Iraq, Libya, et al

Posted in Uncategorized on September 12, 2011 by bfishman

Hi all-

This post has a couple of links to new reports. Check out previous posts for links to my article looking at al-Qaeda’s views on China and several others.

The first is a new report looking at al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has evolved substantially since its heyday in 2006. Many folks still think of the group as a pseudo insurgent organization; we need to think of it as a terrorist group. Here’s the Link.

Second, here are two pieces I’ve authored (or co-authored) on Libya. The first–HERE–is several months old. The second–HERE— is more recent.

Thanks for reading!

Al Qaeda and the Rise of China: Jihadi Geopolitics in a Post Hegemonic World

Posted in Uncategorized on August 4, 2011 by bfishman

Download the whole article, HERE.

Prognosticating about China’s economic, political, and military rise has become a favorite conversation for Western politicians and policy wonks. But Western observers are not the only strategists debating the impact of increased Chinese power. A parallel conversation has been taking place among al-Qaeda affiliated jihadi thinkers for much of the last decade. That discussion ranges from debate about how best to support rebellion among Muslim Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province to more abstract disagreements over how a transnational militant network such as al-Qaeda should adapt when a traditional state upends the U.S.-led system that has been its primary boogeyman for nearly 15 years.

As al-Qaeda wrestles with an old-fashioned shift in the global distribution of state power, China must determine how to evolve its traditional foreign policy memes in response to the transnational problems posed by al-Qaeda and its allies. China’s traditional policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries has served it reasonably well for 60 years and continues to create certain advantages in negotiations with less-than-humanitarian regimes in the Middle East and Africa. But sub-national and transnational threats will challenge the doctrine of non-interventionism, which is grounded in a decidedly Westphalian understanding of the world. China has already grown somewhat more forward-leaning in dealing with some transnational threats, including pirates off of East Africa, but jihadi groups represent a challenge that is both broader and potentially more disruptive. To date, China has responded to a potential threat from al-Qaeda by minimizing rhetorical confrontation and hoping that al-Qaeda’s operators remain focused elsewhere. But ten years after 9/11, global jihadis such as al-Qaeda view China’s economic and political support for “apostate” regimes a terrible offense. That, coupled with the increasing prominence of the Uyghurs in jihadi propaganda, suggests China will not be able to avoid al-Qaeda forever.

CNN Op-Ed on the Norway Attack

Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2011 by bfishman
Lessons of the Norway Attacks
By Brian Fishman, Special to CNN
July 24, 2011 — Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)

(CNN) — Terror came home to Norway on Friday. A bomb was detonated near the prime minister’s office in Oslo and a gunman attacked a political youth camp on the island of Utoya. In the end, at least 87 people were killed, a nation was traumatized, and the world was again riveted by a terrorist attack experienced indirectly, but in real time, on television news reports and in 140 character bits via Twitter.

Initial speculation that al Qaeda might have been involved was unsubstantiated, premature, and has since been disproved.The only person thus far implicated in the attack was a Norwegian citizen who may have been associated with right-wing political activists, but it is not clear whether he was working alone or why he conducted such a merciless assault.

In the immediate wake of an attack like the one that rocked Norway Friday, we often search for reasons. How could someone kill innocent children? Why would someone set off a bomb that would inevitably maim bystanders? In lieu of better information about why the perpetrators of the Norway attack did what they did, it is important to think about how they did what they did. Because the terrible reality is that there are dark-hearted people with many different political agendas willing to use violence against innocents to achieve their ends.

Perhaps the starkest lesson from the Norway attack is that, based on early reports, more people seem to have been killed by firearms than by explosives. In this way, the Norway attack reflects a larger trend in terrorism, exemplified most terribly by the November 26, 2008, terrorist attack in Mumbai, in which 10 gunmen collaborated to kill more than 160 people.

Terrorists kill for two basic reasons: They want to disrupt and destroy institutions or symbols of a political order they despise and they want to intimidate people not touched by the attack directly. For years, bombs have been the most useful tool to achieve both goals: They were the best way to kill a large number of people and get a lot of media attention. But that may be changing. The increasing availability of automatic weapons makes mass killing easier, even by a single individual. And the speed and pervasiveness of media coverage means that the community of people watching any sort of violent attack is massive, whether terrorists use bombs or firearms.

The perpetrators of the Norway attack successfully built and detonated an explosive in downtown Oslo, but one lesson from would-be al Qaeda terrorists is that building explosives is harder than it might seem. Whether the example is Faisal Shahzad’s botched attempt to detonate a bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010 or the failed underwear bomber who tried to bring down an airliner over Detroit on Christmas in 2009, it is clear that a terrorist attack using explosives introduces a lot of risk for people without serious training. If terrorists can use firearms to achieve similar levels of destruction without taking on the operational risk of using bombs, we can expect them to do so.

One dangerous outcome of the Norway attack is that terrorists around the globe will be studying it to learn lessons — and not just people with similar ideological convictions to the perpetrators of Friday’s strike. Al Qaeda has been particularly adept at adapting techniques developed by other organizations. We should expect that al Qaeda propagandists will at the very least point to the attack in Norway as an example of the kind of strike an individual or small group could conduct in the future.

It is difficult to identify useful lessons from a tragedy like Friday’s horror in Norway, especially in the immediate wake of an attack. But we must, because there are inevitably more attacks to come. One clear lesson is that speculation about the perpetrators of a terrorist attack should be left aside until there is clear evidence of some kind. Another is that firearms are increasingly a weapon of choice for terrorists; reasonable restrictions on the sale and distribution of automatic weapons make sense. We monitor the sale of precursor chemicals for the construction of bombs; we should monitor the most dangerous guns as well.

But perhaps the most important lesson reaffirmed by the terrible events in Norway was provided by Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who said after the attack, “You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy and our ideals for a better world.” No matter what a terrorist’s motives or the weapon they choose, that is always the right answer.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian Fishman.

Al-Qaeda’s Response to Arab Revolutions

Posted in Uncategorized on March 2, 2011 by bfishman

Al-Qaeda has been awfully slow to respond effectively to the rebellions in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. I’ve been doing some writing and media on the issue:

At a Loss for Words (Foreign Policy)

Arab Uprisings Delight, Disappoint al-Qaeda (NPR)

As Regimes Fall in the Arab World, al-Qaeda Sees History Fly By (NYT)

Assailing of Mubarak Puts Jihadis in the Lurch (NYT)

Hearings on Domestic Radicalization

Posted in Uncategorized on March 2, 2011 by bfishman

The LA times recently published my Op-Ed on planned House hearings into al-Qaeda efforts to recruit Americans. Bottom line: This is a real issue, but these hearings don’t sound promising. Here’s the link.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Posted in Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 by bfishman

Along with Assaf Moghadam, I’ve co-edited a new report looking at the endogenous weaknesses of al-Qaeda and the Global Jihadi movement.  The real strength of the report is that we rounded up some of the very best in the business on jihadi ideology and strategy to write.  I think you’ll enjoy it.

The report can be downloaded here: Download Report.

Motley Updates: Awlaki, Iraq, and Asharq al-Awsat

Posted in Uncategorized on September 2, 2010 by bfishman

Awlaki:

I’ve been happy to contribute a little bit of perspective on the NYC Park51 Islamic Community Center debate–especially regarding Anwar al-Awlaki’s recent recruiting pitches aimed at Americans.  You can find some of that here, here, and here.

Iraq:

The President’s announcement that combat troops are leaving Iraq is good news, but the fact that Iraq is still the most terrorism-ridden country in the world isn’t.  For more, see my little blurbs for GW’s Homeland Security Policy Institute and Politico.

Asharq al-Awsat:

And if you’re not bored sick of me just yet, check out Mohammed al-Shafey’s profile of me in Asharq al-Awsat.  Mohammed may be the best informed reporter on al-Qaeda so this was quite an honor (and thanks to PB for setting it up).