The fall-out from al-Fadhli’s announcement continues. (I have a very interesting assessment in my in-box from a Yemen, which I’m hoping to post once I get his/her permission – along with Nabil al-Sufi’s recent article and my own take.) But for today we’ll have to be satisfied with this article from al-Wasat.
For my money the quality of al-Wasat’s reporting on al-Qaeda has declined over the past year or two, but this is still an interesting article.
It claims that al-Fadhli is being replaced on the committee that deals with the older generation of al-Qaeda (I am glad that al-Wasat is beginning to use this terminology) by Shaykh ‘Arif Iskandir from Yaf’a, another former fighter from Afghanistan in the 1980s.
It is unclear what if any immediate impact this will have on the other jihadis currently in Yemeni prisons that are waiting to be released – the article mentions that Yemen has cut back on these due to US pressure. And it also claims that 40 prisoners in Hudaydah are currently on strike due to poor treatment by prison guards.
This, along with the disturbing case of Sulyaman ‘Atayah mentioned at the end, feeds right into al-Qaeda’s narrative in Yemen. The organization has long alleged torture – with good reason – and has shown it is willing and able to organize attacks and assassinations in response. Certainly torturing the prisoners – stripping them of honor while simultaneously humiliating them – does not go a long way in convincing them not to rejoin al-Qaeda when they are released.
The cases of al-Shihri and al-‘Awfi in Saudi Arabia demonstrate how individuals intent on rejoining al-Qaeda can be freed, but to torture them before they are freed seems like stacking the deck against yourself (in addition to being morally abhorrent).
Oh, and if you haven’t read it check out this NY Times story by Robert Worth on Waq al-waq friends Thomas Hegghammer, Will McCants (who got both his MA and Ph.D. and excellent schools in excellent programs – I would make similar choices) and Jihadica.