Eye on Extremism: September 1, 2021

The Wall Street Journal: U.S.’s Pledge To Fight Terrorists In Afghanistan Will Be Harder Without Boots On The Ground

“President Biden and his aides promise that the U.S. can keep terror threats from Afghanistan at bay from afar with “over the horizon” surveillance and strikes now that U.S. troops have departed. Counterterrorism and intelligence officials say it will be much harder and less effective than the White House suggests. As a chaotic and deadly U.S. evacuation winds up, the U.S. has lost many of its key assets for tracking violent militants and their plots, they say. Gone are the military bases and other infrastructure that provided a platform for operatives from the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies. Gone are the U.S.-backed Afghan government and its intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, which worked closely with American spy services. Gone, evacuated or scattered are Afghan agents and troops who fed on-the-ground information to the CIA. U.S. officials acknowledge the military has lost 90% of the intelligence collection capabilities it had using drones before the drawdown of forces began in May. “It is not the way you generally ever want to structure a counterterrorism campaign,” said Seth Jones, a former adviser to U.S. Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.”

Reuters: Bangladesh Sentences Six Militants To Death For Killing Gay Activists

“Six members of an Islamist militant group were sentenced to death on Tuesday by a court in Bangladesh for the brutal killing of two gay rights campaigners five years ago. Xulhaz Mannan, 35, the editor of Bangladesh’s first magazine for gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people, and actor Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, 25, were hacked to death in Mannan’s apartment in the capital Dhaka in April 2016 in an attack claimed by Ansar Al Islam, the regional arm of al Qaeda. The killings were part of a series of attacks on atheist bloggers, academics and other minorities that shocked the South Asian nation of 170 million and led many to go into hiding or flee abroad. Of the eight defendants in the case, six were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, public prosecutor Golam Sarwar Khan said. The Special Anti-Terrorism Tribunal also convicted the six of belonging to a terrorist organization, the al Qaeda-inspired domestic militant organization Ansar Ullah Bangla Team, Khan said, a group that police believe is responsible for the murders of more than a dozen secular activists and bloggers. The men's defense lawyer Nazrul Islam said they would appeal their sentences. The tribunal acquitted two other defendants, who are on the run and were tried in absentia, Khan said. Of the six men sentenced to death, two are also on the run and were tried in absentia.”

United States

The Washington Post: ISIS Militant Expected To Plead Guilty In Case Involving Hostages’ Deaths, Court Records Show

“One of two men accused of helping kidnap Americans killed by the Islamic State is expected to enter a guilty plea on Thursday, according to court records made public Tuesday. Alexanda Kotey was extradited from Iraq last year along with another Islamic State recruit, El Shafee Elsheikh; both were charged with hostage-taking resulting in death, conspiracy to support a terrorist organization and related charges. Records in federal court in Alexandria show a judge has scheduled a “change of plea hearing” for Kotey on Thursday, indicating he has reached an agreement to enter a guilty plea. The details of the agreement, including the charges involved, are not yet public. A guilty plea is not final until it is entered in court and approved by a judge. Kotey and Elsheikh — both born in Britain — have previously admitted to joining the Islamic State in Syria and interacting with hostages, including in interviews with The Washington Post. But they claimed they had no knowledge in advance that the hostages would be killed and could not stop it from happening. Federal prosecutors have accused them of involvement in both the torture and murder of hostages, including journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller.”

Fox News: FBI Investigating Possible Terror Link In Shooting Of Texas Lyft Driver, Targeting Of Police Station

“The FBI is investigating whether a Texas man accused of fatally shooting a female Lyft driver and then opening fire in a police station was inspired by foreign terrorists. Imran Ali Rasheed, 33, left a letter indicating he “may have been inspired by a foreign terrorist organization,” said Matthew DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office. “At this point, we do not believe that the suspect, Imran Ali Rasheed, was provided assistance by others or that others were involved in these incidents. However, it is our top investigative priority to fully determine the extent of his relationships and contacts,” the FBI’s Dallas office tweeted Monday. Rasheed ordered a Lyft share ride on Sunday in Garland, and then fatally shot driver Isabella Lewis. Police then found Lewis’s car at a police station in Plano where Rasheed opened fire in the lobby and was subsequently fatally shot by police. Rasheed was the only one injured in the shooting at the police station. Police said there is no known connection between Lewis and Rasheed, and officials said it’s unclear why he targeted the Plano Police Department. “We have no idea why he came to Plano to find police officers,” said the city's police chief, Ed Drain.”

Iraq

Al Monitor: Taliban Victory Inspires Pro-Iran Militias In Iraq

“As the world focuses on the end of the US military presence in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s rapid takeover of most of the country, culminating with the handover of Kabul on Aug.15, Iraqis are watching closely. Both Iraqis and Syrians have suffered a great deal from the Islamic State as well as the destruction caused by the fight to defeat it and are wary of what this watershed moment portends for their future. The Taliban takeover is, at a minimum, an inspiration for radical and terrorist groups.  The Taliban have massive amounts of equipment, vehicles and aircraft left behind by the United States. They are more highly trained and appear to have more support from neighboring countries than when they ruled the country between 1996 and 2001. They are also still working alongside a number of designated terrorist groups with foreign fighters, while they have instead engaged in battles in the eastern part of the country with Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), the local branch of the Islamic State (IS) that includes a number of former Taliban fighters that have defected in recent years to its ranks. Many supporters of armed hard-line Sunni groups in Syria have long praised the Taliban, including Iraqi former al-Qaeda member Abu Maria al-Qahtani.”

Afghanistan

The New York Times: Biden Didn’t See The ISIS-K Threat In Afghanistan Until Too Late

“When President Biden announced in the spring that America would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the fall, he spoke of terrorism threats — but never mentioned Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan. In threat assessments about Afghanistan as late as April, the director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, barely brought up ISIS-K. On Aug. 20 Mr. Biden mentioned the group, in a speech on the last-minute effort to evacuate stranded U.S. citizens and vulnerable Afghans after the Taliban had overrun Afghanistan. By then it was too late. On Thursday, ISIS-K struck with a deadly suicide bombing at the Kabul airport, killing at least 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. service members. Savagery is not new to this group. In May 2020, it targeted a maternity ward in Kabul, killing 24 people, including women and newborns. But the targeting of U.S. military personnel who were not in a battle zone has raised ISIS-K’s status as one of the foremost terrorist groups in the region.”

Fox News: Post-Withdrawal Afghanistan Is 'Much Worse' Than Iraq Power Vacuum That Spawned ISIS, General Says

“Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, a Fox News contributor and former acting national security advisor to President Trump, told Fox News that President Biden owns the Afghanistan withdrawal disaster, and that the Afghan power vacuum Biden left behind is “much worse” than the power vacuum in Iraq that spawned the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Fox News asked Kellogg if he would compare post-withdrawal Afghanistan to post-withdrawal Iraq, where a power vacuum provided the opportunity for ISIS to arise. “No, it’s worse,” Kellogg said. “At least with Iraq, you had the semblance of a government that we supported.” He noted that the 82nd Airborne Division assisted the Iraqi government after most U.S. troops had withdrawn. “The situation in Afghanistan is much worse,” the retired general added. He noted that while Trump's agreement with the Taliban would have required the Taliban to stop working with al Qaeda and to prevent any Afghanistan-based offensive operation against the U.S. from taking place, that agreement is no longer in force.  Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg said that President Biden owns the Afghanistan withdrawal disaster, and that the Afghan power vacuum Biden left behind is “much worse” than the power vacuum in Iraq that spawned the ISIS.”

Washington Examiner: Bargaining Chip: Americans Left Behind Give Taliban Precious Leverage

“Taliban militants could use Americans who are still in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S. forces as leverage over President Joe Biden, lawmakers and foreign officials predict. “Stop calling them American citizens ‘stuck’ or ‘stranded’ in Afghanistan, and call them what they are, which is Taliban hostages,” Rep. Mike Waltz, a Florida Republican and Army veteran who deployed in Afghanistan, told the Washington Examiner. “We’ve just handed the Taliban a mountain of leverage on a silver platter.” U.S. officials have raced to minimize that risk through an evacuation effort that saw approximately 6,000 Americans leave Afghanistan. Yet, hundreds of other Americans remain in the country — a mix of citizens who chose to stay or could not get out before the deadline for the U.S. withdrawal. That population, in combination with what is believed to be thousands of Afghan nationals in danger for their previous work with the U.S. government, could face the ordeal of a massive, decentralized hostage situation.”

Metro: Former Al-Qaeda Recruiter Warns Of Rise In Online Jihadist Propaganda After US Withdrawal

“…Morton, now an expert in counter-extremism, said the return of the Taliban has created a global upsurge in extreme views that can only be countered with a focus on human rights. He told a conference organised by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) on Monday to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 that there had been an increase of between 8% and 10% in jihadi ‘chatter’. Morton, a former US Muslim convert, said: ‘Where we find ourselves now is a vision that ultimate victory is for the Muslims and that will now impact the minds and mentality not just of jihadists, but of Islamists. ‘It makes that very real argument that only violent jihad can obtain the change that radical Muslims want to achieve all the more palatable. ‘And it will bleed into the understanding of prophecy and the resonance of Isis trying to take over from the Taliban, because the statement of jihadists is that they hold Khorosan in Arabic as Afghanistan. ‘The prophecy says the black flag of jihad will be realised in Khorosan and will not be stopped until it reaches Jerusalem.”

CGTN: Uncertainty Looms On First Day After U.S. Troops Exit From Afghanistan

“…Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director of the Counter Extremism Project, said in an interview with the China Media Group that the Western invasion of Afghanistan was supposed to eliminate terrorism but it had re-emerged in the country with heavy casualties, making the West's so-called war on terror a joke. About 47,600 civilians have been killed and more than double that number injured in Afghanistan during the 20 years of war, according to figures by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Afghan media reported Monday that many Afghan political analysts and citizens criticized that 20 years of aggression and hasty withdrawal of the United States have left a power vacuum that could have dire consequences. The Taliban hailed victory in a press conference following the exit of the last batch of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, promising peace and stability for the country and saying they would respect the rights of women within the framework of the Islamic Sharia Law, despite its brutal enforcement history between 1996 and 2001. A USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll released Tuesday found that three of four participants believe Afghanistan will once again be used as a sanctuary for terrorists that target the United States.”

Pakistan

Associated Press: Pakistan Says 11 Islamic State Militants Killed In Raid

“Pakistan’s counter-terrorism units raided a hideout of the Islamic State group in the restive southwestern Baluchistan province before dawn on Tuesday, setting off a shootout that killed 11 militants, the police said. The units, acting on intelligence, carried out the raid in the district of Mastung, where IS militants had recently killed two police officers. The police said suicide belts, hand grenades and assault rifles were confiscated in the raid. The counter-terrorism department provided no further details and the nationality of the slain militants was not immediately known. The counter-terrorism police is a special branch of the police that fights militant groups. Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province where IS group has claimed several attacks in recent years. IS has regional affiliates in both Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan. Baluchistan is also the scene of a low-level insurgency by Baluch separatist groups, which have also targeted non-Baluch laborers. However, unlike IS, they have no history of attacks on the minority Shiite community.”

Nigeria

All Africa: Nigeria: Residents Flee As Terrorists Attack Borno Community

“The terrorists attacked a military unit and other locations in Rann town in Kala Balge LGA. Terrorists suspected to be members of the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram have attacked a military unit and other locations in Rann town, Kala-Balge Local Government Area of Borno State. According to PR Nigeria, an online newspaper with close ties with security agencies, the terrorists who came in large numbers gained access into the main town while shooting sporadically. The report also stated that residents, mostly civilians escaped into the bush while humanitarian workers were seen moving towards the Cameroon border. The latest attack on Rann comes on the heels of massive surrendering by some of the terrorists. The Borno State Government recently confirmed that at least 3,000 ex-terrorists who were members of the groups had surrendered to the Nigerian military. Governor Babagana Zulum said apart from the 3,000 terrorists currently in the custody of government, another 900 confirmed members of Boko Haram had surrendered to the Cameroonian forces. Meanwhile, community leaders have agreed to the return of repentant Boko Haram terrorists into their communities.”

Africa

AFP: 11 Children Abducted By Presumed Islamist Militants In DR Congo

“Eleven children aged nine to 17, including five girls, have been kidnapped by presumed Islamist rebels in northeastern DR Congo, a local official told AFP on Tuesday. The rebels, thought to be members of the Islamic State-linked Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), abducted the group in a village in Ituri province on Sunday evening, according to Dieudonne Malangayi, acting chairman of the chiefdom of Walese Vonkutu. The rebels erupted into the Bundingili area where the village is located, and kidnapped “all the civilians who were there, men, women and children,” he told AFP by phone. More than three kilometres (two miles) away in the bush, the militants “freed the men, women and some young children,” but kept the 11 other children. “We don't know what happened” to them, said Malangayi, who is also a representative of civil society. The ADF, historically a Ugandan Islamist group, have been accused of killing thousands of civilians in Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province. No fatalities occurred in the latest raid, but “according to our analysis and the testimony of the freed civilians, they abducted these children to train them to become fighters,” Malangayi said. Since May, the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri have been under a state of siege, replacing civilian authorities with army and police officers to fight armed groups.”

United Kingdom

BBC News: Ben John: Right-Wing Extremist Gets Suspended Jail Sentence

“A right-wing extremist found guilty of possessing a bomb-making instruction manual has been given a suspended jail sentence. Ben John, from Lincoln, was convicted of having a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook on a computer hard drive. Lincolnshire Police described him as a “white supremacist with a neo-Nazi ideology”. At Leicester Crown Court, John, 21, of Addison Drive, received a 24-month sentence, suspended for two years. Lincolnshire Police said John had first come to the attention of counter-terrorism officers in 2018 after he wrote a letter entitled Eternal Front - Lincolnshire Fascist Underground. He was arrested in January 2020, and later charged with offences under the Terrorism Act, including possessing documents on combat, homemade weapons and explosives. The force said John had become part of the Extreme Right Wing (XRW) online - a term for activists who commit criminal activity motivated by a political or cultural view, such as racism or extreme nationalism. He amassed 67,788 documents in bulk downloads onto hard drives, which contained a wealth of white supremacist and anti-Semitic material.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 17, 2019, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated outside a Presidential rally in Charikar, Afghanistan, killing at least 26 people and injuring another 30. Later, a suicide bomber detonated outside the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing 22 and wounding 38 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. 

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