Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Miss Understanding

Never have heard of the Khorasan group before? It is, to put it simply, al Qaeda.

Why, then, did officials and reporters have such a hard time, at first, explaining that the airstrikes targeting the Khorasan group were really just part of our long war against al Qaeda?

The confusion is no accident. The way 44, his subordinates, and some U.S. intelligence officials think and talk about al Qaeda is wrong.

First, the so-called Khorasan group is part of core al Qaeda. The idea that terrorists cannot be core al Qaeda solely because they are located outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan is obtuse. Documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that the al Qaeda master ordered some of his minions out of the drones’ kill box in northern Pakistan and maintained ongoing communications with terrorists around the globe. The general manager of al Qaeda’s global network today is in Yemen.

What administration officials also ignore is that al Qaeda’s geographic expansion, or “metastasis,” has always been part of the plan. Despite al Qaeda’s leadership disputes with ISIL, there are more jihadist groups openly loyal to al Qaeda today than on 9/11 or when Barack Obama took office in January 2009. Earlier this month, the group announced the creation of a fifth regional branch, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which likely subsumes several existing jihadist organizations. On September 6, AQIS-trained fighters boarded a Pakistani ship. Al Qaeda says they were attempting to launch missiles at an American warship, which would have been catastrophic, both in terms of the immediate damage and the ensuing political crisis in Pakistan.

AQIS joins Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Jabhat al Nusrah (Syria), and Al Shabaab (Somalia) as formal branches of al Qaeda, all of which owe their loyalty to Zawahiri. Other unannounced branches of al Qaeda probably exist, too. These are not just “cells,”but fully developed insurgency organizations that challenge governments for control of nation-states.

It is no wonder that, initially, there was such public confusion over the Khorasan group. Its very existence refutes the U.S. government’s paradigm for understanding the terrorist threat. Now more than ever, the administration should revisit its assessments of al Qaeda.

The idea that there is a geographically confined “core” of al Qaeda in South Asia that has little to do with what happens elsewhere is undermined by a mountain of evidence. Al Qaeda is still a cohesive international network of personalities and organizations. 
The details of al Qaeda’s plotting in Syria make this clear.

Pic - "You haven’t heard of the Khorosan Group because there isn’t one. It is a name the administration came up with, calculating that Khorosan — the –Iranian–​Afghan border region — had sufficient connection to jihadist lore that no one would call the president on it."