2008: The movement of al Qaeda's main
effort from Iraq to Pakistan does not involve large numbers, and the numbers
have declined since the terrorists began urging new recruits to head for
Pakistan. For several years, about a hundred foreign volunteers (usually for
suicide type attacks) entered Iraq each month, brought in via an al Qaeda
network in some Arab and European countries. Money is collected there, often
under the guise of an Islamic charity, to pay for airfare, fees (some of the
operatives along the way are basically mercenaries) and bribes (to get past border
controls of countries trying to stop this traffic).
a few dozen al Qaeda recruits are getting to Pakistan each month. It's more
expensive to get to Pakistan, compared to Iraq, and the government does not
make it easy. There's also been a decline in cash contributions. Al Qaeda was
beaten in Iraq, after years of saying they were winning. Al Qaedas mass murder
campaign in Iraq killed mostly Moslems, and this was unpopular among potential
donors. The violence in Iraq used the idea of "al Qaeda" to unite many very
different Islamic militant groups, and the same concept is being used in
Pakistan. Here there are tribal militias, operating as vigilantes against real
or imagined sins against Islam. In the cities there are many different groups.
Some are at war with another Islamic faction, others simply wish to impose
their religious beliefs and practices on all other Moslems. But many do not
want to be associated with al Qaeda, because of the groups reputation of
violence towards Moslem women and children.
politicians (in Pakistan and Afghanistan) would like to blame much of the
unrest on outsiders, and al Qaeda certainly fits the bill. But al Qaeda is a
relatively small operation, and most of the Islamic radicals in the area are
locals. Using religion as a tool to gain political and military advantage is an
old problem, especially in Moslem countries. In general, Moslems like to play
down this aspect of their religion, preferring to call Islam, "the religion of
peace." But too many Moslem clerics, and ambitious politicians, are all too
willing to exploit the militant and violent aspects of Islam. This is
especially true along the Pakistan-Afghan border. But al Qaeda is a much
smaller player in the region than its media coverage wound indicate. Al Qaeda
is much better at playing the press than it is at doing anything else.