A little bit of success goes a long way. After al Qaeda in Iraq broke hundreds to thousands of prisoners out of Abu Ghraib, they appear determined to ride this theme internationally. No doubt the decision is strategically to their advantage in at least three important ways: 1) a new relevance; 2) they seek to repair their negative image in the world and among Western jihadists so that they can be seen as “freedom fighters;” and 3) to show solidarity that they are united internationally and stand behind captives.
The Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistani prison break by the Taliban is another regional battlefield victory through allied jihadist groups. (Score: 2-0, al Qaeda affiliated organizations). This confirms the al Qaeda transition from an organizational movement of terror to one of increasingly complex operational objectives. After Afghanistan 2014- their intentioned comeback will be a build-up there and a renewal outside Pakistani gates.
But perhaps success has gone to their heads in the last two instances. Al Qaeda has now vowed to strike the heart of gold and the Fort Knox of prison breaks- the US Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.
Ayman al-Zawahiri gave a 22 minute internet video address Yesterday of his intention to strike Guantanamo and free its prisoners from the ‘evil Americans’- so his propaganda message went.
More than another message, this is a new strategic mission. They strike at a facility that most Americans and the international community has sought to close the detention facility down; especially after reported abuses of torture in the form of “waterboarding” and the lack of trials. The al-Zawahiri message comes just after President Obama on Tuesday pledged to renew efforts to close it down.
Al Qaeda is strongly marketing for new American jihadists to heed to the call, which is one likely target for the operation. Striking former Abu Ghraib and now with intention to strike present US prison facilities of jihadists is a clever recruitment theme but one that as preposterous as it sounds, should not be taken lightly. Al Qaeda is a very patient organization. They have been known to make these threat promises and waited years before carrying them out. Much will depend on the success of the next one, wherever it is. If the US ignores the threat, they may find themselves in another USS Cole incident. On the other hand, this call may never be carried out and just used for the new strategic alignment. We all need something to hope for, even the enemy. Rallying calls often have the effect of being more than calls.
*First Published in the In Homeland Security blog.