Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Algiers Again

The recent terror attacks in Algeria illustrates how burying one's head in the sand does nothing to protect your ass. Terror expert Dominique Thomas says the recent bombings in Algeria may presage the emergence of an international terror network in North Africa with targets extending into Europe. Time says much the same thing.


A vicious alliance feeds the ambitions of the group claiming responsibility for the series of massive bombs that rocked the Algerian capital today, killing at least 23 people and wounding about 160. Formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, the radical Islamist organization changed its name in mid-2006 to Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) when it became allied with Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the organization once led by America's former nemesis in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Upon Zarqawi's death in June 2006, these two geographical arms of al-Qaeda were given the regional assignment of fighting the "infidel" by Osama bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, who proclaimed their allegiance to al-Qaeda's global jihad. The Mesopotamian group was supposed to tackle the Americans in Iraq while AQIM was told to interact with groups battling the secular regimes in Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco as well as France and Western Europe.

With its own interests at stake, France is complaining that a policy of appeasing the Islamist extremists achieves nothing.

With 15 years of a violent civil war against Islamist radicals, Algeria had attempted to preempt the dangers posed by the extremists by offering amnesties and granting religious authorities more influence in local government and social affairs. "They were hoping to buy peace at home by avoiding conflict with the AQIM," sniffs the French official. "Today's bombing was the AQIM's way of saying, 'Ha, ha — fooled you. Now you're going to pay.'"

The French continue their disparagement of appeasement.

The French look askance at Algeria's policy of accommodating Islamist sentiments (the French also feel the same about Britain's stance of tolerating extremists organizations as long as Islamist terror spares the U.K.). They say that the effort to "placate radicals" resulted in a chilling of relations with France — one consequence of which has been "choking off counterterror cooperation down to virtually nothing." Says the French intelligence official, "It simply gave extremists the space and time to regroup, recruit, raise money, and plan something spectacular."

Funny that the French don't see "engagement" and resolving the Palestinian issue as the solution to their own problems. But then again, why would they? France has a long and questionable record in North Africa and the Middle East. Syria and Lebanon were once in the French "sphere" of influence. Algeria was once a part of Metropolitan France.

Maybe the real truth is that the current world crisis is rooted somewhat more deeply than in the dispute over Israel and that the idea one can escape from its toils by surrendering Iraq isn't so good after all.

3 Comments:

Blogger Reliapundit said...

I actually posited this possibility before TIME and others, and posted on it HERE -

http://astuteblogger.blogspot.com/2007/04/
does-al-qaeda-have-new-strategy-one.html

and this was posted immediately after the attack.

And TAB even posited it was AQ before ANYONE else in the MSM or blogosphere.

(Check the timestamps yourself.)

Just saying: THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS is a blog that has original analysis and commentary that often beats "the best."

Central to my analysis is the fact that Democrat appeasement increases the likelihood of more of this particular type of terror strategy:

more continuous low-level urban terror warfare and NO spectacular hi-profile attacks. And major efforts to incite civil war. (This is what is beginning to happen in Pakistan.)

The Democrat response to this strategy in Iraq is to retreat - which is EXACTLY what alQ wants;
therefore: we should expect more of the same throughout the region and in Europe and Israel.

4/12/2007 05:12:00 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Is it absurdly optimistic to see this upsurge in violence in Algeria and Morocco as a result of a failure in Iraq on the part of Al Qaeda? They seem to be looking for soft targets. What have they accomplished in Iraq or Afghanistan? Perhaps they hope to establish themselves somewhere American troops aren't able to get to. Then again, that's why they went to Afghanistan in the first place.

4/12/2007 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Robert,

In a way it probably is an adaptation, but it's also an outgrowth. The AQ has learned to focus on the seams, on the weak points. It might be no coincidence that operations were scheduled against the British, the Canadians and the Spaniards because these were perceived as politically vulnerable. Europe as a whole may be considered politically vulnerable and therefore, bleeding in the water, ripe for an attack.

However -- and this goes to the heart of it -- like any pathogen, al-Qaeda needs a vector. It needs an agent to spread its infection and do its bidding. It needs a route of access. It needs an infrastructure to sustain a campaign against Western Europe. And there is no better than North Africa. They've run the numbers themselves. The Med is Europe's equivalent of the Mexican border, and the Algerian Salafists the equivalent of the largest gang.

So while attacks like that on Spain or the operation against HMS Cornwall can be considered tactical attacks against the seam, the Algerian operation is really a strategic threat. Once they can get that going it will be to Europe as Mustangs over Berlin were to Goering, not to morally compare the two, but in operational terms.

4/12/2007 12:24:00 PM  

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