Thursday, June 26, 2014

Turning the Jihadis

Strategy Page has an interesting piece on an aspect of the war on terror we rarely hear about, the program to "turn" captured jihadis and use them as informants. This is extremely dangerous work and a number of those who have agreed to work as informants for the U.S. have been discovered and killed.
While the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison recidivism rate (over 25 percent) regularly makes the news you rarely (and for good reason) hear about those freed from Guantanamo who have been “turned” (into informants against their terrorist colleagues). Getting Guantanamo prisoners to talk is a well-known activity there. Less well known are efforts to convince some of these hard-core terrorists to switch sides.

Even before September 11, 2001, counter-intelligence experts had discovered that it was very difficult to get agents into Islamic terrorist organizations. Since then, it's become easier. But the process is difficult, and very dangerous for those who agree to go undercover in these terrorist organizations. So far, Islamic terrorists and the public know a few dozen.

Two of the most prominent double agents came from Guantanamo. There was Abdul Rahman, an Afghan, who was released, returned to terrorism in Pakistan and was found out as a double agent and killed by his terrorist associates. Another Islamic terrorist, a Saudi Arabian (Jabir Jubran Al Fayfi), was one of more than a hundred Saudi inmates released from Guantanamo in 2006-2007. He returned to Saudi Arabia where he went through a mandatory rehabilitation course. There he was apparently recruited by Saudi intelligence. Once out of rehab Fayfi went to Yemen and joined the al Qaeda organization. He made it back to Saudi Arabia in 2010 with all sorts of useful information. This included news of the printer toner cartridge plot that was disrupted (and failed) at the end of October 2010. It’s still unclear of Fayfi was a double agent or just someone who turned after being arrested again.

Indications are that there are apparently a lot more (perhaps hundreds) such agents out there. Most of these you will have to wait a long time to find out about. Even the details of the recruiting process are top secret, in order to protect the agents recruited, and make it more difficult for the wrong people (potential double agents) to be hired. But the process tends to work best on those who have become disillusioned with Islamic radicalism. There are a lot of these men, but most simply walk away.

Others wish to fight against the cause they lost faith in. All the Americans had to do was get hip to the cultural buttons, and learn how to push them. Apparently the Israelis helped with this, as the Israelis have long run extensive informant networks in Arab populations. The Israelis have a thick playbook, and the U.S. apparently got them to share. Some NATO nations (especially the French) have useful experience to add to this. Several NATO nations are known to regularly turn Islamic terrorists and use them as informants.
There's more at the link. One hopes that a lot of these released prisoners are, in fact, spying for the West. Given the reluctance of the White House to recognize that we are in a thousand year war against Muslim extremism, a war that will continue as long as the most radical forms of Islam do not rule the world, we need all the help we can get.