Cover Story

May Day Mayday

"May Day Mayday" Continued...

Issue: "After Osama," May 21, 2011

Ironically, during the 1980s the United States pushed Arab countries to assist the Afghan fighters in the battle against Soviet domination, so Egypt sent former army officers, some of them Islamists, to train and aid the mujahideen. One of the Egyptians, Ayman al-Zawahiri , worked with bin Laden to meld Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood followers and Saudi Wahhabi terrorists. Soon, both Sunnis and Shiites from all over the Muslim world were training together as al-Qaeda terrorists.

In 1996 al-Qaeda issued its first fatwa against the United States: "There is no more important duty than pushing the American enemy out of the holy land"-a reference to Saudi Arabia and Israel. (Jerusalem has been a holy city for Islam since its earliest days, but only recently have some Muslims referred to the entire land of Israel as holy.) The United States largely ignored the threat and another in 1998. Then came simultaneous attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 220.

Zawahiri throughout remained in bin Laden's shadow. A surgeon by training who speaks English and French in addition to Arabic, he came from a prominent family in Egypt. His father was ambassador to Pakistan and Yemen. Gorka maintains that Zawahiri isn't charismatic like bin Laden yet through a forceful intellect "has become the center of gravity for al-Qaeda." Most experts believe he will assume the mantle of leadership for al-Qaeda and of a different, ideological sort.

"Al-Qaeda has become less relevant operationally in the last 10 years," said Gorka. "But the brand of al-Qaeda has increased. There are more people, including Americans like Maj. Nidal Hassan [who went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood in 2009] who have aligned themselves with its ideology." Gorka believes a resurgence of al-Qaeda is possible under Zawahiri: No longer needed to fill an operational role, "al-Qaeda will be the ideological center, where jihadists go to get spiritual centering."

Few feel that threat as clearly as Pakistani Christians. If anything, bin Laden's death has for now heightened the tension. At the government's recommendation, churches, Christian schools, and other institutions closed in major cities after bin Laden's death. The "unhappy and angry reaction of Pakistan" says a lot about the spread of bin Laden's ideology, said a pastor in Pakistan who is not named for security reasons: "We know whenever Western governments take any steps that Muslims think is against Islam or Muslims, the Christians always suffer the loss of life or property." In the war on terror each important success-and bin Laden's death chief among them-carries a renewed pledge of jihadist punishment.
-with reporting by Emily Belz in Washington, D.C., and Kristin Chapman

Branding al-Qaeda

The death of bin Laden is an important blow to the leadership of al-Qaeda and to its base of operations. Pakistan, a sanctuary since the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, is a guaranteed sanctuary no more. At the same time, al-Qaeda in the last decade has become less of an operational structure and more of a brand, according to expert Sebastian Gorka at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Here's how it works:

Al-Qaeda central: Founded in Afghanistan by Osama bin Laden, it was exiled to Sudan before finding sanctuary again in Afghanistan and along the Pakistani border under the Taliban. From its base of training camps there (al-Qaeda means "the base"), bin Laden trained fighters from 50 countries and planned numerous attacks-most significantly, the attacks of 9/11 on the United States.

Al-Qaeda franchises: Deprived of its base after the U.S. took control of Afghanistan, al-Qaeda increasingly relied on diverse terror cells linked by ideology and training but often disconnected from one another. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, founded in 2003 by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was among the first with other prominent organizations in Yemen, North Africa, and Indonesia.

Leaderless jihadists: In some ways these are the most dangerous jihadists, individual sympathizers who with bombmaking skills and al-Qaeda training manuals can blow up a city. Doubt their reach? Watch the FBI video (available on YouTube) of what would have happened if a police officer hadn't discovered the Times Square bomb set by Faisal Shahzad last year.

Soft jihadists: Those who will not use violence but seek the same goals as al-Qaeda can be just as dangerous, and more difficult to combat. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Organization of the Islamic Conference are two rising examples of potent groups that use economic savvy and what Gorka calls "lawfare"-law as a weapon-to impose Islamic law and push toward a global caliphate. Given the protections they are entitled to under the U.S. Constitution, they may be a domestic force to be reckoned with.

Deadly serious: Al-Qaeda attacks since 1998

August 1998: Bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania • 223 killed, 4,100 injured

October 2000: U.S.S. Cole bombing in Yemen • 17 killed, 39 injured

Sept. 11, 2001: Hijacking of four U.S. planes; two crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and the fourth-meant to crash into the U.S. Capitol-instead was forced aground in Pennsylvania by passengers • 3,000 killed, 6,000+ injured

January 2002: Kidnapping of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan; he was later beheaded • April 2002. Explosion of a fuel tanker outside a synagogue in Tunisia • 21 killed, 30+ injured

March-June 2002: Attacks and bombings in Pakistan, including at the Protestant International Church in Islamabad • 29+ killed, 95+ injured

October 2002: Attack on a French tanker off the coast of Yemen • 1 killed, 12 injured

November 2002: Car bomb attack and a failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli jetliner in Kenya • 13 killed, 80 injured

May 2003: Car bomb attacks on three residential compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia • 26 killed, 160+ injured

March 2004: Bomb attacks on Madrid commuter trains • 200 killed, 1,800+ injured

July 2005: Bombings of the London public transportation system • 52 killed, 700+ injured

February 2006: Attack on the Abqaiq petroleum processing facili­ty, the largest such facility in the world, in Saudi Arabia • no casualties

October 2007: Suicide bombing narrowly missed killing former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto • 136 killed, 400+ injured

December 2007: Another bomber succeeds in killing Bhutto while campaigning in Pakistan • 23 additional killed, numerous injured

November 2009: Fort Hood shooting • 13 killed, 29 injured

December 2009: Attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight • no casualties

October 2010: Attempted bombing of FedEx planes bound for the United States • no casualties
NOTE: Casualty numbers do not include terrorist casualties.
SOURCE: Council on Foreign Relations


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