Published 30 Nov 07
Bin Laden and Future Jihad in Europe
by Walid Phares, Ph.D.
World Defense Review columnist
What is interesting about the latest audio message of Usama Bin Laden, carried by al Jazeera, is its delayed argumentation. Strangely he is trying to convince the Europeans – seven years later – that they are wrong to follow the United States into Afghanistan.
In his speech – regardless of the ritual investigative questions regarding the location, technology and other details – the central issue appears to be his growing concern with the European role in Afghanistan, and, perhaps through it, the potential growth of that role in the fight against the forces of Jihadism worldwide. Indeed as a reader of the Jihadi strategic mind, I feel that the speech writers (Bin Laden himself or his "advisors") are looking ahead in their perception of future European involvement in the so-called War on Terror. And as al Qaeda's war room has showed in the past, they are skilled at anticipating trends.
Don't we remember how in February 2003, a Bin Laden audio called on the Jihad fighters to begin heading to Iraq, "for Baghdad, the second capital of the Caliphate would be falling into the hands of the Kuffar (infidels)," way before the US Marines brought down the Saddam statue in April.
In a sense, this is how I read this new Bin Laden tape: He is asking the Europeans to leave the battlefield of Afghanistan now, because he is projecting that events may push the nations of Europe to expand further their involvement overseas. The hidden message in his speech is by far greater than the words aired on al Jazeera, or even the entire text his followers are claiming the Qatari-funded channel "didn't air." We'll come back later on the al Qaeda/al Jazeera labyrinth. The question now is about the essence of the message.
The commander of the Jihadi mother ship says the Afghans have sustained the Soviet occupation for many years, hence he warns the European governments that their forces deployed in that country will be continuously attacked. That was the first salvo. Then he "informed them" that they made a tremendous mistake by deploying along with US troops and dislodging the Taliban in 2001. "I am responsible for the attacks of 9/11," said Bin Laden. (I suggest making sure this declaration is well saved to document future trials and respond to current allegations that Jihadists have nothing to do with it). He goes on to argue that since "he" was the man behind the massacre in Manhattan, the regime of the Taliban had nothing to do with it. He added – the classical refrain – that "it was in response to aggression in Palestine and Lebanon." Usama insisted that Taliban ministers didn't even know that he was launching this operation. That part, I must admit, came as a surprise to me. Why is he attempting to distance his protectors from the Ghazwa (Jihadi raid) seven years later? We'll come back to this later as well.
Meanwhile US administration spokespersons rushed to "explain" that the Afghani people are "happier now because they are better administered." I disagree with this PR logic. Nations wouldn't be happier with foreign forces just because richer governments can distribute goodies. This argument won't buy support among the public there.
Washington's spokespersons must be clear on the principles, seven or seventy years after: The US removed the Taliban regime because it was responsible for the acts of the terror group al Qaeda, executor for the massacres in New York and Washington. The Taliban – under international law – had the opportunity to arrest al Qaeda leaders and dismantle their camps, it didn't. The audience of the Greater Middle East must hear solid counter arguments coming out of America and the free world not "explanations" about what the Coalition is doing now in Afghanistan. For after the democratic elections in that country, the legitimate government is responsible for the presence and deeds of NATO and UN troops.
However, in the war of ideas, no allegation should be allowed to fly unchecked.
Bin Laden alleged that the Taliban didn't know about the operation, but he failed to state that the Jihadi regime and its spokespersons "blessed" the attacks afterward and continue to do so in their media.
Usama has forgotten that in one of his videotapes he boasted that even his closer comrade Sleiman Abul Ghais didn't know about it. Indeed, the war against America has been declared since 1998, even though the preparation for the terror "operations" weren't shared with all levels of power in the Taliban or even in al Qaeda.
Yes, these are simple counter arguments but they need to be made in response to this statement from Bin Laden by the leaders of the War on Terror. For future recruits will be fed with Bin Laden's rhetoric about the innocence of his Taliban brothers, and hence, we may find these arguments made by future suicide terrorists blasting against targets in European cities. "This is in response to your illegitimate and unjust attacks against Afghanistan," would scream the Shaheed in his or her prepared videotape before they spread mayhem.
A strong and direct response to today's false arguments, delivered in Arabic via satellite channels, should have been the appropriate response, minutes after the al Jazeera airing. What is important is not how we satisfy our perception of a good image but how we affect the perception of those who are about to be indoctrinated or recruited on the other side.
Back to Usama's Euro concerns. In short he is preparing the psychological terrain for an escalation on European soil. Remember Madrid. His cells struck the trains while claiming it was because of the unjust presence of Spanish troops in Iraq. It is very possible that future strikes in Europe would be accompanied with claims related to French, British, Spanish, Danish, Dutch and other military presence in that part of central Asia.
The – potential – forthcoming attacks are being prepared now with al Qaeda propaganda.
Interestingly Bin Laden mentions Blair, Brown, Aznar and Sarkozy. While the first three – past and current – Prime Ministers have ordered troops into and inside Iraq, the French President has inherited a previous military policy in Afghanistan. What links all these leaders in the mind of Bin Laden? In my estimate, it is not only the past, rather it is the future.
The Jihadi supreme commander has been advised by his operational emirs in Europe and by his advisors there that the fight is coming to that continent. Many combat Salafists are already deployed and preparing for violence in Britain, Spain, Scandinavia, Germany and the Benelux. The so-called youth gangs in France's suburbs – manipulated by the radical clerics – are already in a state of war against the French state.
Global Jihad in Europe has begun. Al Qaeda wants to claim it, own it and boast about its coming spread. That's what on Bin Laden's mind.
As a classical leader of Jihadism, he wants to warn beforehand that what is to come in Europe is "because" of its alliance with the US and its military presence in Afghanistan, an "occupied Muslim land." In reality, the dice has already rolled: The Jihadists have already waged their campaign on that continent but the al Qaeda master wants to father it and widen it.
— Dr. Walid Phares is a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, D.C., and director of the Future Terrorism Project of the FDD. He is a visiting fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. His most recent books are Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West (2006) and The War of Ideas: Terrorist Strategies against the West (2007).
Dr. Phares holds degrees in law and political science from Saint Joseph University and the Lebanese University in Beirut, a Masters in international law from the Universite de Lyons in France and a Ph.D. in international relations and strategic studies from the University of Miami.
He has taught and lectured at numerous universities worldwide, practiced law in Beirut, and served as publisher of Sawt el-Mashreq and Mashrek International. He has taught Middle East political issues, ethnic and religious conflict, and comparative politics at Florida Atlantic University until 2006. He has been teaching Jihadi strategies at the National Defense University since 2007.
Dr. Phares has written eight books on the Middle East and published hundreds of articles in newspapers and scholarly publications such as Global Affairs, Middle East Quarterly, the Journal of South Asian and Middle East Studies and the Journal of International Security. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, BBC, al Jazeera, al Hurra, al Arabiya, as well as on many radio broadcasts.
Aside from serving on the boards of several national and international think tanks and human rights associations, Dr. Phares has testified before the US Senate Subcommittees on the Middle East and South East Asia, the House Committees on International Relations and Homeland Security and regularly conducts congressional and State Department as well as European Parliament and UN Security Council briefings.
© 2007 Walid Phares
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