politics, history and the war on terror
Monday, April 26, 2004
Defining al Qaeda 

Jason Burke of Foreign Policy magazine provides an excellent overview of al Qaeda, its setup, goals and ideology. This is highly recommended reading for a concise look at our enemy. Mr. Burke’s description of Al Qaeda's organization is particularly interesting as it helps define the threat which we face:

Although bin Laden and his partners were able to create a structure in Afghanistan that attracted new recruits and forged links among preexisting Islamic militant groups, they never created a coherent terrorist network in the way commonly conceived. Instead, al Qaeda functioned like a venture capital firm—providing funding, contacts, and expert advice to many different militant groups and individuals from all over the Islamic world.

Today, the structure that was built in Afghanistan has been destroyed, and bin Laden and his associates have scattered or been arrested or killed. There is no longer a central hub for Islamic militancy. But the al Qaeda worldview, or “al Qaedaism,” is growing stronger every day. This radical internationalist ideology—sustained by anti-Western, anti-Zionist, and anti-Semitic rhetoric—has adherents among many individuals and groups, few of whom are currently linked in any substantial way to bin Laden or those around him. They merely follow his precepts, models, and methods. They act in the style of al Qaeda, but they are only part of al Qaeda in the very loosest sense.

Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis has been making a very similar argument about al Qaeda for some time, however he states that bin Laden is instrumental in the setup, financing, training and support of these local jihadi organizations.

The points which I disagree with Mr. Burke are the downplaying of the WMD threat and the claim Zarqawi is not affiliated with al Qaeda. Just recently two WMD plots were exposed: an attempted chemical attack in Jordan on the U.S. embassy and Jordanian intelligence services in Jordan, and a planned attack in England, which was in its infancy. Over one year ago, a planned ricin attack was discovered in England. While these attempts may be crude by the author's standard, they show a willingness to use WMD. Concerning Zarqawi and his ties to al Qaeda, the evidence points to his involvement with al Qaeda, as his famous memo to bin Laden documents.

The War on Terror is not just against al Qaeda in its strictest sense (bin Laden and his immediate associates), but against all jihadis who adhere to the ideology of radical Islam. The fight must be taken to every group willing to use terrorism to achieve the goals of radical Islam.

Posted by bill roggio @ 12:36 PM