Friday, March 25, 2005

Whither al Qaeda? 

The Morocco Times detects despair among the jihadis. If true, this is the most positive article I've seen on our progress in the war against Islamic jihad.
Beyond the usual suggestions to hijack a few more jets or poison some Western city's drinking water, the movement appears to have run out of ideas. Yet it may be passing through its deepest crisis since 9/11:

* Al Qaeda — which operated as an efficient organ of command and control — has been smashed to pieces....

Al Qaeda, which published a total of 83 books and pamphlets in 2001, has managed to bring out only one book since 9/11, dealing with the war in Iraq.

The difficulty of contacting bin Laden and al-Zawahiri (generally referred to by the Islamists as "the sheiks") was illustrated recently when Abu-Mussab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda leader in Iraq, tried to obtain a fatwa from them authorizing the mass murder of Iraqi Shiite women and children: Getting that gruesome green light (from al-Zawahiri) took nearly six weeks.

The disruption of al Qaeda's leadership has had other consequences.

For the past year or so, al-Zawahiri has been urging militants from all over the world, including North America and Europe, to converge on the Middle East for a regional "jihad" in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Yet bin Laden has been preaching a totally different strategy. He wants the jihadists, including "sleepers" in America and Europe, to carry out other "spectacular coups" inside the United States.

And so far there is no sign of either leader's call being heeded.

* Targeted governments have begun to fight back.

In Pakistan, more than 13,000 schools suspected of propagating extremist ideas have been shut in the past two years. In Yemen, the number of such schools to be shut is around 24,000.

There are also signs that Afghan, Pakistani, Saudi and Iraqi authorities have managed to infiltrate at least some terror groups. Since 2003, hundreds of terrorists have been picked up in the countries concerned, in most cases thanks to tip-offs from repenting militants.

According to Morocco Times, recruitment of terrorists has been falling steadily since a few months after the fall of Saddam.
* The movement is also finding it increasingly difficult to attract new recruits, especially within the Muslim world. Even in Western Europe (where Muslim communities still represent fertile recruiting ground), the number of "volunteers" peaked in the fall of 2003 and has been falling since.

This assertion, if true, is a stark refutation of the claim that the war in Iraq has helped al Qaeda recruit. Perhaps it did in the early days, but the insurgency there has been met with an implacable counterinsurgency. Just as dead American soldiers might demoralize the American public (a hypothesis popular among jihadis, the anti-war left and the MSM), broadcast pictures of dead insurgents might dampen the fires of jihad.

The financing is also drying up:
* For the first time in two decades, the movement is also beginning to face fund-raising difficulties. The generous donations that indirectly came from various regional countries have stopped, while scores of bank accounts operated by the militants have been frozen.

A total of 103 charities suspected of raising funds for terror have been shut or otherwise neutralized in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Kuwait alone. Some businessmen still manage to get funds to various groups, often via third parties. But these channels are also being detected and shut one by one.

Finally, the breeze of Muslim democracy is undercutting support for radicals:
The biggest setback for the Islamists, however, is a shift of mood in the Islamic heartland. The elections in West Bank and Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq; Lebanon's freedom movement; the beginnings of change in Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia — all have helped generate new interest in democratic reform.

Also important are the efforts by Mahmoud Abbas to transform Palestine from an emotional cause into an issue of practical politics. Today, even Hamas, the most radical of Palestinian movements, is obliged to end its boycott of normal politics, and is getting ready to compete in the parliamentary elections.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: A commenter usefully points out that the linked article is "a reprint of an article from the New York Post by Amir Taheri" and "not necessarily a direct reflection of any native Moroccan opinion but rather an opinion of Amir Taheri that they found interesting enough to reprint." Fair enough, and my bad for not spotting that the first time around.


By Blogger Dymphna, at Fri Mar 25, 12:47:00 PM:

While doing some research on tne new National Military Academy in Kabul, I saw some Afghani opinion that concurs with yours. They described its influence as "waning."

Wish I'd noted the links...

At any rate, the clouds of despair and ignorance are lifting; people see less reason to join up in what is obviously a doomed journey.

This shark has not only been jumped; some people may have taken it home for dinner.


By Blogger kcom, at Fri Mar 25, 07:28:00 PM:

I think it needs to be pointed out that the article was not written by the Morocco Times. It's a reprint of an article from the New York Post by Amir Taheri. I hope it's all true. I have no problem with that. But I wouldn't say it's necessarily a direct reflection of any native Moroccan opinion but rather an opinion of Amir Taheri that they found interesting enough to reprint.  

By Blogger GrenfellHunt, at Sat Mar 26, 11:39:00 PM:

Great link, Tigerhawk!

A couple cautions:

1. Don't trust any estimates from any source about whether Al-Qaida recruiting is up or down. We don't know those figures: AQ is not a multinational corporation with open accounting on its books.
2. If western intelligence had penetrated AQ far enough to know the numbers of AQ operatives, Osama bin Laden would be dead already.
3. Stories of AQ despair have circulating for some time now. The most impressive began shortly after the fall of Baghdad: incoming jihadists found to their horror that Iraqis hated them and wanted them to leave. Jihadist whines about how the Iraqis didn't love them made appearances in various Arab dailies.
4. Occasional intercepts in Iraq have had some credibility. The early 2004 Zarqawi letter that his movement would collapse if they didn't prevail before elections were held sounded like the work of a man in complete panic.
5. The drastic numerical drop in attacks in Iraq since the election of 30 Jan 2005 seems to show that Z's assessment was correct.

The terrorists may well have jumped the shark. But it would only take one bad guy with a nuke slipping across the Mexican border to change that...  

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