.
In late January, an Al Qaeda operative headed from Pakistan on his way to Yemen was arrested in the Persian Gulf country of Oman, a U.S. counter-terrorism official confirmed.
There has been no public announcement of the arrest. But in a possible indication of the operative's importance, just a few days later, two postings on a jihadi web forum suggested that Al Qaeda leaders were worried and wanted their "commanders" to take immediate precautions.
The postings stated that the "captured brother" -- identified as a "field commander" named Abdullah Saleh al-Eidan who went by the name of "Barud"- - was "on his way back from Afghanistan" and had been turned over to Saudi authorities.
Even more noteworthy, the postings -written by a fellow Al Qaeda "brother" - reported that Al Eidan had with him 300 "important phone numbers" as well as pictures, names and documents from Afghanistan.
Ordinarily I hate to see the reporting of intelligence victories because it can alert the enemy to a gap in its counterintelligence, but in this case it hardly matters. If the jihadis are reacting on their own web sites, not much is lost by telling American voters.
The other bit of news in the same story is that "Al Qaeda Central" seems to be alive and well and much more closely affiliated with its allies on the Arabian Peninsula than previously suspected.
At the same time, the capture of Eidan may suggest that the connections between Al Qaeda's central leadership and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)-as the group's affiliate in Yemen is called-- may be greater than U.S. officials have previously thought.
Just last month, when asked at a White House press briefing what was the most "shocking, stunning thing" he had learned from the administration's review of the Christmas Day bombing incident, John Brennan, President Obama's counter-terrorism advisor, replied: "Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is an extension of Al Qaeda core coming out of Pakistan. We had a strategic sense of sort of where they were going, but we didn't know they had progressed to the point of actually launching individuals here."
If true, this news sheds further light on the administration's decision to focus on the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and tends to discredit those critics of the administration who prefer a more decentralized strategy. Hey, for all we know that is exactly the reason this intelligence was leaked internally.
Second, there is this delightful bit of excellent news from the central front:
The Taliban’s top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to American government officials.
The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan described by American officials as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.
All good, as far as it goes, but did we really need this bit of self-congratulation from the New York Times?:
The New York Times learned of the operation on Thursday, but delayed reporting it at the request of White House officials, who contended that making it public would end a hugely successful intelligence-gathering effort. The officials said that the group’s leaders had been unaware of Mullah Baradar’s capture and that if it became public they might cover their tracks and become more careful about communicating with each other.
The Times is publishing the news now because White House officials acknowledged that the capture of Mullah Baradar was becoming widely known in the region.
Funny, I don't recall the Times being worried about ending intelligence efforts during the Bush years. But perhaps I judge too harshly.
Great news, twice over! President Obama is making great moves in Afghanastan, and seems to have found a way to keep up cooperation with our allies in the Gulf. Thank goodness we didn't capture "Barud", or if we did capture him thank goodness we were smart enough to give Oman the credit!
If we had publicly captured him the ACLU wouldn't have accepted rendition to Saudi Arabia, where the guy has undoubtedly been harshly questioned. Anyway, he's in the right hands (ie, not ours!) and probably singing loudly.
The best news in the short run is the capture of the Taliban's operational leader. It could not have come at a better time, since the Marines and Special Forces are in the middle of a huge offensive right now. Having captured their leading general has just got to hurt the organizational and tactical abilities of the Taliban very badly!
Good news all around!
Now, if we could just get the President to fire Eric Holder, the corruptocrat idiot, and to read Amity Shlaes book "The Forgotten Man", he might just learn enough to back off the socialism, which would save our economy, and bring to an end the radical politicalization of the Justice Department, which would save our legal system....
I have a reasonable price alternative for both this guy and the KSM trial called the 5.65X45 mm solution. Instead of investing $ 262 Million in additional security for lower Manhattan, this will only cost taxpayers about 35 cents.
CNN is reporting that Mullah Baradar will be replaced by Mullah Zakir, who was caputured in Aghanistan in 2001, sent to Gitmo, and recently released. No miranda rights, no ACLU lawyer, not even a trial in the Southern District. Just a plane ride back home to Afghanistan.
-worked as one of Mullah Omar's deputies? Check.
-captured in Agfghanistan in 2001? Check
-Sent to Gitmo as enemy combatant? Check.
-Held without formal charges for more than 5 years? Check.
-Released without trial (be it military or civilian)? Check.
-Released into custody of country where he was captured? Check.
-Released by Obama Administration? Negative
-Released by Bush Administration?
And so that is an argument against releasing such people at all, right?
Just kick em out of a C-130 over the Indian Ocean with concrete around their ankles. No one would ever know...
Incidentally, 'al-Eidan' means 'the also' in Arabic and is not a component of a name. It's nonsense. (caveat: accurate transliteration of Arabic is damned near impossible by non-speakers)
For instance, "Barud" is also not a proper name, though it might be a weird nom de guerre. It might be 'cold,' and therefore should have been spelled 'Baarid,' or 'coldness,' and been spelled 'Barood.'
Lastly, the meat of the article (which I couldn't access for some reason) seems to be based on inferences drawn from public jihadi Internet traffic. Not exactly the most trustworthy indicators. While the gist of the story might be accurate, I think that Newsweek was a bit too eager to credit their boy with a counter-terrorism success.
Another big capture reported, this time in Newspeak. It seems to have pulled off nearly simultaneously with the Baradar capture, and the two men were about to meet with each other. More, faster!
So, when is good news bad news?
Remembering that the origins of the phrase "the Great Game" lay with Rudyard Kiplings description of the tensions between India, Pakistan (then part of India) and the Afghans, and the constant forming of temporary alliances followed by betrayals of trust, this blog posting suggests the capture of Mullah Baradar is actually bad news.
Here's the theory: It turns out Baradar was a mover for reconciliation talks with the Karzai government, and shares tribal ties with Karzai himself. Hard line Pakistanis who want to control Afghanistan and are using jihad to further their aims may not like the idea of the Taliban laying down arms and going back to goat herding, so Baradar (according to this theory) needed to go away. Hence the mysterious ISI cooperation with the CIA on his capture.
Confusing? Yes, but that's why Kipling called it the Great Game. Hopefully we're smart enough to play along. Maybe the Brits can give us some hints here....