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May 11, 2005
Will Racism Destroy Al-Qaeda?

Osama bin Laden built al-Qaeda from many component groups across Southwest and Central Asia, North Africa, and even Europe, all focused on the Islamist ideal. Holding these disparate groups together must have had its difficulties even while AQ had momentum. Now that it has had almost four years of unrelenting pressure, the AP reports that the fissures have started larger cracks in AQ, which may lead to its total collapse:

American and Pakistani intelligence agents are exploiting a growing rift between Arab members of al-Qaida and their Central Asian allies, a fissure that's tearing at the network of Islamic extremists as militants compete for scarce hideouts, weapons and financial resources, counterterrorism officials say.

The rivalry may have contributed to the arrest last week of one of
Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants, a Libyan described as al-Qaida's No. 3 and known to have had differences with Uzbeks. Captured Uzbek, Chechen and Tajik suspects have been giving up information about the movements of Arab al-Qaida militants in recent months, four Pakistani intelligence agents told The Associated Press, leading to a series of successful raids and arrests.

"When push comes to shove, the Uzbeks are going to stick together, and the Arabs are going to stick together," said Kenneth Katzman, a terrorism expert with the Congressional Research Service in Washington. "I think the Uzbek guerrillas have had no home. Some of this could be a battle for survival."

Islam, it seems, does not exert as strong a hold on these people as first thought. AQ took advantage of a number of political movements in Asia and Africa and fanned them into flames, but not all of them were primarily Islamist, at least not if this report is to be believed. Perhaps in the case of the Uzbeks, Chechens, and Tajiks, their concern revolves mainly around nationalism first and Islam second.

These internecine conflicts within AQ demonstrates without a doubt that the organization is approaching collapse. Successful paramilitary organizations show cohesion and a leadership which inspires its members beyond their personal interests. While they were winning, their focus was on the offensive against the West. Now that the West has responded with unprecedented tenacity, AQ has found itself stretched thin, most of their former leadership gone, and the rest hiding in caves. The groups are now reverting to their own interests, and they're going as far as to finger each other to claim the few remaining resources.

In other words, al-Qaeda is falling apart.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 11, 2005 6:02 AM

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