GROWING PAINS FOR AL-QAEDA….Following up on recent reports suggesting that al-Qaeda, once a state-of-the-art user of the internet, is finding it difficult to adapt to the growth of interactive Web technology, the LA Times today summarizes the discontent that’s growing in AQ’s ranks:

A litany of complaints target Osama bin Laden’s network and its affiliates for their actions in Iraq and North Africa, emphasis on suicide bombings instead of political action and tepid support for, or outright antagonism toward, militant groups pressing the Palestinian cause.

The criticism apparently has grown serious enough that Al Qaeda’s chief strategist, Ayman Zawahiri, felt compelled to solicit online questions. He responded in an audio message released this month. For more than 90 minutes, Bin Laden’s second-in-command tried to defuse the anger.

….Such rifts have been emerging for several years, but they have become increasingly contentious lately, in cyberspace and on the streets of some Arab countries. In addition to Zawahiri, Al Qaeda leaders, including Bin Laden himself, have gone on a public relations offensive. In October, Bin Laden asked followers for forgiveness for the deaths of civilians in Iraq.

Marc Lynch has some thoughts about Zawahiri’s online Q&A here, ending with this:

His rhetoric suggests neither the urgency of imminent defeat nor the excitement of impending victory. He regrets the divisions in the Sunni community, but expects (or at least hopes) that they can be overcome and urges his audiences to keep the faith for a long jihad which will ultimately prevail. He doesn’t expect the US to withdraw any time soon, but is happy to provide whatever statements are necessary to convince the Americans to stay. The overall tone is one of… dare I say it… strategic patience.

Not sure what to make of all this, but that’s the latest.

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