Pakistani and Taliban officials interviewed by Newsweek say the Qaeda No. 2, Ayman Al-Zawahiri is behind the wave of retaliatory attacks launched after Pakistani troops overran the Red Mosque in Islamabad, which have killed more than 150 people. While Osama bin Laden has been keeping a low profile, Zawahiri has moved aggressively to take operational control of the group. In so doing, Zawahiri has provoked a potentially serious ideological split within Al Qaeda over whether he is growing too powerful and has become obsessed with toppling Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, according to two jihadists interviewed by Newsweek last week.
For various reasons, I'm still of the belief (and that's all it is sans any concrete evidence) that bin Laden is no more and hasn't been for some time. In my estimation, Zawahiri is really the No. 1 man in al Qaeda. But it is convenient for AQ to keep bin Laden "alive" in the world's view. So assuming my belief to be the case, I found this possibly revealing:
Bin Laden himself has not personally intervened to end the internal feud, according to the jihadist sources. For security reasons he rarely has face-to- face meetings with his deputies. "He doesn't want to get involved," says Khan. "He's already too busy with strategic planning and inspirational duties and with directing his own security." Instead, bin Laden has tried to resolve the dispute by dividing duties between the two factions and appointing a pair of mediators, these sources tell Newsweek.
Right. The leader of a group doesn't want to get involved in a dispute which may split his organization down the middle. Nope he's to busy with "strategic planning and inspirational duties and with directing his own security."
Anyone else buying into that?
Meanwhile the split is between the "Lybian faction" and Zawahiri. The Lybians say "his actions may jeopardize the safe haven that the group has developed in Pakistan's tribal regions of North Waziristan and Bajaur". By "actions" they're talking about his "personal jihad" against Pakistan's Musharraf is jeopardizing their position. They feel, are you ready for this, he's "too extremist."
As an aside, keep in mind that Zawahiri was cautioning Zarqawi (in Iraq) about his extreme tactics. Makes you wonder what Zarqawi was considered to be.
Another interesting little bit from this piece:
"Libyans tell me that the sheik [bin Laden] has not appointed a successor and that only the U.S. government and the international media talk of Zawahiri as being the deputy."
Unless I'm mistaken, bin Laden has never previously been unwilling to exercise leadership. So what this may point too is a fight for the top spot coming to light with rival factions vying for power.
A senior U.S. official involved in counterterrorism policy, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was addressing sensitive matters, agrees that there are tensions between Al Qaeda's Egyptian and Libyan factions, as well as between Saudi and Central Asian elements. "These guys are not immune to nationalist tendencies," he says. John Arquilla, an intelligence expert at the Naval Postgraduate School who closely follows radical Islamist traffic, calls it "the battle for Al Qaeda's strategic soul. There is a profound strategic debate over whether to focus on overturning the government in Pakistan ... because that puts them in control of a nuclear capacity."
It is also one of the reasons we have to step rather lightly as it pertains to Pakistan. But this is some intriguing information. And given that it has come from supposed terrorist sources (respectfully called 'jihadists' by Newsweek), it's automatically suspect (they've become pretty good propaganda purveyors). However this point makes sense strategically:
But they fear that Zawahiri is inviting the Pakistani leader's wrath, prematurely opening up another battlefront before the jihadists have properly consolidated their position.
I'm not sure what their concern about "properly consolidating" is exactly, as I don't think they're doing particularly well anywhere at the moment, but that would speak even more in favor of not opening up another front against Pakistan. And that certainly seems to be what is happening.
Any way, interesting stuff. It certainly wouldn't bother me in the least to see this crew begin squabbling and shatter into a million grubby little groups, of which none would have the resources or leadership to do anything but irritate the hell out of asian nation unlucky enough to have them call home.
I’m sure he will find a home in Iraq once we leave.
In fact, I wonder if the reconstituted Al Queda isn’t already heavily in Iraq. And I’m not talking about the Iraqi efforts, but their international efforts.
The recent bombing attempts in England seem to have the fingerprints of an Iraqi operation.
(a) Perhaps close, but not really aimed directly at any super-special place. They targeted the people and not necessarily the place and also to maximize bodycount (b) Car bomb which I believe are a (if not the) key IED of choice in Iraq. (c) Double bomb where a second explosion is setup to kill those who gathered to gawk or help (d) Iraqi Doctor
The rest of AQ may have adapted to the Iraqi methods, but it seems like too much of a different character than old AQ. But perhaps that’s another sign someone else is really at the top.