Al-Qaeda is back? It never left. It has become the MTV of jihad. The free channel of distribution is the Internet. Leave it to the Islamic world, that produces little in technology, to corrupt the greatest communication achievement in the history of mankind. How did they do it? Some info here.
The return of al-Qaeda
by Hans de Vreij Radio Netherlands
Al-Qaeda is back and continues to pose a direct threat to the United States and other Western nations. That is one of the conclusions that can be drawn from the public summary of the National Intelligence Estimate, a joint product of all 16 US civil and military intelligence services. The report itself, published earlier this week in Washington, is of course secret. But the public summary does at least put an end to a popular myth that has prevailed over the past few years.
That myth was that, after the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 and the worldwide counter-terrorism campaigns against al-Qaeda structures and leaders, the network no longer existed as a centralised organisation able to issue orders to local structures anywhere in the world. Instead, it was portrayed as something of a "franchise", with local branches sharing the ideology and methods of al-Qaeda without necessarily receiving orders from the network leadership.
According to the National Intelligence Estimate, however, al-Qaeda continues to attempt to create global terrorist alliances, raise resources and recruit and indoctrinate operatives. And according to the Dutch-American terrorism expert Glenn Schoen of Ernst & Young, the re-emergence of al-Qaeda as a centrally-led network became visible as early as two years ago:
"It's now pretty clear from a number of bigger plots, really starting back with London in 2005, and the plots against the aircraft out of London to the US from August 2006, that we see more and more clearly a hand of central al-Qaeda leaders under Mr bin Laden and Mr Zawahiri playing a role. And it's become clearer and clearer, apparently, to US intelligence that there is operational direction and control to al-Qaeda and not just ideological and strategic control."
Click to listen to Hans de Vreij's interview with Glenn Schoen
According to an official spokeswoman in Washington, elaborating on the National Intelligence Estimate, al-Qaeda has "protected or regenerated three of four key elements in planning an attack on the homeland (USA, ed.): a safe haven in Pakistan, operational lieutenants, and top leadership". Washington remains silent about the fourth element that has been protected or regenerated. According to Mr Schoen, this missing element could be al-Qaeda's public relations machinery:
"One element that is obviously of importance here is the fact that, in terms of its propaganda and the ability to exploit the message, it now has a very strong position. Whenever it carries out a major attack now, we see an awful lot of ability by al-Qaeda to turn even a minor success in a terrorist attack into a major one on the propaganda front."
Maurits Berger of the Clingendael Institute of International Relations in The Hague points out that propaganda or simply information from any radical jihadist network including al-Qaeda is not falling on deaf ears in the Muslim world at large:
"There is a very strong, deep-felt sense of injustice, closely connected to a concern of occupation, which lives in the minds of most Muslims, since most Muslim countries have been occupied for shorter or longer periods of time by Western countries. It is a button that can be pushed with any Muslim. Occupation is something that needs to be resisted, occupation is something that looms over their heads, any time, every time."
Click to listen to Hans de Vreij's interview with Maurits Berger
Maurits Berger adds that the notion of armed resistance against what is perceived as Western occupation, dominance or imperialism is appealing to many young Muslim men and women. In this sense, he says, the situation is very similar to the one during the Civil War in Spain in the 1930's, when thousands of young foreign volunteers went to Spain to fight for socialism, without necessarily knowing exactly what was going on in that country