Studies: Future of Al-Qaeda Operations in Asia and Africa

Al-Qaeda Network at the borders areas of Afghanistan

Pakistan is one of the main reasons that formed the stirring fuel of U.S. forces to target Afghanistan on one hand, and increased the frequent appearance of the armed fundamentalist movements.

What do the leaks say?

Ongoing field developments in the Indian sub-continent, particularly, in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the north-western part of India, in addition to the territory of Jammu Kashmir indicate the following facts:

• The number of the armed Islamic fundamentalist movements in the region became approximately 250.

• The American, Pakistani, and NATO forces became unable to achieve any success that can be described as crucial in the ongoing battle against the armed fundamentalist movements.

• In the course of the war, the armed Islamic fundamentalist movements enjoyed the support of the local population and particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Muslim areas of India. And because of the steady increase in the number of the armed Islamic fundamentalist groups and the involvement of a large number of people in them and supporting them, al Qaeda has seemed less important than it was a few years ago, specifically when U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan

Currently, questions about the future of al-Qaeda began to be raised more and more including, several sub-questions: In other words, it can be referred to the problems concerning the existence of al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent:

• The continued presence of al-Qaeda in the areas of the Indian subcontinent will result in erosion of the organization because the Islamic fundamentalism movements that emerged in the region are becoming more capable than al-Qaeda to carry out the operations and because they first and foremost depend on the people of the region who have the knowledge of the land and society, while al-Qaeda still depends mainly on the Arab immigrants to Afghanistan and Pakistan, seeking jihad.

• Many of the branches of al-Qaeda originated, but because of the increased military-security pressure on the al Qaeda leadership based in the Indian sub-continent, this leadership is no longer able to control its branches.

• Also, because of the weak relationship between the branches of al-Qaeda and its leaderships, the group suffers from the phenomenon of vacuum in the central leadership and this resulted in making them as leaders and local chiefs. Accordingly, nearly every one of these branches became an independent form of Al-Qaeda group.

• The independence of the branches led to the emergence of Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Al-Qaeda in the Morocco, al-Qaeda in the Hijaz, and the like.

• The leadership of al-Qaeda acknowledged the independent status of these branches and announced that it will be sufficient for them to merely make coordination and consultations every now and then. What is clear is that the acknowledgment of the leadership of al-Qaeda with the independence of its branches was against its will because of the adverse security pressures and because of the inability of the leadership to provide the branches with supplies, equipment, and the like.

• On that basis, the main question arises: Will al-Qaeda or rather the leadership of al-Qaeda remains centralized in the Indian sub-continent? And, if this leadership remained what is the role to be played if we bear in mind that the area of the Indian sub-continent is suffering from a broad inflation in the armed organizations that spread in every city and village, and the operations of its elements became countless?

When comparing the operations of the Afghani-Pakistani Taliban, and al-Qaeda operations, we observe the following:

• Operations of Taliban Movement are characterized by density but centralized exclusively in the of Afghani-Pakistani theater.

• Al-Qaeda operations are characterized by parochialism, but are distributed in many parts of the world. According to this background, U.S. and Western European Intelligence Agencies began to consider the Taliban Movement as a local source of risk; its scope is limited in the Indian subcontinent, but, these agencies look at al-Qaeda as a source of global threat because of the cross-border nature which characterizes the operations of al-Qaeda.

* Al-Qaeda, Where to?

The emergence of external branches of the organization resulted in multiple theaters of al-Qaeda operations. Consequently, the organization has, though its branches are independent, a broad margin of movement and maneuver that grossed the following:

• Ability to have the initiative-: Al-Qaeda can implement pre-emptive strikes against its opponent in many places of the world.

• The ability to surprise: Al-Qaeda can surprise its opponents in public places that do not find the prosecution and surveillance because the agencies that pursue its elements cannot have all the areas under surveillance.

• The ability to have diverse sources of supply: because of the diverse nationalities of the elements and because of the multiple branches, almost every one of these branch is able to develop its own resources.

It seems obvious that options of al-Qaeda or rather options of the al-Qaeda main faction regarding staying or not in the region of Indian sub-continent still unclear and answering them requires waiting until the fate of ongoing military operations by Pakistani forces is identified. In other words, if tribes succeeded, Al-Qaeda will have no better option but to migrate, in an attempt to continue the armed jihad in other theaters. But, if campaigns of the Pakistani troops failed, the Pakistani-Afghani theater would be the best place for al-Qaeda to remain in the region.

In the case of recourse to the exit option and migration out of the theater of Afghanistan-Pakistan, there are many other theaters where the organization can continue its operations; these include:

• The Yemeni theater: This stage provides al-Qaeda with many advantages, notably that this theater is characterized by crosses fit with centralization of al-Qaeda. The first point is the regional neighborhood-relations that represent the possibility of the emergence of Yemeni-Saudi Theater and Yemeni-Somali Theater, in addition to the support of the local population to al-Qaeda leaders and appropriateness of the mountains terrain of Yemen to establish secret bases and camps. Projections indicate that the centralization of al-Qaeda in Yemen will allow the organization to pay more strikes against his opponents in Saudi Arabia and the gulf countries. Also, coordination of strikes with Armed Somali Islamic movements that will not hesitate to direct more strikes at the opponents of al-Qaeda in the countries of the Horn of Africa and in particular against American and Western and Israeli interests in East Africa (Kenya exclusively) and Djibouti, where U.S. and French military bases settle.

• Maghreb Theater: Despite campaigns of Algerian and Moroccan security services, and successes in resolving confrontations with armed elements of the Islamic movements, the al-Qaeda, despite the increased risk, can be centralized in this region featured with the presence of rugged mountainous areas as well as support of the local population. If the organization can manage to adapt to the centralization in the desert areas, it would be able to get the safe and stable haven, especially as the capacity of the Algerian and the Moroccan security services will not be sufficient enough to cover the desert areas and will allow the organization to move within a broader range to add to the theaters of its operations, the countries of Niger, Mali and Senegal. It will also allow the organization to build its arms on the African continent, which will provide the organization with a new qualitative theater, not less danger than the Pakistani-Afghan Theater. Also, it is worth mentioning that the centralization of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb Theater will allow it to penetrate into the African continent and to launch more strikes against U.S., European and Israeli interests. Therefore, all intelligence agencies of these countries will try to prevent the organization from centralization in the Maghreb Theater.

• Eastern-Mediterranean Theater: The centralization in this theater remained a dream entices the leader of al-Qaeda for a long time. Several American and Israeli researches and studies point out that the Eastern-Mediterranean area is the most likely to the advent of al-Qaeda. According to studies and analyzes, al-Qaeda, in this region, will not be able to adopt an organizational strategy based on the principle of the single foundation, for several reasons-most importantly:

– Multiple sub theaters of this region.

– No availability of building settled bases and camps.

– Multiple movements and armed factions of different orientations and doctrinism.

But despite that, the projections indicate that al-Qaeda may attempt to centralize according to the following strategy:

– Concentration of strikes in the Palestinian theater against Israelis, and may be against the Palestinian factions involved in the Middle East peace process.

– Using the Lebanese Theater as a means to get supplies in addition to launching strikes against American and Western interests, and perhaps Lebanese allies of America, while avoiding confronting with the Lebanese Shiite armed factions.

– Using the Iraqi Theater as a means to get supplies in addition to training of the elements.

– Using the Jordanian Theater as a means to pass supplies to the Palestinian theater.

– Using the Syrian Theater as a place for “relaxing” cells and as a “passage” to link the three theaters: the Iraqi, the Lebanese and Jordanian and possibly Turkish theater as well.

A study published on the British site «Open Democracy» pointed out that the ongoing polls and surveys in the areas of Indian sub-continent, particularly, in the Pakistani-Afghani theater has confirmed that developments of the balance of power context now under way are no longer in the interest of the centralization of al-Qaeda. The reason is not the campaigns of Pakistani American forces and NATO forces, but in the differences that began to appear between al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist armed factions that many of them are no longer accepting continued centralization of al-Qaeda organization.

Another lengthy study published today by the American Institute of Endeavors came within a series of reports pointed out that Al-Qaeda has already begun arrangements to leave the Afghani-Pakistani Theater towards the theaters of the Middle East region, and in particular the Eastern-Mediterranean Theater, and more specifically heading to Palestine-Lebanon–Iraq triangle. The study indicated that al-Qaeda, which previously announced the emergence of al-Qaeda of Mesopotamia, is close to officially announce the establishment of al-Qaeda of the Eastern-Mediterranean Region.

Study also confirmed that the Eastern-Mediterranean will allow al-Qaeda an ideological consistency represented in the link between the culture of political movement against Israel and America and the culture of Islamic Jihad, which focuses on the perspective of the liberation of Jerusalem. It is known that the Jihad-approach of al-Qaeda used to focus in the past on the statements that talk about jihad-war against America, but later focused on statements calling Muslims for jihad to liberate Jerusalem.

Aljaml website: Department of Studies and Translation