Tuesday, May 03, 2011

"Al Qa'ida" after Bin Laden

This is a 24-minute report from Aljazeera English's Inside Story program on the death of Bin Laden and what "Al Qa'ida" is today.

Juan Cole provides a long obituary essay on Bin Laden discussing his career as terrorist leader in Obama and the End of Al-Qaeda Informed Comment 05/02/2011:

The Arab Spring has demonstrated that the Arab masses yearn for liberty, not thuggish repression, for life, not death and destruction, for parliamentary democracy, not theocratic dictatorship. Bin Laden was already a dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War and the age of dictators in which a dissident such as he had no place in society and was shunted off to distant, frontier killing fields. The new generation of young Arabs in Egypt and Tunisia has a shot at a decent life. Obama has put the US on the right side of history in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Libya (where I see crowds for the first time in my life waving American flags). People might want a little help from a distance, but they don't want to see Western troops deployed in fighting units on their soil. [my emphasis]
He also reminds us of Osama's early days as a terrorist leader:

The Reagan administration and the Democratic Congress took the small Carter administration program that supported a Muslim insurgency against the Soviets in Afghanistan and vastly expanded it, ultimately to the tune of billions of dollars. Reagan also twisted the arm of Saudi King Fahd to match US expenditures. Seven major Afghan guerrilla groups were fostered and given CIA training in camps. The Soviets fought back viciously. In that decade, perhaps a million Afghans were killed, 3 million were displaced to Pakistan, 2 million were displaced to Iran, and 2 million were displaced inside Afghanistan. In a country of, at that time, perhaps 15 million persons. It was Apocalypse Now, Kabul version. The two opponents were not attractive. The Communist regime was a cruel dictatorship. The Mujahidin were a mix of tribal and religious forces, but some groups were radical fundamentalists, as with the Hizb-i Islami or Islamic Party of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, the most bloodthirsty of the Mujahidin. He got a lion’s share of the CIA money (he is today a die-hard opponent of the US whose men have killed many US troops in Afghanistan).

When Reagan convinced King Fahd to help get up a covert paramilitary to fight the Soviets (Reagan really liked private, unaccountable militias; he also backed them in Central America), Fahd had his ministers look around for a fundraiser who could get money from private sources in Saudi Arabia for the Arab volunteers to fight in Afghanistan. Usama Bin Laden was chosen, being a well-known socialite who also had a serious and religious side. Bin Laden jetted back and forth between the mosques of Saudi Arabia and the the Pakistani city of Peshawar, his headquarters in the struggle against the Soviets. The “Arab Afghans” who gathered around him may not have gotten direct CIA training for the most part, though some likely did, but they learned everything they needed to know about setting up cells and carrying out covert operations from the Afghans who had been through the CIA schools.
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