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A Case against al Qaeda's Middle Management!

Interesting Article: Killing al-Qaeda’s Middle Managers May Be Key to its Destruction by JOHN WALCOTT / Bloomberg published Thursday, October 26, 2011

A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek spoke about a report from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization & Political Violence at Kings College London which discussed identifying and neutralizing al Qaeda's middle managers as a way to disable the organization, than merely going after its top leaders.

The report stated that, “a much higher priority -- both in terms of attention and resources -- should be given to identifying and neutralizing the middle managers who connect the top of the organization with the bottom, and -- in doing so -- undermine al-Qaeda’s military strength and strategic coherence.” The report further states; "these middle managers aren’t part of the group’s top echelon of experienced and ideologically committed jihadists, led since leader Osama bin Laden’s death by the Egyptian Ayman al Zawahiri. Nor are they al-Qaeda’s foot soldiers", whom the paper describes as “individuals who have been inspired by al-Qaeda and often ’participate’ through Internet forums, so-called jihobbyists; low level members of jihadist cells and their activist leaders; and those who have been to a training camp and returned to their home countries without having developed lasting ties to the leadership.” Al-Qaeda’s middle managers, say the paper, are experienced and skilled, and are connected to both its grassroots and its top leadership. “Importantly, they are not permanently based in the tribal areas but have returned to their home countries or other non- battlefront states, sometimes traveling back and forth, building support networks and raising money for the global jihad,” the report says. According to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington and the author of “Bin Laden’s Legacy”, "the importance of middle managers in Europe and elsewhere may have grown, as U.S. attacks have riddled the group’s top leadership in Pakistan and its affiliates in places such as Yemen, Somalia and northern Africa have grown more independent." The paper spoke of three examples of middle managers for al Qaeda, but take for example, Tarek Maaroufi and Abu Qatada. Men like Abu Qatada and Maaroufi are the elusive quarries in the second front of the war on terrorism. They are allegedly the middle managers of an international network that is loosely affiliated and constantly shifting. "They don't have a lot of hierarchy," said Judge Jean-Francois Ricard, one of France's top anti-terrorist investigators. "An Islamic extremist can quickly establish contacts at a very high level. A young man from the slums can quickly enter into contact with an Abu Qatada." Unlike the Al Qaeda leaders and fighters blasted from their caves in Afghanistan, these European-based terror suspects cannot be eliminated by airstrikes or commando assaults. They operate more like drug kingpins or mafia bosses, carefully distancing themselves from actual violence and taking advantage of the legal safeguards of Western democracies. Maaroufi and Abu Qatada, along with an emerging cadre of clandestine leaders in Europe, have skillfully used geographical and jurisdictional borders and the inchoate nature of al Qaeda to keep the movement alive, according to police and intelligence officials. Surveillance of suspects such as Maaroufi and Abu Qatada, along with the arrests of dozens of alleged terrorists, has helped police build a portrait of the workings of the network. They have unearthed a web of connections, built on ethnic solidarity and coded communications, in at least half a dozen countries. But even the most seasoned investigators struggle to understand the autonomous, often self-financed units. Generalizations are difficult, but London is clearly the pivot for networks spread across Europe, a center of ideology, operations and finance--and once a gateway to Bin Laden's Afghan training camps. Germany and Belgium have been bases for the preparation of terrorist teams, including the Hamburg-based suspects in the Sept. 11 attacks. Italy and France have been logistical centers for fake documents and recruiting along with Spain, a source of financing and a busy transit point. It appears that the ideologues and leaders are usually Middle Easterners. The operational experts and foot soldiers tend to be North Africans, particularly Algerians and Tunisians with combat experience in terrorist campaigns in their home countries. The existence of a kind of Middle Eastern elite within al Qaeda with privileged ties to Bin Laden was exemplified by the Hamburg cell, made up primarily of Saudis and led by Mohamed Atta, an Egyptian. Although the European cells seem compartmentalized, there is constant trans-border cross-pollination--meetings, phone calls, supply of fake documents and arms--by middle managers. Even the ultra-secret Sept. 11 terror suspects made contact with cells in Spain and London, according to police. What we have to guard against now is what is considered most important for the al Qaeda terrorists, which is specialized recruited homegrown terrorists in English speaking countries, who are lone wolves- American or Brit, inspired by radicals that could plant bombs on himself, in trucks or in public places for their ridiculous cause.

"Hunt Is On for Middle Managers of Terrorism" by Sebastian Rotella and David Zucchino. LA Times, December 25, 2001.
"Locating Al Qaeda's Center of Gravity: The Role of Middle Managers" by Peter Neumanna, Ryan Evansa & Raffaello Pantuccia Studies in Conflict & Terrorism  Volume 34, Issue 11, 2011.


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