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Misjudging al Qaeda

Aug 19, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 46 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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This was not a new job, and these were not new responsibilities. As reported by Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio at Long War Journal, a letter from bin Laden to one of Wuhayshi’s predecessors in May 2010 laid out those duties, making clear that al Qaeda core would continue to be deeply involved in the management and leadership of its affiliates. The letter described a reporting structure for affiliate activities and emphasized the role al Qaeda core leadership would play in selecting and approving lines of succession for affiliate leadership. Even the appointment of deputy affiliate leaders, bin Laden wrote, “should be done in consultation with the central group.”

The recent activities of bin Laden’s successor—whether coordinating leadership and operations with affiliates, intervening to settle disputes among affiliates in Iraq and Syria, communicating with regional commanders before attacks, or elevating Wuhayshi—make clear that Zawahiri, too, is playing an active role in keeping the affiliates close.

In his speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center last year, the current CIA director waxed optimistic about the future. “For the first time since this fight began, we can look ahead and envision a world in which al Qaeda core is no longer relevant,” said Brennan. 

Better for him—and for the country—if he sticks to the world as it is, not as he’d like it to be. And in this world, al Qaeda core remains all too relevant, al Qaeda’s affiliates are growing, and threats to the United States and our interests persist. 

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