Empire - The Long War: The US and al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda facts and figures

Facts and figures on al-Qaeda.

Coordinated bombings struck Madrid’s commuter trains on March 11, 2004 [GALLO/GETTY]

Dr. Marc Sageman’s Survey

Global neo-Jihadi terrorist plots targeted at the West over the last 20 years

· 12 al-Qaeda Core controlled operations (20 per cent)

Al-Qaeda Core properly directed and controlled the operation.

o LAX millenial plot (1999)

o Strasbourg Christmas Market bombing plot (2000)

o 9/11/01 attack (2001)

o Paris Embassy bombing plot (2001)

o Belgian Kleine Brogel US Air Force base bombing plot (2001)

o Shoe bomber plot (2001)

o London fertilizer bomb plot (Operation Crevice, 2004)

o London limousine bombing plot (Operation Rhyme, 2004)

o London 7/7 bombings (Theseus case) (2005)

o London 7/21 bombing plot (Vivace case) (2005)

o London airplanes liquid bomb plot (Operation Overt) (2006)

o Danish Glasvej bombing plot (Operation Dagger) (2007)

· 15 al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist organisations controlled operations (25 per cent)

Al-Qaeda Affiliated – an international terrorist organisation affiliated with al-Qaeda, such as LT or IJU, directed and controlled the operation.

o 11 GIA plots against France (1994-5)

o German al-Tawhid bombing plots (Zarqawi group) (2002)

o Sydney bombing plot (Brigitte-Lodhi, LT controlled) (2003)

o German Sauerland bombing plot (IJU controlled) (2007)

o Barcelona bombing plot (alleged TTP control) (2008)

· 32 al-Qaeda inspired terrorist plots, carried out either on behalf of al-Qaeda or other transnational terrorist organisations (54 per cent)

Al-Qaeda Inspired – no direction or control by any of the above organisations for the plot. In other words, the plot was completely autonomous.

Plots over the past five years

· 6 al-Qaeda Core plots (2004 Rhyme and Crevice plots; 2005 Theseus and Vivace cases; 2006 Overt case, all in Britain, and 2007 Dagger plot in Denmark)

· 2 al-Qaeda Affiliated plots (2007 Sauerland & 2008 Barcelona Plots)

· 25 al-Qaeda Inspired autonomous plots, conducted by homegrown perpetrators, with no connections whatsoever with any formal transnational terrorist organisations

The above statistics are crystal clear: 78 per cent of all global neo-jihadi terrorist plots in the West in the past five years came from autonomous homegrown groups without any connection, direction or control from al-Qaeda Core or its allies. The resurgent al-Qaeda in the West argument has no empirical foundation. The paucity of actual al-Qaeda and other transnational terrorist organisation plots compared to the number of autonomous plots refutes the claims by some heads of the Intelligence Community (Hayden, 2008) that all Islamist plots in the West can be traced back to the Afghan-Pakistani border. Far from being the “epicentre of terrorism,” this Pakistani region is more like the finishing school of global neo-jihadi terrorism, where a few amateur wannabes are transformed into dangerous terrorists.

How dangerous is global neo-jihadi terrorism?

· 14 plots were successful in terms of incurring any injury and or death (23 per cent)

o Only 2 al-Qaeda core plots in the West in the past two decades were successful (9/11/01 and 7/7/05). Of course, they were among the most devastating, resulting in about 3,000 fatalities for 9/11 and 52 fatalities for 7/7

o 9 were GIA plots against France, from 1994 to 1996 (I have counted the 1996 Paris Port Royal metro station bombing in this total. The total for all of these attacks is 17 fatalities)

o 3 were al-Qaeda inspired plots (1993 World Trade Center bombing, resulting in 6 fatalities; 2004 Madrid bombing, resulting in 191 fatalities; 2004 Bouyeri?s assassination of Theo van Gogh)

· 10 plots resulted in failure to explode (17 per cent)

o 3 failures in networks that had succeeded elsewhere (2 by 1995 GIA network in France; and by 2004 Madrid network when bomb on the AVE train line near Toledo failed to detonate)

o 2 failures by al-Qaeda trained networks (2001 Shoe bomb plot and 7/21/05 London underground bombing plot)

o 1 failure in network of French Bosnian war veteran (Roubaix group)

o 4 failures in networks that had no foreign terrorist organisation training (2004 Rotterdam plot; 2006 Koblenz train plot; 2007 Doctors plot; and 2008 Exeter bomb plot)

· 36 plots were interrupted through arrests (60 per cent)

How effective is formal terrorist training for the successful completion of a plot?

· 16 al-Qaeda Core trained networks:

o 3 succeeded (1993 World Trade Center bombing; 9/11/01; and 7/7/05 London underground bombing) [19 oer cent]

o 2 failed to explode (2001 Shoe bomber; 7/21/05 London underground plot)

o 11 were detected and arrested beforehand

· 10 al-Qaeda Affiliate trained networks

o 2 GIA networks succeeded (1994 AF hijack; 1995 wave of bombing in France) [20 per cent]

o 1 failed to explode (1996 Lille plot)

o 7 were detected and arrested beforehand (including Hofstad network)

· 20 al-Qaeda Inspired networks (no formal training)

o 2 succeeded (2004 Madrid bombings & 2004 Bouyeri assassination of van Gogh)[10 per cent, but only 5 per cent if we do not count the assassination, which requires no training]

o 3 failed to explode

o 16 were detected and arrested beforehand.

The above results seem to indicate that formal training matters. Both al-Qaeda Core and al-Qaeda Affiliate formal training resulted in an approximate success rate of 20 per cent, while lack of training led to a success rate of 10 per cent. So, training doubles the probability of success in a terrorist network.