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Al Qaeda's New Face

With Wade Goodwyn in for Tom Ashbrook.

From Syria to West Africa, its outposts are increasingly the lifeblood of the organization.

A soldier with the Somali National Army (SNA) walks along a road near Deyniile, Somalia, during a joint AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) operation to seize and liberate territory from the al-Qaeda affiliated extremist group al-Shabaab. (AP)

A soldier with the Somali National Army (SNA) walks along a road near Deyniile, Somalia, during a joint AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) operation to seize and liberate territory from the al-Qaeda affiliated extremist group al-Shabaab. (AP)

We’ve been waging war against al-Qaeda for more than a decade. Wherever we engage, either on the ground or through the air, American forces, we have had good success.

But it’s like a water baloon, squeeze hard here, and al-Qaeda bulges out in a completely new place.

This hour, On Point: We know we’re not going to occupy large swaths of the Middle East and Africa. So, what’s the best strategy for containing and killing the terrorists?

-Wade Goodwyn


Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, correspondent for the Guardian, who wrote this exclusive on al Qaeda in Syria. He also reported for the PBS Frontline epsiode, “Al Qaeda in Yemen.”

Ofebia Quist-Arcton, Africa correspondent for NPR. She recently reported on the Islamist movement in Mali.

Seth Jones, senior political scientist and associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation. He wrote this article: Think Again: Al Qaeda. His new book is “Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of al Qa’ida after 9/11.”

Daniel Byman, professor in the Security Studies Program of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He’s also the Director of Research and Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He wrote this analysis paper: Breaking the bonds between al-Qa’ida and its affiliate organizations.

From The Reading List

Wall Street Journal “The United States and its allies should consider opening a second front in the Syrian war. In addition to helping end Bashar Assad’s rule, there is a growing need to conduct a covert campaign against al Qaeda and other extremist groups gaining a presence in the country.”

Daily Beast “Like the rest of the world, the terror organization was surprised by the revolutions that toppled dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Its ideology of violence and jihad initially was challenged by the largely nonviolent revolutionary movements that swept across North Africa and the Middle East. But al Qaeda is adaptive, and it has exploited the chaos and turmoil of revolutionary change to create bases and new strongholds from one end of the Arab world to the other.”

CNN “While the killings of Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda operatives have weakened the terror network, the rise of groups affiliated al Qaeda in the Middle East and Africa presents a serious threat to U.S. security, the State Department’s annual terrorism report warns.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Che’ Riviera

    If the ranks of the poor continue to swell in America, it isn’t out of the question that cells might begin to appear in Detroit of Gary.

    • TomK in Boston

      Shelly Bachmann can find them in the State Department.

      Leaders who ascribe the poverty of the Palestinians to deficient “culture” will be a big help in attracting recruits to AQ.

  • Gregg

    This has never been about Bin Laden or Afghanistan or Iraq. It’s about changing the face of the entire Middle East. 

    • Che’ Riviera

      aka oil hegemony.

  • http://twitter.com/mofycbsj Brian

    Militarists in both corporate parties mocked “peaceniks” who
    said you can’t kill an idea with a bullet, even if it deserves to be killed. Zillions
    for the “war on terror” and al-Qaeda is expanding, not shrinking. Militarism
    has made America less safe and secure.

    • Che’ Riviera

      It’s almost haiku!

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Al Qaeda is the result of two things:

    1.  The narcissism of one spoiled rich kid.

    2.  The desires of people who are ruled from above and away and have no hope of controlling their own lives.

    • J__o__h__n

      You forgot religion. 

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

         That’s covered in item #2 in this case.

    • Che’ Riviera

      Do you mean GW Bush for #1?

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

        Osama bin Laden, although the same statement does apply to W.

    • Steve_T

       What about the CIA?

      • Dee

        Yes, the CIA are the real terrorists today and have been for over the last 60 yrs in the middle 
        East and Assad and others–and especially those in Iran now this,,,See the URL below….

        In addition, to the last 60 yrs the CIA have been the terrorists in all the Latin American countries. 

        Yet the good news –all their puppet dictators have been overthrown by the people and they  
        (people ) have come to embraced democracy.
        which was denied them for so long…..Dee 

        Blaming Iran, Ignoring History, Ted Snider 

  • Ed Barna

    Al Qaeda is not the problem, fundamentalism is. Whether this type of ignorant and potentially violent intransigence is found in Afghanistan, Mali, Israel (in its Jewish form), or the United States (in its Christian form), or in the past in the Soviet Union (as Communism), fundamentalism is not only a threat to individual liberties and planetary health, it is a mentality that grows by using its different forms as a rationale for its actions.

  • JeanBruce

    Russia and China undermine efforts to present alternatives to al Qaeda. How did this relationship develope?

  • Steve_T

    Al Qaeda = the new boogie man. 

  • Rod

    No problem having efforts against Syria led by Saudi and Qatar, two brutal monarchies? Wow.

  • Steve_T

    What seems to be forgotten is, who started Al Qaeda?  Answer: CIA

  • Dee

    Al Qaeda is the figure of the neocons imagination to justify 
    all kinds of government and corporate agression abroad…

    Yet, as Ron Paul pointed out in the early months of the 
    Republican debate Al Qaeda represent a bunch of thugs 
    upset with US aggression in the Middle East..Not a parti-
    cular country like Afghanistan and Iraq…

    Thus it was simply wrong for the US to turn around and 
    bomb Afghanistan or indeed for that matter to wage an 
    illegal war against the people of Iraq and its leadership.

    Plus,the expasion of that war by Nato backed forces into
    Libyan leader and the Horn of Africa & the Arabian penin-
    sula today..

    Nonetheless, here is what one US historian has to say 
    about the 9/11 terror attacks and their place and threat 
    to America’s national security in terms of its history….

    “My first question: where does Sept. 11 rank in the grand sweep of American history as a threat to national security? By my calculations it does not make the top tier of the list, which requires the threat to pose a serious challenge to the survival of the American republic.

    Here is my version of the top tier: the War for Independence, 
    where defeat meant no United States of America; the War of 
    1812, when the national capital was burned to the ground; the 
    Civil War, which threatened the survival of the Union; World 
    War II, which represented a totalitarian threat to democracy and capitalism; the cold war, most specifically the Cuban missile 
    crisis of 1962, which made nuclear annihilation a distinct poss-
    ibility. Sept. 11 does not rise to that level of threat because, 
    while it places lives and lifestyles at risk, it does not threaten 
    the survival of the American republic, even though the terrorists would like us to believe so. ” http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/28/opinion/28ellis.html

    Wade, this is the guy you should have on your show today.
    Not the crap that came from the war mongers in the Right 
    Wing Think Tanks in Washington, today and on your show 
    today. They are the criminals today who should be reined
    in too. (Trust me , many American groups are working on
    this —including , 9/11 truth.org  ) Dee 

    A Blue print for 9/11 Truth….

    David Ray griffin, 9/11 Truth 

    Prosecuting an outlaw administration, Harper’s 

  • Dee

    Addendum The CIA-International terrorists for the last 60 yrs.

    A history ofhttp://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Ashes-The-History-CIA/dp/038551445X the CIA, A Legacy of Ashes 

  • Dee
  • TaTaTamiHolloway

    I think that a group that cannot abide putting man’s law before God or Allah as justification for violence sounds very, very familiar. Can anyone think of a group that believes the bible and it’s teachings justify the killing of doctors? How about God’s law comes before man’s law in a Christian country? Anything ring a bell here? Think it can’t happen? Think again. It is happening!

  • TomK in Boston

    Joe McCarthy, rehabilitated TeaOP hero:

     “I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”Shelly Bachmann, current TeaOP heroine:

     “I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Muslim Brotherhood and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

    Well, she didn’t exactly say that, but it’s not much of a step. I do NOT want a ride in the righty time machine. The hate garbage we cleaned up must stay cleaned up.

  • Hidan

    The  Saban Center for Middle East Policy is a junk Pro-Israeli think tank. I recommend everyone take there views with a grain of salt. 

  • Jorge Serrano

    Anyone commenting on Al-Qaeda ought to be required to read Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four first. The Inner Party (now referred to at the One Percent) always needs an enemy to keep the Proles distracted.

    • Rory

      Al Qaeda is real and killing 100s a week over the world.  Whether that means the US needs to do much about it is an entirely different question.

  • Jeff

    Al Qaeda is a political organization seeking power — in that respect, it’s no different than the Republican or Democratic parties. Like them, they depend on keeping their base enthusiastic with maximalist long-term goals, but they cannot win real power with their base alone. To do that, they have to win over large groups of people who are not in their base and never will be — by identifying and exploiting popular grievances, formulating and propagating winning slogans, and placing themselves at the head of existing inchoate movements and there demonstrating their commitment, militancy and — sooner or later — effectiveness, in the shape of results. This is where they can be most effectively combated, at the level of redressing the grievances of populations in, for instance, northern Nigeria (where poverty, education, corruption etc. have alienated the Muslim people from the State), Syria, northern Mali (where the Tuaregs have felt disenfranchised and seek autonomy). It’s no accident that in both Mali and Syria, there was an existing political struggle that had reached a crisis and broken out in violence … and THEN al Qaeda moved in and took over its leadership. People on the ground have argued that the same process is what is taking place in Nigeria as well. Neutralizing actual militants can be done later, in a mopping-up operation. The crucial thing is to dissociate them from, and discredit them in the eyes of, the broad mass of oppressed Muslims who feel there is no one else acting on their behalf, even if they don’t act in the way they ideally would like.

  • Kivenaberham

    murder, extortionist, psychopathy, in any religion is still a criminal. most choose to be that way. and if societies want to label these gang/thugs as al qaeda with some kind of religious doctrine so be it. with or without any doctrine they are still gangs of thugs, murders extortionist, and psychopathy. my question is why don’t we build prison in each country to put these people in them. its as if its not cheaper to do so then this so call war on terror.

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