ASSESSMENT: INSPIRE 12 “Shattered”
Inspire 12 Shattered:
Inspire issue 12 was dropped on Alplatform Friday night and this issue is somewhat different from past issues due to changes in staff and a change in thought probably brought on by the attrition that has occurred. It is also of note that this issue is ostensibly just put out by AQAP and makes no mention of Al Malahem which may show some of the fractions in the AQ umbrella as well as security issues that may have happened online in the recent past. Of course AQAP was the progenitor of the magazine but it was also a group effort for some time and that seems to have changed with the isolation of groups in part due to the death of OBL and the pedantic leadership of Ayman. This issue seeks to reach the “lone wolf” audience and broach the field of operations in the West as opposed to the Ummah in the lands which has been the standard of this magazine nearly from the beginning.
It has been some time since the last issue was released and I am assuming this was because of the attrition I spoke about before. Indeed there seems to be little input from Abu Al Amrici in this issue and there are new guest writers as well as a scope creep into other areas of concern such as North Africa which was a bit of a surprise but as you look at the bigger picture of the magazine that makes sense as the publishers are trying to change the scope to cover more areas of jihad outside the lands of the Ummah such as the EU and now Africa. Covering such things as an article on the bombings in Kenya by Al Shabaab and even having a Harakat (Shabab Youth Brigade) guest writer. Overall, there are some subtle changes within this issue that analysts should take note of that bespeak a change in thought to a more global approach.
Changes From Previous Issues:
The biggest change in Inspire other than a change in staff and writers was the subtle tone from a more Koran centric and pedantic messaging to a more political and Western thought driven methodology. Through the course of the magazine the writers have been coming to grips with trying to motivate the Westerner to action while doing so with the call of jihad through the Koran and their particular spin on it. Over time I believe they have come to realize that to reach the Western audience that may be enamoured but unwilling to act solely on the Koranic call to jihad they have to reason with them in a more Western manner. In this issue there is a much more political and economic spin that attempts to spark a response in a Westerner against the actions of America in particular. The authors have seized upon the times (i.e. Snowden releases, war weariness, and economic climate issues) to try and sway the reader into action.
The layout of the magazine is just as slick as before (because the authors have used the 2011 pdf frame used in the past from the metadata in the file) and the progression of the magazine’s dialectic is as follows;
- The state of the jihad (Koranic)
- The deen of jihad (Koranic)
- Interview/Questions on the reasoning of actions within Jihad with Anwar Al-Alawki (Koranic)
- Samir Khan on the politics of Palestine and the Jihad (Political)
- City Wolves “call to action” (political)
- Tawheed/Choosing AQ ( Doctrine/Koranic)
- Experience of Jihad (Koranic and Romanticism thereof)
- Q&A with President Obama *Q&A carried out by snippets of press conferences** (Political)
- The Sister’s corner *Mujahidah wives exhortations by Umm Yahya) (Koranic)
- Shattered *the political and economic bankruptcy of America and the West** (political)
- Open Source Jihad (IED’s)
This shows more of a creep away from the hard edged issues in the past that focused on the “duty” of the Ummah via the Koran to a more balanced logical/rhetorical argument basis for Jihad with softened approaches more palatable to the Westerner. The issues of the day make their appearances covering not only drone strikes and the pull out of Afghanistan (2014 maybe?) as well as the surveillance state that has been revealed by the Snowden releases. This magazine talks about the Snowden files indirectly but also shows that they have taken heed by removing the Q&A section via email “due to security reasons” which obviously is due to the Snowden revelations.
For the most part this issue shows a direction change that is more subtle but perceptible if you look at the entirety of the issues from 1 to 12. The changes to the organization through attrition slowed them down but it also perhaps gave them new blood and pause to determine just how they could attract the Westerner better. Mentions of Faisal Shazad as well as Dzokhar and Tamerlan make it into the issue as well as add targeting ideas that will be explored below in the next sections. This of course is the more troubling thing about this issue with more of a focus on targeting and timing for attacks. Generally though this issue once again follows the basic formula to engage the would be “Lone Wolf” and exhort them to action. The main difference being that the tenor is less strident and more engaging and this is the primary difference.
Open Source Jihad: Car IED’s
One of the more troubling points of this issue however is an expansion on a theme. I had heard pundits in the past ask why AQ and others had not used the idea of car bombs here in the US more often. Well, now they are advocating this with a type of bomb that actually failed in Times Square by Faisal Shazad. The Open Source Jihad section this go around focused solely on car bombs. In this case it was focused solely on the use of gas canisters and oxidization. I am not showing the how to’s but suffice to say that they have a basic design that Shazad used but with some changes to make it more effective. The authors also revised their operations manual to offer the lone wolf the choice of martyrdom or remote/timed detonation systems. With these plans a would be wolf could do some serious damage were they to carry out their plan with a working IED in a car or, more to the point as they show in their final image of the magazine, a panel van.
The most problematic part of the open source jihad section was a new feature called “Targeting” which needs no preamble. In this case the targeting is very directed and shows some thought post the bombings of the Boston Marathon. The authors are laying the groundwork for the wolves to be methodical about their target choices. In this case they have a focus on NY as always and Washington but also mandate that the UK has specific targets and times that are propitious for attacks to create the maximum kill ratios and fear factors. This is a significant change and what has me more worried is the whole package here. You have your device which is fairly easy to create with materials on hand (especially as summer approaches BBQ) and then you have directed targeting and times with which to carry out your action. The targeting also gives the wolf things to look for such as the usual congregating events but hints at specific events upcoming this spring and summer as well.
The final analysis on this issue of Inspire is that the changes in staff have also garnered a change in tone and approach to radicalizing the lone wolves into action. These changes are showing how they are learning to approach the Westerner to incite action and given the climate today there may be more people who are moved toward this line of thinking. Though I would hasten to add that the mental status of the individuals who wish to be lone wolves plays a key role in their movement from just ideating on such actions to actually putting them into practice. In the case of the Boston bombers they both came from a region that was fraught with issues and both had issues stemming from broken home lives and a desire to feel they belonged somewhere. This and other factors make it possible that some other deranged and motivated individual of the Western persuasion will act out upon these orders by AQAP.
If anything though, this publication is sure to get a reaction from the government and security around events throughout the world will be tightened even more than they might have been post the marathon bombing. In this instance the IED’s are specifically designed for carnage to bystanders and not for demolition of buildings as well. This is I assume to generate the maximum amounts of fear from attack but also because the complexity of larger and more powerful bombs is higher and the likelihood of failure is more probable from the lone wolf set. I can imagine though that the AQAP set may in the future attempt to engage the wolves to come to the lands of the Ummah and train for those more complex missions in places like Syria or perhaps in Afghanistan post US pull out. Time will tell though and I am sure we will be seeing another issue of Inspire for summer soon enough.