After suffering the wrath of the United States in the wake of 9/11, writes Syed Saleem Shahzad at Asia Times Online, “Two major developments then rejuvenated al-Qaeda. The first was the come-back of the Taliban in Afghanistan after 2006, the second the mass migration of battle-hardened commanders to Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area — they had previously been fighting in Indian-administered Kashmir.”
As a result:
A sudden surge in attacks on Afghanistan-bound [NATO] supplies, a hallmark of al-Qaeda and its allied groups . . . forced decision-makers for the first time to rethink the serious penetration of al-Qaeda in the region that had been the domain and ownership of the indigenous Pashtun Taliban.
This and other developments:
. . . have given al-Qaeda a commanding position in South Asia, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia, and reduced its dependency on local partners like the Taliban, the Iraqi resistance, Yemeni tribes and Somalia’s insurgent groups. Now al-Qaeda can effectively manipulate these groups for its cause.
And how does Al Qaeda plan to use its “commanding position”?
Targeting foreign hotspots in India and avenging the individuals and institutions involved in the Prophet Mohammed’s cartoon controversy has been decided as the main strategy opening up al-Qaeda’s new war theaters.
However unimaginative and small-minded (even for militant Islamists) those strategies, there are, writes Shahzad, “clear leads that al-Qaeda’s affiliated groups had established cells in India and Europe and that they were arranging a network that would ensure an uninterrupted supply of weapons, money and other logistical support. . . . The crux of this is no stand-alone operations like bomb blasts, but a comprehensive terror campaign.”
As always, Al Qaeda will succeed in “polariz[ing] societies and generat[ing] a massive amount of unease and insecurity in European capitals.” That said, its rejuvenation is scarcely cause to refresh America’s military commitment to the Middle East (as if our inroads into Yemen weren’t enough) nor to increase domestic surveillance, or for the Transportation Security Administration to implement yet more drastic screening measures.
It’s increasingly becoming common knowledge that, beyond dreams of shariah rule or a caliphate, what drives Islamic militants most is our military presence, as well as our support of repressive regimes, in Muslim countries. Acknowledging those truths is no longer an admission of defeat but a simple affirmation that discretion is the better part of valor.