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Al-Qaida: weaker or stronger?
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, January 25, 2006

At the NY Times, it depends on to whom you talk. On the side arguing al-Qaida is stronger we find Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon who say:
Had Americans instead listened with the ears of those for whom the message was intended - Muslims around the world - they would have heard something very different. Instead of a weak Osama bin Laden, they would have heard a magnanimous one who could offer a truce because "the war in Iraq is raging, and the operations in Afghanistan are on the rise in our favor." Mr. bin Laden staked his claim to leadership of the Muslim world on 9/11, striking us as others only dreamed of doing. On the tape, he shows strength by taking credit for America's humiliation in Iraq and continues to do what we are not: fighting for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.

It is too early to say how this tape will affect Muslim opinion, but there is no doubt that Mr. bin Laden's strategy has been paying off. According to a poll released last month by Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland and Zogby International, when Muslims in several countries were asked what aspect of Al Qaeda they "sympathize" with most, 39 percent said it was because the group confronted the United States. Nearly 20 percent more sympathized because it "stands up for Muslim causes," which is really just a polite way of saying the same thing.
The war in Iraq, of course, is not 'raging', but instead becoming less and less of a story while in Afghanistan, al-Qaida has managed a few IEDs and suicide bombs, which, one assumes, causes Benjaman and Simon to agree that the tide is turning in Afghanistan (or at least Osama is able to convince the Muslim world it is). They cite polls as proof that the majority of the Muslim world is bullish on al-Qaida and it will be only a matter of time that Osama's "big boast" will be considered true.

Of course other polls indicate a different reality. For instance:
An international poll done for Britain's BBC says Iraqis and Afghans are most optimistic about their economic future, while Italians are among the downcast.

Joining the Italians in the pessimism category at people in Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, says the poll of 37,500 people in 32 nations.

Joining the Afghans and Iraqis in the optimistic category are Canadians who are bullish not only about their own finances (64 percent), but also about their country (63 percent).

In Afghanistan, 70 percent of respondents said their own circumstances are improving, and 57 percent said the country overall is on the way up. In Iraq, 65 percent believe their personal life is getting better, and 56 percent are upbeat about the country's economy, the BBC reported.
Interesting. Two countries in which Osama says his war is going well have majorities which are optimistic about their economic futures. I would suggest that means they essentially are optimitic with the eventual success of their newly formed governments as well. Does that sound like the makings of an al-Qaida success?

Then consider Thomas Friedman, who's column today (sorry no link ... only excerpts typed with my own error prone fingers) claims precisely the opposite is occurring as it pertains to al-Qaida.
Reading about the lates tapes by Osama bin Laden and his sidekick Ayman al-Zawahiri, my gut reaction is that they sound like a couple of burned-out rock stars who keep recycling their greatest hits in hopes of catching on last time as the lounge duo in some Las Vegas hotel.
Pretty much the impression I took away from the tape as well. OBL was not offering a truce from a position of strength. And Friedman points to another very important indicator that al-Qaida's star is in fact fading in the Muslim world, not getting stronger. That is criticism within the radical elements of Islam. Friedman cites a little back and forth which took place between al-Qaida's al-Zawahiri and the Muslim Brotherhood, and old-line radical Islamic group:
On Jan. 7, after al-Zawahiri lambasted the Muslim Brothers as US stooges for taking part in Egypt's parliamentary elections, Agence France-Presse reported the following from Cairo:

"Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood responded Saturday to al-Qaida's accusation of complicity with Washington by charging that the Islamist violence advocated by Osama bin Laden's network was counterproductive". A Brotherhood spokesman, Issam al-Aryan, asked, "What results have his resort to violence yielded?"
Sound like a part of the Muslim world which is buying into the concept Bejamin and Simon are claiming for OBL that he's speaking from a position of strength and not weakness?

Then consider this under reported story:
In a further sign of the rifts emerging within Iraq's insurgency, Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has stepped aside as the head of a new council of radical groups in favor of an Iraqi, according to a posting on a Web site used by Al Qaeda and other insurgent groups.

The statement, whose authenticity could not be independently verified, said Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, "who is Iraqi," had taken over from al-Zarqawi as "emir" of the new Mujahedeen Shura, or Council, which groups six extremist organizations including Al Qaeda and whose creation was announced last week.

The formation of the council and the appointment of an Iraqi to lead it come at a time of deepening divisions within Iraq's insurgency over ways to respond to the new realities of post-election Iraq and how to prepare for the day when U.S. troops start going home.

Most notably, some Iraqi nationalist insurgent groups are turning against al-Zarqawi and his foreign Arab volunteers, whose spectacular suicide bombings have served the insurgency's goals well until now but whose Islamic extremism has come to be seen as a liability by rebels whose aim increasingly is to secure a role for Sunni Iraqis in the new political order.
Or said another way, "foreigners [al-Qaida] leave, we've had enough of your violence against other Muslims". My guess is it was more of a hostile takeover than a friendly one.

And then, of course there is this report today from Reuters:
Hundreds of Iraqis staged a demonstration in the restive city of Samarra on Tuesday in a show of defiance against al Qaeda militants they blamed for killing dozens of police recruits last week.

Nationalist rebels and tribal leaders in the city north of Baghdad had already let it be known they were joining forces to try to expel the foreign-influenced Islamists from the area, part of a trend in Sunni Arab areas that U.S. commanders have pointed to optimistically as a sign of political development.
I'd agree with the US commanders' assessment based on the other reports.

No, al-Qaida's star is fading in my opinion, which is a good thing obviously. That doesn't mean they're not still very dangerous. As we've all learned wounded animals are the most vicious. But I have to respectfully disagree with Benjamin and Simon. OBL and al-Qaida are not dealing from positions of strength and his truce offer wasn't a magnanimous gesture. I was one founded in desperation, a rather poorly hidden plea for a respite. And it proves fairly conclusively, at least to me, that Iraq wasn't at all a distraction or diversion in the War on Terror.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Gee, another fudgy, anti-OIF poll.

Interestingly, in order to make the case that AQ is stronger, OIF’s detractors resort to polling a constituency ("Muslims") that enjoys little freedom of speech, living in nations lacking democratic governance or a free press.

[Note that the targetting of the poll towards "Muslims" seems to admit tacitly that "Muslims" are core contributors to global terrorism - an unintended PC slip-up, I’m sure.]

Then they use this faulty statistic to buttress their preconceived talking-point opposing any American preemptive military action. Only a Kos-kid could fall for this sophomoric ploy.

Written By: Steve
URL: http://
Only a Kos-kid could fall for this sophomoric ploy.
Yeah, but when you’re a drowning man, Steve, you tend to grab onto anything that even has a HINT that it might float. Straws, for example.
So I take their position at the moment.

Written By: Bithead
Simply put, AQ is stronger, MUCH stronger, almost as strong as Godzilla and just as dangerous, but to New York, not Tokyo... and it’s Bush’s fault.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
The war in Iraq, of course, is not ’raging’, but instead becoming less and less of a story ....
Only to Bush supporters. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Reuters reports the following:
BAGHDAD, 24 January (IRIN) - Violence in Iraq rose dramatically in 2005 compared with the year before, noted a report released by the US military on 23 January.

According to US military statistics, 34,100 insurgent attacks mostly targeting US and Iraqi troops were recorded last year, up from about 27,000 in 2004, representing an increase of almost 30 percent.

Instances of pedestrian suicide bombing also rose, from seven in 2004 to 67 in 2005. Similarly, suicide attacks using car bombs rose in numbers from 133 to 411 for the same period.
Al Qaeda has always represented a very small part of the insurgency in Iraq. What’s worse, it seems that the Sunni insurgency is a more effective force against Al Qaeda than either US forces or the Iraqi "security forces." Considering that the Sunnis will be shut out of the new government for the next four years, this hardly suggests stability in Iraq is coming anytime soon. If anything it suggests the opposite.
And it proves fairly conclusively, at least to me, that Iraq wasn’t at all a distraction or diversion in the War on Terror.
No - it was worse. Where do you think all those now highly trained foreign fighters are going to go? The North Pole?

Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Considering that the Sunnis will be shut out of the new government for the next four years, this hardly suggests stability in Iraq is coming anytime soon. If anything it suggests the opposite.
No, McQ is right. A purely Iraqi Sunni insurgency is more vulnerable to Iraqi security forces who can offer both carrots and sticks to the Sunni families to reign in insurgent fighters. It is good news for Iraq.
No - it was worse. Where do you think all those now highly trained foreign fighters are going to go?

The question is if Al Qaeda is stronger or weaker, not is Al Qaeda losing or winning in Iraq. The war in Iraq is not a winnable proposition as long as the Americans remain and becomes less winnable the longer they remain. Despite this Al Qaeda has been able to increase its involvement and commitment to the Iraqi war year on year (in an effort to motivate America to withdraw). The stats mkultra uses point to increasing Al Qaeda strength, they are losing because a much stronger combined American/Iraqi force is getting better faster.

If Al Qaeda determine Iraq to be utterly unwinnable by their current strategy, they will change strategy and they will attack elsewhere. They can do this because war has not damaged their financial or religious support. Prior to 9/11 Al Qaeda relied on funding wealthy salafist muslims (mainly from wahabist/salafist Saudis - not yet eliminated), the 9/11 attacks gained sympathy from poorer Muslim states (more donors with less money) and the Iraq war has gained them the direct support of Syria and Iran (state funding). Meanwhile Saudi funded religious schools and mosques continue to produce wahabist/salafist graduates, a proportion of whom are susceptible to Al Qaeda’s message.
The North Pole?
The elsewhere they attack could be the north pole.

Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://

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