A lot of people are hearing for the first time that we are beating al Qaeda and the Taliban. They are literally baffled by the change in the situation because they have heard the opposite from most major media outlets. The mainstream media barely gave any glimpse of the chaos wrought on al Qaeda since 2006 by US and allied forces. To be fair, government sources weren't exactly pushing the storyline of success after being shell-shocked by the fall out over the “mission accomplished” narrative of the left.1
But if you are a faithful American Thinker reader this news did not shock you. Because we have detailed the evolving environment as best we could from open source material for some time now. Over a year ago we posed the question “Has the Global Islamic Jihad Movement fractured?”
We followed that up with intermittent analysis of new developments from Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan - and elsewhere - that clearly provided indicators that the al Qaeda wave was beginning to break against the military, diplomatic, and most likely covert intelligence operations that make up the US national strategy in the War on Terror. (You can find these articles in the archive section under my name.)
Now CIA Director Michael Hayden has stepped forward to confirm at least the effects of what we have postulated if not necessarily the manner in which we came to this point. Director Hayden has in no uncertain terms declared that although the war against al Qaeda is not ended and the enemy can adapt and overcome, they are at a dead end, for now. Al Qaeda has lost much of its’ effectiveness at sowing dissent in Iraq as the Iraqis have pulled back from the brink of chaos with our help. NATO is growing stronger in Afghanistan and the Taliban elements that support al Qaeda are getting weaker as NATO has detailed in a new report. Even the Pakistani population, long a hot bed for al Qaeda sympathies, has begun to turn against the group according to recent surveys.
Hayden mentions the Predator strikes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region as an indicator of this success, but he is being circumspect. Those covert strikes rely mostly on the ability to locate and identify targets in remote, rugged terrain. That information usually comes from human sources as Hayden rightly stops short of mentioning. By reason, more targeting indicates more intelligence which implies more cooperation by the people with access to the region. To get that, it follows that al Qaeda is no longer endeared among all the local tribes and that Pakistanis are ratting them out. We predicted that would happen this year.
We predicted that some Taliban tribes would split from al Qaeda and jockey for position to align with the Pakistan government. Subsequently, inter-tribal warfare broke out and some tribal leaders did in fact side with the government. It is likely that the government allied tribes had good intelligence into the locations of al Qaeda leadership. This was probably a main source of the intelligence for increased targeting capabilities. That intelligence led to more dead al Qaeda leaders (amd allied Taliban leaders) in the last year than since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001-2002.
We mentioned just before the assassination of Benazeer Bhutto that conditions were ripe for the region to explode in violence. We also predicted that once the Pakistan public (and her supporters) figured out that she was killed by al Qaeda the assassination would backfire just as al Qaeda tactics did in Iraq. That did happen. A recent survey reported by The Christian Science Monitor shows that support for al Qaeda especially in the North West Frontier Provinces has plummeted from around 70% to single digits. Our analysis was premised on a West Point Combating Terrorism Center study which showed that fractionalization and a heavy hand were al Qaeda's long standing weakness.
We predicted that an alliance between the MMA, which represents the Pakistan Taliban (though not exclusively) and Musharraf would lead to real military action against al Qaeda and allied Taliban. Subsequently, the Pakistan army routed al Qaeda allied Taliban in the Swat Valley as the MMA sat by quietly in unprecedented silence at the government destruction of fellow jihadis. And we explained why that happened as well.
Last year The New York Times reported the ominous appearance of new “foreign Taliban”. The Times failed to make the logical distinction that the Taliban is a tribal and ethnic movement and may work with outsiders like Arabs, but that they are still held separate. There is a certain amount of ethnic tension and racism even among these jihad groups.
These foreigners were not Taliban recruits. So who were they? These outsiders were appearing in Afghanistan and Pakistan just as the surge in Iraq was kicking into full gear and putting al Qaeda fighters on the run or in their graves. It wasn’t real hard to figure out that al Qaeda was bringing fighters back from the failed effort in Iraq for a reason. So we had to figure out the reason. We did and shared it with our readers.
Al Qaeda was facing a loss of Taliban support because al Qaeda had put a hit out on the “father of the Taliban” Maulana Fazlur Rahman, a leader of the MMA. He is an important politician among the jihad movement supporters of Pakistan. This tactical mistake by al Qaeda would rival the assassination of Bhutto as the main reason for its' (political) defeat in Pakistan.
Rahman and his political block know where the bodies are buried, so to speak. His cooperation with the Musharraf government in bringing other Pakistani Taliban and tribal chiefs into the fold will prove to be al Qaeda's undoing. It is remarkably ironic because this man provided al Qaeda's religious justification for its' war on the United States.
To sum up what happened simply, after al Qaeda saw defeat coming in Iraq it tried to take over the same Taliban that it relied on for safe haven in Pakistan. It had to after targeting the Pakistan Taliban leader, Rahman and losing his support. That was an incredibly dumb move. Al Qaeda then, sensing its' influence and operational space shrinking as tribes followed Rahman and turned on them was forced into attempting to take over the Swat Valley to give itself a buffer against Pakistan's military forces. This decision led to an embarrassing defeat for al Qaeda in Pakistan. Coming so soon after its' defeat in Iraq, al Qaeda popularity began to plummet as the Islamic populace begin to see that al Qaeda was not going to establish the Islamic caliphate after all.
As al Qaeda has failed, “Islamic rage boy” (as Christopher Hitchens so deftly characterized the typical anti-American protester in Pakistan) seems to be taking some time off. The marked decrease of frequency and vitriol of these routine street protests means something. These events are usually presented to us by the media as sincere, spontaneous outpourings of anger.
The truth is that many of these demonstrations were organized and instigated by Maulana Fazlur Rahman (as I noted in my book Both In One Trench: Saddam's Secret Terror Documents in a detailed look at his activities). US success against al Qaeda can be sensed by the significant decrease in major anti-American street protests in Pakistan. It means Rahman (and his MMA) is cooperating to some degree.
Director Hayden and his successors might not be able to tell you this, but we can. These are some of the contributing factors for why we now see a flock of predators over the border region. Hayden is not exaggerating, he is, if anything, underplaying the success in this war on terror hard won by our troops.
But as always, we must add the disclaimer that the situation is subject to change by unforeseen events. Even if we get Usama bin Laden tomorrow there will be someone to take his place. In this war, we only take temporary victory on the battlefield. Permanent victory most likely lies through discrediting the ideology that motivated al Qaeda and its' supporters. Changing minds full of such hate might take generations.
1. For the record, President Bush said in that speech that there was tough fighting ahead. He did not say the fighting was over, though we can almost universally agree he had no inkling of just how much tough fighting lay ahead. He did not say that combat had ended. He said it was the end of “Major Combat Operations” (MCO). MCO is a specific type of combat and some military speech writer did the president a disservice (I'm sure not intentionally) by using a term not widely known or understood. Most people took that statement to mean the end of combat. But that is not what the term means as indicated by the fact that he talked of more fighting in the speech. In addition, if “Mission Accomplished” meant “We Won” why didn't the banner just say that? Because the banner was intended to honor the 6,000 people on the carrier who had accomplished their mission.