“As Al Qaeda rebuilds in Pakistan’s tribal areas, a new generation of leaders has emerged under Osama bin Laden to cement control over the network’s operations, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.” Thus begins “New Generation of Qaeda Chiefs Is Seen on Rise” by Mark Mazzetti on the front page of the New York Times April 2. Mazzetti, mostly citing unnamed “intelligence officials,” says a post-9-11 leadership has emerged, replacing apprehended directors like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and running a new network of training camps in the mountains of Pakistan.
The figures he names are Abu Jihad al-Masri, a veteran of Egypt’s Islamic Group (Gamaa al-Islamiya); fellow Egyptian Abu Ubaidah al-Masri; Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a Libyan who is based in Iran; militia commander Khalid Habib, a Moroccan; and Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, supposedly al-Qaeda’s ex-emissary in Iraq. Amazingly, the story fails to note the irony that al-Qaeda, chased out of Afghanistan by US military intervention in 2001, has apparently regrouped in Pakistan, a top US ally and aid recipient.
Not only that, but the Iraq adventure has only made al-Qaeda stronger (as we had warned):
Experts say they still see Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as largely independent of Al Qaeda’s hub in Pakistan but that they believe the fighting in Iraq will produce future Qaeda leaders.
“The jihadis returning from Iraq are far more capable than the mujahedeen who fought the Soviets ever were,” said Robert Richer, who was associate director of operations in 2004 and 2005 for the C.I.A. “They have been fighting the best military in the world, with the best technology and tactics.”
The reference to Atiyah Abd al-Rahman as an agent “[t]hought to travel between Iran and Pakistan’s tribal areas” points to a possible al-Qaeda link to the Baluch insurgency.