Today, the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) provided me the opportunity to write a follow up to my post from last week on Ayman al-Zawahiri’s problems trying to manage al Qaeda’s affiliates in the Levant. Two weeks back, Zawahiri tried to dissolve the union of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and Jabhat al-Nusra and return each group back to its own space in Iraq and Syria respectively. Well, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the emir of the ISI, decided not to comply with Zawahiri’s request publicly (allegedly) noting “Sharia Problems” with Zawahiri’s orders.
I wrote an extended follow up to this update at FPRI noting some of the things I find fascinating about this public disagreement. If interested, here is the link to the FPRI post and here’s a short quote from the post’s conclusion.
Lastly, while al Qaeda may be degrading globally, the West should not mistakenly believe that jihadi violence will necessarily decrease. On the contrary, competing al Qaeda affiliates may actually increase their attack tempo in an effort to assert themselves as the new leader post-Zawahiri and al Qaeda Central. More successful attacks will likely lead to more media attention, more recruits and more resources. As I noted last year in “What if there is no al Qaeda?”, the U.S. may now be encountering many different regional terror groups. Some will require direct engagement and elimination. Some indirect engagement and disruption. And others may only require monitoring and little to no engagement. Ultimately, in a post-al Qaeda-era (much like the post-Soviet-era), analysis, planning and decision-making will in many ways become more difficult rather than less difficult.