Branches of al-Qaida in the Middle East and North Africa are hoping to make advances amid civil unrest, particularly in shaky Yemen. The organization appears willing to use tactics that it has traditionally shunned, such as strategic limitations on attacks to pressure fragile political structure.
"The new regime after President Ali Abdullah Saleh will take time at least to become as hard as Saleh on Al Qaida," said Saeed Obaid Al Jimhi, chairman of the Al Jimhi Centre for Studies, a Yemeni think tank specializing on the terrorist organization. "They (Al Qaida leaders) think Saleh was the worst and hardest to them … They know that any terrorist operation would be in the interest of President Saleh, so they are turning to politics now."
Al Jimhi noted that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is more concerned with other Islamists rising to power, who might persecute them to shed a negative image in the West. If the dominant Islamist party of Islah were to take power, AQAP would refrain from local attacks until the regime faltered at ruling the failed state. When corruption appeared, the group would strike the regime to appear as leaders of the next revolution.
Al Jimhi's observations show an increasing political awareness, to match the growing operational capacities of AQAP. Following America's increased role in striking Yemeni militants, the group "emerged as a more disciplined and professional organization," write Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman of the Associated Press. "It ditched cell phones in favor of walkie-talkies and coded names. Information was passed through intermediaries. If someone needed to send an email, it was shielded by highly sophisticated encryption software."
The North African branch of the group, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM], is taking up new positions in isolated areas in the region. AQIM is building a new base in the Wagadou forest of Mali, near the Mauritanian border, according to the Agence France Press. Last week, the organization also posted a message claiming the murder of two Mauritanian government spies in the Malian town of Timbuktu, reversing gains made against the group in raids last year.