Al-Qaeda Everywhere: US support for Oppressive Gov’t’s made Bin Laden’s Killing Moot

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The US government has never understood insurgency for the most part. Smart USG officials with whom I’ve interacted have had a firm belief that leadership is a rare quality and that you can attrite an organization by killing its leaders. This theory is patently false. It moreover gives false hope to counter-insurgency officials and fools them into thinking simple tactical steps will be effective.

When Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on whom the Pentagon rather ridiculously blamed 80% of the violence in Iraq in 2005, was killed from the air in spring of 2006, many observers thought that al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, his guerrilla group, was doomed. But his successor, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, renamed it the Islamic State of Iraq and decided to experiment with holding territory in Diyala and other provinces under the noses of the US military.

Then in 2011 President Obama appears to have had Usama Bin Laden assassinated (there is nothing in the public record to suggest that at any point there was any order to capture him alive). Al-Qaeda was fading at that point. But Ayman al-Zawahiri, the no. 2 man, just took over the operation. Al-Qaeda and its local ally, the Haqqani group, continued to hit the US in Afghanistan, sometimes quite hard, and sought to destabilize Pakistan. The Yemeni affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, remained vigorous.

The Iraqi affiliate had run into some roadblocks. When Abu Omar was killed in Iraq 2010, again some thought that the group was over with.

But Ibrahim Samarrai took over, called himself Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and took the fight so Syria, renaming the group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or in Arabic Daesh). It went on to conquer most of al-Raqqa and Deir al-Zor provinces in Eastern Syria. In 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi came into an internal conflict with ally Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, and this al-Qaeda branch in Syria split into the Nusra Front (al-Qaeda proper, reporting to Ayman al-Zawahiri), and Daesh.

The Nusra Front or al-Qaeda in Syria became the best rebel fighting group against the Baath government of Bashar al-Assad. Since the US backs remnants of the Free Syrian Army (mostly de fact Muslim Brotherhood factions) who have tactical alliances with al-Qaeda on the battlefield, the US became allied with the allies of al-Qaeda, repeating all the mistakes of the Reagan administration in Afghanistan in the 1980s. US weapons given to the rebels often end up in al-Qaeda’s hands, and the few victories the rebels have had, as in Idlib, were spearheaded by al-Qaeda, so that the US-backed rebels can’t be convinced to abandon the alliance of convenience.

As for Daesh, in 2014, al-Baghdadi’s group took over 40% of the land area of Iraq. It could not have done that if the Sunni Arab population of Iraq were not outraged at the sectarian, Shiite fundamentalist government that the Bush administration installed in Baghdad, and which Washington continues to back to the hilt. (There’s nothing wrong with the Shiite majority coming to power at the ballot box; but democracy involves avoiding a tyranny of the majority, which Iraq’s Shiite parties have not avoided).

In 2015 Saudi Arabia launched a war on Yemen to beat back the victorious Houthi Zaidi militia. It ignored al-Qaeda in the south, which promptly took the major port of Mukala and also several other cities. Only in the past month have Saudi Arabia and its allies bothered to try to deal with AQAP, the most deadly of the al-Qaeda affiliates aside from Daesh). Al-Qaeda has withdrawan from Mukala, but there are rumors that it was allowed simply to walk away (the Saudis claim to have killed 800 in fierce fighting but this allegation cannot be substantiated). Saudi Arabia has virtually ignored Daesh in Iraq and some think it is happy enough to see a champion arise for Iraqi Sunnis that ties down the Shiite government in Baghdad, which the current government in Riyadh despises.

So I think we may conclude that the decapitation strategy of dealing with al-Qaeda does not work and has never worked.

Moreover, al-Qaeda has meant different things to different people, and its appeal has changed over time. Zawahiri was hoping it would become the reining ideology in Egypt and Saudi Arabi, the heartlands of Islam. Instead, Egyptians have gone in for a nationalism that despises Muslim fundamentalism. And Saudis have largely remained loyal to the royal family, and opinion polling suggests that if they could have a change, it wouldn’t be in the direction of even greater puritanism.

Instead, al-Qaeda and its affiliates and offshoots have become what Maoism was to peasant revolutionaries of the 1950s and 1960s– an ideological franchise you could pick up and beat the Establishment with where the Establishment was intolerably overbearing. Al-Qaeda is modular, in the sense of offering a model and tool kit. Thus, the al-Qaeda-allied Taliban Movement of Pakistan represented the poorer villagers in places like the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Swat Valley, places either neglected or bossed around by the authorities in Islamabad. The Sunnis of Iraqi experimented with the Daesh version of al-Qaeda when they felt oppressed by the Shiite fundamentalist government in Baghdad. Syrian rural and small-town Sunnis experimented with Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) and Daesh when they felt oppressed by the one-party Baath socialist state and its high officials (many of them Alawi Shiites). Some of the appeal of AQAP seems to map onto Sunni discontents in south Yemen; there is no al-Qaeda in the north of the country. In Sinai, neglected and discriminated-against rural clans are fighting the Egyptian army.

But these disparate, largely rural insurgencies also face extreme challenges. They depend on government being weak. Even a slight assertion of Saudi power against AQAP in Mukalla caused it to be rolled up there almost immediately. Daesh has lost enormous territory to Shiite militias and Kurdish guerrillas where those two stood and fought. The Russian intervention in Syria has pushed back al-Qaeda in Syra/ Nusra on several fronts, virtually wiping it out in Idlib and along the Lebanese border.

AQAP and Daesh have attempted to recruit Europeans by pulling off the attacks last year in Paris. But their terrorism focuses on soft targets and has little obvious benefit to them, and has made NATO and Russia de facto allies again, in Syria. The strategy of holding territory and yet engaging in long-distance terrorism against a powerful foe is epically stupid. The only advantage of a terrorist group is that it doesn’t have an obvious return address. The current al-Qaeda affiliates all defied Bin Laden’s advice not to give the enemy a clear target. So they are all in the process of being rolled up.

Al-Qaeda in its various permutations can’t be defeated on the battleground. It can’t be defeated by decapitating leaders (leadership, contrary to what the Pentagon thinks, isn’t that unusual or special).

That is, insurgencies are not mindless nihilism that can be wiped out with some drone strikes or aerial bombardment, some assassinations or “regime change.” They are manifestations of forms of class struggle (though the class may be inflected by sectarian or ethnic identity). Where there is great inequality and injustice, and where the state is weak, there will be spaces for insurgency, and often such uprisings see a benefit in franchising, signing on to the discourse, techniques and prestige of an umbrella rebellion.

Obama’s killing of Usama wasn’t the end of anything precisely because the US has not known how to, or has not always even wanted to, promote social justice in the Middle East. The bizarre and embarrassing commitment of the US government to helping the Israelis keep 4.5 million Palestinians stateless and without rights is an example of this blindness. But so too was Ronald Reagan’s alliance with Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party against the Shiites of Iraq and Iran (the latter having rebelled against decades of heavy-handed US hegemony and a coup that put a megalomaniacal monarch back in power in Tehran). George W. Bush reversed Reagan’s policy, siding with Iraqi Shiites against Saddam and the Baath, which only created new inequities and led to the rise of Daesh. The Obama administration’s acquiescence in the praetorian brutality of the current Egyptian government (in the Sinai and elsewhere) has also not been helpful.

Rather, just as Maoist peasant insurgencies were often best forestalled or foiled by land reform, which turned the peasants into rural middle classes and gave them a stake in the status quo, so rural al-Qaeda insurgencies would be best addressed by fostering social justice policies. Pakistan and Afghanistan never had land reform (pre-modern landholding patterns are typically extremely unequal). FATA in Pakistan needs to receive more investment from the center and should be made a province, with a provincial legislature and prerogatives.

In Iraq and Syria the land is not perhaps as important as government services and government investment in communities, which has often been done on a sectarian basis and very unequally. Egyptian policies in the Sinai are so opaque it is even difficult to know exactly what drove so many there into insurgency, but that someone is making a lot of money with Sinai resources and locals are being kept down and excluded is almost certainly part of it.

The US does not always have good levers to push reform (though it did militarily occupy Iraq for 8.5 years, so you’d think they could have accomplished something). It also has leverage with Pakistan and Egypt. Where it does not, Washington shouldn’t fool itself that “taking X out” is an equally good option, or that targeted assassinations will do more than call forth more resistance to an unbearable and unjust status quo.


Related video:

CCTV Africa: “Fifth year anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden”

23 Responses

  1. The decreasing resources crisis spreading across MENA will increase mass migrations of environmental refugees, aka immigrants.

    How does one decapitate the will of the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad?

  2. Well, we are talking about control of people and secondarily control of territory. Most often, the winner is the side that organizes better than their enemy. Built in to all of this is a perception that whoever is in charge will do what they can to enrich themselves without any regard for the people they are able to control. Thus, patronage and kinship networks provide quid pro quo arrangements that bind communities and connections to strongmen and resources outside the immediate community. These arrangements are basic political development functions of penetration, recruitment, coalition building and rule administration. It’a all personal. Americans are all institutional. Families will find ways to protect themselves and survive through their personal arrangements. Thus, the organization that penetrates these communities and maintains unity and a common direction will prevail. When insurgents do that, the only way that bombs can win is to kill everybody. No matter what individual you kill, the networks remain.

  3. Social justice policies are a nice thought, but who defines what is social justice? Martin Luther King? The U.N? A liberal Western blogger? Wouldn’t the Quran get a say? Would social justice in a Muslim country look like Malaysia, with its Bumipetera policy that is effectively a jizya on the Chinese and Indians?

  4. It is very generally true that “insurgencies would be best addressed by fostering social justice policies.” The reason that Dems and Repubs always choose wars that only “call forth more resistance to an unbearable and unjust status quo” is that these are not wars of foreign policy, they are wars of US domestic policy.

    Every US war since WWII has sought to create dictatorships of the rich, by preventing or replacing socialist governments. Their intent is to fight socialism in the US, and the foreign wars against distant small countries have been their primary means to domestic power since Aristotle warned of this two millennia ago. Only by creating foreign enemies can they pretend to be protectors and accuse their moral superiors of disloyalty. These wars are always sold as security threats, although not a single one has defended real US interests, only those of the rich. They allow the oligarchy to pose as the tough guys who will whip those unwashed masses into order and keep products on the big box shelves, while falsely accusing their moral superiors of subversion, begging, crime, etc.

    But it is the right wing oligarchs who have stolen from government, and have subverted the Constitution by eliminating constitutional rights, controlling the elections and mass media of democracy with money stolen from corporations and government itself. The right wing oligarchy has destroyed democracy in its own name, as they always do.

    Try to find a Republican who does not advocate right wing oligarchy: they are the true enemies of the United States. Most Democrats are exactly the same now, merely playing the democracy tune to lead progressives to new right wing slaughters. It’s so easy when you control the mass media and elections: just tell them one thing, do what you want, and give the excuse of “realism” now and then. You won’t find any Hillaries of the right wing trying to them left.

  5. Professor Cole’s post drives home the futility of “nation building.” Underdeveloped countries that lack mature political, economic, and legal institutions are “built” into viable, mature nations only when a certain critical mass within the country is reached that spurs such development. That critical mass includes, but is not necessarily limited to, a standard of living that creates a reasonably-sized middle class; a respect for and trust in the rule of law; and the prospect that individuals can engage in economic pursuits of their choice with the reasonable expectation that contracts will be enforced. All of these act as a catalyst for a country’s population to demand greater political participation and leadership accountability. Without such a critical mass, for outsiders, including the U.S., to engage in “nation-building” is a fool’s errand.

    In spite of all the effort put into “nation building” in Iraq and Afghanistan by the United States, we have failed to create viable “nation-states.” The reason is the Iraqis and Afghans lack the elements essential to reaching that critical mass that becomes the catalyst for becoming a modern nation-state with a mature political, economic, and legal system on its own. No amount of money thrown at it; no amount of hectoring on human rights; no amount of building a number of girls’ schools; no amount of police trainers; and no amount of “advisors” in various Ministries are sufficient if the Iraqis and Afghans themselves are not fully engaged and up to snuff, as clearly they are not.

    Regarding counter-insurgency, It is nothing new, and it has nearly always failed. The only truly successful counter-insurgency operation was that spearheaded by the British in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency, an effort that lasted from 1948 to 1960. The Malayan Communist Party was terrorizing both the British and the local Malayan population at the time. The British fielded a combined counter-insurgency force of sufficient numbers to reach the ratio of 50 per 1,000 of the local population. It was not all military. It included intelligence experts, police, and others, as well as British Army personnel.

    Nevertheless, just reaching the ratio of 50-to-1,000 probably is not sufficient in itself. The British were in control of Malaya and governed it, so they could have their way. Additionally, they erected “new villages” and moved much of the population into them in order to deprive the “Communist Terrorists” (as they insurgents were called) of the ability to demand support and “taxes” from the local population. The combination of British counter-insurgency maneuvers and depriving the insurgents of a base of local support resulted in defeat of the insurgents. Nevertheless, the conditions under which the British operated were unique and clearly could not be replicated in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

    • I would add to your “critical mass” (of standard of living, middle class, and legal order) the preconditions of two generations of peace without major ethnic/sectarian factions, the lack of an exploitative colonial/oligarchic order, lack of severe external threats, and adequate health and educational opportunity.

      Those factors usually grow under a secular nationalism, and are destroyed by the sectarian meddling, attacks upon socialist governments, oligarchic dictatorships, and military disruption that have been the hallmarks of US interventionism. US “foreign policies” since WWII have never proceeded from a cautious humanitarian and culturally-relative analysis of development options, and have never built a nation nor established a workable democracy.

      Democracy is a tree that requires the proper soil and nurturance for many years. The US oligarchy pretends that it can be fired from a cannon into a sand dune in the desert, and of course the results have been clouds of burning splinters. But the oligarchy gets what it wants, which is money and dominance of their moral superiors in the US.

      • Whatever one thinks of U.S. foreign policy since World War II, the point is that countries lacking the elements of a modern democratic political, economic, and social system will not advance until the critical mass mentioned above is reached. Until that happens and the people demonstrate sufficient social capital and begin to demand a modern democratic society, they will remain mired in their dystopian morass. So-called “nation-building” cannot do it for them.

        • In reply to both Erik and William, I would like to point out that the US has not always imposed dictatorships, and the differences between those places and the places where we did put tyrants in power could be explained by William’s criteria, or by racism and ignorance amongst our policymakers.

          Starting with the US occupations of Germany, Austria and Japan, democracy definitely could not have succeeded without the hard work of the citizenry. The US was also atypically endowed with government officials in 1945 who were knowledgeable about Germany and Japan, and not in a vindictive way. I do know that many Americans involved in the Japanese occupation were sympathetic to Japan’s people and culture. These officials were also a product of a long run of New Deal liberalism, which is very different than the crowd you get during the Cold War and McCarthyism.

          We can also look at South Korea, Taiwan, Spain, and Portugal as US satellites where our foreign policy establishment eventually gave way to democratic transitions. Note that these places had not had democracy for generations. However, their economic conditions were better than most of the world’s, and while their stability was enforced at gunpoint their entanglement with the US hegemony made their people very aware of democracy in Europe and Japan.
          The example I use to show where I think racism was a factor in how we treated postwar authoritarians of the Left (because let’s face it, Erik, there were a lot of those), is Tito versus Ho Chi Minh, both leaders of anti-fascist partisan armies with US help. Ho tried very hard to get the same deal we gave Tito, and we spurned him. Yugoslavia was the textbook example of proper treatment of unaligned states. For all the good that did. Tito would not have gotten that deal if he’d been African or Asian because he would have been too “alien” to trust.
          I think we simply consigned the non-White peoples of the world to the “other” bin because we had no cadre of genuinely knowledgeable officials who understood where to meddle or not. Since these were mostly the liberated colonies (though again S. Korea and Taiwan were too), the conditions for domestic democracy and prosperity were rare. Meaning, there were no good-guy capitalists for the US to enthrone, so we brought in the bad guys. The general US response to “other” was dominated by military policy and then the rising CIA, filling a vacuum with cynicism and obliviousness and an appalling standardization of responses. I recall reading The Pentagon Papers, looking for the key original US position on Vietnam. What I found was a circa-1948 regional policy wishlist, in which all of Southeast Asia – one free kingdom, 3 French-conquered kingdoms, 1 newly independent British colony, 1 still-British colony and 1 Dutch colony – with many different religions and cross-rivalries – were dismissed in a single paragraph as though Coca-Cola was unhappy with the regional manager and it would just keep firing guys until one of them somehow made things quiet.

        • Good remarks, super390. But in those cases (Germany, Austria, Japan) there were pre-existing democracies lost and restored by war, so all of the preconditions of democracy were there. In Spain and Portugal the preconditions were very favorable, as both had only missed being part of European democracy by historical accidents; Taiwan consisted largely of imported sympathizers with democracy who already had those preconditions; so South Korea and maybe the Philippines are the only partial-success stories, and as you note the preconditions were not bad at all.

          Interesting notes on racism as a factor determining where efforts were made. I would add lack of any genuine humanitarian motive on the part of the US, because we could easily have lifted (and could still lift) Africa from its extremity poverty and disease without expecting miracles. We could also have left the USSR to that task in Afghanistan and central Asia instead of forming AlQaeda to attack them.

          In SE Asia, Kennedy sent VP Johnson to talk with heads of state to see what hey saw as the underlying problems (for lack of any US institution that had any idea or concern!). Johnson said (approx.) “The problem in SE Asia is not communism, it is poverty, ignorance, malnutrition, and disease.” But that contradicted the right wing tyrants’ propaganda allowing them to pose as protectors and accuse their moral superiors of disloyalty. So out the window it went, although Kennedy spoke of getting out of Vietnam just before his assassination. Of course Johnson went along with the Gulf of Tonkin fraud and reportedly told the JCS “You can have your war if I can have the election.”

        • Correction: de-list Japan among pre-existing democracies, but it had much industrialized and no doubt was ready for more rational government.

        • I would also suggest that the sources of the advantages the US has enjoyed, which substantially indicate the preconditions of democracy, are natural resources, geographic isolation, military isolationism, eighteenth-century egalitarianism, industrialism, and middle class productivity, which are antithetical to militarism and oligarchy. The warmongering oligarchy falsely credits its disastrous acts with the wealth of the nation, which it has in fact stolen, corrupted, and destroyed.

  6. “Smart USG officials with whom I’ve interacted have had a firm belief that leadership is a rare quality and that you can attrite an organization by killing its leaders. ”

    Perhaps they were speaking from experience. It would explain the issues you so excellently describe.

  7. Smart USG officials with whom I’ve interacted have had a firm belief that leadership is a rare quality and that you can attrite an organization by killing its leaders.

    That tactic wouldn’t work in the US or in one of its satrapies where there are legions of authoritarian followers ready to ascend to or beyond their levels of incompetence.

  8. There is a lot to address here, but I will pick three points. First, the local government must be seen by the populace to be both legitimate and effective. If that happens, an insurgency cannot succeed. When the government is neither, insurgencies have an easy time with it. Castro never had more than maybe 100 followers when the Batista regime just fell apart. Second, Professor Cole says that the US either hasn’t had the knowledge or the desire to promote social justice. He then cites Egypt as an example. Do you really think that the Egyptian generals would change their policies even if the US withdrew all of its aid? That certainly hasn’t worked in the past with other regimes, it just makes them more intransigent. The US has been urging the Iraqi government to be more inclusive of Sunnis for years, but they have ignored us. Any change there will be because of Sadr and his supporters internally. Nationalism, nationalism, nationalism. I will keep repeating it until it is recognized. The US is very limited in what it can do to force regimes to change. Additionally any change will take considerable time. Look at the history of all democracies. I can’t think of many that were smooth transitions from autocracy or dictatorship to democracy. It’s usually a slow and messy process. Building functioning institutions takes time. Finally, decapitating leadership is not a cure all. However, it can degrade an organization. It depends on the organization. Experience shows that it is not leaders so much who are important, but technical specialists in many cases. Two examples from war time. The Stalin purges of the late 30’s absolutely decimated the top officer class of the Soviet Army. Then when the Soviet Army had trouble beating Finland, everyone assumed that the loss of leadership meant the army was very ineffective. It turned out not to be the case. When given the chance and the opportunity, especially to learn from actual experience, those who had been lower level officers like majors and lieutenant colonels rose through the ranks to take on top positions and provide the needed leadership. In the Pacific War at one famous battle of carrier groups the US shot down over 300 Japanese planes, which decimated their air force. What was crucial, was not the loss of the planes, but the loss of the pilots. Japan never recovered from that. Probably the most important German for their war effort was Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments. In 1943, under intense allied bombing, he actually significantly increased German war output. So, it is those with a special skill who are probably most important.

    • Yes, I think the Egyptian elite would be sensitive to US pressure. Jimmy Carter started the process of moving out those Latin American colonels decades ago.

      • I will defer to your knowledge of the Egyptian military. However, while US influence is critical in Central America, I don’t believe it has done much to moderate regimes in South America. Specifically, both Brazil and Argentina had pretty brutal dictatorships during and after Carter’s presidency. I remember during the 1960’s when the US would not recognize military governments that took over by coups and there was a foreign policy debate as to whether it made sense. It proved to be totally useless in changing the incidence of coups or the behavior of the governments that followed. The governments that have arisen over the last 20 to 30 years, I believe, are more a reflection of the general political development of those countries and US policies have had little to do with those outcomes. I think your ideas have the possibility of encouraging the meddling of the US into the internal politics of countries when we should be encouraging the opposite. We can encourage positive steps, but I think anything else just invites blow back. We couldn’t control the Afghan or Iraqi governments when we had a huge presence in those countries. There is a lesson there.

        • Carter was the first president since Roosevelt to attempt to begin the work of unseating the military dictatorships. That they went, in the 80s, was certainly in part his doing and not Reagan’s

      • So it’s Houthi Zaidi militia. That seems pretty funny, as I was recently reading a history of the Ottoman Empire (Osman’s Dream) and noticed that it appears that a related group was revolting against the Ottomans in Yemen in the 1500s: “When news of Suleyman’s death reached the province of Yemen in 1567 the powerful chief of the Zaydi clan, Imam Mutahhar ibn Sharaf al-Din, rallied his Shia followers in open rebellion.” Is this the same group?

  9. Juan — you are right on target, as always. But let me play devil’s advocate on one issue when it comes to a decapitation strategy (which can never play out in a policy vacuum). I would suggest that for groups that have characteristics that are more cult-like, decapitation has greater chances of success, whereby groups that are more institutionalized will tend to rather easily survive decapitation. Thus, what is often called “al-Qa’ida Central” really was essentially ended when UBL was assassinated. In contrast, Hamas has easily survived the decapitation of many of its leaders by Israel. AQC had many attributes of a cult, while Hamas (etc.) does not.

    But I agree with you that the “modular” nature of the ideologies at play mean that other ticked off young men with a gripe can latch on to a group’s reputation and called themselves representatives of that group. In the absence of addressing those legitimate grievances, the ideologies and franchises of AQ/ISIS/etc. will multiply and decapitation will do little good.

    It reminds me of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades during the second Intifada. Israel successfully killed the most important commanders that linked local fighters with national Fatah leadership, so any three guys with guns in a village would call themselves AAMB, even without any sort of actual C2 ties with leadership. Don’t address root causes and the violence will metastasize over time.

    • “Hamas has easily survived the decapitation of many of its leaders………..”

      Israel’s own anti-terrorism experts had opined that the 2005 targeted killings of political section leaders Sheikh Yassine and Dr. Rantissi would actually strengthen Hamas:

      (1) it would lend more unrestrained power to the more militant armed al-Qassam wing of Hamas;

      (2) it would cause greater cohesion with other radical militant groups within Gaza such as Islamic Jihad.

      Both these events had occurred as predicted.

  10. Thanks for this Juan! I’ve bookmarked it. I do wish we had regional names for ISIS/Daesh, as I realize now that using the generic term “Taliban” for Afghanistan and Pakistan has created a mistaken impression … for me, that the Taliban is a tide that comes in the night … rather than the formidable fighters of Pakistan … seems like backtracking to try to figure it out now … sigh.
    Jeremy Scahill wrote an article on our attempts to “kill the Taliban leadership” in Afghanitan (which basically became a kill-for-peace effort targeting all men 14-60) — called “killing reconciliation” — cite the problem with killing off the leadership and officers leaving no one to maintain discipline in the troops and — eventually — a very degraded fragmented leadership (of young men) likely to be ineffective on fullfilling any treaty/agreements, not having the following to do so.

    I’ve noticed how nationalistic so many groups are and wondered at Baghdadi’s plan to “erase borders” particularly Sykes-Picot … wonder what comes after … Syrians/Iraqis/Iranians all are neighbors but I doubt any want to be absorbed, subsumed, or have their country colonized by another (see Sadr this week) —

    How much of Daesh is Syrian or Iraqi? What is the nationality demographics of the fighters? What nationalities are “ruling” the captured territories of Syria? Such a black-out — again — thanks!

    • oh, the new Foreign Affairs article on exodus of fighters from Daesh says “The majority of ISIS leaders in Syria are foreigners or Iraqis” although it relies on Syrians for maintaining/supporting their infrastructure and intelligence. Article says that defection of Syrian ISIS members could be serious loss, possibly affecting stability.
      link to
      (one free per month so I can’t copy/paste)
      Foreign Policy has someone claiming Al-Qa’eda / Nusra is about to declare an emirate in Northern Syria …
      link to

      I have no idea who to believe if anyone but this media blitz (given the pervading black-out) is suspicious … Cheers!

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