2012: the year al Qaeda staged a comeback

Published: January 8, 2013

Despite many drone strikes and covert operations, al Qaeda and its off shoots are spreading around the world. PHOTO: REUTERS

Somewhere, out there on a dust-ridden road of Somalia a fighter of al Shabab is walking around, Ak-47 clutched in his hands, keeping a lookout for government troops. While hiding in charred and mangled remains of a building in Idlib in Syria, a sniper from Jabahat al-Nusra is calmly scanning the battlefield, looking for Syrian Army troops to show up.

Meanwhile somewhere in Mali, a fighter belonging to AQIM (al Qaeda in the Lands of Islamic Maghreb) stands over the ruins of some destroyed tomb of a saint. Destroyed, because according to the creed he has been taught, worshipping and paying respects to the shrines of saints is apostasy.

Somewhere in the badlands of FATA, in Pakistan, a suicide bomber is hitched up and dressed for a bombing mission on a Pakistan Army check post. The bomber belongs to Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan, to him Jinnah is an apostate and he believes that strict Shariah law should be enforced in Pakistan.

All organisations that I have just mentioned have one in thing in common –apart from fanatic obsession with Jihad- and that is al Qaeda. Yes, there are 14 such other al Qaeda affiliated organisations, around the world. In 30 countries to be precise – within 11 years there have been two invasions and hundreds of drone strikes down the road.

Perhaps, this is what the US led war on terror has achieved.

Both sides and their allies have fought and numerous deaths have resulted, but the ones who have suffered the most are the ordinary men, women and children whose lives remain desolate, bleak and unchanging. The only change they experience is, either an American Humvee coming to town or the arrival of a pickup truck carrying masked and turbaned henchmen.

2012, has proved to be the year when al Qaeda managed to stage a comeback under the nose of the American and Turkish supported rebellion against the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s Baathist regime.

From the reports coming in, Assad’s regime seems poised to sink anytime, while its adversary Jabahat al-Nusra, under the umbrella of FSA (Free Syrian Army) continues to attract recruits in thousands.

Fighters are coming from all over the world and some are even being channelled to Iraq to lead a campaign against the Shiite Iraqi government. On the other side another al Qaeda affiliate, TTP, is also continuing its attacks on Pakistani security forces. Recently it had the gall to offer peace talks while shooting at least 20 kidnapped Pakistani paramilitary personnel in a line.

While in Yemen, al Qaeda continues to blossom, despite the death of its main leader Anwar al Awlaki in a drone strike, and it is in control of many towns in the south of Yemen.

Despite many drone strikes and covert operations, al Qaeda and its off shoots are spreading around.

One has to question the strategy that is being employed by USA and its allies.

If terror were countered with terror, it would achieve nothing, but create ground that is more fertile for breeding ‘terrorists.’ Countries that are suffering from the Islamic Fundamentalist terror scourge, lack in providing proper education for their populace, their economy is in tatters due to bad policies, even without the extremists chipping in, and the governments of all these countries rely on corruption of biblical levels while begging Western countries for more economic support. Exactly where does this economic support go?

As has been suggested by many people before, the way to tackle fundamentalism and war is to have a dedicated group of leaders who can initiate proper educational, economic and industrial policies.

Bad economic conditions will definitely lead to disgruntled youth looking for alternative ways to achieve something in life, something that would lead only to their deaths and of countless others.

Another way to tackle extremism is to make justice available to all levels of society. In Pakistan’s case, the judicial activism of the Supreme Court will not be influential if the lower courts continue to employ corruption and be influenced by political parties.

This war on terror has proved that war is certainly not the solution.

If peace can be achieved through negotiations then pursue it, and utilise that time to offer jobs and education to young militants. Deprive terrorist leaders their crop of potential fighters and devoted suicide bombers.

If justice, education and economic benefits are provided to citizens then there is no way extremism can flourish. Pakistan and other US allies need to fix their economies first and then think of tackling extremism.

Read more by Jamaluddin here or follow him on Twitter @einsjam



A student of Information Systems Management at Latrobe University, Melbourne. He tweets @Einsjam (twitter.com/Einsjam)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ahmed Ibrahim

    @Author, man you nailed it… we have fought this war for 11 years and achieved nothing except more and more terrorism and extremism because we dedicated all our resources to war that should have gone to education and nation building. If only we could spend half of the 80 billion dollar – spent on war on terror – on education.

    Extremism flourishes in corrupt and bad governance and poverty. This is why terrorists are able to justify their revolt against government and this is why poor people support the terrorists as they see them as their saviors from the corrupt and incompetent rule of government. Recommend

  • Saladin

    Excellent write up. Sane and Intellectual. Full MarksRecommend

  • Junaid Jani

    why dont they tell us this stuff on the main stream media?Recommend

  • Decent Muslim

    USA will leave afghanistan and leave Pakistan at the mercy of terrorists. from the day one when we joined usa’s war on terror, we were doomed !Recommend

  • Ali Arif

    I did not agree with your expats blog, but this one i surely agree. infact its a remarkable blog. Just wish it could be read by the upper echelons of our government and see where the wind is blowingRecommend

  • asad

    I totally agree with you and I really appricate your great idea. Recommend

  • varuag

    Jabahat al-Nusra’s recent classification of terrorist organisation by US was amusing. The US policy to fight the war from behind was demonstrated in Libya and goes on unabated in Syria. For short term tactical gains the US is able to simultaneously manufacture consent for fighting (Afghanistan, Yemen etc) and supporting(Syria, Libya etc) multiple organisations that share the umbilical cord to the mother organisation. Its the sheer ingenuity of the US propaganda machinery that it is able to pull off such a deeply flawed narrative. Equally complicit are the gulf monarchies whose financial backing for such adventures are well known. In addition to the traditional gulf monarchies, Qatar is the new kid on the block which punches well above its weight while Turkey’s acquiescence especially wrt Syria is troubling. The protracted war in Syria may well end up with the near isolation of Iran. The intense vilification campaign against Iran along-with multitudes of sanctions have resulted in severe difficulties for the common Iranian. This despite the fact that Iran is a signatory of NPT and adheres to strictures of IAEA while those that display blatant disregard to NPT are ignored. The subcontinental energy issues was swept under the carpet through the successful scuttling of the IPI pipeline and intense pressure on most nations to reduce oil imports from Iran. India today pays for its oil imports from Iran in gold due to the global banking apartheid against Iran.

    Education is the key to the emancipation but what is needed is non-partisan education and not literature that has an agenda. Nations need to frame their own sensible education policies and not allow the injection of literature that incites and molds opinions at the behest of outsiders. And yes reforming economies is absolutely essential. Most of the tiger economies of asia progressed during the times of their demographic dividend while most of the subcontinental nations are squandering their dividend to settle petty scores. Self reliance in economy is acutely critical as it engages the teeming youth through creation of jobs. Also the governance mechanism needs to be strengthened as most nations have organized kleptocracy that masquerades as government.

    If only the people of the subcontinent could pressurize their respective governments to focus on internal development while keeping the stale animosities on hold, so much could be achieved. If only nukes could be used to destroy the institutions of hate that seem to have taken deep roots. If only we could disengage from being pawns in a global game and retreated in our backyards to first find the strength to reform the rusted state from within. If only …………….Recommend

  • Hydaspes

    Whats good about the author is that he has not involved himself in extravagant and attention seeking blogging, but sticking to report and fact oriented blogging. I admire his efforts !

    About the piece, well, i for one didnt pay attention to rise of alqaeda or any such entity becuase I and for that matter the whole muslim world is embroiled in their day to day struggle, we can only serve our masters, may it be alqaeda or the king or the US president.Recommend

  • Say Cheese

    First Class BlogRecommend

  • http://India Feroz

    The million dollar question is who is financing all these groups affiliated to Al Qaeda ? Wherever Al Qaeda has gone death and destruction has followed, yet they are receiving support from some source. How they are receiving support baffles me because whatever they are promising seems sickening rather than rosy.Recommend

  • Saadia

    Its part of the great game being played by usa and russia, and that is the oil. USA wants access to central asian oil and mineral wealth and Russia wont allow it, recent US efforts have resulted in Russia showing signs of aggression.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com Anoop

    What is Al Qaeda? Not just a group, but an ideology.

    That ideology exists in all parts of the Muslim world in varying degree because of the propensity of the Islamic Ideology to be interpreted in a violent fashion. If you think otherwise, you are free to talk to any Taliban, the Durand Line is porous, you can cross easily.

    Al Qaeda cannot be defeated entirely, but controlled


  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com Anoop


    Why would US want Oil when it is set to become the largest exporter of Oil in the world by 2035?

    Your propaganda info is old. Come to the new age. Google Shale Oil and Gas.

    US and Canada have one of the largest deposits that they could use for decades! They are planning to cut imports from Middle East by this decade. When that happens, Saudi Arabia will kowtow to India/China like it kowtowed to the US.Recommend

  • bangash

    Why don’t you open a university and see how many TTP commanders lay down their guns and signup for weapons.Recommend

  • Sameera

    Your thesis that Al Qaida or even TTP would scale back its activities if justice, economic opportunities and educational opportunities are provided is lopsided. Lack of justice and absence of economic and educational opportunities have always existed in this part of land and even in Arab countries; in fact, literacy rate and per capita incomes in Pakistan were lower in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, but who had heard of TTP and Al Qaida then?

    Bad security and foreign policies of the USA as well as Pakistan in the 80s, 90s and even now( I am talking about Pakistan), growing religious conservatism in the Pakistani society engendered by the spread of Salafist and the Iranian Islamic revolution ideas and Pakistani state’s illicit love affair with Islamisation, have given force and speed to spread of militancy. On the other hand, Pakistani state, weakened by years of misgovernance, with its corrupt and dilapidated enforcement machinery, has buckled down under pressure in the face of militancy. The menace of militancy is hydra headed and the state as well as the society has to step forward to cut it down into pieces.
    To tackle it, we need to do better soul searching.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Interesting perspective on the subject.Recommend

  • Akshay

    Seemed as if i wasn’t only reading but watching the whole scenario.You really played with my mind through your words ,this article really had a world in it. Recommend

  • Ra

    @Sameera: wow..so your practical solution to the issue is soul searching…hmmm then i guess we should induct some yogis into the government and solve the issue, fixing the economy and hunting the corrupt politicoans Recommend

  • http://www.riazhaq.com Riaz Haq

    Al Qaeda strength is declining in Pakistan. Terrorism related fatalities were from the peak of 11,700 in 2009 to 6,211 in 2012, and slightly decreased from 6,303 in 2011.


  • Dar

    Right on the money. But will the governments listen????Recommend

  • Hunz The BUnz

    Is the author from PTI?Recommend

  • John B

    This article contradicts one paragraph with the other. The author despises the PAK TTP’s call for negotiations but goes on to say that is a way for peace with terrorists, elsewhere.

    Article criticizes the war on terror because the author thinks that the AQ militants are creating havoc around the world because of US, but forgets why the war on terror was started in the first place.

    Here is a lesson: AQ is a religious ideology of Third Jihad and it is well funded by various religious groups across the world. The AQ ideology is this : only the Sunni Islam as they preach is the right way and all others are infidel. That includes PAK.

    I beileve Muslim brotherhood is organizing funding for AQ along with local chapters but that is a different story.

    Contrary to what you may think or read, all established muslim states including PAK realize that these idiots are going to disrupt the peace in the world and are determined to fight them at all cost. The Arab spring Muslim brotherhood power in Egpyt , in my opinion, is going to be AQ base for a while but don’t worry, Egypt balls are in US hands to squeeze any time.

    It is my opinion that powers of the world operate under the principle to let the current wave of AQ driven Arab spring revolution sweep through wherever they may if it is out of control and bring them in line later. That is exactly happening in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and will likely happen in Syria.

    Remember, AQ state structure is what Afghanistan had under Taliban.

    The grandiose propaganda by AQ of Islamic Kalifat is not going to happen in this modern world, and every Muslim country will be fighting , as they are doing now, against the AQ agenda.

    The casualties of AQ agenda, ironically, are Muslim countries because AQ sees that the Muslim countries including PAK have left Islam. Let us all get this straight.

    The AQ driven war on terror will continue for quiet some time only in Muslim countries and all infidel countries are safe and sound for years to come. It is not because of US, but because the AQ is hiding behind the cloak of Islam in Islamic countries and the populace of Islamic countries are gullible in AQ Islam’s teaching.

    Being A Muslim does not mean you have to be anti-US and against war on terror. The war on terror is fought for Muslim countries, as of now, to keep them away from AQ. Except Muslim countries, all countries are cracking down these AQ nuts in their domestic soil. Recommend

  • Ra

    @John B: being anti WOT doesnt mean anti US..something you missed in the novel you just wrote up.Recommend

  • hassam

    Agree with the author. Lets look at this way. Even if alqaeda was totally eliminated would the detractors like John B and Sameera etc guarantee that an extremist org wont come up? The problem lies with the bad economies and injustice thats inherent in the system of the effected countriea. That ladies and gentlemen needs to be patched up.Recommend

  • sameera

    You have misunderstood the word ‘soul searching’. I meant we need to do soul searching of our policies that have led to radicalization of youth in Pakistan and fostered religious terrorism, so that we can formulate more holistic approach to tackle terrorism.
    My argument was that the evolution of Al Qaida and its growth in many Muslim countries have resulted from the pursuit of faulty foreign and security policies by many Muslim countries as well as the USA. To take the case of Pakistan, militant organizations are able to recruit youth for their organizations by giving a spin to the Western narrative on the war on terror and many other policies of the USA- its stance on issues like Palestinian question, support of Muslim dictators in the Middle East and in Pakistan too and its economic policies.
    Similarly, in Pakistan who had heard of Al Qaida or even home spun religious terrorists in the 50s, 60s, and 70s despite the low literacy levels and per capita incomes and existence of slow and sleazy justice system. Our misguided security policies in the 80s and 90s- aligned with strategic depth and proxy war- and after our alliance with the USA on the war on terror, secrecy on suspected militants, leading to disappearances and arbitrary trials , and inability of the government to weave a narrative on the war that made it Pakistan’s war, have given fodder to the militants. While we were pursuing these policies, different governments of Pakistan , be they military or democratic- were experimenting with Islamization . In fact, a democratically elected Prime Minister in the late 1990s intended to assume the title of Amir-ul-Momineen, perhaps not as a title, but, at least, in spirit. So, our governments have also fed people’s fascination with Khulf-ai-Rashdin and an incorruptible Amir-ul-Momineen.
    As these events were happening and policies were taking place, Salafist philosophy spread into Pakistan from the Gulf as well as Arab countries. This spread of philosophy has been buttressed by infrastructure: madrassahs, universities, schools, literature ( I hope you are aware about the stupendous amount of hate literature that is being imported into Pakistan from different countries right under the nose of our internal security agencies), and charity organizations.
    So, even if we provide jobs and increase economic opportunities for youth, those would not bear fruit, unless we change direction of many policies and dismantle jihadist infrastructure- military , philanthropist and intellectual.

  • Abdul Wadood

    you have to wonder why the liberal world spear headed by the americans is losing to Al Qaeda everywhere. I read this article. they do not have a CLUE about why al qaeda picked up arms in the first place. so how can they have an effective strategy against it?
    there is no mention of palestine, israel,uighur chinese Muslims, chechens, kashmiris, saudi oil sold at cheap rates, imposition of democracy and puppets on Muslim lands, US support for israel.
    to the author all the mujahideen are fighting because justice, education and economic benefits aren’t provided to them and are brainwashed by some ‘extreme’ Islam.
    but you have to wonder. why are there so many educated, well-off people supporting Al Qaeda and fighting for them? sh. al zawahiri is a professional surgeon, sh osama was a civil engineer, sh al awlaki was also an engineer. and there are countless unnamed well educated people joining the ranks every day. look at jabhat in syria: FSA recently announced that these guys have Masters’ degree and PhD holders with them and almost all are university educated.
    also why is pretty much everything Al Qaeda says or does is supported by classical Islamic jurisprudence and exegesis (fiqh and tafsir)?
    why was there no such ‘extremism’ before 1988 (when Al Qaeda was created) eh? did everyone have justice, education and economic benefits?

    maybe we should educate the liberal lot, no?
    lets start with Saleem Shahzad’s Inside Al Qaeda and Taliban (2011) – available in pdf.Recommend

  • Ra

    TWO words.SECULAR EDUCATION Recommend

  • Ra

    @sameera: Commitment by the leadership to provide liberty equity and equality to all can solve it. Lets look for answers not more complaints. Recommend

  • atta

    Well written blog.Recommend

  • peter parker

    Agree with the author. Extremism is directly proportional to bad economy and mal governanceRecommend

  • hameed

    Cant argue on this one. Absolutely correctRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    Why should ET not adhere to bloggers freedom of expression, when their comments are civil, subject related but differ from those of the author and ET bosses. It is relevant to ask the author to translate his name in English language if he does not know what the words Al Qaeda means. Why must he be influenced by ‘Obama Syndrom’ n this regard?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • stranger

    Does any one know what these ‘fanatics’ want ? At least I dont understand their ‘ ideology’.What is it that they are aiming for.’They’ have been around for more than a decade now in many countries. Apart from non stop mayhem what have ‘they’ achieved?Recommend

  • caractacus burke

    Agreed with the author. If the root of the problem is not eliminated then theres no use in cutting the weeds. Recommend

  • http://www.centcom.mil/ur US Centcom

    Dear “Decent Muslim”

    It is extremely important to keep in mind that it’s our common stance against terrorism that brought us together in the first place. We will not achieve anything by indulging in the blame game. The truth is that the threat of homegrown insurgency inside Pakistan continues to grow at an alarming rate. Thousands of people have been killed in the last few years including women, children and elderly. Pakistan is well aware of the threat these homegrown insurgents pose to its nation. This is what Pakistan’s chief of Army Staff, General Kayani said recently, “We realize that the most difficult task for any army is to fight against its own people. But this happens as a last resort. Our real objective is to restore peace in these areas so that people can lead normal lives. No state can afford a parallel system or a militant force.”
    We stand by Pakistan in its fight against terror, and encourage Pakistan to uproot the elements that are preventing us from stabilizing the region. Our government officials continue to meet to address our shared concerns and future plans. We restate what George E. Little, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, said not long ago: “We believe that the Pakistani government shares our view that terrorists threaten both countries, both Pakistan and the United States. Scores of Pakistanis have regrettably been killed by terrorists inside Pakistan. We, of course, have suffered losses as well, inside Pakistan and elsewhere, from al-Qaeda and from other terrorist groups operating along the Afghan-Pakistan border. So we have common cause with the Pakistanis. We’re working closely with the Pakistanis on the counterterrorism issue, and we will continue to do so.”

    Ali Khan
    DET, United States Central Command

  • Rex Minor


    The word Ummah was used by the Prophet of God and in arabic means ‘ the believers’ and call for muslims to show solidarity with the aggrieved ones, the Pakhtuns call it ‘Pakhtunwali’ and they have been practicing it throughout history offering security and assylum to the aggrieved ones; the yeminites coined the word to ‘Al Qaeda’ and brought it to Afghanistan. The American admistration claims that AlQaeda was behind the 9/11 episode whereas there is strong belief about the conspiricy theory of George W adminstration was behind the 9/11 plan as a pretext for starting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In any case the American Experts of the former administration now say that Al Quaeda is finished in Afghanistan and Pakistan but their ideology whatever it means, the author should tell us, lives on in North African muslim satellite countries who are joining in the revolutions which are now going on in the whole of Arabia.

    My analysis is that this is a lot of crap put out as a label for any group that wants recognition but does not meet the criterion of some powers.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Useless

    seeing the events unfolding now , i just cant help but be impressed by the author’s sound analysis . welldoneRecommend