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The return of al Qaeda

July 26th, 2012
05:52 PM ET

By Lucky Gold

(CNN) -  Despite the claims of some within the Obama administration, al Qaeda and its offshoots aren’t dead, yet.  They’ve insinuated themselves into Mali, Somalia, Yemen – and now in Syria, too.

Journalist Jon Lee Anderson of The New Yorker is in Aleppo, which has become a key battleground Syria’s civil war. And in an interview with Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, he gave a unique insight into the fighting there.

Speaking of the out-gunned opposition, Anderson told her, “They’re young men prepared to fight. They believe this is the decisive battle for Syria. That if Bashar al-Assad can’t dislodge them from Aleppo, then it’s over for him. So they have to fight to the death.”

But do they count foreign fighters among their numbers and are there members of al Qaeda and its splinter groups opposing Assad?

“Here in Aleppo countryside there are some Islamist groups,” said Anderson. “I wouldn’t necessarily describe them as Jihadi, yet… I had an interesting encounter with one young commander yesterday who declared to me that he wanted an Islamic state.”

That’s what al Qaeda does, they blow things up

That same question was then posed to Mike Sheehan, Assistant Secretary for Special Forces Operations under President Obama: Is there evidence of al Qaeda in Syria?

He told Amanpour, “We know that al Qaeda has taken advantage of the situation in Syria,” said Sheehan. “They’ve moved in there, they’ve become active in terms of terrorists events, blowing things up. That’s what al Qaeda does; they go into places, take advantage of ungoverned space and blow things up.”

Asked if al Qaeda remains a threat to the U.S. and the West, Sheehan said, “Right now what al Qaeda seems to be doing in Syria, as well as some other places around the world, is that they’re focusing locally. They’re using terrorism to play on the scene and trying to influence events there.”

Is their message gaining traction? Sheehan has his doubts: “I think they’ve been rejected across the Arab world by most people. Their narrative does resonate with a small number of people that continue to join them in these terrorist attacks…We’re concerned about that and hopefully we’ll be able to marginalize them going forward.”

As for the opposition in Syria, Sheehan feels “most of the people involved in this rebellion want nothing to do with al Qaeda and their message of violence and hate. Most of the folks that are in rebellion against the Assad regime want a new future for Syria; and I don’t think most of them, the great majority, think al Qaeda any role to play.”

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Anomynous

    My children's generation would remember our generation where the world terrorist was much abused by the real terrorists.

    July 26, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Reply
  2. Guest

    The UN dose nothing for Syria but sympathise with the people and condemn Assad.

    Al'Qaeda goes in and help opose Assad to remove him from office.

    In this case one man's terrorist has became another man's freedom fighter.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Reply

    This is about al-Qaida in Syria.


    Writing in Bild, longtime German war correspondent Jurgen Todenhofer accused the rebels of “deliberately killing civilians and then presenting them as victims of the government”. He described this “massacre-marketing strategy” as being “among the most disgusting things that I have ever experienced in an armed conflict”. Todenhofer had recently been to Damascus, where he interviewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for Germany’s ARD public television.

    July 26, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Reply
  4. frostbitpanda@xanga

    I have always said that Al Kaeda is the brainchild of the Mossad. Instead of attacking Israel, it now aims to unseat its long time enemy Syria. I do not understand why the CIA is not out helping Assad destroy Al Kaeda, perhaps someone backing the CIA is after the oil resource?

    July 26, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Reply
    • coyote

      I also have been at a complete loss since we sent them into Libya. I mean who are they really?????????? and what makes us think they have an off and on switch?

      September 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  5. Nick

    Perfect example of US foreign policy failure. First we have the typical "pro democracy" explanations for possible intervention. Then the rhetoric escalates with Senator McCain demanding that we bomb a sovereign state under the tired old pretenses. When will this madness end? When will we admit that we no longer have a Defense Department but a Foreign Aggression Department?

    In the end, all we do is foster anti American hatred and embolden extremism. In both sides. And what have we done to correct the root of all causes: Israel – Palestinian conflict?

    July 27, 2012 at 3:59 am | Reply
  6. Ruth Ekara

    Al queda is nothing but a blood thirsty element that are out to feast on the world using terror as a medium.They have just woken up from their slumber to seek attention after being ignored over a long time due to their leaders death.Its a pity that events have grown increasingly unpleasant but we must learn and also warn that,we cannot use an unjust means to fight a just cause!

    July 27, 2012 at 4:12 am | Reply
  7. Jimmy H

    Now we see who the terrorists work for. Leave Syria alone and let assad kill all those terrorists out there and please don't feel bad about it

    July 27, 2012 at 6:45 am | Reply
  8. nx3pde

    Let these "freedom fighters" gain control of the country and,in one-year time ,we'll see terrorism spread through all Mideast.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Reply
  9. Mr Mister

    Suddenly al-qaeda the terrorist in afghanistan becomes al-qaeda the freedom fighter in syria.

    US foreign policy is dangerously inconsistent and will result in another sept 11 in the future.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  10. Truthseeka

    Al Qaeda does not exist. Mickey Mouse is more real than Osama ever was. Christiane Amanpour is a Z i o n i s t
    a gent.

    September 10, 2012 at 11:15 am | Reply
  11. robtemery

    Al Qaeda was formed and funded by Saudi PRINCE Bandar bin Sultan to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. After the first Gulf war, the King allowed the US to establish a base in Saudi Arabia which Bin Laden thought was a sacrilege to Islam and was exiled. That is how 9-11 began. After the fall of Saddam and Iraq, the US quietly relocated the base to Iraq. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy and all the top positions are occupied by the Royal Family. With limited opportunity, disenchanted young men become involved with Radical Islam and leave to fight Jihad as a safety valve, much in the same way Mexico induces the poor to go to the US. The Saudi monarchy want Assad and all the Shiites (Iran) out of power. Only the very top few of Al Qaeda know the source of funding and direction and also the reason the Saudi authorities preempt terrorist plots inside the Kingdom. The last plot was composed mostly of Yemenis.

    September 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Reply
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