Al Qaeda and the Klan
The G8 leaders stood united behind Tony Blair as he addressed the world in the immediate aftermath of the attacks- in silence. Now is not the time for silence; it is the time for a clarion call to action. Our leaders, the leaders of the Western world and all nations that cherish freedom and liberty must work together to determine a cogent strategy against the extremism that threatens every Western nation. Our foes may be content for now to target the U.S. and our allies in the GWOT , but we must not forget that this is not their ultimate goal. The restoration of the caliphate
and the ancient borders of the peak of the Islamic empire are their goals. Far fetched, to be sure, but they believe they can do it. And that belief is a dangerous thing.
Every jihadist that fights in Iraq and makes it back out of the country, either before or after order is restored to the nation, is a walking knowledge base. They are learning how to build improvised explosive devices (IEDs) they are learning how to fight in an urban environment, how to communicate in combat situations and how to form cells that can work in crude, but effective, independence. Where will they go when the war in Iraq is over? Will they go “home”? Home to the Europe that welcomed them with more or less open arms, provided shelter and sustenance, the freedom of religion to practice as they see fit and the freedom of travel to go abroad to train and wage jihad? What will they do when they get there? I doubt they will open falafel stands- in fact I fully expect that they are already returning and plying their new trade. They will have garnered valuable skills, and passed the test- emerging from Iraq alive- that makes them valued recruiters and trainers. It also means that the nations from which they are emerging should be afraid- very afraid, of their return.
At the top of that list of nations that have the most to fear from returning jihadis: Saudi Arabia
The NBC News analysis of Web site postings found that 55 percent of foreign insurgents came from Saudi Arabia, 13 percent from Syria, 9 percent from North Africa and 3 percent from Europe.
That is a huge percentage, more than four times the number from the next leading supplier of murderers. Can our Saudi allies do nothing to close the border? Or do they prefer not to, hoping that the jihadi element of Saudi society will meet its end in Iraq at Coalition hands? If this is the case it is a dangerous game that the Saudis play. We will not, no matter what the effort, destroy all of the terrorists who oppose us in Iraq. Some will inevitably escape. In addition to the deadly skills they will take with them, they will have made connections both ideological and physical to the vast amorphous terror network that is commonly know as al Qaeda- for example the perpetrators of the London attack, here to for unknown, ensured that their evil deed would not only rocket to the forefront of the media‘s attention, but would remain there by using al Qaeda in the name of their group. Were they ordered to commit the attack by bin Laden, or one of his remaining top level men, or did they act independently? Does it really matter? They claim to be aligned with, or to at least adhere to the same principles as, bin Laden and his followers-and that may really be all that al Qaeda is today- a name in which to perpetuate terror against the West.
This leads me to a source I would not normally refer to on this blog, but for once (at least for a portion of the article) Mother Jones has hit it on the head:
Which brings us to an important question: What is Al Qaeda? The network is perhaps best understood as a set of concentric rings, growing more ill defined as they spread outward. At the core is Al Qaeda the organization, which bin Laden and a dozen or so close associates formed in 1989, and which eventually expanded to 200 to 300 core members who have sworn an oath of allegiance to bin Laden, their emir, or prince. It was Al Qaeda the organization that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.
The second concentric ring consists of perhaps several thousand men who have trained in Al Qaeda's Afghan camps in bomb making, assassination, and the manufacture of poisons. Beyond that ring are as many as 120,000 who received some kind of basic military training in Afghanistan over the past decade. An undetermined number of those fighters are now sharpening their skills as insurgents from Kashmir to Algeria.
The Madrid attacks in March are emblematic of what is emerging as the fourth and perhaps most ambiguous -- and potentially most dangerous -- ring in the Al Qaeda galaxy. The attacks were carried out by a group of Moroccans with few links to Al Qaeda the organization. Some of the conspirators did try to establish direct contact with the inner core of Al Qaeda, but that effort seems to have been unsuccessful, and they carried out the attacks under their own steam. These attacks may well represent the future of "Al Qaeda" operations, most of which will be executed by local jihadists who have little or no direct connection to bin Laden's group. This is a worrisome development, because it suggests that Al Qaeda has successfully transformed itself from an organization into a mass movement with a nearly unlimited pool of potential operatives.
I will part company with Mother Jones at this point, because I do not see the pool of applicants that al Qaeda has as basically unlimited. In fact, to me this pool of potential terrorists is what the next phase of the GWOT should be all about. We are already actively engaged with the current crop of jihadis, and may indeed already be too late to stop the next generation. This will be a long, long, battle. Our enemy is prepared for a lengthy war of attrition, and is counting on being able to replenish their pool of recruits as time goes on. In a conventional war we would strike at the enemy’s ability to produce materiel, targeting factories and supply lines. In this war that means one thing: the jihadis themselves. The big question, of course, is how to do this. Is there a model to draw upon to base the battle against the al Qaeda recruiters? There might be, and it might come as a surprise: the destruction of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Klan had a long and somewhat storied history in the U.S. prior to its eventual downfall- supported by a large percentage of the population, tacitly if not implicitly. It took the eventual refutation of the people of the nation to drive the KKK back to the fringes of society- we will never be quit of the KKK, but they no longer present a viable threat to any segment of the nation. We will most likely never be quit of al Qaeda, either. But we just might be able to deprive them of the materiel (recruits) that they need to continue to wage their "holy" war. There are a lot of "ifs" in this idea, and it is by no means a quick solution, more a long term strategic goal than a silver bullet.
The first of the conditions is the establishment of a viable democracy in Iraq, where liberty and freedom for all is the reality. And that, after all, is the biggest if. If we, and our allies, can find the resolve to stay the path in Iraq while continuing to fight the ideological war at the same time the rest of the conditions should fall into place.
I plan to continue this post soon, following up on the idea that the destruction of the Klan might offer a path towards ending the flow of martyrs that bin Laden and his ilk depend upon- I am still working on it, and have written as much as I can tonight. Stay tuned, and as always your comments and e-mails are much appreciated.