Another problem Al-Qaeda is confronted with is of a remote and symbolic leadership which is unable to coordinate the operational functions of the organization. Though the core Al-Qaeda leadership remains in place, but it is still far from recovering the position of strength that it enjoyed in 2001. No matter how inspirational and charismatic the leadership is without maintaining active contacts with their followers, leaders and organizations lose their support base. Al-Qaeda has lost its secure base and a reliable means of contact with its supporters. Issuing a video message on internet every now and then or statements issued to print media do not suffice. Their outreach of Al-Qaeda supporters and sympathizers to their jihadi ideologues and mentors is now largely limited to the virtual world.
Prior to his assassination Osama Bin Laden became almost a mythical figurehead of symbolic and iconic value inside Al-Qaeda, along the lines of a latter day Che Guevara. A question of legitimacy also looms large over Al-Qaeda leadership. Their image is increasingly dated and frayedThey stand to lose credibility if they are unable to follow through with their threats and warnings; without significant attacks. With a view of long-term futuristic thinking Al-Qaeda’s leadership has failed in creating and train a confident and trusted cadre of younger and fresher second and third-tier leadership. Apart from Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and perhaps Abu Yahya Al-Libi, even its most ardent supporters might find it hard to name or recognise another living hero of Al-Qaida terrorism.
Another worth mentioning factor which has further added to Al-Qaeda’s isolation and weakness is the princial decision of Afghan Taliban movement to distance itself from Al-Qaeda. During the last 10 years the links between the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda have weakened.
After Bin Laden’s death Afghan Taliban have parted their ways with Al-Qaeda to avail chances of becoming a political stakeholders for a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan’s endgame. The death of Al-Qaeda’s chief has opened some avenues of political solution to end the decade long war. A content analysis of statements issued by the Shurah of Afghan Taliban after Bin Laden’s death provides an insight to diverging goals of the two jihadist movements. It was a well-thought-out and carefully crafted message which eulogized the services of Bin Laden for jihad but did not vow any reprisal attacks to avenge his death. Instead they reaffirmed their commitment to continue their struggle against US-led international coalition forced inside Afghanistan.
While al-Qaeda is focused on worldwide jihad against the West and establishment of a religious super state in the Muslim world, the Afghan Taliban purely focus on their own country and have shown little to no interest in attacking targets outside Afghanistan. They portray themselves as a local nationalist resistant movement of Afghanistan.
(To be continued…………)