June 9, 2011

Al Qaeda's Transnational Reach Largely Neutered

From Stratfor.com's analysis of a new video from al Qaeda’s media arm, As-Sahab, posted online June 2,  titled “Responsible Only for Yourself.” It is al Qaeda core’s latest attempt to encourage grassroots jihadists to undertake lone-wolf operations in the West. Stratfor characterizes it as a message of defeat.  We concur:

"Overall, the jihadist message urging Muslims to take up arms and conduct attacks simply does not appear to be gaining much traction among Muslims in the West — and the United States in particular. We have simply not seen the groundswell of grassroots attacks that was initially anticipated. The pleas of Gadahn and his companions appear to be falling upon deaf ears and do not seem to resonate with Muslims in the West in the same way that the cries of the pro-democracy movements in the Middle East have in recent months.

In theory, these grassroots efforts are supposed to supplement the efforts of al Qaeda to attack the West. But in practice, al Qaeda and its franchise groups have been rendered transnationally impotent in large part by the counterterrorism efforts of the United States and its allies since 9/11. Jihadist groups been able to conduct attacks in the regions where they are based, but grassroots operatives have been forced to shoulder the bulk of the effort to attack the West. In fact, the only successful attacks conducted inside the United States since 9/11 have been conducted by grassroots operatives, and in any case, grassroots plots and attacks have been quite infrequent. Despite the ease of conducting such attacks, they have been nowhere near as common as jihadist leaders hoped — and American security officials feared.

One reason for this paucity of attacks may be the jihadist message being sent. In earlier days, the message of Islamist militants like Abdullah Azzam was “Come, join the caravan.” This message suggested that militants who answered the call would be trained, equipped and put into the field of battle under competent commanders. It was a message of strength and confidence — and a message that stands in stark contrast to As-Sahab’s current message of “Don’t come and join us, it is too dangerous — conduct attacks on your own instead.” The very call to leaderless resistance is an admission of defeat and an indication that the jihadists might not be receiving the divine blessing they claim. [Emphasis mine]