Thomas Hegghammer makes this excellent point: "He (Samir Khan) must have some kind of communication link with the AQAP organization, because the magazine includes pictures from the field and interviews with AQAP members. At the same time, Inspire contains less original material than AQAP’s Arabic-language magazine Sada al-Malahim, which suggests he is further removed from the organization than his colleagues over at Sada al-Malahim."
Here is Clint Watts making a good point, but it is one where I have a very slight disagreement.
Khan’s strategy provides a diluted strategic vision for AQAP and AQ as a whole. I imagine Abu Musab al-Suri, AQ’s noteworthy strategist, would be extremely frustrated by such a weak plan of action. Shooting sprees and mowing down of pedestrians on crowded streets; these are not the attacks of strategic vision. Khan’s suggested strategy is more similar to the approach of anarchist groups. Khan’s “get your jihad on at home” approach:
1) points to no apparent strategic goal; how would this support the formation of a caliphate, promote Islamic law, deface a symbolic American target, or weaken the U.S.?
He's absolutely right; this is kiddie-terrorism, disgruntled mailman nonsense. I went over that in the last post (which while perhaps not as erudite as those above, has more gratuitous swearing). Where I slightly diverge is that there is a bit of a strategic goal here for AQAP, or at the very least an ancillary benefit. Samir Khan is nothing to the leadership, if he got taken out by a drone or (more likely) shot himself in the face while posing in a tough-guy picture, they wouldn't miss a beat. As Thomas pointed out, there is little direct contact. But what the hell- he doesn't cost a lot, if anything, and if someone in America takes out an intersection or mows down a Pier 1 while shouting in Arabic, there will be breathless media hype. AQAP is still consistently establishing their bona-fides, and if America can go nuts over something that cost them nothing it furthers their goal as appearing to traveling jihadis as the primary Qaeda group.
Yes, a lot of this will be the fault of an instant-react media and what Clint terms "ePundits". Would that I could make them stop reacting to nonsense- but that isn't going to happen. Overall, broadly, these attacks wouldn't do anything. Their impact would only be based on our reaction. But our reaction will be disproportionate. And for an AQAP that is looking to form an army, continuing to have their name out there is a victory.