White House Courts Al-Qaeda from Kabul to Damascus: The 9/11 Becomes Thing of the Past



On August 3 the US government issued a new terrorist warning. 22 US foreign missions from Mauritania to Afghanistan are closed, including Israel, the closest ally.  The New York Police Department is on high alert.

US citizens are warned of possible terrorist acts in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. It’s not made precise what kind of threat exactly is expected, but the warning says it’s real and the target is not the United States only, but the West as a whole…

President Obama ordered to take all the necessary measures to eliminate the Al-Qaeda threat. DEBKA file experts believe that all the “the sweeping warnings from the Obama administration dramatically refute its own oft-heard claims that al Qaeda is no longer a force to be reckoned with, because it has lost its compact central command and control of its component branches, which have split up into regional franchises operating autonomously. Al Qaeda, they have been saying, is no longer capable of large-scale terrorist attacks on a global scale”.

The previous events justify the White House’s anxiety. On July 30 the Taliban militants freed around 300 prisoners in Pakistani Dera Ismail Khan.

Before that, on July 28 over a thousand of prisoners escaped from a Bengasi jail in Libya. On July 22 two Iraqi prisons came under attack and around 500 men, including some top militants leaders, escaped from ill-famed Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons…

About 20 mined vehicles were used in attack, 100 guards killed.  This way the Jihadists ranks were added around two thousand fighters. It was a global scale operation and another blow against the image of Western special services.

12 years of US global war against Al Qaeda, billions of dollars spent, UAVs delivering deadly strikes in the skies of many Muslim countries – the death toll among militants ranks never exceeded the number of those who has escaped from prisons lately, if you don’t count the losses among civilians.



It’s open to guess where the next strike will come from.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as it is officially named, was created by Abu Musab al Zarqawi in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.  It’s the leading trouble maker  now. The organization makes pale even Jabhat-al-Nusra is Syria.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant consumes the lion’s share of Western military aid, including then one approved recently by US Congress.

On the one hand, the group is the major terrorist threat for the United States; on the other hand it is the final beneficiary of US Syria’s policy. It’s hard to swallow but the policy has its reasons.  

The United States helped Al Qaeda to appear to fight the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.  “With Saudi’s funds and the Pakistani special services the White House organized the Afghan resistance able to use logistic support coming from Pakistan and international Islamist brigades, including volunteers from all over the Maghreb and the Middle East.” 

Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency program to arm and finance the Afghan mujahedeen prior to and during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor in the Carter administration, who personally supervised the assistance rendered to Islamic fundamentalists and would-be terrorists, including arms deliveries and training, told Le Nouvel Observateur thoughtfully that “the collapse of Soviet Empire was more important than the Taliban. Just think about it – facing some whimsical Muslims or achieving the liberation of Central Europe and the end of Cold War?”  [1] 

But everything has its price. He said it in 1998, but he would have thought twice before repeating it after the 9/11.

In 1980 Turki bin Faisal Al Saud was the director general of Al Mukhabarat Al A’amah, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, he was the one who ordered Osama bin Laden to organize the unit of Afghan Arabs.

At first, bin Laden monitored the activities from his Peshawar office. But he was never satisfied with the role of docile servant of Saudis and started to work on his own far reaching plans.

Soon the US aid for Afghan resistance grew up to $285 million a year. [2]   At present US officials refuse to acknowledge there were any direct contacts with bin Laden but it raises doubts. He came from a good Saudi family and became an important figure in the resistance movement being recommended by Prince Turki himself; there was simply no reason to ignore him.

No way could the CIA go around this cornerstone while directing the mujahedeen activities.  Some analysts believe bin Laden received training in the CIA camps and that’s why he became so efficient while conducting subversive actions. [3] There are other reasons to believe bin Laden had links with US special services those days.

In 1998 explosions took place in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Ali Mohammed, an Egyptian retired serviceman, was arrested. It surfaced that he had trained leaders of Al Qaeda while being part of US special operations forces.



According to Cyclone operation plans, he was an instructor in the refugee center of Al-Kifah, located on the Atlantic Avenue of Brooklyn.[4]

Bin Laden felt alienated from the US sponsors because they has no sympathy for Islam, their only interest was to damage the Soviet Union. Soon he broke with his overseas tutors and founded his own movement called Al Qaeda.

After 2001 the group was almost eliminated as a result of combat actions and disappeared from newspaper front lines.

Its resurrection was spurred by the Arab Spring, it was in demand again. In September 2012 Muhammad al-Zawahiri offered to the United States and the West in general a ten year truce in case they would keep away from meddling into Islamic states internal affairs and Islamic education, as well as on the condition the US would free all the prisoners suspected of terrorist links.

In return he promised to protect US and Western lawful interests in the Muslim world. Is it not true that the current US Middle East policy serves as a proof that such accords could have existed?

A recent Rand corporation research says in 1998-2011 98% of Al Qaeda attacks took place in the East, not in the West, pursuing the aim to undermine the ruling regimes or to take away part of territory.

So, in reality, Al Qaeda is more of a threat to the East than to the West. Conscientiously or not, anti-Western radicals destroy the centuries old pillars of their own society matching the interests of those whom they see as enemies. Those who challenged America are no more, but the idea and the tools are still there.

Soft power is a tactical dimension of US policy and it resembles old and ill-boding machiavellism. Washington tries to save face and stay in the shadow but those who it involves into the wars conducted in line with accords spread around merciless terror.

One can get involved in endless talks about the democratic opposition and  the phantom Free Army in Syria, which mainly exists on the payroll than on the battlefield, nothing can hide away the fact that Al Qaeda is the main US accords ally. 

The very same organization President Obama was so proud to declare defeated after its leader Osama bin Laden was eliminated.

Now what is happening in reality? Is it capitulation after victory?  Or the old link which appeared when Al Qaeda was created with the godfathers in Washington still exists?  The 9/11 collateral damage and the memory of victims have become the things of the past?

Some US experts believe that while Syrian jihadists fight Iran and its Arab allies, the US should quietly support them while keeping away from the conflict to become very cruel, till the sky clears. There will be enough time to tame the beast after the Iran’s hegemonic ambitions go to pieces.

The US Congress tried to look innocent pretending it was vacillating, but then it finally approved the arms supplies to militants.

There is nothing like ignorance or aberration here. Military brass and top politicians realize whose hands these weapons will ultimately end up in.  This is the policy Sargent Bradley Manning and cyber security expert Edward Snowden stood up against.

Can the White House realize that its cozying up to Al Qaeda has gone too far?  Hundreds of Al Qaeda militants, who have escaped from prisons (they did it at the same time like if acting upon someone’s command), may appear in Syria now.

But it will not distract them from other fronts of holy war.  These West-supported jihad warriors can become strong enough in Syria to strike Western capitals. 


Dmitry MININ | Strategic Culture Foundation





[1] Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998

[2] Jacquard Roland. In the Name of Osama Bin Laden. Duke University Press. 2002. p.20.

[3] BBC News. 20 July, 2004.

[4] Marshall Andrew. Terror “Blowback” Burns CIA. The Independent, November 1,1998

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