Al-Qaeda’s Centre of Gravity: A Discussion with NYPD Intel Chief
On Thursday 26 January, the New York Police Department’s Head of Intelligence Analysis, Mitch Silber presented the findings of his latest book at an ICSR seminar. In The Al-Qaeda Factor: Plots Against the West, Mr. Silber analyses sixteen of the biggest jihadist plots against Western countries in order to determine the precise role, if any, played by the central Al-Qaeda organisation.
Many of his conclusions go against accepted wisdom about Al-Qaeda’s centre of gravity and the nature of the group’s continued threat to Western countries.
His findings include the following:
• Role of Al-Qaeda Core Smaller than Previously Thought – In the majority of cases analysed the plotters acted alone, after having drawn inspiration from Al-Qaeda core activities. This suggests that Al-Qaeda Core’s actual role in plots against the West has been overstated in much of the analysis and reporting of the threat to the West, though their importance as an external inspiration endures.
• Most Preparation in the West – Most of the preparatory stages of the plots took place in the West, and were carried out by Westerners, independent of Al-Qaeda core.
• Little Active Al-Qaeda Recruitment in the West – Al-Qaeda has not actively recruited in the West, rather the plots are underpinned by a “bottom-up” process, driven by individuals in the West who radicalise and then take the initiative to go overseas for training or to join any number of jihadist insurgencies.
• Al-Qaeda’s Opportunism – Al-Qaeda’s strategy for attacking the West can best be characterised as opportunistic; instead of using active recruiters operating in the West, the group is taking advantage of the significant number of Westerners who have self-radicalised and offered their services to the group.
• Still a Threat Post-Bin-Laden – The death of Bin-Laden does not herald the end of the Al-Qaeda threat to the West. Given the combination of Westerners who continue to radicalise/mobilise as well as the rise of other important nodes in Al-Qaeda’s worldwide network of allies and affiliates, the threat from Al-Qaeda type terrorism has not ended.
For a full audio of the presentation, please click here.
To download a copy of Mr. Silber’s Powerpoint presentation, please click here.
For more information on the book, please click here.