Sunday, September 16, 2007

Al Qaeda: missing the point

David Seaton's News Links
One of the difficulties in trying to get a focus on Al Qaeda is concentrating on their identity as terrorists (which, of course, they are) and not giving enough thought to their being a movement with clear objectives which are being patiently and methodically pursued.

A group such as GRAPO, which is simply a terrorist organization without being a movement with an ample social base, for example, can be closed down with (relative) ease. But if a group has a social base and constitutes a movement, even if that base is small and its ideology simply a mishmash of local ethnic myths laced with some warmed over Marxism (for example ETA), it can resist decades of the most intense pressure, both military and political, and still stay active.

Al Qaeda has a growing social base in a world-wide community of 1.3 billion people. In many Muslim countries Osama bin Laden is more popular than the local chief of state.

Terrorism, while very important, pales in significance to the mobilization of masses for which terrorist activity is merely an advertising campaign. Once a movement is constituted it can be used for many things: like a fat person in a rowboat, when an activated mass moves in any direction, the "boat" tips. It is the movement of that mass, more than the terrorist actions committed to arouse them that will give the west the most serious problems in the future. DS

Al Qaeda 'co-opts' new affiliates - Los Angeles Times
Abstract: Secure in its haven in northwestern Pakistan, a resurgent Al Qaeda is trying to expand its network, in some cases by executing corporate-style takeovers of regional Islamic extremist groups, according to U.S. intelligence officials and counter-terrorism experts. Though not always successful, these moves indicate a shift in strategy by the terrorist network as it seeks to broaden its reach and renew its ability to strike Western targets, including the United States, officials and experts say.(...) Bruce Riedel, a senior CIA counter-terrorism official until late last year, said Al Qaeda "central" stands to gain hundreds or even thousands of foot soldiers, many of whom already have been radicalized, carry European passports and don't require a visa to travel to the United States. "I think what we are seeing is the reconstitution of their capabilities to strike targets in Western Europe and ultimately North America on a scale identical or bigger than Sept. 11," said Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Absolutely, we should be alarmed about this. They are creating franchises and buying franchises, offering expertise, networks, money." From northwest Pakistan, these current and former officials say, Al Qaeda leaders have rebuilt a network of field commanders that was largely decimated in the post-Sept. 11 attacks on its bases in Afghanistan.(...) The most clear-cut example is that of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an extremist group previously known as the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, known by the French acronym GSPC. The earlier group consisted mostly of Algerians bent on overthrowing their own government.(...) "They had people but they had no arms, no training and no money. By pledging allegiance, they got all of those," one recently departed State Department counter-terrorism official said. In return, Al Qaeda "got more juice" in the form of frequent attacks on Western targets that raised its visibility, the official said.(...) U.S. intelligence officials are convinced that the alliance is not so much a merger but a takeover of the GSPC, which Riedel said came only after "many, many months of discussions about what the terms and conditions would be" between Zawahiri and Bin Laden and GSPC leader Abdelmalek Droudkel. The group now is active throughout much of North Africa and the sub-Saharan Sahel region.Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan are using the network's contacts and foot soldiers in North Africa and in Spain and other parts of Europe. In many parts of Europe, they can disappear into large North African communities to recruit operatives, raise money and plot attacks. READ IT ALL

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a historic process. The muslim world and other parts like China went through historic slumps.

What you did not write is that "the West" is interacting with these people (common humanity, same planet) in the worst possible way. Before the Iraq war, all this was a minority position. The Algerian civil war was over, the "int├ęgristes" were discredited and defeated.

What you also did not write is that "the West" is going through its worst identity crisis ever with the abrogation of democratic ideals and procedures.