BY BRIAN JONES AND GEOFFREY INGERSOLL
Al Qaeda in Iraq has rebranded itself, adopted a new name, and some new tactics, and devoted itself to toppling the Bashar Al Assad regime in Syria, according to Liz Sly with the Washington Post.
In addition to the suicide bombing, kidnappings, and beheadings the Islamic extremist organization is known for, they have added a new pitch to their repetoire — handing out Teletubbies.
The Post report details how Al Qaeda fighters in Syria recently handed out toys to children in the war torn city of Aleppo. It comes as an effort to “win hearts and minds,” ironically the slogan the U.S. military used amidst counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The gift-giving suggests that the extremists have learned some lessons from Iraq, where they alienated local populations with their harsh tactics,” writes Sly.
Operating under a new name — the Islamic State — the fighters have emerged as one of the most violent and powerful factions in 2-year-old conflict that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.
Their soft-side approach in Syria mimics that of a letter written by the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula in 2012, Nasser al-Wahishi. The letter — sent to Qaeda’s leaders and a copy of which Associated Press reporters found in Mali — encouraged water works and electricity projects, rather than Islamic summary maimings.
It even gave advice on how to best conduct trash pick-ups.
“Try to win them over through the conveniences of life, it will make them sympathize with us and make them feel that their fate is tied to ours,” wrote Wahishi.
From the Associated Press report about the Mali letter:
After its failure in Iraq, say experts who were shown the correspondence, the terror network realized that it is not enough to win territory: They must also learn to govern it if they hope to hold it.
Consequently, Al Qaeda conducted summary executions and maimings in Mali — they even outlawed music — and subsequently lost any potential support they might have ever gained from the people.