And…. We’re Back. FP Terrorism Survey

Happy New Year!   The blog is finally back.  Thanks for your indulgence.

We’ll start 2011 off with the release of the “FP Survey: Terrorism,” written up for FP’s AfPak Channel by Peter Bergen…… here.

Here’s what the panel of terrorism researchers surveyed, including myself, had to say about whether the US was safer in 2011 than on 9/11.

* This graphic is hotlinked from,1

My Clintonian beef with this question is what is the meaning of “safe.”  Does it mean in terms of not being attacked?  Or if we get attacked from an adversary, that adversary can cause us less damage or kill fewer people than before?

Since I started seriously wrestling with the work of Abu Musab al-Suri starting back in 2005 and began to see the enormous impact he was having among the self-starting, grass-roots types within the global AQ movement, it became clear that AQ was likely heading into a place where attacks would become more frequent but less damaging.  And one could view that as a security success in that “big AQ” has been vanquished.

If you ask al-Suri and company, however, that means that AQ has done it’s job. It catalyzed the birth of a social movement – one where “doing violent jihad” can go viral.  I think in 2011 we have to flip our understanding of AQ on it’s head.  AQ’s attacks aren’t the focus and it’s propaganda is the sideshow.

AQ’s  attacks are the sideshow – only meant to put gas in the tank. The real focus is on building, honing, tweaking and propagating their grand narrative.  And that’s precisely where the blog will concentrate in this new year.

Glad to be back.

One comment

  1. Hi Jarret:

    Is the second graphic in your post from al-Suri himself, or a jihadist website encapsulation of his point? In any case, the English translation in the bottom panel reads “Crusader Nation + Jewish Nation + Islamic Nation = Victory of Islamic Nation” whereas the original equation has the form “a + b x c” with the “x” presumably meaning “against”.

    Having just read Filiu’s book on Apocalypse in Islam – in English at last, what a relief! – I’m even more interested than before in his account of al-Suri’s “final one hundred pages” of apocalyptic, which Filiu describes thus:

    “There is nothing in the least theoretical about this exercise in apocalyptic exegesis. It is meant instead as a guide for action.” (Filiu, p. 188-89)

    Specifically, al-Suri has his own eschatological geography, regarding “Greater Syria” (“country of Sham”) as the “apocalyptic theater par excellence” (p. 189) and quoting the “black banners” strand of hadith – while expressing regret at the “rout” (Filiu’s word) of AQ and Taliban in Afghanistan, the “region where the Prophet had predicted the raising of the black banners of the Mahdi”. Filiu then goes into some detail (p 191) as to the route of the expected Mahdist triumph.

    Given that al-Suri was writing in 2004, after the collapse of the Taliban regime but before its more recent resurgence, it would be very helpful to know what uses the jihadist forums are making of this kind of material – and of al-Suri’s contribution to it.

    Welcome back, and happy New Year!

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