Archive for August, 2011


August 31, 2011

Weekly Standard wrote that New York Times reported that Libyan revolutionaries have set a four-day deadline for Qaddafi’s loyalists to surrender:

Emboldened by their military advances and increasing acceptance abroad, Libya’s rebels gave Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s recalcitrant loyalists a four-day deadline Tuesday to surrender, and they demanded that Algeria repatriate a clutch of Qaddafi family members — including his biological daughter and her own newborn daughter — who had fled into exile there the day before.

The rebel demands came as the mood in the capital of Tripoli lightened significantly, a week after rebel forces seized Colonel Qaddafi’s compound here in heavy fighting that signaled his political demise after 42 years of brutal and eccentric rule. The whereabouts of Colonel Qaddafi and his most influential sons, however, remained unknown.

The revolutionaries suggest that, if the deadline is not met, more blood will be shed:

Speaking at a news conference in Benghazi, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the head of the Transitional National Council, said Colonel Qaddafi’s loyalist fighters had until Saturday to negotiate a surrender. The offer related primarily to the coastal town of Sirt, the fugitive leader’s hometown and a focus of support for him, but also covered loyalist strongholds at Bani Walid and in the southern oasis town of Sabha.

Mr. Abdel-Jalil said that if the deadline passed with “no peaceful indications for implementing this, we will decide this matter militarily.”

“We do not wish to do so but we cannot wait longer,” he said.


August 30, 2011

August 21, 2011

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today released the following statement regarding the end of the Qadaffi regime in Libya:

“The end of the Qadaffi regime in Libya is a victory for the Libyan people and for the broader cause of freedom in the Middle East and throughout the world. This achievement was made possible first and foremost by the struggle and sacrifice of countless Libyans, whose courage and perseverance we applaud. We also commend our British, French, and other allies, as well as our Arab partners, especially Qatar and the UAE, for their leadership in this conflict. Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower.

“The uprising in Libya was inspired by the peaceful protest movements that succeeded in toppling long-ruling autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year. But while Presidents Mubarak and Ben Ali left office quickly, Qaddafi adopted a radically different approach – attempting to preserve his regime by unleashing the most brutal possible violence. Qaddafi’s fall should now send a clear message to dictators throughout the region and beyond that this strategy will fail. In particular, that is a lesson for Bashar al Assad, and we are confident that his regime will soon join Qaddafi’s on the ash heap of history.

“We also recognize that, while Qaddafi is gone, much of the hard work of consolidating a real and sustainable transition to democracy in Libya still lies ahead. The Libyan people have won their freedom, but now they must build the durable institutions necessary to keep it, including a transparent and inclusive political process, a free and independent media, an impartial system of justice and the rule of law, a free economy, and unified, professionalized security forces that answer to civilian authority. In addition, it will be essential in the days ahead for Libyan authorities to do everything necessary to prevent acts of revenge or retribution, and to begin the difficult but vital process of national reconciliation.

“While Libya’s future will of course be made by the Libyan people themselves, the United States must lead the international community to provide the support that our Libyan friends need. We must remain engaged with the Transitional National Council and move expeditiously to release the assets of the Qaddafi regime so they can be used for the benefit of the Libyan people and the reconstruction of the country. The community of democratic nations must also provide technical advice and assistance, as requested by the Transitional National Council, to help Libya organize free and fair nationwide elections and to begin the process of drafting a new democratic constitution that protects the rights of all Libyans. These will be indispensible steps in Libya’s transition to democracy.

“Ultimately, our intervention in Libya will be judged a success or failure based not on the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, but on the political order that emerges in its place. Today marks a big step forward for the Libyan people towards freedom and democracy. As they continue on this journey, America must continue to stand with them.”


August 30, 2011

On August 27, 2011, Janet Daley wrote in The Telegraph (London) that Libya was’nt a futile exercise after all. Of course, it isn’t over until it’s over, but Libya is free – free at least of the Gaddafi terror, if not of the danger of counter-coup or chronic instability.

Those of us who urged on the Anglo-French initiative which succeeded in pulling a reluctant US president and an ambivalent Nato into support for this revolution have some right to feel vindicated. What was so widely predicted only weeks ago – the “inevitable” humiliation of the West being forced to accept a seemingly immovable dictator and a country either engaged in indefinite civil war or having to be (in the great colonial tradition) partitioned – has evaporated with bizarre suddenness.

The naysayers do not pull their punches: they make no attempt to conceal the frank racism or, if you prefer, post-colonial contempt for the peoples in question. These are not Europeans, they sneer. They cannot be expected to construct (even, presumably, with the help and guidance of the West) accountable governing institutions. The rule of law and the concept of government by the people and for the people are alien to the tribal culture of this region, with its inherited enmities and traditions of vengeance. These are Arabs, they say knowingly – and Arabs don’t do democracy.

Well, as I recall saying when I wrote on this subject last February, we didn’t do it either until quite recently. The full-blown modern version of institutional democracy did not spring forth in Europe in a blinding flash of enlightenment: it fought its way to fruition through centuries of civil war, dynastic usurpations, religious conflicts and bloody coups. Even within living memory, it has had some spectacular lapses into dictatorship and genocide. Not to mention that the universal franchise, which gave the vote to the female half of the population, had to wait until the 20th century. We may have invented the philosophy that provided the foundations for this most decent and rational form of governance, but we took a very long time to turn it into a functioning reality. It will not do to be quite so condescending.

Almost every colonial power has made disparaging noises about the inability of natives to govern themselves responsibly: they are not sophisticated in their social relations, they are not educated in the traditions of dispassionate justice, and above all, they are not us. If anything, this sort of arrogance is more misplaced now than ever before. Modern communications have created a global political culture in which human freedom is a given: almost no society is as isolated and parochial as it might have been even a generation ago. The expectations and demands of every population are now informed by a familiarity with Western assumptions about the rights of the individual – and the security and prosperity which tend to follow from the political systems that respect those rights. And this gives us a good reason to think that these novitiates may not take quite as long as we did to make the system work.

For what better way could there be to foment that loathing of the West on which Islamism feeds than to underwrite the power of a hated ruler who victimises his own population? The case that al-Qaeda makes to its followers – that the West cares only about itself and its own interests and does not give a damn about conditions of life elsewhere – would be proven beyond any doubt. There it would be: the rich, comfortable, secure peoples of the world do not want to risk chaos in a region that supplies them with oil – even if avoiding the possibility of chaos means that the peoples of that region must be permanently enslaved. What a propaganda gift to hand to our most dangerous enemies.

There is a way to inoculate populations against Islamism. The best antidote to theocracy is liberty. People rarely turn their backs on freedom once they have experienced it. (This is often cited as the reason why no Western democratic country went over to Communism at the time that Russia did: having tasted the “bourgeois freedoms”, people were disinclined to give them up.) The peace and stability of the world depend on spreading those principles of democratic government to every region where the longing for them is expressed, not in colluding with the forces that would suppress them.

The West must not funk this. If it does, it will not only put itself on the wrong side of history, but it will be cast forever in an unforgivable role: the observer of evil who stood by and did nothing. This is not just idealism talking: it is stark realism. It is more important than ever now that we do not lose our moral credibility. In a global power struggle with religious fundamentalists, the damage to our case would be incalculable. We cannot consign whole countries to the Middle Ages for the sake of a quiet life: as well as being wicked, it would not work. People everywhere know too much about the modern world and how it is possible to live. They will not willingly step back into the darkness


August 30, 2011

AP reported on August 29, 2011, Former U.S. President George W. Bush will keynote a summit next month on fighting global extremism.

The nonprofit Concordia Summit Group said Bush will be joined by other former world leaders, security experts and heads of global corporations at the Sept. 20 meeting which aims “to strengthen the relationship between the public and private sectors to more effectively combat extremism on a global scale.”

The former president will be near the site when he attends the Sept. 20 summit at the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park Hotel, which overlooks the Statue of Liberty.

The summit is taking place on the eve of the annual ministerial meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, which Obama is scheduled to address on Sept. 21.

Concordia said other participants at the summit will include former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and 9/11 commission chair Thomas Kean. It also will include former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte and former U.S. undersecretary of state Paula Dobriansky, who both served under Bush.

The Concordia Summit Group was founded in February 2011 by Matthew Swift and Nicholas Logothetis, who both had long careers with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Its advisory board includes Bush’s former homeland security adviser, Frances Townsend, former Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga and former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski.


August 29, 2011

AP reported on August 28, 2011, that Qaddaffi forces in retreat killed scores of detainees and arbitrarily shot civilians over the past week, as rebel forces extended their control over the Libyan capital, survivors and a human rights group said on August 28.

In one case, Qaddafi fighters opened fire and hurled grenades at more than 120 civilians huddling in a hangar used as a makeshift lockup near a military base, said Mabrouk Abdullah, 45, who escaped with a bullet wound in his side. Some 50 charred corpses were still scattered across the hangar on Sunday August 28.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the evidence it has collected so far “strongly suggests that Qaddafi government forces went on a spate of arbitrary killing as Tripoli was falling.” The justice minister in the rebels’ interim government, Mohammed al-Alagi, said the allegations would be investigated and leaders of Qaddafi’s military units put on trial.

Najib Barakat, the health minister in the rebels’ interim government, said Sunday that he does not yet have a death toll for the weeklong battle for Tripoli. Hundreds have died and more bodies, some in advanced stages of decay, are still being retrieved from the streets.

Barakat said efforts are being made to identify bodies. At the least, the corpses of suspected Qaddafi fighters, especially non-Libyans, are being photographed before burial, to allow for possible future identification by relatives.

Rebels rode into Tripoli a week ago, then fought fierce battles with Qaddafi forces, especially at the former Libyan leader’s Bab al-Aziziya compound and the Abu Salim neighborhood, a regime stronghold.

As the rebels consolidated their control and Qaddafi fighters fled, reports of atrocities began emerging over the weekend.

Human Rights Watch said it has evidence indicating regime troops killed at least 17 detainees in an improvised lockup, a building of Libya’s internal security service, in the Gargur neighborhood of Tripoli. A doctor who examined the corpses said about half had been shot in the back of the head and that abrasions on ankles and wrists suggested they had been bound.

The group spoke to Osama Al-Swayi who had been detained there, along with 24 others.

On Aug. 21, detainees heard rebels advancing and shouting “Allahu Akbar!” or “God is great” he told Human Rights Watch.

“We were so happy, and we knew we would be released soon,” he said. “Snipers were upstairs; then they came downstairs and started shooting. An old man (and another person) were shot outside our door. (The rest of us) ran out because they opened the door and said, “Quickly, quickly, go out.”

He said the soldiers told them to lie on the ground. He said he heard one soldier saying, “Just finish them off.” Four soldiers fired at the detainees.

“I was near the corner and got hit in the right hand, the right foot and the right shoulder. In one instant, they finished off all the people with me. … No one was breathing. Some of them had head wounds,” he told the rights group.

Qaddafi forces set up another detention center in a hangar near their Yarmouk military base in southern Tripoli.

Abdullah, who was at the hangar Sunday, said he had survived a massacre there last week. He said he had been detained in the city of Zlitan to the east on Aug. 16 and was brought to the hangar with other civilian captives. All were beaten and tortured, he said.

“They didn’t even ask us questions,” he said, “They just beat us and called us rats.”

On Tuesday, he said, more than 120 prisoners were in the hangar when a soldier told them they’d be released at dusk, Abdullah said. A short time later, guards hurled hand grenades inside, then opened fire. He was shot and wounded in his side, but fled the hanger. He hid outside when soldiers returned and fired on other survivors. When they left, he escaped.

Ahmed Mohammed, 25, also said he survived the massacre and told a similar story. Neither knew how many had been killed nor how and when the bodies had been burned.

Amnesty International spoke to another survivor, Hussein al-Lafi, who said three of his brothers were killed that day.

“They (the guards) immediately opened fire, and I saw one of them holding a hand grenade. Seconds later, I heard an explosion, followed by four more. I fell on the ground face down. Others fell on top of me and I could feel their warm blood … People were screaming and there were many more rounds of fire.”

On Wednesday, guards at a Qaddafi military base in the Tripoli suburb of Qasr Ben Ghashir shot dead five prisoners held in solitary confinement, Amnesty said, citing survivors. Other detainees panicked and broke out of their cells when they heard the shots, survivors said. By that time, the guards had fled, the report said.

In addition to the killings at detention centers, Human Rights Watch said it collected testimony about Qaddafi soldiers randomly shooting civilians. In one incident, on Wednesday, medical lab technician Salah Kikli said he saw Qaddafi fighters pull two unarmed men, including one in medical scrubs, from an ambulance and kill them.

Al-Alagi, the justice minister, said the reported atrocities did not come as a surprise because the regime acted in a brutal manner in the past. He said that the justice system would have to be “cleansed” before investigations can begin.

Reporters saw bodies in advanced stages of decomposition at Abu Salim hospital, including in the parking lot, a ward and in the basement. Barakat, the health minister, said a total of 75 corpses were found at the hospital.

Another group of bodies was strewn across a roundabout near Bab al-Aziziya, Qaddafi’s compound. Five were in a field clinic, housed in a tent.

Human Rights Watch counted a total of 29 bodies in that area, where Qaddafi loyalists, many from sub-Saharan Africa, had camped out in recent months.

Some rebel fighters have mistreated detainees, pushing or hitting them, though others have tried to stop abuse. In many cases, wounded rebels and regime fighters were treated side-by-side in rebel-controlled hospitals.


August 28, 2011

Andrew C. McCarthy commented on August 27, 2011, in National Review on large cities in Western Europe being lost to jidahist terror. Do you remember the bombings, the suicide-hijackings in Malmo, Sweden, that forced the city to surrender to Izlamization?

No? Funny, I don’t remember them either. Yet there is no question that Malmo has surrendered. Large enclaves of the city, like similar enclaves throughout Western Europe, have earned the dread label “no-go zone.” They are unsafe for non-Muslims, particularly women who do not conform to Islamist conventions of dress and social interaction. They are especially perilous for police, firefighters, and emergency-medical technicians.

Why would a community discourage the so-called first-responders? After all, the top priority of law-enforcement officers is to assist crime victims. In an Islamic enclave, a high percentage of these will be Muslims. And obviously, the fire department and the ambulances are dispatched to save lives — here, Muslim lives. Yet, the community is hostile. The police and other emergency personnel are viewed as agents of the non-Muslim state. Their presumptuousness in entering the Islamic enclave and acting under the color of Swedish law is taken as an affront to Islamic sovereignty.

An Islamic enclave in the West may as well be the West Bank, and the authorities the IDF. They are regarded no differently. That is why, as Soeren Kern of the Madrid-based Strategic Studies Group notes, “Fire and emergency workers . . . refuse to enter Malmo’s mostly Muslim Rosengaard district without police escorts.” And sensibly so: When firefighters attempted to extinguish a blaze at the city’s main mosque, local Muslims pelted them with stones.

There is a simple reason why this has happened to Malmo, and why it is happening in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, etc. The European Union forced on its member states the same approach to their swelling Muslim populations that the Obama administration is now trying to strong-arm American cities and states into adopting. It is a suicide theory, holding that the only threat to our security is “violent extremism.”

Violent extremism, the theory goes, is wanton and irrational. Therefore, it is mere coincidence that today’s violent extremists are almost uniformly Muslims. Indeed, the big thinkers settled on the antiseptic term “violent extremism” specifically to avoid the word “terrorism,” which, owing to the inconvenience that Islamic scripture adjures Muslims to “strike terror into the hearts” of their perceived enemies, would give violent extremism an Islamic connotation that is to be studiously avoided, no matter how accurate it may be.


August 27, 2011

Christopher Hitchens reminds us in SLATE of August 25, 2011, that in the euphoria of the current celebrations, we must not lose sight of the former leader’s foul deeds.

Qaddafi was so addicted to their sadomasochistic enactment that he, and his ghastly sons, continued it until the very last minutes. So, of course, did Saddam Hussein. So, as we speak, does Bashar Assad. In the nightmare state so cherished by such fantasy rulers, mere acquiescence or subjection is not enough. You must become a full participant in your own oppression, and find it in yourself to adore the collectivization of compulsory enthusiasm.

New and adapted versions of, say, the old Egyptian regime are imaginable (indeed, rather too much so). But the collapse of the Qaddafi system is necessarily absolute and complete. It is symbolized precisely by the tearing down and tearing up of the statues and posters, all showing The Leader in the various uniforms and regalias he has designed for himself over the years. The sub-Mussolini effect; the combination of Ruritania and the Gulag; a certain style of neo-fascist camp and kitsch will be virtually all that remains to study. For the rest, an unpunctuated record of cultural annihilation and the obliteration of any concept of autonomous or independent institutions.

Although there have been some intermittent noises from the International Criminal Court, it ought to be said in very unequivocal tones, by our government and others, that the Qaddafis and Assads and their accomplices are on notice. They should be told that the names of their military and security officers have been taken down, as have the names of their victims, and that prosecutions are even now being readied for a range of serious crimes. The continuing slaughter of those who will be needed in the rebuilding of Libya and Syria will not be countenanced. This is no longer a matter of asset seizures or sanctions, or of statements saying that the Baath Party has lost its legitimacy. It is a matter of raising the cost of war crimes, and of doing so while there is still time.


August 26, 2011

AP on August 26, 2011, reported that Libyan rebels head toward Sirte and NATO stepped up its attacks on the town, the home base of Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s tribe.

NATO said the same day it had a total of 29 armed vehicles in the town already on Wednesday. In the early hours of Friday morning, Royal Air Force jets flew from a base in the U.K. to attack a “large headquarters bunker” in the town, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said.

The NATO bombing appeared aimed at paving the way for the rebel advance.

In London, British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said some elements of Col. Gadhafi’s regime were in Sirte “where they are still continuing to wage war on the people of Libya.” He said NATO would continue to strike at the Gadhafi forces’ military capability.

The recent barrage against Sirte compares with one hit on the town on Tuesday and nothing the day before, when the target was still primarily Tripoli.

Fierce fighting continued in Tripoli late Thursday and rebels retreated under fire from pro-regime soldiers on the road near Col. Gadhafi’s tribal home, as battles continued between rebels and loyalists of Libya’s defiant and elusive leader.

Combat raged at the edges of Tripoli’s Abu Salim neighborhood, a sprawling slum in the southern half of the capital that has long been known as a pro-Gadhafi stronghold and where many of his loyalists are believed to have withdrawn as the rebels moved into the capital.

Gunfire erupted in and around Tripoli as Libya’s rebel leadership offered a reward for anyone who captures Gadhafi. Plus, Journalists trapped for six days inside the capital’s premier hotel were freed.

At nightfall, weary rebel fighters returned from the front lines frustrated at their failure to make headway against loyalist forces in the neighborhood. The fierce resistance by pro-Gadhafi troops led some rebels to speculate that Col. Gadhafi or members of his family were hiding there.

With Col. Gadhafi still on the run and vowing to fight to the death, the rebels have struggled to take complete control of the Libyan capital after sweeping into the city on Sunday.

Bursts of gunfire were heard coming from an area near Abu Salim before daybreak Friday, the Associated Press reported. Smoke rose from the area but a rebel at the scene early Friday said the fighting in the district had ended by nightfall Thursday.

Numerous reports also circulated August 25 of mass killings in the capital. The opposition Misrata Military Council said loyalist soldiers tossed hand grenades and fired machine guns at around 140 prisoners at a government detention facility in Tripoli before the loyalists withdrew, killing all but 20 of the prisoners. The report couldn’t be independently verified.

News agencies also reported the discovery Thursday of more than two dozen bodies near Col. Gadhafi’s Tripoli compound of Bab al-Aziziya.

Col. Gadhafi, in a recorded voice message released late Thursday, urged his supporters to “march in the millions to Tripoli to drive away infidels, crusaders, rats and traitors.”

“Don’t be afraid of them [NATO and rebels].…The rebels are few and you are plenty,” a defiant Col. Gadhafi said in his third speech since he appeared to go underground early Tuesday. “Fight them from street to street, and from alley to alley….It is the time for martyrdom or victory,” he said. He urged loyalists not to fear NATO airstrikes.”Those are just sound bombs,” he said.

In a major front east of Tripoli, rebels retreated under heavy fire on the coastal road near the strategic oil-port town of Ras Lanuf.

The rebels—who have been attempting to make their way from Libya’s east toward the city of Sirte, where some believe Col. Gadhafi could be—gave back ground they had gained in recent days during their westward push in the direction of Tripoli.

Rebels have said pro-Gadhafi forces armed with medium and heavy weaponry control a slice of the country extending from Sirte, the coastal town that is the home base of Col. Gadhafi’s tribe, southward to Sebha in the interior.

The rebels have vowed to overtake Sirte by force if necessary and link up with fellow fighters from Misrata, another major port city, thereby wresting control of the entire Libyan coast from Col. Gadhafi’s forces.

The opposition’s interim government, meanwhile, moved forward with efforts to establish political control despite the continuing violence.

The National Transitional Council announced it is moving from the country’s second-largest city of Benghazi in the east to Tripoli.

The head of the Libyan rebel government called on the African Union on Friday to recognize them as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people and warned that a lack of funds could threaten the new rulers’ legitimacy.

Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the National Transitional Council, also renewed a call for the urgent release of frozen Libyan assets, saying the government could face a “legitimacy crisis” if the Libyan people’s demands aren’t met.

Mr. Jibril said the opposition needs the money to pay state salaries and maintain services in Libya, including in areas still under Col. Gadhafi’s control. Funds are also needed for an army and a police force to restore order and confiscate arms, he said.

“If the services expected by the citizens are not met, we may be faced with a legitimacy crisis,” Mr. Jibril told reporters at a joint news conference in Istanbul with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.


August 25, 2011

David Ignatius commented in Washington Post on August 24, 2011, on the cache of evidence that was carried away from Osama bin Laden’s compound the night the terrorist leader was killed.

With the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks a few weeks away, it’s possible to use this evidence to sketch a vivid portrait of al-Qaeda, drawing on material contained in more than 100 computer storage devices, including thumb drives, DVDs and CDs, and more than a dozen computers or hard drives — all collected during the May 2 raid.

U.S. officials say three strong themes emerge from their reading of the files, most of which were communications between bin Laden and his top deputy Atiyah Abd al-Rahman. Indeed, because the Libyan-born Atiyah (who’s known to analysts by his first name) was the boss’s key link with the outside, officials see him as more important than bin Laden’s nominal successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Here are the highlights:

●Bin Laden retained until his death a passion to launch a significant attack against the United States, ideally linked to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. He and Atiyah communicated often about who might carry out such a strike, with Atiyah proposing names and bin Laden rejecting them. Bin Laden was still looking for a history-changing attack on big, economically important targets — one that would match, if not outdo, the impact of 9/11. Zawahiri, by contrast, favored an opportunistic strategy of smaller strikes.

●Bin Laden was a hands-on chief executive, with a role in operations planning and personnel decisions, rather than the detached senior leader that U.S. analysts had hypothesized. Zawahiri, whom the analysts had imagined as the day-to-day leader, was actually quite isolated — and remains so, despite a dozen communications this year. Zawahiri suffers from mistrust between his Egyptian faction of al-Qaeda and other operatives, such as Atiyah.

●Bin Laden was suffering badly from drone attacks on al-Qaeda’s base in the tribal areas of Pakistan. He called this the “intelligence war,” and said it was “the only weapon that’s hurting us.” His cadres complained that they couldn’t train in the tribal areas, couldn’t communicate, couldn’t travel easily and couldn’t draw new recruits to what amounted to a free-fire zone. Bin Laden discussed moving al-Qaeda’s base to another location, but he never took action.

Analysts did not find in the material any smoking gun to suggest Pakistani government complicity in bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. And it’s clear he was paranoid about being found and killed: He ordered his subordinates to restrict movements to help preserve what remained of al-Qaeda in Pakistan. Fear of being discovered was a subject of regular conversation between bin Laden, Atiyah, Zawahiri and others.

Bin Laden also worried that al-Qaeda’s status among Muslims was dwindling, and that the West had at least partially succeeded in distancing al-Qaeda’s message from core Islamic values. Concerned about this eroding base, bin Laden counseled affiliates in North Africa and Yemen to hold back on their efforts to develop a local Islamic extremist state in favor of attacking the United States and its interests.

This fear that al-Qaeda’s extreme tactics were burning too hot and alienating Muslims was also the theme of a remarkable message that Atiyah sent in 2005 to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the murderous chief of al-Qaeda in Iraq. In this document, made public five years ago by the United States, Atiyah warned that fomenting Sunni-Shiite violence (which was Zarqawi’s trademark) was potentially ruinous.

The al-Qaeda that emerges from these documents is a badly battered and disoriented group. The June 3 death of Ilyas Kashmiri in a drone attack illustrates the organization’s continuing vulnerability. Kashmiri was a ruthless operator who planned the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people and was plotting deadly attacks on Europe last winter that were stopped only because of aggressive counterterrorism work.


August 24, 2011

BBC News on August 24, 2011, 24 reported that the NATO mission is not yet accomplished.

Experience from the Balkans and Iraq has shown the extraordinary capabilities of modern air power, but also its limitations.

The UN Security Council resolution that cleared the way for the use of force to protect civilians in Libya ruled out the deployment of foreign troops. The ground battle has been fought by the Libyan rebels themselves; their limited capabilities leading to a sporadic and long drawn-out campaign.

While there is no definitive evidence to prove their presence, it would be naive to imagine that there has been no foreign help, be it special forces from some Western nations; contracted advisers – possibly ex-Western military personnel – or assistance from elsewhere the region, notably from Qatar.

Eyes on the ground are often essential in this kind of campaign. It is clear too that a rudimentary exchange of information was established between Nato and the rebel forces to try to reduce the chances of them being accidentally hit in air strikes.

Nevertheless, it is clear that in the course of this campaign NATO air power has been decisive. On the one hand, over days, weeks and months, it has steadily eroded Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s military machine. Air defences, tanks and armoured vehicles, command centres and ammunition dumps have been systematically destroyed.

Over time this steady erosion has taken effect, fundamentally limiting the Gaddafi regime’s ability to use its one great advantage – formal military power.

But it is equally clear that in the days preceding the rebel advance on Tripoli there was a significant surge or ramping up of Nato air activity. So the rebel success did not come as a surprise to Nato commanders.

A tour of the air bases used by the Royal Air Force in Italy shows how the success of the air campaign has rested on three key elements.

First, the capacity to put together a complex and detailed intelligence picture of what is happening on the ground. This fuses together video, still images, and other data obtained from a variety of sources, including the targeting pods under the wings of fast jets; unmanned aerial vehicles; and larger aircraft operating off the Libyan coast like the RAF and Nato Awacs with their huge on-board radars

Second, air commanders believe the use of new precision munitions and tactics have reduced the chances of unwanted damage to people or buildings.

Generally this has involved the use of smaller warheads with less explosive effect but with great accuracy.

At the Italy air bases there are plenty of images of snipers being swept off the roof of buildings by the blast wave from bombs that burst in the air, with the building itself remaining largely undamaged. In other cases weapons can be fused to bury in the ground before exploding, thus limiting the radius of the blast.

For all the imagery of successful strikes, the care taken in planning and executing missions, and the claims made for modern weapons systems, it must be said that the true extent of civilian casualties will become clear only when a detailed analysis can be made after the fighting ends.

Third, there is the extraordinary logistical capacity that has been deployed in the southern Mediterranean region, ranging from ground crews, spares and airborne tankers, that together keep the air campaign aloft.

NATO commanders believe that the capabilities available in this campaign have enabled them to push the boundaries of what can be achieved by air power. Nonetheless, it is still events on the ground that will determine Libya’s fate.