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Category Archives: Al Qaeda Operations

Ongoing “Covert” Training of Syrian Rebels: But Is It Still Covert . . . , And, If So, Why?

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Monday, September 22, 2014 at 8:45 AM

[Cross-Posted at Just Security]  Last week Congress approved, and the President signed, legislation that authorizes the Secretary of Defense (see section 149) to “provide assistance, including training, equipment, supplies, and sustainment, to appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups and individuals,” for three specified purposes, including “defending the Syrian people from . . .
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ISIL as al Qaeda: Three Reactions

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Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 1:52 AM

Like Bobby, Wells, and Ben, I, too, was surprised to discover that the Obama Administration’s legal theory (for the moment) appears to be that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) can be targeted under the 2001 AUMF despite its very public split from al Qaeda. That said, I think all three of my friends miss the animating premise of the . . .
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Relevant Excerpts from President Obama’s West Point Speech

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 1:12 PM

Not a lot in President Obama’s West Point speech that is new on Lawfare-related matters. Here are key excerpts. On broad counterterrorism strategy: First, let me repeat a principle I put forward at the outset of my presidency: The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it — when . . .
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The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014

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Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 7:00 PM

In early February 2009, Richard Holbrooke, the newly named Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, took me aside at the State Department to tell me he was getting panicky messages from Pakistan’s generals about President Obama’s decision to appoint me chairman of a special review of American policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. Richard said the . . .
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On the Connections Between the AUMF and Section 702

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 1:30 PM

I was asked to give testimony today before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on two topics that may seem largely unconnected: the vitality and adequacy of the AUMF for the conflict the United States is currently fighting and the NSA surveillance programs that have, of late, dominated news headlines. Rather than simply posting my testimony, I . . .
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Lawfare on the Hill

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Monday, April 7, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Two hearings this week to take note of: Tomorrow, Tuesday April 8th at 2pm: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade will hold a hearing on “Is al-Qaeda Winning? Grading the Administration’s Counterterrorism Policy.” Ben will be testifying on the future of the AUMF and 702. Thursday, April 10th at 9am: The House Judiciary Committee will . . .
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Director Brennan on al Qaeda’s Associated Forces and Jabhat al-Nusrah

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 1:00 PM

In an interview conducted yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations, CIA Director John Brennan had an interesting exchange with Audrey Kurth Cronin on the subject of al Qaeda’s organizational scope.  Kronin asked: So my question is, we tend to use a shorthand with respect to al-Qaida, calling every group that has a Salafist agenda . . .
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Bipartisan Group of Senators Push for Congressional Vote Before Extending Afghanistan Troop Presence

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Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:40 PM

That is the title of this press release by Senator Jeff Merkley, announcing a resolution “calling for Congress to have a role in approving any further United States military involvement in Afghanistan after the current mission ends on December 31, 2014.”  The Resolution is sponsored by Merkley (D-OR), Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Senator Joe Manchin . . .
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Al Qaeda Statement Breaking with ISIS

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Monday, February 3, 2014 at 8:39 AM

Courtesy of Aaron Zelin and his indispensable Jihadology blog, here is the latest dust-up in the Al Qaeda family: “On the Relationship of Qā’idat al-Jihād and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām.”  

Bruce Riedel on the Mumbai Attacks, Five Years Later

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Friday, November 29, 2013 at 9:38 AM

My Brookings colleague Bruce Riedel has an essay up on the Brookings web site entitled, “Five Years On, Mumbai Terror Masterminds Still at Large.” It opens: Five years ago, the city of Mumbai was attacked by Pakistani terrorists in the most important terror attack since 9/11. The 10 terrorists’ tactics have been copied by others . . .
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The More You Attempt Capture Operations, the Less Feasible They Become

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Friday, November 1, 2013 at 5:16 PM

A coda to Bobby’s post below asking about the legal views underlying US operations in Somalia over the past three weeks.  Three weeks ago, SEALs attempted a capture operation against a target on the coast of Somalia.  The SEAL team withdrew without capturing its target, on account of risks to noncombatants, it was reported.  Three . . .
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Back to Lethal Force in Somalia: What If Anything Does the Drone Strike on Ibrahim Ali Signify?

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Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 5:38 PM

When U.S. Navy SEALs attempted the capture of an al Shabab figure in Somalia earlier this month, contemporaneous with the successful capture of an al Qaeda target in Libya, it generated a considerable amount of coverage and discussion, including speculation about what this might signify regarding the administration’s position on the use of lethal force . . .
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The Attempt to Capture Ikrima Probably Does Not Signify a Shift Regarding the Scope of the AUMF

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Monday, October 7, 2013 at 1:00 PM

As information continues to emerge  regarding the Baraawe raid, it is becoming increasingly clear that the operation was of a piece with, rather than a departure from, existing US policy.  According to NPR’s Gregory Warner, Kenyan government officials have said that the raid targeted Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, a Kenyan citizen of Somali descent better known . . .
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Ending the End-of-War Timeline

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Monday, October 7, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Nine or so months ago, following  President Obama’s inaugural address assertion that a “decade of war is now ending,” which came on the heels of Jeh Johnson’s speech about the end of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, Lawfare started the “End-of-War” Timeline.  We felt pretty firmly, as I wrote at the time, that “War is not ending; it is continuing, . . .
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Schmitt and Schmidt on the Impact of Leaks

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Monday, September 30, 2013 at 5:36 PM

Last month I wrote about a “hard-to-justify” leak concerning USG infiltration of the communication channels of senior al Qaeda leaders, and affiliate leaders: [I]f the story is accurate and not authorized from the top, its publication is very hard to defend.  For this information reveals concretely that the United States had direct access to two . . .
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On the AQAP-al Qaeda Relationship and Its Implications for the AUMF

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013 at 7:19 AM

This story from Ellen Nakashima and Anne Gearan, in the Washington Post, reports that the threat leading to the closure of so many embassies and consulates involves a direct order from Ayman al-Zawahiri (successor to bin Laden as head of al Qaeda central) to Nasir al-Wuhayshi (head of AQAP but also, as the article reminds . . .
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Two Things I Don’t Understand

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Friday, August 2, 2013 at 2:13 PM

1.  How are the hopeful suggestions by the Obama administration (including the President) that the armed conflict against Al Qaeda and affiliates may be winding down (or should be ended) consistent with reports about (a) the growing strength of al Qaeda affiliates (in Iraq, Syria, and North Africa, among other places) and (b) the closing this weekend of several . . .
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DOD’s Weak Rationale for Keeping Enemy Identities Secret

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Friday, July 26, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Cora Currier at Pro Publica has an important story on why DOD won’t publish the list of AUMF “associated forces” against whom we are at war.  DOD’s rationale: A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that revealing such a list could cause “serious damage to national security.” “Because elements that might be considered ‘associated forces’ can build credibility by . . .
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The Long, Classified War

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 9:21 AM

A recent cluster of stories – on al Qaeda’s growth, dispersion, and resilience, on the USG’s increased use of surveillance drones outside of “hot war zones,” on the USG possibly ramping up secret war in Somalia, and on the covert action to arm certain Syrian rebels – got me wondering about the debate in May on the proper scope of the AUMF.  . . .
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Annals of Associated Forces: AQI Declines to Comply with Orders from Zawahiri?

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Monday, June 17, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Last week I noted that Ayman al Zawahiri, head of AQ, issued a statement directing that AQI and al Nusrah remain separate entities within the AQ system, and I pointed out various questions this raised from the perspective of the 2001 AUMF.  Now things are getting still more interesting, as a recent message from AQI’s . . .
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