“Understanding of the Al Qaeda network and how it operates under pressure from the [U.S.] government” — that’s the aim of a short monograph (updated link — ed.) from the Combating Terrorism Center, a new think tank at the U.S. Military Academy, aka “West Point.”
The monograph is based on documents snatched from Al Qaeda cells, and posits that attacks on Al Qaeda’s sanctuaries, including those in Afghanistan, has “significantly degraded [Osama] bin Laden’s command and control,” forcing the organization to become more decentralized — and, at its moments of greatest duress, simply a “brand” that inspires isolated, independent affiliate groups.
That’s old news. But what’s new (to me) is CTC’s ideas for exploiting this change in Al Qaeda’s organization:
* Give junior Al Qaeda members opportunities to leave the organization. In other words, amnesty. This “exit option” makes it hard for Al Qaeda leaders to enforce discipline within the ranks.
* Deliberately “corrupt” open-source technical information — such as internet bomb blueprints — in order to undermine isolated cells’ confidence in their ability to execute attacks.
* Crack down on “ungoverned spaces” where Al Qaeda can find refuge and rebuild as a controlled organization.
That last strategy raises some very important points about Somalia that I will highlight tomorrow.
(Art: Adam Rosenlund)