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On Qatar and Mali 3, February 2013

Posted by thegulfblog.com in North Africa, Qatar.
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An edited version of this article can be seen on RUSI.ORG

Claims that Qatar is supporting a range of Al Qaeda-affiliated groups in the Sahel are not new. In June 2012 the French satirical magazine Canard Enchaine quoted French Military intelligence sources asserting that Qatar was financially supporting various groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its splinter group the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). The reports are vague but usually refer to financial support from Qatar, while some refer to Qatari planes landing at Gao disgorging arms and even Qatari Special Forces entering the fray.

None of these accusations ring true given the general thrust of Qatari foreign policy. Ironically, however, it is Qatar’s recent actions particularly in Libya that make these accusations seemingly plausible.

The Qatari contradiction

Qatar is one of only two Wahhabi states and it did name its new state mosque the Muhammad Ibn Abdul Al Wahhab mosque late last year. But Qatar is a box full of contradictions. Alcohol is easily available as is pork. Women can drive (nor has this been an issue) and Qatar has the most visible, outspoken and influential female consort in the history of the Arab world. Western education systems are at the heart of the state and there is not even an official mosque in the entire propose-built, multi-billion dollar ‘Education City’ campus housing six American Universities as well as University College London.

Externally Qatar’s policies can appear confused. Support of America by virtue of the two huge US bases in Qatar and significant (usually unwelcome) outreach to Israel in recent years is contrasted with seemingly amicable relations with Iran and support for Hamas and Hezbollah. More recently a record of enormous investment in London and Paris has been contrasted to escalating support of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East and seemingly murky support of groups in the Sahel. Moreover, Qatar has been outspoken in its sub-state support of various groups in Mali’s regional neighbourhood in the last eighteen months.

A loose narrative has built suggesting that an ever increasingly confident Qatar is now beginning to support a range of ever more extreme Islamists across the region.

On the ground realities

Examining exactly what Qatar is doing in Mali is difficult. Qatar never enlightens anyone as to its foreign policy strategies or tactics and nor are there sufficient reliable sources of information in and around Mali.

The best one can say is that in addition to a lengthy history of interaction in the region the Qatar Red Crescent Society increased its capabilities in Mali in 2012 evaluating the state of the plight and the their potential response. This occasionally involved entering Mali from Niger to get to the critical city of Gao. According to an AFP article this in and of itself involved seeking safe passage from the MUJAO, an Al Qaeda offshoot.

The very fact that the two organisations came to this safe passage agreement may well be a root cause of much of the subsequent supposition, with many assuming the transit agreement to be a signal of deeper connections. Yet this is what the Red Cross/Crescent does; it sticks to its central tenet of neutrality in a conflict and deals with the realities on the ground making tactical deals to obtain access when it can.

There is no open source evidence available whatsoever that can back up assertions made by Sciences Po’s Sub-Saharan African expert Roland Marchal who suggests that Qatari Special Forces may have entered Northern Mali to train recruits of Ansar El Dine, which is part the Al Qaeda movement there. Indeed, aside from the Canard Enchaine assertion – which has even been partially retracted – there is nothing on which to base other assertions of Qatar financially supporting Al Qaeda affiliates in Mali other than supposition.

The narrative

The majority of the hyperbole about Qatar seems to stem from the adage that there’s no smoke without fire. It is unsurprising that the Mayor of Gao accuses the Qataris of supporting terrorism. From his perspective he is making a heartfelt plea for French intervention and he sees the Qatari Red Crescent Society gaining access to territory held by MUJAO. Doubtless he puts one – Qatar, the Wahhabi, rich Libyan-Islamist supporting Gulf State – and one – the Qatari Red Crescent gaining privileged access in MUJAO controlled territory – together and comes to the conclusion that ‘Qatar’ is supporting the terrorists.

Marchal too follows this logic. Qatar was active in Sudan and then in North Africa supporting various Islamists with financial support and Special Forces therefore – QED – Qatar is active in Mali doing the same thing.

While some of this is plain alarmism from those who know little about Qatar, some of it makes sense. The argument that Qatar saw how effective its support of various Islamist groups in Libya proved to be and thus sought to reuse such tactics in Mali is a logical proposition. One could also note that gaining support in an area rich in hydrocarbons and agriculture is also potentially a sensible and explanatory as a motivating factor.

The reality

Equally, however, there are many reasons as to why Qatar would be highly unlikely to be meddling with Al Qaeda groups in the Western Sahel. Despite Qatar’s reputation as a Wahhabi and Brotherhood-supporting country Qatar’s most important allies are America, the UK, and France. Qatar has a limited domestic capacity to defend itself and finds itself in a region that has seen three wars in three decades and where it is sandwiched between the two regional behemoths, Iran and Saudi Arabia, both of whom have somewhat antagonistic histories with Qatar. The Qatari leadership is under no illusion as to where its security reliance lies; resolutely in Western hands.

Countering this notion one could argue that its leadership feels it can do what it likes as its importance is so great to these key countries. But an equally key part of the Qatar project is deeply concerned with its global reputation. Through cultural events; educational investment; a variety of sporting events; world-class conference facilities and associated apparatus; and other soft power building initiatives, Qatar places a significant premium on making itself attractive internationally. To boost investment, economic diversification and Qatar’s reputation overall it wants to be known as ‘that place where England played Brazil at football’ and that ‘will host the 2022 World Cup’; it does not want to become ‘that place that supported Al Qaeda in North Africa.’  Supporting the Muslim Brotherhood – the group elected to power in several Arab states – is one thing, supporting Al Qaeda affiliates is another.

One must note that the narrative that has built up castigating Qatar suits the Algerian Government. The increasing break between Doha and Algiers with the latter bitterly resenting Qatar’s involvement funding Islamist groups in Libya and Al Jazeera fanning Islamist flames is no secret. Qatar hosting in exile Abbasi Madani, the co-founder of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), the Islamist party whose near election win in 1991 precipitated the cancellation of elections and Algeria’s bloody decade-long Civil War, doubtless irks the elite in Algiers too. Given the almost entire lack of actual evidence of the Qatari state nefariously supporting Al Qaeda associated groups in the Mali theatre and the way this notion fits with the Algerian Government’s desire to hit back at Qatar, it is unsurprising that at least one North African expert has suggested that ‘Algerian propaganda’ may well be playing a part.

Lastly it is worth pointing out that the small group of people who make decisions in Qatar relating to foreign affairs – the Emir, the Crown Prince and the Prime Minister/Foreign Minister – have shown no interest in the past decades of supporting hard line salafi elements such as Al Qaeda. It is entirely plausible that some Qatari money is finding its way to supporting nefarious elements in the Sahel and there may be Qatar-based charities that engage to such ends, but the odds of a member of the Qatari elite ‘ordering’ such a plan stretches credulity.

Overall, there appears to be no evidence for the more outlandish claims that Qatar is training or financing Al Qaeda-splinter groups. Not only would this idea contradict key tenets of Qatar’s foreign policy for decades now, but it is wholly unclear how useful it would be to befriend a group of extreme Sharia-devout Al Qaeda types in northern Mali. Even before they were being routed by the French, they were hardly a cohesive, structured organisation that could offer Qatar meaningful promises or guarantees.

Instead Qatar’s reputation as supporting certain, typically Brotherhood-orientated Islamist groups in North Africa and a melange of clichés about rich, Wahhabi, conflict-fuelling Gulfies seems to have coalesced, perhaps with some judicious prodding by Algeria, with a basic misinterpretation of the role and practice of the Red Crescent. The ‘Qatari policy’ that this theory asserts may chime with base fears and assumptions and fit snugly into existing narratives but in reality bears little resemblance to Qatar’s state foreign policy thus far.

Al Qaeda’s caves 3, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Central Asia, Terrorism.
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This is what an Al Qaeda-ish cave looks like.

Not this.

Rumsfeld was such a spectacular liar.

Al Qaeda: idea or structured organisation? 11, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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I am usually an ardent fan of Bruce Hoffman, one of the world’s leading terrorism experts. However, I have major disagreements with the latest piece that he has written for the Washington Post. The key issue I have with the piece is the overall tone of the article which fosters the idea of Al Qaeda as some kind of highly structured terrorist organisation with research departments, an R&D section, a hierarchy implementing long-term strategic goals and tentacles stretching around the world . My understanding of Al Qaeda is that it is first and foremost an ideology that various people attach themselves to. For sure, there are people who are putative ‘masterminds’ i.e. people who direct others and offer advice or money for attacks, but I don’t believe that these people are part of some hierarchical organisational structure with brain-storming sessions and proverbial headed notepaper.

Hoffman wrote about five elements of Al Qaeda’s new strategy.

First, al-Qaeda is increasingly focused on overwhelming, distracting and exhausting us. To this end, it seeks to flood our already information-overloaded national intelligence systems with myriad threats and background noise. Al-Qaeda hopes we will be so distracted and consumed by all this data that we will overlook key clues, such as those before Christmas that linked Abdulmutallab to an al-Qaeda airline-bombing plot.

This makes it sound like there has been a decision made ‘on high’ disseminated to underlings to increase chatter and distract the enemy; that an actual communication has gone from the proverbial directors, down through middle management and out to the operatives in the field. What seems to be far more likely to me is that hundreds of radicals/terrorists around the world, independent of  structure or orders or organisation (who may well describe themselves as Al Qaeda in the same way as a football fan from Bangkok who has never been to the UK describes themself as a Manchester United fan) are simply communicating in their own little groups. Why must some Machiavellian, evil organisation be behind this?

Second, in the wake of the global financial crisis, al-Qaeda has stepped up a strategy of economic warfare. “Today, al-Qaeda threatens: “We will bankrupt you.” Over the past year, the group has issued statements, videos, audio messages and letters online trumpeting its actions against Western financial systems, even taking credit for the economic crisis.

Again, this conjures images in my head of a board meeting where the Al Qaeda board of directors sit and have a chat over tea and coffee as to a long-term strategy. “Mmmm….I think we should go for a strategy of economic warfare” says one. Just because one guy – even a bonafide Al Qaeda spokesman [grumble, grumble…] – witters on about some strategic plan to bankrupt ‘us’ doesn’t mean that it is not just a simple by-product of usual terrorist tactics.

Third, al-Qaeda is still trying to create divisions within the global alliance arrayed against it by targeting key coalition partners. Terrorist attacks on mass-transit systems in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 were intended to punish Spain and Britain for participating in the war in Iraq and in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, and al-Qaeda continues this approach today. During the past two years, serious terrorist plots orchestrated by al-Qaeda’s allies in Pakistan, meant to punish Spain and the Netherlands for participating in the war on terrorism, were thwarted in Barcelona and Amsterdam.

Any terrorist with half a brain could work this out. This is logic 101. Why – again – does this obvious logic need to have been necessarily sent down from on high?

Fourth, al-Qaeda is aggressively seeking out, destabilizing and exploiting failed states and other areas of lawlessness. While the United States remains preoccupied with trying to secure yesterday’s failed state — Afghanistan — al-Qaeda is busy staking out new terrain. The terrorist network sees failing states as providing opportunities to extend its reach, and it conducts local campaigns of subversion to hasten their decline. Over the past year, it has increased its activities in places such as Pakistan, Algeria, the Sahel, Somalia and, in particular, Yemen.

If you are a terrorist and you want space, time and relative freedom to plan, construct and launch your attacks are you going to do this in Europe or a relatively stable Arab country or a country where there is next to no law and order? The choice is obvious and there does not need – again! – to have been some strategic decision taken on-high to relocate “all our assets” to, for example, Yemen.Hoffman also – unforgivably – describes Major Nidal Hassan’s attack at Ford Hood as part of Al Qaeda’s growing variety of attacks which to me is as egregiously wrong as concluding that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.  He also finishes with a few useless platitudes and truisms.

Al-Qaeda needs to be utterly destroyed. This will be accomplished not just by killing and capturing terrorists — as we must continue to do — but by breaking the cycle of radicalization and recruitment that sustains the movement.

It seems to me that Al Qaeda is attributed most attacks that occur in the Western hemisphere and practically every attack that targets Westerners even when the evidence that Al Qaeda ‘did it’ often stems from no more than the protagonist ‘visiting Yemen’ for a few days/weeks/months.  The threshold for an attack to be deemed to be ‘by Al Qaeda’ is painfully low. We need to resist the urge to pigeon-hole, tabulate and name every threat in a Western-inspired, orthodox typeset but instead adapt our thinking to understand how things actually are rather than how we think they are.

Al Qaeda & FARC Colombian rebels in alliance? 4, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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Yes, or rather I mean, no, I didn’t mis-type that, there are reports of Al Qaeda – you know, the angry Islamic ones – entering into some kind of alliance with the drug-dealing folk in Colombia.

…criminal organizations including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are going through Africa to access the European market. And they are doing it with the help of al-Qaeda and other groups branded terrorists by Washington, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Mmm….I suppose they contacted directory inquiries for [or, if you’re in the states, asked for the 411 on] Al Qaeda International HQ . From there, after being caught up in the bureaucracy for a while (you know how it is in large organizations), they would have been passed down to a local regional office. After several meetings, some dinner and drinks, a competitive deal would have been struck over cigars and brandy, perhaps on a Golf Course. Of course, FARC’s great advantage was that, at the last minute in a calculated ploy to drive down the Al Qaeda  Inc.™ price, they dropped into conversation that they were also in contact with ETA, the Japanese Red Brigade and Gary Glitter as other possible conduits. On hearing this, the local rep. phoned CEO OBL, reposing in his state-of-the-art cave, explained the situation and was reluctantly told to meet FARC’s new, lower price. Dastardly negotiators, those FARC people.

Shocking MEMRI post 16, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Islam.
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In fairness to the usually horribly, gratuitously and flagrantly biased MEMRI, they have covered a story which does NOT seek to paint Islam in a terrible light…good for them!

During an MBC TV program marking the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, senior Saudi cleric Salman Al-’Oda called on Al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri to reexamine his organization’s ideology.

He said that there was a need for such reexamination because Al-Qaeda had caused the deaths of more Muslims than non-Muslims, and because its attacks in the West had been used for anti-Muslim incitement.

Al-Odah added that the fighting waged by Al-Qaeda attests to its desperation in the face of the West’s ability to defend itself.

Source: Islamonline.net, September 13, 2009

The 5 ages of Al Qaeda 14, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Terrorism.
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5 stages of al qaeda

…is an excellent pictorial article in the Guardian co-authored by the insightful Jason Burke who is, as far as I am concerned, far and away the world’s leading expert on Al Qaeda. His book ‘Al Qaeda – the true story of radical Islam‘ was as groundbreaking on its release as it is today still essential for anyone wanting to understand what’s what with the amorphous phenomenon that came to be called Al Qaeda.

Burke moves away from the notion that Al Qaeda is or was some Machiavellian, secret, super-sleuth like terrorist organization (a la Rumsfeld’s hideous ‘bunker complex diagram‘ [a shocking bald-faced lie of immense proportions]) to describe how it evolved from the resistance in post-Soviet Afghanistan and resembles an ideology more than an organization. Al Qaeda means, after all, the base; as in the place that people were sent to to join in the anti-Soviet jihad:  “go to Peshwar, to the base, to join the fighting” was, perhaps how the conversations went. I wonder, therefore, what we’d all be talking about today if instead of recruits being told to ‘go to the base‘ they were instead told ‘ithab ila bayt Omar‘…would we all be discussing this devilish terrorist group called Omar’s House?

Saudi attempted assassination: the bum bomb 9, September 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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At the end of August Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, the Saudi head of counter-terrorism, was slightly injured when a suicide bomber made an attempt on his life. Part of Nayef’s role is to make, propagate and extend contacts with the more radical elements in Saudi and receive ‘former’ terrorists who come to him to give themselves up, rather than be hunted down by the Saudi security forces.

Reports of this attack were exceedingly sketchy initially. The bomber apparently got into the Prince’s compound and ever near the Prince himself without impediment. When the bomb was detonated the bomber was, according to various reports, blown into countless pieces. This insinuates that the explosives on him must have been quite powerful. Yet the question remained of how did he get so close to the Prince with so much explosives. Whilst the Saudis were celebrating Ramadan, surely security was not that lax that a prime target of Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula would be so poorly guarded.

It transpires – or rather the Saudi Gazette is reporting – that the bomber had secreted the explosives in himself, as in up his rectum. Apparently he had anywhere up to half a kilogram of explosives inside himself. Yet, despite this, the Prince only suffered from a small cut on his face and an injured finger. One can only surmise that the typical stuffed couch and the bombers body proved to be significantly dampening. What an ignominious way to go.

It raises a few interesting questions about security from now on. Did this failed attack sufficiently show that such tactics simply do not work? Or will terrorists see this as but a failed trial and keep on trying? For if this is the case then it could be decidedly more uncomfortable going to visit a Saudi Prince from now on.

See: The Mideasti blog for an excellent round up of the coverage on this topic.

Article catch up 21, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Central Asia, Iran, Kuwait, The Emirates.
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There’s a veritable flood of interesting stories today:

  • Quote of the day is taken from the World Politics Review Blog, with a firm and hearty hat tip thanks for Andrew Bishop.

We’ve now got upwards of 40,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the ostensible mission to eliminate the threat posed by 300 guys. In Pakistan. Think about that.

  • An article on Al Qaeda’s apparent new ties with an Iranian Sunni (yes, Sunni) terrorist group.
  • The UAE have pulled out of the proposed Gulf single currency. Whilst achieving such a milestone of integration would have been enormously difficult in any case, it now appears to be all but impossible.
  • The Kuwaiti Amir has reappointed his nephew, Shaikh Nasser, as the Prime Minister. This is highly unlikely to appease opposition MPs and calm the volatile and fragile nature of Kuwaiti politics, considering that Shaikh Nasser was, essentially, the very reason that Parliament was dissolved last month (for the fifth time in three years).
  • There’s another good piece covering the Kuwait election written by Brian Ulrich. The most interesting bit is when he quotes from Kristin Diwan on the reappearance of one of the original and fundamental societal clefts in the Arabian Peninsula between the settled people (hadar) and the nomads (bedu) who did not get settled into cities until the last century (if at all). [Brian writes] “(quoted with permission from a professional list-serve)”:

“The other area of dynamism in Kuwaiti politics is coming from the ‘tribal’ outer districts. I attended a HUGE and very well planned rally for women in the south of Kuwait near Ahmedi, and was duly impressed by the energy, which may have been amplified by the fact that it was held in an amusement park and most of the women brought a bevy of happy children in tow. As observant Kuwaiti social scientists have been telling us for years, these relatively late arriving citizens of Kuwait are becoming better educated and less willing to accept their role as ‘service’ candidates quietly accepting government jobs for loyalty to the rulers – especially as there are less jobs and services to give to their steadily increasing numbers. They may mobilize as a ‘tribe,’ but their complaints are essentially economic and full of historical resentment of the better off ‘hadhar’ of Kuwait’s inner constituencies. The democratically elected parliament gives them the perfect vehicle to press their economic demands, and goes a long way in explaining why many of the merchant-led Kuwaitis who championed Kuwaiti democracy can now contemplate an unconstitutional dissolution of it.”

Iconoclastic thinking 20, May 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Central Asia.
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I have been a fan of John Mueller for a long time. Indeed, I tried (and failed miserably) to emulate his work in a dissertation of mine. Mueller is that rare thing in hyperbole-ridden the international politics/security discourse: a calm, rational, empirical, unflappable and iconoclastic analyst. In 2006, he wrote an excellent essay for Foreign Affairs which took the American Government, most academics along with mainstream thought to task over the implicitly accepted notion that America was in imminent danger from a terrorist attack. This was, and indeed still is, a difficult line to take. In the May 2009 edition of Foreign Affairs he uses that same kind of critical view-point to ask serious questions about Afghanistan. Would it immediately revert to an Al Qaeda strong hold if Western forces withdrew immediately? Mueller thinks not for a host of persuasive reasons that I don’t quite have time to go into, leaving you the only option of reading for yourself

Al Qaeda as ideology or organisation? 25, September 2008

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East, Terrorism.
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In the aftermath of the US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the US government pursued those responsible with vigour. However, they soon came across difficulties when deciding how to proceed with indictments and other legal proceedings because of the nature of the terrorists involved. Because the US authorities did not have a deep and thorough understanding of Islamic militancy at the time (one assumes that they do now) they resorted to the next best thing and essentially used analogy to guide their policy. These terrorists, the mused, are not that dissimilar to the mafia in the US, which the authorities had been fighting for decades. Therefore, they used associated legal proceedings and particularly the RICO (Racketeering and Organised Crime) law as a vehicle to bring the Embassy bombers to justice. To proceed with this, they argued that the terrorists involved were part of a larger, loosely affiliated group. The name of this group was Al Qaeda.

It is a fascinating intellectual question as to who first deemed this group (such as it was) to be called Al Qaeda. There is ample evidence to suggest that it was because of the American legal proceedings that Al Qaeda as a name came into existence. For sure, the phrase had been used for at least a decade: but in what context? In Arabic Al Qaeda translates as the base of some description. So when militants were seeking to go from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or anywhere else to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets back in the 1980s, they were told to go to the base. In short, one wonders how things would have been different had those people directing want-to-be fighters directed them to Omar’s house, for example, instead.

Either which way, this group Al Qaeda were soon blamed (and took responsibility for) for various bombings including the 9/11 attacks. This group was described as being some kind of monolithic, super terrorist group, with a fanatical leader, enormous resources, innumerable bases, and a typical command and control structure was inferred. This is because people, when confronted by an unfamiliar concept, seek to use analogy to find similarities and thus aid understanding. For example, it could be suggested that this happened with British people familiar with the IRA’s long terrorist campaign and them as a rigid, structured para-miliraty group. Thus many British peoples idea of a terrorist group was already clear in their mind. Therefore, Al Qaeda – rightly or wrongly – took on these familiar qualities.

Indeed, this impression was reinforced by the American administration as a whole and Donald Rumsfeld in particular with the absurd cave diagram, or rather, to give its official title, “Bin Laden’s Mountain Fortress”.

It was a work of absolute fiction plucked from the ether and grounded in as much reality as George Lucas’ Death Star, yet it built on and reinforced notions of what people expected: a structured group with a structured base.

Jason Burke is a journalist for the Observer newspaper and wrote the definitive book on Al Qaeda which simply, unequivocally, and convincingly decimates the whole notion of Al Qaeda as some structured organisation, with clear lines of communication, head quarters and so on. His central argument is that such notions simply do not and have just about never fit the actual situation on the ground. He suggests that Al Qaeda can be best described as an ideology, adhered to be followers around the world. Whilst there are examples of carefully planned and executed plots by Al Qaeda, notably the African embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, proving the actual levels of communication and ‘direct direction’ from on-high are notoriously difficult. Indeed, overall, it is best to see Al Qaeda as an ideology that anyone can borrow. The clearest example of this can be seen in the Madrid bombings in 2004, where the culprits were clearly shown to have no links whatsoever with so called Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or Pakistan: It was an entirely indigenous operation borrowing ideas from Al Qaeda alone.

However, the recent court case involving the so-called ‘airline plotters’ suggests that perhaps some kind of rethink is in order. Burke suggests that as the protagonists in the case visited the tribal areas of Pakistan and allegedly met with several high up members of the remnants of the Taliban, that the link – however tenuous – between the older generation of terrorists (Al Qaeda) and the new recruits has been directly re-established. Indeed, the accused were charged that they received funding and tactical education from those they visited in Pakistan.

Ascertaining the exact kind of relationship in not far off impossibly difficult. Educated guesses are all that there are, no matter what some may claim. Nevertheless, the general weight of evidence suggests that today Al Qaeda may be best seen as a group of people with a common goal and ideology, who maintain some kind of transitory training camps in the Afghan-Pakistan border areas, who pass on their knowledge of bombs, equipment and the like and may suggest targets. Though if one were to ask Donald Rumsfeld no doubt they would morph, once again, into some kind of terrorist super-group, replete with throngs of minions and a mountain fortress.