New FFI Report and Conference Papers

I would like to draw your attention to some new FFI publications. Most important is the new report by Einar Wigen on the Waziristan-based Uzbek group Islamic Jihad Union. Einar has trawled Turkish-language jihadi websites to produce this very impressive piece of work which is arguably the best available analysis of the history of the IJU and the nature of its international network. I promise not to post on every new FFI report, but this one is exceptionally good – and very topical. I am delighted to reveal that Einar will be contributing to Jihadica in the near future. We have also made available a number of conference papers by FFI fellows. Some were presented at the International Studies Association Conference in New York in February, others at the joint FFI/Sciences-Po/West Point workshop in Oslo in March. The papers, wihch can be accessed here, cover a range of topics: –

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Weekend Reading: “The Second Foreign Fighter Glut”

Longtime Jihadica friend Clint Watts recently published an article at the Small Wars Journal titled, “Countering Terrorism from the Second Foreign Fighter Glut.” This article is the third in a series he has authored using data from the Sinjar records (Part 1 and Part 2 of the series). He concluded, “The key to success for future CT strategies will be the disruption of terrorist recruitment in foreign fighter source countries using a mixture of cost effective, soft power tactics to engage local, social-familial-religious networks in flashpoint cities – cities that produce a disproportionately high number of foreign fighters with respect to their overall population.” It is a good analysis and is definitely recommended reading.

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Jihadists Study Jihadi Studies

At the risk of seeming omphaloskeptic, I will add a few more observations about jihadists citing western scholars, because this phenomenon taking larger proportions than I expected. Since my last post on the subject, both the Militant Ideology Atlas and the RAND study mentioned by al-Maqdisi have been posted on al-Maqdisi’s own website, Minbar al-Tawhid wa’l-Jihad (MTJ). Maqdisi’s readers can now enjoy the original version, the original executive summary as well as an Arabic summary of both reports. As many of you know, MTJ is the largest online library of jihadi literature, so this means that the CTC and RAND are now part of the official jihadi literary canon. It also means we now know which RAND study al-Maqdisi was referring to in last week’s statement:  Building Moderate Muslim Networks by Angel Rabasa, Cheryl Benard, Lowell Schwartz and Peter Sickle. Since the last post I have also learned that Joas

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Jihadica Shmoohadica

Last week David Solway at Frontpage Magazine published an entertaining article ridiculing people who try to “understand” jihadism and its “roots” (his quotation marks). These people are like the cartoon characters shmoos (see also here), because, like the shmoos, they “recognize no threats, treat everyone as a friend and, even as they are about to be voluntarily exterminated, are all smiles and contentment.” Solway proceeded to highlight yours truly as a resident of the “Valley of Shmoon” in good standing, describing my review essay in the Times Literary Supplement as an excellent example of the “sacrificial” attitude to jihadism. As someone who studies jihadism for a living, I do not often find myself accused of not taking jihadi terrorism seriously. I am sometimes criticised for emphasising the political over the theological sources of jihadism, but usually by people who actually know what they are talking about (such as Raymond Ibrahim).

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Jihadi Pundit Translates, Analyzes RAND Study

Yaman Mukhaddab, a Jihadi pundit who’s appeared on this blog several times, has translated the summary of the new RAND study, How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa’ida. It’s a fast turnaround for a translation, given that the existence of the study was first reported in Western media on July 28 and Yaman finished his work on July 30. Yaman says he has rushed to translate the document for two reasons. First, he believes that it is dangerous. RAND, he says, has finally understood that the reason al-Qaeda attacks the U.S. is to provoke it into a direct military conflict in the Middle East, which will strengthen and consolidate the mujahids and bring about greater losses for the U.S. and its allies. Second, RAND is the go-to contractor in the U.S. for crafting the government’s response to al-Qaeda. Past RAND studies have had a huge influence in this

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Economist Article on al-Qaeda

If you only have time to read one article on the current state of al-Qaeda, read the new special report in the Economist.  Not only does the author, Anton La Guardia, have great taste (Jihadica and some CTC products I worked on are listed in the sources), but he has done a masterful job of tying together a lot of conflicting trends. (Note that the links for all of the articles in the report are on the right-hand side of the screen.)

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Scheuer and the Salafi Stew

In a new Jamestown article, Michael Scheuer has refined some of the arguments he made in May in response to the al-Qaeda-is-almost-defeated meme that has been going around since April. He and I had a brief exchange about it here (look in the comments), so I won’t reprise all of it.  But I do want to offer a counterpoint to his remarks on Saudi Arabia and Salafis. In his new article, Scheuer asserts that the Western press has bought the idea that al-Qaeda is near defeat. Journalists, he says, have bought it because some Islamist ideologues who previously supported al-Qaeda have criticized the organization.  (Scheuer calls these criticisms “recantations,” but only a few of the people he mentions have recanted.) These criticisms, Scheuer says, “are part of a bigger project conducted by several Arab states–led by Saudi Arabia–to make the United States and its allies believe Islamism’s strength is ebbing.”

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Smackdown! Sageman vs. Hoffman

That’s how the New York Times sets up the Sageman/Hoffman argument today: Two powerful academics are feuding over whether al-Qaeda is a leaderless movement (Sageman) or a hierarchical terrorist organization (Hoffman). There are billions in federal dollars hanging in the balance. And best yet, the two guys can’t stand each other. There’s a lot more agreement between Sageman and Hoffman than the Times piece portrays. Both men accept that there are grassroots Jihadi groups popping up without any operational connection to AQ and both men believe that AQ Central (Bin Laden, Zawahiri, et al) is alive and well in the FATA region of Pakistan. The main difference is over how strong AQ Central is and what relationship it has to those who fight in its name. In his latest book, Sageman says AQ Central is not that strong outside of Pakistan/Afghanistan and that it doesn’t have any operational links with

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AQ on the Ropes

The meme going around the past few weeks is that al-Qaeda is on the ropes. One of the first places I saw it in the mainstream press was an LA Times story from April, the main themes of which have been echoed recently in the Bergen/Cruickshank and Wright pieces. The main evidence offered is that several hard-line religious scholars that used to support AQ have now renounced the organization. Awda (Saudi cleric), Hamid al-Ali (Kuwaiti cleric), Sayyid Imam (former head of Egyptian al-Jihad), and the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia are the most commonly cited personalities. Michael Scheuer dissents (of course!), arguing that these scholars have either been co-opted, have an ax to grind, or are has-beens, so their criticism won’t matter to the Jihadis. In fact, Scheuer argues that the Jihadis are on the march: these arguments are occurring in the context of the jihadis expanding in North Africa,

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