Friday, July 07, 2006

One Year Ago

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

Today is the one-year anniversay of the London Bombings. Despite evidence to the contrary, many government officials and some terrorism experts have indicated that the attacks on London were not the work of Al Qaeda.

In "Al-Qaeda, Still in Business," a commentary in the July 2, 2006 edition of the Washington Post, Peter Bergen presents a different analysis. The following is Mr. Bergen's commentary, in its entirety:
Over the past four years, key members of the Bush administration have claimed that al-Qaeda is "on the run" (Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice), "disrupted" (George Tenet) or "decimated" (President Bush). At the same time, however, significant terrorist attacks around the world have dramatically increased since Sept. 11, 2001, most of them conducted by militant Islamists. How does one reconcile this apparent contradiction?

A new narrative that purports to answer that question has emerged: Yes, al-Qaeda as an organization is severely impaired, but it has been replaced by a broader ideological movement made up of self-starting, homegrown terrorists who have few formal links to al-Qaeda but are motivated by a doctrine that can be called "Binladenism." Recent examples would include the militants in Madrid who bombed commuter trains in March 2004 and killed 191 people, or the seven terrorist wannabes recently arrested in Miami in connection with an alleged plot to blow up federal buildings. They had embraced al-Qaeda's doctrine of destruction, yet had no ties to the terrorist group.

However, according to five veteran U.S. counterterrorism officials I've spoken with recently, al-Qaeda the organization remains a real threat. One longtime government terrorism analyst points to the four suicide attacks in London last July 7 that killed 52 people as evidence of the organization's resilience. "At a minimum, this was an al-Qaeda-supported operation," the analyst told me. And al-Qaeda's leaders don't seem to be feeling the heat of the "war on terror." On Thursday, Osama bin Laden released his third audiotape in three months, while his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has appeared on an unprecedented number of videotapes since the second week of June -- averaging one a week.

So while the rapid spread of al-Qaeda's ideology in the past two years -- partly fueled by the Iraq war -- should be of considerable concern, it would be quite wrong to conclude that al-Qaeda the organization is down for the count. Indeed, if the bombings in London are any indication, it may be staging a comeback.

The London attacks of one year ago have generally been portrayed as the work of four young British men of Pakistani and Jamaican descent from the north of England -- distinguished only by their utter ordinariness -- who embraced radical Islamist ideology and managed to carry out the deadliest terrorist attack on British soil in history without outside help. The Sunday Times of London even opined that "the new breed of unaffiliated terrorist is potentially far more dangerous than the IRA or even al Qaeda because he is almost impossible to identify."

But the more you delve into the London bombings, the more they look like a classic al-Qaeda plot. The British government's official account of the attacks -- issued by the Home Office two months ago -- provides a revealing picture. It explains that the presumed ringleader, Mohammed Sidique Khan, visited Pakistan in 2003 and 2004, spending several months there. On one of those trips, he aimed "to cross the border and fight in Afghanistan," the report stated. (Presumably, Khan did not plan to fight alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but rather to join the Taliban or al-Qaeda to kill Americans.)

The report goes on to note that Khan "had some contact with al Qaida figures" in Pakistan, and is "believed to have had some relevant training in a remote part of Pakistan, close to the Afghan border" during his two-week visit in 2003. The British government did not specify what sort of training he received, but given that the London bombs were made of highly efficient explosives that can't be readily made from recipes on the Internet, it is probable that the training was in the manufacturing of bombs. According to the report, Khan was also in "suspicious" contact with individuals in Pakistan in the four months immediately before the London attacks. Taken together, Khan's travels and contacts in Pakistan strongly suggest an al-Qaeda role in the operation.

Khan also appeared on a videotape that aired on al-Jazeera two months after the suicide attacks -- an important fact to which the British report did not give sufficient weight. "I'm going to talk to you in a language that you understand," Khan said on the tape, speaking in the broad brogue of his native Yorkshire. "Our words are dead until we give them life with our blood." He goes on to describe bin Laden and Zawahiri as "today's heroes." Appearing on the same videotape, Zawahiri trumpeted al-Qaeda's responsibility for the London bombings. As a veteran U.S. counterterrorism official told me, "Zawahiri does not take credit for things that he hasn't done."

On the videotape, Zawahiri referenced a prior al-Qaeda threat to explain the targeting of London, saying "Didn't . . . Sheik Osama bin Laden offer you a truce?" -- a reference to the al-Qaeda leader's April 2004 proposal of a peace agreement with those European countries willing to pull out of Iraq. Britain is the most prominent member of that coalition. Bin Laden offered a three-month grace period before the truce expired in July 2004. A year later, the four bombers blew themselves up in London.

But the key piece of evidence overlooked in the British government report is that both Khan and Zawahiri's statements were made on a videotape bearing the distinctive logo of al-Sahab ("the clouds"), which is al-Qaeda's television production arm. Al-Sahab's first tape, a two-hour al-Qaeda infomercial, debuted on the Internet in the summer of 2001, signaling that a major anti-American attack was in the works. Since then, al-Sahab has continued to release key statements from al-Qaeda leaders. Khan's appearance on the videotape strongly suggests that he met up with members of al-Qaeda's media team based on the Afghan-Pakistan border, probably in the tribal area of Waziristan. There is much we still don't know about Khan's activities in Pakistan, but additional information is likely to point toward further contact with members of al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

The rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan over the past year is also, in part, the responsibility of al-Qaeda. The use of suicide attacks and makeshift bombs and the beheadings of hostages -- all techniques that al-Qaeda perfected in Iraq -- are methods that the Taliban has increasingly adopted in Afghanistan, making much of the south of the country a no-go area.

Hekmat Karzai, an Afghan terrorism researcher at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore, points out that suicide bombings were rare in Afghanistan until 2005, when 21 such attacks took place. This year has already seen at least 16. In addition, Karzai reports that two of al-Qaeda's "most able" commanders -- Khalid Habib, a Moroccan, and Abd al Hadi, an Iraqi -- have been appointed to run its operations in southeastern and southwestern Afghanistan. These developments suggest that al-Qaeda is regrouping and strengthening along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

And, of course, bin Laden and Zawahiri remain at large in that border region, issuing a stream of tapes aimed at inflaming their supporters around the world. Zawahiri, for example, released a video last week urging further attacks on U.S. and other coalition forces in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, bin Laden's ongoing influence over al-Qaeda's affiliates was confirmed after the death last month of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq. Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, al-Qaeda's new leader in Iraq, quickly released a statement on a jihadist Web site pledging allegiance to bin Laden: "We are at your disposal, ready for your command." Muhajer has longstanding ties to Zawahiri; they have both been members of Egypt's ultra-violent Jihad Group for more than two decades. A U.S. intelligence official told me that the intelligence community's recognition of bin Laden and Zawahiri's continued importance to Islamist terrorists worldwide has led to a renewed push in the past two months to locate them.

Almost five years after the attacks on Washington and New York, al-Qaeda not only remains in business in its traditional stronghold on the Afghan-Pakistan border, but continues to project its ideology and terrorism abroad. So now we face a world of ideologically driven homegrown terrorists -- free radicals unattached to any formal organization -- in addition to formal networks such as al-Qaeda that have managed to survive despite the tremendous pressure brought to bear against them since 9/11. And even more grim, they now feed off and strengthen one another.

Peter Bergen is a Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation and author of "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader" (Free Press).
In the long run, it doesn't much matter if what the 7/7 terrorists did to London a year ago was specifically the work of Al Qaeda, although Mr. Bergen makes the case for those attacks having been the proxy work of Bin Laden. "Free radicals" plot and act upon the same ideology.

Addendum: Be sure to read Jason's 7/7 posting at Infidel Bloggers Alliance. Jason debunks three commonly-held myths about the London bombings: it's all about bin Laden, the extremists are shunned by the vast majority, and it's a reaction to our "aggressive" policies.

The hordes of "moderate" Muslims have not rushed forward to "take back" their faith. Why is that? The following graphic might provide a clue:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


At 7/07/2006 8:04 AM, Blogger Jason Pappas said...

The author sees the danger that still exists but seems to think it is something that just developed. The neologism, binLadinism, isn’t needed because there is already a time-tested word: jihadism. And “free radicals” are merely devout Muslims who revive the original tradition of Islam: Salifism. These new words actually distract us from viewing today’s events as part of a long tradition. That’s why our President is surprised that there is now an “ideological” enemy and movement. There always was.

The only thing that bin Laden did was form an umbrella group that combined existing independents under one roof and fund them with his trust fund. Even Kalid Sheik Mohammad was in operation before going to bin Laden for support. Thus, 9/11 would have still happened even without bin Laden. So called “free radicals” came before Al Qaeda. It was Islam that motivated them. And the threat still exists.

The war has barely begun!

At 7/07/2006 8:15 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I wonder if Peter Bergen has read Andrew Bostom's The Legacy of Jihad? As one review of that book stated, "It's all jihad all the time."

At 7/07/2006 8:43 AM, Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Good point! I'm mention Bostom over at IBA in my 7/7 piece.

At 7/07/2006 9:03 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I just inserted an addendum to your 7/7 posting at IBA.

At 7/07/2006 9:30 AM, Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Thanks, we need to remind ourselves of the keys points. And, hopefully with 600+ hits a day at IBA, some new people will read a view they’ve never considered before.

At 7/07/2006 9:36 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

IBA reaches an audience larger than your blog or mine. And the readers are from many different nations.

IMO, Pastorius did a wonderful thing in establishing the site.

At 7/07/2006 10:26 AM, Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Let’s see it took over 100 million slaughtered by communism to wake-up some (only some) on the left that communism wasn’t a noble experiment. They referred to the fear of communism as a bogey-man. Now we see the same blinders with regards to the Islamic threat.

The left is worse than useless; they’re dangerous and will get us all killed. Who would ever vote for a Democrat again given that Clinton closed his eyes after the ’93 attack as people involved planned 9/11. Bush may be weak but the Dems are in la-la-land. Even the Clintons are considered too hawkish for them.

At 7/07/2006 10:33 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...


I'm headed to the swimming pool and will be back in a few hours to post any comments here.

At 7/07/2006 11:43 AM, Blogger Gayle said...

Excellent points in this article, AOW. I love the graphic!

At 7/07/2006 1:48 PM, Blogger Old Soldier said...

The demise of bin Laden and Zawahiri will not diminish our problems with radical Islam, so I don't understand some folk's myopic focus in that direction.

Was it coincidental or was it an oman that 205 years ago our first international crisis involved Muslim pirates terrorizing our fledgling shipping trade?

The answer to radical Islamic terrorism is the same for today as it was then - out fight them. The cost to them must exceed what they are willing to endure.

Expecting "moderate" Islam to police the radical factions is expecting asprin to suppress the pain of a sucking chest wound.

At 7/07/2006 1:54 PM, Blogger Brooke said...

Have fun in the pool, AoW!

Why is it so hard for the left to understand that Islam means to conquer us through any means necessary, no matter the cost?

With violent jihad abroad and CAIR here in America, we fight a war on two fronts: The physical, in the trenches war, and the social litigious war. One of the head guys in CAIR (his name escapes me for the moment) was quoted saying that he thinks that America herself would one day become an Islamic theocracy.

How plain must the writing on the wall become before the left is capable of reading it?

At 7/07/2006 2:56 PM, Blogger Jason Pappas said...

How plain must the writing on the wall become before the left is capable of reading it?

The wall has to fall on them first.

At 7/07/2006 3:33 PM, Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

, Zawahiri trumpeted al-Qaeda's responsibility for the London bombings...of course why should they show remorse when they have NONE!!..great post AOW!

At 7/07/2006 3:59 PM, Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

How plain must the writing on the wall become before the left is capable of reading it?

This rhetorical question engenders the bizarre misconception that leftists might be capable of reason and rational thought given enough time and continuous stimuli.

It's not going to happen. Leftism can't be appeased. It must be destroyed.

At 7/07/2006 6:02 PM, Blogger Σ. Alexander said...

London bombing boys had contacts with Al Qaeda, apparently. Terrorists recruit Muslims in the West rather than entirely madrasa educated boys, according to Hussain Haqqani at the Carnegie Endowment.

Even though without any contact to Al Qaeda, some kids are inspired easily. A boy in Florida did a suicide attack to the building a few years ago. I think you remember.

At 7/07/2006 6:27 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I suppose that books about jihad and Islam sell fairly well. When people's lives are taken and continue to be threatened, they want to know WHY.

I found the graphic a few days ago at Democracy Frontline.

Old Soldier,
Was it coincidental or was it an oman that 205 years ago our first international crisis involved Muslim pirates terrorizing our fledgling shipping trade?

On "the shores of Tripoli" and well before the rise of Wahhabism, which is often cited as the problem with Islam today.

The fact is that Islam has been a militant ideology since the "last revelation" to Allah--the Medinan verses.

The wall has to fall on them first.

Perhaps the best we can hope for is that the next "spectacular" attack is not nuclear or bioweapons in nature. But even then, the left will fail to place the blame where it belongs.

Zawahiri trumpeted al-Qaeda's responsibility for the London bombings...of course why should they show remorse when they have NONE!!

According to the Koran and the Hadith, "innocent" applies only to faithful Muslims who are persecuted or slain. No remorse for killing culprits (aka "infidels")!

A perfect day for the swimming pool, BTW.

Mr. Beamish,
the bizarre misconception that leftists might be capable of reason and rational thought given enough time and continuous stimuli

I have to keep trying, though. :)

Missing Link,
We are not fighting with Bin Laden, disgruntled youths, extremists, poverty stricken oppressed Palestinians, Islamists and so on.
We are fighting against Islam.
Not even Muslims as such - ISLAM.

World leaders are performing all kinds of mental gymnastics to avoid saying that!

A boy in Florida did a suicide attack to the building a few years ago.

I remember that incident, which occurred not too long after 9/11, if I remember correctly. He flew a small private plane into a Bank of America building. Apparently, he took quite literally OBL's call to attack financial centers, and AQ literature was found in the wreckage. Only the teenager died in that attack. He had no direct contact with AQ, but he studied the material--possibly on the Internet.

At 7/07/2006 10:57 PM, Blogger City Troll said...

2 good post thanks AOW & Jason

At 7/08/2006 7:03 AM, Blogger LA Sunset said...


I worked long hours yesterday. In my job, I have to sign my name and the date, all day long. I thought about the London attacks every time I did. Who could forget such a tragedy?

At 7/08/2006 8:20 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

See this USC site for a detailed chronology of the history of Islam.

Also, from this source:

...[T]he West's battle against militant Islam did not end with the Crusades and not resume until the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. If anything, the century and a half of relative peace between Islamic states and the West that ended in the latter half of the 20th Century was the exception, not the rule.

When Bill Clinton and others justify Arab hatred for the West by hearkening back to the Crusades, they are exercising a selective memory. What they never mention is that, long after the Crusades, Arab pirates sanctioned by North African states kidnapped, murdered, plundered and enslaved Europeans for at least 200 years. Nor, when excoriating America’s tainted history of slavery, do they note that while Western countries were developing modern economies and evolving from mercantilism to capitalism, which ultimately would make their involvement slavery obsolete, slaves continued to be an essential element of the Muslim system. In the 17th and 18th centuries, sea-going raiders from Islamic Mediterranean countries captured and enslaved about 1 million Europeans.

To get European slaves, Arab raiders had to sail great distances and raid the coasts of Britain, France and Spain – countries with established navies and central governments. And while tribal leaders in Africa regularly handed their own people or neighbors captured in war to slavers, no such cooperation existed in European countries. English mayors, for example, were not selling captive Scotsmen they had captured in tribal warfare....

At 7/08/2006 8:41 AM, Blogger kevin said...

Dhimmitude is the fertilizer.

At 7/08/2006 11:19 AM, Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


I do insist upon a strict propositional calculus. My hypothesis explanation for why no example of reasoning skills can be extracted from the ramblings of any leftist that has written or spoken anything at anytime in human history is that leftists are incapable of reason, or that reason can't lead to leftism.

Did you have a third explanation for why leftists, each and every one of them, is a blithering idiot?

At 7/08/2006 3:25 PM, Blogger Old Soldier said...

Ducky, “Oman” was supposed to be “omen”, much the same, I’m sure, as your “barabary” was probably supposed to be “Barbary”.

Why must you presume that I assume anything? Simply stated, no, I do not assume piracy was unique to Barbary, nor do I assume only American ships were pirated. My question merely pointed to the fact that the first international crisis we faced as a nation involved Musselmen. (So there is no assumption; I understand the term to be colonial for Muslim.)

At 7/08/2006 5:59 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Isn't there underway (or a call for) another investigation of the OKC bombing? Maybe I'm mistaken, but I think that I read somewhere about an AQ connection regarding the use of fertilizer as bomb material, along the lines of the 1993 WTC attack.

Trot out the recent data on "homegrown terrorists," and I think you'll find more Islamists than white-supremacist types--or, at least, more Islamists pulling off spectacular attacks and, at the minimum, loosely connected via the Internet.

Of course, not all anarchists and terrorists from the pages of history have been Muslims, but certainly SOME. Condemn McVeigh and abortion-clinic bombers and the like, which is correct to do, but don't give a pass to other groups.

You're an exceptional troll? Are you now claiming specialness, of which you've already criticized me (among others, I'm sure)?

At 7/08/2006 6:32 PM, Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


I'm not trolling. I bring nothing but honesty to a debate. Especially when I point out the long established fact that leftists have never in history exhibited rationality in an observable fashion. I've hypothesized that this is due to a fundemental lack of capability in that regard (after all, they became leftists in the first place), but I'm entirely open to different explanations for the idiocy common to all leftists. Got one?

As far as "Any of you folks ever pause to remember the Murrah building bombing?"


At 7/08/2006 6:46 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Mr. Beamish,
How 'bout that Duck, calling you a troll? No accounting for such an error, other than to say "leftist."

I checked that link. I suppose that I missed that particular posting of yours last year because of Independence Day. Such incongruous reminders can be quite stunning. Sometimes they have more meaning that the "regular" tributes.

At 7/08/2006 7:15 PM, Blogger beakerkin said...


Is it a mere coincedence that marxist, anarchist and commie bufoons have undermined every war effort from WW1 until the current era. The sole exception is when Hitler double crossed his communist allies.

The concept of Revolutionary defeatism has been a staple of the far left world wide. The government made good use of thecriminal syndicalization laws. It is time that we learned from history and sweep up Commie lawbreaks at Code Pink. Moreover leftwing students who get arested at protests should have their visas revoked and be uneligible for student loans. Such loans should be predicated on good behavior.

At 7/09/2006 5:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not often you hear something sensible from the combined forces of the BBC and C of E, but the Archbishop of Canterbury, in referring to the London bombings, has given Allah a subtle put-down by comparing him to the Judeo-Christian God:

"For the person who resorts to random killing in order to promote the honour of God or the supposed cause of justice it is clear that God is too weak to be trusted.

"God is too weak to look after his own honour and we are the strong ones who must step in to help him. Such is the underlying blasphemy at work."



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