Wired News | Al Qaeda 'To Disintegrate' in 2 Years - UK Adviser

UK Says We're Winning:

Here's a good story for the birthday. The International Policy Institute at London's King's College says that Al Qaeda is cracking, and will collapse in two years:

Professor Michael Clarke, a specialist adviser to lawmakers on the House of Commons defense committee, said the consequence would be that the security services would be able to win the 'war on terror' as the group's structure fell apart.
That appears correct to me, also. The great threat of the international terrorists was twofold: WMD, which remains a critical danger that our government and the worlds' had best take more seriously; and the increasing cooperation and connections between what had been discrete groups. That connection made them much more dangerous than they had been in the past, as it allowed them to share knowledge and intelligence, and to engage in what the military would call "joint operations." It expanded the danger they posed in every way, from recruitment to intel and strike capability, to making it harder to track them by giving them global networks through which they could move.

That unity was still very much uneven on 9/11, as not all groups were interested in working with the others, seeing little common cause. Still, there were three major terrorist networks that were increasingly trying to bridge the gaps. These were the Abu Nidal Group (ANO), in the middle east; Al Qaeda, in Europe and Central Asia; and Jemaah Islamiyaah (JI), in South and Southeast Asia.

All three have come under critical stress. ANO had ceased to be an active terrorist group some time ago, and become more like a mafia, dealing in connections and networks instead of actually planting bombs. Their operations were greatly curtailed when Libya decided it could not afford to be a terrorist state any longer; Kaddafi first expelled Abu Nidal, and later shut down the networks in Libya. ANO was always the least dangerous of the three, as Abu Nidal himself trusted no one and tended to eliminate any of his own people who showed too much promise. As a consequence, they had extensive networks, but relatively few operable connections to other terrorist groups -- better at making introductions than anything else, and that only if they decided to trust you. If that network has survived the death of Abu Nidal, I've seen no sign of it.

Al Qaeda we know about, and you can read the rest of Professor Clarke's article for an update.

JI is the strongest of the remaining groups, and their success or failure is still much in play. But there is a good sign: the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has entered into peace talks with the Philippine government, is hastily purging its connections to JI. Radical groups in Indonesia continue to deny any connection with -- and often, the existence of -- JI.

JI is still active in Indonesia, Malaysia, and perhaps Thailand. Their old haven of Singapore is now closed to them, as the Singapore government has undertaken a serious counterterrorist approach, both because of their unique vunerability to terrorism (being a nation that is little more than a city on an island) and to curry favor with the United States. Indonesia is hunting their members with fervor.

Malaysia and Thailand are working together to try and end the insurgency in Southern Thailand, although so far there has been little success. Nevertheless, I am generally impressed with their efforts, and expect them to bear fruit in time. They have undertaken a joint economic initiative to try and improve the lives of Muslims in Southern Thailand. Malaysia is to send a number of clerics to Thailand to preach "Islam as peace" among the populace. The Malaysian prime minister, Abdullah Badawi, has been speaking at length in public forums about the importance of finding a "moderate Islam" in order to succeed in the world. There is reason to think this matters: Badawi has been recently praised by one of the chief Imams in southern Thailand.

The Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, remains openminded about new solutions -- this week, in response to a letter from nineteen universities challenging his conduct of the counterinsurgency, he's summoned 160 of the academics to a conference with him to share their ideas. He has, however, also made several mistakes: though he has wisely allowed teachers and other endangered people in Southern Thailand to arm themselves (Thailand's gun control laws are very strict, but Thaksin has issued permits), he has also decided to embark upon a program of enthusiastically disarming the populace in the South of Thailand by and large. This evident unfairness is more likely to increase antigovernment sentiment than otherwise, as is the brutal suppression of peaceful protests such as occurred two weeks ago. Still, one must recognize that Thailand was not prepared for an insurgency; many of these missteps are a result of panic. Once they calm themselves, there is reason to hope that their long term efforts will start to bear fruit.

There is much work to be done. But it seems clear that we are winning the first stage: breaking these groups up, keeping them from maintaining global capabilities and intelligence, and thereby reducing the threat they pose. This stage is like the operations in Fallujah, which were designed as sweeping incursions to split apart the insurgents into increasingly small pockets that could finally no longer support one another. Also like Fallujah, the early victory must be followed, of course, by the far more difficult stage of nuturing and supporting democracy as a counterweight to the impulses that lead one to become a terrorist. Yet we can see in Afghanistan the first hints of success in that project too. We can see those hints in the dedication with which the people came out to vote, and stood in line in spite of intimidation and actual violence. Democracy does seem to be something that the people want, if only we can provide them with enough security to build the democracy successfully.

In the words of my favorite Chinese philosopher, Huitang Zuxin, "What has been long neglected cannot be restored immediately; Ills that have been accumulating for a long time cannot be cleared away immediately; Calamity cannot be avoided by trying to run away from it." It's a long and difficult road we've chosen, but if it still stretches before us out of sight, we have yet come a fair piece. Happy Birthday, Marine Corps. You can be proud to be part of this grand liberation, these hard first steps on the road to a better world.

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