A Persistent Threat

A Persistent Threat: The Evolution of al Qa'ida and Other Salafi Jihadists

Seth G. Jones
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: RAND Corporation
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  • Book Info
    A Persistent Threat
    Book Description:

    This report examines the status and evolution of al Qa’ida and other Salafi-jihadist groups, and uses qualitative and quantitative data to assess whether this movement has strengthened. The author uses this analysis to examine U.S. strategic options to counter al Qa’ida and other terrorist groups based on the threat level and the capacity of local governments.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8720-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Summary
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Since al Qa’ida’s establishment in 1988, the movement has experienced a series of successes and failures. These ebbs and flows can be characterized as “waves” (surges in terrorist activity) and “reverse waves” (setbacks), which varied in their duration and levels of violence.¹ The first wave picked up momentum in the 1990s and crested with the September 11, 2001, attacks. It was followed by a reversal as al Qa’ida leaders and operatives were captured or killed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States, and other countries across the globe. A second wave began around 2003 after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and...

  8. CHAPTER TWO A Decentralized Movement
    (pp. 7-24)

    In May 2013, al Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri sent a terse note to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (also known as ’Abu Du’a), the emir of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, and Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, the emir of Jabhat al-Nusrah. Zawahiri’s purpose was straightforward: to resolve an escalating dispute between the two leaders over command-and-control arrangements. Jawlani wanted his organization to become a separate al Qa’ida affiliate that reported directly to core al Qa’ida in Pakistan. Baghdadi wanted Jabhat al-Nusrah to continue under his umbrella. The roots of the conflict dated back to 2011. As the insurgency in Syria began,...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Growing Capabilities
    (pp. 25-48)

    In September 2013, al Shabaab operatives grabbed international headlines by conducting a deadly attack at the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 59 people and wounding nearly 200 others. The attackers carefully selected the Westgate Mall among possible alternatives; conducted intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; moved operatives and equipment into place; performed rehearsals; executed the attack; and implemented an information campaign before, during, and after the attack.¹ During the attack, they utilized Twitter to update followers and orchestrate a propaganda campaign. Two months after the operation, al Shabaab released a special edition of its magazine,Gaidi Mtaani, devoted...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Strategic Options
    (pp. 49-62)

    How should the United States respond to a diffuse yet spreading movement of Salafi-jihadist groups? Current trends suggest that the United States needs to remain focused on countering the proliferation of Salafi-jihadist groups in North Africa, the Middle East, and even South Asia, with the downsizing of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. This is particularly important with the temptation to “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific region and to decrease counterterrorism resources in a constrained fiscal environment. The U.S. Department of Defense’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, for example, bluntly noted that the United States should be “principally focused on preparing for the...

  11. APPENDIX List of Salafi-Jihadist Groups
    (pp. 63-66)
  12. About the Author
    (pp. 67-68)
  13. Endnotes
    (pp. 69-84)
  14. Index
    (pp. 85-92)