Qaeda has become harder to fight: IISS
LONDON: Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network, deprived of a central base after the US-led war in Afghanistan, has become more difficult to fight, a leading security think-tank said here on Wednesday in its annual report.
The network was believed to be present in more than 60 countries, and has “more than 18,000 potential terrorists at large” with recruitment continuing and probably increasing following the conflict in Iraq, said the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
Perhaps half of Al Qaeda’s 30 senior leaders and no more than 2,000 rank-and-file members had been killed or detained since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington blamed on the group, according to the report:
“The counter-terrorism effort has perversely impelled an already highly decentralised and evasive transitional terrorist network to become more ‘virtual’ and therefore harder to identify and neutralise.”
Al-Qaeda now had to rely more on local groups that may have only loose links with the leadership, said the IISS in its “Military Balance 2003-2004” report, a survey of military capabilities and defence economics across the world.
Consequently, Bin Laden – who has still not been found by the US despite being the world’s most wanted man – and his lieutenants were “compelled to relinquish substantial operational initiative and responsibility to local talent,” but were still able to provide advice, materials and finance. Leaders were able to inspire followers via the Qatar-based Arab satellite TV station Al-Jazeera and the Internet, said the report, published in London.
In the wake of the Iraq war, launched by the United States in March, Al Qaeda appeared to have refocused its efforts on the Arab world, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan regarded as “collaborators”.
However, the network’s rhetoric “continues to highlight the alleged historical humiliation of Islam at the hands of the Judeo-Christian West” and the US remained Al Qaeda’s prime target, the London-based IISS said. —AFP