9/11 attacks: What’s happened to al-Qaeda?
On the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 assaults within the US, the perpetrator – the then-Afghan primarily based jihadist group al-Qaeda – is in a state of disarray.
Its department in Syria was silenced in June by a rival pressure; in Yemen it suffered a defeat by the hands of rebels shortly after dropping its chief in a US drone strike; and the chief of its North Africa department was killed in a French raid in Mali in June and is but to call a successor.
In the meantime, al-Qaeda’s chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been uncharacteristically absent for months, prompting hypothesis that he could be lifeless or incapacitated.
However al-Qaeda’s Africa branches, in Somalia and Mali, stay a potent pressure.
Ideologically, al-Qaeda faces a well-recognized dilemma for the jihadist motion: to modernise and present flexibility to be able to win over strange Muslims, and mainly survive; or follow strict jihadist ideas and danger alienating Muslims.
Every path has its dangers.
The primary might jeopardise the group’s jihadist credentials and result in splits and defections by hardliners, whereas the second might considerably restrict operational capability, even to the purpose of the group’s demise.
In Syria, al-Qaeda – represented by its unannounced department Hurras al-Din – has did not make inroads. That is partly the results of jihadist rivalries on the one hand, and the eagle-eyed surveillance of al-Qaeda officers by the US-led coalition on the opposite.
The group can also be not common on the bottom as Syrians see the al-Qaeda model as a risk and a magnet for presidency and worldwide motion.
Hurras al-Din has been inactive for over two months now following a crackdown by a extra highly effective jihadist group and the concentrating on of a few of its prime officers in suspected US air strikes.
The group’s department in Yemen – al-Qaeda within the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – was as soon as essentially the most feared of all al-Qaeda chapters, however it has suffered a lot of blows this 12 months and is at present one of many organisation’s least energetic branches.
AQAP misplaced its chief in a US drone strike in late January, and just lately misplaced its stronghold within the central Bayda province by the hands of the Houthi rebels.
For years spies seem to have infiltrated the group and facilitated the correct concentrating on of its management figures.
Additionally it is beset by inner divisions.
However one occasion this 12 months confirmed that AQAP was nonetheless enjoying the function for which it was beforehand most feared: orchestrating “lone wolf” assaults within the West.
In February, the group stated it was behind the lethal capturing final December on the Pensacola naval base in Florida that was carried out by Saudi navy trainee Mohammed Alshamrani – a hyperlink the US later confirmed.
Al-Qaeda within the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), one of many franchise’s least energetic branches, misplaced its Algerian chief in a French raid in Mali in early June.
Three months on, the group has but to call a successor.
It isn’t clear why, however – regardless of the motive – a vacant management publish doesn’t replicate effectively on the group.
Algeria and North Africa extra broadly stay powerful for al-Qaeda to make inroads into, given the notorious legacy of jihadists within the 1990s represented by the ultra-extremist Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which was chargeable for the deaths of many Algerian civilians.
The Mali-focused Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), which additionally operates in Burkina Faso and sometimes in Niger, was arrange in March 2017.
After al-Shabab – an al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia – JNIM is the second most energetic al-Qaeda department.
JNIM assaults are largely centered on native troops and international forces, principally French, within the Sahel.
However in current months, it seems to have been side-tracked by battles towards the Islamic State (IS) group.
In February, JNIM confirmed readiness to have interaction in talks with the federal government of Mali, however with the overthrow of the federal government in August and the arrival of a brand new one by a coup, JNIM’s fortunes and subsequent steps are unclear.
Deal with Jerusalem
Al-Shabab is undoubtedly al-Qaeda’s strongest and largest risk in the intervening time.
The group holds territory and workout routines a type of governance throughout most rural areas in central and southern Somalia.
As well as, al-Shabab claims day by day assaults and frequent high-profile operations inside Somalia and sometimes in neighbouring Kenya.
Amongst its huge operations this 12 months is the January assault on the US Manda Bay navy base in Kenya, which left three People lifeless and destroyed a number of planes. Extra just lately, in August, al-Shabab stormed a seaside resort frequented by authorities officers in Mogadishu, killing greater than a dozen folks.
Capitalising on huge assaults by al-Shabab and JNIM, al-Qaeda launched in 2019 its international Jerusalem-focused navy and propaganda marketing campaign, reiterated in 2020, which cites the “liberation of Palestine” as its purported finish aim and situates the US as its ongoing primary enemy.
Message for the US
Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has made just one look this 12 months, in a video in Might.
A month earlier than that, supporters of IS speculated that al-Zawahiri was both lifeless or had suffered a stroke and turn into incapacitated. They primarily based this on his failure to seem in new movies or personally touch upon key occasions.
A number of of al-Qaeda’s central command officers had already died within the Afghanistan-Pakistan area over the previous years or have been killed in US drone strikes in Syria.
The US-Taliban peace deal signed in February, which stipulates that the militant group is not going to shelter any international jihadist organisation, might make it trickier for al-Qaeda officers to discover a secure haven there.
Al-Qaeda, in the meantime, has tried to take advantage of the worldwide well being disaster and race protests within the US to win help for its anti-US authorities message.
The group addressed Western publics usually and people within the US specifically to inform them that their governments had did not help them through the pandemic and that the “racist” remedy of African People within the US might solely be reversed by armed battle.
However it’s uncertain that such messaging from a gaggle chargeable for the most important terror assault on US soil will resonate with the American public, if it reaches them in any respect.