NEWSWEEK: Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the Qaeda No. 2, Has Provoked a Potentially Serious Ideological Split Within Al Qaeda, Jihadists Tell Newsweek

Members Fear His Actions May Jeopardize the Safe Haven That a Resurgent Al

Qaeda Has Developed Along Pakistani Border

Jul 22, 2007, 01:00 ET from Newsweek

    NEW YORK, July 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Pakistani and Taliban officials
 interviewed by Newsweek say the Qaeda No. 2, Ayman Al-Zawahiri is behind
 the wave of retaliatory attacks launched after Pakistani troops overran the
 Red Mosque in Islamabad, which have killed more than 150 people. While
 Osama bin Laden has been keeping a low profile, Zawahiri has moved
 aggressively to take operational control of the group. In so doing,
 Zawahiri has provoked a potentially serious ideological split within Al
 Qaeda over whether he is growing too powerful and has become obsessed with
 toppling Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, according to two jihadists
 interviewed by Newsweek last week.
     (Photo: )
     The anti-Zawahiri faction in Al Qaeda fears his actions may jeopardize
 the safe haven that the group has developed in Pakistan's tribal regions of
 North Waziristan and Bajaur, according to the jihadists, Omar Farooqi, the
 nom de guerre for a veteran Taliban fighter and chief liaison officer
 between insurgent forces in Afghanistan's Ghazni province, and Hemat Khan,
 a Taliban operative with links to Al Qaeda. Both have proved reliable in
 the past.
     As Special Correspondent Sami Yousafzai and South Asia Bureau Chief Ron
 Moreau report in the July 30 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, July
 23), the jihadists say Zawahiri's personal jihad has angered Al Qaeda's
 so-called Libyan faction, which intel officials believe may be led by the
 charismatic Abu Yahya al-Libi, who made a daring escape from an American
 high- security lockup at Baghram air base in 2005. The Libyan Islamists,
 along with bin Laden and other senior Qaeda leaders, would love to see
 Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf go, too. But they fear that Zawahiri
 is inviting the Pakistani leader's wrath, prematurely opening up another
 battlefront before the jihadists have properly consolidated their position.
     Both jihadist sources say there is now what Khan calls "a clear divide"
 between the two factions. In part, the Libyans seem to be irked by
 Zawahiri's unchecked ego and self-righteousness. "The Libyans say he's too
 extremist," Farooqi tells Newsweek, and they resent Zawahiri for appearing
 to speak for bin Laden. "Libyans tell me that the sheik [bin Laden] has not
 appointed a successor and that only the U.S. government and the
 international media talk of Zawahiri as being the deputy," Farooqi says.
     A senior U.S. official involved in counterterrorism policy, speaking on
 condition of anonymity because he was addressing sensitive matters, agrees
 that there are tensions between Al Qaeda's Egyptian and Libyan factions, as
 well as between Saudi and Central Asian elements. "These guys are not
 immune to nationalist tendencies," he says. John Arquilla, an intelligence
 expert at the Naval Postgraduate School who closely follows radical
 Islamist traffic, calls it "the battle for Al Qaeda's strategic soul. There
 is a profound strategic debate over whether to focus on overturning the
 government in Pakistan ... because that puts them in control of a nuclear
     Bin Laden himself has not personally intervened to end the internal
 feud, according to the jihadist sources. For security reasons he rarely has
 face-to- face meetings with his deputies. "He doesn't want to get
 involved," says Khan. "He's already too busy with strategic planning and
 inspirational duties and with directing his own security." Instead, bin
 Laden has tried to resolve the dispute by dividing duties between the two
 factions and appointing a pair of mediators, these sources tell Newsweek.
     The infighting hasn't prevented Zawahiri and his Qaeda brethren, along
 with Afghan Taliban and militant Pakistani tribal leaders, from
 establishing a complex command, control, training and recruitment base
 largely in Waziristan, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials. U.S.
 officials say Al Qaeda has vastly improved its position there since
 Musharraf signed a controversial peace deal with North Waziristan's Pashtun
 tribal elders in September 2006, which gave pro-Taliban tribal militants
 full control of security in the area. Last week tribal officials, who have
 become increasingly radicalized, indicated the deal was off. The governor
 of Afghanistan's Khowst province, Arsala Jamal, tells Newsweek that Qaeda
 and Afghan and Pakistani militants have moved some of their top fighters
 and commanders from Waziristan into safe areas in Afghanistan in case
 Pakistani and U.S. forces launch retaliatory raids.
     U.S. counterterrorism operatives have been reluctant to cross into
 Waziristan for fear of violating Pakistani sovereignty and upsetting
 Musharraf. Hank Crumpton, a longtime CIA senior official and former
 counterterrorism coordinator for the State Department, says U.S. reluctance
 must be overcome, because Musharraf can't deal with the problem alone,
 Newsweek reports. "There is encroaching Talibanization now outside the
 tribal areas into Pakistan proper," says Crumpton, a judgment seconded by a
 confidential report from Pakistan's Interior Ministry, obtained by
 Newsweek. U.S. and Pakistani officials hope that Zawahiri overreaches in
 his zeal to kill Musharraf, and they get an intel break on his whereabouts.
 Crumpton says the United States needs to lead an effort with anti-Taliban
 local tribes, some of whom have been targeted by Al Qaeda. "If we are
 attacked here [in the United States], which we will be, it almost certainly
 will have originated from that territory. What will we do then?"
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SOURCE Newsweek