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Al-Qaida franchises expanding operations

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WASHINGTON – The leaders of al-Qaida’s terror operations are planning to move more resources from Pakistan, where they have been headquartered previously, to Africa as the franchises there expand their work to take advantage of the mainly pro-Islamic revolutions across North Africa and the Middle East, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The reason is that U.S. drone attacks have been having an increasing impact.

And in apparent anticipation of such a move by al-Qaida, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta already has said that U.S. counter-terrorism efforts will shift from Afghanistan to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, where al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, are on the rise.

AQAP is making inroads into Yemen where it controls entire provinces. It is using Yemen as a base to infiltrate neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Regional experts say that political upheaval across North Africa also has assisted AQIM in expanding its presence and influence there.

Sources say that several senior al-Qaida militants have moved into Libya to take advantage of the lack of any cohesive government there. One of the major al-Qaida personalities, Abu Yahya al-Libi, who is from Libya, may already be there.

He is al-Qaida central’s third in command and recently was in Pakistan. Al-Libi is AQ’s leading ideologue and strategist who once was at the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan but escaped in July 2005.

Since the upheaval in neighboring Egypt, al-Qaida also is moving into the Sinai Peninsula where the Egyptian military and police had a presence but have retreated in recent months, making the region increasingly lawless and ungovernable.

Regional analysts anticipate that the security situation in the Sinai will only grow worse given the geopolitical direction the country is heading, with Islamists becoming increasingly prominent in the ongoing parliamentary elections and the expected presidential elections next year.

And there’s a footnote to the U.S. departure from Iraq: Al-Qaida is moving back there as well, and circumstances are pushing a division between Sunni and Shiites.

“If that happens,” according to Marc Thiessen of the Washington think-tank American Enterprise Institute, “then (President Barack) Obama’s decision to reject his commanders’ advice and withdraw all U.S. forces will go from a disaster to a debacle.”

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