The issue: Arabian Peninsula group tries a haphazard approach to terrorism
One of al-Qaida’s last but most dangerous franchises is al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. It has links to chapters spread across North Africa but appears to work largely out of Yemen, where it has launched several unsuccessful attacks against American airliners. They might have succeeded had they not been so amateurishly done.
NOW, AQAP’s military commander, Qassim ar-Reimy, who surely must have a permanent crick in his neck from searching the sky for drones, is urging Americans, in a video called “Message to the American Nation,” to launch strikes like the Boston bombings and the ricin-poisoned letters on their own.
His exhortations to potential American jihadis require some vigilance because, as we have learned, there is no lack of crazy people out there nursing inchoate grievances against the United States.
The Boston Marathon bombing, allegedly by brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 26 and 19, respectively, was proof of that. But the fact that AQAP felt it had to piggyback on this operation, which was partially botched, shows a certain weakness and lack of organization on the part of the group.
Rather than orchestrate complex and extremely deadly attacks like 9/11, AQAP is imploring impressionable young men like the Tsarnaevs to do it for them. Tamerlan is now dead, killed by the police and, perhaps in error, by his brother. Dzhokhar, who seemed to be on his way to being an immigrant success story, is in prison and likely to stay there for the rest of his life.
The elder Tsarnaev apparently was strongly influenced by fugitive American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki whose magazine, Inspire, according to ABC News, “may have helped the Boston bombing suspects get started in learning how to make homemade improvised explosive devices.” The Tsarnaevs allegedly used pressure cookers packed with readily available chemicals and other deadly ingredients.
AL-AWLAKI, AN American but an influential and highly persuasive advocate for religious violence against his homeland, was killed by a drone strike in late 2011. It set a potentially worrisome precedent for the U.S. government by assassinating its own citizen, but in this case, legalities aside, it may have saved lives.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in March told Congress, “AQAP leaders will have to weigh the priority they give to U.S. plotting against other internal and regional objectives, as well as the extent to which they have individuals who can manage, train and deploy operatives for U.S. operations.”
The Tsarnaev case shows that kind of talent is in short supply, but, sadly, we cannot always rely on that being the case.