Posts Tagged ‘Military’


Pakistan and the U.S. Exit From Afghanistan

By George Friedman

Bob Woodward has released another book, this one on the debate over Afghanistan strategy in the Obama administration. As all his books do, the book has riveted Washington. It reveals that intense debate occurred over what course to take, that the president sought alternative strategies and that compromises were reached. But while knowing the details of these things is interesting, what would have been shocking is if they hadn’t taken place.
It is interesting to reflect on the institutional inevitability of these disagreements. The military is involved in a war. It is institutionally and emotionally committed to victory in the theater of combat. It will demand all available resources for executing the war under way. For a soldier who has bled in that war, questioning the importance of the war is obscene. A war must be fought relentlessly and with all available means.
But while the military’s top generals and senior civilian leadership are responsible for providing the president with sound, clearheaded advice on all military matters including the highest levels of grand strategy, they are ultimately responsible for the pursuit of military objectives to which the commander-in-chief directs them. Generals must think about how to win the war they are fighting. Presidents must think about whether the war is worth fighting. The president is responsible for America’s global posture. He must consider what an unlimited commitment to a particular conflict might mean in other regions of the world where forces would be unavailable.
A president must take a more dispassionate view than his generals. He must calculate not only whether victory is possible but also the value of the victory relative to the cost. Given the nature of the war in Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus — first the U.S. Central Command chief and now the top commander in Afghanistan — had to view it differently. This is unavoidable. This is natural. And only one of the two is ultimately in charge.

The Nature of Guerrilla Warfare
In thinking about Afghanistan, it is essential that we begin by thinking about the nature of guerrilla warfare against an occupying force. The guerrilla lives in the country. He isn’t going anywhere else, as he has nowhere to go. By contrast, the foreigner has a place to which he can return. This is the core weakness of the occupier and the strength of the guerrilla. The former can leave and in all likelihood, his nation will survive. The guerrilla can’t. And having alternatives undermines the foreigner’s will to fight regardless of the importance of the war to him.
The strategy of the guerrilla is to make the option to withdraw more attractive. In order to do this, his strategic goal is simply to survive and fight on whatever level he can. His patience is built into who he is and what he is fighting for. The occupier’s patience is calculated against the cost of the occupation and its opportunity costs, thus, while troops are committed in this country, what is happening elsewhere?
Tactically, the guerrilla survives by being elusive. He disperses in small groups. He operates in hostile terrain. He denies the enemy intelligence on his location and capabilities. He forms political alliances with civilians who provide him supplies and intelligence on the occupation forces and misleads the occupiers about his own location. The guerrilla uses this intelligence network to decline combat on the enemy’s terms and to strike the enemy when he is least prepared. The guerrilla’s goal is not to seize and hold ground but to survive, evade and strike, imposing casualties on the occupier. Above all, the guerrilla must never form a center of gravity that, if struck, would lead to his defeat. He thus actively avoids anything that could be construed as a decisive contact.
The occupation force is normally a more conventional army. Its strength is superior firepower, resources and organization. If it knows where the guerrilla is and can strike before the guerrilla can disperse, the occupying force will defeat the guerrilla. The occupier’s problems are that his intelligence is normally inferior to that of the guerrillas; the guerrillas rarely mass in ways that permit decisive combat and normally can disperse faster than the occupier can pinpoint and deploy forces against them; and the guerrillas’ superior tactical capabilities allow them to impose a constant low rate of casualties on the occupier. Indeed, the massive amount of resources the occupier requires and the inflexibility of a military institution not solely committed to the particular theater of operations can actually work against the occupier by creating logistical vulnerabilities susceptible to guerrilla attacks and difficulty adapting at a rate sufficient to keep pace with the guerrilla. The occupation force will always win engagements, but that is never the measure of victory. If the guerrillas operate by doctrine, defeats in unplanned engagements will not undermine their basic goal of survival. While the occupier is not winning decisively, even while suffering only some casualties, he is losing. While the guerrilla is not losing decisively, even if suffering significant casualties, he is winning. Since the guerrilla is not going anywhere, he can afford far higher casualties than the occupier, who ultimately has the alternative of withdrawal.
The asymmetry of this warfare favors the guerrilla. This is particularly true when the strategic value of the war to the occupier is ambiguous, where the occupier does not possess sufficient force and patience to systematically overwhelm the guerrillas, and where either political or military constraints prevent operations against sanctuaries. This is a truth as relevant to David’s insurgency against the Philistines as it is to the U.S. experience in Vietnam or the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.
There has long been a myth about the unwillingness of Americans to absorb casualties for very long in guerrilla wars. In reality, the United States fought in Vietnam for at least seven years (depending on when you count the start and stop) and has now fought in Afghanistan for nine years. The idea that Americans can’t endure the long war has no empirical basis. What the United States has difficulty with — along with imperial and colonial powers before it — is a war in which the ability to impose one’s will on the enemy through force of arms is lacking and when it is not clear that the failure of previous years to win the war will be solved in the years ahead.
Far more relevant than casualties to whether Americans continue a war is the question of the conflict’s strategic importance, for which the president is ultimately responsible. This divides into several parts. This first is whether the United States has the ability with available force to achieve its political goals through prosecuting the war (since all war is fought for some political goal, from regime change to policy shift) and whether the force the United States is willing to dedicate suffices to achieve these goals. To address this question in Afghanistan, we have to focus on the political goal.
The Evolution of the U.S. Political Goal in Afghanistan
Washington’s primary goal at the initiation of the conflict was to destroy or disrupt al Qaeda in Afghanistan to protect the U.S. homeland from follow-on attacks to 9/11. But if Afghanistan were completely pacified, the threat of Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism would remain at issue because it is no longer just an issue of a single organization — al Qaeda — but a series of fragmented groups conducting operations in Pakistan, IraqYemenNorth AfricaSomalia and elsewhere.
Today, al Qaeda is simply one manifestation of the threat of this transnational jihadist phenomenon. It is important to stop and consider al Qaeda — and the transnational jihadist phenomenon in general — in terms of guerrillas, and to think of the phenomenon as a guerrilla force in its own right operating by the very same rules on a global basis. Thus, where the Taliban apply guerrilla principles to Afghanistan, today’s transnational jihadist applies them to the Islamic world and beyond. The transnational jihadists are not leaving and are not giving up. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, they will decline combat against larger American forces and strike vulnerable targets when they can.
There are certainly more players and more complexity to the global phenomenon than in a localized insurgency. Many governments across North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have no interest in seeing these movements set up shop and stir up unrest in their territory. And al Qaeda’s devolution has seen frustrations as well as successes as it spreads. But the underlying principles of guerrilla warfare remain at issue. Whenever the Americans concentrate force in one area, al Qaeda disengages, disperses and regroups elsewhere and, perhaps more important, the ideology that underpins the phenomenon continues to exist. The threat will undoubtedly continue to evolve and face challenges, but in the end, it will continue to exist along the lines of the guerrilla acting against the United States.
There is another important way in which the global guerrilla analogy is apt. STRATFOR has long held that Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism does not represent a strategic, existential threat to the United States. While acts of transnational terrorism target civilians, they are not attacks — have not been and are not evolving into attacks — that endanger the territorial integrity of the United States or the way of life of the American people. They are dangerous and must be defended against, but transnational terrorism is and remains a tactical problem that for nearly a decade has been treated as if it were the pre-eminent strategic threat to the United States.
Nietzsche wrote that, “The most fundamental form of human stupidity is forgetting what we were trying to do in the first place.” The stated U.S. goal in Afghanistan was the destruction of al Qaeda. While al Qaeda as it existed in 2001 has certainly been disrupted and degraded, al Qaeda’s evolution and migration means that disrupting and degrading it — to say nothing of destroying it — can no longer be achieved by waging a war in Afghanistan. The guerrilla does not rely on a single piece of real estate (in this case Afghanistan) but rather on his ability to move seamlessly across terrain to evade decisive combat in any specific location. Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism is not centered on Afghanistan and does not need Afghanistan, so no matter how successful that war might be, it would make little difference in the larger fight against transnational jihadism.
Thus far, the United States has chosen to carry on fighting the war in Afghanistan. As al Qaeda has fled Afghanistan, the overall political goal for the United States in the country has evolved to include the creation of a democratic and uncorrupt Afghanistan. It is not clear that anyone knows how to do this, particularly given that most Afghans consider the ruling government of President Hamid Karzai — with which the United States is allied — as the heart of the corruption problem, and beyond Kabul most Afghans do not regard their way of making political and social arrangements to be corrupt.
Simply withdrawing from Afghanistan carries its own strategic and political costs, however. The strategic problem is that simply terminating the war after nine years would destabilize the Islamic world. The United States has managed to block al Qaeda’s goal of triggering a series of uprisings against existing regimes and replacing them with jihadist regimes. It did this by displaying a willingness to intervene where necessary. Of course, the idea that U.S. intervention destabilized the region raises the question of what regional stability would look like had it not intervened. The danger of withdrawal is that the network of relationships the United States created and imposed at the regime level could unravel if it withdrew. America would be seen as having lost the war, the prestige of radical Islamists and thereby the foundation of the ideology that underpins their movement would surge, and this could destabilize regimes and undermine American interests.
The political problem is domestic. Obama’s approval rating now stands at 42 percent. This is not unprecedented, but it means he is politically weak. One of the charges against him, fair or not, is that he is inherently anti-war by background and so not fully committed to the war effort. Where a Republican would face charges of being a warmonger, which would make withdrawal easier, Obama faces charges of being too soft. Since a president must maintain political support to be effective, withdrawal becomes even harder. Therefore, strategic analysis aside, the president is not going to order a complete withdrawal of all combat forces any time soon — the national (and international) political alignment won’t support such a step. At the same time, remaining in Afghanistan is unlikely to achieve any goal and leaves potential rivals like China andRussia freer rein.
The American Solution
The American solution, one that we suspect is already under way, is the Pakistanization of the war. By this, we do not mean extending the war into Pakistan but rather extending Pakistan into Afghanistan. The Taliban phenomenon has extended into Pakistan in ways that seriously complicate Pakistani efforts to regain their bearing in Afghanistan. It has created a major security problem for Islamabad, which, coupled with the severe deterioration of the country’s economy and now the floods, has weakened the Pakistanis’ ability to manage Afghanistan. In other words, the moment that the Pakistanis have been waiting for — American agreement and support for the Pakistanization of the war — has come at a time when the Pakistanis are not in an ideal position to capitalize on it.
In the past, the United States has endeavored to keep the Taliban in Afghanistan and the regime in Pakistan separate. (The Taliban movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan are not one and the same.) Washington has not succeeded in this regard, with the Pakistanis continuing to hedge their bets and maintain a relationship across the border. Still, U.S. opposition has been the single greatest impediment to Pakistan’s consolidation of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and abandoning this opposition leaves important avenues open for Islamabad.
The Pakistani relationship to the Taliban, which was a liability for the United States in the past, now becomes an advantage for Washington because it creates a trusted channel for meaningful communication with the Taliban. Logic suggests this channel is quite active now.
The Vietnam War ended with the Paris peace talks. Those formal talks were not where the real bargaining took place but rather where the results were ultimately confirmed. If talks are under way, a similar venue for the formal manifestation of the talks is needed — and Islamabad is as good a place as any.
Pakistan is an American ally which the United States needs, both to balance growing Chinese influence in and partnership with Pakistan, and to contain India. Pakistan needs the United States for the same reason. Meanwhile, the Taliban want to run Afghanistan. The United States has no strong national interest in how Afghanistan is run so long as it does not support and espouse transnational jihadism. But it needs its withdrawal to take place in a manner that strengthens its influence rather than weakens it, and Pakistan can provide the cover for turning a retreat into a negotiated settlement.
Pakistan has every reason to play this role. It needs the United States over the long term to balance against India. It must have a stable or relatively stable Afghanistan to secure its western frontier. It needs an end to U.S. forays into Pakistan that are destabilizing the regime. And playing this role would enhance Pakistan’s status in the Islamic world, something the United States could benefit from, too. We suspect that all sides are moving toward this end.
The United States isn’t going to defeat the Taliban. The original goal of the war is irrelevant, and the current goal is rather difficult to take seriously. Even a victory, whatever that would look like, would make little difference in the fight against transnational jihad, but a defeat could harm U.S. interests. Therefore, the United States needs a withdrawal that is not a defeat. Such a strategic shift is not without profound political complexity and difficulties. But the disparity between — and increasingly, the incompatibility of — the struggle with transnational terrorism and the war effort geographically rooted in Afghanistan is only becoming more apparent — even to the American public.


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Air & Space Magazine

The 727 that Vanished

A case pursued by the FBI, the CIA, the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security, CENTCOM, and the sister of Ben Padilla.

  • By Tim Wright
  • Air & Space Magazine, September 01, 2010

Seven years after her brother disappeared from Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport in Angola, Benita Padilla-Kirkland is trying to persuade the FBI to re-open his case. She believes she has the “new information” agents told her they require. But she suspects that the agency already has more information than agents will admit to.
Kirkland’s brother, Ben Charles Padilla, a certified flight engineer, aircraft mechanic, and private pilot, disappeared while working in the Angolan capital, Luanda, for Florida-based Aerospace Sales and Leasing. On May 25, 2003, shortly before sunset, Padilla boarded the company’s Boeing 727-223, tail number N844AA. With him was a helper he had recently hired, John Mikel Mutantu, from the Republic of the Congo. The two had been working with Angolan mechanics to return the 727 to flight-ready status so they could reclaim it from a business deal gone bad, but neither could fly it. Mutantu was not a pilot, and Padilla had only a private pilot’s license. A 727 ordinarily requires three trained aircrew.
According to press reports, the aircraft began taxiing with no communication between the crew and the tower; maneuvering erratically, it entered a runway without clearance. With its lights off and its transponder not transmitting, 844AA took off to the southwest, and headed out over the Atlantic Ocean. The 727 and the two men have not been seen since.
Who was flying 844AA? Had something happened to make Padilla take that desperate chance? Or was someone waiting inside the airplane? Leased to deliver diesel fuel to diamond mines, the 727 carried 10 500-gallon fuel tanks and a few passenger seats in its cabin. Less than two years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 727’s freakish departure triggered a frantic search by U.S. security organizations for what intelligence sources said could have been a flying bomb.
Retired U.S. Marine General Mastin Robeson, commander of U.S. forces in the Horn of Africa when 844AA went missing, says word of the 727 “came up through the intelligence network.” According to Robeson, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) considered moving U.S. fighter aircraft to Djibouti on the Red Sea coast, where the Combined Joint Task Force shares a base with the French military. Robeson continues: “It was never [clear] whether it was stolen for insurance purposes&hellipby the owners, or whether it was stolen with the intent to make it available to unsavory characters, or whether it was a deliberate concerted terrorist attempt. There was speculation of all three.”
Speculation that the theft of 844AA posed a terrorist threat ended, though it’s unclear why. Perhaps National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency technicians saw signs of a crash in satellite imagery—debris or an oil slick in the Atlantic, for example—or evidence that a large aircraft had landed on one of a half-dozen unpaved, 8,000-foot runways in the Congo, north of Angola. Agency spokesperson Susan Meisner would not comment, saying that the NGIA was not the lead agency in the case. (A CIA spokesperson also declined comment, as did a spokesperson from the Department of Homeland Security. FBI agents also refused comment, citing national security concerns.) Perhaps the speculation ended more gradually, after weeks without clues or sightings stretched into months. The disturbed hornet’s nest of a global security alert—the searches, bulletins, and interrogations—quieted, and in 2005, the FBI closed its case. I have filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the CIA and FBI and have followed in at least some of the FBI’s footsteps, interviewing the people who flew 844AA to Angola and worked with it there, hoping to understand how a 727 could just disappear.
IT REALLY WAS in beautiful condition,” Keith Irwin says of the airliner he acquired in Miami in February 2002. Irwin, 57, a South African entrepreneur who ran a series of information technology companies and, until 2000, a small tourist airline with flights from South Africa to Mozambique, had come to Miami to pick up a different aircraft altogether. Representing a joint venture with a South African company called Cargo Air Transport Systems, Irwin had arranged to lease a 727 and two flight crews—pilot, first officer, and flight engineer—for a year. The air transport company had signed a contract to supply fuel to diamond mines in Angola, where a long civil war had made transporting goods by road almost impossible. The 727, therefore, was to have been delivered with fuel tanks installed in the cabin. The joint venture was backed by a single investor, who had deposited $450,000 in a U.S. bank. Irwin’s job was to manage the flight operations, but the deal for the airplane fell through. Irwin ended up with fuel tanks and no airplane.
That failure stranded six crewmen who had assembled in Miami. “The guys then were desperate for work,” says Irwin. “Most of those guys had not flown in a long time because of the 9/11 story. I said, ‘Look, I can take you on if we can find another aircraft.’ ” And Irwin met Maury Joseph, president of Aerospace Sales and Leasing, Inc. Joseph owned three 727s that had recently been retired by American Airlines. “All three aircraft were almost in mint condition,” says Irwin. “American Airlines had a very good maintenance program.”
New deal: Joseph sold 844AA to Irwin for $1 million and change. According to his records, he received a down payment of $125,000, and says he stipulated that the balance be paid within 30 days. He agreed to remove the passenger seats from the cabin and to allow Irwin to take the airliner to Africa. Irwin says he cannot remember the details of the agreement, but recalled it to be a lease arrangement. In any case, the joint venture made only two payments and defaulted.
Though the two men now differ over the terms of the contract, they agree on one detail: As a condition of the agreement, Irwin was required to take along one of Joseph’s employees, Mike Gabriel, whose job was to make sure that the deal was concluded. “I gave Mike $10,000 and told him to fly with them,” says Joseph. “Stay with the plane till you get the money, and then come on home, and if not, bring the plane home.”
On February 28, 2002, with most of the passenger seats removed and the 10 fuel tanks loaded, 844AA, still in the livery of American Airlines, with a blue stripe down the side and an AA logo fading on its tail, took off for Africa.
Because Irwin’s partners had not arranged a landing permit, it took two weeks for the crew to make their way to Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport, where they arrived on March 14. Irwin, who had not worked in Angola before, realized immediately that the deal was in trouble. The company hiring his partners for deliveries, Kuwachi Dundo, was supposed to pay $220,000 when the airplane and crew landed, but instead the company’s representative made excuses. (Irwin lost almost $140,000 in the first deal and had burned through the rest of the $450,000 by March.)
The crew endured accommodations in a dismal apartment without electricity or drinkable water, near an open sewer. (Gabriel and Irwin didn’t stay with the crew; they had rented an apartment in the back of a house owned by an Angolan air force general.) The only one of the men not troubled by the circumstances they found in Angola was Mike Gabriel. Gabriel, a dealer in aircraft parts and engines, had spent a considerable amount of time in West Africa, and was accustomed to the AK-47s the men saw everywhere, including stacked up behind the bar of a club they frequented. Most worrisome to the crew was that they were required to surrender their passports on arrival. Irwin explains that Kuwachi needed the passports to obtain Angolan licenses for the pilots and flight engineers.
“I was scared to death. I really thought I was going to die,” says Art Powell, one of the flight engineers with the project. Powell had been to Angola before and had spent a year working in Nairobi, Kenya, but this experience was different. He felt intimidated by the people who had hired the crew for the fuel-delivery job. His anxiety was intensified by the presence of a local “helper” who toted an AK-47. The helper was a guard whom Mike Gabriel says he hired because the crew repeatedly voiced concerns about safety.
When Kuwachi got wind of the crews’ unrest (several crew members have admitted that they were planning to steal the aircraft to escape to South Africa or return to the States), the company refused to return the passports. Irwin and members of the crew went to the U.S. Embassy; only then were the passports returned.
By Angolan regulations, Irwin says, 844AA was controlled by the clients who hired it. Prohibited from flying the aircraft out of the country, Irwin booked airline seats and flew the crew members to South Africa. From there, two of the men immediately flew home to the United States. One says he is still owed $17,000. The other four crewmen, still hoping for the money they’d been promised, stayed on.
By April, Irwin was extricating himself from the deal made by Cargo Air Transport Systems and had found a new backer, an Angolan who arranged deliveries for a different client. Irwin and the remaining crew returned to Luanda and began flying the shipments for the new company. Mike Gabriel placed the total number of flights made at 17.
“It’s the most dangerous flying in the world,” says a crewman who asked that his name be withheld because he fears for his career. A U.S. Air Force veteran, he likened the deliveries to flying into a combat zone. When they approached the airfields, the crew tried to stay at an altitude above small-arms fire for as long as possible, then spiraled down to land.
“I’ve been a [flight deck crew member] for 30 years,” he says. “For me, it was an opportunity to make a couple of bucks… and when everything started falling apart, I probably hung on twice as long as common sense dictated. But I had too much invested at that point to bail out.”
Many of the runways, says Mike Gabriel, aren’t paved and aren’t like the ones U.S. crews are accustomed to. “On some, you land uphill, then go downhill, then uphill again,” he says.
At one airstrip, the anonymous crewman says, just before 844AA arrived, a 727 flying for a competing company crashed on landing and skidded off the runway. Although the crew survived, he says, some local residents were killed. “We gave [the other flight crew] a lift out of there but not before going over to their airplane and stealing some parts that we needed. That’s when I decided it was time to go home.”
Before he left, he says, a “big African showed up with a briefcase full of hundred-dollar bills. It was payday.” Besides paying the crew, the money was supposed to pay off accumulated airport fees and fuel costs.
“After that,” the crewman says, “I created a family emergency&hellip. I said, ‘My mother is sick.’ ” He promised he’d return in two weeks and left. “I had no intentions of going back, of course. I didn’t get anywhere near full pay, but I got enough that I could pay my bills and make it not completely worthless.”
By the end of April, all of the Americans except Mike Gabriel had left.
Irwin hired a local crew and continued to deliver fuel to the mines, but he was ready to leave too. The civil war in Angola had ended. Competition among fuel haulers, Irwin says, had intensified, and he was growing more uncomfortable with the delivery deals. His partners were claiming part ownership of the aircraft, but Maury Joseph had not been paid. Joseph, meanwhile, sent a crew to swap an engine from the 727. Finally, Irwin says, he was being followed—by a local man named Antonio, who, Irwin believes, was working for one of his partners. “I would turn around,” Irwin says, “and spot Antonio watching me from a car.”
Irwin began wedging a chair under the door handle of his hotel room “just like you see in the movies.” One night, he heard a key card slide into the slot on the door. The lock released. “I started yelling and whoever it was ran,” he says. The hotel security guards questioned the night clerk and learned that he had accepted a bribe to provide the key card. Irwin left the country the next day and didn’t go back.
Maury Joseph fired Mike Gabriel some time that spring. “He kept convincing me that next week, next month…,” Joseph says, referring to the outstanding balance owed on the airplane.
In May 2002, the only part of the original 844AA project left at the Luanda airport was 844AA.
THE SON OF A FLORIDA MILLWRIGHT, Ben Charles Padilla Jr. was always mechanically gifted, says sister Benita Padilla-Kirkland, and from the time he was a boy, he loved airplanes. In his mid-20s he learned to fly and became certified as an airframe-and-powerplant mechanic. He lived in south Florida with two children, one his own, and a fiancée of 15 years. (Efforts to contact her were unsuccessful.) Though the two weren’t married, Padilla gave her power of attorney in his absence and made her the executor of his estate, according to Padilla-Kirkland, and left her almost everything in his will.
“He certainly knew the airplane,” says Maury Joseph. Padilla was a freelancer, who had worked for Joseph on two jobs before traveling to Angola to repossess 844AA. Padilla had worked extensively in Africa. He helped Joseph ferry a 727 to Nigeria for a sale and during the negotiations stayed to explain the aircraft systems. “If you said, ‘Go to Cambodia and do this’ or ‘Go to Indonesia and do this’ or ‘Go to South America and do this’ he would do it. [When in Nigeria] I was with Ben daily for a month or more,” says Joseph. “You become fairly close to somebody when you’re with them day and night.” Joseph trusted him.
But another employer formed a different opinion. Jeff Swain, who works near Miami in international aircraft sales and leasing, had hired Padilla in the late 1990s for an airline he was operating in Indonesia—and fired him. “We had certain standards of conduct we expected from flight engineers,” Swain says, adding, when pressed, “He was too involved in chasing the local girls. It was an unstructured environment, and he just went bad.” Swain says that after Padilla was fired, he stayed on in Indonesia for two months and racked up a $10,000 bill that he told the hotel the airline would pay. “We finally had him deported,” says Swain.
Padilla once showed Swain a photograph of a woman with small children and told him it was his wife in Mozambique, but Swain says, “I never believed it was real. Ben was always marveling everyone with his bullshit stories.” One of Padilla’s friends also saw a photograph of a wife, but insists that she lived in Tanzania. Another acquaintance was told that Padilla had a wife in Indonesia.
Benita Padilla-Kirkland says she’s heard the stories, but believes her brother would have told her if he’d had another family. She doesn’t doubt the relationships, but is convinced that Padilla was helping to support people he’d befriended. “There might have been more than one of those situations,” she says.
WHAT IN FEBRUARY 2002 had been a retired airliner in excellent condition had by fall become a junker worth only the price of its engines. And Maury Joseph found a buyer for them: Jeff Swain. Swain says that Irwin and the crews had ruined the airplane. “It would never be of any value again,” he says. “You can’t put water tanks full of fuel in an airplane and expect it to be good. Totally stupid. But it had really good engines on it—maybe 1,000 cycles since new.”
In November 2002, Joseph and Ben Padilla flew to Nigeria to deliver a 727, and Joseph hired Padilla to fly to Angola the following April to pay the outstanding fines and hire mechanics to return the 727 to service. “If [the company that contracted for fuel deliveries] wasn’t paying Mr. Irwin, you can assume he wasn’t paying anybody,” says Joseph. “He probably hadn’t paid the fuel bill. He didn’t pay the navigation fees, the landing fees, and certainly wasn’t paying the parking fees at the airport. So all of those became things that we had to resolve and I had to pay all those.”
Padilla worked with Air Gemini, a Luanda-based airline that operated a repair station. The return-to-service process was progressing steadily, according to Joseph, and in May 2003, acting as Joseph’s agent, Padilla hired a pilot and copilot from Air Gemini to help him deliver the aircraft to Johannesburg, South Africa, where Joseph was waiting with his new customer. A day or two before the aircraft was to leave Luanda, Padilla made plans with Air Gemini to take the aircraft from the company hangar out to the main runway, where he intended to run the three engines up to full power for a systems check.
Late in the morning on May 26, when Joseph and Swain were expecting 844AA to land, Joseph took a call from an Air Gemini employee, who demanded to know why another crew had flown the airplane out of Luanda. “He was kind of hard on me,” Joseph says. After the shock wore off, he telephoned the U.S. Embassy in South Africa to report the disappearance, then called his wife back in Florida to tell her to call the FBI. From Washington, D.C., the Department of State, notified by the U.S. Embassy in Angola, sent a message to every American embassy in Africa: Alert aviation officials that an airliner has been stolen, and call every airport with a runway long enough to handle a 727.
For the U.S. government, fraud was one theory that could explain the aircraft’s disappearance. “Part of the intelligence was that the airplane was in a bad state of repair,” says General Robeson. “That was one of the speculations, that it was an insurance fraud situation. You know, ‘Oops, my plane was hijacked/stolen by terrorists and now I can do an insurance claim on it.’ So, that was probably as valid of an explanation when all was said and done as anything. But we just left it as an unknown.”
Among intelligence officials, the suspicions of fraud may have been aroused by knowledge of an incident in Maury Joseph’s past. During the 1990s, Joseph was CEO of a cargo airline named Florida West (which later went bankrupt). The Securities and Exchange Commission charged him in a civil case with falsifying financial statements and defrauding investors. The court imposed a fine and barred Joseph from acting as an officer in a publicly held company.
But Joseph, when contacted by the FBI, volunteered to take a lie-detector test, and Swain, who was there when Joseph took the call from Air Gemini, is certain that Joseph had nothing to do with the airplane’s disappearance. “Look, nobody was more amazed by this situation than Maury,” Swain says. He describes Joseph as utterly confused by the information that the airplane was gone.
The suspicion that Ben Padilla could have played any part in an insurance fraud angers his younger brother. “If anybody would say to me that my brother was involved with this,” says Joe Padilla, his voice tightening, “they’re full of it. ’Cuz I know my brother. He’s not gonna do nothing crooked. I know that for a fact.” He is convinced that more than one person was already on board, waiting, and that they forcibly took the aircraft, and killed Ben and John Mutantu.
“I keep hoping against hope that maybe he’s tucked away somewhere,” says Benita Padilla-Kirkland. The new information she passed along to the FBI was a possible sighting of the aircraft, one of many reported over the years.
Mike Gabriel believes the airplane crashed in the Atlantic Ocean soon after takeoff. One crew member from the fuel delivery operation thinks the Angolan air force shot it down with a missile. A Luandan pilot says the word there is that the aircraft went north and vanished near Kinshasa, Congo. One of Ben Padilla’s friends says the airplane was disassembled for parts in Bujumbura, Burundi, on Tanzania’s western border.
Picking through the fragments of 844AA’s history, I found a story of broken deals, disappointments, and betrayals, but no real clues to the aircraft’s destination that day in 2003. We may never know for sure where it went. It is the largest aircraft ever to have disappeared without a trace.
Tim Wright is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia.

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A Botched Hostage Rescue in the
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Created Aug 26 2010 – 10:55
[1]
Not Limited Open Access
By Scott Stewart
On Aug. 23, Rolando Mendoza, a former senior police inspector with the Manila police
department, boarded a tourist bus in downtown Manila and took control of the vehicle,
holding the 25 occupants (tourists from Hong Kong and their Philippine guides) hostage.
Mendoza, who was dressed in his police inspector’s uniform, was armed with an M16-type
rifle and at least one handgun.
According to the police, Mendoza had been discharged from the department after being
charged with extortion. Mendoza claimed the charges were fabricated and had fought a
protracted administrative and legal battle in his effort to be reinstated. Apparently,
Mendoza’s frustration over this process led to his plan to take the hostages. The fact that
Mendoza entertained hope of regaining his police job by breaking the law and taking
hostages speaks volumes about his mental state at the time of the incident.
After several hours of negotiation failed to convince Mendoza to surrender,
communications broke down, Mendoza began to shoot hostages and police launched a
clumsy and prolonged tactical operation to storm the bus. The operation lasted for more
than an hour and left Mendoza and eight of the tourists dead at the end of a very public
and protracted case of violence stemming from a workplace grievance [2].
Hostage-rescue operations are some of the most difficult and demanding tactical
operations for police and military. To be successful, they require a great deal of training
and planning and must be carefully executed. Because of this, hostage-rescue teams are
among the most elite police and military units in the world. Since these teams are always
training and learning, they pay close attention to operations like the one in Manila and
study these operations carefully. They seek to adopt and incorporate tactics and
techniques that work and learn from any mistakes that were made so they can avoid
repeating them. Even in highly successful operations, there are always areas that can be
improved upon and lessons that can be learned.
Indeed, in the Manila case, the events that unfolded provided a litany of lessons for
hostage-rescue teams. The case will almost certainly be used in law enforcement and
military classrooms across the globe for years as a textbook example of what not to do.
Breakdown of the Incident
Shortly after 10 a.m. on Aug. 23, Mendoza commandeered the bus and its occupants (his
police inspector’s uniform was likely helpful in gaining him access to the vehicle). Within
minutes, he released two female hostages. Soon thereafter he released four hostages (a
woman and three children). Mendoza used a cell phone to call the Manila police, inform
them of the situation and make his demands: that the charges against him be dropped by
the police ombudsman’s office and that he be reinstated to the police force. These early
hostage releases would generally be seen as a positive sign by the authorities, showing
that Mendoza had some compassion for the women and children and that even if he was
reducing the number of hostages for pragmatic, tactical reasons (to allow him better
control over the group), he was at least reducing the number by releasing people and not
killing them.
The police maintained communications with Mendoza, who stayed aboard the bus and
kept the motor running. This not only kept the vehicle cool, but allowed Mendoza to watch
events unfold around the bus on the onboard television set. He had his hostages close the
curtains on the bus to make it more difficult for the authorities to determine where he was
in the bus.
Shortly after 1 p.m., Mendoza requested more gasoline for the bus and some food. He
released another hostage, an elderly man, in return for the gas and food. Two other
hostages, both Philippine photographers, were released as a 3 p.m. deadline for action set
by Mendoza came and went (one of the photographers was released before, one after).
There were also reports that Mendoza had initially set a 12:30 p.m. deadline for action.
The fact that these deadlines passed without violence would be an encouraging sign to the
authorities that the incident could be resolved without bloodshed. Food was again taken
out to the bus just before 5 p.m. During the afternoon, Mendoza could have been engaged
by snipers on at least two occasions, but since negotiations were proceeding well and
Mendoza did not appear to be close to shooting, the decision was made to try and wait
him out and not attempt to kill him. If the snipers failed to incapacitate Mendoza, it could
have risked the lives of the hostages.
During the ordeal, Mendoza continued to watch events unfold on the television inside the
bus and reportedly even talked to journalists via cell phone. Mendoza also ordered the bus
driver to park the vehicle sideways in the center of the road in an apparent attempt to
make it more difficult to approach without detection.
Things took a marked turn for the worse around 6:20 p.m., when negotiators,
accompanied by Mendoza’s brother Gregorio (who is also a police officer and who had
earlier helped convince Mendoza to extend his deadline), approached the bus with a letter
from the office of the ombudsman offering to reopen his case. Mendoza rejected the letter,
saying he wanted his case dismissed, not reviewed. At this point, there are conflicting
reports of what happened. The police negotiators told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that
Mendoza’s brother told Mendoza that the letter from the ombudsman’s office was garbage
and that he should not surrender. Other press reports indicate that the brother pleaded
with Mendoza to take him hostage and release the tourists and that his pleading was seen
as counterproductive to the negotiations.
Whatever the story, Mendoza’s brother was then arrested and his arrest was carried live
on television and seen by Mendoza in the bus. Shortly after his brother’s arrest, Mendoza
fired two warning shots and demanded in a radio interview that all the Manila Police
Department SWAT officers be removed from the scene. Shortly after 7 p.m., Mendoza
repeated his threats and refused to speak to his family members. Growing increasingly
agitated, Mendoza shot two of the hostages when his demand for the SWAT officers to
retreat was not met. He released the Philippine bus driver, who reportedly told police that
all the hostages were dead. (We are unsure why the driver said this when only two of the
passengers had been killed, but the police would have been able to tell from the volume of
fire that Mendoza had not truly killed all the hostages.)
At about 7:30 p.m., the tires of the bus were shot out and a police tactical team
approached the vehicle and began to smash its windows with a sledgehammer. The police
attempted to slowly enter the back of the bus by crawling through one of the shattered
windows from the top of a police truck but were forced back out of the window by gunfire.
At about 8:40 p.m., police deployed tear gas into the back of the bus through the missing
windows. Gunfire erupted and Mendoza was finally killed in a hail of bullets. Six additional
hostages also perished during the exchange of gunfire. It is unclear at this point if they
were intentionally shot by Mendoza or if they were caught in the crossfire.
Hostage Situations
By the time of the rescue attempt, the saga of Mendoza’s firing from the police force had
been going on for some time, and it is important to recognize that he did not make a
spontaneous decision to seize the tourist bus. Even if the bus was targeted shortly before
the attack, Mendoza’s path toward violent action would have included several significant
warning signs. As in almost any case of violence that stems from issues in the workplace,
once the chain of events are examined more closely, reports will emerge that warning
signs were either missed or ignored. Had those warning signs been noted and acted
upon, this situation might have been avoided.
Since the event was not pre-empted, once it happened and developed into a hostage
situation, the primary objective of the authorities was to resolve the incident without
violence. Skillful hostage negotiators do this by allowing the hostage-taker to vent. They
also work hard to defuse any tension that has the attacker on edge and to gently wear the
attacker down to the point of surrender. One of the essential principles in this effort is to
isolate the hostage-taker so that he or she cannot receive outside communication,
motivation, encouragement or other forms of support. Hostage negotiators seek to control
the flow of all information into or out of the crime scene. That did not occur in this case.
Mendoza was able to talk to outsiders on his cell phone and even gave media interviews.
He was also able to use the television in the bus to watch live media coverage of the
incident, including video of the deployment of police officers. This gave him a considerable
advantage and far more information than what he could have observed with his eyes from
inside the curtained bus.
As shown in the November 2008 attack in Mumbai, India, it has become more difficult to
isolate assailants from outside communications in the cell phone era, but there are ways
that such communications can be disabled. It is not known why the Manila police did not
attempt to jam the outside communication signals going to and from the bus, but that is
certainly something that will come up in the after-action review, as will their handling of the
media and onlookers (one of whom was wounded) during the incident.
As negotiations are proceeding in a hostage situation, the authorities must always be
busily preparing to launch an assault in case negotiations fail. When the assailant is
agitated or mentally disturbed, the situation on the ground can sometimes change quite
rapidly, and the rescue team needs to be prepared to act on a moment’s notice. Usually
the team will come in with an initial assault plan and then alter and refine their plan as
more intelligence becomes available, and as they become more familiar with the site and
the situation.
If the hostages are being held in a building, the rescue team will get the blueprints of the
building and collect as much information as possible in an effort to plan their assault on
the location where the hostages are being held. In this case, the hostages were being held
on a stationary bus, which made it far easier to collect that type of intelligence — a bus is a
bus. The authorities also had access to released hostages who, had they been debriefed,
could have described to authorities the situation inside the bus.
In a protracted hostage situation, the authorities will frequently employ technical measures
to gather additional intelligence on the activities of the hostage-taker. This may involve the
use of overt or clandestine video equipment, parabolic microphones or microphones
surreptitiously placed in or near the site. Even thermal imaging sets and technical
equipment to intercept cell phone communication or radio transmissions are sometimes
used.
All the information gleaned from such efforts will not only go to the negotiators, to help
them understand the hostage taker’s frame of mind, but will also be used to help the
rescue team fine-tune their assault plan.
Meanwhile, as the assault plan is being tweaked, negotiations continue and the hostage
negotiators work to wear down the hostage-taker. It appears that the negotiators in the
Mendoza case were doing a fairly good job of keeping the situation calm until the situation
flared up involving Mendoza’s brother and the letter from the ombudsman’s office.
Authorities clearly erred by not sending him a letter saying they had dropped the case
against him. (They did not need the extortion charges now that they could arrest him and
charge him with kidnapping and a host of other crimes.) It is hard to understand why the
police department quibbled over words and refused to give him the piece of paper he
expressly demanded. The police then aggravated the situation greatly with the public
arrest of Mendoza’s brother. Those two events caused the situation to deteriorate rapidly
and resulted in Mendoza’s decision to begin shooting. Once he shot the first two hostages,
the negotiations were clearly over and it was time to implement a tactical solution to the
problem.
The Use of Force
In a hostage situation, the use of force is a last resort. If force is required, however, the
rescue team needs to hit hard, hit fast and hit accurately. There is little time for hesitation
or error: Lives hang in the balance. This is where things began to get very ugly in the
Mendoza case. Not only was there a delay between the murder of the first hostages and
the launching of the first assault attempt, the assault was not hard, fast or accurate. To
succeed, an assault should be dynamic, assume control of the scene by overwhelming
force and use surprise and confusion to catch the hostage-taker off guard and quickly
incapacitate him. The rescue team needs to dominate the place where the entry is being
made and then quickly and accurately shoot the assailant. When the police began to
smash the windows of the bus with sledgehammers and then continued to beat on the
windows for more than a minute, Mendoza had ample time to kill his hostages had he
wished to do so. The only thing that saved the hostages who did survive was Mendoza’s
apparent reluctance to kill them.
It appears that the intent of the police was to smash the rear window to provide an
opening and then to continue smashing windows as they moved forward in an effort to
draw Mendoza’s attention to the front of the bus while the assault team entered from the
rear. When the police did attempt to enter the bus using the roof of the police vehicle,
however, it was a slow, clumsy attempt that was quickly repelled by Mendoza once he
opened fire on the team. They did not enter the bus quickly, and their tepid approach
caused them to lose the element of tactical surprise, denied them the opportunity to
employ overwhelming force and allowed Mendoza time to think and react and begin firing.
There was no hope of the assault team’s dominating the breaching point (or the rest of the
bus) when they entered in such a half-hearted manner. Then, instead of following through
with the assault by storming the front door while Mendoza was firing at the police in the
rear of the bus, the police withdrew and went back to the drawing board. Again, had
Mendoza wanted to kill all his remaining hostages, the withdrawal of the assault team
gave him ample time to do so.
More than an hour after the first assault, the police again approached the bus and
deployed tear gas grenades through the broken windows at the back of the bus. This
flushed Mendoza toward the front of the bus and, after a brief exchange of gunfire, he was
killed. There were some reports that he was killed by a police sniper, but we have seen no
evidence to corroborate those reports, and it appears that he was shot from a relatively
short range. Eight of the hostages survived the ordeal.
Granted, a bus does offer some challenges for a takedown operation, but is also a very
common form of transportation throughout the world, and there have been numerous
hostage situations involving buses in many different countries. Because of this,
professional rescue teams frequently practice bus takedowns in much the same way they
practice building takedowns or aircraft takedowns.
It was very apparent that the Manila SWAT unit lacked the experience, equipment and
training to conduct effective hostage-rescue operations, and we have seen this problem in
other local police departments in the developing world. We have not been able to learn
why the police did not seek the help of a national-level hostage-rescue unit for the tactical
aspect of this situation rather than leaving it to the Manila SWAT team to resolve. Given
the prolonged duration of the situation and the location in the nation’s capital, higher-level
assets should have had time to deploy to the scene.
Unlike many cases of workplace violence, this one did not involve a disgruntled employee
charging into his former office with guns blazing. Instead, Mendoza embarked on a course
of action that would, as it turned out, cause a great deal of public humiliation for his former
employer. Indeed, the head of the Manila police district tendered his resignation Aug. 24.
Four leaders of the Manila SWAT team were also placed on administrative leave.
In the past, some botched rescue attempts have spurred inquiries that have resulted in
countries creating or dramatically improving their hostage-rescue capabilities. For
example, the failed rescue attempt in Munich in 1972 led to the creation of Germany’s
GSG-9, one of the most competent hostage-rescue teams in the world. It will be
interesting to see if the Mendoza case spurs similar developments in the Philippines, a
country facing a number of security threats.
Terrorism/Security Scott Stewart China Philippines Security Portal: Featured
Analysis and Intelligence Security Weekly
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Source URL: http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20100825_botched_hostage_rescue_philippines
Links:
[1] http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/burton_and_stewart_on_security?fn=6716995385
[2] http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20081126_workplace_violence_myths_and_mitigation?fn=7816995364
<a href=”http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20100825_botched_hostage_rescue_philippines”>A Botched Hostage Rescue in the Philippines</a> is republished with permission of STRATFOR.


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U.S.: CIA Secretly Pays Afghan Officials
August 27, 2010

    The CIA is making secret payments to multiple members of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration to help the agency maintain a deep roster of allies within the presidential palace, according to current and former U.S. officials, The Washington Post reported on Aug. 27. A CIA spokesman denied a statement that a significant number of Afghan officials are on the payroll. A U.S. official said Turkey and Saudi Arabia are among the other countries funneling money into Afghanistan to influence events in the country.



Clash mars Venezuela election campaign start

Wed Aug 25, 2010 7:03pm EDT


* Legislative vote tests Chavez support ahead of 2012
* Opposition gains assured after boycott five years ago
(Adds polling numbers, more details on rallies)
By Frank Jack Daniel
CARACAS, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Venezuelan soldiers fired tear
gas at opposition candidates on Wednesday at the start of
campaigning for legislative elections that will test support
for President Hugo Chavez amid a recession and high crime.
Struggling opposition parties are all but guaranteed gains
in the Sept. 26 vote after boycotting an election for lawmakers
five years ago, leaving the major U.S. oil supplier's national
assembly entirely in the hands of the president's allies.
National Guard soldiers, who have policing powers, used
tear gas to repel a small group of opposition candidates near
the legislature on a busy downtown street, TV images showed,
after they appeared to clash with parliament workers.
"We were walking towards the assembly. We were going to
read a document, and without warning the National Guard started
firing tear gas," candidate Stalin Gonzalez told opposition TV
station Globovision. The parliament issued a statement accusing
the candidates of trying to force their way into the building.
Elsewhere, thousands of bouyant Chavez supporters dressed
in the Socialist Party's signature red color flocked to large
rallies across the country of 30 million people to kick off a
race the president dubbed "Operation Demolition." Pre-campaign
debate has been dominated by criticism of the government's
record on tackling Venezuela's murder rate.
"Let's go to battle!" Chavez's campaign chief Aristobulo
Isturiz bellowed at one raucous rally.
The elections -- a barometer of backing for Chavez's
policies ahead of a presidential vote in two years -- are a
chance for opponents to take back some of the power he has
accumulated over more than 11 years in office.
<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
For background, click [ID:nN24260828] and [ID:nLDE67M0MB]
Insider video clip, go to link.reuters.com/duq27nn
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Despite sky-high crime and economic woes, Chavez remains
Venezuela's most popular politician, helped by social spending.
But the ex-soldier, who has also polarized the country between
backers of his policies favoring the poor and those who call
him a dictator, has seen his ratings dive this year.
Opposition parties have fielded unity candidates to
increase their chances of denting Chavez's grip on parliament.
They hope to capitalize on his relative weakness after
months fighting crises such as electricity cuts and a scandal
over rotting food that dragged on his ratings.
Pollster Saul Cabrera of Consultores 21  on Wednesday said
his most recent survey conducted in July showed Chavez's
popularity down 7 points this year to 36 percent. Other polling
firms tend to put Chavez's popularity slightly higher, but they
have also shown a ratings downturn this year.
Most analysts expect Chavez's socialist party to lose seats
but still hold its majority, helped by changes to electoral
districts that critics call gerrymandering.
It is possible the socialists will end up with a majority
of seats without winning a majority of votes, an embarrassing
outcome for a populist leader such as Chavez.
There is a slim chance the opposition will win the most
seats, which could cause political instability. Their goal is
to win at least a third of the legislature and limit Chavez's
ability to pass major legislation.
CRIME AGENDA
Usually an expert at setting the political agenda,
especially ahead of elections, Chavez seems to have been caught
off balance by an early campaign from opposition media to
highlight the government's failure to tackle violent crime.
Venezuela has one of the world's highest murder rates with
between 13,000 and 16,000 people killed last year, according to
leaked police numbers and a non-governmental watchdog,
respectively.
Last week a court ordered two newspapers not to publish
violent pictures after they printed a gory archive photo of
bodies piled up in a morgue. [ID:nN18125440]
The government, which also responded angrily to a New York
Times story comparing Venezuela's violence to Iraq, says it is
working hard to bring down crime and that a new national police
force has slashed homicide rates in a Caracas pilot project.
A handful of lawmakers who defected from Chavez's ranks in
2007 are the opposition's only presence in the current
parliament, giving Chavez legislative carte blanche.
He has used that power to start remolding one of the
continent's most Americanized nations as a socialist society,
while expanding his sway over courts and other institutions.
Critics say the 56-year-old ally of Cuba is following his
mentor Fidel Castro and installing an autocratic communist
dictatorship in the baseball-mad nation studded with fast food
restaurants and shopping malls.
Chavez, who has lost just one of over a dozen elections
since 1998, says he is a democrat committed to freeing
Venezuela from U.S. dominance and local oligarchs.
(Additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea, Patricia Rondon,
Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Cynthia
Osterman)

UPDATE 2-Clash mars Venezuela election campaign start | Reuters

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Under New American Management Al-Qaida Now Poses Inner Threat

By PAUL SPERRY
Posted 08/13/2010 08:17 PM ET

Among Americans installed in al-Qaida leadership positions are propagandist Adam Gadahn, left, and Adnan Shukrijumah, believed to be directing U.S....

Among Americans installed in al-Qaida leadership positions are propagandist Adam Gadahn, left, and Adnan Shukrijumah, believed to be directing U.S…. View Enlarged Image

If al-Qaida looks and sounds different as we approach 9/11’s ninth anniversary, it’s because it’s under new American management. No fewer than four U.S. citizens and a permanent U.S. resident have risen to senior leadership posts.
These five English-speaking leaders are actively planning or facilitating attacks against their countrymen, while recruiting and radicalizing other American turncoats to carry them out.
By remaking itself into an American enterprise, al-Qaida is now more lethal than ever. Its new generation of leaders understands the way America works, having lived here for decades. They have a better sense of our security blind spots. They also know which kinds of attacks will produce both mass panic and maximum economic damage.
Al-Qaida’s indigenous rebirth, moreover, befogs our military strategy. We’re no longer at war with just a foreign enemy, but fellow Americans recruited by the enemy. They’re supplied, in turn, by a seemingly endless stream of homegrown foot soldiers, fed by a native Muslim population once believed quiescent and nonthreatening.
Shockingly, the War on Terror has morphed into a mini-civil war, and it’s posing major new challenges to its prosecution. We’re now battling our own citizens. How do we deal with wartime traitors? Can the CIA assassinate them? Can it spy on them? What about their civil rights?
This muddies an already muddy war — and it’s all part of al-Qaida’s plan.
After 9/11, the group vowed to convert our own people against us, something once thought impossible. But it’s managed to groom a startling number of American citizens and residents and install them in top leadership slots, including:
• Adnan Shukrijumah: The long-time Florida resident, who obtained a green card while living in the U.S. for more than 15 years, has replaced 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammad as chief of al-Qaida’s terror operations.
Believed to be directing U.S. terrorist cells from Pakistan, Shukrijumah, 35, recently was indicted as a conspirator in last year’s plot to blow up the New York subway. There’s a $5 million reward for his capture.
• Adam Gadahn: The California-born Muslim convert assists Shukrijumah and Osama bin Laden as al-Qaida’s chief propagandist. He tailors the group’s message to American Muslims, as well as disaffected minorities ripe for conversion.
In 2006, Gadahn invoked U.S. Muslims to attack military bases, singling out California’s Camp Pendleton as a candidate for “a shooting spree.” Three years later, a Muslim soldier went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood. Gadahn, 31, praised the attack and urged more.
The first American to be charged with treason in 50 years, Gadahn is hiding in Pakistan with a $1 million bounty on his head.
• Anwar Awlaki: Articulate and media savvy, the American-born cleric is al-Qaida’s top recruiter of Western suicide cells.
Awlaki has recruited or radicalized countless homegrown terrorists, including the Fort Hood shooter and the Times Square bomber, both English-speaking citizens. Authorities also believe he ordered the Christmas airliner attack, which puts Awlaki in the middle of the last three major terror acts on U.S. soil.
Thought to be bin Laden’s heir, Awlaki has called on American Muslims to turn against their government, and has even justified killing American civilians. “Jihad against America is binding on every other (American) Muslim,” he said.
The 39-year-old Awlaki lived in the U.S. for 21 years before fleeing to Yemen after 9/11. Treasury last month designated him a “key leader of al-Qaida” and froze his assets. He’s also on the CIA’s terrorist hit list.
• Samir Khan: A U.S. citizen who grew up in New York and Charlotte, N.C., the Web-savvy 24-year-old is now in Yemen helping Awlaki target American audiences as al-Qaida’s newest propagandist.
Khan is editor of al-Qaida’s splashy new organ, “Inspire,” a Webzine that provides jihadists step-by-step instructions in English on making bombs that can elude bomb-sniffing dogs.
• Omar Hammami: The ex-Baptist convert to Islam grew up in the Alabama suburbs before joining al-Qaida.
He’s now, at 25, a field commander in Somalia, another key al-Qaida hot spot, where he’s recruiting and training U.S. jihadists. His trainees include dozens of Minneapolis college kids, including one who earned the dubious title, “first American suicide bomber.”
This new cadre of al-Qaida leaders is enlisting a growing faction of the U.S. Muslim community, many of them African-American and white converts who don’t fit the Arab terrorist profile. As many as three dozen U.S. converts are said to have gone through al-Qaida training in Yemen, where they’ve received Awlaki’s blessing. They reportedly include blond-haired, blue-eyed types — fitting a profile of Americans that al-Qaida in the past could only dream of recruiting.
Its recruiting effort is made all the easier by some 15,000 jihadi Web sites — 80% of which are operating off servers based inside the U.S. Across the country, moreover, mosques and Islamic bookstores sell Awlaki’s recorded sermons as CD box sets. It’s all protected “free speech.”
“Jihad is becoming as American as apple pie,” Awlaki boasts. More and more, he warns, terror attacks will come “from within” — even within our own military.
Meanwhile, the so-called moderates of the Muslim establishment are sitting on their hands. Major Muslim groups have refused to cooperate in terror probes until the FBI backs off mosques. Their cold war turned hot last fall, when a Muslim leader in Detroit died in a shoot-out with agents, triggering outcry throughout the Muslim community.
It’s just a matter of time before a homegrown nut inspired by a radical mosque or Web site overcomes their bomb-making learning curve and successfully detonates one, blowing up a building or a mall or a plane inside America. And then we’ll all wonder why more wasn’t done to shut down these sites. Of course, by then we’ll be sweeping up the remains of victims, and it will be too late.
“America cannot and will not win,” Awlaki hisses. With Washington running from the war, disengaging from an enemy that now counts our own citizens among its senior ranks, we cannot afford to dismiss his words as bluster.
• Sperry, formerly IBD Washington bureau chief, is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of “Infiltration” and “Muslim Mafia.”

Under New American Management Al-Qaida Now Poses Inner Threat – Investors.com

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More Than 5 Reasons Why Israel Won’t Strike Iran Anytime Soon

by Judith Miller
Fox News
August 19, 2010

http://www.judithmiller.com/7860/israel-wont-strike-iran

History sometimes repeats itself in the Middle East, but not always. Twice before, Israel has attacked Arab nuclear reactors before they were loaded with the fuel rods that could have produced plutonium Pu 239 for an atomic bomb. Both strikes against Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 and Syria’s North Korean-built reactor in 2007 were surprise attacks. In neither case did Israel receive Washington’s blessing. In the case of Iraq, Israel didn’t even warn its close friend, Ronald Reagan, in advance.

This pattern has led two former Bush administration officials – John Bolton and Michael Anton — and a very well-connected journalist to warn that Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear installations soon if sanctions fail and Washington does not strike.

Jeffrey Goldberg argues in the Atlantic that Israelis think such a determination is likely to be made by spring of 2011. Bolton added fuel to the nuclear fire this week, so to speak, by arguing that if Israel does not strike before Russia is scheduled to load nuclear fuel rods at Iran’s nuclear reactor at Bushehr this Saturday, it will lose the chance to stop Bushehr. Attacking a nuclear plant once it has gone “critical,” warns Anton, would risk the release of a radioactive plume that might kill civilians and poison surrounding areas, causing what he calls in what is surely the week’s understatement “a P.R. uproar.”

No one really knows what Israel’s military and political elite or President Obama, for that matter, intends to do about Iran next year, after sanctions have a chance to bite.

Avner Cohen, whose new book “The Worst Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb,” is being published in October, tells me that “any pretense to predict or even to assess the likelihood of war against Iran is really the pretense of knowing something we truly do not know.” He fears, as I do, that a confrontation with Iran might start inadvertently, over a non-nuclear issue.

But I also doubt that Israel is likely to move against Bushehr before it goes critical — or anytime soon, for that matter.

First, and not foremost, Israel and America are both far more concerned about Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities than the Bushehr reactor. Why? Because Moscow is not only supplying, but charged with removing the spent, or used fuel rods at Bushehr and getting them out of Iran. This agreement, plus monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog, gives some modest assurance that the reactor’s nuclear fuel won’t be secretly diverted to make a bomb.

Also, as Anton notes, even if Iran manages to divert some spent fuel, it’s not clear Teheran has the technology, or the capability, to extract plutonium from spent reactor fuel rods for a bomb.

No, this is not perfect. Russia’s behavior, too, leaves much ground for suspicion. But altogether, it suggests that Bushehr is not as grave a danger as Iran’s dogged determination to develop an independent fuel cycle with a nuclear enrichment capability at existing and planned new facilities, despite more than a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions warning it not to do so.

For better or worse, the Obama administration does not see the Bushehr reactor as a grave proliferation risk. In fact, as The Wall Street Journal reported last week, the administration agreed not to oppose Russian help to Bushehr to help secure Russia’s vote for the latest round of U.N. sanctions in June.

Second, attacking Iranian nuclear facilities is obviously a far tougher military challenge – to say nothing of the likely political ramifications — than demolishing a single nuclear reactor in Iraq or Syria. Iran’s facilities, as we have been repeatedly told, are widely dispersed, buried, and hidden.

Third, Iran has the ability to strike back – using its proxy, Hezbollah to Israel’s north, and Iranian-assisted Hamas in Gaza, to Israel’s south. Nor would such retaliation likely be directed solely at Israel. Hezbollah has long tentacles and has previously struck in South America, Europe, and even Egypt. As American intelligence agencies have also warned, it also has a network of agents and supporters inside the United States.

Fourth, the Obama administration thinks that its sanctions, though nowhere nearly as tough as those imposed against Iraq, are already hurting Iran. Even Iranian economists complain that sanctions are making it more expensive and difficult for Iran to do business abroad, modernize its nuclear and oil sectors, and attract foreign investment. No one knows, however, whether sanctions will bite sufficiently to change Iranian behavior.

Fifth, Israeli leaders still suspect that Washington will strike Iran so that it doesn’t have to, when and if it becomes clear that Iran is not changing its nuclear policies. This may be a false hope. Many Obama officials agree with Robert Kaplan, who argues, also in The Atlantic, that containing a nuclear Iran is the least-bad of all the bad policy options available.

Finally, putting aside the wisdom (or dangerous folly) of such a military strike, conservatives and liberals alike tend to agree, Israeli military action against Iran before Washington concludes that its sanctions policy is not working IS likely to poison already tense U.S.-Israel relations, which as John Bolton acknowledges, “are more strained now than at any time since the 1956.”

A rupture with the U.S. may not be an existential threat. But as Anton writes, “it would be dire enough that it’s not worth risking unless the consequences of inaction truly are existential. That’s a hard and unenviable call to have to make.”

For all these reasons, history may not repeat itself in the Middle East. Israel may not strike Iran as it did Iraq and Syria.

But other indicators suggest an increasingly perilous Middle East, with or without such Israeli military action. The Arab-Israeli peace process appears deadlocked. America’s withdrawal from Iraq and its losses so far in Afghanistan create the perception throughout the region, rightly or wrongly, of American weakness and exhaustion.

Israel is being subjected to a fierce campaign to delegitimize its right to exist.

And Iran, after the failure of its Green Revolution, is in ever more dangerous hands. As Gary Sick, whose website hosts a fierce debate about Gulf policy, wrote recently, Iran increasingly resembles “the corporatist states of southern and eastern Europe in the 1920’s and 1930’s that we call fascist.”

Yes, things do change in the Middle East, but as Atlantic editor James Bennet warned in the introduction to his dueling articles on what to do about Iran, “in fits and starts,” and since the collapse of the Oslo peace talks over a decade ago, not for the better.

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