What if Al Qaida Goes Away

So, now that Bin Laden is dead… Wow.  There’s an opening line that I didn’t think I’d be using soon!

Anyway, this seems like a good opportunity to put up a modest post that will, inshallah, end my hiatus here at On War and Words.

Just a quick thought: it seems to me that there is some chance that this may be the beginning of the end for Al Qaida Central.  Zawahiri doesn’t have the charisma to hold it together and yet he’s by far the biggest name there.  There are also likely to be rivalries within the group.  Furthermore, there is at least some hope that other senior AQ guys may end up dead as a result of exploitation of documents and media found at Bin Laden’s house.

So, let’s just assume that AQ Central goes away.  What would the Salafi Jihadist movement look like then and what would be the implications of such a world?  It seems to me that there are two possibilities. 

  • One is that some other group, most likely AQAP steps up and becomes the new de facto center of the movement.  This world wouldn’t be so different from the one we face at present.
  • The other is that no group steps up to fill that role and that the movement in essence becomes disaggregated along the lines that David Kilcullen has urged.  Under such a scenario, the death of Bin Laden could turn out to be the fundamental turning point of the war against Salafi Jihadism.  The franchises could drift apart, be overtaken by local concerns, and ultimately be defeated and fizzle.  Dare I imagine that they might find themselves in the unmarked grave of discarded ideas?

Of course, it’s too early by far to judge which if either of these is going to come to pass.  However, it might be worth imaging what the indicators would be that would point toward or away from these scenarios.

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Published in: on May 3, 2011 at 2:23 AM  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Al Qaeda lost its moment time ago.

    First of all, terrorism as political violence was the last resource of the weak. Bin Laden dreamt about becoming the vanguard of the Muslim masses. But as happened to the Brigate Rosse and the Rotte Armee Fraktion, the rising of the masses didn’t happen.

    Then we have the turning point that the Iraq civil war became. The sectarian violence waged by Abu Musab al-Zarqwi against the Shia made the “Arab street” be horrified. Even the Sunni who suffered Al Qaeda rule in the “liberated areas” of Iraq found the religious extremism unbearable. They made a deal with the Americans to get rid of the foreigner jihadists. The al-Anbar Awakening, you remember.

    And last, but not least, Al Qaeda went from a loosely hierarchy to a distribuited network with amateurs and copycats. Making a bomb is a serious thing you can’t learn from the Internet. Do you remember how many terrorist plots failed due to bomb mal functioning or law enforcement intervention? Here in Europe we haven’t had civilian casualties in years.

  2. […] What if Al Qaida Goes Away – Mark Stout, On War and Words: http://bit.ly/lUTUbH […]


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