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Thirteen years after al-Qaeda’s attack on New York and Washington DC, on 11 September 2001, and after the globalization of the “War on Terror” intended to obliterate al-Qaeda and other Sunni transnational jihadi organizations that supported al-Qaeda, the War on Terror has been far from successful. Launched by President George W. Bush in reaction to 9/11, it did not deprive the alleged terrorists of their safe havens.
The terrorists have not been under siege, their resources and funds have not dried up, and their ideological discourse and electronic propaganda have not been destroyed. As the date for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches—the United States has been in Afghanistan since 2001—the Taliban’s return to power, along with its allies and al-Qaeda, is only a matter of time.
The outcomes of invading Iraq in 2003, under the pretence of the War on Terror, and the withdrawal in 2011 seem catastrophic. Today, the Islamic State (IS) and its international jihadi allies control large areas of Iraq and Syria. Elsewhere Egypt is wrestling with extremists in the Sinai, chaotic Libya is becoming a safe haven for extremists, and the neighbouring countries are therefore being destabilized.Some people hoped for the demise of al-Qaeda because of the peaceful Arab uprisings (the “Arab Spring”) in the first months of 2011, which coincided with the American killing of al-Qaeda’s leader Osama Bin Laden on 2 May 2011.
But al-Qaeda disappointed those who were dreaming of stability and democracy, as the jihadi discourse on the establishment of an ideal Islamic state—whatever its precise nature—quickly regained its appeal, with the militarization of the Arab revolutions, coups during democratization, and the survival of most of the repressive authoritarian regimes.
Al-Qaeda developed new strategies for expanding and repositioning itself in the Arab and Islamic worlds that were based on two supporting principles.
The first is the building of local populist networks under the name Ansar al-Sharia (Supporters of the Sharia), which work to pave the way to a unified regional system while opposing Western hegemony. The new system would be formulated in a way to attract new members of al-Qaeda.
The second is the coupling of the struggle against “close” (regional) and “distant” (Western) enemies by merging al-Qaeda’s local and international approaches. As such, the jihadi agenda is no longer restricted to inflicting harm and vexation but is now aiming for control and empowerment.
Extremism in Iraq
Extremism in Syria
Extremism in Yemen
Extremism in North Africa
Extremism in Libya
Extremism in Tunisia
Extremism in Egypt
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