Divisions within al-Qaeda on its tactics

(LW, let's start with you. Your article focuses on one of the original core members of al-Qaeda. How significant is his renunciation of violence?) It's very significant in that he was the author of the books which formed al-Qaeda's philosophies. (FG, you broke the story about one of Bin Laden's mentors who came out against the 9/11 attacks last year. What impact did that have?) This debate is not recent, it goes back to the mid-1990s but intensified after 9/11 and may now be reached critical mass. Some people are now blaming Zawahiri and Bin Laden not only for 9/11 but also for the misfortunes that have befallen the Islamic World in Iraq and Pakistan and other countries. (FG, do you have evidence of a critical mass of Jihadists renouncing violence now?) Yes, I have written a book about the implosion of al-Qaeda from within and I cite mainstream clerics who might be affecting a critical mass. (LW, does this all add up to you as people still hating the West but not sure if that hatred should be expressed through violence?) That's part of it. the argument is on two levels: one is practical�has our violence succeeded? They think no. the second is theological. al-Qaeda was founded by people who believe that in order to save humanity, they have to purify Islam. The war is really against other Muslims. This debate opens up the question of whether these actions are sinful. For young Muslims, this debate is paralyzing. (One would think this would make Jihadists more violent, not less?) FG: the militaristic approach by the Bush administration towards Jihadists has only postponed this fracturing in Al Qaeda. I think the US should deescalate military and allow the radical elements of al-Qaeda to fight and fracture from within. (How much can the CIA and the White House's war on terror take credit for these changes?) LW: the invasion of Afghanistan was a success in that 80% of al-Qaeda's members were captured or killed. The war on terror was essentially over at that point and the War in Iraq breathed life back into that monster. I don't think the CIA deserves much credit for what's happening internally in al-Qaeda. (How dangerous are Bin Laden and Zawahiri on their own without their mentors?) LW: still very dangerous and this amount of pressure ups their desperation. They're going to try to prove they're still relevant. (Are you seriously anticipating something?) LW: this year is a significant one. This August, al-Qaeda will be twenty years old and it's been a while since they've pulled off anything. If they're operational, I'll expect they'll do something soon. But if they can't, Jihadists will be less drawn to them.

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