It would seem that al Qaeda does not have limitless resources, that its pool of operatives is not expanding, and that it is having to rely upon poorly-trained bourgeois followers to carry out attacks.
Not all is well with the "strong horse." It seems to be faltering. Having lost thousands of its members and much of its leadership in Iraq it is malfunctioning. The Strategy Page summarizes the radicals' situation:
And, having killed tens of thousands of Muslims, the enormous prestige al Qaeda enjoyed after 9/11 is evaporating throughout the Muslim world. Recruits are not coming in the way they did after the twin towers fell. Once again Strategy Page explains:
Al Qaeda operations continue to decline, as the number of al Qaeda members, and leaders killed or captured, goes up. Then there's al Qaeda media activity. Up until last Fall, 93 percent of al Qaeda Internet announcements were video. Since then, most of them are just audio, and sounding increasingly less confident. There is good reason for that lack of confidence. American and Pakistani attacks (usually with missiles or smart bombs) along the Afghan border in the last two years have killed an increasing number of foreign fighters. DNA tests can tell if someone is from the region, or elsewhere in the world. But that's not what worries al Qaeda, it's the increasing amount of accurate information the counter-terror forces are getting. No one is talking, but al Qaeda chatter claims that either the Americans have some wondrous new bit of technology, or Yankee money has corrupted more al Qaeda members to give up information. The Taliban is suffering the same kind of casualties, and coming up with the same paranoid theories. More people in Pakistan and Afghanistan, some of them innocent, are being accused of spying, and killed by the Taliban and al Qaeda. Some of those multi-million dollar rewards for terrorists have been collected. Some openly, some more discretely. There is some reason to be paranoid.
Al Qaeda is eagerly recruiting other Islamic terrorist organizations, usually ones that have recently taken a big beating in their home country, to become part of al Qaeda. That's about the only growth al Qaeda is experiencing. In Iraq, former Sunni Arab allies of al Qaeda have openly turned on the organization, and are eagerly hunting them down and killing them. Al Qaeda is fighting back, now sending death squads after Sunni Arab tribal chiefs. Does that sound like something a winner would be doing?No it doesn't. So how can al Qaeda make a comeback from the brink of disaster? Well, there are the old reliable allies:
Al Qaeda is having some success in the Western media....
And some not so reliable:
and among Moslems living in Europe. But those expatriate Moslems are handicapped by many of their brethren who are not enthusiastic about Islamic terrorism. The police get tips, make arrests, and al Qaeda losses a few more true believers.So, with their prestige and their effectiveness melting away, al Qaeda leadership is feeling the heat, looking for that one big thing that will put them back on top:
Read the Strategy Page article here.
Al Qaeda is desperate for another highly visible attack in the West. Many such operations are apparently being planned, but by amateurs who can get no help from al Qaeda experts. Most of al Qaedas traveling experts are dead or in prison. Inspiring amateurs to attempt poorly planned attacks, like the recent ones in Britain, only discourage recruits. That's because another bunch of wannabes get sent away for long prison terms. This is a fate worse than death for Islamic terrorists. There are no 72 virgins in Western prisons, unless you consider the fact that you may be turned into one.
In Iraq, the situation is particularly dire. Al Qaeda once owned Anbar province, but they have been driven out. The few remnants are being hunted like animals by the local chiefs. Similar things are taking place in portions of Baghdad and in Dialya. Michael Yon reports:
"Baqubah has gone quiet. Very little fighting. There might be more to come, but overall the people have turned against al Qaeda and are pointing them out day by day. The people are pointing out the bombs.... Remember Ramadi? That crazy city of death and fighting? Writers hardly want to go there any more because it's quiet.... So far so good. There are serious sectarian issues here in Diyala Province, but with al Qaeda on defense instead of offense, the people in Baqubah have a chance to do what those in Ramadi and other cities are doing: reclaim their lives."Read it here.
And the news is not much better in Afghanistan and Africa [remember this is a global conflict]. A "former spook" writes:
In Afghanistan, the Taliban's spring offensive never materialized, despite the availability of training and support facilities across the border in Pakistan. Instead of taking the fight to NATO, Al Qaida's Afghan allies found themselves squarely on the defensive, taking heavy casualties from aggressive U.S., British, Canadian and Dutch incursions into terrorist regions. The success of recent NATO attacks has prompted a change in tactics by the Taliban, who are now relying more on suicide attacks that sometimes cause significant civilian casualties, but accomplish little else.Read him here.
Of course, the major impact of the suicide attacks is to draw the attention of the Western media and to give the anti-war activists something to gloat about.
There is danger in all of this. Al Qaeda's increasing frustration is driving it to seek to replicate their 9/11 triumph. But the frustration apparent in al Qaeda's recent actions and pronouncements is also a strong indication that the good guys, led by President Bush, are winning this global war against barbarity. We will never fully eradicate terrorism and there will always be radicals, and in that sense the "whack-a-mole" critics are right. But we can push them back to the margins and drastically reduce their influence and, most importantly, create an opportunity for more civilized values and practices to flourish. That is just what President Bush and his allies are doing and for that they deserve our heartfelt gratitude.
South Asia Times reports on an important development:
KARACHI - Since last September, North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan have been pressing Islamabad for the right to conduct extensive hot-pursuit operations into Pakistan to target Taliban and al-Qaeda bases.Read it here.
According to Asia Times Online contacts, NATO and its US backers have gotten their wish: coalition forces will start hitting targets wherever they might be.
Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf is expected to make an important announcement on extremism during an address to the nation in the next day or two.
The ATol contacts in Islamabad say that coalition intelligence has pinpointed at least four centers in the tribal areas of North Waziristan and South Waziristan on the border with Afghanistan from which Taliban operations inside Afghanistan are run. These bases include arms caches and the transfer and raising of money and manpower, the latter in the form of foot-soldiers to fight with the Taliban-led insurgency.
Operations inside Pakistan might be carried out independently by the United States, probably with air power, by Pakistani forces acting alone or as joint offensives. In all cases, though, the US will pull the strings, for instance by providing the Pakistanis with information on targets to hit.
Musharraf has apparently already told his military commanders, the National Security Council and decision-makers in government of the development.
Finally, we will be able to take the fight directly to the enemy in their sanctuaries. This is not good for al Qaeda.