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Thread: Rethinking Which Terror Groups to Fear

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    Default Rethinking Which Terror Groups to Fear

    NY Times

    By SCOTT SHANE

    WASHINGTON — Eight years after 9/11, the specter of terrorism still haunts the United States. Just last week, F.B.I. agents were working double time to unravel the alarming case of a Denver airport shuttle driver accused of training with explosives in Pakistan and buying bomb-making chemicals. In Dallas, a young Jordanian was charged with trying to blow up a skyscraper; in Springfield, Ill., a prison parolee was arrested for trying to attack the local federal building. Meanwhile, the Obama administration struggled to decide whether sending many more troops to Afghanistan would be the best way to forestall a future attack.

    But important as they were, those news reports masked a surprising and perhaps heartening long-term trend: Many students of terrorism believe that in important ways, Al Qaeda and its ideology of global jihad are in a pronounced decline — with its central leadership thrown off balance as operatives are increasingly picked off by missiles and manhunts and, more important, with its tactics discredited in public opinion across the Muslim world.

    “Al Qaeda is losing its moral argument about the killing of innocent civilians,” said Emile A. Nakhleh, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency’s strategic analysis program on political Islam until 2006. “They’re finding it harder to recruit. They’re finding it harder to raise money.”
    (Snip)

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    I wonder if those plots would have succeeded, were it not for us denying al-Qaeda a safe-haven in Afghanistan.

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    Default The war (GWOT) is over? No.

    Sitting inside The Beltway and probably Whitehall such assessments and "spin" may persaude a few. They are horribly IMHO optimistic and rely too much on "good news" only.

    AQ has a powerful narrative that appeals to a minority of Muslims - so much that they are willing to volunteer, die, give support etc. That same narrative and Western policies, let alone actions, can impact on Muslims who would prefer a less active role. Has the narrative been undermined by suicide attacks? Yes - as clearly shown in Jordan, after the hotel attacks and no - as some feel it is the weapon of the weak.

    If you approach AQ as being a standard bearer or a media outlet, rather than an established military force or a terrorist mastermind and controller - it can look very different.

    Then add in the 'Accidental Guerilla' factor and you still have a threat, they have the intention, maybe not always the capability, but they continue to strive to succeed.

    Can AQ still get money and recruits? Yes. Are they all in the FATA and other delightful places? No, as the original post showed some are in the "backyard" and can appear in un-expected places, numerous examples exist. Was AQ ever a corporation that needed lots of money to exist? No, I've seen open source estimates from US$30m to US$120m per annum.

    What is IMHO more interesting are questions like: what happened to all the veterans of Afghanistan (Soviet era) and other conflicts? Figures in the tens of thousands were bandied about, for example those who fought in Bosnia. Where have they gone? Yes, older now, maybe dead and a host of reasons. Their decisions to exit the active or supportive role(s) need explanation. Was it a moral choice?

    Why have analysts started to see this decline in AQ? I have read very little of substance, anyone here know of references to learned articles etc? Yes, I will accept those from within The Beltway and Whitehall.

    davidbfpo
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-28-2009 at 11:03 AM.

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Decline in AQ

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Why have analysts started to see this decline in AQ? I have read very little of substance, anyone here know of references to learned articles etc?
    David,

    I've read a couple of explanations, but I'll need some time to find the articles. Here's what I recall.

    1. Funding. Money to AQ is drying up as many Saudi "charity" organizations are being hurt by the Global Recession. Moreover, investors are looking for terrorist groups with better Return on Investment (ROI) since AQ failed so miserably in Iraq.

    2. Popular Support. As I stated in several other posts, Zarqawi's attacking and killing Muslims did not sit well in the Arab world. AQ is scrambling to try and recover their image.

    v/r

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Why have analysts started to see this decline in AQ? I have read very little of substance, anyone here know of references to learned articles etc? Yes, I will accept those from within The Beltway and Whitehall.
    David,

    I suspect it's solely because they want there to be decline in AQ. If that is the case, AQ and the entire effort against worldwide, open source, radical Islamist terrorist activities can be marginalized and relegated to a law enforcement program, whch is where they've wanted it all along.
    John Wolfsberger, Jr.

    An unruffled person with some useful skills.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Sitting inside The Beltway and probably Whitehall such assessments and "spin" may persaude a few. They are horribly IMHO optimistic and rely too much on "good news" only.
    Then they must not read too much, as from what I've seen the "good news" stories are few and far between, compared with the doom and gloom stories.

    AQ has a powerful narrative that appeals to a minority of Muslims - so much that they are willing to volunteer, die, give support etc. That same narrative and Western policies, let alone actions, can impact on Muslims who would prefer a less active role. Has the narrative been undermined by suicide attacks? Yes - as clearly shown in Jordan, after the hotel attacks and no - as some feel it is the weapon of the weak.
    Something I've noticed since 9-11-01 (when I really started looking at this subject), AQ and othe Salafist groups get a lot of support when they are...over there (somewhere else, killing someone else), but it's a whole different story when they are here (where ever here happens to be).

    An interesting article I read a couple of years ago
    The Radical Loser

    (Snip)The radical loser has not disappeared either. He is still among us. This is inevitable. On every continent, there are leaders who welcome him with open arms. Except that today, they are very rarely associated with the state. In this field too, privatization has made considerable advances. Although it is governments which have at their disposal the greatest potential for extermination, state crime in the conventional sense is now on the defensive worldwide.

    To date, few loser-collectives have operated on a global scale, even if they were able to count on international flows of cash and weapon supplies. But the world is teeming with local groupings whose leaders are referred to as warlords or guerrilla chiefs. Their self-appointed militias and paramilitary gangs like to adorn themselves with the title of a liberation organization or other revolutionary attributes. In some media, they are referred to as rebels, a euphemism that probably flatters them. Shining Path, MLC, RCD, SPLA, ELA, LTTE, LRA, FNL, IRA, LIT, KACH, DHKP, FSLN, UVF, JKLF, ELN, FARC, PLF, GSPC, MILF, NPA, PKK, MODEL, JI, NPA, AUC, CPNML, UDA, GIA, RUF, LVF, SNM, ETA, NLA, PFLP, SPM, LET, ONLF, SSDF, PIJ, JEM, SLA, ANO, SPLMA, RAF, AUM, PGA, ADF, IBDA, ULFA, PLFM, ULFBV, ISYF, LURD, KLO, UPDS, NLFT, ATTF ...

    "Left" or "Right", it makes no odds. Each of these armed rabbles calls itself an army, boasts of brigades and commandos, self-importantly issuing bureaucratic communiqués and boastful claims of responsibility, acting as if they were the representatives of "the masses". Being convinced, as radical losers, of the worthlessness of their own lives, they do not care about the lives of anyone else either; any concern for survival is foreign to them. And this applies equally to their opponents, to their own followers, and to those with no involvement whatsoever. They have a penchant for kidnapping and murdering people who are trying to relieve the misery of the region they are terrorizing, shooting aid workers and doctors and burning down every last hospital in the area with a bed or a scalpel – for they have trouble distinguishing between mutilation and self-mutilation.

    (snip)

    There is also no mistaking other similarities, such as the fixation with written authorities. The place of Marx and Lenin is taken by the Koran, references are made not to Gramsci but to Sayyid Qutb. Instead of the international proletariat, it takes as its revolutionary subject the Umma, and as its avant-garde and self-appointed representative of the masses it takes not The Party but the widely branching conspiratorial network of Islamist fighters. Although the movement can draw on older rhetorical forms which to outsiders may sound high-flown or big-mouthed, it owes many of its idées fixes to its Communist enemy: history obeys rigid laws, victory is inevitable, deviationists and traitors are to be exposed and then, in fine Leninist tradition, bombarded with ritual insults.

    The movement's list of favourite foes is also short on surprises: America, the decadent West, international capital, Zionism. The list is completed by the unbelievers, that is to say the remaining 5.2 billion people on the planet. Not forgetting apostate Muslims who may be found among the Shiites, Ibadhis, Alawites, Zaidites, Ahmadiyyas, Wahhabis, Druze, Sufis, Kharijites, Ishmaelites or other religious communities.

    (snip)

    Contrary to what the West appears to believe, the destructive energy of Islamist actions is directed mainly against Muslims. This is not a tactical error, not a case of "collateral damage". In Algeria alone, Islamist terror has cost the lives of at least 50,000 fellow Algerians. Other sources speak of as many as 150,000 murders, although the military and the secret services were also involved. In Iraq and Afghanistan, too, the number of Muslim victims far outstrips the death toll among foreigners. Furthermore, terrorism has been highly detrimental not only to the image of Islam but also to the living conditions of Muslims around the world.

    The Islamists are as unconcerned about this as the Nazis were about the downfall of Germany. As the avant-garde of death, they have no regard for the lives of their fellow believers. In the eyes of the Islamists, the fact that most Muslims have no desire to blow themselves and others sky high only goes to show that they deserve no better than to be liquidated themselves. After all, the aim of the radical loser is to make as many other people into losers as possible. As the Islamists see it, the fact that they are in the minority can only be because they are the chosen few.
    (Snip)

    What is IMHO more interesting are questions like: what happened to all the veterans of Afghanistan (Soviet era) and other conflicts? Figures in the tens of thousands were bandied about, for example those who fought in Bosnia. Where have they gone? Yes, older now, maybe dead and a host of reasons. Their decisions to exit the active or supportive role(s) need explanation. Was it a moral choice?
    EXCELLENT QUESTION! Wish I had an answer. You would think there would be something out there about this.

    Why have analysts started to see this decline in AQ? I have read very little of substance, anyone here know of references to learned articles etc? Yes, I will accept those from within The Beltway and Whitehall.
    These are from a couple of year ago...In no particular order

    Pew Global Attitudes Project: Sharp Decline in Support for Suicide Bombing in Muslim Countries
    Released: 07.24.07

    Gallop: Gallup Center for Muslim Studies

    The Arab American Institute: Arab Attitudes Poll: Arabs more optmistic about future (PDF)
    November, 2005

    One mans opinion, freely given and worth almost that much
    We (The West...The Civilized World...whatever) will win this war. I say that because while many in the Islamic world have issues with us (and some IMO are quite justified...see Britney Spears videos or say most movies/TV shows coming from Hollywood) , neither do they want to live in the 12th century. Which is what happens when AQ, Hamas, JI...etc. takes over.

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    Quote Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
    David,

    I suspect it's solely because they want there to be decline in AQ. If that is the case, AQ and the entire effort against worldwide, open source, radical Islamist terrorist activities can be marginalized and relegated to a law enforcement program, whch is where they've wanted it all along.
    See the Above posting.

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    Default The current state of Al Qaeda?

    Although I feel like I'm kind of casting a rather broad net in terms of subject area, however I've been wondering alot recently about Al Qaeda and it's current abilities in terms of carrying out operations and have an effect on matters overall. I ask this because it has become well known that the terrorist group has experienced a variety of setbacks in the past couple of years. Including the losses it took in Iraq, infighting among it's leadership, and a drop in popular among segments of society of many nations of the Arab/Islamic world, which also has correlated in funding and recruits drying up.

    However despite the fact that Al Qaeda remains a very dangerous threat. With such potential plots like plans to blow up varous targets in NYC being recently uncovered, in addition to some evidence that pointed to a possible plot in the works in Germany around the time of the German Election. As well as some of it's recent meddling in the Palestinian territories.

    I'm wondering despite all of this, is Al Qaeda on the track towards irrelvence given all of the problems it's reported to have been having?

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    Default Wish we knew

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
    Although I feel like I'm kind of casting a rather broad net in terms of subject area, however I've been wondering alot recently about Al Qaeda and it's current abilities in terms of carrying out operations and have an effect on matters overall. I ask this because it has become well known that the terrorist group has experienced a variety of setbacks in the past couple of years. Including the losses it took in Iraq, infighting among it's leadership, and a drop in popular among segments of society of many nations of the Arab/Islamic world, which also has correlated in funding and recruits drying up.

    However despite the fact that Al Qaeda remains a very dangerous threat. With such potential plots like plans to blow up varous targets in NYC being recently uncovered, in addition to some evidence that pointed to a possible plot in the works in Germany around the time of the German Election. As well as some of it's recent meddling in the Palestinian territories.

    I'm wondering despite all of this, is Al Qaeda on the track towards irrelvence given all of the problems it's reported to have been having?
    Throughout history most terrorist groups eventually perish or evolve into other groups or state like structures (e.g. Hezballah and Hamas). AQ's relevance is that they successfully started the global jihad (attacks throughout Europe, the U.S., Africa, Russia, the Middle East, etc.), and I see no sign of the movement stopping, nor do I also don't see any signs of the movement being successful. Still they are a threat, and will continue to conduct attacks resulting in mass murder of innocent civilians. How do you bring this type of activity to an end? I'm not sure, but I'm relatively confident that good governance is not the complete answer. European governments were fairly decent, yet they still experienced terrorist attacks resulting the death of innocent civilians due to some left wing radical ideology. There will always be wackos in our mists.

    For the immediate future I agree with Dave (and the UK knows this from first hand experience), AQ remains a dangerous organization despite its setbacks. Using our metrics we believe AQ is trending downwards, perhaps this is true, but always the skeptic I wonder if AQ has simply adapted its strategy, and we have not caught on yet? Only time will tell.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-04-2009 at 08:59 PM.

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    Default New al-Qaeda 'body bombs'

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...r-experts.html

    Anti-terrorism experts held an emergency meeting last month after an al-Qaeda militant passed through several airline security checks with a bomb hidden in his intestine. He later detonated the bomb with a cell phone signal, but failed in his attempt to assassinate a prominent Saudi prince.

    "While not wanting to be alarmist, I admit this is alarming," said Richard Barrett, head of the United Nations' al-Qaeda and Taliban monitoring group.

    "Even though its capability is reduced, it is clear that al-Qaeda remains determined enough and inventive enough to cause another terrorist spectacular."
    If this report is accurate it indicates that AQ still presents a threat, despite being in decline.

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    I think it's important, and relevant to this discussion, to distinguish among the following:

    - Core al-Qaeda members, those directly under orders from and financed by AQ

    - AQ-linked groups, which are autonomously directed, usually primarily driven by local issues, but which have or have had connections to AQ.

    - AQ-motivated individuals and groups, which have never had any direct link to the organization but which share the AQ agenda (at least on very general terms) and look to AQ for inspiration and example.

    All too often these distinctions are not drawn by media reports, which are quick to describe organizations and individuals as "AQ" or "AQ-linked" without examining how much connection to AQ they actually have.

    Neutralizing the AQ core will have little impact on the latter two categories.

    Many recent arrests appear to fall into the last category. The lack of affiliation in these groups and individuals, and their ability to appear as home-grown entities in the US and other target areas, make them dangerous; fortunately most so far seem to be of fairly limited competence. We cannot, of course, assume that this will always be the case.

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    I'm pretty skecpitcal about this body-bomb story. It started off the bomb was in his arse (plausible I guess) but now it appears to have reversed up his digestive tract. The Saudis claim it was in fact hidden in his underwear.

    Also:

    "It sounds almost like drunk logic, where an idea sounds great until the next morning and you're sober, going, 'Noooo, that won't work,'" said Paul Worsey, a Missouri University of Science and Technology researcher and inventor of explosives. "Unless you're actually hugging somebody, nobody's going to get badly hurt."

    "The force of such an explosion would be in the direction of the easiest exit," he said, laughing off the threat. "The rest of the body would work like a sandbag against the blast ... though it would be a mess."
    Sounds like a media feedback loop. Stomach story first appeared in The Scotsman on Sunday, then picked up by wider press.

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    Default There available on the open market

    I'm pretty skecpitcal about this body-bomb story. It started off the bomb was in his arse (plausible I guess) but now it appears to have reversed up his digestive tract. The Saudis claim it was in fact hidden in his underwear.
    You can be skeptical, but these bombs are available on the open market.

    http://www.fakecrap.com/products/fart_bombs.html

    http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&key...l_61441ffq9k_b

    This is true 4GW stuff, they even have instructions on line so home grown terrorists can produce their bombs. I'm surprised the FBI hasn't pulled these off the web yet.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idfOGItekaw

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    You can be skeptical, but these bombs are available on the open market.

    http://www.fakecrap.com/products/fart_bombs.html

    http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&key...l_61441ffq9k_b

    This is true 4GW stuff, they even have instructions on line so home grown terrorists can produce their bombs. I'm surprised the FBI hasn't pulled these off the web yet.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idfOGItekaw
    I stand corrected

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    I do think the "nobody's going to get badly hurt" comment should be amended. The guy who detonated the bomb may not be anyone terribly important but he's still someone, and could be expected to experience some passing discomfort. Then of course there's the lasting scars on whoever had the job of cleaning up after...

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    Rethinking Which Terror Groups to Fear
    None. I refuse to play into their cards.

    Why should I fear any of them? The road in front of my window is much more likely to harm me or anyone else in my vicinity. I don't fear it either.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    None. I refuse to play into their cards.

    Why should I fear any of them? The road in front of my window is much more likely to harm me or anyone else in my vicinity. I don't fear it either.
    So true. I just watched this 30 minute TED-clip where during the interview at the end the same reflection is made.
    Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. (Christopher Columbus)

    All great truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
    (Arthur Schopenhauer)

    ONWARD

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    There are also articles about it.
    We grossly mis-allocate our resources (including the finite resource of attention).

    http://www.counterpunch.org/goekler03242009.html

    Imagine, then, what might happen if we simply quit listening to the scaremongers and those who profit from our paranoia. Imagine what the world could look like if we made a conscious choice to live out whatever time we have with courage, compassion, service and joy.

    Terrorism is an act of the weak. But so is walking through the airport in our socks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Throughout history most terrorist groups eventually perish or evolve into other groups or state like structures (e.g. Hezballah and Hamas). AQ's relevance is that they successfully started the global jihad (attacks throughout Europe, the U.S., Africa, Russia, the Middle East, etc.), and I see no sign of the movement stopping, nor do I also don't see any signs of the movement being successful. Still they are a threat, and will continue to conduct attacks resulting in mass murder of innocent civilians. How do you bring this type of activity to an end? I'm not sure, but I'm relatively confident that good governance is not the complete answer. European governments were fairly decent, yet they still experienced terrorist attacks resulting the death of innocent civilians due to some left wing radical ideology. There will always be wackos in our mists.

    For the immediate future I agree with Dave (and the UK knows this from first hand experience), AQ remains a dangerous organization despite its setbacks. Using our metrics we believe AQ is trending downwards, perhaps this is true, but always the skeptic I wonder if AQ has simply adapted its strategy, and we have not caught on yet? Only time will tell.
    Bill,

    If Al Qaeda somehow eventually ceases to exist as a core functioning terrorist organization, who do you see taking it's place at the forefront of the global jihadist movement? Also whoever takes Al Qaeda's place in this position be the same or even more dangerous then AQ, could it be even be a state supported organization etc? I know again I'm casting a wide net here but in my opinion, such an organization would come out of Pakistan, or more in Central Asia it's self.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
    If Al Qaeda somehow eventually ceases to exist as a core functioning terrorist organization, who do you see taking it's place at the forefront of the global jihadist movement?
    This assumes that there is a "global jihadist movement", a debatable construct. While jihadist sentiment, looslely defined, exists in many areas, and there are many groups that might be said to pursue jihadist aims, one might question whether there is sufficient coordination to classify them as a "global movement".

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
    Also whoever takes Al Qaeda's place in this position be the same or even more dangerous then AQ, could it be even be a state supported organization etc? I know again I'm casting a wide net here but in my opinion, such an organization would come out of Pakistan, or more in Central Asia it's self.
    Some governments will be willing to support jihadi groups, especially those operating outside their territory, on an ad hoc basis, to the extent that it suits their perceived interests to do so. I don't think many would provide support to a widespread jihadist movement or would want one developing on their territory: the risks far outweigh the potential gains, and most governments, even in devoutly Muslim areas, see the jihadis as a threat.

    It is very likely, though not certain, that the irregular threats of the future will bear no resemblance at all to Al Qaeda.

    While I agree with Fuchs that there is no need to fear these groups, one would also not want to ignore them.

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