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Thread: Assessing Al-Qaeda (merged thread)

  1. #121
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    Default Crisis in Yemen, the Rise of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and U.S. National Sec

    Crisis in Yemen, the Rise of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and U.S. National Security

    Entry Excerpt:

    Crisis in Yemen, the Rise of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and U.S. National Security - Highlights from today's American Enterprise Institute event in Washington, D.C., can be found at the link. Participants included Christopher Boucek, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Edmund J. Hull, Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen; Katheline Zimmerman, AEI; and Frederick W. Kagan, AEI.

    Event summary follows: The United States must develop a comprehensive strategy toward Yemen beyond counterterrorism, panelists concluded Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute. Katherine Zimmerman, an analyst and the Gulf of Aden Team Lead for AEI's Critical Threats Project, outlined the six most likely and dangerous crisis scenarios in Yemen that could result from the current political stalemate, including the collapse of Yemen's economy or a mass-casualty attack on the United States by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.



    Frederick W. Kagan, the director of AEI's Critical Threats Project, argued that the United States, in addition to its regional and international partners, has a vested interest in preventing Yemen from complete state collapse. Christopher Boucek of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace pointed out that while current American strategy is focused almost exclusively on counterterrorism, the greatest threat facing Yemenis daily is the looming meltdown of their economy--not al Qaeda.



    Ambassador Edmund J. Hull described the challenges of on-the-ground implementation of a comprehensive strategy, given the limited ability of US officials to operate beyond the capital, San'a, due to security concerns. The panelists advocated drawing on the lessons from the American experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq to fine-tune an appropriate approach to Yemen that links development gains and security gains.





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  2. #122
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    Default Marc Sageman on the fuutreof Terrorism after bin Ladens death

    Marc Sageman was in Switzerland this week, where he held a lecture on the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. He also gave an Interview to the online magazine of the University. Keeping the danger of terrorism in perspective, he sees no danger that radical elements could seize power in the arab countries, especially Egypt. Equally, he judges the risk from radicalized groups or individuals for Western societies as negligible.

    For those who want to improve their German I link the article from the homepage of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology:

    http://www.ethlife.ethz.ch/archive_a...mann_sch/index

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  3. #123
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    Tangential -

    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/al-qae...ry?id=13704264

    The two-part, two hour video appeared on jihadi websites Friday with images of jihadi leaders as well as snapshots of alleged underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and accused Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan. Both Hasan and Abdulmutallab are charged with carrying out attacks inside the U.S.

    Called "Do Not Rely on Others, Take the Task Upon Yourself" and produced by al Qaeda's media arm, as Sahab, the tape mixes Gadahn's new message with clips from old videos of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and other al Qaeda leaders praising one-man attacks. They call on jihadis in the West to carry out lone wolf operations.
    He (Gadahn) urges Muslims to pursue attacks with whatever is available. "Let's take America as an example. America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center(1) and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle(2), without a background check(3), and most likely without having to show an identification card(4). So what are you waiting for?"
    Four fallacies in a row, no waiting, but you betcha this will fuel some Grade-A wailing and gnashing of teeth.
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  4. #124
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Al Qaeda's Toughest Task

    Elsewhere SWC are considering leadership, so it appropriate that someone raises this issue:
    Slain jihadi leaders like Ilyas Kashmiri and Osama bin Laden aren't so easily replaced....

    But does cutting the head off the snake really matter? Can't they just be replaced by the next militant waiting in the wings?
    One paragraph:
    New leaders tend to either be less strategically seasoned or prove unable to replicate the formula the old leader had. Al Qaeda in Iraq was never the same after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed, and Yemen's Aden-Abyan Islamic Army never really survived the death of its leader Abu al-Hassan, instead becoming subsumed by regional al Qaeda-linked cells. In both cases, the deaths of leaders with contacts and celebrity deprived the groups of their appeal. This means fewer recruits, less funding, and less capacity to launch audacious plots. Spectacular attacks like May 22's brazen assault on Karachi's naval base, which some have linked to Kashmiri, require great nerve and audacity to pull off, driven by an inspirational figure who can convince fighters to die for the cause.
    Link:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article..._task?page=0,0
    davidbfpo

  5. #125
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    Los Angeles – An eccentric California salvage diver was Sunday preparing a mission to the north Arabian Sea to recover Usama bin Laden's body as proof the al Qaeda leader really is dead the New York Post Reports.

    Bill Warren, 59, has vowed to scour the sea bed to find the corpse and deliver photographic evidence that the terror leader was killed, the New York Post reported.
    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/06/12...#ixzz1P52lH6MF
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  6. #126
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    An al-Qaida-linked website has posted a potential hit list of targets that include names and photos of several U.S. officials and business leaders, calling for terrorists to target these Americans in their own homes, NBC New York has learned.

    The FBI has sent out a new intelligence bulletin to law enforcement agencies, warning that this new web-based threat, while not a specific plot, is very detailed. The bulletin said the list includes leaders "in government, industry and media."

    The FBI has notified those individuals who are named.

    NBC New York will not identify them or their companies. The list includes Wall Street firms, political leaders, leaders with think tanks and contractors who do business with the military.

    The websites contain 40 specific names, 26 of them with photos attached, and they call for posting home addresses. One jihadist called for sending package bombs to any listed address as just one possibility.
    http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local...Americans.html
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  7. #127
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    A man carrying a suspicious package was detained in Arlington National Cemetery this morning after police searched his backpack and found the materials as well as pro-al Qaeda literature, officials told ABC News.

    Police believe he was carrying ammonium nitrate and spent ammunition for an automatic weapon. Ammonium nitrate has been used in terrorist bombs.

    According to law enforcement sources, the man is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Initially he was thought to be of Ethiopian ethnicity.
    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/suspi...ry?id=13865755

    WASHINGTON - Authorities are warning hotels in major US cities to be vigilant after intelligence recently obtained in Somalia shows al Qaeda was planning to launch a Mumbai-style attack on an upscale hotel in London, FOX News Channel reported late Thursday.
    http://www.myfoxny.com/dpp/news/hote...s-ncx-20110617
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  8. #128
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    Default Al-Qaida’s Business Savvy Sows Uncertain Future

    A good commentary, from a variety of opinions, although I've not watched the pod casts by an ex-AQ insider. The bureaucratic aspects I'd not seen before.

    Ends with:
    Whatever the future maybe, al-Qaida faces challenges beyond that of getting used to a new leader. Gerges said the group is also grappling with financial issues as well as the existential threat of the Arab Spring, the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

    Al-Qaida also faces the threat of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, seemingly rejuvenated by the death of bin Laden and the troves of secrets taken from his compound. Still, analyst Bruce Hoffman said al-Qaida's corporate structure will help keep the group in business.
    Link:http://www.voanews.com/english/news/...124280919.html
    davidbfpo

  9. #129
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    Default Why so few have joined al Qaeda's jihad

    Hat tip to FP Blog for 'Why Is It So Hard to Find a Suicide Bomber These Days?', which is sub-titled 'A decade after 9/11, the mystery is not why so many Muslims turn to terror - but why so few have joined al Qaeda's jihad'.

    Link:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article..._days?page=0,0

    The author starts looking at the case of Mohammed Taheri-Azar, who launched a vehicle attack on fellow students at the University of North Carolina in 2006.

    For several decades now, Islamist terrorists have called it a duty for Muslims to engage in armed jihad...Tens of thousands have obeyed, perhaps as many as 100,000 over the past quarter-century, according to the U.S. DHS...At the same time, more than a billion Muslims -- well over 99 percent -- ignored the call to action....by my calculations, global Islamist terrorists have managed to recruit fewer than 1 in 15,000 Muslims over the past quarter-century and fewer than 1 in 100,000 Muslims since 9/11. (Moving on)

    By the U.S. Justice Department's count, approximately a dozen people in the country were convicted in the five years after 9/11 for having links with al Qaeda. During this period, fewer than 40 Muslim Americans planned or carried out acts of domestic terrorism... None of these attacks was found to be associated with al Qaeda.

    (Final sentence) We may not be so lucky in the future. But even if they succeed in killing thousands of us, attacks like these do not threaten our way of life, unless we let them.
    I am sure we will see more such commentaries before the 9/11 anniversary. SWC has touched upon this issue before, although on a quick scan I failed to identify other thread(s). Often I cite Bob Jones reference to the difference between those who are angry and those who are motivated to take action.

    What FP Blog did not state is the author, Charles Kurzman, has written a book 'The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists' and was reviewed on:http://motherjones.com/mixed-media/2...zman-jihadists

    Amazon link, no reviews:http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no...orists&x=0&y=0
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-17-2011 at 01:00 PM. Reason: Add links
    davidbfpo

  10. #130
    Council Member Umar Al-Mokhtār's Avatar
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    Default Perhaps...

    the answer lies in that there just are not that many psychopaths per 100,000 people, regardless of theology or culture, and using coercion to engage in suicide bombing only goes so far.

    I also cannot fail to notice how the most strident calls for violent jihad come from those exhorting for others to do it.
    "What is best in life?" "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."

  11. #131
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    Default How big is al Qa'ida?

    Ten years ago, I remember sitting with some co-workers discussing how many people were in al Qa’ida. Recently, J.M. Berger from Intelwire initiated an interesting discussion on “What is al Qa’ida?” which tallied the votes of readers. The findings were quite interesting. Following up on “what is al Qa’ida?”, I ask “How many people are in al Qa’ida?” This question, unlike most of my past survey questions, should be ideally suited for crowdsourcing. Essentially, if enough people vote, we should, on average, be relatively close to the right answer- or at least that is what crowdsourcing advocates say.

    "How many people in the entire world are members of al Qa'ida?"
    So please cast your vote at this link:
    https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AlQaedastrength

    I think it will take less than 30 seconds to vote.
    Please enter one number and only one number!
    If you enter a range I can’t average the collective answers to come up with a single estimate.

    Use any definition of “al Qa’ida” you prefer and take a guess. I’ll post the results of the collective estimate in a few days. I also ask for your professional category so we can see how different groups see the size of al Qa’ida. Click on “Done” after the second question and your vote will be submitted.

    Thanks for your participation and I'll post the results here at SWJ!

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    Thanks to those that have already casted their vote. I'll leave the voting up for another 48 hours or so. For anyone remaining that would like to make your estimate on the size of AQ at this link:

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AlQaedastrength

    Thanks.

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    Default Results of "How big is al Qaeda?"

    Thanks to all those that voted on this post.
    For some reason this post got stuck in OIF section.
    So I just posted the results in the GWOT section.
    Here is the link to the results here.

  14. #134
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    Come on, while I am the first guy to stand up and say that the Intel community TOTALLY exaggerates AQ by conflating all manner of nationalist insurgents into their count, to ask people to just pull a number out of their 4th point of contact makes our intel guys look like rocket scientists.

    This poll is worse than being of no value. It is dangerous and irresponsible.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "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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    I thought the whole point of such polls was that large numbers of people randomly pulling numbers out of their ass DOES in fact outperform intel professionals to a disturbing degree....

  16. #136
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Stop looking for the next al-Qaida

    A review article by Jason Burke that starts with:
    We've made progress fighting 'blame al-Qaida syndrome', but the search for new threats creates another dangerous disorder......In the last week there have been two good examples of a very familiar malaise that periodically affects governments around the world. Let's call it "blame al-Qaida syndrome".
    Link:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...-next-al-qaida

    For an example of the 'blame' syndrome:
    "Operating largely from northern Mali, [al-Qaida in the Maghreb] presents an increased threat to our security," William Hague, the foreign secretary, recently told parliament.

    It's not often that someone based in northern Mali, one of the most remote, poorest and desolate parts of the world, is described as an increased threat to anyone, let alone the UK or Europe, and it is difficult to really see the al-Qaida in the Maghreb organisation as one that should particularly worry the British or other security authorities. It has 1,000 or so active members at most, limited resources and almost no reach into Europe beyond a few scattered sympathisers. Its operations have been largely local and, though some of their antecedent groups in the region launched attacks in Europe, it has yet to do so.
    Sounds like David Kilcullen's Accidental Guerilla needs updating IMHO. Who are our enemies?
    davidbfpo

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    Personally I found Jason Burke's article irresponable. I guess the same dismissal arguments could have been made about AQ in Sudan (or perhaps they were), that is until they bombed our Embassies in Keny and Tunsia killing and wounding hundreds. Does it really matter where AQ affiliates are located if their intent is to over throw the government and kill westerners? Should we simply allow them safe haven because they're in Mali? I think if Jason did his homework he would find that AQ in Mali did kidnap and kill some Westerners, to include at least one Brit because the Brits wouldn't release a senior AQ prisoner they were holding in the UK. I guess that doesn't necessarily qualify as a threat if you put Mali off limits to your people, though that would be a weak policy decision. AQ in Mali has been expanding their influence, so to assume that the problem will remain isolated to a small geographical in Mali seems absurd to me.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/dec...ne19-2009dec19

    The three suspects, who were charged in federal court in New York, are believed to be from Mali and were arrested in Ghana during a Drug Enforcement Administration sting. Although U.S. authorities have alleged that Al Qaeda and the Taliban profit from Afghanistan's heroin trade, the case is the first in which suspects linked to Al Qaeda have been charged under severe narco-terrorism laws, federal officials said.
    Al Qaeda in the Maghreb -- a North African ally of Osama bin Laden's organization -- has muscled into the lucrative cocaine smuggling routes of the Sahara, according to Western and African officials. It existed for two decades under other names before declaring allegiance to Bin Laden in 2006.

    Al Qaeda in the Maghreb finances itself partly by protecting and moving loads along smuggling corridors that run through Morocco into Spain and through Libya and Algeria into Italy, according to the complaint and Western investigators.
    http://www.temoust.org/associates-of...da-group,12920

    The stakes are high because of the potential for al Qaeda in the Magreb to use the cash and firepower of the cocaine trade in its war on the West. A grim harbinger cited by anti-terror investigators: the al Qaeda-connected cell of North Africans who carried out the Madrid train bombings that killed 190 people in 2004 financed the attack by dealing hashish and ecstasy.

    Moreover, conversations among undercover informants and suspects suggest that the lawless region around the Gulf of Guinea is a crucible for alliances among groups united by hatred of the United States: Al Qaeda, Mexican gangsters, Colombian guerrillas and Lebanese militant groups.

    "For the first time in that part of the world, these guys are operating in the same environment in the same place at the same time," said Michael Braun, a former chief of DEA operations. "They are doing business and cutting deals. What’s most troubling about this is the personal relationships that these guys are making today, between drug organizations and terror organizations, will become operational alliances in the future."
    Doesn't take too much imagination to understand the implications of the following, and the 9/11 commission said our gravest shortcoming was a lack of imagination prior to 9/11.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/...60C3E820100113

    The document warned that a growing fleet of rogue jet aircraft was regularly crisscrossing the Atlantic Ocean. On one end of the air route, it said, are cocaine-producing areas in the Andes controlled by the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. On the other are some of West Africa's most unstable countries.
    The clandestine fleet has grown to include twin-engine turboprops, executive jets and retired Boeing 727s that are flying multi-ton loads of cocaine and possibly weapons to an area in Africa where factions of al Qaeda are believed to be facilitating the smuggling of drugs to Europe, the officials say.
    To put it bluntly Jason needs to do a lot more research before he publishes another article like the one we're commenting on.

  18. #138
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Our focus for AQ must be independent of any physical location it may happen to manifest in at any given time. Sanctuary comes primarily from their status and the support of populaces dissatisfied with their own governance at home, who are also Sunni Muslim and happy to place some blame for their circumstance upon the US. It does not come from the dirt they stand upon, and US efforts aimed at the denial of that dirt are unlikely to achieve the true ends we seek.

    For the US to swoop into such locations and reinforce the security apparatus of that troubled regime, and to concurrently conduct excessive unilateral actions against a target list which inartfully conflates nationalist insurgents in with the actual transnational terrorists we seek, is a disastrous policy.

    Ultimately AQ must physically be someplace. Those places are not important because AQ is there. If those places are important it is because they were important BEFORE AQ was there. This is an importance based upon traditional assessments of the confluence of vital national interests and geostrategic importance. Even if a place is deemed important on both counts, AQ very likely poses little risk to either one by their presence. Key point is to maintain our perspective and not over-react.

    Now is the time to move Black Operations back out of the limelight and into the shadows. Concurrently we must put a much finer point on our intelligence work. There are a handful of individuals who form critical nodes to AQ's network of operations. We must focus on these wherever they might be, and deal with them silently and decisively. If we would assassinate a man in his tent in Mali we should be equally prepared to dispatch that same man on the streets of London or New York. Our discrimination and concern for collateral effects should be equal as well. (Not likely to see a US Reaper fire a missile into a window of the Savoy any time soon...)

    Do the governments and populaces of the Maghreb have problems? Certainly. Should Western countries help in appropriate ways both the populaces and governments of that region? No problem. But to do so in the context of defeating AQ? There is little chance that is apt to turn out well.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 12-27-2011 at 02:26 PM.
    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)

  19. #139
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    Bob,

    I definitely agree that a combination of clandestine and covert ops are the preferred unilateral (or even multinational) approach to dealing with AQ in Mali and other places where this cancer exists. We definitely shouldn't over react, but on the other hand we still need to act. If you look at our engagement history prior to 9/11, we did engage with Mali along with other nations in ECOWAS/ECOMIL to help promote regional security, so engaging Mali is nothing new.

    I'm not sure about the origins of the troubles in Mali, but I don't suspect poor governance has much to do with AQ creating a safehaven in northern Mali. I suspect it has more to do with people's religious beliefs, and since Islam is a religion that believes in prophetizing by the sword, any government that doesn't practice Shari'a law (as interpreted by AQ) is seen as illegimate. That hardly means the majority of the population feels that way, but you can always found the outliers in any society to leverage as surrogates. We definitely have our share of people engaged in various cults.

    The fact that associates of AQ are flying aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean in my view is cause for concern. Aircraft that can be flown into commercial aircraft, ships, and buildings. Aircraft that can be loaded with any type of material. Of course that isn't the purpose of the a/c now, they're just being used to smuggle drugs and potentially other illicit materials and people, but in the hands of an extremist it is a different animal altogether. This gets back to the argument of pre-emptive actions for a potential threat, which admittedly is a sensitive area. However, if it has AQ stink on it we should do something about it.

  20. #140
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    Default Al Qaeda on the Ropes: One Fighter's Inside Story

    A Newsweek article, that appeared on The Daily Beast, which opens with a sub-title:
    A young jihadist returns to his former unit on the Afghan border and finds only the desperate remnants of bin Laden’s once-dreaded organization.
    Deep among North Waziristan’s mountains, far from any village, Hafiz Hanif finally tracked down the remnants of his old al Qaeda cell last summer. The 17-year-old Afghan had wondered why he hadn’t heard from his former comrades in arms. They didn’t even answer his text messages in May, after the death of the man they all called simply the Sheik: Osama bin Laden. Now Hanif saw why. Only four of the cell’s 15 fighters were left, huddled in a two-room mud-brick house, with little or no money or food. Except for their familiar but haggard faces, they looked nothing like the al Qaeda he once trained with and fought beside. They welcomed him warmly but didn’t encourage him to stay. They said the cell’s commander, a Kuwaiti named Sheik Attiya Ayatullah, had gone into hiding. The others had either run off or died. “Why should we call you back just to get killed in a drone attack?” Hanif’s friends explained.
    Link:http://www.thedailybeast.com/newswee...ide-story.html

    Worth reading. Some may find it chimes with the stated impact of the drone attacks, the ambivalent stance of the Pakistani Army and more.
    davidbfpo

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