Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Mergers & Aquisitions
Last September on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden's right hand man, announced that the GSPC (the Algerian-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat) had officially joined al-Qaeda. The group, which had already announced its support for Bin Laden's jihad against the United States four years earlier, would later change its name to better reflect the brand image, becoming the Organisation of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
At the time of Zawahiri's announcement, the most significant outcome of the alliance seemed to be the targeting for jihad of France, Algeria's former colonial ruler, which until then had been spared much attention because of its opposition to the Iraq War. But as Michael Sheuer points out in this article in Terrorism Focus, the deal actually points to much wider implications. The three he identifies are:
- The success of Bin Laden's effort to get local, nationalist-oriented Islamic resistance groups to shift their emphasis towards targeting the "far enemy" (ie. America and the West), which is his principal strategic contribution to jihad, as discussed here.
- The combination of al-Qaeda "franchises" with the resurgence of al-Qaeda's central operational and leadership capacities, which means the West now faces a two-tiered threat.
- The use of Iraq as "contiguous territory" from which to gain access to Mediterranean and North African Islamic states, and from there, targets in Israel and Western Europe.
This last is worth emphasizing, because it means that far from keeping the terrorists occupied so they can't strike us here, as President Bush likes to claim, the Iraqi battlefield has offered al-Qaeda operatives valuable training experience while also serving as a point of departure for expanding into previously out of reach markets. As Scheuer puts it:
Although more research needs to be completed on the idea of Iraq being an al-Qaeda base for projecting itself into adjacent countries, it seems that not all of al-Qaeda's time has been spent fighting U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.
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