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Working on a project the last couple of months about the history of #Al_Qaeda and where it is now. A big takeaway: there has probably never been a moment when the group is so manipulated, influenced, and even controlled in places by state powers.
The role of state intelligence services in manipulating and using terrorist groups for their own ends remains nearly absent in Terrorism Studies; most people even think it's all "conspiracy theory" talk. But it's such a massive operational factor that this is weird.
.@ReuelMGerecht once wrote that the 'nonstate' actor ... designation [of Al-Qaeda] was always more myth than fact". If he overstated, it wasn't by much.…
Pre-9/11, Al-Qaeda was hosted by two states, Sudan and Taliban Afghanistan, and it was functionally indistinguishable from both, so in a definitional sense the "non-state" label doesn't quite work. But it went beyond that.
By Al-Qaeda being so intertwined with the Taliban, it naturally brings #Pakistan into the equation. The #Saudi connections are contested but clear, likewise with Saddam's #Iraq. And #Iran looms very large, especially after 1998. One can mention #Bosnia but it's really also Iran.
After 9/11, virtually the entire Al-Qaeda Military Committee is sheltered in #Iran, and the rest in #Pakistan. There is a lot to discuss about the degrees and timing of cooperation - and the competition between AQ and these states, which is real - but the broad outline is plain.
When it comes to Al-Qaeda's affiliates, the issue of state intelligence services infiltrating, manipulating, and controlling them becomes more acute, not least because some of these groups that join Al-Qaeda were compromised in their pre-existing form, especially in West Africa.
#AQIM emerges from the war in #Algeria, a very murky episode (to put it no higher) and the matter of the regime's secret police, the #DRS, hangs over the whole question of Maghrebi jihadism. For structural reasons the groups are vulnerable to manipulation and the issue remains.
In #Yemen under Saleh, the distinction between state and terrorist was rather hazy in places and with #AQAP at different times this indistinction has been more or less pronounced. At the present time with so many actors in Yemen, and AQAP so weak, it is more pronounced.
With Al-Shabab in #Somalia, there recent reporting in @ForeignPolicy on what #Iran has been up to with the group; Tehran has similar inroads in Yemen. The @NYTimes reported on #Qatar being caught using Shabab to attack the #UAE, and the Emirates are not above responding in kind.
#Syria is more complicated in two senses: #HTS has publicly split from Al-Qaeda and it is the driving force in trying to enlist #Turkey as a patron and protector so it can be "normalized", HAMAS-style, in the international system.
Anyway. Some food for thought. // END
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