Al-Qaeda is back. And, according to David Ignatius, the new version is going to be even harder to battle, particularly since our former Arab allies in the war on terrorism have now been taken over by Islamists. He uses the metaphor of a metastasizing cancer:
The Obama administration is working with its allies to frame a strategy to combat what might be called “al-Qaeda 2.0” — an evolving, morphing terrorist threat that lacks a coherent center but is causing growing trouble in chaotic, poorly governed areas such as Libya, Yemen, Syria and Mali.
U.S. officials liken this new problem to the spread of cancer cells: Al-Qaeda nodes emerge in diffuse places, feeding off local issues and grievances. These cells have only a loose, ideological connection with what remains of the core leadership in Pakistan, but they are stubborn and toxic.
Striking at these local nodes — as the French are doing now in Mali — can disrupt the new terrorist cells. But analysts stress that there will be consequences: The cells may metastasize further, drawing new jihadists into the fight and potentially threatening targets in Europe and the United States.
The basic U.S. counterterrorism strategy is similar to the one adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: The CIA seeks to build up the security services of regional allies that can help penetrate and disrupt the terrorists in ways that would be impossible for the United States acting alone. But the 2.0 version of the counterterrorism coalition is more complicated than the earlier effort launched by then-CIA director George Tenet, for several reasons:
Some key liaison partners, such as Libya, Egypt and Yemen, are no longer as helpful because of the changes brought by the Arab Spring. This revolution has swept away authoritarian regimes and the intelligence services, known as moukhabarats, that helped sustain them. That’s a gain for democracy and human rights but a setback for counterterrorism efforts.