AQAP: Inspiring Jihadists During Times of Failure and Defeat

7 MINS READJan 18, 2011 | 20:41 GMT
AQAP's Radicalization Efforts in the West Take Another Hit
The fourth edition of Inspire, the English-language jihadist magazine issued by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's propaganda wing, al-Malahem media, was released via the Internet over the weekend of Jan. 15-16. Though this edition concerns itself with themes such as the compulsory nature of jihad, as well as the freedom to engage in extralegal activities to finance jihad, it also contains the undeniable yet unintended themes of failure and defeat. The failures and defeats experienced by jihadists of late are causing desperation in the jihadist mindset, a desperation this edition of Inspire is unlikely to remedy.
Al-Malahem media, the propaganda wing of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has released the fourth edition of Inspire, its English-language jihadist magazine, via the Internet over the weekend of Jan. 15-16. The 67-page publication is very similar in size, content and tenor to the past two regular editions of the magazine. The third edition of Inspire was a shorter, special edition dedicated to the failed Oct. 29 attempt to destroy cargo aircraft using explosive devices hidden in printer toner cartridges. Like the other editions, Samir Khan, the magazine's editor, has incorporated sections of older speeches by jihadist luminaries, such as Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Suri, Adam Gadahn and Anwar al-Awlaki, that touch on the intended theme of the edition. In this edition the main themes are that fighting jihad is compulsory for all Muslims and that Muslims are permitted to "dispossess" non-believers from their wealth by force or by fraud. However, when one looks a little more closely, there is an unintended and yet consistent theme that runs throughout the magazine: the theme of failure and defeat. This edition of the magazine is attempting to inspire jihadists to persevere in spite of these setbacks. Yet so far the inspiration has not led to any tactical success, furthering a frustration this edition is unlikely to remedy. The pleas for more Muslims to become jihadists because it is religiously mandated appear to reflect that AQAP is having difficulty attracting new fighters. The pleas would also appear to be an indication that AQAP is frustrated that more Muslims are not undertaking simple attacks in the West and that most of the attacks that have been undertaken have been unsuccessful. The frustration over the lack of Muslims conducting attacks was demonstrated by a brief article praising Roshonara Choudhry, a British Muslim woman who stabbed British lawmaker Stephen Timms with a kitchen knife on May 14, 2010. Choudhry was reportedly inspired by AQAP and the speeches of al-Awlaki. The author of the article, Muhammed al-Sanaani, wrote, "A woman has shown to the ummah's men the path of jihad! A woman my brothers! Shame on all the men for sitting on their hands while one of our women has taken up the individual jihad! She felt the need to do it simply because our men gave all too many excuses to refrain from it." In addition, the charge to plunder the wealth of non-Muslims whether by force or by fraud is also an admission that AQAP, like the rest of the jihadist movement, is hurting for cash. Al-Awlaki notes that "jihad around the world is in dire need of financial support" and that this is because the enemies of jihad have realized there can be no jihad without money. Those enemies are therefore "following the money trail and are trying to dry up all the sources of funding terrorism." A question-and-answer article with Sheikh Adil al-Abbab, AQAP's head of religious affairs, discusses the religious permissibility of targeting non-Muslim civilians, as does al-Awlaki's article on stealing from non-believers. Al-Awlaki writes, "The American people who vote for war-mongering governments are intent on no good. Anyone who inflicts harm on them in any form is doing a favor to the ummah." This permission and encouragement to attack soft, civilian targets would appear to be an admission that harder targets such as military bases and government buildings are beyond the reach of AQAP's jihadists. Abu Khowla authored an article in which he provides a fictional dialogue between a jihadist and a Muslim. During the course of the dialogue, the jihadist convinced the Muslim that martyrdom was better than victory. This dialogue also serves as an admission that the jihadists have been finding far more martyrdom than victory in recent years and seeks to encourage jihadists to embrace martyrdom even when victory is nowhere in sight, from either a tactical or strategic perspective. Even the regular feature describing what potential jihadists recruits should expect when engaging in armed struggle dealt with topics that reflect the difficulty the jihadists have been experiencing. One portion dealt with how to respond to the terror of aerial bombing and another with how to respond to being wounded in battle. The excerpt of al-Suri's book featured in this edition of Inspire also noted how the jihadists cannot openly fight against the United States and its allies. Instead, the activity against them now "must lie within the framework of 'light guerrilla warfare', 'civilian terror' and secret methods" due to heavy losses inflicted on the battlefield when jihadists have attempted to fight openly. A page from the fourth issue of Inspire magazine The "Open Source Jihad" section contained a photograph of the U.S. Capitol building with a Christmas tree in the foreground on the first page. The "What to Expect in Jihad" section featured a graphic of a sticky note with a to-do list reading: buy handguns, make a bomb in mom's kitchen, blow up Times Square and "pull off Mumbai near Whitehouse 'till martyrdom." This section also had a graphic of an envelope marked with the word "Anthrax." The photograph of the U.S. Capitol, followed by a reference to an armed assault directed against soft targets near the White House (and the anthrax envelope), will certainly raise some eyebrows in Washington — especially since the Open Source Jihad section of the second edition of Inspire had a photo of the Chicago skyline, and the subsequent plot involving explosive devices hidden in printer cartridges were in packages sent to Chicago. The Open Source Jihad section also contained a how-to guide on using fuel-air explosives to attack apartment buildings. Although this guide was quite rudimentary and offered no real new insight, it is further evidence of the jihadists' fascination with fuel-air explosives. The concept of fuel-air explosives has been a fairly consistent theme in jihadist literature for many years now, and we have seen several attacks in which jihadists have attempted to unsuccessfully utilize fuel-air explosives. While these types of explosives can be incredibly powerful, there are some technical difficulties associated with creating the proper fuel-air mixture. However, because fuel-air mixtures have so much potential destructive power, and the supplies required to make them are so readily available, jihadists will continue to attempt to use them. Finally, the use of crime to finance jihad is something that has been done for many years now, and something that we noted groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq have been doing with increasing frequency. Criminal activity, along with al-Awlaki's encouragement for jihadists living in the West to avoid paying taxes and fines, provides authorities a prime opportunity to investigate and arrest jihadists for crimes that are far easier to prove in court than conspiring to conduct terrorist attacks. Such investigations provide authorities the opportunity to serve search and arrest warrants and to collect an incredible amount of intelligence. These crimes can also serve to differentiate jihadists from the rest of the law-abiding Muslim populace. This fact also serves to underscore the sense of desperation that is discernible in almost every portion of this edition of Inspire. AQAP has now released four English language magazines, but despite all of their pretty pictures and seemingly helpful how-to articles, they have had very little impact in the real world. The magazine is intended to be an ideological weapon that first inspires and then equips jihadists to undertake attacks, but to date it has not resulted in any significant uptick in action on the physical battlefield. The jihadists continue to struggle and Inspire has not been able to turn the tide.

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