It’s been busy lately in AQAP HQ
Well, as the news cycle of late has been showing, it has been the busy season for AQAP, in between rocket attacks from drones, they have been busy evidently devising a new type of underwear bomb that is “super sophisticated” according to the press accounts.
I would say that they have in fact worked out a better way to get a bomb of reasonable size onto a plane with the right shahid but as for it being so “sophisticated” I cannot say that I think it is all that and a cup of coffee. Currently the FBI (Quantaco) lab boys have the briefs in hand and are looking into the design and so much as we know at present, it has no metal parts. So, this means its all plastics and liquid/soft (semtex/c-4 plastique) explosives. So, where’s the innovation? I would have to say detonator and just design to be slim, as powerful as possible (you only need to blow a hole in the fuselage) and not easily detected in pat downs or body (mm-wave) scans. The detonator though has been the failure point for the last couple of shoe/underwear bombs that were tried, so I would say that if they innovated, it would have been in this area.
Oh well.. But that hasn’t been the BIG story has it concerning AQAP huh? Nope, everyone is abuzz that the CIA had an asset in AQAP for a “few weeks”
Whoa! *sarcasm implied*
Moles and Assets in AQAP: Paradigm Change
As win’s go, this “shahidi asset” in AQAP who turned over the bomb and also helped with intel on the location of Fahd Mohammad Ahmed Al-Quso for a drone strike that killed him, was a pretty good one, though, now with all of the leaking of that this was an inside asset working for <REDACTED> intelligence agencies, I have to think that maybe it wasn’t so much a planned thing as an “opportunity” that presented itself. Since the asset saw no other way than to just turn over the device (because they joined up to be a suicide bomber from the start) they were pretty much burned from the get go here. Once their operation was set in motion and sent to the airport, well, it’s not like they could turn up the next day and say “oops, it didn’t work” So, this was a VERY perishable operation and so far, I am not hearing that from the press nor the administration’s leaks on this.
Context is a key thing kids.
So, if you turn on the news you hear the crowing going on that we got a “spy” in AQAP… Yes, sure… No… Not really. I suspect that this person was in a position of contact with AQAP, wanted as a “shahidi suicide bomber” and either was available to being turned, or went directly to the intelligence service for their country and said “Hi, AQAP called and they want me to go BOOM” I could be wrong, but I suspect that this is the case, either way, the asset was cultivated for this one off and it worked. Now, as for having long term assets in AQ or AQAP, well that is another kettle of fish altogether. Something that is seeming to be misconstrued a bit in the media reports. So far as I know it, we have not had very much HUMINT of this nature within AQ/AQAP/The Salafist Jihad movement because they are so paranoid and tribal.. As well as we had a total FAIL on grooming assets from the region to begin with.
So, post this little operation, where will we stand? Well, lets see…
Pro: We got the bomb, and we whacked a major player as well as gathered other intel from the asset who was embedded for a while
Con: Now they are gonna even be more paranoid…
Pro: Now they are gonna be even more paranoid!
Con: Likely we will not have any more assets on the ground for a while because the are paranoid
Well, there you have it. It was a win, but not as much as it’s being made out to be I think personally from an intelligence gathering standpoint. Who knows maybe we will get lucky again with another shahidi huh? Won’t hold my breath though.
Post UBL, Samir, Anwar, etc etc.
So, once again back to the changing times. Lets see, we had the recent anniversary of UBL’s death and the trucking out of the stories again. I personally have been reading Peter Bergen’s book on it all called “Manhunt” and found some interesting details in there. However, with that and the letters from Abbottabad, one gets an interesting picture of not only UBL’s last 6 years, but also the state of affairs between rival groups and personalities. If the documents are to be believed (yes some are saying there are reasons for these documents being released without the context of the whole trove and what “can” be declassified) then we see a picture of UBL as trying to thread the needle a bit on how to handle the monster that had gotten away from him.
AQAP it seems was a group that he did not officially sanction (franchise) and the name is their own doing. In fact, the letters show that UBL was not a fan of Al-Awlaki and thought that AQAP was doing a little too much indiscriminate killing of Muslims in the lands. Something I can see being the case as in the end UBL was ethnic Yemeni and his last wife (#4) was as well. So perhaps there is some truth to the idea that not only was UBL not a fan of the groups actions but was so because of ties to the area. I also suspect that there may also have been some reservation on the part of UBL on Anwar because of the places that they found themselves; UBL in confinement, marginalized, and Anwar out and about, preaching and gathering a real following amongst the younger jihadi set.
Of course that is all supposition on my part and from reading the letters that were released. Anyway, we whacked Anwar and his boys including Samir, the head of “Inspire” magazine which lead the unthinking masses to believe that AQAP and AQ (from all deaths above) were pretty hurt to the point of being almost intert. Well, they were wrong of course and as we have seen were busy making new plans to attack the US.. Which was what UBL was re-iterating to AQAP and others before he got his-self whacked. All of this goes to show that it’s not just the leaders that you have to kill, it’s the premise of their war. Sure, taking out leaders helps a lot, but, it seems with jihad, that there is a ideological element that is tough to put down.
So they continue on… And so will the GWOT.
What I can say about Inspire
Well, speaking of AQAP and Samir etc, we had the dump of Inspire 8 & 9 last week and it was only a matter of time really. It seems that Samir had 8 in the can mostly before he got his personal bomb blast, but 9 is whole cloth the creation of those he left behind, including I suspect the guy who wrote the eulogy for Samir. Inspire 8 is oddly formatted and contains more kluge-y language but 9 seems to be back to the more slick jihadi hipster that it was before.
Not much has changed on content though, or thought for that matter. They did have some more detail on things.. But.. I cannot talk about it…. Wouldn’t wanna be one of those “leakers” ya know…Lets see what they come up with for 10 and see where they are headed. The one thing they did learn from all of the DoS and hacks, at the top of the mag they tell the brothers to post it everywhere, not just on the boards. Seems they have the whole internet to work with and not just their php pages huh? Now who’da thought that?
Election Season and Leaks of INTEL
Speaking of leaks and leakers! Can you tell its election season? I certainly can with all this hoo-ha over UBL’s demise and campaign ads! Now though, we have this leak about the underwear plot and how the <REDACTED AGENCY> got their guy in there.
Really? I don’t know about you all, but I am feeling rather jaded at the “inside sources in CT” being cited on this whole intelligence coup. Evidently now too the CIA and other entities are claiming that they are “looking into” the leak.
Hmm lemme see, who woulda leaked that? Maybe the intelligence agencies themselves? Perhaps even it was a “condoned” leak maybe?
Look, like I said before this guy had a one way mission and he was burned as soon as he left the compound to go on that flight (a highly perishable asset) so who’s losing out here that this information is leaked. (once again see above) I dunno, I may be being a bastard here, but this is how I see it. It was convenient on many levels to leak this to the press. Just as it was for Gdub to leak Valerie Plame’s name right?
Say Scooter, how’s life now that you have been thrown to the wolves on that… Feelin the love still?
Meanwhile, the war rages on for the black hearts and mushy minds of those jihobbyists out there who wanna join AQ/AQAP or any of the other franchises. The latest releases of Inspire pretty much say it all. They are following what UBL laid out as a broad base ideal, get the locals to attack the US. The jihadi boards online as well are a great part of this picture as well, giving the ability of propaganda and spin to those out there who would be a “lone wolf” as well as a repository for Inspire.
The boards of late have been under fire though by the patriot hackers as well as intelligence agencies though. Recent times have seen them taken offline not only via DoS but also being hacked and deleted offline. Of course they come back fairly quickly as the owners/operators have backups of them in other places and they are mirrored. So, once they get that master database back up, they all pop up away they go. Interestingly though, recent events have shown just how the boards play one role while technology is being used in another way to keep communications secret.
With the release of the Abbottabad letters we have seen how UBL and the networks have been using little technology to communicate via courier. Of course they are still using technology but only minimally and it seems in the case of UBL (that we know of) without actually using encryption on their hard drives or USB drives, that is until recently. An AQ operative was recently caught with a USB drive full of porn amongst other things. Within that porn there was, steganographically hidden, files for the jihad. These documents were future plans and other materials that will be ever so helpful in the war on terror. However, the point being is that this is the first acknowledged case of Steg being used by AQ and that is interesting. What I find most interesting about this though is the hindsight issue here. A case could be made that AQ learned from the fact that (as we know it by accounts) UBL did not crypt any of his stuff and the SEAL’s took it all. This would have put a severe crimp in AQ’s plans and as we have seen since UBL’s demise, we have been in a drone war that we have been winning much of the time. So, all that intel (pocket litter) we obtained from Abbottabad really came in handy and must have been an object lesson for those left in command of AQ.
Moving forward though, I expect that, from my reading of Inspire, AQAP has a plan to leverage the internet even more than they already are. I believe that they will continue to put the magazine out and perhaps inspire others to make clones. The ubiquitous nature of the internet will only serve to allow their propaganda to be loosed upon us all. The key though, is that their propaganda only appeals to a very small, and mentally damaged group that in reality will lose in the end. Why? Because there are far more sane people out there than there are those bent on AQ’s particular brand of “jihad”
Expect More as We Move Towards November
Well, I guess as a final conclusion to this screed, I just want to say that you all should expect more of all of this. The political season is upon us and the powers that be will be attempting to leverage all of this as well as the AQ’s of the world. Remember Azzam Al Amriki is still out there at present, and if he had his way, we’d be seeing Ayman on ABC news doing interviews.
No one needs that kind of pedantry… No… Really…