Expanded role for American mouthpiece of al Qaeda
Screen shot of al Qaeda video released this month featuring American Adam Gadahn (source: SITE)
September 25th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Expanded role for American mouthpiece of al Qaeda

By Wes Bruer

American born al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn has released a new propaganda video in support of rebel uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

The nearly 84-minute video, "Advice and Support to Our Rebel Brothers Against Injustice," was released on extremist websites and forums on September 20, and was reported to have been produced on April 30 by al Qaeda's As-Sahab media wing.

The address to rebels is the second appearance this month Gadahn has made in al Qaeda videos released on jihadist forums.  The two videos are the first Gadahn videos since before Osama bin Laden was killed.

Remarks by the California-born jihadist were included in Ayman Al-Zawahiri's 9/11 anniversary message last Tuesday. In that video, "Truth has Come and Falsehood has Perished," Gadahn condemned statements by President Barack Obama that the United States was not at war with Islam.
"America is crystal clear about its opposition to Islam as a political system, Islam as a ruling system ... and the essence of Islam. So, how can America say that it is not at war with Islam?" Gadahn said.

Gadahn's focus on the Arab world in the video mirrors recent statements by Zawahiri, who as the group's new leader has made building up al Qaeda's influence and operations in the region its top priority in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Since first appearing in an al Qaeda propaganda video under the name Azzam al-Amriki (Azzam the American) in 2004, Gadahn has continued to appear in numerous videos denouncing the West due to his ability to appeal to western Muslims and knowledge of western culture.

But the release of this lengthy video, in which the typically English-speaking Gadahn addresses his audience in Arabic, illustrates that the American's role has expanded beyond a propagandist catering to westerners.

But communications from Gadahn seem to have sharply decreased since his last video in June 2010, which was released following rumors of his death and capture, where he referred to Obama as "snakelike."  In his absence, questions began to rise about the effectiveness of Gadahn's messages and the role he played within the organization he has belonged to for nearly a decade.

Following the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound, internal al Qaeda correspondence published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point show Gadahn had begun to play a key role in al Qaeda strategy.  Gadahn shared his displeasure with bid Laden about certain behaviors exhibited by al Qaeda allies around the world.

"Gadahn appears to have carefully crafted a role for himself in the organization and through competent performance, has presumably garnered the respect necessary to expand that role," according to CTC analysis. "The documents confirm an understanding of Gadahn as media adviser to al-Qa`ida's senior leadership, with Bin Ladin requesting his services by name twice, first to request that he translate a book by British journalist Robert Fisk, and then to provide input about which U.S. television channels to engage with for the 10th anniversary of 9/11."

It appears al Qaeda has tasked Gadahn with focusing on communications.  Unlike fellow American Anwar al Awlaki, who played a significant operational role for al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen before his death in a drone strike last September, little evidence has emerged that Gadahn has been involved in operational matters or attack planning for al Qaeda.

In letters, believed to be addressed to bin Laden and other "shaykhs," Gadahn complained of jihadist forums, saying they are "repulsive to most Muslims" and a liability to the group's legitimacy.  The American also aired grievances over al Qaeda central's ability to control affiliate groups, namely al Qaeda in Iraq and the terror group's latest merger with Somali based al Shabaab.  Among his complaints regarding affiliates was their inability to minimize Muslim civilian casualties and operating without the consent of al Qaeda central leaders.

Although the recent appearances from Gadahn do not represent a heightened threat to America or its interests, they indicate that, after the setback of bin Laden's death, an effort is under way to bolster the group's influence over extremist elements who have taken part in rebellions in the Arab world.

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Filed under: Adam Gadahn • Al-Zawahiri • Terrorism
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