Dr. Walid Phares
Guantanamo’s Manipulators Leading the New Jihad
January 28, 2009
"By Allah, imprisonment only increased our persistence in our
principles for which we went out, did jihad for, and were imprisoned
These are the words loudly uttered by an al-Qaeda cadre who was detained
in GITMO for a number of years and released in 2007 back to the region.
This statement comes at a time the detention center has been ordered to
be shut down within a year. This episode provides evidence that Jihadism
as an ideology does not respond to the political culture of democracy
nor are the indoctrinated Jihadists impacted by the moral and legal
debate within what they see as the sphere of the infidels. The
Guantanamo legal and ethical drama will continue to be discussed in the
United Sates and the West, but for now let's look at the outpouring
As reported by the SITE web site, two men released from the prison at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have appeared in a video posted on a Jihadi site.
The most notorious of the two, a Saudi man identified as Abu Sufyan al-Azdi
al-Shahri, or prisoner number 372, has been "elevated to the senior
ranks of al-Qaeda in Yemen," a US counter-terrorism official told AFP.
The other man on the video is Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi, identified
as an al-Qaeda commander. SITE stated he was prisoner Number 333.
Reviewing the video provided by the Laura Mansfield monitoring group. I
analyzed the statements made by al-Shahri and al-Oufi in original
On the video, as reported accurately by all sites and news agencies, al-Shihri
is seen sitting with three other men under a flag of the "Islamic State
of Iraq," Al-Qaeda's regional command in Mesopotamia. The other two
Jihadists in the video were identified as Abu Baseer al-Wahayshi and Abu
Hureira Qasm al-Rimi (aka Abu Hureira al-Sana'ani). Al-Shiri was
transferred from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia in 2007, a US
counter-terrorism official told AFP. A US source confirmed to AP that
Said Ali al-Shihri, "who was jailed at Guantanamo for six years after
his capture in Pakistan, has resurfaced as a leader of a Yemeni branch
of al-Qaida." Al-Shihri was released by the US in 2007 to the Saudi
government for "rehabilitation." But this week a statement posted on the
site declared he is now the top deputy in "al-Qaida in the Arabian
Peninsula," the regional command for Bin Laden's organization operating
from Yemen with cells across the peninsula. The terror group has been
responsible for attacks on the US Embassy in Yemen's capital Sana.
Per US documents obtained by AP, "al-Shihri was stopped at a Pakistani
border crossing in December 2001 with injuries from an airstrike and
recuperated at a hospital in Quetta for a month and a half. Within days
of leaving the hospital, he became one of the first detainees sent to
Guantanamo." According to the same sources, "Al-Shihri allegedly
traveled to Afghanistan two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks,
provided money to other fighters and trained in urban warfare at a camp
north of Kabul, Afghanistan." But more troubling is the fact that al-Shihri
was a contact person between al-Qaeda and Iran. As reported by AP, he
was "an alleged travel coordinator for al-Qaida who was accused of
meeting extremists in Mashad, Iran, and briefing them on how to enter
Afghanistan." Such a person operating in the most strategic area of
Jihadism, the most dangerous bridge of (potential) cooperation between
al-Qaeda and the Khomeinist regime, was released from Guantanamo on the
basis that he said "bin Laden had no business representing Islam, denied
any links to terrorism and expressed interest in rejoining his family in
Saudi Arabia." When asked about his Iranian trips, he allegedly answered
that he was "buying carpets for his store in Riyadh."
Is this for real? Had these facts not been cited from official US
documents and had I and many colleagues not viewed the video personally,
it would have been hard to believe that the Guantanamo release of
Jihadists was that tragic for national security and for the future of US
and allied efforts in the confrontation with Terror forces.
Unfortunately, the reality of al-Qaeda's tactics regarding Guantanamo or
any other detention center, judicial, administrative or military, raises
unavoidable questions and brings about sobering conclusions:
1) Former inmates, in this case Abu Sufyan al-Azdi al-Shahri (Prisoner
No 372) and Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi (Prisoner No 333), are being
elevated to the senior ranks of Al-Qaeda. The release of Jihadi
Terrorists to their countries or other countries in the region didn't
transform them into ordinary citizens but reinserted them in al-Qaeda's
network. Furthermore, Salafi Jihadi chat rooms are mentioning the video
and propagating the argument that those released from Guantanamo are
going to be not only well received and made into heroes but will become
the leaders of the Jihad (al-Qaeda and others) against the United
States, the West and moderates in the region.
2) On what ground were they released? This is an important question to
be raised because it would help project what will happen when the other
GITMO detainees will be released. What is the measurement that US
authorities have adopted to release al-Qaeda members from Guantanamo?
Was it statements the Jihadists made about their forthcoming life? All
al-Shahri had to do was criticize Bin Laden and pledge to return to a
normal life? How did experts and psychologists guide the government in
terms of concluding that indeed the Terrorists have reformed?
3) How come these released detainees to Yemen (or other countries) were
able to reemerge as al-Qaeda leaders there? How come they were able to
travel across the region and reorganize? What would this tell us about
our "partners" in the so-called War against Terror?
4) How come US intelligence wasn't able to predict that these detainees
would reinsert in al-Qaeda after being released? Or did US intelligence
predict the outcome but policy makers still decided to release them?
5) Shutting down Guantanamo may be a decision based on "political, moral
and strategic communications" considerations. This debate is not over
apparently. But this latest video brings hard evidence that the issue
isn't about a camp to be shut down but about an ideology to be
countered. For according to al-Qaeda's manuals, the Jihadists are
trained for when they are in detention and are prepared for all other
scenarios: facing all sorts of courts, becoming martyrs or being
released to perform Jihad again.
previous articles, I underlined that al Qaeda has detention tactics and
a post detention strategy. The United States must catch up with the
Terror forces. It should have developed counter strategies for both
stages, with or without Guantanamo. Unless proven wrong, facts show a
failure in both stages. This Jihadi manipulation is a chilling reminder
of the "silence of the lambs.” It is time to bridge the gap.
About Dr. Walid Phares
Dr. Walid Phares is the Director of Future Terrorism
Project at the Foundation for the
Democracies in Washington, a visiting scholar at the European Foundation
for Democracy and the author of the War of Ideas. Dr. Phares was one of the
architects of UNSCR 1559. He is also a Professor of Middle East
Studies at Florida Atlantic University and a contributing expert to FOX News.
Dr. Phares teaches Global Strategies at the National Defense
University. Professor Phares’
is the author of two critical books on the Islamofascist threat to Western
Civilization, "Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West”
and "The War of Ideas: Jihadism