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Old 11-21-2011   #81
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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....
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Old 12-27-2011   #82
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Default Stop looking for the next al-Qaida

A review article by Jason Burke that starts with:
Quote:
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:
Quote:
"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?
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Old 12-27-2011   #83
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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

Quote:
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.
Quote:
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

Quote:
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

Quote:
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.
Quote:
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.
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Old 12-27-2011   #84
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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.
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Old 12-27-2011   #85
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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.
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Old 01-05-2012   #86
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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:
Quote:
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.
Quote:
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.
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Old 01-30-2012   #87
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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

Quote:
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
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Old 02-02-2012   #88
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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.

Quote:
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):
Quote:
...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:
Quote:
What pisses off a jihadi? Think about it.
and:
Quote:
Add Do not provoke to Op Contest (the UK CT strategy).
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Old 03-02-2012   #89
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Default Assessing al-Qaeda’s in-theater capabilities

An excellent analysis by Leah Farrell, from Australia, and in summary:
Quote:
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:
Quote:
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
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Old 03-19-2012   #90
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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.

Quote:
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:
Quote:
..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/
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Old 05-04-2012   #91
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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
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Old 09-30-2012   #92
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Default AQ core: still has the ability to resurrect?

Leah Farrell's comment:
Quote:
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?
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Old 09-30-2012   #93
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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.
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Old 09-30-2012   #94
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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).
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Old 09-30-2012   #95
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ianaj makes excellent points David, and to this specific line:

Quote:
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).
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Old 09-30-2012   #96
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Posted by Davidbfpo

Quote:
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

Quote:
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.
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Old 09-30-2012   #97
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Default Older threads? Which ones, please help

Bill,

Thanks for this. Posted by Davidbfpo:
Quote:
On SWC we have looked a number of aspects about AQ, not its ability to resurrect itself.
Bill posted:
Quote:
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
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Old 09-30-2012   #98
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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

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Old 09-30-2012   #99
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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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Old 09-30-2012   #100
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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.
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