Prior to 2002, al Qaeda had the planning/support infrastructure to run tightly controlled global operations on a sporadic basis. That capability was greatly diminished with invasion of Aghanistan and has only recently shown signs of returning due to instability in Pakistan. In the interim, al Qaeda was able to use its directed network to generate global terrorist attacks through the use of communities (see the brief "Emergent Communities Dedicated to War" for more) that have spontaneously emerged to contribute to the movement's plausible promise (an animating narrative, given substance through events, that spurs groups to form and act).In parallel to this, guerrilla groups in Iraq and Afghanistan have made significant progress using a more commercial model of entrepreneurship that makes money from "black globalization" and uses this funding to outsource attacks (see the brief "The IED Marketplace in Iraq" for a great example of this). The benefits of this commercial model are substantial since it is:
- self-sustaining (particularly in terms of ongoing funding),
- vastly expands the available pool of participants/skills/resources (particularly in poor countries),
- safer (little upfront exposure and an ability to cut off contact),
- and faster (doesn't require spontaneous group formation or lengthy planning).
The Bazaar in IndiaThe is increasing evidence that this commercial model has made its way to India. Siddharth Srivastava (writing for the Asia Times) quotes a senior official of the Indian Intelligence Bureau in regards to recent attacks in Mumbai, Delhi, Beneras, and Samjhauta:
"The attackers are paid a handsome sum of money as well as ensured that he/she need not dies in the process of the attack. It is a win/win situation. In the past, diehard Afghan mercenaries or trained Pakistani nationals orchestrated the attacks from across the border. Now, there has been a shift in strategy."
The limitation of this approach is that large scale attacks (like 9/11 and other large assaults on symbolic targets) are not possible using this approach since the requisite planning and mass martyrdom isn't purchasable (small scale martyrdom can be purchased). This leaves attacks on soft targets such as public gathering places and systems. So far, most of the attacks accomplished appear to be a combination of both. However, as this method evolves, we can expect to see the focus shift towards systems targets, since attacks on systemspunkts (definition) would yield much greater returns on investment (see examples of ROIs in Iraq) and classic terrorism begins to demonstrate diminishing returns (see the brief "Terrorist Death March" for why classic terrorism produces negative ROIs over time).
Global ImplicationsEventually, given the success of this method in Iraq, India, and Afghanistan, al Qaeda will begin to employ it in other locations. This would mean:
- A large increase in the tempo and breadth of attacks since more global locations could be reached in a shorter time than previously.
- An ability to expand the scope of operations beyond nations with Islamic populations. This is particularly interesting in regards to calls by al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia to disrupt oil systems in Mexico (where it may find willing allies from the participants in the current drug wars) and other locales.
- A potential to create home grown terrorist groups, unrest, etc. (including some that could become future collaborators) in target states in response to provocative attacks on social fault lines.