Attrition: Office Politics in Al Qaeda


February 27, 2006: Al Qaeda is having increasing problems with ethnic frictions. There was always a problem with the Arabs, who founded, and largely run, al Qaeda, being disdainful of non-Arab recruits, and non-Arab members. The Arabs tend to have an attitude problem. Not only do they feel that Arabs are superior, in general, to everyone else, but they also project a "more-Islamic-than-thou" vibe that really irritates non-Arabs. This has always been a problem, even though the senior al Qaeda Arabs tried to make every recruit feel welcome. 


The current problem comes from the fact  that all of the original al Qaeda senior leadership is either dead, arrested or in hiding. Dealing with new recruits is left to middle management. These fellows are nearly all Arabs, and often recent replacements for more experienced operators who are dead or arrested. The people dealing with new recruits often have to do it under stressful conditions, and this does not make the experience very welcoming for the new guys. It quickly becomes obvious that new Arab, particularly Saudi, recruits are seen as more promising than the others, especially the non-Arab others. The recruits are usually young men, and the Arab recruits take the cue and begin razzing the non-Arabs. Often, this induces the non-Arabs to just leave. The misbehaving Arab recruits are rarely punished, although the most abusive of them may be encouraged to undertake a "martyrdom" (suicide) mission. Office politics in al Qaeda can get rough.