Tag Archives: al qaeda

Commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11 by understanding what followed

Summary: On 9-11 al Qaeda scored one of the biggest wins in history, as our response put America on a new path. We’ve helped set the Middle East aflame and given up important rights, with no end in sight to either. On this 15th anniversary of 9/11 let’s learn from our mistakes and begin the long process of reforming the damage we have done to America.

Osama Bin Laden

“We were attacked on 9/11 by a group of Saudis, Emiratis, and a Lebanese, led by an Egyptian. Which is why we’re at war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.”

From DuffelBlog, one of America’s few reliable source of insight.

How will future Americans see our time?

“He [VP Cheney] would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it – Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. In other words, he thought the whole world had to be made anew, and that after September 11, it had to be done by force and with urgency. So he was for hard, hard power. … We’re coming after you, so change or be changed.”

— UK PM Tony Blair in his memoir A Journey: My Political Life.

What will 23rd century 8th grade history textbooks say about our time, the era of the Boomers? Only time strips away the trivia, showing future generations the key events of the past. For example, the events at Runnymede on 15 June 1215 seemed of little import to that generation. On August 24 the Pope declared the Baron’s agreement with King John invalid, the next month King John repudiated it, and it was one of a series of such compacts. Yet Magna Carta remained influential, and lives to this day.

I suspect that many prominent events, such as the Vietnam War, will be forgotten. Some, like the moon landing, will get brief mention (noteworthy, but of no significance in history). Children will learn about those events proven to be inflection points. 9/11 will be prominently mentioned. It was the one of the most effective single military operation in the history of the world, and probably the most cost-effective military operation ever.

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Stratfor: Al Qaeda’s North African Franchise Expands to the South

Summary: As I’ve said for years, a key strength of al Qaeda’s comes from its use of western business methods (see links at the end of this post). Here Stratfor looks at their expansion plans, which rely on the powerful tool that built McDonald’s and other great corporations: franchising. It works for terrorists, too.

Stratfor

Al Qaeda’s North African Franchise Pushes South

Stratfor, 31 March 2016

Summary

A string of unusual attacks by al Qaeda’s North African branch could shed some light on the jihadist group’s latest predicament. Pressure is mounting on al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to counter the Islamic State’s growing encroachment on its territory, resources and pool of recruits. The rise of an effective rival for the helm of global jihadism has forced al Qaeda to step up its game, especially in areas where it has been weakened. Northern Africa — and particularly Mali, where France’s military intervention has significantly degraded AQIM’s capabilities over the past few years — is one such place.

The reversal of AQIM’s fortunes by both the Islamic State and France may be the motive behind the group’s latest spate of attacks against soft targets in African cities. Since the beginning of 2016, AQIM has launched several assaults on hotels located well outside its traditional area of operations, including the Hotel Splendid in Burkina Faso and the Grand Bassam resort in Ivory Coast. As the group strives to remain relevant in the face of numerous threats to its position in the region, it will likely continue to ramp up its attacks against Western targets in countries that lack the security resources to defend them.

Analysis

The Islamic State’s ideology is gaining traction across North Africa, and the group’s growing popularity has put al Qaeda on the defensive. Needing to present a united front, the leaders of the al Qaeda core have pressed the group’s various branches and affiliates to put aside their differences and join forces against their common enemy.

In December 2015, al-Mourabitoun — a breakaway faction of AQIM led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar — did just that by rejoining the North African branch. The reunion has had a noticeable impact on both the tempo and selected targets of terrorist activity in West Africa ever since. In January, AQIM laid siege to the Hotel Splendid in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, leaving 30 people dead. Two months later, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on the Grand Bassam beach resort near Ivory Coast’s economic hub, Abidjan, that killed 16. The assaults were the first of their kind in both countries.

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Stratfor asks Why al Qaeda survives the assassination of its leaders?

Summary: Stratfor gives an answer to an oddity of US geopolitical strategy. We have killed so many enemy leaders, yet the flames of fundamentalist Islam continue to spread. See the links at the end for other explanations. But the answers matter not, as our foreign wars run beyond beyond logic — and beyond our control.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Stratfor

Why Ideologies Outlive Ideologues

By Scott Stewart at Stratfor, 18 June 2015

“Killing ideologies is harder than killing people.” Last week I made this statement when I was writing about how the al Qaeda form — or brand — of jihadism should not be written off as dead. It is quite possible that the al Qaeda brand of jihadism could even outlast that of its competitor for jihadist hearts and minds: the Islamic State.

The following points are among the several I made to support this argument: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been able to gain considerable strength in Yemen’s current chaos, and high-profile Sahel-based jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar recently denied that he had sworn loyalty to the Islamic State.

However, these particular considerations seemed to dissolve this week when Libyan government officials announced that Belmokhtar had been killed by a U.S. airstrike June 14 and when Yemeni sources noted that the leader of AQAP, Nasir al-Wahayshi, had been killed by a U.S. airstrike June 9.

The death of Belmokhtar has not been confirmed. Jihadists associated with the Libyan militant group Ansar al-Sharia, which was reportedly involved in the attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi in 2012, provided a list of those killed in the airstrike in Libya that did not include Belmokhtar. It appears that Belmokhtar may once again have escaped an attack that was reported to have taken his life.

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Who will find the key to power: America or the Middle East’s jihadists?

Summary: We dream of superempowered individuals, seeing ourselves as Ayn Rand’s Übermensch or comic book superheroes while we ignore the methods that made us powerful. Meanwhile, Islamic fundamentalists seek to recover formulas from their past that made them world leaders. We have the machinery yet not the will; they have the reverse. Which is more likely to see a successful mass movement? The answer will channel events in the 21st century.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“We are gods. Our tools make us gods. In symbiosis with our technology, our powers are expanding exponentially and so, too, our possibilities.”

— Jason Silva, keynote speaker at the 2012 Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

Superhero

Contents

  1. Our fantasies of superempowerment.
  2. The Islamic Crusade simmers.
  3. America: eagles who think they’re sheep.
  4. For More Information.

 

(1)  Fantasies of superempowerment

Our fantasies take many forms. Some are explicit, like the stories of superheroes that dominate the Hollywood boxes offices. Some are sublimated, such as the hundreds of articles describing how technology creates super-empowered individuals capable of changing the course of history (for good or evil).

This is nothing new. Individuals can destroy cities as easily as Mrs. O’Leary’s cow destroyed Chicago, or create new ideas for technologies that change the world. History is the record of these things.

Technology provides new capabilities, such as allowing individuals to release vast troves of secrets (e.g. as did Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden). But information means nothing by itself. We have no technology allowing better development of common goals and deep trust among people any better than the mail used by the Committees of Correspondence to start the Revolution during 1764-1774. It’s the will that matters, not the tech.

Humanity’s god-like powers come from mass movements — collective action of cities, religions, nations, and political revolutionary groups. Such a movement can coalesce in an eye blink and spread at warp speed, becoming an irresistible force that overturns immovable institutions.

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What’s in a terrorist’s name? A step to understanding the Islamic State.

Summary: The fires expand over the Middle East, driven by centuries of relative decline and corrupt rule, stoked by our interventions. We struggle to understand this phenomenon, cutting through the lies and misinformation fed us. Today guest author Hal Kempfer takes us to the logical starting point: what to call this movement.

“Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever has not kindness has not faith.”
— Attributed to Mohammad.

Islamic sky

What’s in a terrorist name? Perhaps some meaning.

By Hal Kempfer (Lt. Colonel, USMC, retired)

There is an active debate on terminology regarding the type of terrorists we see involving or inspired by groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS. (aka the Islamic State of Iraq & Greater Syria, or ISIL, where they refer to the “Levant” vice “Greater Syria”). ISIS is a former Al Qaeda (AQ) affiliate that has almost eclipsed AQ.

The White House does not like the term “Radical Islam” in describing this threat. However, it is descriptive since it implies from whence their beliefs came. However, it also misses what makes them significantly different from mainstream believers of the Islamic faith.

When Anders Breivik killed 77 people in Norway in 2011, most of them school kids, we didn’t call that “Radical Christianity,” nor did we do so in describing the events near Waco, Texas in 1993 or when Larry McQuilliams attacked the Mexican Consulate, Police Headquarters and federal courthouse in Austin, Texas, around Thanksgiving of last year. Further, when Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. attacked the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Assisted Living Facility in Overland Park, Kansas, in April of 2014, we didn’t call it “Radical Paganism,” even though his motivational beliefs were the same as the Nazi pagan cult of WWII.

So there does seem to be a semantic inconsistency.

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Jihadists will prosper using the methods of America’s entrepreneurs.

Summary: How might the various jihadest organizations evolve during the next decade? They might follow the same path as emerging industries in capitalist economies, driven by the same forces of competition to to grow and innovate so that the best grow far larger than anyone imagined possible at their beginnings. We cannot imagine the details, but the general dynamics are easily understood. If so, the future holds many strange and perhaps terrible things. Our current policies, built on arrogance and ignorance — and above all on a refusal to learn from experience — might end badly for us.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

This is a follow-up to Business 101 tells us what to expect next from jihadists: goods news for them, bad for us. The structure of the jihadist “industry” resembles that of other early stage industries entering their periods of rapid growth and innovation. Such as the automobile industry in the 1920’s, before the massive consolidation that took it from thousands of small companies to dozens of giants (Canada went from hundreds to zero), and the cutting edge sectors of the software industry during its many revolutions.

Jihad flag

This is a heavily paraphrased excerpt from Risk and Reward — Venture Capital and the Making of America’s Great Industries by Thomas M. Doerflinger and Jack Rivkin (1987). This passage discusses the automobile industry. I have substituted the jihadist “industry” and changed some of the text. However, the reasoning remains the same. Note that the quotes and numbers are real, from the author’s description of the early auto industry.

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An industry takes off

The jihadist industry resembles the classic high-tech industries (e.g., semiconductors, biotechnology). A few thousand dollars are all that is needed to start an insurgent group, and if it scored some early success more people and funds roll in. The flip side is that the industry is incredibly volatile, with fast-growing groups sprouting up and then shriveling like so many mushrooms.

As in the case of automobiles and computers, those outside the jihadist community are slow to appreciate its tremendous potential because they did not anticipate how rapidly it would improve in effectiveness. This is actually typical of both revolutionary industries and movements.

Growth

To be sure the jihadist industry has grown more slowly than its French counterpart. It took only 5 years for France to get from the calling of the Estate-General in 1788 to Robespierre’s Reign of Terror in 1793. The jihadist industry followed a more typical trajectory, from “criminals … who are willing to be guns for hire” (per David Petraeus, 9 November 2003) into a serious threat to the region’s regimes in only 11 years. The central reason for this superior performance is that as in the early days of automobiles and computers, no single company monopolized the jihadists. From the beginning it was a competitive free-for-all. They had a second and equally important advantage: local entrepreneurs run the groups, people who had faith in their revolution. The elites of the region, even their supporters, are rational, skeptical, and often wrong — and remain safely on the periphery where they could do little damage.

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Business 101 tells us what to expect next from jihadists: good news for them, bad for us.

Summary:  Years of assassinating jihadists have improved the breed and boosted their popularity. Business 101 tells us what to expect: new entrants arise to exploit this opportunity. Their competition will accelerate evolution of better business practices, making the winners even more dangerous foes. There is one powerful group fueling this process, people we can persuade to stop. (1st of 2 posts today about jihadists.)

Jihadi Competition

Jihadi Competition After al Qaeda Hegemony“, Clint Watts, Foreign Policy Research Institute, February 2014.

Our geopolitical experts, a mixture of experts and frauds, are agog over the competition between al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and befuddled by the proliferation of jihadist groups (it took most of them years to get over the idea that al Qaeda was like SPECTRE (or THRUSH or COBRA). Guesses and fantasies about our foes fly along the info highway.

The above graphic from the FPRI report tells the story. It’s the general form of graphic familiar to those who know business history. It has the outline of the world automobile industry in the 1920’s, a period of intense competition, rapid growth, and broad evolution — of product, manufacturing, finance and distribution — before the massive consolidation that took it from thousands of small companies to dozens of giants (Canada went from hundreds to zero). It’s the general form of cutting edge sectors of the software industry during its many revolutions.

As these groups grow beyond their local bases they increasingly compete amongst themselves for talent, ownership of brands and ideas, market share, and sources of financial support. Their beliefs are rooted in the 6th century, but their methods are those of the 21st. The best jihadists will win.

How we drive the evolution of the jihadists

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