You wouldn’t let Guinness or Budweiser run AA. Having the Saudis run a Jihadi rehab program is just as much of a joke. And yet our leaders went along with the joke by pretending that the Saudis were helping transform bad misunderstanders of Islam into good Muslims through Koran lessons and some R&R. The notion that Islam is best fought with Islam came to characterize CVE.
Counterterrorism experts have long suspected Saudi Arabia’s “rehabilitation” center for terrorists does a poor job of de-radicalizing jihadists. But a Saudi detainee at Guantanamo Bay now reveals it’s actually a recruiting and training factory for jihad.
According to recently declassified documents, senior al Qaeda operative Ghassan Abdullah al-Sharbi told a Gitmo parole board that the Saudi government has been encouraging previously released prisoners to rejoin the jihad at its terrorist reform school, officially known as the Prince Mohammed bin Naif Counseling and Care Center.
The Obama administration has praised the effectiveness of the Saudi rehab program — which uses “art therapy,” swimming, ping-pong, PlayStation and soccer to de-radicalize terrorists — and conditioned the release of dozens of Gitmo prisoners, including former Osama bin Laden bodyguards, on their entry in the controversial program.
Al-Sharbi dropped a bombshell on the Gitmo parole board at his hearing earlier this year, when he informed members that the Saudi kingdom was playing them for suckers. “You guys want to send me back to Saudi Arabia because you believe there is a de-radicalization program on the surface.
True. You are 100% right, there is a strong — externally, a strong — de-radicalization program,” al-Sharbi testified. “But make no mistake, underneath there is a hidden radicalization program,” he added. “There is a very hidden strong — way stronger in magnitude — broader in financing, in all that.”
Al-Sharbi is one of the longest serving, and most unrepentant, prisoners at Gitmo. A Saudi national with an electrical engineering degree from King Fahd University, he attended a US flight school associated with two of the 9/11 hijackers. He traveled to Afghanistan in the summer of 2001 and trained at an al Qaeda camp, building IEDs to use against allied forces.
Al-Sharbi was captured March 28, 2002, at an al Qaeda safehouse in Faisalabad, Pakistan, with senior al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah. According to his US intel dossier, he told interrogators that “the US got what it deserved from the terrorist attacks on 9/11.”
Given a chance at parole after 14 years, however, Al-Sharbi was surprisingly frank with the board.
He explained that Riyadh is actively recruiting and training fighters to battle Iranian elements in neighboring Yemen and Syria. Saudi views Shiite-controlled Iran as a regional threat to its security.
“They’re launching more wars and the [United] States is backing off from the region,” he said. “They’re poking their nose here and here and there and they’re recruiting more jihadists, and they’ll tell you, ‘Okay, go fight in Yemen. Go fight in Syria.’ ”
Al-Sharbi said the Saudis also are “encouraging” former detainees “to fight their jihad in the States.”
This isn’t a mystery to anyone. We simply insist on pretending that the Saudis aren’t involved in terror.