Don’t send grunts. Send counterterrorists

The United States is going about things the wrong way. What will make them change?

Don’t send grunts.  Send counterterrorists Photo: Mike Tucker

The Americans are replicating counterterrorism failure in this new year because the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, the White House, the US State Department and the think tanks inside the Beltway continue to ignore one of the most fundamental lessons since September 11

And it is this: don’t send in the grunts. Send in the counterterrorists.

A terrorist can see a uniform, uniformed military, uniformed law enforcement, any uniform, coming at them from 10,000 miles away. Infantrymen – the grunts are not fluent in the cultures and languages of jihadi terrorists, or any other terrorists, and can be spotted in uniform very easily by jihadi lookouts, jihadi financiers and jihadi leaders. US Special Operations forces, likewise, with the exception of Delta Force, which operates clandestinely and is much more effective in counterterrorism than the CIA, wear uniforms and do not seize jihadi bank accounts, seize jihadi gold and gems and do not penetrate jihadi financiers’ networks.

Tactics are strategy in counterterrorism

A terrorist cannot see a counterterrorist coming at them from 10 feet away. How much money does it take to train and deploy a three-man team of counterterrorists who are fluent in the languages and cultures of Al Qaeda and all radical Islamic terrorists, and who can, within a month on the ground clandestine in Mali or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, for instance, penetrate jihadi terrorist financial networks, seize bank accounts and assets, and build a human intelligence network of Muslim sources who despise radical Islam and are fully committed to taking down jihadis? How much does that cost?

That brilliant, pragmatic, clever, unorthodox and highly effective counterterrorist operation cost a European intelligence service on the Arabian Peninsula roughly $150,000 in October 2001, shut down an entire Al Qaeda network and seized slightly more than $10 million in Al Qaeda accounts. Note that it only cost Al Qaeda roughly $250,000 to run its covert operation inside the United States and turn jet passenger planes into weapons of mass destruction on Sept 11, 2001.

So, when you shut down an entire jihadi network inside the cultural homeland of radical Islam the Arabian Peninsula and stop over $10 million from funding jihadi terrorist assaults on Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, you’re not only saving thousands of lives, but you are stopping jihadis dead in their tracks.

Jihadis with lint in their pockets are desperate, broke and on the run—which makes them easier to track and much easier to kill.

Jihadis with lint in their pockets are desperate, broke and on the run.


And dead jihadis don’t hijack jet passenger planes and turn them into weapons of mass destruction. Dead jihadis don’t carry RPGs, and dead jihadi financiers do not finance terrorist assaults on Europe, Africa, North America, Asia or anywhere else.

Killing jihadis works

Nothing is more effective at stopping jihadis from launching suicide assaults than killing the jihadis before they strap on the suicide bomb vest, and killing jihadi financiers and seizing jihadi assets.

The Portuguese understood this in the 9th century The Portuguese guerrilla chieftains, who were already seizing key terrain on the Iberian peninsula and aiming to take back the top strategic port held by jihadis in the First Jihad, Lisbon, sent spies not infantry but spies into North Africa and the Near East in the year 985.

The Portuguese spies, masquerading as honey traders, penetrated the mosques and markets from Morocco to what is today Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and gained invaluable intelligence, which they relayed back to their chieftains in the hills of central Portugal and in Porto, the strategic port in northern Portugal that no Muslim general or admiral ever conquered. By 1147 AD, with the Muslim armies driven back to the sea, the Siege of Lisbon ended in victory, with the vital aid of British and European mercenaries. The Siege of Lisbon was the first strategic victory against the jihadis and led to the victory of the Reconquista on the Iberian Peninsula and the end of Muslim rule in Europe.

The colossal waste of trillions of dollars by the Pentagon and the CIA on a post-9/11 counterterrorism strategy rooted in attacking terrorists with uniformed military is a study in strategic failure on a global scale.

Moreover, the Americans continue to seek advice and strategy on counterterrorism from uniformed military from admirals and generals who have zero first-hand experience in counterterrorism. That’s like going to bricklayers for advice on how to draw up the blueprints for a racing yacht. Only one thing will happen if you hire a bricklayer to build a yacht it will sink. There’s a reason James Bond is James Bond he’s not a uniform, in the first place.

Do the Americans continue to go to people with zero first-hand experience in counterterrorism for strategy on how to take down Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other jihadi transnational terrorists and terrorist financiers in January 2021, nearly 20 years since September 11?

Yes. And the Americans continue to fail. The fact that the Islamic State now owns an international port Macamba da Praia on the northern coast of Mozambique, is Exhibit A in American counterterrorism failure in 2020.

Exhibit B: Saudi Al Qaeda financiers and Saudi Al Qaeda terrorists were at the very root of Al Qaeda’s assault on the United States on 9/11, and remain very active in January 2021. Trump stayed addicted to his Twitter feed rather than take dead aim at Saudi Al Qaeda terrorist financiers. The 45th American president has deep financial connections to Saudi Arabia and he only cares about one thing: money.

Saudi Arabia’s role in financing Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other jihadi terrorists, such as Jemma Islamiyah in the Strait of Malacca and Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, cannot be overstated. Without the Saudi and Gulf bankers’ money flowing into the bank accounts of jihadis, the jihadis would have no RPGs to fire, no plastique to fill suicide vests, no ammo for their rifles and no rice in their bowls.

And who has profited from the American failure in counterterrorism, which dates back to 1989 and the failure of the CIA to strike and kill Al Qaeda? Jihadi terrorists have profited. And the jihadis now have something they have wanted since September 11: an international port that services container ships.

Mocimboa da Praia

The Islamic State has controlled the international port of Mocimboa da Praia since August 25th, 2020. That’s more than four months. How long does it take to load up a container ship with plastique (C-4, Semtex, etc.), dynamite, gasoline and oil, and turn it into a suicide bomb ship that could lay waste to the Suez Canal, for instance, and likewise, be aimed at Port Dickson, a key strategic port in the Strait of Malacca?

You could load it up and turn it into a floating suicide bomb in one day, with laborers working around the clock. One day. And it would only take a skeleton crew of jihadi terrorists, all too damn happy to destroy Port Dickson or Singapore’s waterfront or any international port city, to man the engine room and the pilot house, along with lookouts on deck.

What would that container ship look like? Like any container ship at high sea. Since the Islamic State controls the entire city of Mocimboa da Praia, that container ship would roll out into the Indian Ocean without a tracking device on it. So, all the ultra-high tech surveillance devices of the CIA, for instance, including satellites, would be utterly and completely useless tracking an Islamic State suicide bomb container ship leaving Mocimboa da Praia.

It is January 2021. It’s been more than 130 days since the Islamic State took control of the international port of Mocimbao da Praia. Yet the Americans have done . . . nothing. What comes to mind is that in the mid-1990s, after Ramzi Youssef, the Al Qaeda terrorist, detonated a bomb in a parking lot under the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993, it was crystal clear that Al Qaeda was a very real and very grave threat to American lives.

After Al Qaeda’s first attempt to use jet passenger planes as weapons of mass destruction Operation Bojinka in January 1995 it was very evident that Al Qaeda was well capable of planning and executing a terrorist assault on the World Trade Center in New York City by using jet passenger planes as weapons of mass destruction.

The American response to Al Qaeda’s very well-defined threat to the United States in the mid-1990s: yawn. The American response to the Islamic State now controlling an international port, which enables the Islamic State to deploy container ships with false registration, flying under false flags, to attack the Suez Canal, London, New York City and any port in the world: yawn.

If the Americans are not going to take point, blockade Mocimboa da Praia, allow no vessels in or out, throw down on the Islamic State in Mocimboa da Praia with the US Army 75th Ranger Regiment and 50 Delta Force snipers, and end the threat of jihadi suicide container ships attacking the Suez Canal and all international ports, then woe and doom to the Americans and anyone else who refuses to slay the dragon of radical Islamic terrorism in Africa and around the world.

Every day that the Islamic State owns Mocimboa da Praia is a day
that ends with more munitions and weapons, more plastique, more detonators and det cord piled up and more Islamic State terrorists, who are all too happy to recruit more Islamic State terrorists for more suicide bomb assaults. More money flows into the bank accounts of Islamic State terrorists in Africa every day that the Islamic State continues to own an international port in Africa.

Unlike the Americans, the Australians looked at Sumatra in the 1990s, where Al Qaeda was actively recruiting, building financial networks and operational cells. And the Australian Secret Intelligence Service made a pragmatic, wise decision, rooted in ground truth and history: do not send one Australian soldier to Sumatra. Ever.

Since the mid-1990s, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service took that strategy and won with it in the Strait of Malacca, where the brilliant, bold, unorthodox and street-wise human intelligence-driven counterterrorist operations of Australia’s allies in the Strait of Malacca Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have saved thousands of lives and stopped jihadi attacks dead in their tracks.

Likewise, how does the Malaysian Special Branch, which is part and parcel of the Malaysian Federal Police, win in counterterrorism? With deep cover, the special branch counterterrorists coordinating with undercover detectives and plainclothes beat cops: yes, they bring in regular beat cops and use them on the street against Al Qaeda, Islamic State and Jemma Islamiyah. Pragmatic is clever and clever is wise. Stealth wins.

Clandestine, clandestine, clandestine

Once the Malay Special Branch suspects any jihadi operational cell leader is recruiting in a mosque, they will flood the neighborhood, including that mosque, with undercovers and plainclothes cops. And the deep covers are on point, working the human intel, night and day. In the field. Not behind a desk, not behind a computer, not addicted to a cell phone.

No drones. No armies of bureaucrats behind computers in another country. No intelligence contractors getting paid to produce pilesof paper, rather than getting paid to take down jihadis. No counterinsurgency idiocy, no Petraeus “Money Is Ammunition” lies. I watched my friends die in Iraq and Afghanistan and I know for a fact that they died for nothing. The reconstruction aid wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan would have built a high-speed railway from San Diego to Seattle and re-engineered the Amtrak rail system stateside, along with investing in public schools from coast to coast.

Al Qaeda is just as strong now as it was before Bush, Cheney and
the CIA lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to the American people and the world. The only thing that has changed since September 11 is the number of graves at Arlington National Cemetery. The Americans continue to refuse to invest in a global counterterrorism strategy that is 100 percent clandestine against a clandestine enemy Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and all jihadis are clandestine enemies.

Yet the British, the Australians, the Malaysians, the Indonesians, the Germans and all successful counterterrorists invest in clandestine. the Malay Special Branch invests in that most precious resource: People. You can win with spies or lose without them. And like the profoundly brilliant counterterrorists of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Malaysia’s Special Branch invests in people, 24/7, taking down jihadis with deep, broad, extensive human intelligence networks.

There are two “Ronin” proverbs that have served me well:
1. A true Ronin never draws his sword recklessly.
2. A true Ronin never hesitates to slay the dragon.

As long as the United States suffers from leadership that continues to hesitate to slay the dragon of global jihad, the Islamic State will only grow stronger in Mocimbao da Praia. The jihadis are celebrating in January 2021, for they can now launch suicide container ships at the Suez Canal and ports throughout the world.

There are a ton of fishing boats at Mocimbao da Praia also, and nothing looks more harmless on a sea at night than a fishing boat. The Islamic State will not hesitate to load up 50 fishing boats at Mocimbao da Praia with plastique, dynamite, gasoline and oil, and attack the docks at Cape Town.

Think it can’t be done? Guess again. That’s what the Americans said, at the highest levels, when they were told in the mid-1990s that Al Qaeda was fully-committed to destroying the World Trade Center with jet passenger planes: “Oh no, that will never happen. Al Qaeda’s not capable of that, they don’t have the assets. Those jihadis, they’re just a bunch of rag-tag militants.”

Those rag-tag jihadis beat the CIA, DIA, FBI and the Pentagon, and perpetrated the most horrific assault on the American homeland in the history of the United States on Sept 11, 2001. All the billions of dollars that the Americans invested in satellites, aerial surveillance, cameras, computers, not to mention the $700 billon Pentagon budget, did not save even one life on September 11.

Let that sink in.

Mike Tucker is a counterterrorism expert, author of numerous books, and holds degrees in history and literature. He is also a former US Marine infantryman.

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    Anthony J. Eksterowicz

    This is an important article. The author writes with conviction grounding his argument in history. Quite frankly, it sent chills up and down my spine. Hopefully policymakers will take action to correct these glaring deficiencies. Anthony Eksterowicz, Professor Emeritus, James madison University, Harrisonburg Va.

    Jan 16, 2021 12:58 am