JIHAD'S NEW LEADERS
By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Kyle Dabruzzi
Five new terrorist leaders have demonstrated their importance: Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys in Somalia, Abu Ayyub al-Masri in Iraq, Matiur Rehman and Faqir Mohammed in Pakistan, and Aris Sumarsono (also known as Zulkarnaen) in Indonesia. Even if these leaders prove short-lived, their decisions have already had a profound effect on the course of the global war on terror.
They may represent disparate communities, but each of these new terrorist leaders employs similar strategies. First, they are more aware of their international image than their predecessors. While they seek to shock and strike fear into their enemies, they also wish to appear reasonable to their constituents and the larger Muslim population. While the Taliban engaged in massacres, and Zarqawi distributed videos showing the beheading of captives, the new leaders minimize overt acts of brutality that could undermine public support. Second, the new jihadists consider management of civil society more than did their predecessors. They do not wish to preside over failed states. The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) actually raised Somalia's standard of living modestly.  Third, these new leaders have exploited advanced communications technologies to improve their outreach and forge broader alliances. It should not surprise that jihadist movements have grown stronger.
Examination of each of their cases and areas of operation demonstrates how these new jihadist leaders have enacted these new strategies.
Despite their routing, the ICU leadership survived the Ethiopian advance. ICU leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has called for an insurgency,  and the UN's Monitoring Group on Somalia has warned that "the ICU is fully capable of turning Somalia into what is currently an Iraq-type scenario, replete with roadside and suicide bombers, assassinations, and other forms of terrorist and insurgent-type activities."  Already, there are initial signs that Ahmed's threat is not empty. In early 2007, ICU militants attacked African Union peacekeeping forces  and attempted to assassinate President Abdullahi Yusuf. 
The man most likely to lead the insurgency is Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys. As a 42-year-old Somali Army colonel fighting in the 1977 war against Ethiopia, he won a medal for bravery.  He then worked to establish himself as a respected religious figure and also a political leader with considerable clout in Islamic extremist circles. In 1991, Aweys cofounded and led AIAI, which sought to create an Islamic state in the Horn of Africa.  Then, starting in 2006, he served as head of the ICU's Consultative Council. In this capacity, he shaped ICU policies, which brought a strict version of Shari‘a (Islamic law) to Somalia, but in a manner that was more consistent with economic growth and civil society than previous jihadist attempts at imposing Islamic law.
As the ICU gained power, Aweys pursued the three new jihadist strategies. First, he committed himself to winning over rather than alienating the Somali population. He sought to harness Islam, Somali nationalism, and Somalis' distaste for the warlords' rule.  The ICU portrayed itself as the only major faction in Somalia that upheld Islamic ideals. "The Somalia people are a homogenous people having the same culture, same language, same religion, same sect also," Aweys told Newsweek in a rare interview. "The only system they can accept to choose is Islam; no one can force them to take another."  He exploited Somali nationalism by describing the Ethiopian government's support for the transitional government as meddling in Somali affairs. He positioned the ICU as an alternative to the chaos and corruption of the warlords' rule. His emphasis on stability and rule-of-law won the sympathy of the Somali business community, which, at the very least, welcomed the ICU's strict rule as a means to reduce security outlays.  Although there are no reliable estimates as to how much the average businessman had to pay for security, the UN Monitoring Group's late 2006 study on Somalia reports that checkpoints established by the warlords cost businesses several million dollars a year.  The ICU's elimination of certain checkpoints that collected extortionate fees also reduced business expenses, in some cases by up to 50 percent of the delivery costs. 
Second, Aweys ensured that the ICU minded its international image. It sought to diminish initial comparisons with the Taliban through restraint. Upon taking Kabul, the Taliban ransacked a UN compound, captured the former Afghan President sheltering inside, emasculated and hanged him. Widespread massacres marked the Taliban conquest of Mazar-i Sharif. In conquest, the ICU kept its subjugation relatively bloodless. As the ICU captured strategic Somali cities, there would often be little if any bloodshed. They often allowed the warlords who had earlier controlled the cities to escape. 
Finally, the ICU worked to establish a broad-based jihadist coalition. A military intelligence source has confirmed a 2002 nongovernmental Partners International Foundation report that found sixteen operational terrorist training camps in Somalia.  In 2006, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia reported:
One senior ICU leader, Sheikh Hassan "Turki" Abdullah Hersi, openly admitted foreign involvement in Somalia during a speech to supporters after the seizure of Kismayo. "Brothers in Islam," he said, "We came from Mogadishu, and we have thousands of fighters, some are Somalis and others are from the Muslim world." 
Al-Masri was born in Egypt around 1967. Under the tutelage of Zawahiri, he joined Al-Jihad al-Islami al-Misri (Egyptian Islamic Jihad) in 1982.  After the Egyptian government began a crackdown that lasted through much of the 1980s, he took refuge in Sudan and, in 1995, moved to Pakistan. 
When Al-Qa'ida incorporated Zawahiri's group in mid-2001,  Al-Masri traveled to Afghanistan and trained at the Osama bin Laden-sponsored Al-Faruq training camp.  He met Zarqawi there in 2001  and also became an expert at assembling bombs.  Al-Masri traveled to Iraq in 2002, before liberation, and helped establish the Baghdad area's first Al-Qa'ida cell.  After the U.S. invasion, Al-Masri provided logistical support to Al-Qa'ida in Iraq and helped Zarqawi run the pipeline of foreign fighters. 
Al-Masri's effectiveness is highlighted by comparison to his predecessor. It is true that Zarqawi captured the imagination of many people throughout the Middle East,  but he was also a ruthless killer. His videotapes showed the beheadings not only of Westerners, but also of Iraqis. Such brutality turned many Iraqis against the group and opened a rift between Zarqawi's foreign fighters and Iraqi insurgents. This fact was not lost on Al-Qa'ida's central leadership. Zawahiri sent Zarqawi a letter in July, 2005, that urged him to curtail his brutal tactics:
Zawahiri's objection to Zarqawi's actions was more strategic than moral. He implored Zarqawi simply to shoot his captives. 
Al-Masri has taken Al-Qa'ida in Iraq in a different direction. On one hand, he has worked to build a coalition of insurgent groups and has sought to incorporate Iraqi tribes under his banner. In essence, he is trying to "Iraqify" Al-Qa'ida.  On the other hand, he has reached out to a broader range of jihadist groups. In an audiotape released just after the November 7, 2006, U.S. elections, he urged a more united front to destabilize the Iraqi government:
While Zarqawi would label as enemies all Muslims who did not support his mission, Al-Masri urges other jihadists to "take care of our Sunni kinsfolk" and to "leniently call for the good and preach against evil, especially since the infidel Baath Party had confused the people vis-à-vis their religion." 
Al-Masri's strategy is designed to accomplish two of the new generation of jihadists' objectives. While U.S. forces prevent Al-Masri from controlling territory and therefore running mechanisms of state, he now avoids alienating Iraqi civil society, while creating a larger jihadist front.
No one has benefited from this accord more than Matiur Rehman, a Punjabi from Pakistan born around 1976.  While Rehman may be unknown in the West to all but professional terrorism and intelligence analysts, he may be the man most likely to plan the next attack on the United States. 
Analysts believe that Rehman became an expert in explosives in the mid-1990s. Soon after, he became an instructor in Al-Qa'ida's camps, focusing his efforts on recruits visiting from the West.  He became deputy to Amjand Farooqi, leader of Harakut ul Ansar, one of the most violent Kashmiri terrorist groups.  Both are suspected in the kidnapping and beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. After Pakistani police killed Farooqi in 2004, Rehman remained in sole possession of the database of all Pakistanis trained in Al-Qa'ida camps.
Rehman is now the chief liaison between Al-Qa'ida and Pakistan's jihadists. He is linked to many of the assassination attempts against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf between 2003 and 2006  and is also a suspect in the plot to bomb several airliners over the Atlantic in August, 2006. Unlike Aweys and Masri, he focuses more on terrorist operations than on organizing a broad-based movement. Still, he is willing to exploit local civil society to achieve his goals, a task made easier by the shift in Pakistani public opinion against President Musharraf and the United States. 
Faqir Mohammed continued to fight in Afghanistan even after the Taliban's fall, but he also established a base in Pakistan. A strategic marriage allowed Mohammed to establish himself in the Mamoond tribe in the North-West Frontier Province's Bajaur district. This has enabled him to provide Al-Qa'ida with a local safe haven. In January, 2005, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency fingered his house in Bajaur as Al-Qa'ida's winter headquarters.  On October 30, 2006, U.S. forces staged an air strike on a madrasa in a Bajaur tribal village that also allegedly served as an Al-Qa'ida training camp. Faqir Mohammed felt so confident, however, that he gave an interview near the scene of the destroyed school  and, later, attended and even spoke at the funeral for the eighty people who died in the attack.
Mohammed's role is important. He controls a strategic area from which his forces stage cross-border raids on NATO forces in Afghanistan.  The new jihadist leaders increasingly focus on establishing pure Islamic "emirates" to serve as stepping stones toward a greater caliphate, which they seek. Figures such as Faqir Mohammed are central to this strategy because they provide a link between Al-Qa'ida and local tribes. They can mitigate ethnic tensions which otherwise might undercut Al-Qa'ida's effectiveness.
Also consistent with the new jihadist strategy, Mohammed has not sought to overturn the tribes' civil society in Pakistan. Instead, he works within the existing tribal structure, trying to carve out a place for Al-Qa'ida within it. This approach is more likely to engender longterm success than past jihadist efforts to completely remake the societies in which they operated.
As a young man, he reportedly studied at an Islamic boarding school, Al-Mumkin, founded by Abdullah Sungkar.  Sungkar, along with Abu Bakar Bashir, founded Jemaah Islamiya, an Islamic terrorist group that seeks establishment of an Islamic state across southeast Asia.  In the late 1980s, Sungkar sent a group of his best students, including Zulkarnaen, to Afghanistan to train with Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a Saudi-financed Afghan mujahideen leader.  Zulkarnaen became a protégé of Muhammad Sauwki al-Istambuli, an Egyptian terrorist leader.  Zulkarnaen stayed in Afghanistan for a decade, developed an expertise in sabotage, and trained other Jemaah Islamiya members. 
Sydney Jones, an expert on Jemaah Islamiya and Director of the Jakarta branch of the International Crisis Group, said that, while in Afghanistan, Zulkarnaen was likely drawn to the writings of jihadist ideologue Abdullah Azzam,  whose teachings focused on fighting against foreign powers' encroachment into Muslim lands. 
Zulkarnaen continued his Jemaah Islamiya training and recruitment efforts after he returned to southeast Asia in the 1990s.  He helped establish training camps in areas of the Philippines controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front similar to those that existed under the Taliban in Afghanistan.  It was in one such Philippines camp that Mohammed Sidique Khan, a participant in the July 7, 2005, London transportation system attacks, learned bomb-making. 
Zulkarnaen is suspected in several major terrorist attacks. He allegedly helped prepare the explosives used in the 2002 Bali disco bombing, which killed 202 people, including eighty-eight Australians, and is also a suspect in the August 5, 2003 car bomb attack on the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta.  Today, analysts consider him to be Indonesia's most dangerous terrorist. 
Beneath Zulkarnaen's quiet demeanor is a devotee to violent international jihad. Like Rehman, Zulkarnaen's connections make him a formidable opponent.
The strategic characteristics of these new jihadist leaders fit well with the direction that Al-Qa'ida's central leadership is taking. Local Al-Qa'ida leaders and affiliated groups have managed to maintain semiautonomous control over their individual organizations, while still reporting to the terrorist group's central leadership. As a senior military intelligence officer put it:
Meanwhile, the central Al-Qaeda organization can sense that some of its longterm goals may be within reach for the first time. Al-Qa'ida has long sought to reestablish the caliphate.  Now, the terrorist group's growing regional strength makes the caliphate seem like a more reasonable goal, since the Islamic emirates that are currently taking shape could form the basis of an eventual caliphate.
As a new generation of jihadist leaders shifts tactics in pursuit of a longterm vision, U.S. and Western officials counter the threat with disjointed, shortterm strategies. The assumptions long held by Western counterterrorism officials about expansionist terrorist groups may no longer be true. With jihadists devoting greater attention to image, to managing civil society and to broadening their outreach, states that fall to the jihadists may no longer fail. To the contrary, in Somalia, living standards increased when the Islamic Courts Union briefly restored public security.
In order to counter Al-Qa'ida's new generation, Western officials should concentrate on twin goals. First, they should prevent terrorist safe havens from arising in the first place — a goal that was endorsed by the 9-11 Commission. And, second, they need to prove that U.S. allies and their aid organizations are as adept at building a stable civil society as the jihadists. A large number of Somali citizens looked favorably upon the ICU when it gained power because it provided an alternative to the chaos that had prevailed before. Yet, after supporting a military intervention to topple the ICU, Washington has failed to provide the aid needed to allow Somalia's transitional federal government to thrive.
 David Childs, "In the Spotlight: Al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI)," Center for Defense Information, Washington, D.C., May 26, 2005.
 The Washington Post, Jan. 5, 2007; "Terrorism: Al-Qa'ida Leaders, Jihadist Websites Express Support for Somali Islamists, Brand Ethiopians as ‘Crusaders,'" from "Jihadist Websites," Open Source Center (OSC) Report in Arabic, Dec. 19, 2006, reprinted in Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service (FBIS), Dec. 19, 2006.
 Garowe Online (Puntland, Somalia), Dec. 26, 2006.
 Bruno Schiemsky, et al., "Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1676," U.N. Security Council Committee, New York, Nov. 2006, pp. 42-3.
 Reuters, Mar. 8, 2007.
 CBS News, Mar. 13, 2007.
 "Key Leader Profile: Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys," Terrorism Knowledge Base, The Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), Oklahoma City, accessed Jan. 18, 2007.
 Sunguta West, "Somalia's ICU and Its Roots in Al-Ittihad al-Islami," Global Terrorism Analysis, Jamestown Foundation, Washington, D.C., July 27, 2006.
 Author telephone interview with Abdiweli Ali, assistant professor of economics, Niagara University, Dec. 6, 2006.
 Newsweek, July 23, 2006.
 Interview with Abdiweli Ali, Dec. 6, 2006.
 Schiemsky, "Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia," p. 33.
 SomaliNet, Aug. 9, 2006.
 "Initial Assessment on the Potential Impact of Terrorism in Eastern Africa: Focus on Somalia," Partners International Foundation, Newtown, Conn., May 5, 2002, p. 48.
 Schiemsky, "Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia," p. 42.
 Garowe Online, Sept. 27, 2006, accessed Dec. 4, 2006 (article since removed).
 CNN.com, June 15, 2006.
 "Key Leader Profile: Abu Hamza al-Muhajer," Terrorism Knowledge Base, MIPT, accessed Feb. 28, 2007.
 Abdul Hameed Bakier, "A Profile of Al-Qaeda's New Leader in Iraq: Abu Ayyub al-Masri," Global Terrorism Analysis, June 20, 2006.
 Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower (New York: Knopf, 2006), p. 336.
 Bakier, "Abu Ayyub al-Masri."
 Barbara Starr, Live From…, CNN, transcript 061503CN.V85, June 15, 2006.
 Bakier, "Abu Ayyub al-Masri."
 The Times (London), June 9, 2006.
 The New York Times, June 15, 2006.
 Good Morning America, ABC News, June 10, 2006.
 Letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, July 9, 2005, accessed Apr. 9, 2006.
 Author telephone interview with U.S. military intelligence officer, Dec. 12, 2006.
 "Iraq: Al-Muhajir Threatens U.S. Troops in Audio Statement," from "Jihadist Websites," OSC Report in Arabic, Nov. 10, 2006.
 Dawn (Karachi), Sept. 6, 2006.
 The 9-11 Commission Report (New York: W.W. Norton Co., 2004), p. 365.
 "Key Leader Profile: Matiur Rehman," Terrorism Knowledge Base, MIPT, accessed Jan. 19, 2007.
 Alexis Debat, "The Man Who Is Planning the Next Attack on America," The Blotter, ABC News, Aug. 9, 2006.
 Alexis Debat, "Why Al-Qaeda Is at Home in Pakistan," ABC News, Mar. 3, 2006.
 Alexis Debat, "Inside Pakistan," National Interest Online, Nov. 1, 2006.
 Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 31, 2006; CNN.com, Aug. 12, 2006.
 Ahmed Rashid, "Pakistan's ‘Isolated' President," BBC News, Mar. 15, 2007.
 Sohail Abdul Nasir, "Al-Zawahiri's Pakistan Ally: Profile of Maulana Faqir Mohammed," Global Terrorism Analysis, Feb. 9, 2006.
 Ibid; Alexis Debat, "Al-Qaeda's Winter Headquarters," The Blotter, ABC News, Oct. 27, 2006.
 MSNBC.com, Oct. 31, 2006.
 MSNBC.com, Nov. 15, 2006.
 "Treasury Designates Jemaah Islamiyya's Emir Top Bomb Maker and Military Commander," Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of the Treasury, May 12, 2005.
 CNN.com, Feb. 26, 2004.
 Author interview with U.S. military intelligence officer, Dec. 12, 2006.
 Associated Press, Nov. 19, 2003.
 "New Jemaah Islamiyah Terror Chief Profiled," The Asia Security Monitor, no. 55, American Foreign Policy Council, Washington, D.C., Nov. 21, 2003.
 "Jemaah Islamiyah in South East Asia: Damaged but Still Dangerous," ICG Asia Report, no. 63, International Crisis Group, Brussels, Aug. 26, 2003, p. i.
 Ibid., p. 5.
 "Treasury Designates Jemaah Islamiyya's Emir."
 Sydney Jones, interview, Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, accessed Feb. 23, 2007.
 Uriya Shavit, "Al-Qaeda's Saudi Origins," Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2006, pp. 3-13.
 Jemaah Islamiyah," ICG Asia Report, pp. 8, 10.
 "Southern Philippines Backgrounder: Terrorism and the Peace Process," ICG Asia Report, no. 80, July 13, 2004.
 Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 27, 2005.
 BBC News, Sept. 8, 2003; Associated Press, Nov. 19, 2003.
 Author interview with U.S. military intelligence officer, Dec. 12, 2006; Associated Press, Nov. 20, 2003.
 Author interview with U.S. military intelligence officer, Dec. 12, 2006.
 The 9-11 Commission Report, p. 51.
 Ibid., pp. 365-7.
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Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and author of My Year Inside Radical Islam (Tarcher/Penguin, 2007). Kyle Dabruzzi is a terrorism analyst for The Gartenstein-Ross Group. They thank Aaron Garza for his assistance.
The foregoing article by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Kyle Dabruzzi was originally published in Middle East Quarterly, Summer, 2007, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat.
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