December 23, 2006

Al-Qa'idah's "English Brothers" Operation

According to a Newsweek article in the December 25 edition, The Regathering Storm, Al-Qa'idah is training a team of westerners in Pakistan. The group is called by the nickname "the English brothers" because of the language used in training by the group of nine Britons, two Norwegians and an Australian.

Training by Al-Qa'idah in Pakistan? News? Hardly. The remnants of Al-Qa'idah and the Taliban have moved over the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan's Waziristan province, an tribally administered area over which the government in Islamabad exercises little control.

What is news is the training itself. In the past, Al-Qa'idah trained operatives who were to return to their home countries and conduct operations, including suicide operations. This training, what I call "the special forces" model, is aimed at training operatives who will return to their home countries, not primarily to conduct operations, but to recruit other members, establish cells and train them to plan and conduct operations. This is a much more efficient use of the newly-trained cadre - it leverages a few operatives into numerous operational cells.

The nine Britons are said to be of Pakistani descent, but are native-born British subjects. This allows them to operate easily in the United Kingdom - it's their home. Over two years ago, U.S. intelligence intercepted Al-Qa'idah instructions to try to recruit Westerners and native-born Muslims to operate in their home countries. Unless they have done something to come to the attention of the authorities, they are virtually undetectable. The British cannot keep tabs on the over 400,000 Britons (mostly of Pakistani origin) who travel to Pakistan each year.

American homeland security officials are concerned about the training of native Britons because travelers holding United Kingdom passports are not required to obtain advance visas to enter the United States.

According to the article, some of the information was provided by a former detainee at Guantanamo. That raises the question of the effectiveness of the screening program for release of those captured in Afghanistan.

Al-Qa'idah has been bloodied, but not eliminated.