Archive for May, 2011
New York- I was pleased to see my publication Militant Leadership Monitor, referenced in the endnotes of Bruce Riedel’s new Brookings book Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of Global Jihad. This is the first citation of MLM in a mainstream book that I know of, not bad after less than a year and a half after starting from virtual scratch.
In other news, Clare Gillis, James Foley, and Manuel Varela were finally freed from Tripoli today and sent across the border to Djerba. As I figured by this point, Austrian-Afrikaaner Anton Hammerl was not released with them and is assumed long dead. I figured as much when reports said that Clare had been able to make outgoing calls and nothing of Hammerl was mentioned. A Briton, whom I didn’t even know was captive called Nigel Chandler was also let go. Disturbingly, a guy from Georgetown named Matthew Van Dyke vanished without a trace from around Brega in mid-March and his case has received almost no publicity. God help him. Libya is a roll of the dice. There is only one consistency when you break open a tightly sealed police state and that it that you never know what the hell will happen. Look at Iraq for god’s sakes.
New York- I picked up the American printing of James Brabazon’s My Friend the Mercenary which details his adventures in the early to mid-aughts in West Africa and his Afrikaner mercenary pal who wound up on the wrong side of the failed Wonga coup in Obiang’s Equatorial Guinea in 2004. I read nearly a third of this book as soon as I got it. Fun stuff. I was a bit on the fence about picking it up because the photos are by the late Tim Hetherington and I thought that might be a bit sad (I saw his book, Infidel, while I was rooting around the same Barnes & Noble) but this book is kind of uplifting in an odd sort of way. Perhaps the fact that I can identify with the central character, Brabazon himself, having endured my fair share of sketch in the global Balkans during those heady days of the Bush years (Pankisi Gorge comes to mind-thanks Colin Powell).
I have an article out in this week’s edition of Terrorism Monitor pictured et linked here. I was noting with a friend last week just how much Bahrain has fallen off the front page–a combination of that government’s efforts to keep people like myself out and the sheer volume of globe rocking events occurring–a no sooner than I put something out that it pops back on CNN International, PBS Newshour, and Al Jazeera English. Strange how the world seems to work that way some times.
Libya continues to burn and Syria is showing no signs of letting up. The Times of London’s Martin Fletcher managed, I think somewhat foolishly, to get into Syria on a tourist visa. That was a serious risk considering what had happened to an Al Jazeera reporter there. Now Pakistan is back in vogue as some interest in the Arab Spring begins to recede. And then of course there is the never-ending story of poor Afghanistan. The is more going on these days than even I can keep up with as a serious news junkie. Time to baton down the hatches.
New York- So bin Laden is dead, sunk to the bottom of the Arabian Sea in a weighted body bag. What comes next for al-Qaeda? A lot of assumptions come into play, the foremost of which is that the angry Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri will assume the top position. Analysts seem to think that al-Zawahiri is combative ideologically and lacks any of the charisma of bin Laden. Many would probably like to believe al-Qaeda is a spent force..highly unlikely. Some wonder if it can survive without its leader. Therein lies the debate about whether AQ is a leaderless ideology or a leader-driven cult-esque movement akin to the LTTE. When Prabhakaran was killed on the edge of that lagoon in May of 2009, that was the effective end of the LTTE as a leader-led, mass movement. But it was certainly not the end of Tamil nationalism/separatism (assuredly not in the Tamil diaspora or doubtfully in South India). Al-Qaeda will obviously not fade away overnight but I find it hard to imagine crowds of henna-bearded Islamist protestors in the sweltering streets of Karachi marching around with al-Zawahiri posters. He’s just simply not iconic or photogenic like OBL nor are there loads of great images of him. I remember when I first traveled across Pakistan way back in 1999, people (well men since I don’t recall socializing with women there then) informed me that almost no Pakistanis had ever heard of OBL prior to Bill Clinton’s cruise missile strikes in Khost the summer before. The American attempt against him, in the wake of the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings, is what really propelled him to fame in Pakistan, not any kind of indigenous love for him as I would venture to guess most Americans/Westerners would believe.
President Barack Obama visited Ground Zero/the new World Trade Center site today to quietly lay a wreath on the grounds of the new memorial. I never caught site of the guy but got a few nice snaps. The NYPD officers assigned to the event were fairly relaxed and it ended up being a low key affair compared to the 9/11 anniversaries I’ve covered.
New York- There is some interesting coverage on a few of the global Pakistani satellite channels (if you comprehend Urdu to a degree) of the Abbottabad raid. Highlights include what appears to be the tail of the downed Navy SEAL chopper and former President Pervez ‘Mush’ Musharraf talking about how the raid was a clear violation of Pakistani sovereignty.
One of the more interesting things about it was the mood of the Pakistani public across a spectrum of their news sites. I did not see a single comment of anyone appearing overjoyed about this. Most seemed to find the notion of a foreign military power making a deadly raid deep inside their territory utterly humiliating. Many comments I came across, not untypical for that part of the world, seemed to say the raid was wrong not only for violating Pakistan, but because they believed the jury on bin Laden to still be out. Many in Pakistan seriously believe that the United States did not have a clear-cut enough case to kill bin Laden. Having personally been on all sides of the War on Terror short of spending the night in the dark prison at Bagram, I can kind of understand where this view comes from but I am sure no one else in America will.
The insecurity I see playing on in the comments on some of these news site forums stems directly from Pakistan’s defeats over the decades at the hands of its Indian nemesis and/or brothers. It is almost as if the United States stood in for the hated Indian military in this scenario. Some in Pakistan may not want to condemn bin Laden simply as a residual emotional kneejerk held over from eight years of awful neoconservative unilateralist policy in South and Central Asia. On the other side of the Radcliffe Line/Line of Control, many in the Indian media and defense establishment are already no doubt gloating that Pakistan is the nexus of terror that they have been insisting it was all along. On the other side of the Durand Line, Afghans will no doubt be interpreting what all of this means for them as many fear the Karzai regime would simply crumble without Western support. There will be those in the West, particularly anti-militarists in the oh-so-subtly anti-American European left, who will now suggest even more forcefully that their self serving politicians can no longer in any way justify their respective participation in the American-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan, following the Dutch model. Let’s see what, if any, palpable immediate changes take place.
New York- A-B-C-ya!