"Geesi dhereb kuma jiro"

Friday, February 19, 2010

Al Qaeda Faces Challenges

Monitoring Al Qaeda's activities with keen interest over the years, I think 2010 is already proving to be worse than last year for the terrorist group. It appears as though President Obama is more hawkish than former President Bush, and is killing top leaders of the group with precision, expedited, and clandestine operations that have placed the group not only in a defensive position but in a phase in which it's struggling for relevancy.

In 2009, Al Qaeda had lost its East Africa leader, Saleh Nabhan. In Indonesia, the Bali bomber was finally killed. Its North Africa leader was also killed at the same time as Hakimullah Mehsud (Pakistan's Taliban leader) was killed by a US drone attack in Pakistan.

Al Qaeda lost roughly 70-80% of its most loyal, well-trained, well-indoctrinated fighters. Its key demographic - the disenfranchised youth in the Islamic world - is no longer inclined to the call of global Jihad. No doubt Obama's election had put a dent in it as well - recall Bin Laden's message of insults in reaction to Obama's election. Lately, the Al Qaeda leader resorted to philosophical messages (add global warming to that) and unlike before, now takes credit for each failed attempt. Relevancy matters, apparently. There hasn't been a major attack on the West since 7-7-07 (London) and there are a number of reasons for that; 1) the group is finally infiltrated 2) law enforcement now share info and are more familiar with the group 3) funding and recruitment declined 4) the group relies on incompetent attackers that are easily detected and/or fail before the attack materializes and 5) the group's popularity in the Muslim world declined significantly due to the disproportionate number of Muslim deaths in Al Qaeda's debilitating attacks.

The decline does not mean defeat yet. The group still remains a force to be reckoned with, still has sizeable following, and may potentially reconstitute itself should the environment permit. Only now it's in a weaker position. Wahabbi money still flows in from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states and Al Qaeda splinter groups, including Al Shabab, continue to fight. Al Shabab appears to be following the pattern of its base (Qaeda) as well and is partially retreating. Al Shabab now funds its war by extortion, robbery, taxes on the brutalized civilians under their control and other criminal means. Divisions abound.

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