As a result of the Arab Spring revolutions, al-Qaeda is gaining ground despite the U.S. killing its leader, Osama bin Laden, in May 2011, Reuters reports.
In particular, the Jan. 16 article points out that the Arab Spring has helped al-Qaeda “offshoots and successors” gain ground.
The report highlights al-Qaeda-affiliated group The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking back the Iraqi city of Fallujah, where they had previously been defeated by U.S. forces.
“There are probably more people fighting now under the al Qaeda banner than ever before,” Richard Barrett, former head of the United Nations al-Qaeda and Taliban monitoring team who is now at the Soufan Group consultancy, told Reuters. “But that doesn’t mean they are necessarily fighting for the same thing or even on the same side.”
According to experts cited by Reuters, the new al-Qaeda is not the same terrorist group that carried out the 9/11 attacks against the U.S. Some affiliates, such as Somalia’s al-Shabaab or al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, are not concerned with enemies in the West.
Nevertheless, experts in the article also warn that the terrorist group is “emerging and multiplying” and poses a risk to the West in the form of “small-scale attacks with guns, bombs, or knives.”
An expert warns against complacency.
“Many want to trumpet the demise of core al Qaeda and take solace in the belief… that what we are seeing in Africa and the Levant is not part of some grand strategy,” Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown professor and former U.S. official, told Reuters. “Wishful thinking.”