Where al Qaeda Has Gone


Al Qaeda is rebuilding its network of training camps by moving in with other Islamic terrorist organizations. The two areas where this is happening most successfully are Southeast Asia (the Philippines and Indonesia) and Pakistan (the Pakistan controlled portion of Kashmir). The Philippines believes they have shut down the terrorist training camp in Mindanao (run with the help of the local Moro Islamic Liberation Front), but the camp may have moved to a remote location in Indonesia (where Islamic conservatives have a lot of political power and will protect Islamic radical organizations.) A more likely location for the kind of training and planning camps that used to exist in Afghanistan can be found in northern Kashmir (controlled by Pakistan, while India controls the larger southern portion). The main Pakistani terrorist organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba, supported and worked with al Qaeda before 2001. The Pakistani cannot crack down on these very popular (in Pakistan) groups, whose main occupation is training Pakistanis and Kashmiris to fight in Indian Kashmir. Most of these Islamic radicals are then killed by Indian police and soldiers in Indian Kashmir. The Pakistani government can negotiate with these groups, and there appears to have been an agreement with them that there would be no strong support for al Qaeda or international terrorism (that al Qaeda favored.) But all of these Islamic radical groups are on a mission from God to first unite all Moslems in one world wide Islamic state, and then convert everyone on the planet to the one true religion’ Islam. This does complicate negotiations.

Al Qaeda does have support, if not much infrastructure, in other parts of the world. Africa has enthusiasm among Moslem populations, but not much else. The United States has sent Special Forces troops to many African countries to help train troops for anti-terrorist operations, and check out the neighborhood for al Qaeda activity. Lots of al Qaeda propaganda has been found, but little in the way of recruiting. A quite different situation is found to the north, in Algeria. Here, local Islamic radical organizations, reeling from over a decade of war with the government (a military dictatorship that refused to respect an election that would have put Islamic radicals in power), have fled south and are trying to establish camps in the wilderness areas along the border with Mali and Niger. The US Special Forces has been active in Mali and Niger, so if al Qaeda does get anything going here, it will probably be spotted.

Interesting, although some recent reports I’ve read would seem to indicate that we’re doing a better job cleaning them out of Pakistan.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.