According to ABC News report aired last night, American officials are worried about the potential merger of the Al Qaeda organizations of Anwar al-Awlaki and Ayman al Zawahiri. They would merge so that they can coordinate attacks on American targets overseas. This is not the most surprising of developments, as businesses merge together all the time and terrorism is a business. It’s a business of violence, death, and repression, but it’s a business none the less. This proposed merger, if the terrorist egos can get along has both good and bad points for the American National Security Environment. Leading with the bad, this merger has the potential to create a larger unified threat to American interests both at home and abroad with assumed shared capabilities, intelligence and cooperation between the joined groups. American and International Intelligence agencies will need to be quite vigilant as this new larger terrorist organization takes shape.
There are two pieces of good news, the merging of terrorist organizations may be an indicator that U.S. efforts against Al Qaeda are paying some dividends. Al Qaeda would probably like to stay more individualized and cellular, the fact that they would consider joining forces indicates that something has occurred to change their capability structure. The second piece of good news is that even though the notion of two terror groups merging is the subject of intelligence agency nightmares, who’s to say that the unification process is smooth? Who’s in charge of the venture? Terrorist leaders are not exactly the most altruistic people in the world. Yeah, they may press these grand goals in their propaganda messages to inspire the followers, but do the two leaders begin to conflict with each other…in operational tactics or choice of missions or even who’s the bigger fish in the murky terror underworld, which eventually destabilizes the new SuperTerror Inc. into a fractious civil war among terrorist leaders? Make no mistake unified terrorist leaders is a big threat, but we shouldn’t return to the over reactive days of duct tape and plastic sheeting until the terrorist egos can prove co-existence.