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Is al Qaeda's influence spreading?

December 10th, 2009
01:06 PM ET

Gen. Stanley McChrystal told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday that one of the key aims of coalition forces fighting the Taliban was to “prevent the ability of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations from coming into Afghanistan and using it as a safe haven.” 

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/10/alqaeda.art.jpg

="Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility of the the recent car bombs in Iraq. "]

It was an opinion echoed by the UK’s Defense Secretary, Bob Ainsworth earlier this week as the UK’s death toll in Afghanistan rose to 100.

"Our presence in Afghanistan is vital in preventing it from once again becoming a haven for terrorists who would seek to threaten the UK," Ainsworth said.

Despite the billions of dollars being spent on removing the threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, their influence continues to extend throughout the world.

A deadly reminder of al Qaeda’s capability in Iraq came earlier this week as a series of car bombs killed 127 and injured 448 in Iraq. A statement claiming responsibility, reportedly from the Islamic State of Iraq, was published on an al Qaeda supporter Web site on Thursday.

Today it was announced that that five U.S. Muslim students have been arrested in Pakistan over possible links to terrorism.

And last week, 19 people were killed by a suicide bomber in the Somali capital Mogadishu. The attack is believed to be the work of militant Somali Islamist group Al-Shabaab – thought to have strong ties to al Qaeda.

Al-Shabaab is thought to have recruited members from other parts of Africa including Tanzania and Kenya as well as from Bangladesh and Pakistan.

With al Qaeda gaining a foothold in countries around the world, is it time the U.S. government started diverting more resources to closing down cells prospering outside Afghanistan?

Does the spread of al Qaeda show that coalition forces are achieving their aims and forcing them out of Afghanistan. Or is this an never-ending battle? Can al Qaeda really ever be defeated or are we locked into a permanent war disrupting their activities wherever they emerge? Send us your thoughts.

Filed under:  General
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Pillowcase

    Al qaeda is likely to be around most of the world. But it seems that local populations tire of Al Qaeda after the make the locals learn the new lifestyle: No music. No movies, no art, no school for females, with severe penalties for non-compliance to their whims.

    Sometimes we unwittingly enable Al Qaeda to infiltrate areas just by our inattention, or backing the wrong leaders.

    December 10, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  2. Matthew

    With some news networks like CNN afraid of offending Muslims, soon everyone will shut up and we will allow these loons to slaughter us at their own will. Terror cells are openly operating in the UK and the US but they can't be shut down because of the fear of offending muslims. For Gods sake why are mosques which preach hate allowed to operate? why can't it closed down and the preacher jailed for life? we are looking the other way while some loons are preparing for the next holocaust

    December 10, 2009 at 1:57 pm | Reply
    • Thethinker

      The exact reason why churches that preach hate are allowed to operate... Freedom of speech and that people are allowed to hold their own opinions. But also there is the freedom of religion I'm also a Muslim... But these terrorists twist words and make you hate instead of love which is exactly opposite of the point so i do agree they call themselves Muslims but their behavior is not... In my opinion they are not

      December 10, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Reply
    • Thethinker

      This idea that al queda is preaching is madness and like So many mad ideaologies they have always been fought against. This ideology is in itself a self destructive ideology and all we can do is stop it from taking any type of foothold in any country. The nazi ideology was doomed from the beggining but it caused so much destruction because it gained a foothold and like alqueda it brainwashed poverty stricken people during the great depression ( afghanistan 40% unemployed ) and most of these people didn't join becaused they believed it it except maybe the uneducated or insane but because they gave them a life better than the life of poverty ( However short term) maybe the answer to fighting this is not fighting the group itself but to develop the poverty stricken parts of the world so they don't even gain a foothold anywhere or even have the opportunity too

      December 10, 2009 at 5:44 pm | Reply
  3. Brisance

    Al Qaeda isn't so much a group, as an idea, and we all know ideas are bulletproof.

    Guns might help against the footsoldiers, but they won't defeat this enemy on their own.

    December 10, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Reply

    There is grose misunderstanding, al Qaeda is not spreading to many countries. Militant Islamism is spreading and some organizations are using al Qaeda as a symbol and a bandwagon. When for example studying al-Shebab in Somalia, it is not first of all a terrorist group. It is an organization that has adopted militant Islamism where terrorism has been used as a technic. First and foremost al-Shabab should be seen as an insurgent organization, although. This is also the same with Taliban. What should be understood is the effect and development of militant Islamism. By saying that al Qaeda is spreading, it is giving a hand full of people more attention and power than they deserve.

    see new book from Hurst/Columbia, "The Borders of Islam".

    John Smith, Norway

    December 10, 2009 at 2:40 pm | Reply
  5. Serendib

    Islamic Militancy is a problem which may exist locally in many countries. It is the desire to impose Strict Islamic Lifestyle on Muslims and Islamic Countries. It may manifest in many forms not neccesarily violent.

    On the other hand Al Qaeda is an International Terrorist Organisation exporting and organising Terror in other countries. Their main rallying point for Muslims is the Palestine Problem and Jerusalam. Hence they are mainly attacking the US and Western Countries who they see as the backers an promoters of Israel. They are also attacking Muslim Governments who they perceive to be pro-American or pro-Western.

    Due to the above there are many supporters of Al Qaeda among the Muslim Youth across the Globe. These youth may not be Religous but are Religously motivated for the above reason. So there is some difference between the two.

    December 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  6. Andrew

    The war declared by al-Qaeda on September 11th 2001 will be perpetual. The idea that getting rid of Bin Laden is key to everything is nonsense after this amount of time. If he'd been killed in Tora Bora, as he should have been, then the momentum he initiated would have been halted there and then. However because the Western world has tied its hands behind its back with endless treaties, conventions, laws, human rights obsessions etc the chances of the definitive defeat of al-Qaeda, which would be possible if all 'laws of war' were suspended, is non existant. It's that point that staggers me the most. A stateless enemy living among us determined to end our way of life from the inside and outside by targetting civilians IS NOT subject to the rules of war yet we go out of our way to appease, reassure, and in Britain anyway, bribe these fanatics in any way possible. This in turn also staggers me as it seems to prove our 'leaders' have still not grasped the fanaticism of our enemy to its religion – that NOTHING will change their minds of their intended course of action. The way to end this whole conflict is simple though – we need to make the idea of terrorism so terrifying to those prepared to carry it out by making their actions directly responsible for the nuclear response we are prepared to undertake starting with militant strongholds on the Pakistan border. One nuclear strike kills more or less all of them, makes the land radioactive and therefore uninhabitable, for the next 1000 years. And as for the civilians? Bin Laden said it best – 'there are no civilians in this war'

    December 10, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Reply
    • Thethinker

      I disagree we cannot steep down to their level or else they will be drawing even more supporters to their side

      December 11, 2009 at 7:33 am | Reply
  7. Matthew

    @ Serendib... Even if Israel did not exist we would be having the same problems with Muslims today. Muslims are taught every day to kill non believers of Islam. the hate against the non believers of Islam is every where in the Quran. The misconception that Islam is a religion of peace is just a politically correct statement. Actions speak louder than words and muslims must be judged by their actions but not their words. Al qaeda is a spent force. what we have now is the true face of Islam. organization such as CAIR paraded by most news networks as the face of peaceful Islam are just the public relations organization of the violent Islam, their work is to do damage control.

    December 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Reply
    • Thethinker

      You are correct action is louder than words but what about the many predominantly Muslim countries that fight terrorism? Such as Indonesia Pakistan and saudi Arabia. If it were true that Islam says to kill then these countries would be assisting not fighting against them... Also these actions are by the tiny amount of the Muslim population of the 1.1 billion Muslims in the world only a few thousand are jihadists because their leaders brainwash their "followers" to think that America is to blame so they can expel everything in the Quran to fight it. Also the actions of this small group of people are extremely aggressive and uncivilized that the entire religion is under scrutiny from them. But look during world war 2 when America fought japan and attacked pearl harbor. Socially they were attacked and put in camps and now today japan is probably Americas greatest economic and social ally in the world.

      December 11, 2009 at 7:31 am | Reply
  8. peter

    What exactly is "Al Qaeda" ("the base")? Almost everyone and their uncle talk about Al Qaeda as if it were an organization, like a terrorist NFL or Exxon. But organizations entail a hierarchy, a chief or leading committee, maybe even staff, accountants, offices. The problem with this half-baked reification is that it leads to confusion and ultimately to frustration. After all if so then the obvious thing would seem to be to go after these people, capture Osama bin Laden, bomb their centers and soon the problem is solved. Right?

    But how come the infamous "War on Terra" still continues after 8 years, countless billions of dollars expended and so many thousands of lives brutally terminated? Media spin can't hide the ugly, ominous fact that surge or no surge, "pacification" of Iraq is a fail. The most recent extremely violent bombings there show that "Al Qaeda" is just bidding its time to resurges all out when it so pleases.

    Maybe the whole concept is wrong. Maybe the US is are fighting AN IDEOLOGY, an Islamic grass roots movement instead of an organization? In which case the concept of "war" against it should be carefully and wisely reconsidered.

    December 10, 2009 at 5:29 pm | Reply

    Peter, I think you are partly right. AQ's ideology is part of the Islamism ideology/belief. At the same time, it is probably right that AQ has got a certain command structure. But it is highly important to note that most Islamists are strongly against the use of violence. I think it is important to understand that many Muslims believe in a better society where Islam is the foundation, but then believe in using democratic means to achieve there goals. This should of course be respected. What is dangerous is when no difference is made between Islamists and "terrorism". Then the West runs the risk of fighting for our higher ideals against Muslims' higher ideals. It becomes key to select between the different ideology and not be scared of Islamism, while at the same time making a cear distinction between what can be accepted and what cannot.

    December 10, 2009 at 7:50 pm | Reply
  10. A. Smith, Oregon

    By far, Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of Islamic publications which glorify the horrors of the Muslim beliefs. And with Trillions of American Dollars pouring into Saudi hands for their Oil and Gas exports, their flooding of the world with horrific propaganda is continuing on a rapid pace.

    If any non-Muslim in America thinks the books Saudi Arabia is flooding the world with support core American values, think again, they certainly do not.

    December 10, 2009 at 11:32 pm | Reply
  11. Serendib

    @Mathew...... The reason for Al Qaeda to exist to exist is Israeli Policy in Palestine. By displacing and dispossesing the Palestinian Arabs Israel has created a Frankenstinian Monster which threatens to destroy the world. As long as there is Injustice and Suppression of Human Rights in Palestine there will be Terror born out of the frustration and hopelessness of the Refugee Camps wether it is Al Qaeda now or some other movement.

    Islam is a religon of peace but also has safeguards against oppression and attacks by others against peaceful people. Violence begets Violence, Intolerance begets Intolerance. The majority of Muslims are moderate peaceloving people but we cannot turn a blind eye as to what is happening to our brothers, sisters and children in Palestine. So a solution to the Palestinian question is imperative if we are to prevent the existence of Terrorist like Al Qaeda.

    December 11, 2009 at 12:35 am | Reply
  12. Serendib

    @Thethinker.......... Yes we cannot condone their actions or stoop to their level.

    Today Al Qaeda or the Taliban do not represent main stream Islam which is moderate and tolerant. Thats why we are fighting against them and resisting their influence. However the world should know the reasons for this problem and address it in a just manner.

    December 11, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Reply

    I agree we have to fight militant radicalism and most Muslims and Islamists do not support jihad by the sword to create a new society.

    However, we should separate what is legitimate defense and what is not.
    F.example, if a non state actor detonates a road side bomb in a fight against what they see as an agressor, it is not necessarily terrorism. What we in the West run the risk of doing is fighting everything that has the word Islam or Muslim and violence in it.

    To group Taliban together with al Qaeda is totally wrong, and it creates a bigger problem for us. The threat will seem much bigger than it really is.

    The problem is that most people do not dig into the details, and are easy to sway. Therefore we are running a large risk.

    December 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  14. Serendib

    Militant Radicalism has to be fought by the Muslims themselves. Islamic Governments and Mainstream Islamic Clergy have a big role to play in correctly interpreting Islamic Teachings to the youth.

    In this respect the Human Rights Violations by Israel in Palestine do not help us in our task. It provides ammunition for the Militants to justify their actions. US, EU and the International Community must help us by bringing about a negotiated settlement to this longstanding problem.

    December 11, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  15. A. Smith, Oregon

    It is a gross mistake to pretend all Muslims that are not faithfully following their duty's and obligations as a Muslim will never become Muslims that faithfully follow their duty's and obligations as stipulated to them in the Koran and by their Ayatollahs, Clerics, Mullahs and Immans.

    Those in the West that portray Muslims that are NOT faithfully following their duty's and obligations as a normal or non-radical Muslim are in a state of denial, and unable to accept the truth.

    At anytime and anywhere a Muslim exists, that Muslim can suddenly decide he/she is going to begin faithfully following the duty's and obligations of the Muslim religion and commit what Western People judge are heinous violent criminal acts.

    In Islamic ruled country's, that is the norm, they are not radical Muslims, they are Muslims faithfully following the duty's and obligations of the Muslim religion as dictated by the Koran and Hadits.

    December 12, 2009 at 5:38 am | Reply

    A Smith, what you are writing is interesting, but I think it should be said that it is only a very small percentage of Muslims who will interpret the holy texts in a way that they should use violence to achieve a better society. By this I do not mean defense. Just like the Bible, the Koran supports the use of violence if your country is attacked by an aggressor. Ref Kelsay and Johnson.

    What should be understood is how much Islam has in common with other religions such as Christianity. Again I would like to stress that there lies a grave danger in presenting Muslims who defend their country as terrorists.
    I would like to present an alternative understanding of terrorism. Terrorism is a technique. It is those with power that can decide who is and who is not a terrorist. This labeling is often misused. But the basis for terrorism is;

    the use of violence or threat of violence against civilians to achieve political goals. (most definitions include these elements).

    I am not sure I totally understand your argument Mr A Smith. Please explain more.
    I believe when a suicide bomber thinks about to commit this act, and is about to kill innocent civilians, then he/she is going to commit a crime that I do not believe God can support , as it destroys one of most precious creations God has created, and the affected persons had no fault. I do not believe there is any passage or sura that supports such an act.
    I believe there are some Muslim priests and theorists that make some frustrated Muslims believe it is God's will, but this should be strongly resisted and I believe we all have a duty to talk to any religious person that might start to support the use of violence, and question this, this in addition to what the goverment does to tackle these persons.

    But we should also hold our politicians accountable of what they are saying and doing. Obama had many highly important points in his Nobel Peace Prize speech. Lets hope he and other politicians can live up to it. If it is pointed to Just War, as he did in his speech, every politician, jurist and military officer have a great responsibility.

    December 12, 2009 at 11:05 am | Reply
  17. Serendib

    Islam has no truck with Terrorism and killing Innocent People belonging to other ‎faiths and it is certainly not an act of faith prescribed in the Koran or Hadith. ‎

    The Principals of Islam are Five, The declaration of Faith, Praying five times a day, ‎Fasting in the month of Ramadhan, Paying the Charity Due and Performing the Hajj ‎once in ones lifetime. Beyond this there is no requirement to commit any Heinous ‎Crimes in the name of Islam.‎

    Jihad is prescribed only against Oppression and Injustice and is not compulsory on ‎every Muslim. Hence if Oppression and Injustice is eliminated the requirement for ‎Jihad will not exist.‎

    December 12, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Reply
  18. G

    It is ignorant to group all Muslisms as "terrorists" or anti-west. I think right now the Islamic faith is going through a major shism like the Christian church has gone through several times. The Islamic faith is gaining in followers all over the world. With so many followers of course there is going to be disagreement on the interpretation of the Quran.

    The Thinker – I respect your opinion, and I think it is well thought out. Thank you for sharing a Muslism's outlook on the current situation.

    December 12, 2009 at 6:18 pm | Reply

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