The demise of Al Qaeda has been announced on more than one occasion, particularly after the death of its founder and leader Osama bin Laden. But the terrorist group has been active for a quarter of a century now, and continues to claim responsibility for attacks. The bloodiest atrocities are no longer carried out by the central body of the organization, which has been weakened thanks to ongoing pressure, but rather by “franchises” and kindred groups. There are as many as a dozen of these, according to sources in the intelligence services, and many of them include a growing presence of jihadists born in Western countries.
After the latest strike made by one of these groups — the attack by Al Shabab on a shopping mall in Nairobi, which caused dozens of deaths — and the US admission that previous analyses speaking of the “road to defeat” of Al Qaeda were overly optimistic, Washington has gone into action once again. This is shown by last Saturday’s operation in Libya, which resulted in the capture of Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known within the Al Qaeda organization as Abu Anas al-Liby, according to sources in the American intelligence services, who had long had him on their wanted list for his alleged involvement in the attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania 15 years ago, which left 224 dead and 5,000 injured. And by the attempted capture, in Somalia, of the presumed mastermind of the attack on the Nairobi shopping center.
Al Qaeda’s capacity for self-regeneration calls for some reformulation of the global struggle against terrorism
Some clarification is needed on the intervention in Somalia, of which very little is known; and also on the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Anas al-Liby in Tripoli, termed a “kidnapping” by the Libyan government, which has demanded that he be tried before a Libyan court and not an American one, in a rather optimistic interpretation of the state of affairs in that country since the revolution in 2011. In any case, these events suggest the need to reconsider the existing strategies against terrorism. The fronts and theaters of conflict have proliferated; the usual ones of Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan have now been joined by the opportunities created by several more or less frustrated revolutions as part of the Arab Spring, and by the dispersion of militants after this year’s French intervention in Mali, the fighters having largely established themselves elsewhere on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. This is not to mention the civil war in Syria, where credible estimates speak of a presence of 8,000 foreign combatants, including as many as a hundred from Spain.
Al Qaeda’s capacity for self-regeneration, and the incorporation into its ranks of thousands of people born in Western countries (the attack on the shopping mall in Nairobi involved jihadists from the US and the UK, for example) call for some reformulation of the global struggle against terrorism. In this new stage, it will be imperative to take past errors into account, so as not to repeat them, and to analyze the new realities of the threat, in order to build a better strategy of international cooperation, which is more realistic and effective than the existing one.