Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told Congress last week that senior al-Qaida leaders are increasingly migrating to a “growing safe haven in Syria.” Some have come from Pakistan and Yemen, where the group has suffered losses, while others may be among those recently released from years of detention in Iran.
“These leaders include individuals who have been part of the group since the time even before 9/11,” Rasmussen said. “And now that many of them are in Syria, we believe they will work to threaten the U.S. and our allies.”
The operatives are believed to include those involved in al-Qaida’s “external operations” directorate. Rasmussen did not provide names, but there are strong indications that one of them is Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian who worked closely with Osama bin Laden and once served as al-Qaida’s military commander. Adel, who fled Afghanistan to Iran in 2001, was released from a form of house arrest by that country last year in exchange for an Iranian diplomat being held hostage in Yemen. Others freed by Iran include Abu Kayr al Masri, who once ran al-Qaida’s management council, and Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, an Egyptian referred to in a 2008 classified U.S. document as the “most experienced and capable operational planner not in U.S. custody.”
“It’s hard to gauge just how much it will benefit them,” Seth Jones, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corp., said of al-Qaida’s dispatch of senior operatives to al-Nusra. But “al-Qaida is putting all its chips in Syria.” Much more here from Stripes.
In a highly coordinated attack, fighters affiliated with Al Qaeda’s branch in the Sahel took over a military base near Nampala on July 19, beating back the Malian garrison and later ambushing them during their retreat. At least 17 soldiers were killed in the attack, and 35 wounded. More details here.
Islamic State conflict: US allies agree on ‘final push’
BBC: The US and its allies in the coalition against so-called Islamic State (IS) have agreed on a strategy to defeat the group, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter has said.
They will corner the militants in their bastions of Raqqa, in Syria, and Mosul, in Iraq, he added.
But he warned this would not eliminate their violent ideology or ability to spring attacks elsewhere.
Countries have also discussed plans to stabilise areas after IS is defeated.
The jihadist group has lost significant parts of its territory but still controls large swathes of both Syria and Iraq.
After retaking Falluja, Iraqi forces are preparing to force IS out of Mosul, the country’s second largest city and the group’s stronghold in Iraq.
In Washington, representatives from more than 30 countries met to discuss plans to inflict what Mr Carter called a “lasting defeat” on IS (also known as Isil).
“Let me be clear: they culminate in the collapse of Isil’s control over the cities of Mosul and Raqqa,” Mr Carter said.
The meeting also focused on stabilisation plans for areas under IS control when they were eventually liberated.
Related reading: Islamic State group: Crisis in seven charts
“We must ensure that our partners on the ground have what they need to win the fight and then hold, rebuild, and govern their territory,” the US defence secretary added.
Meanwhile, Britain will double to 500 its deployment of troops to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting IS, UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said.
If this is the year of the big battle to retake Mosul, its consequence could be what United Nations envoy Jan Kubis describes as “the biggest, most sensitive humanitarian crisis in the world”.
As Iraqi forces inch forward, more and more families are fleeing the other way – escaping with their lives from the clutches of IS, but entering another kind of hell.
The world’s aid community is already struggling to help care for almost 3.4 million people left homeless by earlier battles. This year, the UN’s annual appeal is less than 40% funded.
“There’s donor fatigue,” says a frustrated UN official in Baghdad. “It’s almost as if the world wants the Iraqi problem to go away, and they’re embarrassed it’s still here.”
Also in Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a separate donor conference to help Iraq against IS.
It raised $2.1bn (£1.6bn) to fund humanitarian aid and reconstruction and development assistance.
“If we do not succeed in Iraq, none of our countries will be safer,” Mr Kerry said.
— Salafi-jihadi military organizations, particularly ISIS and al Qaeda, are the greatest threat to the security and values of American and European citizens.
— Syrian al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra poses one of the most significant long-term threats of any Salafi-jihadi group.
— ISIS and al Qaeda are more than terrorist groups; they are insurgencies.
— Current counter-ISIS and al Qaeda policies do not ensure the safety of the American people or the homeland.
— American and Western security requires the elimination of ISIS and al Qaeda regional bases and safe-havens.
All jihad is now local and the militant Islam seed has been planted around the world. So while an offensive operation against Islamic State has been approved, what about Tunisia, Asia or Latin America? What about Boko Haram or al Qaeda? Clearly this is not an end all…even Bret McGurk speaks to the conflicts well into the future.
In Libya, the Islamic State’s Tripoli Province took credit for a hotel attack on Feb. 1 which killed nine people, including an American.
Published reports tie other groups to ISIS including The Jundallah militant group and the Tehreek-e-Khilafat groups in Pakistan; the Philippines’ Abu Sayyaf group; Sinai Province in Egypt; Lebanon’s The Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade; Indonesia’s Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid; and Sons of the Call for Tawhid and Jihad in Jordan. More here from FNC.