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Al Qaeda has close ties to core leadership in Pakistan - US Congress Report

The Al Qaeda network today also comprises semi-autonomous or self radicalized actors, who often have only peripheral or ephemeral ties to either the core cadre in Pakistan or affiliated groups elsewhere, says a new Report prepared by the Congressional Research Service for members of US Congress and made public by Open CRS, a project of the Center for Democracy & Technology.



Summary of the Report :

Al Qaeda (AQ) has evolved into a significantly different terrorist organization than the one that perpetrated the September 11, 2001, attacks. At the time, Al Qaeda was composed mostly of a core cadre of veterans of the Afghan insurgency against the Soviets, with a centralized leadership structure, made up mostly of Egyptians.

Most of the organization's plots either emanated from the top or were approved by the leadership. Some analysts describe pre-9/11 Al Qaeda as akin to a corporation, with Osama Bin Laden acting as an agile Chief Executive Officer issuing orders and soliciting ideas from subordinates. Some would argue that the Al Qaeda of that period no longer exists. Out of necessity, due to pressures from the security community, in the ensuing years it has transformed into a diffuse global network and philosophical movement composed of dispersed nodes with varying degrees of independence.

The core leadership, headed by Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, is thought to live in the mountainous tribal belt of northwest Pakistan, where it continues to train operatives, recruit, and disseminate propaganda. But Al Qaeda franchises or affiliated groups active in countries such as Yemen and Somalia now represent critical power centers in the larger movement.

Some affiliates receive money, training, and weapons; others look to the core leadership in Pakistan for strategic guidance, theological justification, and a larger narrative of global struggle.

Over the past year senior government officials have assessed the trajectory of Al Qaeda to be "less centralized command and control, (with) no clear center of gravity, and likely rising and falling centers of gravity, depending on where the U.S. and the international focus is for that period." While a degraded corporate Al Qaeda may be welcome news to many, a trend has emerged over the past few years that some view as more difficult to detect, if not potentially more lethal.

The Al Qaeda network today also comprises semi-autonomous or self radicalized actors, who often have only peripheral or ephemeral ties to either the core cadre in Pakistan or affiliated groups elsewhere.

According to U.S. officials Al Qaeda cells and associates are located in over 70 countries. Sometimes these individuals never leave their home country but are radicalized with the assistance of others who have traveled abroad for training and indoctrination through the use of modern technologies. In many ways, the dispersion of Al Qaeda affiliates fits into the larger strategy of Bin Laden and his associates. They have sought to serve as the vanguard of a religious movement that inspires Muslims and other individuals aspiring to join a jihadi movement to help establish a global caliphate through violent means. The name "Qaeda" means "base" or "foundation," upon which its members hope to build a robust, geographically-diverse network.

Understanding the origins of Al Qaeda, its goals, current activities, and prospective future pursuits is key to developing sound U.S. strategies, policies, and programs. Appreciating the adaptive nature of Al Qaeda as a movement and the ongoing threat it projects onto U.S. global security interests assists in many facets of the national security enterprise; including, securing the homeland, congressional legislative process and oversight, alignment of executive branch resources and coordination efforts, and prioritization of foreign assistance. The focus of this report is on the history of Al Qaeda, actions and capabilities of the organization and non-aligned entities, and an analysis of select regional Al Qaeda affiliates. This report may be updated as events warrant.
 
Report made public by Open CRS, a project of the Center for Democracy & Technology (Febr. 5, 2010).

http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/R41070_20100205.pdf

Febr. 13, 2010


 


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