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How wide is the al Qaeda net?

How wide is the al Qaeda net?

I came across an interesting post this morning on the Journal’s Numbers Guy blog. I think we all have a tendency to think of al Qaeda as a large force, certainly they’ve been difficult to track down, but how big is the organization?

From the print edition:

A dozen terrorism scholars gave a wide range of answers when asked to estimate how many members there are, how the numbers have changed during al Qaeda’s lifespan and how many countries the group operates in. Analysts put the core membership at anywhere from 200 to 1,000. The next shell, of affiliated fighters or funders, is made up of thousands or tens of thousands. And there could be tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of adherents, based on polls and online-forum traffic, experts say.

From the blog:

“It is likely that the Arab Spring has resulted in at least a short-term drop in new recruits from the Middle East, with the exception of the Palestinians, for whom the Arab Spring has no relevance,” said A. Aaron Weisburd, who tracks online activity by terrorist groups.

Added Joshua Sinai, a terrorism researcher at Virginia Tech’s Center for Technology, Security, and Policy, “I think the number of recruits is less than in the aftermath of 9/11/01 or Abu Ghraib but nonetheless sufficient to sustain the movement.”

Curious. I wonder what the economic weakness of the U.S. will mean for recruitment. What would promote more recruitment?



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Messes With Texas | September 19, 2011 at 11:23 am

The Obama administration EPA has done some remarkable and ground breaking work in reducing the number of employees and potential employees in the United States private sector.

Perhaps we could greatly curtail Al Qaeda recruitment and existing membership if we put EPA in charge of Al Qaeda oversight instead of Homeland Security.

Every time a kindergarten class recites the Pledge of Allegiance, an Al Qaeda terrorist is recruited. Any journalist will tell you.

The idea of wondering the size of al Qaeda seems to lie some where between, VietNam “body counts,” the quote “long hair, short hair, what’s the difference once the head’s blowed off,” and Albert Einstein’s response to the 1931 pamphlet “100 authors against Einstein,” commissioned by the German Nazi Party as a clumsy contradiction to the Relativity Theory, “If I were wrong, then one would have been enough.”

It really one takes one to ruin your day.

BannedbytheGuardian | September 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm

The Al Quaeda of Osama bin Thingy has gone – long before he was exiled into that dump.

That group was Saudi . The Regime probably just cut off suspected sympathizers ‘ state pocket money & took away their footballs . As an extra isolation they are not permitted to go to the official approved young men- loyal -citizen drag racing spinouts.

I doubt that a bunch of old guys eg The Egyptian Brotherhood can hold the young lions from emerging. They will be less disciplined ,better looking , longer haired & bandannaed & best of all dead sooner. Those Pakistani wild boys are doing high leader turnover.

The show has moved on .

David R. Graham | September 19, 2011 at 6:20 pm

I expected more comments on this post. In 2007 I was told that DHS estimated the number of Sunni Mohammedans willing directly to commit or support violent jihad against non-Mohammedan nations and societies as well as against wrong-thinking Mohammedan nations as 25-45 millions world-wide. The number estimated to be willing directly and indirectly to commit non-violent jihad, such as lawfare and legal squatting/homesteading, with a view to dominating larger and larger pieces of territory inside targeted Euro-American nations, was put at unspecifiable for its enormity. Correlative numbers for Shi’a Mohammedans were not supplied.

The focus on AQ is misguided and dangerous. Questioning its “size” recalls Rand analysts parsing gerunds into such fine pieces that they conclude from the pieces that nothing is there to worry about (the CIA’s CTC did this with Saddam), or alternatively, that a piece should be the decisive focus of national security assets (the Department of State did this with UBL, after 11SEP01, of course).

AQ is like “Joey Zasa,” a punk, a two-bit enforcer. And as Neo points out, one is all it takes. Size is a phantom issue. Macro-wise, AQ’s size with respect to operators varies daily. Nor does its “size” in number of operators measure the organization’s internal strength or operational effectiveness.

AQ’s internal strength is best measured by its ideology and financing. It’s operational effectiveness is best measured by the foreign policy goals and intelligence and logistics sophistication of the nation states and their semi-private agencies, including business entities, who hire AQ to conduct operations on their behalf.

Rand, CTC and DoS should be looking at “Licio Lucchesi”(s) who hire and support AQ. There are the real enemies. In that regard, it is notable that the current US administration and its Euro-allies support AQ operators in Libya. So it’s unwise to assume the “Licio Lucchesi”(s) are Middle Eastern regimes.

There is no connection between AQ’s roster and economic conditions in their home or colonized countries. The idea that there is is heavily promoted by all left/progressive flavors, including “liberation theology.” Roots in Marx ultimately.

The “size of AQ” is a red-herring issue. It operates to divert attention from the real threats to US national security. Those are nation states and their semi-private agencies, including business entities.

A genuine measure of the extent and threat of terrorism world-wide can be had from a taxonomy of the illegal drug business.

What worries me most is the radicalization of Muslims in Universities in the UK, US and Canada. Muslim Student Associations, founded by the Muslim Brotherhood and financed by tax dollars and student activity fees, are easily the most fertile recruiting grounds for terrorists in the western countries.

Al Qaeda itself is mostly fairly small but it has billions of Muslims (already conditioned to their propaganda of hate and violence by Islam) to recruit from.

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