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Thread: Background on AQIM: a growing threat?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Background on AQIM: a growing threat?

    Moderator's Note

    This thread was entitled 'In Timbuktu, al-Qaida left behind a manifesto' and was merged today with a single post thread 'AQ centre's final letter to their most difficult employee'. The thread has been renamed 'Background on AQIM: a growing threat?'.

    There are several closely related threads, in the Africa section, which provide far more background, notably 'Ripples from Mali: events plus outside Mali' and 'Mali mainly...', neither of which qualify for merging here today.(Ends).

    Thanks to AP an amazing discovery in Mali, that sits better as a source document for AQ globally, hence here!

    It starts with:
    In their hurry to flee last month, al-Qaida fighters left behind a crucial document: Tucked under a pile of papers and trash is a confidential letter, spelling out the terror network's strategy for conquering northern Mali and reflecting internal discord over how to rule the region.

    The document is an unprecedented window into the terrorist operation, indicating that al-Qaida predicted the military intervention that would dislodge it in January and recognized its own vulnerability.
    I know there is a thread on AQ's management structure mimicking modern, commercial management, so this fits in:
    The clear-headed, point-by-point assessment resembles a memo from a CEO to his top managers and lays out for his jihadists in Mali what they have done wrong in months past, and what they need to do to correct their behavior in the future.
    Puzzling to note the emphasis on slowing down implementation of Sharia rule, which whilst acknowledged as needed was not followed.

    Read all the AP article:http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/con...tguid=A1KPEpDa

    There is a much shorter article:http://english.alarabiya.net/article...14/266280.html

    Further context is given by FP, which cites other documents, in an article 'Inside the Islamic Emirate of Timbuktu: An exclusive trove of al Qaeda documents found in this fabled city shows a theocracy in the making in Mali':http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...mali?page=full
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-10-2013 at 03:11 PM. Reason: Add mod's note
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    Al Qaeda in Mali sought to hide foreign designs

    http://www.longwarjournal.org/archiv...ite-Wide%29%29

    "As for foreign policies, you must adopt mature and moderate rhetoric that reassures and calms," he writes. "To do so, you must avoid any statements that are provocative to neighboring countries and avoid repeated threats. Better for you to be silent and pretend to be a 'domestic' movement that has its own causes and concerns. There is no call for you to show that we have an expansionary, jihadi, Qaeda or any other sort of project."

    Droukdel then notes the importance of keeping Mali under al Qaeda's sphere of influence in order to keep it as a "refuge" and a base for operations.

    "Gaining a region under our control and a people fighting for us and a refuge for our members that allows us to move forward with our program at this stage is no small thing and nothing to be underestimated," he notes. "The enemy's constant, persistent effort now is to not leave any safe havens for the Mujahedeen. So take that into account."

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Foreign Affairs on Mali and Niger, worth a Look...

    http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articl...niger_4-021313

    After Mali Comes Niger
    West Africa's Problems Migrate East

    Last month, the French army's rapid advance into northern Mali and the timely deployment of troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) seemed to result in a swift victory over Islamist and Tuareg militants there. Equally important, however, was the Islamist and Tuareg militants' hasty withdrawal into northeastern Mali. With France planning to pull its troops out of the country as soon as March, Mali will almost certainly be turned into an ECOWAS trusteeship. The most likely upshot is not a neat end to the conflict but, rather, a migration of the problem into neighboring Niger...
    “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”

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Al Qaeda in Mali sought to hide foreign designs

    http://www.longwarjournal.org/archiv...ite-Wide%29%29
    This sounds an awful lot like a forged document.
    Right now I cannot remember another war-related document capture confirming suspicions so nicely, being such a perfect vindication of fears.

    The papers captured in the Mechelen incident are the closest historical example I can recall.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    This sounds an awful lot like a forged document.
    Right now I cannot remember another war-related document capture confirming suspicions so nicely, being such a perfect vindication of fears.

    The papers captured in the Mechelen incident are the closest historical example I can recall.
    Those are my feelings exactly, it appears to be generated to champion the current strategy. The question is who generated it? France or the U.S.? Definitely doesn't read like the other translated Islamist Manifestos I read. I think this so poorly conceived that it doesn't come across as feasible. If it is legitimate I would be surprised and wonder if this is the view of one Jihadist who can't think strategically or the movement as a whole?

    Previous manifestos emphasizing waving the black flag in various countries to draw the West in intentionally with the stated intent of bankrupting us. That is a true asymmetric strategy. Unless there has been a considerable change in their approach, I suspect their intent was to draw the West in. There are different levels of drawing in, if the French keep their intervention short and then the West conducts small scale low visibility special operations it will be affordable and ultimately result in their defeat. If we attempt another major stability operation we'll be playing into their game.

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    This comes just after Canada expressed their fear of a "new Iraq or Afghanistan" in Mali to justify not sending troops.
    IMHO this (the document + Canada position + that particular discussion) translate the feeling some political deciders may have: after 2 invasions that turned to be half victories at best they are very much affraid to engage their troops in an another military adventure. In that perspective, AQ reached one of its objectives: terrorise governments.

    On the other hand, what Bob is saying makes a lot of sens:
    There are different levels of drawing in, if the French keep their intervention short and then the West conducts small scale low visibility special operations it will be affordable and ultimately result in their defeat. If we attempt another major stability operation we'll be playing into their game.
    But I believe many in the field and at the flag level are aware of that choice.

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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    By all means, let's adopt the George Armstrong Custer Strategy:

    1. Disregard available intelligence.
    2. Disparage the opponents capabilities.
    3. Adopt a tactically (and in this case, strategically) inferior position.
    4. Victory!

    Look how well it worked for him!

    Because, it could be a fraud. There's no evidence whatsoever that it is, but we all know how clever those intelligence agencies are at making completely undetectably fraudulent documents that read exactly as though they were written by the people they want us to think wrote them. They're even so devilishly clever they have the documents written saying exactly the same things as the purported authors would say!

    Probably the same group that Bush, Chaney and Haliburton used to plan 09/11.

    </sarc>
    Last edited by J Wolfsberger; 02-15-2013 at 01:50 PM.
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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Default On a serious note ...

    Somebody has learned. A lot. I recall discussion of this from the early 2000s - as this conflict progressed, the stupid would get weeded out and Al Qaeda would become more effective, and more dangerous. These fragments indicate that at least one person in their senior leadership has gained some knowledge about effective social change.
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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Those are my feelings exactly, it appears to be generated to champion the current strategy. The question is who generated it? France or the U.S.?
    (...)
    That is a true asymmetric strategy. Unless there has been a considerable change in their approach, I suspect their intent was to draw the West in. (...) If we attempt another major stability operation we'll be playing into their game.
    Forged by US, forged by France, forged by AP, or maybe even forged by AQIM itself to achieve exactly what you wrote last.

    Anyway, I've rarely had had such a strange feeling about news. It's fitting too nicely to a simple narrative. Reality rarely does this.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Shiraz Maher, ICSR @ Kings College London, has written a short 'Insight' commentary:http://icsr.info/2013/02/icsr-insigh...from-mistakes/

    It ends with:
    This document offers one insight from a primary source document of just how al-Qaeda is reconsidering its strategic approach.
    The main points start with:
    This ICSR Insight summarises key themes, revealing how al-Qaeda is learning from its previous failures, becoming more aware of the need to engage and capture public opinion in the territories it controls, and maturing in tactical awareness.

    One of the most notable features of al-Qaeda’s internal communications which discuss how the movement should best exploit the political turmoil arising from the Arab uprisings is its implicit recognition of past failures.

    In what seems like a clear reference to al-Qaeda’s failure in Iraq, the document argues that the greatest errors happen where the group is overstretched, alienates public opinion, and squanders opportunities to establish safe havens.

    To consolidate al-Qaeda’s position in northern Mali, Droukdel advises his fighters to engage other Islamists. This is, again, an important departure from established al-Qaeda strategy which has traditionally been hostile to other groups — viewing them with suspicion.....Finally, Droukdel is acutely aware of the need to manage perceptions of al-Qaeda’s ambitions among both policy makers in the West, and local Muslims. He advises fighters to adopt a more temperate tone and to avoid making unnecessary statements which inflame public opinion.
    davidbfpo

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    This is, again, an important departure from established al-Qaeda strategy which has traditionally been hostile to other groups — viewing them with suspicion.....
    The record doesn't support this claim. They have a long track record of co-opting other groups. Much like any coalition to include ours their are disagreements in the ranks and fissures that can and should be exploited.

    In what seems like a clear reference to al-Qaeda’s failure in Iraq, the document argues that the greatest errors happen where the group is overstretched, alienates public opinion, and squanders opportunities to establish safe havens.
    AQ Senior Leadership frequently criticized AQI leadership for excesses, so this isn't a good example of AQ core strategy, and furthermore it appears AQI is now making a come back and extending their reach into Syria.

    Posed by Fuchs

    Forged by US, forged by France, forged by AP, or maybe even forged by AQIM itself to achieve exactly what you wrote last.
    It is a narrative many of CT policy folks believe in, and I can't help but think this appears to be crafted to justify their expensive CT strategy. Denying safe havens with occupation forces is not sustainable and all too often results in our actions defeating ourselves.

    The tactical fight is important, preventing terrorist attacks is important, but most of our CT strategists seem to confuse the tactical with the strategic. In no way am I implying we should reduce pressure on their foot soldiers and leaders. However, from a strategic view it seems that the only feasible way for AQ and their ilk to achieve their aims is if we enable them by defeating ourselves by over extending ourselves financially. Strategies, campaigns, etc. must be sustainable to be feasible. If what appears to be the perfect strategy isn't sustainable, then it isn't the perfect strategy.

    Intelligence, special operations, law enforcement operations for the most part seem to be appropriate and sustainable responses to this type of threat (this includes substantial psychological warfare to hasten their defeat, because ultimately AQ seem to defeat themselves over time whenever they gain a foothold, and regardless of whether they're a learning organization or not, it is likely they'll continue to do so based on their deeply flawed and unappealing ideology). When needed for specific cases we can surge in paratroopers or Marines for a short duration operations to reduce their paramilitary threat.

    It is too late in Afghanistan to change course substantially. We need to finish what we started (with more modest aims, but we can't afford to bail), but in the future I hope we don't default to long term stability operations with a large footprint on the ground with the ever elusive goal of denying safe haven. Never say never, as there may be rare exceptions where that is the best course of action, but it shouldn't be the default option.

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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    ... but in the future I hope we don't default to long term stability operations with a large footprint on the ground with the ever elusive goal of denying safe haven. Never say never, as there may be rare exceptions where that is the best course of action, but it shouldn't be the default option.
    I agree with that.

    Building on it, shouldn't we simply let them have their safe haven and establish a harsh cordon sanitaire around it? I don't think it would take much in the way of manpower, and could be enforced with drone strikes. Let them have their 6th century sharia derived utopia, as long as they don't bother the rest of us.
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    Safe havens are also known as free fire zones.

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
    I agree with that.

    Building on it, shouldn't we simply let them have their safe haven and establish a harsh cordon sanitaire around it? I don't think it would take much in the way of manpower, and could be enforced with drone strikes. Let them have their 6th century sharia derived utopia, as long as they don't bother the rest of us.

    Cordon sanitaire enforced by drone strikes?!? Seriously?


    Not far south of Malia and Niger is ended the expansion of Muslim faith. That is containing.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Not far south of Malia and Niger is ended the expansion of Muslim faith. That is containing.
    The concern may be less with containing the spread of an Islamist empire than with containing individuals or small groups who may leave the area with the intent and capacity to make messes elsewhere.
    “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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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    The concern may be less with containing the spread of an Islamist empire than with containing individuals or small groups who may leave the area with the intent and capacity to make messes elsewhere.

    The difference doesn't matter, for drones are no answer to either scenario. There's too much faith being put into technology and stand-off solutions.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    The difference doesn't matter, for drones are no answer to either scenario. There's too much faith being put into technology and stand-off solutions.
    Drones may not be "an answer" to the problem of a potential Islamist state exporting jihadis, but they can certainly disrupt and degrade efforts to train and deploy them. I don't know that there is "an answer" in any simple and convincing sense, but it is at least worth considering the possibility that in some circumstances simply letting the jihadis have their state and trying to contain the consequences might be a better answer than trying to preserve a non-jihadi state through perpetual occupation. Whether or not that is the case in any given situation would require analysis specific to that situation, but it's not a possibility that should be excluded from the start, IMO.
    “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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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Drones may not be "an answer" to the problem of a potential Islamist state exporting jihadis, but they can certainly disrupt and degrade efforts to train and deploy them. I don't know that there is "an answer" in any simple and convincing sense, but it is at least worth considering the possibility that in some circumstances simply letting the jihadis have their state and trying to contain the consequences might be a better answer than trying to preserve a non-jihadi state through perpetual occupation. Whether or not that is the case in any given situation would require analysis specific to that situation, but it's not a possibility that should be excluded from the start, IMO.
    Agree that disrupting Islamist intentions with drones is a viable "tactic," but it won't result in a strategic victory. If they had their own state then they would have something to lose, at least in theory, and then they may be able to be deterred. Of course that didn't work so well in Afghanistan. Like you said no easy answers. In the meantime finding ways to kill them in a sustainable manner seems to be the best course of action.

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    Default Context and Conflict Documents

    A commentary by Andrew Lebovich on the documents found, giving some context and a caveat:
    Still, while these documents raise some fascinating subjects and questions, they provide only snapshots in a complicated tableau.

    (Later)...Additionally, the documents present more anecdotal evidence that previous conceptions of AQIM may be incorrect, or at least severely deficient.
    Link:http://thewasat.wordpress.com/2013/0...ict-documents/

    He also refers an:
    ...her excellent book Smugglers and Saints of the Sahara, (by) the British social anthropologist Judith Scheele discusses the conception that many Algerian traders and their families held — and still hold — about northern Mali as a kind of wilderness that corrupted men and ruined families...
    This was published in April 2012, but has no review on Amazon.com:http://www.amazon.com/Smugglers-Sain...+of+the+Sahara

    Ah, there is one five* on:http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/1107022126
    davidbfpo

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    Default More to come?

    Now this is, well, curious; in a tweet by Andrew Lebovich:
    RFI got the whole document published in part earlier by AP
    The linked story expands a little, so hopefully the full document will appear one day:http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20130224-m...ent-tombouctou
    davidbfpo

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