US Gov’t Trained ISIS Commander — Did It ‘Burn’ Him Later?
MAY 21, 2019
By Brandon Turbeville
After his death was announced by ISIS in 2016, the name Abu Omar al-Shishani has largely faded from news reports regarding Iraq and Syria. However, at one time, one of the top commanders of ISIS was known throughout the geopolitical community. In 2015, the US State Department even offered $5 million as a reward for information leading to his capture.
However, for all the alleged desire to capture or kill Shishani on the part of the United States, it was the United States who trained him as a matter of record when he was fighting against the Russians in Chechnya and again during the Georgian war.
In an article from September, 2015 entitled, “One of ISIS’ top commanders was a ‘star pupil’ of US-special forces training in the country of Georgia,” Jeremy Bender wrote for Business Insider,
Aside from ISIS’ ‘caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Georgian ex-commando Omar al-Shishani might be the most recognizable and popular of the powerful militant group’s leaders.
Sporting a recognizable red beard and happy to pose for photos, Shishani has acted as a very public face for some of ISIS’ most notorious successes.
It was Shishani who posed with the stolen US Humvees that ISIS had seized from Mosul and brought back into Syria.
And it was Shishani who had led successful ISIS military campaigns throughout Syria as well as a blitz through western Iraq that put the group within 100 miles of Baghdad.
These military successes are not simply the result of any innate military capabilities. Instead, Shishani spent years conducting military campaigns against the Russians, first as a Chechen rebel and then as a soldier in the Georgian military. During Shishani’s four years in the military, from 2006 to 2010, his unit received some degree of training from American special forces units.
“He was a perfect soldier from his first days, and everyone knew he was a star,” an unnamed former comrade who is still active in the Georgian military told McClatchy DC. “We were well trained by American special forces units, and he was the star pupil.”
“We trained him well, and we had lots of help from America,” another anonymous Georgian defense official told McClatchy about Shishani. “In fact, the only reason he didn’t go to Iraq to fight alongside America was that we needed his skills here in Georgia.”
In 2008, when Russia and Georgia briefly went to war over the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia, Shishani reportedly was a star soldier. Although Russia quickly won the war, Shishani and his special forces unit caused asymmetrical damage to the invading Russian forces, including the wounding of the Russian commander of the 58th Army.
Shishani was eventually arrested by the Georgian military and jailed for 15 months for illegally “harboring weapons.” After his sentence was over in 2012, he fled to Syria via Turkey. Interestingly enough, in 2015, TASS reported that the US Army had captured Shishani, a report that was corroborated by field commanders in Kirkuq at the time. However, it was later reported that he escaped his captors.
Notably, Shishani was also connected to former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, a man who had also done yeoman’s service in the name of the Western empire and who was rewarded for that service by being placed in power in post-coup Ukraine.
Bender continues describing Shishani’s skill as a fighter, a skill that was no accident since the United States Special Forces provided him with such intense training. Bender writes,
However, his history of asymmetrical fighting against the Russians in the Caucasus, both before and after having received American training, has played a key role in defining Shishani’s military and command style.
“Shishani is somewhat unique among ISIS’s commanders. Shishani is fighting like an insurgent,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Musings on Iraq. “He’s using a complex style in Anbar [province in western Iraq], relying on a very small force … Shishani’s forces emphasize speed and agility.”
“They’ll hit multiple targets on the same day, and engage in harassing attacks to try to draw out the enemy, the Iraqi Security Forces or the Sahwa [Sunni tribes aligned against ISIS in Iraq]. Then he loves trapping the people he’s able to draw out that are in pursuit of him.”
These tactics have worked extremely well for Shishani throughout Iraq. Despite US-led coalition airstrikes and the combined forces of the Iraqi Security Forces and Iranian-backed militias, ISIS has continued to seize territory and embed itself deeper into Iraq’s Anbar province.
Shishani was reported to have been killed five times in 2014 and four times in 2015 (see here, here, here, and here). He was also reportedly killed in March, 2016 before eventually before the U.S. government claimed to have killed him in July, 2016.
Shishani – More To The Story?
However, many researchers believe there is much more to the story of Shishani (aka Tarkhan Batirashvili) than meets the eye, at least insomuch as the story is presented in the Western press. For instance, Seth Ferris, in his New Eastern Outlook article, “Effort to Silence CIA Assets Begins with Tarkhan Batirashvili,” presents details hidden in Western media coverage of Shishani. He writes,
Most Chechen commanders have shelf lives, not necessarily in terms of effectiveness on the battlefield but in terms of political usefulness. It seems that another one is about to find out the hard way that Chechens are only there to further objectives they don’t actually hold themselves, not become glorious martyrs able to pass unimaginable wealth on to their families.
There are few secrets about the history of Tarkhan Batirashvili, a former Georgian army soldier who was deemed unfit for service for health reasons, including TB, and booted out. However we know a lot about him because we are supposed to swallow the versions given. Invariably, these revelations are presented as some sort of mysterious knowledge which only experts would have, which others cannot therefore contradict. There is a very obvious reason why we should be encouraged to think that any “non-official” information must be wrong.
From medically unfit to monster
Here is a recent profile of Batirashvili:
Omar al-Shishani aka Tarkhan Batirashvili (Islamic State / ISIS)
Abu Omar al-Shishani or Omar al-Shishani is the most senior military commander of the Islamic State’s (IS) Military Wing in Syria. His leadership position within the IS follows the death of the former commander of IS forces, Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Bilawi al-Anbari, who was killed in Mosul in early June 2014. Al-Shishani is an extremist and fanatical Islamist, uncompromising in his support of the IS which is complemented by experience in warfare (due to his involvement in the wars with Russia in the Caucasus region) [American trained and equipped] which [apparently] has added to the respect and support he had among IS fighters.
Batirashvili is effectively the Minister of Defense for the Islamic State. According to prison records, and sources in Georgia who know him personally, he is also a CIA asset. Analyst William Engdahl has described in detail how ISIS militants have been trained by the CIA in Jordan, and its funding provided by Gulf countries.
As a result of this relationship with the US Batirashvili has enjoyed the proverbial nine lives, having frequently been reported dead, mostly by Russian media sources, but reappearing alive and well like clockwork. On 4th March he was, yet again, reported dead as the result of an airstrike. However, just as this article was going to press the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which claims to have a network of observers within Syria where the air strikes occurred, told news media that he had merely been “seriously injured” by strike, and is now in hospital in Raqqa.
Was Shishani ‘Burned?’
So why would the US train Shishani only to kill him later? Why would the US kill its own asset working so effectively to its aims? Ferris answers this question in his article when he writes,
Recent reactions to a spate of stories about the Pankisi Gorge, where Batirashvili was trained, have got the authorities scrambling to cover themselves with photo opportunities and the like. Batirashvili knows as much as anyone about what has been going on there for a long time, having established the terrorist recruitment process which has seen dozens of young men mysteriously disappear, without passports, and end in fighting for ISIS, according to public records and sources in the Gorge itself.
Russia has also conducted airstrikes against ISIS, despite US opposition. If the Russians get to Batirashvili first they will capture him and get confirmation of all they have been saying for years. The US has to stop that happening, and is more interested in doing this than saving the lives their inserted terrorist commander has taken.
If Batirashvili is dead, the testimony of possible future captures can be rubbished as that of lower level operatives who cannot know the facts. Just like the stories about Batirashvili by those who contradict the official line. It seems being the only superpower has finally convinced the US that everyone who isn’t part of its military-industrial complex really is as stupid as it thinks we are.
Ferris then turns to the method in which terrorist operatives like Shishani are trained and directed by national governments, specifically the United States and Georgia. He writes,
Of course such a plan needs funds. These have long been provided through a “development funding” mechanism called ACDI/VOCA, in other words, directly by the US government. This is a tried and trusted mechanism, which has funded terrorists in Afghanistan as well as Georgia and provided the initial funding for the operations in Syria.
In Afghanistan it established the ARIES programme. One of the ARIES projects was to “give 80 million USD in microfinance and SME lending to shift people away from opium cultivation”. This succeeded in establishing better protected smuggling routes, and more secure supplies, from an area near Tajik border, an area east of Kabul centred near Jalalabad, the southern war region of Kandahar and Helmand and an area round Herat. The drugs from this region were sold to pay for operations in Georgia and Syria.
In Georgia the same mechanism funded an NGO called Jvari, which was set up by the Georgian National Security Council, unusually for an aid organisation. Batirashvili was trained with funds provided to Jvari. Other graduates of the programme include a number of other Chechens who have documented connections with US-aligned NGOs, such as Umar Idigov, head of the NGO “Foundation of Caucasus Integration” and Imram Akhmadov, who is now living in Turkey under the name Kavtarashvili, using a fake passport purchased with US government money.
There are many similar mechanisms the US uses to fund terrorists. An organisation called WOCCU has been granted about 15 million USD to create about 20 credit unions in Afghanistan. It was established by a former Green Beret Special Operations man, Randall Spears, who has already funded terrorist operations in several countries. ACDI/VOCA itself has directly funded the creation of a number of other “credit cooperatives”, to the tune of 12 million USD. This operation is run by former USDA representative Rusty Shultz, in collaboration with Gerry Anderson, a former CIA point man in Georgia working under the cover of USAID.
“According to a November, 2013 report in the Wall Street Journal,” Ferris concludes, “it was Batirashvili who turned the wars in Syria and Iraq ‘into a geopolitical struggle between the US and Russia’ rather than civil conflicts. That was the objective of the leading neo-conservatives in the CIA, Pentagon and State Department all along.”
Regardless, if Shishani is truly dead, it is unlikely we will ever know the real reason for his killing. It is clear enough that he was used as an asset of the NATO apparatus. It is less clear as to why this asset was eventually ‘burned’ by the government that employed him. However, Shishani’s training and deployment and the record of US involvement in his battlefield exploits is yet one more piece of the puzzle demonstrating the American/NATO control over the same terrorists it is claiming to be fighting against.