October 4, 2004


Next wave of Al Qaeda leadership: As the group's Arab core is captured or killed, a new generation of Pakistanis fills the void (Owais Tohid, 10/05/04, CS Monitor)

What sets this new breed apart is that they are joining from places like Pakistan, where the focus has been on regional grievances, like independence for the disputed area of Kashmir. But as the Al Qaeda leadership ranks begin to thin, men like Rehman are starting to climb the ladder.

"It is a new generation of Al Qaeda," says Riffat Hussain, a leading defense and security analyst based in Islamabad, Pakistan. "These are new converts to Al Qaeda. They may have no links with Al Qaeda in the past, but now they are willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause as they feel Al Qaeda is the name of defiance to the West. They are young and angry, and their number has swelled in the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq."

A voice on an audiotape last weekend, purported to be that of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, called on young Muslims to continue the global fight even if Al Qaeda's leaders are killed or captured. It is people like Rehman and his colleagues that Mr. Zawahiri could have been talking about.

Police here suggest that Pakistan's newly organized jihadis and educated radicals might number in the hundreds. Police say that more than 600 suspected Al Qaeda militants have been rounded up by security forces over the past three years.

It seems fair to say that al Qaeda has been pretty much destroyed and it's important not to underestimate what this means. Where the original bin Ladenist movement was motivated by a fantasy ideology that was so divorced from reality that there could be no effective response except to kill its adherents, these newer recruits seem to have specific political grudges. As the case of Palestine demonstrates, such grudges can be dealt with once they are the extremists are passe. If for an Osama bin Laden the goal, however ludicrous the rest of us recognize it to be, was to return to the glory days Islam a thousand years ago there was obviously no way his delusion was ever going to be sated. But if you're a young man who wants Kashmir to be independent of India, you're likely to get your wish within the next few years--then you can get on with your life and so can the rest of us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 4, 2004 6:27 PM
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