Merchant of Death
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Mujahadeen on the Move?
There are several developments, and provocative articles, that point to a broadening of the _jihadi/Salafist_ network and its increasing reach and sophistication. None of this bodes well for the United States, now locked in a political showdown over Iraq and other domestic scandals and perpetually unable to focus on more than one political war at home and one thing abroad.

The first is this report from the Jamestown Foundation on the second edition of the "Technical Mujahid," an internet magazine released bimonthly to help _jihadist_ improve their technical security and increase their internet presence.

It gives guidance on how to embed messages in pictures, how to encrypt communications and offers a sophisticated encryption program.

The article also lays out how to design and uploading websites, offers advice on what weapons are best for anti-aircraft use and other information.

The objective of the publication, according to its editor, is to "to eradicate the phobia and anxiety suffered by those who refrain from participating in jihad because they erroneously believe that intelligence services are monitoring their every move. Additionally, the publication aims to spread a sense of security, vigilance and self-confidence, in a scientific way, among members of jihadi forums by educating them in jihadi propaganda and enhancing their knowledge of field operations."

A second element is the deteriorating situation in Somalia. As noted by my colleague Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, the international community has utterly failed to keep the entirely-predictable resurgence of the _salafist_ Union of Islamic Courts from emerging.

I disagree with Daveed a bit, and have argued the the Transitional government, lacking all legitimacy to begin with, is not a real vehicle for creating a government there. The transitional government lived down to its expectations immediately by failing to effectively reach out to major clans or seek to really unify the government or country in any meaningful way.

Nonetheless, the UIC is back, more radicalized and angrier than ever, and clearly high on the agenda of the core al Qaeda leadership and its expanding group of affiliates. Its leaders have the added appeal of having delivered fundamental security for a period of time, a matter of very high value to residents of Mogadishu and elsewhere. The TFG's utter and abysmal failure to deliver anything except chaos can only raise the appeal of the UIC in the eyes of most people.

So now we face the main options of a serious external intervention that goes beyond Ethiopia and the insignificant AU forces there to save an ineffective and unpopular government, or cede the territory to the _salafists_ as a toe-hold for the Caliphate. Hardly attractive choices.

This brings me to the third point, another Jamestown publication by my friend Michael Scheuer, the former head of the Alec Station in the CIA, tracking bin Laden.

He argues that, until bin Laden and al Qaeda, almost all Islamist groups had been narrowly focused on issues in their own countries, not on the "far enemy" that is the United States and Europe. Breaking through this mindset has been one of bin Laden's largest and (and least appreciated) successes.

Scheuer found that there are nearly 40 groups _jihadist_ groups who, since 2005, have announced their formation and pledged allegiance to bin Laden.

Scheuer draws three conclusions, two of which I do not dispute at all and the third one worth considering, but I am unsure how fully I concur:

1) The grassroots instigation to _jihad_ by al Qaeda is working,
2) "Central" al Qaeda is not out of business and the movement of training camps and recruitment centers back to Pakistan confirm this, and
3) Bin Laden has been successful in using Iraq as a contiguous territory from which to reach into the Levant, the Arab Peninsula and even Europe.

All of this leads me to conclude that, while we struggle mightily with secondary issues, our enemy is regrouping, rearming and expanding. Not a good trend line on either side.
Enabling Chaos and Terrorism in Africa
The End of the Line in Pakistan?
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