Al Qaeda Al Askariyah

Al Qaeda Al Askariyah was first seen in documents in 1988 – at that time it could have been just a reference to an intelligence group or base, possibly the ISI of Pakistan. Al Ashkariya is a term that’s been used in the names of the Syrian and Libyan intelligence agencies for instance. In 1996 AQ declared war on the United States and Israel, but both countries seem to be doing fine.

11 years of Jihad later, what is the next move for Al Qaeda?

The failure of all their plans in Iraq and Afghanistan forced them to return to their start — the bases in the Pashtun tribal lands between Afghanistan and Pakistan. They’ve declared war on Pakistan, and will attempt to raise the countryside and overthrow the government to try to establish Extreme Taliban-style sharia government. That’s not likely, as Pakistanis will not put up with it in their urban areas. While AQ can cause a great deal of mayhem by the attempt, the fact that they are killing mostly Muslims lately will catch up to them in Pakistan.

There are some signs of that — it’s noteworthy that Baitullah Mehsud is closer to accomodation with the Army, and the Pakistani army has turned into North Waziristan with their offensive actions while pulling out of South Waziristan. In North Waziristan kidnapped soldiers are being beheaded; while in South Waziristan Baitullah has released some, and the others haven’t been beheaded. *

Newsweek’s October edition has speculation about the Libyan rift in Al Qaeda, but that is something that’s been going around a while. Their article however is backed up by an interview with an Taliban spokesman. An extract from it can be found at the Daily Times.

What is being put forth as “dissension” is more likely differing opinions on the Shura council, which advises the leader. It tells us that Ayman Al Zawahiri and Al Libi are two members of the council, and they differ. The question is does Bin Laden still really lead? From the last tape I would question that. The content appeared heavily edited, less passionate than previous tapes, like he was drugged, and more political. That looks like scripting by Al Zawahiri.

Regardless of who leads, the real story isn’t the dissension in the ranks of AQ as they become hard-pressed, instead it’s the groups that are splitting away. There are at least three visible factions within the Taliban now, and possibly more. From reading news in Pakistan and the blogs I suspect one faction has split entirely, now interested in their own ends and regional power.

The recent media blitz appears to be an attempt to regain the spotlight and some relevance as their poll numbers are dropping, and as their hold on the tribals in Pakistan weakens. A series of gradual moves over the last year has accomplished some of that: repatriation of Afghani’s, registration of foreign students, crackdowns on illegal phone sims, and registration with ID cards for the remaining Afghan refugees. I suspect that we have an action pending until the presidential elections are over. Then perhaps the other shoe drops.

So – pure speculation – if you were Al Qaeda, what would you be doing right now? I have my thoughts but would like to hear from other readers as well.

I suspect they are in Bajaur region, and taking runs to Peshawar to make their tapes. They will be somewhere were they can cross border easily into either Afghanistan, or Iran, with the latter more likely.

While Baitullah is surely anti-government, I think his quest in in his region, he seeks to establish his own fiefdom and rule, so it’s not likely that they are in South Waziristan.

Again, I will submit that they will split forces – some will carry on with campaigns in the Pakistani frontiers, and others will drift back to the Kashmir. Expect suicide bombing attacks to be hitting the urban areas of Pakistan, as well as some sabotage as the elections proceed. I expect the campaign in Afghanistan to die down as the passes close to just a few, and an influx of fighters exiting Iraq and transiting Iran.


Update four years later: I was way wrong on Baitullah & the rest of the Mehsuds, Bill Roggio was right & I still owe him a good dinner if he ever makes it to KC areaa.

2 thoughts on “Al Qaeda Al Askariyah”

  1. Thanos,

    Excellent, excellent piece! One of your best.

    I am still not totally convinced that bin laden is still alive and if he is, I sincerely believe he is pretty much incapicated due to injury or health. And I firmly believe that is what has caused all of the problems for Al Qaeda. Any of us that has ever been on a successful sports team or business team that has lost its leader, knows how quickly that team falls apart.

    You asked for our thoughts on what Al Qaeda will do. First, i’d say that if bin laden was still in charge, and at this “low” point for them, he would order all efforts towards the most dramatic attack on the West that they could muster. And I believe that would be the best strategy. But I sincerely think Al Qaeda is now so overly fragmented and what control there is , is in the hands of Al-Zawahiri and I personally think he is a much more “smaller picture” person than bin laden. I believe Al-Zawahiri will order 3 things:

    1. Continued attacks and kidnappings of Paki army forces
    2. Additional assasination attempts on Musharaff and high officials
    3. A series of attacks in the metro areas based on revenge for the Red Mosque siege.

    But Al-Zawahiri has seen in the past year that his words fall mostly on deaf ears in the organization – his attempts at uniting the Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans have all failed. More than likely he sees the writing on the wall and is more concerned right now with his own existence.

  2. I think Zawahiri had to drag the bin out of retirement simply because of what you point out — he’s not a charismatic leader. He is pretty smart at planning however.

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