A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending May 12, 2005:

Abu Faraj al-Libbi Arrest in Pakistan Points to Young al Qaeda


6 May: The high profile arrest Monday, May 3, of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, 40, the man responsible for al Qaeda’s operational planning and execution in Pakistan took place after a gun battle in the Mardan Division of Pakistan's North Western Frontier Province which borders Afghanistan. SIS officers were acting on a tip from none other than the head of US Central Command, who paid a surprise visit to Pakistan on the morning of May 3 and conveyed the information to president Pervez Musharraf.

debkafile‘s intelligence sources reveal that, in its second term, the Bush administration has quietly initiated a new phase in the war on terror, adjusted to counter perceived threats from the new and deadly al Qaeda breed spawned since 9/11. Very little is known about the new structure, its central command, and whereabouts. “No longer is the US global effort focused on the hunt to track down Osama bin Laden; instead, the search is on for his links,” say the sources.

In any event, most of the earlier al Qaeda cells have either been caught or exposed and are no longer able to operate effectively. They have been replaced with a fast-growing network which takes its inspiration from Osama bin Laden and Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Running it to ground, US and Pakistani intelligence agencies both believe, will uncover its links to the two leaders. Debriefings of the latest crop of al Qaeda detainees begin to lift the veil on the new structure’s organization and reveal it as tight and tough with very few weak points. But no clue to the top men’s whereabouts has been elicited.

The underground al Qaeda core in Pakistan provides administrative support to its local operatives besides arranging finances for operations. It employs a good number of “foot soldiers,” drawn from the virtually bottomless pool of ad hoc members, which also provides manpower for the more senior levels. These operatives are connected by personal relationships to the level above them and are at its disposal. The most prominent feature of the new al Qaeda breed of terrorists is that they belong to a younger generation now in their 20s or 30s with strong links to the old guard – often in the form of blood or friendship ties to senior al Qaeda members.

Al-Libbi at 40 appears to have been a link between the old guard and the young generation.

Intelligence findings have remarked changes in al-Qaeda’s pattern of operation. Small independent groups of five to ten members operate under a command that keeps on working even after a major bust. Their leaders are mostly educated, recruited from Pakistan’s middle class and its universities.

Many perpetrators of the recent local attacks received their training in camps in the lawless tribal region of Waziristan. They are attempting to cash in on the rising popular disaffection against the Musharraf government’s domestic and foreign policies to expand their support.

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