Experts: Al-Qaeda weakens with each generation
Researchers say a fourth generation of al-Qaeda leaders would be ideologically disjointed and scattered.
By Faisal Darem for SES Türkiye -- 13/06/12
More than two decades after its founding, al-Qaeda has reached its "old age." The terrorist group, which is currently in its third generation, has deviated from the founding guidelines, experts said, adding that the new breed has become committed to violent actions that are causing the organisation to lose sources of support.
"Al-Qaeda's structure is in a declining stage because the current crop of leaders is not as effective as the previous leaders were," Saeed al-Jamhi, head of the al-Jamhi Centre for Studies and Research, said.
Al-Jamhi said that documents found inside Osama bin Laden's home in Abbottabad, Pakistan, reveal that the late leader did not want the group's affiliates distracted by fighting internal enemies, such as local governments and military and civilian targets.
Instead, he wanted them to focus on targeting external enemies, knowing that attacks on local targets would diminish support and lead to alienation from communities.
"This shows that there is a mutiny against the [al-Qaeda] leaders, and it is a sign of weakness," he said.
Arab Spring demonstrations have also had a major role in weakening al-Qaeda ideologically.
"The Arab revolts severed the ideological connection between al-Qaeda's first three generations and its fourth one, if it ever comes to pass," Ahmed al-Daghashi, who recently published a book on al-Qaeda's pedagogical approach, said.
Al-Jamhi agreed. "More than two decades later, al-Qaeda has yet to achieve anything, while the bare-chested youth of the Arab Spring have toppled regimes and installed democratic ones in their place," he said.
"This debunks al-Qaeda's theory that violence is the only means of change and eliminates any justification for its existence."
According to al-Daghashi, al-Qaeda's first generation members believed that all attempts at political, social, educational, intellectual and ideological reform were no more than "temporary narcotic" solutions to the issue of separation between Islam and the state. Thus, they called for an immediate confrontation in the form of armed violence against state institutions.
The first generation, which included bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, consisted of those who fought in Afghanistan in the early 1980s and were focused on fighting an external enemy.
"They had more fervour, won public sympathy and abided more closely to the directives that their leaders issued," al-Jamhi said.
The second generation was less dynamic and less disciplined than the first generation, he said. "It failed to confront [the organisation's enemies] because of the international campaign against terrorism, and because they were not in close contact with their leaders."
The third generation came into existence around 2000.
"It inherited all the bad attributes from the second generation and plunged into battles with the local enemy," according to al-Jamhi.
However, the group began fighting a media war, utilising the internet as a means to attract supporters.
The emergence of a fourth generation depends on whether the Arab Spring demonstrators achieve their objectives and whether the peaceful protest movements eliminate the political, economic, social and ideological rationales for al-Qaeda's existence.
"The fourth generation will suffer from these imbalances and will be scattered, disjointed and weak," al-Jamhi said.