State Dept’s Initiative to Counter al-Qaeda Propaganda

Several months ago, President Obama signed an executive order establishing an interagency center to coordinate the US government’s public messages against terrorist organizations. A major component of this Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) was in the news lately for its clever campaign against AQAP on Yemeni tribal forums. Because the center is new, most people are unfamiliar with its mandate or how it operates. More broadly, people are unaware of the complexities of government messaging against terrorist organizations. To shed light on these subjects, the first coordinator of the CSCC, Ambassador Richard LeBaron (now retired), has given me permission to post his recent remarks on what he learned during his tenure. It’s very instructive for anyone interested in counter-propaganda and how the US government is coping with the new information environment.

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Everything you always wanted to know about al-Maqdisi (but were afraid to ask)

Well, perhaps not quite. Nevertheless, readers of Jihadica will be interested to know that my book on Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, one of the most prominent jihadi ideologues alive, was recently published by Cambridge University Press. Maybe the book doesn’t tell you everything you want to know about the man, his ideas and his influence, but together with some of my articles, it will surely satisfy most people’s curiosity.

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On Elephants and Al-Qaeda’s Moderation

Over the past several days, Leah Farrall and I have been debating on Twitter about her recent blog post on the killing of Abu Yahya al-Libi by a US drone. In her post, Leah argues that the US policy of killing senior al-Qaeda Central leaders is wrongheaded because those leaders are “a moderating force within a far more virulent current that has taken hold in the milieu.” Leah compares these strikes to the practice of killing older elephants to thin a herd, which leaves younger elephants without any respectable elder to turn to for guidance as to how to behave. By analogy, killing senior al-Qaeda Central leaders means there will be no one with enough clout to rein in the younger generation of jihadis when they go astray. As a measure of the moderating influence of al-Qaeda Central’s senior leaders, Leah contends that those leaders are very discriminating about the

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Al-Qaida Advises the Arab Spring: Yemen

Uh-oh. Several jihadi scholars are engaged in some ideological infighting again and it’s not pretty. As long-time readers of Jihadica know only too well, several jihadi ideologues have participated in quite heated debates about jihad, violence and suicide bombings with the people who are supposedly their brothers in arms. The best-known among these are the accusations between Sayyid Imam and Ayman al-Zawahiri (see here for the first installment of Will’s series of posts on this subject, for example) and the conflict between Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and the supporters of his former pupil Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi (see here, for instance). This time, it’s the Syrian-British shaykh Abu Basir al-Tartusi who starts this discussion by criticising the Yemeni militant group Ansar al-Shari’a, which is responsible for several major attacks in Yemen in the past months and is said to have strong ties to al-Qaida. This discussion does not just tell us something

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