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The Sudden Rush of Al Qaeda Communications
Perhaps one of the most successful achievements of the old guard al Qaeda, besides staying alive, is the vast expansion of its propaganda outreach arm.

Not only are the videos and tapes coming fast and furious, but in multiple languages aiming at a wide variety of audiences.

This indicates a level of sophistication and and stability that is both deeply alarming and indicative of how secure the group feels. The videos, with different scenes, subtitles, translations and rapid turnaround time (indicated by the references to recent events) shows that the old guard al Qaeda is dedicating significant resources to the propaganda/outreach wing and has a desire to retain a place of preeminence within the _jihadi_ world.

It is interesting that both Bin Laden and Zawahiri have become ubiquitous after years of long silences. This indicates to me that not only do they have the wherewithal to run the operation, but that they feel it is imperative to get their message out repeatedly.

For non-state groups, cut off from the normal media channels, such outreach is vitally important to survival. I draw an imperfect parallel to the success of Radio Venceremos, run by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) in the Salvadoran civil war in the 1980s.

The radio broadcast daily, and often with live combat reports as the fighting was happening. The constant voice of rebels was not just an irritant to the government, but a source of ideological sustenance to the cadres scattered around the country, as well as a vital recruitment tool.

Despite the dedication of significant resources and intelligence assets to getting rid of the radio, the U.S.-backed military could never take it down. It remained a thorn in the side of the Salvadoran army for 12 years, and a vital part of the FMLN's ability to survive.

Al Qaeda does not broadcast daily, but the production unit has demonstrated a recent ability to greatly increase its operational tempo. This shows that they are likely in a stable location, with good equipment and not on the run or under significant pressure.

Why the sudden surge in communications with the network? That, to me, is the most important question. The content is important and should be analyzed, especially the call to war against Musharraf in Pakistan and the call to retake Spain for Islam. But much of the statements are simply restatements of old positions and rhetoric.

Perhaps, as the "Base" takes on a life of its own, the old leadership sees a need to reassert its relevancy. Or perhaps the old guard no longer holds a great deal of appeal to the young men wanting to fight the "hot" wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and are drawn to different _jihadi_ organizations, rather than the old men living in caves or apartments.

Or perhaps the productions are largely intended as morale boosters for the cadre in the absence of significant successful attacks in the United States and Europe.

What does seem clear to me is that this propaganda machine, run at some risk and expense, is vitally important to the leadership. It is also vital for those in a virtual world, looking for some point of connection, to have access to this material, as well as being useful to those seeking to recruit.

I am not sure what it means, but it is another sign of how much work there is to do in shutting down the message as well as the messenger.
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