The South Asia Channel

Al-Qaeda central: the definitive guide

On Feb. 25, 2010, the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative and Foreign Policy magazine hosted "Al-Qaeda Central: Capabilities, Allies, and Messages," a conference about the two strikingly different but simultaneously accurate pictures of al-Qaeda that have dominated recent discussion of the terrorist group: one, a resilient foe still determined to attack the United States and its interests ...

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On Feb. 25, 2010, the Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative and Foreign Policy magazine hosted "Al-Qaeda Central: Capabilities, Allies, and Messages," a conference about the two strikingly different but simultaneously accurate pictures of al-Qaeda that have dominated recent discussion of the terrorist group: one, a resilient foe still determined to attack the United States and its interests abroad, and the other, a wounded organization whose leaders are being hunted down and killed.

The New America Foundation also released a series of papers designed to address the current state of the threat from al-Qaeda’s Afghanistan- and Pakistan-based central leadership, its allies, and messaging strategies.

Paul Cruickshank, an investigative researcher focused on al-Qaeda, examines the ‘militant pipeline’ between the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and the west, finding that in more than half of the serious plots against the west since 2004 plotters received training with al-Qaeda or its allies in Pakistan.

Barbara Sude, a veteran CIA al-Qaeda analyst and a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, weighs in on the threat from al-Qaeda in the FATA, writing about the importance of bin Laden to the movement, "Although al-Qaeda’s organizational structure might help hold the group together for a time under a talented subordinate should bin Laden be removed, ‘core’ al-Qaeda’s longer term survival as a major challenge to U.S. interests would be by no means assured without the third component of its founder’s influence."

Stephen Tankel, whose book on Lashkar-e-Taiba is coming out later this year, explores collaboration between the Pakistan-based militant group and other terrorist organizations in the FATA.

Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, AfPak Channel editors and senior fellow and policy analyst respectively at the New America Foundation, released a new study finding that approximately one-third of those killed by drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal regions from 2004 to the present have been civilians. The New America Foundation’s drones database was also unveiled, featuring a new Google map with a clickable pin representing each attack, and will be updated regularly with new information about the strikes.

Daniel Kimmage of the Homeland Security Policy Institute has authored a detailed analysis of al-Qaeda Central’s media strategy and messaging capabilities, finding that the organization is now primarily a media phenomenon and is one voice among many in the jihadist community.

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