So anyway, I am glad to be back blogging. I think the break was good for me. Since my domain went down we had a lot of talk about Saddam and terrorism. I put together an essay on that. Better late than never I guess. Here it is:
One of the most interesting inclusions in the new Institute for Defense Analysis report (Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents Volume 1) is a set of documents revealed by Cybercast News Service. It is interesting because these documents were dismissed by the media as fakes several years ago. A few conservative commentators such as Deroy Murdock at NRO picked up the story of these documents and their importance. But the vast majority of the media ignored them.
In our book Both In On Trench: Saddam's Secret Terror Documents my colleagues and I assert that these documents are very real and critical to the case against Saddam. We referred to them back in 2006 in our Fox News.com series to show how they mirrored information in another important document which reveals the Saddam regime relationship with Taliban leaders.
We have tried to obtain validation from the government about these documents for over two years using the FOIA process but this report now does that. The fact that the IDA study included them in the scope means that they are very real.
Those documents alone crush the arguments that Saddam would not work with Islamic terrorists. He most certainly would and did in operations in Somalia. These documents show the regime negotiating with leadership of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (which was already affiliated with Usama bin Laden at some level) and al Qaeda affiliate Gulbideen Hekmatyar from Afghanistan, to attack US forces in Somalia which were there on a UN relief mission. We go into greater detail in the book, but for now let me put a few pieces together to show how important this matter is to understand modern terrorism.
Usama bin Laden and Aymen al Zawahiri later claimed that they were behind the attacks on American soldiers in the Battle of Mogadishu.
We experienced the Americans through our brothers who went into combat against them in Somalia, for example. We found they had no power worthy of mention. There was a huge aura over America -- the United States -- that terrified people even before they entered combat. Our brothers who were here in Afghanistan tested them, and together with some of the mujahedeen in Somalia, God granted them victory. America exited dragging its tails in failure, defeat, and ruin, caring for nothing.
Others dismiss their claim as false, singling out a Somalia warlord as the culprit. I do not.
For many years, the US government considered General Aideed the man behind the “Black Hawk Down” incident. It wasn't until the carnage wrought by the US embassy bombings in Africa that the US government found reason to suspect that Islamic jihadis were likely involved in the attacks in Somalia. So much so that they included the accusation in a legal case against Usama bin Laden (and al Qaeda). That portion of the indictment was later dropped for lack of evidence.
I have had some disagreement with experts on the subject about the likelihood of al Qaeda's involvement in this incident. So I turned to a neighbor who happens to be quite knowledgeable about the “Black Hawk Down” incident, since he flew one of the helicopters shot down in Mogadishu and was captured by the fighters.
Mike Durant told me that he sees no reason to dismiss the possibility that some of his captures were al Qaeda (Islamic extremists). I don't either. Why?
Because a study of captured al Qaeda documents from the West Point Combating Terrorism Center includes a document in which al Qaeda trainers in Somalia claim that General Aideed was hunting them because of the attacks on the Americans. The document linked here (PDF) includes this passage. Notes:
“unity” is the local Islamic jihad organization which is “hosting” al Qaeda fighters who are training Somalis in jungle terror camps. Sheikh Abdulla Sahal is a local contact for the al Qaeda terror trainers:
“Aideed followers started to call the leadership unity and Sheikh Abdulla Sahal and threaten them. The response of the brothers was positive and they will continue in operations.
Sheikh Abdulla Sahal went to see the brothers and told them that the search is intensified to find their location and they are determined to stop the operations against American Forces. He asked the brothers to discontinue their relationship with disassociated brothers from Sheikh Abdulla and demanded the need to leave Mogadishu within a week.”
From al Qaeda's own document it appears that the attacks against US forces were orchestrated by al Qaeda probably using the local Somalis trained in the jungle terror camps. In fact, this al Qaeda leader, though unidentified is writing directly to core al Qaeda leadership and is likely highly placed. He tells them that Aideed was hunting them to stop it. The English translation says “they are determined” which is a little ambiguous so I asked “Sammi”, a coauthor for the book to have a look at the original Arabic and he confirms the writer seems to be saying Aideed is hunting the al Qaeda trainers.
A logical scenario then becomes apparent. It looks like Aideed had some association with these al Qaeda trainers. He probably sent some fighters to train with these vets of the Afghan jihad. He sent them to gain fighting skills, not to become jihadis. Al Qaeda trainers then used these fighters, and probably fighters from other sources like the “unity” group and rival warlords to attack US forces.
Aideed would know that as the local strongman these attacks would be pinned on him. But according to the rest of the document, he had populous support and had consolidated much of the regional power. Starting a war with UN/US forces that were bringing in relief supplies would have been a fairly idiotic thing for him to do. Really, all he had to do was sit back and take the supplies as they came in. Why start a war?
On the other hand, this tactic is directly from al Qaeda's play book. Al Qaeda gains power through creating internal conflict and stepping in to the power vacuum it creates. They would have wanted to pit Aideed and the Americans against each other so that they could step into leadership. And other parts of this CTC study show their intent to create inter-tribal warfare in Somalia. In this case, the tactic failed miserably because at the time al Qaeda was too week and the local Islamists not dedicated enough to the jihad cause.
This same report also showed, as we cover in the book, that two days after Saddam ordered his intelligence service to hunt the Americans in Somalia using the Afghan jihad vets, Usama bin Laden's number two man Mohammed Atef called his top trainers to Pakistan and ordered them to Somalia to set up these terror training camps in Somalia.
These documents hold great insight into how such things really worked. The big picture here is that al Qaeda, which these documents show was very short on cash for these operations likely went to the Saddam regime looking for financial support. Saddam liked the idea of attacking US forces in Somalia and approved the plan, issued the order and left it to his intelligence service to work out the specifics. The CNS documents now validated by the IDA report show the progress as the plan unfolded and Saddam determined who would carry out his orders. High on his list were groups strongly linked to Usama bin Laden, the man who claimed credit for the attacks, Aideed never did that I could find.
And why would Saddam work with al Qaeda for this plan? Because the fighting was in Somalia. Two of his enemies (if you believe that he opposed Usama bin Laden) would be killing each other off and all he had to do was financially support al Qaeda. It was a win-win for Saddam.
Getting back to how this terrorism works, groups like al Qaeda made plans to attack the US, a mutual enemy of the Saddam regime and Saddam in the very least contributed (although I could go so far as to argue he masterminded). Saddam didn't need to like these terrorists. He didn't need to agree with them. He only needed to support them as long as they stayed out of Iraq. That is what made his regime a particularly important target in the war on terror, a synopsis which is greatly supported by the IDA study.