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Thread: AQ-Central to relocate?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default AQ-Central to relocate?

    After the latest drone strike success, with the death of AQ's operational head, one Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, David Ignatius in WaPo's article has some interest and ends with:
    Atiyah had told his boss that this U.S. "intelligence war," as bin Laden had called it, had made it nearly impossible for al-Qaeda to move, communicate, recruit or train in the tribal areas of Pakistan. They had discussed whether al-Qaeda should move its headquarters to someplace safer. That relocation seems more likely, now that the man who anchored the group's presence in Pakistan is dead.
    Link:http://www.realclearpolitics.com/art...ls_111116.html

    BBC News article on the killing:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14695569

    SWC has several threads on related themes; including Clint's surveys, which IIRC asked which part of AQ will gain prominence?

    Perhaps we can discuss this matter?

    I have two questions. Will AQ-Central relocate? Note they have been in the FATA since 2001 and across the Durand Line, in Afghanistan, for longer and could be described as embedded.

    Where will AQ-Central relocate to? AQAP seems to be at the fore, in Somalia or Yemen.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-29-2011 at 07:49 PM.
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  2. #2
    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post

    Perhaps we can discuss this matter?


    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    I have two questions. Will AQ-Central relocate? Note they have been in the FATA since 2001 and across the Durand Line, in Afghanistan, for longer and could be described as embedded.

    Where will AQ-Central relocate to? AQAP seems to be at the fore, in Somalia or Yemen.
    Their business model in general seems to lean more towards a nomadic than settled way of life, so if pressures are sufficient and sustained why not load up the pickup and head for greener/wilder pastures until the coalition pulls out?

    Tribal way of life, Arabic speaking, and low/high tech fusion seems to be the lifestyle ttp's for many. Have no guesses for you regarding Somalia or Yemen...
    Sapere Aude

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Location is meaningless for such a non-state actor, in fact, all we are really talking here is perhaps the relocation of a few guys making up a leadership node.

    It is our own fixation on efforts to contain or defeat this threat in some certain location that makes such an announcement seem news worthy.

    We "defeat" AQ when we out-compete them for influence with the broad populace that forms their base of support; and when we facilitate the reasonable evolution of internal governance issues in so many states that lead to the growth of the insurgent conditions that AQ taps into; and when we similarly evolve Western interactions with those governments to a less meddling manner that is perceived as less disruptive of natural, accepted perceptions of legitimacy.

    We do not "defeat" AQ by killing one head guy; or by making any one particular location too dangerous to operate from.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    We "defeat" AQ when we out-compete them for influence with the broad populace that forms their base of support; and when we facilitate the reasonable evolution of internal governance issues in so many states that lead to the growth of the insurgent conditions that AQ taps into; and when we similarly evolve Western interactions with those governments to a less meddling manner that is perceived as less disruptive of natural, accepted perceptions of legitimacy.

    We do not "defeat" AQ by killing one head guy; or by making any one particular location too dangerous to operate from.
    AQ draws what support it has from "populaces" from widespread resentment toward foreign intervention in Muslim lands. Foreign attempts to gain influence with Muslim populace are as likely to exacerbate that resentment as to alleviate it, unless they are very subtle... and as said many times before, subtlety is not our strong point. Our attempts to gain influence will always be interpreted (reasonably) as attempts to advance our own interests, and are likely to generate resistance, not acceptance.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    We can defeat AQ by killing off its intellectual and idealist heads and should continue to do so, what we can't defeat is the idealism associated with Islamist radicalization. "We" will not defeat that by out competing the Islamists for influence, that competition must come from within Islam's ranks. We have every right to defend ourselves in the meantime, and we won't accomplish much in the way of disrupting planned attacks with development and information operations, that is a myth we have perpetuated and have spent billions on for all the wrong reasons.

    Will AQ move? First you have to define AQ, in case I assume you're talking about the leadership core, which has a long history of moving (Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan, back to Pakistan). What is important to note in my view is they never selected a failed state to establish their safe haven, because failed states will not provide any degree of safehaven. They sought some degree of protection from their host government (Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan). Yemen on the verge of being a failed state, Somalia is a failed state, so I'm not sure what options are available. Iran could provide some degree of safehaven, but then Iran would control their operations and basically assume control of their activities (I suspect), so that is probably low on the list.

    Pakistan may be tough, but it may also be their best bet, and indicate AQ as we knew it is about to go extinct, but that doesn't mean we will see the end of Islamist terrorism.

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    If they relocate to Yemen or Somali, its a significant victory, not a meaningless change of "nodes". There is no great threat from a group of aged teenage fantasists now and there was none in the past...what was a threat and may be a threat in the future is an area connected to a reasonably developed state (aka Pakistan) where fanatical Islamists can (and did) enjoy state support and patronage and both sides infiltrate and use each other (state and Islamist nutcases) with the potential to carry out major operations, with relatively sophisticated training and planning and logistical support (Mumbai), with the eventual possibility that the state may become one with the fantasists....if that threat is gone from pakistan, then its pretty much over....someday, a new threat like that may emerge in Egypt or Algeria or wherever, but not in Somalia or Yemen...they can have somalia or yemen and provide employment for special forces types and contractor types and mercenaries and would be members of the foreign legion and drone operators and whatnot. Not a serious threat to the US or to regional peace or to oil supplies or to anything of great importance.
    PS; need I say that this is a hypothetical post. I dont think the threat is gone from Pakistan...

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    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011...-qaida-leader/

    If confirmed, though, Atiyah’s icing deprives al-Qaida of a longtime trusted member at a time of serious organizational flux. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta boasted in July that the U.S. was merely 10 or 20 dead terrorists away from defeating al-Qaida — a claim that seemed overblown. But with Atiyah’s apparent death, not everyone’s so quick to dismiss Panetta.

    “With the death of Bin Laden, Kashmiri, and Atiyah in rapid succession,” McCants said, “al-Qaida Central is more vulnerable to collapse than at any point in its history.”
    I tend to agree with this, and when it happens (not if) DOD will be struggling to shift from a GWOT strategy to a more appropriate strategy for the 21st Century.

    As omarali50 stated above, if the AQ moves to Somalia or Yemen (both failed states at the moment) it will make it easier in some respects for us to kill them. Less complicated politically to kill them in a lawless area, but on the other hand our intelligence appears to be well developed in Pakistan. Regardless these guys shouldn't being sleeping well at night. Also interesting to note as David posted in the first post:

    Atiyah had told his boss that this U.S. "intelligence war," as bin Laden had called it, had made it nearly impossible for al-Qaeda to move, communicate, recruit or train in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
    The threat to AQ isn't U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan, but rather the precise and quiet intelligence war. No doubt that our presence in Afghanistan enables that intelligence war to some extent, but I'm currently under the belief that downsizing conventional combat forces in Afghanistan will have little impact on AQ one way or the other. It will be hard for them to claim a victory when they're closer and closer to irrelevant.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    I have to respectfully disagree with both Bill and Omarali50.

    AQ is an organization for its time, if not them, then some other organization would fill the same role. It exists because the conditions that give rise to it exist. This is not a call for nation building (that is no more directed at those root causes than CT is); but rather a need to recognize that it is government behavior, not AQ ideology, that has "radicalized" populaces to rally to Arab Spring events at home, or to travel to support AQ abroad.

    We cannot "fix" these governments; but it is governments, not populaces that require fixing. We can, however, control our own foreign policies and the nature of our relationships with these troubled regimes.

    Sure, when certain members cross that line, apply CT to them and it is not a waste of effort. Just don't fool yourself into thinking that you have "defeated" anything. Punished? Yes. Suppressed? Perhaps. Forced to relocate or change tactics? Very likely. Defeated? Not likely.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    The Red Army in Germany was defeated, the Red Brigades in Italy were defeated, and a host of other terrorist groups/organizations have been defeated without addressing fundamental changes in the government. Fringe groups rarely speak for the majority, and I don't think (but admit I don't know) that AQ speaks for the majority of Muslims. You can't fix government to make a radical fringe happy and expect the majority of the populace to support it.

    Admittedly AQ is bigger than than the communist terrorist groups were in Western Europe, but I don't think AQ originally formed from displeasure with the Saudi government, but rather in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (did read USSR), and I suspect they were in part funded by Saudi. I read their history multiple times, but my memory is failing me and I don't have the reference material with me at the moment.

    The Arab Spring very different from AQ's movement is very much about popular discontent with their governments. AQ as a group can be defeated (and I suspect they will), while the ideals of radical Islam cannot be defeated. What's next for SOCOM and the global plans after AQ is defeated? This is where we agree, a strategy and supporting plans that is based on a specific threat instead of national objectives will become useless after the threat is gone. The strategy and plans for the specific threat need to exist but they should be subordinate to a larger effort.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-31-2011 at 10:05 AM. Reason: Change USSR to Afghanistan

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    it is government behavior, not AQ ideology, that has "radicalized" populaces to rally to Arab Spring events at home, or to travel to support AQ abroad.
    I don't think anyone doubts that Arab Spring events are driven by resentment toward government. The contention that populaces "travel to support AQ abroad" remains unsupported by data, and needs to be. For one thing, where has a "populace" ever traveled to support AQ abroad?

    I've seen a number of interview-based studies of foreign fighter motivations, and none mention home-country governance as a significant motivator.

    We know that AQ has rallied support most effectively when they are fighting perceived foreign aggression in Muslim lands. If other motivations are claimed, the claim needs to be supported.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    The Red Brigade and RAF were both state-based groups that lacked the foundation of popular discontent (high level conditions of insurgency) in the respective populaces they emerged from with the governments they challenged to ever evolve into durable insurgency movements. Such organizations can indeed be "defeated."

    AQ is not state-based; and AQ does have populaces from multiple states where their are high-level conditions of insurgency (as recent Arab Spring events validate) for them to leverage in their UW efforts for their own agenda and goals. I am sure that most who go to join AQ share in much of the AQ vision, but also that most hold their own nationalist goals as their primary motivation for action.

    If the hub of AQ is crushed, a new hub will form as these insurgent populaces are still there, their issues of governance are still unaddressed, and "AQ Mark II" will most likely be a much more sophisticated operation than the current version we work so hard to "defeat." I suspect the next version will be more politically savvy and less likely to burn their post-conflict credibility through the types of terrorist activities that AQ has employed. They will learn and evolve, and they will be much more dangerous and more likely to achieve their stated goals for it.

    But we are no where near crushing AQ, only perhaps getting closer to getting them to shift operations from Pakistan. They have moved often, and have never drawn their primary support from the populaces of Afghanistan or Pakistan either one, but have only been a tenant there. Their primary base of support will always be in the Sunni populaces of the Middle East, and as their operations in South Asia prove, they can tap that support from afar.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Facts and speculation

    AQ has a history of relocation already and as an academic, Fawaz Gerges pointed out at an Oxford conference in 2010 when Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIG) decided to leave Eygpt IIRC only thirty did so, from thousands who were then active fighters. Hardly inspirational and EIG was the group formerly led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is now the head of AQ-Central.

    Personally I do not see AQ-Central moving from its current residency, Pakistan is simply too hospitable and history shows it can hurt AQ, but rarely does so. Nor are the likely alternatives that attractive. I do wonder if the cadres who were held in Iran for so long now regret leaving; note the absence of any comprehensive, public account of that time. Indeed time for the cadres to ask for hospitality again?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-31-2011 at 10:51 AM.
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