From the Washington Post, :
A new cadre of untested Islamic militants is emerging to take the place of leaders in Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network, which is now under “catastrophic stress” as a result of international operations over the past 30 months, the senior State Department counterterrorism official told a House International Relations subcommittee yesterday.
At least 70 percent of al Qaeda’s senior leadership has been detained or killed since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks triggered a worldwide offensive against the network, and the remaining 30 percent is largely on the run, State Department counterterrorism coordinator J. Cofer Black testified. The movement has been “deeply wounded” by the elimination or arrest of more than 3,400 lower-level members and allies, forcing it “to evolve in ways not entirely by its own choosing,” he said.
As a result, several newer and smaller groups, made up predominantly of Sunni Muslims, are moving in to take the lead in the jihadist holy war agenda against the United States and its allies, which has complicated the task of stamping out the threat from Islamic militants, said Black, a former CIA counterterrorism official.
“As al Qaeda’s known senior leadership, planners, facilitators and operators are brought to justice, a new cadre of leaders is being forced to step up. These individuals are increasingly no longer drawn from the old guard, no longer the seasoned veteran al Qaeda trainers from Afghanistan’s camps or close associates of al Qaeda’s founding members,” Black told the House subcommittee. “These relatively untested terrorists are assuming far greater responsibilities.”
In another ominous sign, Black said, al Qaeda’s ideology and its virulent anti-U.S. rhetoric are also spreading well beyond traditional strongholds, inspiring scores of Muslim groups. They include Ansar al-Islam in Iraq, the network of cells created by Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi; the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; the Salafist Group for Call and Combat in North Africa; and the Salifia Jihadia in Morocco, which claimed credit for the 2003 bombings in Casablanca.
“Identifying and acting against the leadership, capabilities and operational plans of these groups poses a serious challenge now and for years to come,” Black said.
Beyond the groups is the further problem represented by thousands of militants — from conflicts such as Chechnya, Kashmir and Kosovo — who migrate to other conflicts, Black told the subcommittee. The jihadists are a “ready source of recruits” for al Qaeda and its affiliates. And Iraq is a “focal point” for jihadists who are linking up with Sunnis opposed to the occupation.
I discuss that migration of jihadis, principally into Iraq and Bosnia, in Onward Muslim Soldiers.