Jihadi Cool

January 12, 2010

Al Qaeda’s dissemination of jihadi ideology has become more sophisticated over the last few years. Al Qaeda is investing large amounts of capital into creating books, magazines, and music videos that are designed to appeal to Muslims under 30 years of age. Language and graphics are designed with specific local audiences in mind so that al Qaeda can properly target young Muslims in a desired area. Al Qaeda is paying close attention to what material their desired demographics respond to and connect with.

Al Qaeda is expanding into cyberspace

Al Qaeda’s reach in Cyberspace is multifaceted, because the network has a variety of different messages available on the internet that are designed to resonate with different groups. The regional arms and affiliates of al Qaeda, like the one in Yemen that I posted about yesterday, tend to focus on local issues that affect a particular local population. However, the traditional centralized body of al Qaeda, under the leadership of Osama bin Laden, tends to disseminate messages that are more global in scope.

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In April 2009, the Pakistani government launched its largest offensive yet against Islamist militants in the region known as Swat Valley.

A few hours drive north of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, Swat was once Pakistan’s most appealing tourist destination. Residents lived under a mix of tribal and sharia law augmented with rudimentary military control that was first established by the British. The leading member of the valley’s most powerful family was effectively a regional tribal king that enjoyed the title of Wali. Wali rule ended at the time of Pakistani independence in 1947, when Swat acquiesced to Pakistan. However, Swat didn’t become completely integrated into Pakistan until 1969 when the last Wali officially retired his authority.

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Al Qaeda’s Growing Reach

January 11, 2010

An al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a passenger plane en route to the United States from Amsterdam. In a statement posted on several online forums, the group said it planned the attack “to avenge U.S. attacks on al Qaeda in Yemen.” The group known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula boasted of supplying Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab with explosives. The Yemeni group and its failed attack over American soil has drawn worldwide attention to the spread of al Qaeda.

The ongoing threat of terrorism by al Qaeda presents a different pattern from what has been seen in the past. Leadership of the network appears to have evolved from a centralized body to being a loose aggregation of groups. Plots are now emanating from African countries such as Yemen whereas before they exclusively emerged out of Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iraq. One reason for this new development is that al Qaeda relies heavily on geographical safe havens. These are areas of the world where al Qaeda has the ability to set up training camps and meeting places without fear of interference or interruption.

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Al Qaeda Strikes Back

October 23, 2009

Violence that has been defined as terrorism is usually perpetrated in relation to the political dynamics of a culture or society. Terrorism can thus be viewed as a mechanism of change used by those who feel powerless and seek to undermine the status quo or the understood power of a marked group. To recruit future members, dissident groups use shows of force, coercion, rhetoric, and iconography to utilize any radical discourse already existing within the social or political sphere of a given society. The terrorist network al Qaeda has effectively merged Islamist ideology and the Salafi movement to encourage religiously motivated militants into assisting their cause.

Al Qaeda has suffered setbacks since 9/11. It’s original figurehead, Osama bin Laden, has lost some of his influence within the network: The franchises in Iraq, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa have at times openly rebelled against his preferred strategies of attack. Others among the network’s top operatives are also politically impotent while they remain in hiding. Many of the most experienced have been killed. The network has thus far failed in its attempts to overthrow the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Perhaps most importantly, al Qaeda has seen the majority of its monetary assets frozen. Al Qaeda made four public appeals for money within the first six months of 2009. This tells analysts that al Qaeda’s ability to dominate the direction of insurgencies within Asia and the Middle East is waning. But does this mean the network is currently weak? In a word, no. The al Qaeda network is perhaps more dangerous than it has ever been.

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A strengthening alliance of militant groups working out of Pakistan continue to perpetrate attacks against governmental and security forces both inside and surrounding the country’s borders. Punjabi extremist groups are perpetrating bold attacks in concert with the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda.

It is a goal of these insurgents operating within Pakistan to divert NATO attention away from the insurgent’s camps and power centers. The insurgents are doing this to allow themselves time to regroup. The militants have capitalized on American attention being distracted by the Afghanistan elections. The insurgents have also begun to look for ways to encourage future distractions. Using groups like Jundullah to cause renewed tension with Iran over the weekend is but one example. Read the rest of this entry »

Iranian state media has reported that 5 top commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have been assassinated by a suicide bomber along with at least 26 others. The attack occurred in a region of south eastern Iran that borders Pakistan. 

Information being provided by Iranian state media indicates that the Revolutionary Guard commanders were meeting with local tribal leaders when one or two explosions went off and killed the commanders as well as the tribal leaders that they were going to meet. 

The south eastern region of Iran is a very volatile region due to narcotics trafficking. The area is known as a gateway for smuggling drugs from Afghanistan and Pakistan into Western Europe. Therefore, elements of the Taliban and al Qaeda have connections with Sunni insurgents working in the area.

The attack is being claimed by Jundullah (Army of God), a Sunni resistance group openly opposed to the Shia led government of Iran. Jundullah first made a name for itself in 2003. It is said that Jundullah was founded by a Taliban leader out of Pakistan named Nek Mohammed Wazir. Jundullah has a sectarian/ethnic agenda. The group wishes to free the millions of Sunni Balochs which it alleges are being suppressed by Tehran. 

Today’s attack highlights how the Taliban and al Qaeda’s regional influence is spreading. The suicide bombing is a hallmark of the al Qaeda playbook. While Jundullah has used suicide bombers in it’s attacks before, such actions indicate that Jundullah militants are likely receiving training from al Qaeda within Pakistan’s borders.

The infamy of the attacks on 9/11 has had different effects in the Middle East and South Asia than it has had in the United States. While America still grieves for the victims and the innocence that was lost, many in the Muslim world see the events as a cultural lesson. A lesson that many of them believe has not yet been learned. The carnage of September 11 was vile and evil, but it could happen again. In order to understand the “how” one must look at the “why.”

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The House of Saud (royal family of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia) has been at overt odds with Osama bin Laden since 1994. At that time, the Kingdom revoked his citizenship and froze his assets within the country. This was due to bin Laden’s support for militant movements within the country. Once this happened, bin Laden was moved to the fringes of Saudi society and became more outspoken against the royal family. Bin Laden and dissident activists have called for the removal of the House of Saud ever since. 

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