Posted by: Jeff | March 1, 2011

Al Qaeda’s Recruitment Problem

TNC flags a report from the New York Times that details how the Egyptian revolution hurts the Al Qaeda network’s relevance in the Middle East:

For many specialists on terrorism and the Middle East, though not all, the past few weeks have the makings of an epochal disaster for Al Qaeda, making the jihadists look like ineffectual bystanders to history while offering young Muslims an appealing alternative to terrorism.

“So far — and I emphasize so far — the score card looks pretty terrible for Al Qaeda,” said Paul R. Pillar, who studied terrorism and the Middle East for nearly three decades at the C.I.A. and is now at Georgetown University. “Democracy is bad news for terrorists. The more peaceful channels people have to express grievances and pursue their goals, the less likely they are to turn to violence.”

If the terrorists network’s leaders hope to seize the moment, they have been slow off the mark. Mr. bin Laden has been silent. His Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, has issued three rambling statements from his presumed hide-out in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region that seemed oddly out of sync with the news, not noting the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, whose government detained and tortured Mr. Zawahri in the 1980s.

“Knocking off Mubarak has been Zawahri’s goal for more than 20 years, and he was unable to achieve it,” said Brian Fishman, a terrorism expert at the New America Foundation. “Now a nonviolent, nonreligious, pro-democracy movement got rid of him in a matter of weeks. It’s a major problem for Al Qaeda.”

Beyond mere relevance, burgeoning democracy might reduce the recruitment pool for terrorist networks as well.  A lovely person just bought me “The Looming Tower” by Lawrence Wright, in which he states that the origin of 9/11 can be found in the Egyptian prisons under Mubarak. With Mubarak gone and democracy possibly on the rise, a lot of the malcontent that al Qaeda preys upon might fade away too.

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