Here is an interesting write-up by Hamid Mir, a well-known Pakistani journalist and editor who has interviewed Osama bin Laden four times. Mir was also speaker at the Al Qaeda 2.0 Conference that I recently helped organize with colleague Peter Bergen and Karen Greenberg, Executive Director of the NYU Center on Law & Security.
Read the whole thing, but here is a quick roster of statements Hamid Mir thought were important from the conference:
. . .Michael Scheuer (AKA, “Anonymous”) believes there is a need to build pressure on Al Qaeda inside Afghanistan, and not in Pakistan because Islamabad is already doing a lot in the war against terrorism. He thinks the Al Qaeda leadership is still planning new attacks in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia while hiding in Afghanistan. Many areas in southern and eastern Afghanistan, he added, are not under the Hamid Karzai administration’s control.
. . .Participants at the conference on ‘Al Qaeda 2.0: Transnational Terrorism After 9/11’ held at the Caucus Room in the Russell Senate office building on Capitol Hill on December 2 were told there were 15 Al Qaeda associate groups in Europe and Canada today, and that these groups pose the real threat to American allies.
. . .”We are blind to the real danger facing us,” said Marc Sageman, a former CIA officer who worked in Islamabad during the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. . .The danger, Sageman said, was not more September 11-style attacks but a succession of Madrids, Casablancas, Istanbuls and Jeddahs, smaller but still highly deadly, coordinated attacks.
. . .Ursula Mueller, a terrorism expert from Germany, said that there are indications that Europe is at greater risk for terrorist attacks than the US, particularly US allies with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. She said Germany, which has 2,200 troops in Afghanistan, can become an Al Qaeda target any time. She also revealed that as many as 50 German Muslims left for Iraq to fight against US troops, and they could create a lot of problems when they return.
. . .Rohan Gunartana, the Singapore-based terrorism expert, felt that British Muslims of Pakistani origin are the more willing recruits for Al Qaeda because there is lot of resentment in young Muslims after the US invasion of Iraq.
. . .Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker said young Muslims are “not happy with us because we always support corrupt and non-democratic regimes in the Muslim world.” Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia are three key American allies in the war against terrorism and that is why these three countries can become major targets for Al Qaeda in the near future, he said. “Al Qaeda would like to punish these countries for their cooperation with us.”
. . .Peter Bergen of CNN said Kashmiri militant groups had been cooperating with Al Qaeda in the past. These groups were involved in the attacks on President Musharraf and they are still very active.
. . .Colonel Pat Lang, a former officer of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, said many elements in the Pakistani military and intelligence services are not on board with Musharraf and “that’s why we are still facing problems in Afghanistan.” Lang, who spent a lot of time in Pakistani tribal areas, claimed that the majority of Pashtuns in these areas support Al Qaeda.
. . .Most of the US experts were not aware that the Pakistan army lost more than 200 soldiers in South Wazirastan while hunting for Al Qaeda activists.
. . .Yosri Fouda of Al Jazeera told the conference that the United States should declare war on illiteracy, hunger and disease instead of terrorism. He demanded that the US stop supporting undemocratic governments in the Muslim world. These governments are not popular among Muslim youth, and when bin Laden criticises these corrupt governments, angry young Muslims view him as their hero, Fouda added.
For those of you who follow Al Qaeda and the issue of radical Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Hamid Mir writes must read commentary.
— Steve Clemons