Friday, October 1, 2010

Is Al-Qa'ida Central Still the Model to Follow? Is the New Usama bin Laden Audio on Pakistan Floods Modeled after AQAP's Strategy?

Screen grab from the audio message.

Al-Qa'ida Central's (AQC; Qaeda, Qaida) media outlet, the Al-Sahab (Clouds) Media Foundation, released a new audio message from AQC leader Usama bin Laden (Osama) today entitled, "Halt/Stop the Method of Relief Work" about the flooding in Pakistan. Al-Sahab's recently releases from Bin Laden and American spokesman Adam Gadahn strongly resemble, and may indeed be modeled after, the clever strategic reaction of Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to the flooding in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2009 and Hadramaut/Hadramawt and al-Mukalla in Yemen in October 2008. Like AQC is doing now with the Pakistani government, AQAP focused on the lackluster Saudi and Yemeni government responses, challenging the legitimacy of the nation-states in question. AQAP accused the Saudi government, for example, of "abandoning" its own citizens in their time of greatest need.

Taking into consideration the current prominence of AQAP and its highly developed and capable media apparatus, it is worth considering which organization is the new "model" to follow. In short, is AQC still the "model" for transnational jihadi-takfiri media? I would argue, no. AQC's media output, over the past year or so, has been clearly eclipsed in terms of production quality and narrative by AQAP, Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb, Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of Warrior-Youth) in Somalia, the Islamic State of Iraq/Al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Two Rivers-Iraq (AQI), and the Afghan Taliban. I have written an article on Harakat al-Shabab's media evolution, which can be read HERE.

AQC has long tried to tap into existing often popular causes and conflicts. Gadahn's decision to separate Baluchistan (Balochistan) from Pakistan proper is an example of this, as I wrote about HERE.

Time permitting, I will be working on a longer piece (probably a short article) to flesh out some of my thinking on this topic. If so, I hope to submit it for publication to one of several possible venues. If none pan out, I'll post it here next week.

Bin Laden's message was released in Arabic and Urdu. The Arabic video may be downloaded via:

The password to unpack the video file is (for Arabic): KH95hkasdfKhjdsfJhbdFC2D

The Urdu video may be downloaded via:

The password to unpack the video file is (for Urdu): Hk02HhfRtrjbfces

An Arabic transcript is available via:


Fernando said...

Very interesting. I think AQAP media has better production values and editing than al-Sahab.

AQ is widening its scope. By denouncing more grievances, they may improve their image and recruiting.

Old AQ no longer is focusing solely on the "distant enemy"...

إبن الصقلي said...

I agree that Al-Sahab's production and narrative quality has really nose-dived since its heyday in 2007.

I also agree with you re: AQC's focus on the "near enemy," the Pakistani government and military.