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Thread: Assessing Al-Qaeda (merged thread)

  1. #141
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default AQ's Centre of Gravity: A Discussion with NYPD Intel Chief

    Hat tip to ICSR for providing a link to the London book launch of 'The Al-Qaeda Factor: Plots Against the West' by Mitchell Silber, NYPD's Head of Intelligence Analysis:http://icsr.info/news/al-qaedas-cent...pd-intel-chief

    Silber analyses sixteen of the biggest jihadist plots against Western countries in order to determine the precise role, if any, played by the central al-Qaeda organisation.

    His findings include the following:

    Al-Qaeda Core’s actual role in plots against the West has been overstated, though their importance as an external inspiration endures.

    Much more of the “action of the conspiracies” has taken place in the West, by Westerners, independent of Al-Qaeda.

    Al-Qaeda has not actively recruited in the West; rather the plots are underpinned by a “bottom-up” process, driven by individuals in the West who radicalise and then take the initiative to go overseas for training or to get into the fight.

    Al-Qaeda has been opportunistic, taking advantage of the Westerners who have shown up on its doorstep to utilise them in plots against the West.

    Post Bin-Laden, given the combination of Westerners who continue to radicalise/mobilise plus the rise of other important nodes in al Qaeda’s worldwide network of allies and affiliates, the threat from al Qaeda type terrorism has not ended.
    On the link is a podcast and the PPT slides used. I've ordered the book and will add a review when read.

    Amazon has no reviews yet:http://www.amazon.com/Al-Qaeda-Facto...7947515&sr=1-1
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-30-2012 at 06:20 PM.
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  2. #142
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Al Qaeda’s Strategy Paper on Its War of Attrition

    A strange document seized by the Germans from an AQ courier and now in the public arena; hat tip to various sources.

    a strategy paper drafted by the al-Qa’ida leadership based in the Pakistani-Afghan border area suggests that a combination of smaller and larger attacks “will drive the enemy to despair.” Other documents describe the taking and subsequent killing of hostages, the use of toxic substances, and how to give cover to fighters smuggled in.

    Al-Qa’ida expects that growing fear among the general population and increasing reprisals on the part of the security authorities will marginalize Muslims. As a result of such escalation, Muslims will join the Holy War in ever larger numbers, security sources quote from the papers.
    Link, with no more citations alas from the paper:http://gunpowderandlead.wordpress.co...-of-attrition/

    The author's commentary (in part):
    ...this strategy paper shows that the group continues to depend on the West’s reactions to advance its objectives, demonstrated by its expectation that “increasing reprisals on the part of the security authorities will marginalize Muslims,” thus causing more Muslims to flock to al Qaeda’s jihad.
    Having listened recently to several Muslim community members they would echo the danger of reprisals. Their words were more direct:
    What pisses off a jihadi? Think about it.
    and:
    Add Do not provoke to Op Contest (the UK CT strategy).
    davidbfpo

  3. #143
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    Default Al Qaeda in its Third Decade

    Al Qaeda in its Third Decade

    Entry Excerpt:



    --------
    Read the full post and make any comments at the SWJ Blog.
    This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

  4. #144
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Assessing al-Qaeda’s in-theater capabilities

    An excellent analysis by Leah Farrell, from Australia, and in summary:
    Despite leadership losses, Al-Qaeda has exhibited significant consistency and continuity in its operational focus and planning and training activities, which are driven largely by institutional factors rather than by key individuals.

    Al-Qaeda can remain operationally active and viable so long as it can access and deploy a small number of recruits. It has demonstrated in recent years that, even with the loss of its senior leaders, this capacity continues.

    Prolonged operational impotence is the greatest threat to Al-Qaeda’s organizational unity and viability
    It ends with:
    The solution for Al-Qaeda central in maintaining its operational effectiveness and forward focus is likely to be much as it has always been: to continue efforts to successfully carry out mass impact attacks against Western targets, which are an assured means of raising
    its profile, attracting support, and quelling any internal dissent and rivalries within the organization.

    Thus, despite its current operational impotency, and its inability to carry out a successful external attack, Al-Qaeda’s focus on this approach is unlikely to change over the medium- and long-term, regardless of who assumes the leadership position. Rather, maintaining this focus will be crucial to ensuring organizational unity and longevity as it deals with more generational change. Such a focus would also help ameliorate any issues caused by parochial or local focuses becoming more prominent in Al-Qaeda’s public narrative.

    Absent of this success, Al-Qaeda’s longer-term future as a unified and functioning organization is questionable. Nevertheless, as a mode of action, the notion of Al-Qaeda will endure
    Link:http://allthingsct.files.wordpress.c...ticle-2012.pdf
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-02-2012 at 07:19 PM.
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  5. #145
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Al Qaeda’s Strategy Paper on Its War of Attrition: Part Two

    A fascinating analysis by Raffaello Pantucci of ICSR that refers to the documents seized in Germany from an AQ courier (See Post 23); the title is 'The British End of the German al Qaeda documents' and the focus is on the UK and terrorism. Security, strategy and much, much more to absorb.

    From the understanding I have, the papers are essentially a post-operation report on the July 7, July 21, and Overt bomb plots (Overt was the codename for the 2006 attempt by Abdulla Ali and a bunch of his mates to bring down about eight planes as they made there way to America) and German intelligence seems pretty convinced that this was written by Rashid Rauf, the infamous British-Pakistani terrorist operator. This is apparently based on the detailed knowledge of the British plots and some biographical details that are mentioned.
    Link:http://icsr.info/blog/The-British-En...aeda-documents

    A summary of the original documents, in English is on:http://abususu.blogspot.co.uk/2012/0...urface-in.html

    Having listened to the author at a conference I can commend his work

    Caveat:
    ..Die ZEIT is only published in German and the article is not online..
    There is another German journalist who has commented on his blog:http://ojihad.wordpress.com/2012/03/...red-in-berlin/
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 05-04-2012 at 10:45 PM. Reason: New update became next post
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  6. #146
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default AQ Papers found in porn file

    An updated CNN article on Rashid Rauf's role on Operation Overt, the planned airliners liquid bombs attack:http://edition.cnn.com/2012/04/30/wo...nts/?hpt=hp_t1

    Alongside a CNN piece on the German seizures :http://edition.cnn.com/video/?iid=ar...s-combined.cnn
    davidbfpo

  7. #147
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default AQ core: still has the ability to resurrect?

    Leah Farrell's comment:
    By my count AQ core has resurrected itself three times--each when it had less than 50 members.
    Nothing like an Australian to ask painful questions. For those not familiar with Leah's background:http://allthingscounterterrorism.com/about/

    On SWC we have looked a number of aspects about AQ, not its ability to resurrect itself.

    My first thoughts are: a) it is the resilience of the message, b) 'small is beautiful' easy to finance, organise etc and c) will it work minus OBL?
    davidbfpo

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    Default AQ Resurrection Likely

    Even providing for a total kill of Al Qaeda, the organization is likely to reestablish itself given just a few years time. This is primarily due to the first of three points David made above.

    Removing ourselves from a specific Islamic extremist group for a minute and taking a step back to look at the larger picture that is developing within the Muslim world, what we see is a religious revival, a reformation of what it means to be "Muslim". The change is not completely dissimilar to the protestant reformation in its scope or implication. A man wakes up in Cairo, he sees poverty all around him, he has a graduate degree but he drives a taxi, his political leaders are corrupt but there is naught to do about any of it. All of this is filtered through the stories he learned as a child of the Golden Age of Islam, the disparity is obvious.

    At this point the man could choose to go several different routes in finding a solution to his problem - but a not wholly illogical route would be to state to himself "all of these man-made institutions have failed, it is time to get back to God, because he is infallible". Indeed, such a sentiment is one often shared among Christian conservatives here in the US.

    While most on this path will seek to change their political situation through *relatively* peaceful means (Moorsi & Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) there are many who will see this revival as an opportunity to violently shrug off non-Islamic (Qutb's "jahili") rulers.

    AQ's stated purpose is to reestablish the former Islamic Caliphate, but this is only a best case scenario, the realization that this is unachievable is hardly enough to end their campaign. As long as there are rulers in Muslim countries who do not appear to live or govern by Islamic standards, the recruitment pool for AQ will always replenish itself, it will always be capable of funding itself, and now that OBL has set the example, it needs no other charismatic leader to keep it going.

  9. #149
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    The Bolsheviks were down to about four members in exile afaik, but one of the four was their leader, nobody attempted to assassinate them and they later got decisive foreign assistance.

    Today's AQ leaves on me the impression of being what its name says; a base. It may have some chieftains, and his certainly has enough indoctrinated supporters (just as the few dozen RAF terrorists had a supportive base of up to several thousand Germans) as well as some groups who think using the franchise is a good idea, but it appears to lack what makes a terror organisation so dangerous: The active, violent terrorists who are available for imagining, planning, preparing and executing terror attacks.

    This may be related to the built-in defect of AQ; almost 0% of their terrorists return from a mission.
    In the end, suicide attacks may have been too costly (and too much of a recruiting liability).

  10. #150
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    ianaj makes excellent points David, and to this specific line:

    My first thoughts are: a) it is the resilience of the message, b) 'small is beautiful' easy to finance, organise etc and c) will it work minus OBL?
    I'd like to offer that once we (or we/Israel) attack Iran, the message will become resurgent. Amid the disarray that comes from trying to resolve the Iran situation, we won't be able to focus quite as clearly on AQ for a brief spell. I may not look like the AQ of 9/11 vintage, and it make lack the charismatic leader it had in OBL, but it absolutely has the ability to rise from the ashes (if it is actually there now).

  11. #151
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    Posted by Davidbfpo

    On SWC we have looked a number of aspects about AQ, not its ability to resurrect itself.
    I disagree David, we have addressed this repeatedly directly and indirectly. A 50 man base is not a small base for a terrorist organization, especially one as creative and capable as AQ after a decade of co-evolving with the various counterterrorism tactics.

    jcustis makes an important point

    I'd like to offer that once we (or we/Israel) attack Iran, the message will become resurgent.
    It doesn't have to be Iran, it can be a Western intervention in any Muslim land. The West will come with the narrative of liberation and AQ and their ilk with come with the narrative the West is oppressing Muslims and that will capture the imaginations of many Muslims who will swell their ranks as cannon fodder. Among that cannon fodder a few will prove to be elite and become prominent leaders in the movement themselves (within or outside the AQ Core). As several have pointed out over the years in SWJ and beyond AQ is a starfish organization.

    In the longer run I think history will view AQ as the catalyst for the resurrgent Jihad, or in other words they restarted Jihad in the 21st Century using 21st Century technology to support their historical religious mandate (their narrative), and the Jihad evolved to the point where it can't be decisively defeated at this point. Pandora's box is open and we're not going to put the lid back on it by killing a few HVIs. If previous adminstrations acted decisively before 9/11 then maybe we could have delayed or prevented this global movement, but even that is questionable.

    What we can and should do IMO is relentlessly pursue AQ and their followers with intelligence, law enforcement and special operations. It will be long fight, and we need to pursue it in a way that is sustainable and stop pursuing the mythical center of gravities that we incorrectly identified as Afghanistan and Iraq. We have an unsustainable strategy that hinges on the success of nation building and social reform. While we have the best intentions, or actions are seen as offensive to cultures who really don't want to be like us, and thus our actions create anti-bodies that continue to generate more terrorists. This needs to be a shadwo war period. A war/police effort that is sustainable and limits the propaganda value we provide to AQ, since propanda is a key part of what sustains their effort.

    I would wager even if we killed the remaining 50 core members (imaginary number), the movement would be severely degraded, but it would still continue . So by all means we should kill the remaining 50, but not fall under the illusion we decisively defeated them. I think they were a base, but now they're an umbrella. Many other movements fall and will fall under their umbrella of ideology and methodology, and that will endure even if the base doesn't.

    We need to strap in for a long fight, and simultaneously prepare to deal with other problems related to national security. For a free country we're very reluctant to change course even when we know we're going down the wrong path. I think that is a curse of democracy, in the case of national security it doesn't allow flexibility because strategies come with strong political undercurrents and politicians don't want to admit they were wrong and risk not getting re-elected.

  12. #152
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Older threads? Which ones, please help

    Bill,

    Thanks for this. Posted by Davidbfpo:
    On SWC we have looked a number of aspects about AQ, not its ability to resurrect itself.
    Bill posted:
    I disagree David, we have addressed this repeatedly directly and indirectly. A 50 man base is not a small base for a terrorist organization, especially one as creative and capable as AQ after a decade of co-evolving with the various counterterrorism tactics.
    I looked around, in particular this arena and found nothing. Nor did my memory help. So if anyone can point to previous threads please help!

    OK there is 'Confronting al-Qaeda (Afghanistan to the global level)':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=9360 and maybe 'Why so few have joined al Qaeda's jihad':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=13957
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-30-2012 at 07:53 PM. Reason: Add links
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  13. #153
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    David,

    There are posts scattered throughout various forums, so this forum is worthwhile to focus the conversation, some examples of past discussions include:

    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...61&postcount=4 A single post on issue and finance.

    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...esurgent+Qaeda Hoffman vs. Sageman: Myth of Grassroots Terrorism

    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...feat+terrorism How Al-Queda may evolve, or end.

    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...light=starfish Groups: Bin Laden plans video on 9/11

    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ght=Qaeda+Core The Islamist Terrorist Threat to Europe after bin Laden’s Death
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-01-2012 at 05:16 PM. Reason: Titles of id'd threads added

  14. #154
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Oh no. What did you do? Why?

    Now he's going to bundle them all into one!

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    c) will it work minus OBL?
    I'd submit that a dead charismatic leader is probably the most effective kind: he can be infinitely romanticized without the risk that he'll say or do something inconsistent with the image.
    “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

  16. #156
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    I'd submit that a dead charismatic leader is probably the most effective kind
    Moses, Jesus, Martin L. King, Nathan Hale, Che comes to mind among others. Mythology is very powerful.

    Can't forget Eddie would go.

    Now he's going to bundle them all into one!
    David likes an orderly house, where I'm quite content with somewhat of a mess :-)
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 10-01-2012 at 02:54 AM.

  17. #157
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    AQ was never so much about the man or the ideology, but rather about "the cause."

    Little, other than the Arab Spring, has been designed to address the cause of AQ; or to help address the many diverse causes of the many diverse populaces that AQ is reliant upon to operationalize their vision or tactics. Instead we have worked in many ways to reinforce the causes and to validate the unifying message of AQ, while at the same time being overly focused on the group itself, and those groups that turn to them for support.

    While people are being biblical, 50 is plenty for a dead martyr; look what Jesus did with 12...
    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)

  18. #158
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Appraising AQ: The practitioner's perspective

    A lengthy review of two books by Raffaello Pantucci: 'Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al Qaeda since 9/11' by Seth Jones and 'The Al Qaeda Factor: Plots Against the West' by Mitchell D. Silber:http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts...rs_perspective

    A short review comment:
    Jones's Hunting in the Shadows could be described as an official history of sorts of al-Qaeda from the U.S. government perspective. This makes it a different beast to Silber's The Al Qaeda Factor, in which a much more coldly analytical process draws a clear conclusion about the ‘al Qaeda factor' in various terrorist plots.
    Longer excerpt:
    ..offer different insights into this question, while reaching largely similar conclusions about what al-Qaeda is and how it has targeted the West.

    Both of these books were published over a decade after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington bloodily thrust al-Qaeda into the public consciousness, meaning they are able to look back at a considerable amount of data. While Jones' is the more narratively satisfying book, telling a story of al Qaeda around the world, there are omissions in the text that reflect its heavy American focus. Silber's, on the other hand, is a case-by-case analysis that lacks a narrative storyline, but the accounts of the plots in question are drawn from primary sources that make them some of the most factually accurate versions yet told of the various plots, and bring new and interesting insights useful to analysts and researchers
    Link to Seth Jones's book:http://www.amazon.com/Hunting-Shadow...rds=seth+jones

    Link to Mitchell Silber's book: http://www.amazon.com/Al-Qaeda-Facto...itchell+silber
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-06-2012 at 03:39 PM.
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  19. #159
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    Default Al-Qaeda's Response to Arab Spring

    An article from an Arab paper, id'd via Twitter:http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/poli...ab-spring.html

    It opens with:
    The emergence of Ansar al-Sharia [Partisans of Islamic Law] in several Arab countries as democratic uprisings sweep across the Arab world represents a new phase of the Salafist-jihadist movement and its strategic goals.
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  20. #160
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    Default Are today’s AQ offshoots following Bin Laden’s vision?

    SWC member Clint Watts has a paper on FPRI:http://www.fpri.org/geopoliticus/201...-ladens-vision

    It opens with:
    The May 2011 raid killing Osama Bin Laden in his Abbottabad compound not only eliminated the world’s most notorious terrorist but also provided a unique glimpse into the strategic musings of al Qaeda’s leadership. The Abbottabad documents released in May 2012 reveal Bin Laden’s strategic recalibration as he witnessed the demise of his organization in Afghanistan and Pakistan while missing out on an Arab Spring that toppled many of the so-called “apostate dictators” he despised. All of the documents disclosed to the public reveal different aspects of al Qaeda's operations. However, two documents in particular shed light on Bin Laden's last thoughts on the future direction.
    OBL made several points on lessons learnt and future options, rightly Clint concludes:
    It is too early to assess whether Bin Laden's guidance is the basis for the disaggregated Salafi-Jihadi violence occurring around the world.
    davidbfpo

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