Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Resurgent Threat of al Qaeda

After bin Laden’s death, it has become a vast and deadly network of groups spread from Syria to Yemen to Afghanistan

By Ali Soufan, WSJ
April 21, 2017 11:03 a.m. ET

In the nearly six years since Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEALs, the terrorist organization he founded has practically vanished from American news coverage. Al Qaeda has been eclipsed by the rise of the self-styled Islamic State—a group that began as al Qaeda’s Iraqi franchise but broke away in 2014.

It may appear that al Qaeda has simply declined, but that is very far from the truth. Since the death of its founder, it has transformed itself from a close-knit terrorist outfit with a handful of struggling affiliates into a vast network of insurgent groups spread from Southeast Asia to northwest Africa. Together, this network now commands an army of tens of thousands of Islamist militants. Years after bin Laden’s death, they stand united in their commitment to his ideology. We have killed the messenger, but the message lives on.

In its first two decades, al Qaeda (“the base” in Arabic) focused on fighting the U.S. and its allies head-on. But in early 2011, amid the upheaval of the Arab Spring, bin Laden ordered an about-face in the group’s aims. Instead of mainly pursuing the U.S. (“the far enemy”), he directed al Qaeda’s franchises to turn inward and join the popular battle to bring down impious local Arab regimes (“the near enemy”). He hoped that this would build up al Qaeda’s strength for an eventual showdown with the U.S. Bin Laden didn’t live to see the fruits of this approach, but they have been considerable.

(More here.)

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