Monthly Archives: May 2017

Raqqa Doesn’t Want to Be Liberated By the West’s Partners

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 30 May 2017

Map of the tribes around Raqqa city (source: WINEP report)

We are now on the eve of the operation to evict the Islamic State (IS) from its Syrian capital, Raqqa, and, as expected, the United States will partner with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the front-group for the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which President Donald Trump’s administration has committed to directly arming.

Many of the doubts voiced about this course relate to Turkey, since the PYD/YPG is—despite continued efforts to obfuscate the fact—the Syrian department of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the premier internal security threat to Turkey for many decades. The discussion then tends to fall into one of two grooves. Continue reading

American YPG Fighter Complains About Group’s Lack of Medical Care

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 26 May 2017

Patrick Ryan Kasprik

Patrick Ryan Kasprik was arrested in Lee County, Florida, in September 2015 for battery of a police officer and resisting arrest. By the time of Kasprik’s scheduled court appearance in February 2016, he was in Syria, having joined the People’s Protection Units (YPG)—without any training—as a combat medic. The YPG is the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the name under which the terrorist-designated Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) operates while on Syrian soil. There has been a flow of Westerners joining the YPG/PKK for several years. Kasprik left Rojava in November 2016. On 24 May 2017, Kasprik wrote a public Facebook status that spoke of YPG/PKK commanders having an alarming racial disdain for Arabs and buttressed prior reports by American YPG volunteers that the YPG was providing insufficient care to its wounded. Indeed, Kasprik suggested that the YPG was content for fatalities because it made for good propaganda. Kasprik’s full post is reproduced below with some explanatory notes added in square brackets.
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Islamic State Newsletter Says Manchester Bomber Was a “Soldier of the Caliphate”

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 25 May 2017

Article about Manchester Arena suicide-killer Salman Abedi, page 2 of Al-Naba 82

The Islamic State (IS) released the eighty-second edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 25 May 2017. The first article in Al-Naba 82 was about the suicide attack on the Manchester Arena on 22 May, which IS claimed the next day. The article in Al-Naba provided very few details about the murderer, Salman Abedi, or IS’s role in the attack, mostly gloating over the allegedly panicky reaction of the British state. Continue reading

The Islamic State Expands Its Definition of Heresy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 May 2017

A ruling in the name of the Islamic State’s Delegated Committee, prepared it seems by one of its senior members, Abu Zayd al-Iraqi, was issued on 17 May, expanding the scope of who, within the Muslim community, IS considers a heretic. The memo was addressed to “All Wilayat, Dawawin, and Committees,” and entitled, “That Those Who Perish Would Perish Upon Proof and Those Who Live Would Live Upon Proof”. The wide use of takfir (excommunication) has been one of IS’s most defining and controversial features—even within the jihadist world. This judgment, which comes in the context of a broader centralization of authority—on 14 May a decree banned individual IS fighters from using social media—takes IS into territory akin to the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which hereticized whole sections of Algeria’s population and began slaughtering them. The text of the ruling was released in English and is reproduced below. Continue reading

Coalition on the Verge of Repeating the Mistakes of the Past Against the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 May 2017

Within the next month, the Islamic State (IS) will likely lose its grip on its Iraqi capital, Mosul, and the operation to drive it from its Syrian capital, Raqqa, will begin. The destruction of IS’s caliphate, however, is not even close to the end of the road for the movement, not least because of the manner in which it is being accomplished.

At its core the IS movement is waging a revolutionary war, and as Craig Whiteside, a fellow with The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism has explained, this means that the focus is on legitimacy. Military victories come and go but if IS is, over the long-term, gaining acceptance—whether from support, resignation, or fear—among the population it hopes to govern (the Sunni Arabs), then it is winning. It is for this reason that IS tries to embed political victories within its military defeats. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Calls for Foreign Attacks, Prioritizes Jews and Americans

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 14 May 2017

The son of al-Qaeda’s founder, Hamza Usama bin Ladin, released a speech on 13 May 2017, “Advice for Martyrdom-Seekers in the West”. The speech took the form of a ten-minute video released by As-Sahab, which was noticeably better in quality than al-Qaeda’s recent produce. The video opened by praising Sayyid Nusayr, and then included picture tributes in the background as Hamza spoke to some past jihadist attackers: Nidal Malik Hasan, Ramzi Yusef, Arid Uka, Ayman Hasan, Sulayman Khater, Mohammed Bouyeri. Michael Adebolajo, Michael Adebowale, and Mevlut Mert Altintas. An English translation of the speech is posted below, with some explanatory notes added and key sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Media, Democracy, and Terrorism Laws

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 13 May 2017

Sinam Mohamad

The New York Times on 11 May carried an op-ed entitled, “Once We Beat ISIS, Don’t Abandon Us,” by Sinam Mohamad, the effective foreign minister of the governance structure in northern Syria administered by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian departments of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This comes just over two weeks after another senior PYD/PKK official, Ilham Ahmed, was given space to disseminate the group’s messaging in The Washington Post, and the problems remain the same.
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