Wed, Dec 16, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Al-Qaeda losing ground and financing: analysis

AP , WASHINGTON

Targeted by drone strikes in Pakistan, al-Qaeda is losing ground and financing even as attacks by Islamist groups increase, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press.

Attacks on civilian targets in Afghanistan by militant Islamic groups are on track to increase by 15 percent to 20 percent this year over last year’s totals, said the report by the American Security Project, a bipartisan Washington-based organization.

The group analyzes terror trends and the effectiveness of US counterterror policies. The statistics do not include attacks against the military.

At the same time, many violent Islamic militant groups are now increasingly focusing on local issues rather than on Osama bin Laden’s global struggle.

“There is a larger number of Islamic groups using violence,” said Bernard Finel, a senior fellow with the American Security Project.

Other analysts and government reports have noted that the Taliban in Afghanistan are more focused on their internal fight. Insurgents in Somalia are concentrating on their own tribal battles with the government.

The divide comes as al-Qaeda is taking losses in leadership and money.

Armed drones, in clandestine attacks largely carried out by the CIA, have killed at least 11 of the US’ initial top 20 al-Qaeda targets and four others who were added to an updated list, the security report said.

Just last week, Saleh al-Somali, the group’s operations head, was killed by a missile strike in Pakistan, US officials said.

Because of inadvertent uninvolved civilians’ deaths caused by the attack, approval of the US approval by Pakistanis has plummeted.

The classified operations, run by the CIA, have not been confirmed openly by US officials.

In contrast to the Afghan Taliban, who appear to be well-funded by crime, contributions and the opium trade, al-Qaeda is financially weaker than it has been in several years, according to an assessment by US Treasury officials.

The American Security Project report notes that al-Qaeda’s media arm, As-Sahab, has been less productive over the past year. The terrorist media operation issued 48 video messages last year, compared with 97 in 2007, the report said. Yet the apparent diminishment of al-Qaeda influence has come as violent attacks rose sharply in Pakistan, according to the report.

Islamic attacks jumped from 81 in the first half of last year to 220 in the first half of 2009. In both cases, the report said, the numbers of the attacks are understated because they do not include strikes against the military.

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