Winning: Al Qaeda Seeks A Miracle


June 27, 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.

- In 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.

- After 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.

The 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. Anything. Please.


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