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Al Qaeda’s Number 3 Threatens America with Nuclear Device, Strikes New Tone

Mustafa Abul-Yazeed, al-Qaeda’s leader in Afghanistan, threatened the United States in recent days, claiming that if the terrorist organization were to acquire Pakistani nuclear devices, they would immediately be used against American targets. “By God’s will, the Americans will not seize the Muslims’ nuclear weapons and we pray that the Muslims will have these weapons and they will be used against the Americans,” he said in a recent interview with al Jazeera media.

When asked about al Qaeda’s strength and relationship with Taliban elements in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, Abul-Yazeed struck a defiant tone. “We believe in the same principles about jihad, faith and loyalty. They were attacked by the Pakistani army when they protected us. We always defend each other.’

The al Qaeda leader went on to defend his organizations apparent inability to follow up the attacks of September 11th, 2001 with another ‘spectacular’ event. “We replaced the big operation implemented against our enemies with small ones as we achieved our great goals from launching massive operations,” he said. “We will never abandon the big operations…We already planned for some but they were postponed due to certain circumstances.”

This new, pragmatic approach from al Qaeda leadership is a notable departure from the style and substance of both Osama bin laden and Dr. al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s top brass. It is free of ideology, sweeping statements against the west, and religious terminology. Instead, abul-Yazeed strikes a new tone as a battle hardened military leader, not a Muslim cleric. This is a very, very smart move.

Since 2005, Muslim perceptions of al Qaeda and similar organization took a turn for the worse. As America’s image slowly improves throughout the region, the laundry list of grievances against the ‘west’ becomes less and less relevant. Couple this fact with pro western elections in Lebanon, pseudo-revolutionary fervor in Iran, and military successes in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Although al Qaeda remains violent, extremely dangerous, and retains a pan-Islamic jihadi ideology, we can see its message falling out of fashion on the Muslim street, the heart of the movement. Abul-Yazeed’s new approach is to regain momentum by appealing to qualities that all Muslims (and all people for that fact) can support: Loyalty, equality, security, and pragmatism.

Above all else, it is this pragmatic bent that should worry counter-terrorism officials in the region and around the world. Al Qaeda has always been resourceful, yet its biggest weakness following 2001 had been its ambitiousness. Osama bin Laden envisioned a pan-Islamic state, spreading from Spain to eastern Asia. Dr. Al-Zawahiri spoke of a Muslim superpower that would eventually defeat the United States and govern the world. Both envisioned massive, massive attacks that would slowly escalate and destabilize the world order. Now, Abul-Yazeed speaks of tactical necessity, pragmatic military operations, and a sobering willingness to use nuclear weapons against America should they be acquired. This is not bravado, ego, or a public relations campaign, this is his battle plan. Be warned.



Josh Hammer

Josh Hammer is an International Relations theorist, with expertise in terrorist ideology, American foreign policy, and war / conflict resolution. He currently holds a Master's of Science degree in International Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the George Washington University. Josh's most recent work, his M.Sc. thesis, is a comparative analysis between Marxist / Leninist ideology and Osama bin Laden's global jihadi movement. He currently resides in New York.

Areas of Focus:
Terrorist Idealogy; American Foreign Policy; Conflict Resolution;