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Al Qaeda, Mali and the Future Jihadists of the World!

Interesting Article: "Malian rebels have ‘destructive power’ of an army: colonel" by Dawn / Gao (Mali) published Sunday, February 24, 2013

An interesting article mentioned that Islamists in northern Mali have the “destructive power” of an army. “What we have here, it’s indicative of an army, or groups that have the capacity of an army,” said Gao commander Laurent Mariko, showing the stockpile of weapons to reporters. Al Qaeda-linked armed Islamists had occupied Gao, the north’s largest city, for nine months before the French and Malian forces retook it on Jan 26 in a lightning offensive that drove radical fighters from major cities. But since fleeing Gao under the French-led advance, militiamen regrouped on its outskirts and infiltrated the city a few days ago to attack the Malian forces newly in control. Would you like to know more?

Colonel-Major Didier Dack went onto to say that “the impression we have is that they and we (the Mali army) have pretty much the same weapons, except for the third dimension, aviation, which they don’t have”. Thanks to the fall of long-time Libyan dictator Moammar Qadhafi, who died in 2011, the armed groups were able to get hold of arms from his considerable arsenal, the sources said. In April of last year, the Dakar-based human rights group RADDHO said that “thousands of rebels” left Libya “with 35,000 tonnes of weapons” and could have entered Mali.

Despite the rapid withdrawal of militants after the arrival of French troops, there are signs that the crisis is far from over. Retaking the north was the easy part. Now Mali faces guerrilla attacks, reportedly increasing cooperation between rebel groups, "the Tuareg problem", and a divided government. Early on during the French intervention, many journalists in the international press were quick to note that Islamist militants had just "melted away" into the vast desert regions of northern Mali. As French jets attacked key strongholds, hundreds of Islamist fighters prepared convoys, which would escort leaders, weapons and fighters away from major towns.

Witnesses confirmed suspicions that the militants' departure was "orderly" and well-prepared. Their planned withdrawal may indicate their clear intention to redefine the nature of the conflict in Mali on their terms. Indeed, in a document allegedly left behind by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Timbuktu, a senior commander admits that an international intervention would exceed the group's capability and that they ought therefore to retreat to their "rear bases" for the time being. Recent events have also shown that local and international troops should prepare for increased resistance and a protracted campaign. Malian soldiers faced the first wave of attacks when various suicide bombers targeted army bases and checkpoints in the city of Gao. A day later, two militants (one Arab and one Tuareg) were intercepted with explosive belts strapped to their bodies. Malian troops were also tested by a significant counter-offensive led by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) in the same city on 10 February.

As Mali's northern provinces become more secure, Islamist militants will increasingly engage in targeted attacks, using asymmetric warfare to test international troops and regain the upper hand. The caves and mountains of the Adrar des Ifoghas region, for example, are ideal locations for militant groups to hide and prepare hit and run operations. Another worrying development in recent weeks has been allegedly increasing cooperation between Islamist militant groups across west Africa. Locals in Timbuktu claim Nigeria's rebel group Boko Haram had training camps in the city. A flyer from another Nigerian militant group, Ansaru, was apparently discovered in Gao in the abandoned home of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of the group believed to be behind the In Amenas attack on a gas plant facility in Algeria. And further suggestions have been made that Boko Haram militants might be using Chad as a rear base to prepare attacks. Chad has sent 1,800 men to fight alongside French and African troops in Mali.

The "manifesto" that has been mentioned in recent days does give insight into the thought process of al Qaeda, published by a French newspaper, it is said to contain advice by the head of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), ‘Abd al-Malik Drukdal (also known as Abu Mus‘ab ‘Abd al-Wadud/Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud) (Droukdel, was appointed by Osama bin Laden and now takes orders from Al Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri-the 42-year-old Algerian dubbed the "prince" of AQIM, helped found the group in 2006)-See picture on left. The advice and instructions, revealed in the Liberation paper, are dated 20 July 2012 - four months after a loose coalition of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups and ethnic Tuareg fighters took control of northern Mali. What really got the West's attention was when experienced Mali-watchers were perplexed by the sudden military lurch southwards made by the Malian Islamist groups, Ansar Dine and Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao). The aim of the manifesto is clearly jihadist. But the tone is tactical and managerial - in contrast to the passionate, extremist image sometimes attributed in the West to the Islamists. The tone of the document also implies that a rational, long-term planning mechanism is in place.

In addition, he called for establishing a higher independent Islamist authority whose mission would be applying Islamic law (sharia) in the Azawad region. He urged his group to seek the assistance of the Azawad Liberation Movement and Ansar al-Din Movement in order to implement his project. Drukdal proposed appointing the leader of Ansar al-Din Iyad Ag Ghaly as the prime minister of the transitional government in the new state. This government, he explains, will be in charge of managing the transitional period and drafting the constitution of the new state. Ghaly was to be provided with a number of jihadists to assist him in his mission and manage the “liberated” cities. Regarding the formation of the new government, Drukdal said the ministries of religious affairs, justice, and education should be given to Ansar al-Din and suggested that the defense ministry be made up of an organization that includes all the movements in the region “in order to warrant everyone’s security.”

As troops move into Niger to set up a Drone base, one thing important to note is that they seem to be ready for this action. One of the last things the bearded fighters did before leaving this city was to drive to the market where traders lay their carpets out in the sand. The Al Qaeda extremists bypassed the brightly colored, high-end synthetic floor coverings and stopped their pickup truck in front of a man selling more modest mats woven from desert grass, priced at $1.40 apiece. There they bought two bales of 25 mats each, and asked him to bundle them on top of the car, along with a stack of sticks. Military officials can tell why: The fighters are stretching the mats across the tops of their cars on poles to form natural carports, so that drones cannot detect them from the air.

The instruction to camouflage cars is one of 22 tips on how to avoid drones, listed on the document left behind by the Islamic extremists as they fled northern Mali. The tip sheet reflects how Al Qaeda's chapter in North Africa anticipated a military intervention that would make use of drones, as the battleground in the war on terror worldwide is shifting from boots on the ground to unmanned planes in the air. The presence of the document in Mali, first authored by a Yemeni, also shows the coordination between Al Qaeda chapters, which security experts have called a source of increasing concern. "This new document... shows we are no longer dealing with an isolated local problem, but with an enemy which is reaching across continents to share advice," said Bruce Riedel, a 30-year veteran of the CIA, now the director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution.
The entire document that was found, is in fact, a case study of how much command and control al Qaeda has over its forces in the field, and specifically gives us new evidence about the relationship between AQIM and other jihadist groups in Mali (such as Ansar Dine). The evidence from this document suggests that Ansar Dine, and thus other groups, are in fact an integral part of AQIM and willing to obey orders from AQIM's emir. Thus Drukdal tells the other emirs to make a peace deal with the nationalist Tuareg movement (the MNLA), and Ansar Dine followed through, signing an accord with the MNLA in December 2012. He also instructs commanders to stop imposing al Qaeda's version of sharia in a harsh manner in order to win over more Malians to their cause. In November 2012, Ansar Dine again followed through, publicly announcing that it would no longer seek to impose sharia as aggressively throughout Mali.

The late American diplomat George Kennan predicted in 1946 that Russia’s communist empire was built on so many contradictions and false concepts that it had within it “the seeds of its own decay.” The West needed to be patient and mainly contain the Soviet Union. He turned out to be right. Would a similar prediction hold true today for Al Qaeda if the radical Sunni group were able to rule over a Muslim people with its harsh vision of an Islamic theocracy?

Recently, Malian forces arrested eight suspected al-Qaeda-linked fighters in northern Mali, what were they still doing their? Well, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula movement has called for a jihad, or holy war, in reaction to France's military intervention against Islamist fighters in Mali, according to reports issued on Tuesday by a US-based intelligence agency. (AQAP was founded in January 2009, when the Saudi and Yemen branches of the network merged and remains active in lawless parts of Yemen, despite several military campaigns by the Sanaa government.) The front line of the clash between the violent Islamist groups and secular governments has been slowly moving from Central Asia to North Africa for a year now, but over the past month this slow movement has turned into a rapid escalation.

Commentators have already begun to debate whether the Malian crisis is a localized tribal conflict (Tuaregs in the North are allied with AQIM) hijacked by a few Islamists which western countries should let the locals settle without outside involvement, or evidence of a larger existential battle now spreading into sub-Saharan Africa which western democracies should stop before it gets out of hand. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union would search local conflicts for leaders and movements they could co-opt as proxies to fight their ideological campaign to spread Marxism, and thus civil conflicts were usually a murky mix of local quarrels and Cold War politics. That same dynamic now manifests itself in North Africa.

One commentator, Andrew Natsios, executive professor at the George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University even mentioned that Europe, the United States, Africa and secular Arab states (which have not fallen to the Muslim Brotherhood) now face an ideological threat which may shortly manifest itself in increasingly frequent military attacks against air traffic, oil and gas facilities, and other urban infrastructure using the Libyan weapons arsenals to carry them out. The gravest threat may be to international commercial air traffic because of the extraordinary number of MANPADS how in the hands of AQIM and its affiliates. Robert Fowler, a senior Canadian civil servant who was kidnapped by AQIM and held captive for 130 days with a colleague while he was on assignment to the United Nations, reported after his negotiated release that the movement may have 20,000 MANPADS in their arsenals. And this was before the downfall of Muamar Qadhafi which reportedly made another 2,000 available. MANPADS are shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles five or six feet in length weighing less than 40 pounds designed to be used against aircraft. A launch of several of them at an airport could take down a few large jets and cripple air traffic, paralyzing commerce and causing more damage to national economies still trying to recover from the recession and economic crisis in Europe. Libyan chemical and biological weapons may also have been taken by AQIM after Qadhafi’s downfall, which makes tracking the threat even more complicated.

It is important to understand how AQIM used Mali as well, according to sources; AQIM in Timbuktu managed to run a training centre for about nine uninterrupted months. Moreover, it consciously followed the example of bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Just as he gathered volunteers from across the Muslim world, so AQIM amassed a multinational array of recruits at its camp in Timbuktu.  Along with Malians, there were Pakistanis, Algerians and Mauritanians. But the biggest contingent of foreign trainees were Nigerians, all of them members of Boko Haram. An Algerian commander in his thirties called Abu Harith was in charge. His deputy was another Algerian, Abu Hamza, who was responsible for weapons training, perhaps because he was a former soldier in his country's army. A Pakistani, known as Amir, was in charge of maintaining the armory, which included heavy machine-guns as well as AK-47 assault rifles. AQIM often uses Toyota Land Cruisers and other four-wheel-drive cars to range across the Sahara. Amir's specialty was fixing heavy machine-guns on to these vehicles. Bin Laden trained his Jihadists for global Jihad, therefore it is important to note that we now see a similar training motive taking place wherever al Qaeda sets up, which in itself is highly disturbing.

Professor Michael Clarke, director-general of London's Royal United Services Institute security think-tank, said the document showed a centrally-directed attempt to pull off classic al-Qaeda tactics, piggy-backing other extremists, as witnessed in Afghanistan. They are "to ally with other political movements in order to hijack them; to fight guerrilla wars for disputed territory, and to build up a new caliphate that will extend across the Middle East and far beyond," he wrote in the Telegraph.

Without aggressively going after the leaders of these organizations, we will continually have to play a cat and mouse game. It is important to know then that we must target the heads, if we are to defeat this body of terrorism.



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