John's assessment of what's up with al Qaeda these days looks to be another accurate take on this nasty, complicated series of wars and embedded wars.
With Iraq locked-into a feudal patchwork adorned by a hollow government, al Qaeda's role as a catalyst (or foco) for disorder is over. It outlived its usefulness, although it will quickly return to support the status quo the moment it is threatened by open civil war or an American change of heart re: the local militias it currently supports. This isn't, as some wrongly assume:More...
- A victory over a networked insurgency. In fact, just the opposite. The only US "success" in the "surge" was to accept the regional dominance of the open source insurgency and rebrand them as "legitimate" militias.
- A political victory over al Qaeda's political goals. Al Qaeda is a classic 4GW insurgency (Maoist) aimed at state replacement. It has the neither power, aspirations, nor the organization to propose a political replacement for the central state. All it does offer is the loose feudalism of an imagined Caliphate. A hollow state is a sufficient milestone, which is exactly what we have in Iraq.
- Acceptance of the US presence in Iraq. The current arrangement between Iraq's insurgency and the US military is one of convenience. It is in no way an acceptance of a long term US presence in the country. When this relationship sours, which is inevitable (which may occur at the most inopportune time), blood will flow again, and a chastened al Qaeda will return in a supportive role to aid local groups.
On to PakistanAl Qaeda's departure from Iraq frees it up for a new focus on Pakistan, where it will:
- Extend the reach of the Taliban supported tribal revolt in the northwest territories into the major cities.
- Hit social and infrastructure systempunkts (critical nodes), as demonstrated by the attempted assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The intent of these attacks will be to create cascades of disorder that sweep the country.
- Manufacture a plausible promise (a compelling act that demonstrates the viability of further warfare) of an open source insurgency that will cobble together hundreds of violent groups unearthed through waves of disruption.