Part 5 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuation of notes from Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror by Jason Burke.

2nd element: “a network of networks” — a wider circle consisting of other militant groups linking with al-Qaeda

What these links are not:

  • They are not a vast international network of groups answerable to bin Laden or the al-Qaeda inner hardcore.

There are in fact scores of militant groups around the world, each separate with local goals and acting independently. They may see bin Laden as an inspirational figure or a symbol of their collective struggle, but reject his or his inner circle’s leadership and goals. (Compare the many groups in the West who demonstrate with pictures of Che Guevera.)

What these links are:

  • Some members of some militant groups who trained in al-Qaeda camps since 1996;
  • Some leaders of some militant groups who have had contact with senior figures in the al-Qaeda hardcore;
  • Or received funds;
  • Or training;
  • Or other help from bin Laden himself or from his associates
  • Such links are not unique with al-Qaeda. All Islamic militant groups have similar links with others.
  • These links are always tenuous and compete with other sources of training, expertise and funding.
  • The groups and individuals involved generally have multiple associations and lines of support.
  • Their interests are often deeply parochial and they will not subordinate their leadership to any outside leader or organisation, including al-Qaeda. — e.g. Lebanese Asbat ul Ansar & Islamic movement of Uzbekistan
  • Many have long been openly hostile to the tactics and goals of al-Qaeda. As many are in rivalry with al-Qaeda as are allied with al-Qaeda.
  • At various times some groups – or some individuals within different groups – will cooperate with bin Laden if they feel it suits their purpose.

Within individual movements different factions can have different relations with ‘al-Qaeda’
One example: The Ansar ul Islam is one movement but with 3 differ relations to ‘al-Qaeda’:

  • Ansar ul Islam group in Kurdish Northern Iraq in northern Iraq emerged autumn 2001 with 3 different factions. 2 of these factions went to Afghanistan to meet senior al-Qaeda leaders spring 2001;
  • the 3rd faction rejected dealing with bin Laden or those around him;
  • By the end of 2001: Arab fighters fleeing US invasion of Afghanistan – some of these had been close to bin Laden.

In addition to the above there is also a 4th relationship. Ansar ul Islam consisted of others not interested in any broader agenda beyond Kurdistan. (1 failed suicide bomber told the author, Jason Burke, that he did not want to go to Afghanistan simply because he was not interested in travel and was focused only in affairs of his own country.) – these people did not care for bin Laden or his vision of an international struggle.

Others have rebuffed bin Laden’s advances:

  • Algerian GIA in early 1990’s rejected bin Laden because his agenda was very different from theirs.
  • GSPC (a GIA splinter group) refused to meet bin Laden emissaries summer 2002
  • The leader of the Indonesian Lashkar Jihad group refused to ally with bin Laden because that would significantly impinge on autonomy
  • At least one Palestinian Islamic group has rebuffed his advances concerned about such a link to its image at home and overseas.

Like the anti-globalisation movement – some groups aims and methods coincide, often they do not.

3rd element: to be continued………..