Saturday, April 21, 2007

Al Qaeda Looking for Help?

This can be looked at two ways:

Al-Qaeda is reaching out from its base in Pakistan to turn militant Islamist groups in the Middle East and Africa into franchises charged with intensifying attacks on western targets, according to European officials and terrorism specialists.
You can take the view that this presents a new danger, or that it shows al Qaeda's weakness after being ground down in Afghanistan. Of course, the "new danger" angle is being played up. But don't ties between organizations make it easier to identify and unravel networks as we take them down, one by one? The problem is, Al Qaeda Weakened and Looking for Allies is a headline the mainstream media would like to avoid.

One thing I'm reminded of at this point: Ties between these terrorist organizations would involve communications and presumably financial transactions, both of which represent a vulnerability for the terrorists. So maybe now would be a good time to thank the NYT again for exposing the SWIFT program and making the job that much harder.


Colin said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and posit that this story is a lagging indicator of current aQ tactics. I've spent quite a lot of time looking into this process for grad school, and from what I've seen the "franchise" approach to international terrorism has been en vogue since at the latest late '02-'03. Beyond that, aQ came from regional terror franchises, always had a murky but undeniable relationship with various regional terror outfits (for example, the GSPC in North Africa, Ansar al-Islam in Iraq before the invasion, Lashkar-e-Taiba and SIMI in South Asia, and Jemmah Islamiyah in Southeast Asia), and since 9-11, has preferred to operate through local affiliated groups to avoid having to build an infrastructure in a potential new theater of operations. Just look at the way the North African groups acted (notably the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, but the GSPC also) as a "forward deployed element" in the Madrid bombings. This franchising phenomenon of the terrorist threat is not a new concept, and it should not be treated as a new concept. If new groups are being utilized as aQ franchises, then my guess is that ties back to the aQ "mothership" always existed, and that recent actions simply illuminated those ties.