Friday, January 20, 2006

The Bin Laden Show

What Next to Expect from Al-Qaeda

Sayed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau chief of Hong Kong's Asia Times, argues that "Al-Qaeda has undergone major restructuring - and soul-searching - in preparation for its relaunch as an open organization to pitch a worldwide battle against US interests. Osama bin Laden's tape shows that it is now ready."

KARACHI - The release of a new audio tape featuring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden marks the group's announcement that the new strategy it has been developing is now very much in place. The tape, the first from bin Laden in more than a year, was aired on Thursday by the Al-Jazeera satellite TV channel. It appeared to have been made in early December, US intelligence officials said. In the tape, bin Laden warned that al-Qaeda was preparing terrorist attacks on the United States: "Operations are in preparation, and you will see them on your own [US] ground once the preparations are finished." Since the ouster in 2001 of the Taliban from Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda had a strong base, and with the ongoing "war on terror", al-Qaeda has lost hundreds of operatives through killings and arrest. By the end of 2003, the organization was in the doldrums and its cadre infested with spies. As a result, the organization as it had been run was practically dismantled. Its vertical, centralized structure was abolished and its various groups and cells - apart from a few - were abandoned and allowed to scatter. Bin Laden, in the meantime, went low-key. The US attack on Iraq then provided al-Qaeda with a trump card as it was able to reactivate members and sympathizers in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Morocco and beyond. In fact the success of the Iraqi resistance, in which al-Qaeda is a component, figured significantly in the thinking of al-Qaeda's leadership to relaunch the group as an open organization to pitch a worldwide battle against US interests. Serious debate on this new direction began in 2004, with two issues prominent... Read the rest...