Thirty years after the formation of Al Qaeda the terrorist organization is gradually showing a resurgence in different parts of the world following the seeming defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Al Qaeda which was founded by Osama bin Laden on August 11, 1988, in Pakistan appears to still be on course with its motivating agenda three decades later as envisioned by bin Laden. The apparent downfall of ISIS is an awakening call for the international community to refocus their energies at Al Qaeda and decimate to Al Qaeda before it unveils its reinvigorated agenda.
Intelligence senior fellows maintain that, despite al Qaeda ostensibly appearing to have suffered a major setback and dying, Al Qaeda remains on course to be exactly what bin Laden envisioned during its inception three decades ago: a covert forerunner that provides the strategic direction and resources to local Islamists movements to support a comprehensive revolt.
Fundamentally, both ISIS and Al Qaeda share a common endgame but differ in execution tactics that make one appear more aggressive and dangerous diverting the attention from the real enemy that is Al Qaeda. ISIS sprouted from nowhere with its shock-and-awe methodology that appeared to offer immediate justice that attracted thousands of purportedly oppressive youths from across the world but was unable to sustain the massive recruits. On the other hand, Al Qaeda uses the long game and recruitment is not as radical and as such inspire more loyalty thereby growing its movement gradually and sustainably. The major execution and recruitment difference between them with ISIS using fear and Al Qaeda using community and sense of belonging to sustain its fighters and advance their ideologies can be accredited as the leading reason why Al Qaeda is more formidable.
Moreover, Al Qaeda in its pursuit for a global revolution, it has conducted several high-profile attacks including 08/98 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, 200o attack of USS Cole in Yemen, 9/11 attack on New York’s World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. The attacks have been very strategic in their targets and execution which stirred the counterinsurgency operations and policy by the US and the global community. The precision of the attacks exhibited a concise planning which has inspired membership into the terror network. Al Qaeda has five affiliates: Jabhat al-Nusrah in Syria; Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen; Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent in South Asia; Al Shabaab in Somalia; and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa. The group also has ties to other groups in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and West Africa.
Aspects That Strengthen Al Qaeda
- ISIS emerged as the more radical, extreme and barbaric of the two regardless of being an offshoot of Al Qaeda thus a similar agenda. Thus, indirectly diverting the attention and counterinsurgency operations from Al Qaeda giving it room to grow and expand replacing ISIS.
- In regions like the Middle East were oppressive regimes are rampant, Al Qaeda takes a humanitarian approach to recruit members as it comes up as the rebellious force that fights for the rights of the citizens. The tactics earn it loyalty and protection from, locals making it stronger and lethal both directly and indirectly by being the lesser of two evils.
- Al Qaeda’s leadership is stronger, patients and more well-groomed especially because they had Osama bin Laden as a mentor. The leadership has maintained a long-term approach that seeks to establish networks with loyalty and mutual respect other than fear.
- The counterterrorism approach against Al Qaeda has remained unchanged for close two decades but the tactics and implementation of their ideology have morphed and adapted making the measures redundant.
- Al Qaeda has without a doubt taken advantage of ISIS’ downfall increasing its presence in the vacated areas by offering an ‘alternative’ leadership filing the power vacuum.
- The organization has maintained its long game and in line with what Osama bin Laden project for it to be a covert forerunner for a global revolution that offers tactical guidance, resources, and support to Islamist organizations across the globe.