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Scheuer: Al-Qaeda's New Leaders

Interviewee: Michael Scheuer
Interviewer: Eben Kaplan
April 6, 2007

Michael Scheuer, a former CIA officer who founded and led the agency’s unit tracking Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s, confirms reports that al-Qaeda has been reinvigorated by a crop of new leaders. Previous U.S. claims that al-Qaeda had been crippled by the death or capture of its former leaders were inaccurate, Scheuer says, because they failed to take into account al-Qaeda’s system for grooming future leaders.

Though few of the emerging al-Qaeda leaders appear to have spent any time in Iraq, Scheuer cites evidence of “cross-fertilization” between al-Qaeda tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan. Attacks on helicopters in Baghdad, for instance, resemble tactics used to resist the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Likewise, an increase in suicide bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan suggest those tactics have been imported from Iraq. He predicts that in the coming year, veteran jihadis from Iraq will come to the aid of Islamist insurgencies in such places as Somalia and Thailand.

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