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  • Author: Mitchell D. Silber
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: A group of men spend their formative and early adult years in Western urban settings such as London, Hamburg, Copenhagen, New York or Sydney. They take the initiative to travel overseas and then return to the West to launch terrorist attacks in the name of al-Qa`ida. Can this be considered an al-Qa`ida plot? What criteria determine that designation? What is the nature of the relationship between radicalized men in the West and the core al-Qa`ida organization in the borderlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan? For it to be identified as an al-Qa`ida plot, does one of the plotters have to attend an al-Qa`ida training camp or meet with an al-Qa`ida trainer, or can they simply be inspired by al-Qa`ida's ideology? These are critical questions. To truly understand the nature of the threat posed by the transnational jihad, led in the vanguard by al-Qa`ida, it is essential to have a greater and more nuanced understanding of the genesis and attempted execution of plots directed against the West. Al-Qa`ida core's role should not be overestimated or underestimated, as important resource allocation questions for Western governments derive from the answers to these questions. It affects military, intelligence, and policing activities that are dedicated to preventing the next attack. In a sense, determining “where the action is for the conspiracy” before a plot is launched should drive Western counterterrorism efforts. In military terms, this would be akin to identifying what Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz called the “center of gravity,” or critical element of strength of al-Qa`ida plots, to provide insights on how to thwart them.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, New York, London
  • Author: Don Rassler
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: CTC Sentinel
  • Institution: The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
  • Abstract: Al-Qa`ida's strategy in Pakistan remains intentionally opaque, but has demonstrably shifted in recent years to promote increased confrontation with the Pakistani state. Al-Qa`ida's fighters originally used Pakistan as a key logistics base and facilitation point for the Afghan and Arab mujahidin during the 1980s, but since 2001 Pakistan has served primarily as an operational safe haven where al-Qa`ida and its affiliates can plan local, regional and international terrorist attacks. Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and smaller parts of Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) comprise al-Qa`ida's physical center of gravity. Increasingly, however, al-Qa`ida has utilized its media prowess and ideological authority to discredit the Pakistani state and promote cooperation among a variety of Pakistani militants to challenge the state's authority and undermine its support for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States