aq is “rebounding” with renewed dead cat bounce

On 9/11 anniversary, AQ rebounding as a threat: experts
AFP, Sep 11 2017

FASCHINGSTEIN – AQ is on the rise again in the shadow of Daesh in Syria, 16 years after the 9/11 attacks, experts said Monday. They said that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Sunni group that last month seized control of the northern Syrian city of Idlib, is simply a “rebranding” (sic! – RB) of AQ that is positioning itself as more moderate than Daesh in hopes of a resurgence. Former White House counter-terrorism director Joshua Geltzer said:

Daesh may be today’s preeminent terrorist threat, but AQ in Syria is worrisome. It is AQ’s largest global affiliate at this point.

Speaking on the current terror threat against Pindostan at the New Pindostan think tank, Geltzer and other experts said they expect HTS to take center stage among Jihadis as Daesh loses ground on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq. HTS is simply a cosmetic name-change for AQ, they said. In consolidating control of much of Idlib province, it has eliminated or absorbed rival groups, and is modernizing its propaganda on the web-savvy model of Daesh. David Gartenstein-Ross, co-author with Geltzer of a New Pindostan report on the current Jihadi threat, said:

The organization itself seems to have more lives than a cat. It’s much stronger than in 2010. It has skillfully played itself off of Daesh to portray its organization as being the moderate Jihadis, people who you might not like but you can do business with. As such it has more popular support, and some official support in the Gulf States. Being more restrained than Daesh has been very helpful.

The New Pindostan report stresses the need to focus on Daesh as the most dangerous external threat at the moment, while noting that since 9/11 all lethal Jihadi attacks in Pindostan have been by pindo citizens or permanent residents. But it says AQ could resume the role of the foremost threat in the future, gathering followers turned off by Daesh’s most extreme tactics. While current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is turgid and uninspiring, the younger leaders in Idlib are learning from the way that Daesh mastered the use of social media to attract followers. The study said:

AQ in Syria has undergone cosmetic changes to its naming and organizational design, but without truly renouncing its affiliation with its mother organization.

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