The Al Qaida schism reported by Newsweek and others in my earlier post here was either exaggerated, or Al Libi has been brought into line and the split has healed for now. If I were in AQ or the Taliban I would still be watching my back; terrorists shouldn’t think think they can trust their allies anymore, because they still aren’t all in agreement. Al Libi released a tape that essentially seconds Al Zawahiri in declaring war on Pakistan and the Pakistani government.
Bill Roggio has good coverage of the content here at the Fourth Rail:
Al Qaeda has weighed in on the Pakistani government’s military assault on the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad last month. As Sahab productions, the media outlet for al Qaeda’s central leadership, released a 21 minute tape by Abu Yahya al Libi, a senior al Qaeda leader who has served as a spokesman and released numerous propaganda videos. In the video, titled “Of the Masters of Martyrs,” al Libi praised the followers of the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa as “martyrs.” He forcefully called on Pakistanis to take up arms against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who he called the “dirty tyrant” and a pawn of the West.
More on Al Libi and his past here at Asia Times, note that Al Libi is more information/propaganda/recruiting front and an Idealogue than a true combat leader — this tells you where AQ thinks they are on weakest ground right now. Also note that Al Libi is very anti-HAMAs, anti-Shia, this could signal that AQ will attempt to stir the sectarian strife up in Pakistan that they did in Iraq, something to watch for.
I think the split was there, but not as pronounced as Newsweek had it. I think there is still some dissension on direction between Pakistani Taliban elements and Al Qaeda. For the record: There are zero, count them zero, moderates in Al Qaeda — there might be some fringes of the Taliban in Pakistan that have moderate leanings, but none in AQ do. AQ might struggle for power within the organization now that Bin Laden is dead, diseased, retired, or captured, and they might have dissents on tactics but the ultimate goal is the same for all.
The shift for Al Qaida is on, they realize they cannot win in the four theaters they’ve been fighting in. (Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Thailand) They are seeing the circle close and are at a last ditch effort to save the base it all started from.
They’ve been pulling assets out of Iraq for about a month and a half (note the arrests at Taftan border crossing and other places, and the previous articles here last month about funding being redirected Iraq to Pakistan.)
Red Mosque, the political events in Pakistan the past two months, and the current state were planned — Lal Masjid was designed as the rallying event.
I don’t think that all of Al Qaeda bought in originally, but now they have no choice for the die is cast. The tide is turning against Qutbism/Islamism in the rest of the world, the last place they can hope for mass islamist uprising is where it all started, and where they have the best grip at the moment — Waziristan.
The Political schisms within Pakistan’s government are healing between the moderates, so look for very targeted assassination attempts, more bombings, and a cat-and-mouse game with the Pakistani army as Al Qaeda tries to firm up allies in the tribal regions. This might prove difficult as they’ve declared war on their hosts, and the tribes in the frontiers are already tired of their bazaars being burnt out shells. Outcomes of jirgas, who attends, and who doesn’t, will bear close watching.