Al Qaeda’s ability to plan and launch strikes abroad has been degraded since Sept. 11, due both to the war in Afghanistan and a loss of support among Muslims in the region. They’ve maintained power by merging with smaller networks such as the TTP), al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQ-AP), al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-IM), al Qaeda in Iraq, and Al-Shabab in Somalia and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was responsible for the 2008 attack in Mumbai. (Though weakened, al Qaeda remains attractive to smaller groups because of the 9/11 attacks and Osama bin Laden’s emeritus status, their centralized communications network, and their dedication to radical global jihad.)
It was the TPP that originally claimed credit for Shahzad’s attempt on May 2, before retracting it on May 6. “There are any number of different reasons for that,” Venzke says. “Both, we believe, are credible claims — they’re not mutually exclusive. They say they did it in some quarters and deny it in others, partly because there are disagreements among the different factions on how to do things.”
“The TTP is lethal,” Jenkins adds, “but they don’t have the degree of sophistication that L-e-T and al Qaeda have.” But their stated goal of striking within the US may explain why the group’s leaders would take credit for a dud bomb.
“In the past, jihadis would not want to be associated with failure,” Jenkins says. “But they are on the move. They see that even small-scale events and failures can cause panic and alarm and can possibly bankrupt the US. So they urge: ‘Do what you can.’ “
David Sanger in the New York Times wrote a similar article, U.S. Pressure Helps Militants Overseas Focus Efforts:
Now, after the bungled car-bombing attempt in Times Square with suspected links to the Pakistani Taliban, a new, and disturbing, question is being raised in Washington: Have the stepped-up attacks in Pakistan â€” notably the Predator drone strikes â€” actually made Americans less safe? Have they had the perverse consequence of driving lesser insurgencies to think of targeting Times Square and American airliners, not just Kabul and Islamabad? In short, are they inspiring more attacks on America than they prevent?
It is a hard question.
I don’t buy this spin. If the United States is degrading the capabilities of Al Qaeda that’s a good thing. True, Al Qaeda may be adapting, but the way Sanger presents it, it makes Al Qaeda more dangerous. It’s as if they are arguing “that which kills Al Qaeda makes it stronger. That makes no sense.
Some years ago, Thomas Friedman described Hamas as a “…ragtag terrorist group.” His point was that Israel should stop fighting Hamas, because it only served to make them stronger. This is nonsense. Hamas (and Al Qaeda) may not be IBM (as Friedman noted) but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have some organizational structure. Those in leadership positions have specific skills in terms of their abilities to recruit and plan. Killing of the leaders necessarily degrades those capabilities.
What Sanger and Friedman do is ascribe as much importance to motive as to means and opportunity. If Al Qaeda is forced to failed bombing attempts instead of intricate terror plots that kill thousands, clearly the former is preferable. That doesn’t mean that that the latter isn’t possible, it just means that it is now a lot harder for Al Qaeda to pull off.
I don’t buy the spin that fighting Al Qaeda only makes them stronger.
Crossposted on Yourish.