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But in Mali I realized how wrong they were, because I’m sitting there holding letters from the general manager of al Qaeda to some dude in Mali—letters that were couriered across the desert, across the ocean from Yemen.And this is an organization that has no control over its affiliates? That was when I went, “Oh my God, I’ve been taking what the government says at face value.” Because this is such a difficult beat, you often don’t have anywhere else to turn.The administration’s narrative was that they had defeated this terrorist group.The Obama administration had killed bin Laden, but the analysis was wrong.When I was publishing those stories in 2013, there was so much pushback on me from editors and then from readers.
The truth, she has found, is as much online as it is on the ground. Callimachi: In December 2006, I became the West Africa correspondent for the Associated Press.Sure, she spends months every year out of the country reporting, but increasingly her work requires just as much time staring at her phone and computer screen.Social media enables Callimachi to access what she calls the “inner world of jihadists”; she lurks in Telegram chat rooms, navigates an endless flood of tips on Twitter, and carefully tracks sources and subjects all over the Internet.As it happened, that was the year that a group there pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and became their North African branch.Very quickly, large swaths of their area were deemed too dangerous for a Westerner to visit, and I saw my own world shrink as a result.