June 9, 2008

Another Wave of Afghan Arabs?

Arabic mujahideen famously volunteered to fight in Afghanistan during that country’s insurgency against occupying forces from the Soviet Union. Many so-called “Afghan Arab” veterans of the war, including Osama bin Laden, later went on to found the Al Qaeda terrorist army.

Eli Lake reports in the New York Sun that Sheik Ahmad al-Rishawi from Iraq’s Anbar Province is now volunteering to do something similar, only in reverse. He’ll lead a new contingent of “Afghan Arabs” into Afghanistan to help fight against Al Qaeda and their Taliban allies.

WASHINGTON — The leader of the tribal confederation that has fought to expel Al Qaeda from most of Iraq's Anbar province is offering his men to help gin up a rebellion against Osama bin Laden's organization along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In an interview, Sheik Ahmad al-Rishawi told The New York Sun that in April he prepared a 47-page study on Afghanistan and its tribes for the deputy chief of mission at the American embassy in Kabul, Christopher Dell. When asked if he would send military advisers to Afghanistan to assist American troops fighting there, he said, "I have no problem with this, if they ask me, I will do it."

The success of the Anbari tribal rebellion known as the awakening spurred Multinational Forces Iraq to try to emulate the model throughout Iraq, including with the predominately Shiite tribes in the south of the country. Today, the tribal-based militias formed to protect Anbaris from Al Qaeda are forming a political alliance poised to unseat the confessional Sunni parties currently in parliament in the provincial elections scheduled for the fall and the federal ones scheduled for 2009.

During his nomination hearing for taking over the regional military post known as Central Command, General David Petraeus said one of the first things he would do would be to travel to Pakistan to discuss the current strategy of the government in dealing with Al Qaeda's safe haven in the Pashtun border provinces. A possible strategy for defeating Al Qaeda would be an effort there along the lines of the Anbar awakening to win over the tribes that offer Osama bin Laden's group protection and safe haven.

"Al Qaeda is an ideology," Sheik Ahmad said. "We can defeat them inside Iraq and we can defeat them in any country." The tribal leader arrived in Washington last week. All of his meetings, including an audience with President Bush, have been closed to the public, in part because the Anbari sheiks, while likely to win future electoral contests, are not themselves part of Iraq's elected government.

Of his meeting with Mr. Bush, Sheik Ahmad said he was impressed. "He is a brave man. He is also a wise man. He is taking care of the country's future, the United States' future. He is also taking care of the Iraqi people, the ordinary people in Iraq. He wants to accomplish success in Iraq."

When Sheik Ahmad's brother, Sheik Sattar, met with Mr. Bush in Anbar last fall, he told the president that he dedicated his victory over Al Qaeda to the victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 9, 2008 11:29 AM
Comments

Wow.

The sheik is impressive. I wish we had more people like him in Europe!

That might make up for the Germans' refusal to fight in Afghanistan?

Posted by: Leauki Author Profile Page at June 9, 2008 2:03 PM

I'm going off of memory, so if any of these presumptions are wrong, forgive me.

Isn't the UNFIL force basically French?

And, if so, wouldn't one presume that the French haven't simply sent men to sit in trenches, and if attacked, die?

If I were king of the forest, I'd have all kinds of spooks running around the woodwork, trying to get useful information that could help save mens' lives.

I read the Michael Young piece, and was struck by the lack of info on what positive things UNFIL must be doing to prepare its soldiers in advance of any outbreak of war. Or, am I simply way off base here, and there is no intelligence gathering going on, by the Christians, the several muslim groups, and interested outside parties?

Posted by: OregonGuy Author Profile Page at June 9, 2008 4:45 PM

Probably smart enough to know there's no way his offer would be accepted, but someone might push it far enough into the planning stages to get him some new toys and contracts. Heck, just his offer might endear him enough to Bill Kristol / Dick Cheney to shake loose some gravy.

If he was really just driven to this idea out of loathing for Osama Bin Laden and reverence for George Bush, he'd be talking to Karzai, not the New York Sun. But I think it's kind of unlikely that anyone in Karzai's government is interested in a freelancing Iraqi column running COIN ops in their villages.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at June 9, 2008 6:40 PM

I like his attitude, but I'm reminded of the (not very good) episode of Studio 60 where they brought in a mongoose to kill a snake that got loose under the stage and lost the mongoose.

Posted by: Eric Akawie Author Profile Page at June 9, 2008 6:54 PM

The ramifications would be immense, beginning with the tribal propriety that would govern the extension and acceptance of aid.

The instances of SW Asian tribes coming together for purely political advantage (outside of the Islamists) are few and far between; there is almost always a direct economic connection.

That's just my first, fast cut. I will study up a bit and weigh in later if I am able.

Good news, just the same.

Posted by: TmjUtah Author Profile Page at June 9, 2008 8:05 PM

TmjUtah,

True. However, being attacked by Al Qaeda over and over and over and over again for years tends to clarify peoples' politics. If we had been hit over and over and over and over again since 9/11, our political scene would be different than it is.

Al Qaeda is bad for business, as Michael Yon likes to point out, but Al Qaeda is even worse for survival. And survival always comes first.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 9, 2008 8:40 PM

I am not being flip here, Michael... but if you go out to any number of cemeteries across the nation, perhaps starting at Arlington, you will see evidence of literally thousands of al Q actions against us.

Our political scene is radically different than it was on 9/12. About half the nation is willing to pretend it is 9/10, and they've selected a candidate and congress to make the attempt.

If there is one government on the planet that understands the brutal truth facing the world regarding our November elections, it's the one in Baghdad. Good for them that they may be actually extending feelers toward a forward foreign policy, even on a free agent basis.

Dark times ahead. But that's okay. It makes for good lessons.

You are doing great work, Michael, and it is appreciated.

Posted by: TmjUtah Author Profile Page at June 9, 2008 9:53 PM

Probably smart enough to know there's no way his offer would be accepted, but someone might push it far enough into the planning stages to get him some new toys and contracts. Heck, just his offer might endear him enough to Bill Kristol / Dick Cheney to shake loose some gravy.

When did languid, juvenile, knee-jerk, soul-dead cynicism become fashionable among liberals?

Here's a Sunni volunteering to do exactly what the lefties said they wanted all along, fight his own fights and begin the Muslim war against Islamic terrorism.

And what does he get? Sneering.

Not just sneering, but stupid, lame, vicious sneering, a cliché-ridden "analysis" that's about .0006 of an inch deep and stinks of misplaced hatred.

When Sheik Ahmad's brother, Sheik Sattar, met with Mr. Bush in Anbar last fall, he told the president that he dedicated his victory over Al Qaeda to the victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

A Sunni Arab dedicates his victory over other Sunnis to the victims of 9/11, a monumental shift of support that bodes well for the whole world, yet the response is to vomit out poison directed at Kristol and Cheney, with a smirky hipster reference to "new toys."

Christ, I can't imagine willingly becoming so bereft of humanity. And for something as stupid as politics!

Posted by: Tom W. Author Profile Page at June 9, 2008 10:53 PM

TmjUtah: perhaps starting at Arlington, you will see evidence of literally thousands of al Q actions against us.

Right. I had momentarily forgotten. That was dumb, and I made my point badly.

I meant AQ attacks against American civilians, of course.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 9, 2008 10:58 PM

"Not just sneering, but stupid, lame, vicious sneering, a cliché-ridden “analysis” that's about .0006 of an inch deep and stinks of misplaced hatred."

That's glasnost's job description. If it sounds good for America, it can't be good.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at June 10, 2008 12:14 AM

If he was really just driven to this idea out of loathing for Osama Bin Laden and reverence for George Bush, he'd be talking to Karzai, not the New York Sun. -glasnost

You might have a point if he had contacted the Sun and said "I have a great idea!" However, he did talk to Kabul by preparing the 47-page report and it was the Sun who asked him if he would go to Afghanistan.

Posted by: Kafir Author Profile Page at June 10, 2008 4:45 AM

Related, from Kagan:
" An ally in the war on terror. Al Qaeda has killed many more Iraqis than Americans. Iraq has eight army divisions--around 80,000 troops--now in the fight against al Qaeda, and another three--around 45,000 troops--in the fight against Shia extremists. Tens of thousands of Iraqi police and National Police are also in the fight. Thus, there are far more Iraqis fighting al Qaeda and Shia militias in Iraq than there are American troops there. Easily ten times as many Iraqi as Pakistani troops are fighting our common enemies. At least three times as many Iraqi soldiers and police as Afghan soldiers and police are in the fight. And many times more Iraqi troops are engaged in the war on terror than those of any other American ally. In terms of manpower engaged, and sacrifice of life and limb, Iraq is already by far America's best ally in the war on terror.

Posted by: Brian H Author Profile Page at June 10, 2008 5:22 AM

This is GREAT news! And not because I've been predicting that US trained and supported Iraqis will become big allies of the US aim at reducing terrorism.

The Iraqi Army, which Maliki publicly promises won't be used against Iran, is the best bet for anti-terror victory if it is combined with US cash & training.

'War is just an extension of politics.' So is the offer to fight in a war. Sheik Ahmad al-Rishawi is beginning his rise in Iraqi internal politics, and is likely to be a fast riser. What happens when he starts blaming every bombing in Iraq on Iran, and on Maliki being a weak ally of Iran? What happens in Iraqi politics?

Why doesn't the news story talk about the next scheduled Iraqi elections? (and why don't I know off the top of my head ... I read this site all the time!) It mentions the Sunnis are likely to get much more power next time there is voting, since next time their leaders will advise voting!

Michael, what about the next Iraqi elections? Any comments about less media-covered Iraqi politicians?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at June 10, 2008 9:34 AM

test

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 29, 2008 11:34 AM

test

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at June 30, 2008 2:46 AM

Oh, and about the mujahadeen: the Northern Tribes and native Afghans sneer at the muj. They were showboaters, and got ass-whipped whenever they actually made contact with the Soviets. They were good at showing up after the local militia/Afghans had achieved something and trying to steal credit, but couldn't maneuver, organize, or shoot their way out of a wet paper bag. Bin Laden was a joke as a commander.

Posted by: Brian H Author Profile Page at July 17, 2008 10:07 AM
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