“The Almanac of Al Qaeda” – about our foe

Summary:  A silly bit of propaganda, oddly addressed to a sophisticated audience.  Perhaps after years of this we’ve become gullible and foolish. 

The Almanac of Al Qaeda“, Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, Foreign Policy, May/June 2010 — “FP’s definitive guide to what’s left of the terrorist group.”  Excerpt:

Like a snake backed into a corner, however, a weakened al Qaeda isn’t necessarily less dangerous. In the first comprehensive look of its kind, Foreign Policy offers the Almanac of Al Qaeda, a detailed accounting of how al Qaeda’s ranks, methods, and strategy have changed over the last decade and how they might evolve from here. What emerges is a picture of a terrorist vanguard that is losing the war of ideas in the Islamic world, even as its violent attacks have grown in frequency.

It’s not because the United States is winning — most Muslims still have extremely negative attitudes toward the United States because of its wars in the Muslim world and history of abuses of detainees. It’s because Muslims have largely turned against Osama bin Laden’s dark ideology.

What about the Al Qaeda snake?  The authors attempt to hype the threat, in a half-hearted way.

The Ranks

The definition of an al Qaeda “fighter” is a fluid one. The core fighters are relatively few — just about 100 in Afghanistan in 2009, down from 200 in 2001, according to intelligence officials — and swear a religiously binding oath of personal allegiance known as a bayat to Osama bin Laden. At the heart of the al Qaeda network — now centered in Pakistan — several hundred more “free agent” foreigners, mostly Arabs and Uzbeks, are “all but in name al Qaeda personnel,” as one U.S. intelligence official put it.

The authors provide other measures of A.Q.’s effectiveness, but never notice their absurdity.

  • The number of AQ press releases.  Lots!
  • That Bin Laden remains at large (if he’s still alive).
  • Fake numbers, conflating AQ with other insurgents (such as the Taliban).
  • The number of AQ leaders killed or at large — but #3 still lives!
  • The three AQ attacks during the 2001-09 period.
  • AQ’s many allies — real insurgents, but of little interest to the American public (but falsely conflated with AQ).

Let there be war.  War without end, even if our enemy is a phantom.

Posts about al Qaeda on the FM website

  1. Lessons Learned from the American Expedition to Iraq, 29 December 2005 — Is al Qaeda like Cobra, SPECTRE, and THRUSH?
  2. Quote of the day: this is America’s geopolitical strategy in action, 26 February 2008 — An example of madness in action.
  3. Successful info ops, but who are the targets?, 1 May 2008
  4. Was 9/11 the most effective single military operation in the history of the world?, 11 June 2008
  5. The enigma of Al Qaeda. Even in death, these unanswered questions remain important, 15 September 2008
  6. “Strategic Divergence: The War Against the Taliban and the War Against Al Qaeda” by George Friedman, 31 January 2009
  7. Read the newest Zenpundit post; one of his best!, 7 August 2009
  8. More evidence that all our enemies are al Qaeda, 14 September 2009
  9. Can we defeat our almost imaginary enemies?, 10 December 2009
  10. Are islamic extremists like the anarchists?, 14 December 2009
  11. RAND explains How Terrorist Groups End, and gives Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida, 15 January 2010
  12. Stratfor’s strategic analysis – “Jihadism in 2010: The Threat Continues”, 17 March 2010
  13. Stratfor: “Jihadism: The Grassroots Paradox”, 21 March 2010
  14. A major function of our intelligence agencies is to shape the narrative. They do it well, molding history like clay on a wheel., 15 April 2010
  15. Stratfor: Setting the Record Straight on Grassroots Jihadism, 1 May 2010

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