SAN DIEGO: As we remember with reverence the American victims of terrorist attacks on 9/11, let us not put our guard down 17 years later. Under the leadership of al-Qa’ida founder and leader, Osama bin Laden, a horrific day for the United States launched a global manhunt for the architect of the mass murders, igniting America’s War on Terror with furor. Bin Laden’s call for militants to unite to eradicate the infidels in a ‘holy war’ launched a movement that changed history and threatens freedom worldwide.
The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan.
On Christmas Eve 1979, under the pretext of upholding the Soviet-Afghan Friendship Treaty 1978, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. A massive military airlift and three divisions of ground forces took over the capital of Kabul, installing a Marxist exiled Afghan leader. Resistance fighters called ‘mujahidin’ saw the Christian or atheist Soviets as defilement to Islam and traditional culture.
Bin Laden, born in Saudi Arabia, believed it was his duty to fight the Afghan occupation by the Soviets.
By 1993, after being banished from his home country of Saudi Arabia for a growing rift between bin Laden and Saudi Arabia’s leaders, bin Laden lived in exile in Sudan. There, he recruited militant Muslims, including soldiers he had fought with in Afghanistan. The intent was to form al-Qa’ida (Arabic for “the Base”).
Bin Laden called upon all to take up the ‘jihadist’ cause to right perceived wrongs under the accordance of pure, Islamic law. To join, one must have good manners, listen and be obedient, pledge to follow their leaders.
Bin Laden’s bloody call of perceived justice has since lined the world’s battlefields with the dead from both sides, many nations, and includes thousands of innocent Americans that are the tragic victims of 9/11.
The secret network al-Qa’ida lives on twenty-five years later.
The Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community released an (Unclassified) ‘Statement for the Record’ February 13, 2018. By Daniel R. Coats, Director of National Intelligence.
“Al-Qa‘ida almost certainly will remain a major actor in global terrorism because of the combined staying power of its five affiliates. The primary threat to US and Western interests from al-Qa‘ida’s global network through 2018 will be in or near affiliates’ operating areas.”
“Al-Qa‘ida’s affiliates probably will continue to dedicate most of their resources to local activity, including participating in ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as attacking regional actors and populations in other parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.”
Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs) considered most prevalent and difficult to detect.
Coats also said that:
“Sunni terrorist threat at home, despite a drop in the number of attacks in 2017… are likely to continue to occur with little or no warning because the perpetrators often strike soft targets and use simple tactics that do not require advanced skills or outside training.”
“HVEs almost certainly will continue to be inspired by a variety of sources, including terrorist propaganda as well as in response to perceived grievances related to US Government actions.”
The threat of terror that germinated in Sudan with bin Laden has spread, like an epidemic, over the massive continent that hosts both poor and rich nation states and an unparalleled cache of the world’s most magnificent biodiversity.
Terror’s ‘holy war’ has splintered into different threats for Africa.
Excerpts from the 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community:
“The war in Yemen is likely to continue for the foreseeable future because the Iranian-backed Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition remain far apart on terms for ending the conflict. The death of former Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Salih is only likely to further complicate the conflict as the Houthis and others scramble to win over those who previously backed Salih. We assess that the Houthis will continue to pursue their goals militarily and that, as a result, U.S. allies and interests on the Arabian Peninsula will remain at risk of Houthi missile attacks until the conflict is resolved.”
“Continued fighting almost certainly will worsen the vast humanitarian crisis, which has left more than 70 percent of the population—or about 20 million people—in need of assistance and aggravated a cholera outbreak that has reached nearly 1 million confirmed cases. Relief operations are hindered by security and bureaucratic constraints established by both the HouthiSalih alliance and the Saudi-led coalition and by international funding shortages.”
“Nigeria—the continent’s largest economy—will face a security threat from Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa (ISIS-WA) while battling internal challenges from criminal, militant, and secessionist groups. ISIS-WA and Boko Haram are regional menaces, conducting cross-border attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger and posing a threat to Western interests.”
“Politically fragile governments in Africa’s Sahel region will remain vulnerable to terror attacks in 2018, despite efforts to coordinate their counterterror operations. ISIS and al-Qa‘ida–allied groups, along with other violent extremists, will attempt to target Western and local government interests in the region…”
“The Ethiopian and Kenyan Governments are likely to face opposition from publics agitating for redress of political grievances.
“Somalia’s recently elected government probably will struggle to project its authority and implement security reforms amid the drawdown of African Union forces in 2018, while al-Shabaab— the most potent terrorist threat to U.S. interests in East Africa—probably will increase attacks.”
“Clashes between the South Sudanese Government and armed opposition groups will continue, raising the risk of additional mass atrocities as both sides use ethnic militias and hate speech and the government continues its crackdown on ethnic minorities. The South Sudanese are the world’s fastest growing refugee population, and the significant humanitarian challenges stemming from the conflict, including severe food insecurity, will strain the resources of neighboring countries hosting refugees.”
“…the Presidents of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) face public and armed opposition to their rule and the Central African Republic (CAR) struggles to cope with a nationwide surge in conflict. Over-stretched UN missions in CAR and DRC are unlikely to stem the rising challenges from their concurrent humanitarian and security crises.”
Need we say more? One more thing.
When the twin towers came down in flames and unimaginable destruction, the Pentagon was viscously rammed, and heroes aboard Flight 93 struggled to regain control, the threat from Sunni violent extremist groups began to evolve into a splintered fighter network. We see their determination as they lose, recoup, regain, and sometimes win the battlefield. We are haunted by screams of the innocent of all religions killed by its ferocity, people who have the right to live out their lives and freely worship.
Insurgents’ goals, undeterred, have a propensity for massive growth as we see in Africa’s threatened and embattled nation states. Malign actors and adversaries will use all instruments of power to achieve their goals. Their threats can shape societies, blot out cultures, weaken economies, and displace populations. Who would have known in 1993 what a jihadist call to unite would do?
We honor all who die by terror’s merciless hand by ending it. Peace need not hide in the shadows.
Featured Image: September 11 Remembrance - U.S. service members deployed to the Horn of Africa region participate in a 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Sept. 11, 2018. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Sarah Mattison