Clint Watts on "No Al-Qaeda?"
I've not posted on Al-Qaeda in a while, though they also never write, never call, but there may be a reasonable excuse for their long silence if Clint Watts is correct in his FPRI article, "What If There Is No Al-Qaeda? Preparing For Future Terrorism" (July 2012):
Today, in comparison to ten years ago, al-Qaeda does not have the ability to execute attacks on a regular basis due to its declining mass -- a function of limited safe havens, dwindling recruits, loss of critical human capital (leaders and technical experts), and a reduction in financial support. Al-Qaeda has not executed a successful attack on the West in the West since the London subway bombings of 2005. Three of the most credible al-Qaeda plots in recent years have arisen from an affiliate, AQAP [Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] in Yemen, rather than the group's central leadership in Pakistan. Does this mean that al-Qaeda will dry up and never attack the U.S. again? Absolutely not! But the decline in the pace of al-Qaeda's attacks illustrates the group's broader struggles to recruit foreign fighters, prepare operations, and effectively resource missions.But Al-Qaeda's problems don't mean that the threat of Islamist jihadi groups is past:
While the battle with al-Qaeda is not entirely over, the U.S. and its allies should begin imagining how the remnants of the old al-Qaeda threat will re-emerge as a new manifestation among regional and transnational extremist upstarts. The West should work vigorously to identify what this new frontier in terrorism will look like.The greatly weakened Al-Qaeda thus still poses a residual threat, but it is just one jihadi group among many in a decentralized terrorist world. And there are some ironies stemming from Al-Qaeda's misfortunes:
A current assessment might instead suggest those groups most closely aligned with al-Qaeda seem to be shedding the "al-Qaeda" name to strengthen their local credibility, while those groups least connected to al-Qaeda and harboring little popular support have taken on the moniker to boost their global credibility.The Islamists closest to Al-Qaeda are embarrassed to admit the connection, while those farthest away try to wrap themselves in the faded black flag of its failing legitimacy.
I forwarded the article to one of my contacts in the military who served with NATO in Afghanistan, where he was directly focused on the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism missions, and who still associates with individuals at US Central Command and US Special Operations Command, and he wrote back, "Very interesting and updated. Thank you for sharing."
Maybe some readers will feel the same way . . .