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Glocal Terror: Outfit Morphs Into Network of Local Affiliates

Posted by :) on August 14, 2013


Glocal Terror: Outfit Morphs Into Network of Local Affiliates

Indrani Bagchi | TNN

Aquarter of a century since it came into existence and 15 years after the al-Qaida burst on the scene with the spectacular bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the outfit continues to be the most powerful driver of global terror. The US, at the vanguard of the fight against this deadly mutating virus, has bled more than $3 trillion over 10 years trying to tame it.
Only last week, the US shut down embassies in 19 countries after it intercepted electronic chatter among the group’s core leadership discussing plans for stunning terror strikes. Around the same time, Saudi Arabia arrested two obscure al-Qaida members from Yemen and Chad suspecting them of planning suicide attacks. This was apparently one of the threats that prompted the US to close its missions.
The US war on terror, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the drone programme in Pakistan and West Asia have struck deep into the al-Qaida core as we know it.
Osama bin Laden’s May 2011 killing at Abbottabad robbed the movement of the “Sheikh’s” iconic presence and Ayman Al Zawahiri, the new leader, hasn’t yet been able to build the organization the way bin Laden may have wanted it. But the outfit has metastasized into a global network of regional and local terror affiliates. It follows a dual track of local agendas tied to ideologies and goals of a pan-Islamist jihad. Al-Qaida isn’t a physical presence – it’s like a charging station, fusing local grievances with a global terror vision, some say.
The al-Qaida functions through affiliates, both autonomous and linked. Their leaders are local men, such as Pakistan’s Bahawal Khan and Mullah Nazir, or Syria’s Al-Amir Gazi al-Haj. These could be groups like Tunisia’s Ansaral Sharia, or Somalia’s Al Shabaab or Ansar Eddine or Boko Haram in Nigeria, Tehreek-e- Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan. All of them function as al-Qaida arms. They wear their affiliation as a badge of honour.
These groups have dodged drone strikes to
evolve. They use the new media to coordinate strikes. They share resources and suicide attackers, build weapons, move fighters from distant countries to fight local wars. Ibrahim Al Asiri, al-Qaida’s maker of the underwear bomb, is a case in point. He’s believed to have created a liquid explosive gel – dip your clothes into it
and they become bombs. Airport security can’t sniff these IEDs.
“Al-Qaida adapted after the Arab uprisings, and was never really marginalized. It views some countries as being in a preparatory phase, where Salafi jihadist ideas can be propagated through dawa, or missionary work, as in Tunisia. Other countries are viewed as open fields of confrontation. The bottom line is that the world has changed. Al-Qaida has sought to adapt to these changes, and in many cases Western analysts were slow to discern how it was doing so.” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says.
The Arab Spring fooled the West into believing that al-Qaida had become irrelevant — that political Islam could ascend to government — as in Egypt — without resorting to violence. Instead, the Spring turned out to be a springboard for al-Qaida affiliates across West Asia and North Africa.
The al-Qaida threat in Syria is evident — groups like the Jabhat al Nusra and Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiya aren’t only fighting Bashar Assad, but if Assad were to fall, they’d control Syria’s chemical weapons. But in Pakistan, if al-Qaida affiliates dislodge the state, they could be adding mobile nuclear weapons to their arsenal.
In Pakistan, al-Qaida affiliations run deep. Closest to it is the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) Pakistan, which directly threatens the state. Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani network, Gul Bahadur and Mullah Nazir are more complex. They’re as close to al-Qaida as they are to the establishment, which uses them to attack Afghanistan and India.
Within the past month al-Qaida groups received a boost with almost coincidental jailbreaks in Libya, Iraq and Pakistan sending thousands of jihadi fighters to places like Syria. Nasir al Wuyashi, AQAP’s general manager, promised to free another tranche of jailed militants in Yemen, where the al-Qaida has now struck roots. On July 21, about 500 jihadis were taken out of Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison, putting a big terror talent pool at the front. On July 30, TTP took out 250 prisoners from a Pakistani jail. On July 28, 1,117 inmates fled Benghazi’s Kuafiya prison in Libya. Analysts say these are clear signs that TTP is re-grouping with a new generation of more violent, better armed, more committed fighters.
Syria is the new battlefront. Syria & Iraq affiliates have merged to form ISIL (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), that’s claimed series of bombings across Iraq end of Ramadan. Not far behind is Egypt and Afghanistan, which will be up for grabs after US troops draw down in 2014. But terror watchers are keeping an eye out for Myanmar as well, where the conflicts between Buddhists and the Rohingyas look ripe to be adopted by global jihad. US president Barack Obama declared last week that Al Qaeda has been degraded. For many living under the shadow of global terror, the threat has only struck distant roots. It remains armed, dangerous, and committed.
AQ arms not populated with automatons; they serve AQ’s broader goals; AQ “core” spread around globe
Affiliates can manifest themselves anywhere any time; Affiliates enjoy latitude in daily ops
Al-Zawahiri served by several committees and advisers
Terror network houses personalities who may clash and have competing interests. This does not mean the network has fragmented


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