The former CIA chief Michael Morrell sums it all up in just one line- " We dropped the ball on the Al-Qaeda." An outfit that was bruised and beaten after the death of Osama Bin Laden is back in business and it is just a matter of time before they exercise complete control over the south of Yemen.
Their sleeper cells in the Southern part of Yemen have woken up and surprisingly we get to hear Ayman Al-Zawahiri talking after coming out of a self imposed exile. To add to all that is happening in Yemen was a video from Asim Umar the Al-Qaeda in the Sub Continent chief who threatens to establish themselves from France to Bangladesh.
At a time when all of us felt that there would be one less threat to deal with, just what is it that prompted Morell to say that they dropped the ball on the Al-Qaeda.
Yemen is where all the difference was made
Since the Yemen conflict broke out at least a 1000 articles have been written about how the Al-Qaeda has managed to bounce back through its wing in the Arab Peninsula. Let us blame the Saudis for this and their specific targeting of the Houthi rebels which in turn gave the Al-Qaeda the required support to take over area on the ground.
Yes, it is a fact that the Saudis just went about bombing the Houthis from the air and never once targeted an Al-Qaeda base. Moreover it is not enough if one carries out just aerial strikes. It is equally important that a legitimate army holds ground after the aerial strikes and not leave it to the Al-Qaeda to do so.
Today the Al-Qaeda is beaming with joy about the success of its operations in Yemen. The Houthis were their biggest threat and just as the ISIS was also making an entry, the aerial strikes by the Saudis helped the Al-Qaeda a great deal.
The ball indeed has been dropped
Morrel in his book "The Great War of Our Time," admits that the Arab Spring would undermine Al-Qaeda's message and help to shift the Middle East away from terrorism after the death of Osama bin Laden. "We thought and told policy-makers that this outburst of popular revolt would damage al- Qaeda by undermining the group's narrative."
"The failure to predict the growth of the jihadist threat following the revolutions throughout the region was due to the CIA's own failure to have reliable human intelligence sources on the ground in the various nations experiencing revolt. Instead, the CIA had grown accustomed to relying upon the intelligence of the existing Middle Eastern nations."
"We were lax in creating our own windows into what was happening, and the leadership we were relying on was isolated and unaware of the tidal wave that was about to hit," Morell further notes.
The General Guidance for Jihad Action
In a document titlted "General Guidance for Jihadi Action,"
Zawahri urges his militants to avoid bloody killing of civilians. This would ensure that the local civilians support us. " Don't kill even the Shias even though we consider them as infidels, the document states.
‘Don't bomb Churches, don't kill Christians and never target areas where civilians gather," the document also states.
These guidelines have gone a long way and earned the Al-Qaeda a great deal of respect especially in Yemen. The locals support this approach and unlike the ISIS which targets anyone it considers an infidel, the Al-Qaeda has waged an entirely different war.
The Al-Qaeda even went up to the extent of claiming that it wants to take a liberal approach although it does want the Sharia law in place. There would be no ban on music, hosting parties or dancing, the Al-Qaeda had also claimed.
In the long run this is the same theory that the Al-Qaeda would try and impose in Afghanistan and Bangladesh as well. There is a need to fight against the infidels, but at any cost avoid targeting the civilians and here is where we will score over the ISIS, the Al-Qaeda leadership has told its fighters across the world.