2008: What shape is al Qaeda in? Both
U.S. intelligence officials, and al Qaeda message board traffic seem to agree
that the terror group was defeated in Iraq, and is now gathering for a last
stand in Pakistan. But there have been no numbers released to back this up.
There are numbers, but most of them are classified. The U.S. collects data on
terrorist related message traffic on the Internet, via cell phones and so on.
The military keeps track of all the known and suspected terrorists they capture
in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The captives are good sources of who has
died, at least in general terms. But a good analyst can take those fragments of
data that do appear in the open, and create a useful picture of what is going
on. Along those lines, consider the following;
- Al Qaeda
representatives and Internet based fans openly discuss the defeat in Iraq, and
the much reduced stature of al Qaeda in the Moslem world.
- The U.S.
military will not give official numbers on how many terrorists they have killed
in Iraq, but it appears to be over 20,000 fighters (and as many helpers, which
includes civilians caught in the cross fire). About four percent of the Islamic
terrorists in Iraq have been foreigners, mainly from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and
North African countries. That means at least a thousand (including Iraqis)
potential international terrorists have died in Iraq.
addition to those killed in Iraq, many more foreign al Qaeda volunteers got out
of Iraq alive. While some went home, or elsewhere, determined to carry on the
fight, most returned demoralized and no longer such a big fan of Islamic terrorism.
This created bad word-of-mouth. This was partly al Qaedas fault, because the
foreigners were typically involved in killing Iraqi civilians, which many of
the foreign volunteers were not really keen about. But the terrorist commanders
knew that fighting American troops was much more difficult, and best left to
more skilled Iraqis (who preferred to use roadside bombs, since taking the
American troops on directly was considered suicidal.)
- By 2006,
the frequent terrorist bombings of Iraqi civilians had turned most Moslems
against al Qaeda, and was hurting recruiting and fund raising. At this point,
many Iraqi Sunni Arabs, the primary al Qaeda allies in Iraq, were turning
against Islamic terrorism, and those who advocated it. This was the beginning
of the end for al Qaeda in Iraq. The world didn't know it, but the intel
analysts could see the signs.
2006, there were no more terror attacks in Europe. It's not that there were no
more terrorists, just none with the skills and support needed to carry out
operations like those in 2004-5, or 2001. There had been no more attacks in the
United States since September 11, 2001, and al Qaeda operatives, and
supporters, were complaining more and more about the lack of action.
problem was that too many terrorist resources were being poured into Iraq,
where the main result was the loss of many terrorist leaders and specialists,
and even more innocent Iraqi civilians. That led to a loss of popularity
throughout the Moslem world, and even fewer recruits and contributions. While
al Qaeda still has some popular support, the organization itself has been
reduced to a few hundred members hiding out among Pushtun and Baluchi tribes in
Pakistan. The tribes have their own agenda, which is more concerned with local
matters (feuds with each other and the governments of Afghanistan and
Pakistan), than with international terrorism. The al Qaeda leaders dare not
show themselves, and can do little but release audio and video messages
pleading for supporters around the world to do something violent for the cause.