The relative strength of al Qaeda remains a point of constant debate – a debate that grows more complicated each year as the definition of al Qaeda becomes ever more amorphous. Earlier this week, I kicked off 2013 with a quick survey question asking readers whether they believe al Qaeda is ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’ as compared to the time of Bin Laden’s death. I’ll post the results of the 24 hours of responses here below. But first, I wanted to show the results of this same question when asked on the first anniversary of Bin Laden’s death.
Starting on May 2, 2012 through July 2012, 197 people answered the following question.
One year after the death of Bin Laden, do you believe al Qaeda as a terrorist organization is ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’? (Use an definition of ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’ that you prefer)
Of the 197 votes cast, just over 75% of respondents thought al Qaeda was ‘weaker’ a year after the death of its founder. Interesting! The first chart here shows the percentage of each professional group choosing ‘stronger’ (blue) or ‘weaker’ (red). Here are some results that I found interesting.
- Government Contractors were most likely to select al Qaeda is ‘stronger’. Why? I’m not sure.
- ‘Academia’, ‘Private Sector’ and ‘Students’ were all solidly of the belief that al Qaeda is ‘weaker’. What are they teaching in academia and how much are students influenced by their professors? May be just a coincidence, but I do wonder.
The following table has the results broken out by different demographic attributes. There were two results that were curious.
- Those living in the DC-Baltimore corridor were more likely to say al Qaeda is ‘weaker’.
- Those that have lived outside the U.S. and E.U. for two years or more were slightly more likely to select al Qaeda as being ‘stronger’. While the difference isn’t large, I do find it curious that those most traveled were more alarmed about a ‘stronger’ al Qaeda. I expected those with more travel under their belt to be less likely to believe al Qaeda is ‘stronger’.
Just this week, I reissued the same question that was asked on May 2, 2012. As of January 1, 2013, is al Qaeda ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’? Here are the results of the respondents that voted to date (and feel free to cast your vote now if interested, I’ll post an updated set of results in the coming days.)
While not a large sample, in the seven months since the first anniversary of Bin Laden’s death, there have been some significant changes in opinion with more believing that al Qaeda is ‘stronger’ than only a few months before.
Some were kind of enough to elaborate on their assessment during this week’s al Qaeda ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’. Here are some of the open responses.
– As the question notes, this answer depends somewhat on one’s definition of “stronger.” While I’m not sure that al-Qaeda is (necessarily) in a particularly strong position in terms of attacking the United States, that doesn’t really seem to be what most of AQ’s branches are focusing on right now. I’d say that the domestic strength and influence of the loose affiliation of regional AQ branches throughout MENA (AQIM, AQAP, Jabhat al-Nusra, ISI/AQI, etc.) is sufficient evidence that al-Qaeda is “stronger” in the sense that they are playing a larger role within MENA itself than they were at the time of bin Laden’s death.
– I think it is getting weaker, as an organisation in Af Pak region and stronger in the mid east, like Syria, Yemen, Libya and Egypt.. But these may be temporary fluctuations unless its ideology is defeated.
– I find this black and white question bullshit and not nuanced. There is no such thing as ‘al-Qaeda’. It depends, which branch or region you are talking about.
– Franchises are stronger or at least holding; AQC weaker but holding
– AQAP is still viable but I think AQ core is a thing of the past. Ideological figureheads maybe, but that’s it. That may be what some AQ core envisioned all along though, to be the vanguard of a movement – not the movement itself. E. g. Abu musab al Suri’s ideas.