Is­lamic ide­ol­ogy, ter­ror qui­etly de­bated

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

U.S. Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand has pri­vately pressed the staff of the na­tion’s high­est-rank­ing mil­i­tary of­fi­cer to in­clude in his up­com­ing Na­tional Mil­i­tary Strat­egy a dis­cus­sion of the Sunni Mus­lim ide­ol­ogy un­der­pin­ning the bru­tal­ity of the Is­lamic State group and al Qaeda.

Thus, be­hind the scenes, the Pen­tagon’s top brass have en­tered a de­bate cours­ing through the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign: how to de­fine an en­emy the U.S. mil­i­tary has been fight­ing for 15 years.

The Na­tional Mil­i­tary Strat­egy, au­thored by the Joint Chiefs of Staff chair­man, is one of the most im­por­tant guid­ances is­sued to global com­bat­ant com­man­ders. It pri­or­i­tizes threats to the na­tion and how to blunt them.

The 2015 pub­lic ver­sion does not men­tion Is­lamic ide­ol­ogy. It lists ter­ror­ists un­der the am­bigu­ous cat­e­gory of “vi­o­lent ex­trem­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions” and sin­gles out al Qaeda and the Is­lamic State group.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dun­ford took the chair­man­ship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff two months later and is now pre­par­ing his first Na­tional Mil­i­tary Strat­egy.

It is dur­ing this process that Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand, which plays a ma­jor role in hunt­ing down ter­ror­ists, has pro­vided its in­put to the Joint Staff, Gen. Dun­ford’s team of in­tel­li­gence and op­er­a­tions of­fi­cers at the Pen­tagon.

Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand wants the Na­tional Mil­i­tary Strat­egy to specif­i­cally name Salafi ji­hadism as the doc­trine that in­spires vi­o­lent Mus­lim ex­trem­ists. Salafi ji­hadism is a branch within Sunni Is­lam. It is em­braced by the Is­lamic State and used to jus­tify its mass killings of non­be­liev­ers, in­clud­ing Shi­ite Mus­lims, Sun­nis and Kurds, as well as Chris­tians.

Peo­ple knowl­edge­able about the dis­cus­sion told The Wash­ing­ton Times that SoCom has not been able to per­suade Gen. Dun­ford’s staff to in­clude Salafi ji­hadism in any strat­egy draft. It is un­clear whether Gen. Dun­ford has been briefed on the pro­pos­als.

Spokes­men for the Joint Staff and U.S. Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand in Tampa, Florida, told The Times that they could not com­ment on a pend­ing strat­egy. Gen. Dun­ford’s strat­egy will be clas­si­fied in its en­tirety, mean­ing there will be no pub­lic ver­sion as was is­sued by his pre­de­ces­sor, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, in 2015.

Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand is headed by Army Gen. Ray­mond A. Thomas III, a vet­eran ter­ror­ist hunter who led Joint Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand, the unit that killed Osama bin Laden and many other ex­trem­ists.

There does not ap­pear to be an ef­fort to in­clude the words “rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism” in the strat­egy. But in­clud­ing a dis­cus­sion of Salafi ji­hadism would tie acts of ter­ror­ism to Is­lamic ide­ol­ogy.

Pres­i­dent Obama has fiercely re­jected any con­nec­tion between Is­lam the faith and al Qaeda, the Is­lamic State or any other Mus­lim ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions. He ar­gues that they have cor­rupted the teach­ings of the Prophet Muham­mad and the Ko­ran. His ad­min­is­tra­tion refers to them as sim­ply “ex­trem­ists.”

The coun­ter­ar­gu­ment from many U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity an­a­lysts and Mus­lim schol­ars is that mass killings are rooted in the Ko­ran and other pri­mary writ­ings and preach­ings of cred­i­ble Is­lamic schol­ars and imams. These teach­ings at some mosques and on so­cial me­dia en­cour­age youths to be­come rad­i­cal Is­lamists.

Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi, the ruth­less Is­lamic State founder, is a cleric who stud­ied at a sem­i­nary in Iraq. Al-Bagh­dadi has a Ph.D. in Ko­ranic stud­ies from Iraq’s Sad­dam Univer­sity.

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