We ‘Neutralized’ al-Qaeda?!?

If there is ever to be any hope that this forever War on Terror will end, we must first face the reality of the world.
Unfortunately, if this statement is an example, then reality is the last thing on the agenda.

“It took us quite a few years before we were able to eliminate Osama bin Laden and the top leadership and neutralize them as an effective force,” Kerry insisted, which raises the rather surprising suggestion that al-Qaeda, still active around the world, is “neutralized” in the administration’s view.

Really? Al-Qaeda neutralized? Does al-Qaeda know this?
Maybe Secretary Kerry needed a "Mission Accomplished" banner behind him when he said this, especially on the same day as a deadly al-Qaeda attack in Mali.

It's important to recall how small of an organization al-Qaeda was in 2001.

By 2001, al Qaeda still had no formal branches or franchises. Its membership included a core of just under 200 people, a 122-person martyrdom brigade, and several dozen foot soldiers recruited from the 700 or so graduates of its training camps.

Al-Qaeda in 2001 was so small that you could fit all of them into a high school gymnasium.
Al-Qaeda in 2001, just before we started dropping bombs on Afghanistan, occupied no territory and barely existed outside of rural Afghanistan.

So what does al-Qaeda look like after 14 years of getting bombed?

 photo map-2-al-qaeda_zpsvk0oh6ed.png

War has been good for al-Qaeda. Maybe someone should tell Secretary Kerry.
Obviously we are talking a much larger and more diverse organization. It isn't just the number of countries and affiliates. Unlike 2001, al-Qaeda actually occupies territory, rules major cities, and has several self-declared Islamic Emirates. The largest of which are in Syria, Yemen, and Somalia.

 photo syrian_zpsrimbxa6w.png

The al-Nusra Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra was created in early 2012 and has at least 10,750 armed militants.
Together with its sister jihadist group, Harakat Ahrar ash-Sham al-Islamiyya, they control the entire Syrian province of Idlib. Nusra Front also has a significant force south of Damascus.

 photo Yemen_war_detailed_map_zpslbow8lon.pngAl-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula territory in white

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was founded in early 2009 and has up to 3,000 armed jihadists.
The group has ruled Mukalla, Yemen's third-largest city, since spring, and also rules parts of the southern capital of Aden.

 photo somalia_zpsshldntwq.png Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen was founded in late 2006 in response to the Ethiopian invasion that the Bush Administration underwrote. It has between 7,000-9,000 militants and is the only one of these three groups that have been losing ground recently.

These three groups, plus smaller affiliates, brings the number of hard-core al-Qaeda militants to around 20,000 today, up from a total of 200 just 14 years ago. And this doesn't include successful spin-off groups like ISIL, which has between 50,000 and 250,000 hard-core militants, depending on who's counting.
That's a 10,000% growth rate for al-Qaeda, which by any measure means they are doing something right. Or we are doing something very, very wrong.

At the press conference, Bryant said the killing of civilians by drone is exacerbating the problem of terrorism. “We kill four and create 10 [militants],” Bryant said. “If you kill someone’s father, uncle or brother who had nothing to do with anything, their families are going to want revenge.”

Killing four to create ten sounds about right when you consider the 10,000% growth rate.

At the press conference today, the pilots echoed these sentiments. “It seems like our actions of late have only made the problems worse. … The drones are good at killing people, just not the right ones,” Bryant said. “Have we forgotten our humanity in the pursuit of vengeance and security?”

Besides the fact that we seem to be in complete denial of the utter failure of our GWOT strategy, there is a lurking danger that no one seems to be talking about.
If these trends continue, with the number of jihadists growing by something like 100% a year, then these already significant armies could soon reach a tipping point where the current efforts to contain them will simply be insufficient and they will begin toppling governments all over the muslim world.
Even if you are in the "let's kill 'em some bad guys" camp, or in the "we have to do something" camp, you can't support this outcome. But this outcome appears inevitable, based on all historical trends so far, if we keep doing what we are doing.

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especially as this reported off-shoot of
al-Qaeda was trumpeted as comprised
of highly trained bomb-makers with the
connections for a global reach with
their highly sophisticated bombs.

Striking the Khorasan group was a (the?)
major US rationale for the US' first
dropping bombs ("airstrikes") in Syria
in September 2014.

And yet we have, more than a year later,
a Russian airliner taken down with TNT
and weeks later bombers in Paris using
TATP in their suicide vests - and no
discussion nor even speculation about
the makers of those bombs that I've
seen.

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Only connect. - E.M. Forster

Then the AUMF is truly null and void and the last fig leaf over our illegal wars in the Middle East has vanished.

They can't even pretend it's not illegal anymore.

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They say that there's a broken light for every heart on Broadway
They say that life's a game and then they take the board away
They give you masks and costumes and an outline of the story
And leave you all to improvise their vicious cabaret-- A. Moore

lotlizard's picture

Turkey could cut off Islamic State’s supply lines. So why doesn’t it?
+ Western leaders could destroy Islamic State by calling on Erdoğan to end his attacks on Kurdish forces in Syria and Turkey and allow them to fight Isis on the ground

In the wake of the murderous attacks in Paris, we can expect western heads of state to do what they always do in such circumstances: declare total and unremitting war on those who brought it about. They don’t actually mean it. They’ve had the means to uproot and destroy Islamic State within their hands for over a year now. They’ve simply refused to make use of it. In fact, as the world watched leaders making statements of implacable resolve at the G20 summit in Antalaya, these same leaders are hobnobbing with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a man whose tacit political, economic, and even military support contributed to Isis’s ability to perpetrate the atrocities in Paris, not to mention an endless stream of atrocities inside the Middle East.

How could Isis be eliminated? In the region, everyone knows. All it would really take would be to unleash the largely Kurdish forces of the YPG (Democratic Union party) in Syria, and PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ party) guerillas in Iraq and Turkey. These are, currently, the main forces actually fighting Isis on the ground. They have proved extraordinarily militarily effective and oppose every aspect of Isis’s reactionary ideology.

But instead, YPG-controlled territory in Syria finds itself placed under a total embargo by Turkey, and PKK forces are under continual bombardment by the Turkish air force. Not only has Erdoğan done almost everything he can to cripple the forces actually fighting Isis; there is considerable evidence that his government has been at least tacitly aiding Isis itself.

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I would agree. Obama definitely has them contained to planet earth.

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"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

LapsedLawyer's picture

Republican talking points.

Not me, not here, not anywhere.

The worst part is everybody, even the dimmest State Department flunky, knows this is all a response to the all war all the time foreign "policy" the US has adopted since the end of WWII in an effort to assert its unquestioned authority to do what it likes vis a vis economic and cultural dictates. They used to have the Soviet Union to blame (and lately they've tried ginning up the Putin two minute hate but nobody's really buying into that too much) and now it's terrorism. But bombs don't apparently work on terrorists, who are essentially doing a more murderous and frankly horrifying form of guerrilla tactics, which bombs and half-a-million boots on the ground didn't work on last time (Vietnam).

Thus the MIC makes accomplices and potential victims of us all.

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"Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it."
-- John Lennon