Special Analysis: A Window Into al-Qaeda

Winds of Change Net
by Dan Darling at December 21, 2004 09:09 AM

Back during the Cold War, the rule with intelligence was, “If it’s sensational, don’t believe it.” Of course, back then we were fighting something resembling a rational enemy, whereas these days it seems like we’re reliving the plots of far too many bad novels. I’ve got half a mind to recommend that they open up US intelligence to all of these comic book geeks who keep track of every detail of their favorite characters online. They, at least, could remember all of these damned names.

  • Former senior US intelligence official in conversation to me, circa July 2004

As some of you already know, last weekend I was at a counter-terrorism conference in New York City at the behest of my patrons, who were nice enough to fly me out there and for the purposes of me posting on the Internet would prefer to remain anonymous, if for nothing else than so they can plausibly deny everything they say :wink: I’ve also been finishing finals and watching the extended edition of The Return of the King, so I apologize in advance for the number of Tolkien references that are likely to be used here.

The conference’s attendees included a wide variety of law enforcement, intelligence, military or former military, and think tank types from pretty much across the ideological spectrum and I learned a great deal both from the presentations and in conversation. None of the information that was shared at the conference was classified or anything like that, and I have my own doubts (and in some cases extreme disagreement) about some of what was said. Still, I figure that this may all be valuable to you, perhaps because it runs against some of what I have argued.

*]Al-Qaeda Command & Control
*]Al-Qaeda Training Facilities & Infrastructure
*]Al-Qaeda in General
*]Iraq and al-Qaeda
*]Iran & al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda recruiting in Europe in particular has sky-rocketed since first 3/11 [bombing in Spain] and then the Filippino withdrawl from Iraq, even more so than actually during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The main reason for this is that the group is now seen as having evicted at least two “Crusader states” from Iraq and as such is perceived among its “soft” sympathizers to have the momentum with it. Increasingly pessimistic Western commentary on the situation has also led many of these same “soft” supporters to believe that very soon the organization can defeat the US inside Iraq, thereby leading to the nucleus for the eventual restoration of the Caliphate in the Middle East. Second generation Muslim immigrants without any exposure to Islamist violence in the Middle East are far more likely to hold to extremely romanticized notions about al-Qaeda and Islamist terrorism in general, as they have no real clue about what these guys do in the process of setting up their little utopia.

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