Counter-Terrorism: Al Qaeda's New Plan

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November 4, 2005: Al Qaeda (whose name means "base" in Arabic) has no base, and no secure means of communicating with all its members and supporters. So a current debate on the future of al Qaeda, by al Qaeda members and supporters, is being conducted largely in the open (although you have to dig real hard on the Internet to find some of the sources, and then have an Arabic translator handy). It all comes down to a combination of wishful thinking and pragmatism. On the fantasy side, al Qaeda leaders really believe that they will have "liberated" territory in either Iraq and/or Afghanistan by next year. This is very important, as the most religious al Qaeda followers believe that, without al Qaeda controlled territory, al Qaeda's war (or jihad) is illegitimate. That's because Islamic scripture calls for anyone on a jihad to have a patch of land to launch it from. That's what made al Qaeda so attractive (to Islamic conservatives) when it was based in Afghanistan. That's why so many al Qaeda enthusiasts have converged on Iraq, as that is the most likely (and convenient to reach) area to "conquer" for a new base. Afghanistan is farther away from the Islamic heartland in Arabia, and is full of Afghans who do not like Arabs very much (that's another story.) While this al Qaeda strategy might have seemed more reasonable in 2003, today it is rapidly slipping away. The Iraqi government, and an increasing majority of the Iraqi people, want nothing to do with al Qaeda. The terrorist suicide bombing campaign has increasingly missed its main target (foreign soldiers), and instead killed more and more Iraqis. The acreage not controlled by the government has been shrinking, as more and more Sunni Arabs forsake Islamic radicalism, and support the new democracy. Unless al Qaeda has some really, really secret weapon, that is really, really effective, there won't be any al Qaeda base in Iraq next year.

But the other al Qaeda reform is more practical, and it's little more than recognizing the current, dispersed, "do-whatever-you-can-with-whatever-you-got" form of organization, as the official one. But without the real estate for a "base," al Qaeda will appear more and more illegitimate in the eyes of Islamic purists, and more vulnerable to the attacks of the growing counter-terrorist force raised against them.

In practical terms, al Qaeda is less an organization, and more of popular madness, dedicated to terrorism and mass murder. Al Qaeda is more dependent on mass media, than anything else. Whatever it does, if the message is spun the right way, then the contributions, volunteers and atrocities will keep coming.

 


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