The global significance and relevance of Qaeda has been question since the death of Osama bin Laden. Former irector of the CIA
’s Political Strategic Analysis Program Emile Nakhleh argues that Qaeda central has numerous regional affiliates across the world should be wary.
have been lulled by the diminishing significance and reach of central, especially since the death of bin and the capturing and killing of numerous senior leaders. The threat from regional terrorist organizations connected to , however, has grown significantly.
A terrorist crescent is casting its shadow across Africa and the Middle East, from Syria to Bahrain. This is due in large part to autocratic rule across the region, repression of human rights, suppression of political activity, and promotion of sectarianism. Ignoring this threat would be detrimental to regional and global security and stability.
The seizure of the oil facility in Algeria earlier this year, the bloody conflict in Mali, and Shabab attack on the Nairobi mall demonstrate the regional reach of some of these groups.
The resurgence of
these groups such as al –Shabab in Somalia and in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen is aided by their abroad , often Western countries, as well as by a lack of government accountability and political stability in the areas they thrive.
Drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia have successfully targeted terrorist leaders, but have also engendered fear, anger, and resentment amonglarge segments of Muslim societies. Affected communities in some of these areas view the civilian
s from drone strikes as evidence of US callousness toward the Muslim world.
Some interpret these “signature” and “targeted” strikes as a war on Islam. In their view, the nowdefunct “Global War on Terror” has devolved into a bloody war against specific Muslim communities in areas like Yemen and Somalia. Government authority is practically non-existent in many of these tribal areas, making it impossible for civiliansto turn to officials for help.
i, Somali, Pakistan i d any prior knowledge of these drone or missile strikes Muslim anger the United States. SMPerceptions of these American-led “dirty wars” against parts of the Muslim world make it difficult to engage mainstream Muslim communities, groups, NGOs, and political parties.
Regional terrorism has developed in North and West Africa and the Sahel countries through to East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant. In Africa’s Sahel, regional groups include Boko Haram in Nigeria, Ansar in Mali, Harakat al
–Tawhid wa al –Jihad in Niger, and al-in Chad. Of course, Al –Shabab has operated for years in Somalia. In North Africa, groups include in the Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar al-Sharia, and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Groups like AQAP in Yemen, in Iraq, and Jabhat alNusra in Syria now thrive in the Middle East.
Outside the Muslim heartland, message continues to lure vulnerable youth in Western societies into terrorism. of these angry, alienated, gullible, unemployed or underemployed youth first or second-generation Muslim immigrants or asylum seekers. Others are converts to Islam.
These “lone wolf” recruits have not integrated well into Western societies. They are not well versed in the Koran or Islamic theology, and tend to accept the questionable religious justification of violent jihad. Some driven bypersonal experiences, a close relative by a drone strike or by the security services in their home countries, which they accuse of collusion with the United States. These young recruits begin to feel like part of a virtual community or umma regardless of whether or not they or their families have had any connections to jihadist groups or causes.
These regional terrorist groups are not under the command and control of the original group, and are often focused on local or regional agendas. But they do support B message of global jihad and its perennial battle with the West and mainstream Muslim governments have declared allegiance
or bay’ato entral.
Central’s approval, n Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra (and other jihadist groups) in Syria with an eye toward setting up an umbrella group known as in the Levant.
What is most worrisome is that a younger and more violent generation of leaders is emerging in the post- era. It’s as if the “old guard” has passed on the mantle to a new set of fighters and ideologues
, Nas ir al-Wuhayshi, the of AQAP.
It’s vital that terrorism analysts know whether or not entral is devolving into a loosely connected network of regional terror organizations operating out of different areas around the world.
is former irector of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program at CIA and author of A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World