February 9, 2014


The jihadist movement: definition and evaluation : The jihadist movement has splintered into many conflicting extremist groups. )Scott Stewart | 28 January 2014, MercatorNet)

The jihadi movement is often portrayed in the press as a monolithic entity, with the entire movement frequently referred to as "al Qaeda" or "al Qaeda-linked militants." In reality the jihadist movement is far more complex. This is why we have titled this series "Gauging the Jihadist Movement" and not simply "Gauging al Qaeda."

As previously discussed, there are a number of jihadist actors and groups, and many of them hold to different religious doctrines and operational tenets. For example, some groups tend to be more nationalistic in nature, such as the Afghan Taliban, while others are more transnational, such as the al Qaeda core. And there is a range of groups with beliefs that fall between these two extremes. Even al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the jihadist franchise group most closely aligned with the al Qaeda core, has conducted terrorist attacks against local and regional targets in addition to transnational targets.

But target selection and the types of attacks employed are not the only differences. Some groups believe in the practice of takfir, or declaring another Muslim to be an unbeliever, while other groups refute takfir as un-Islamic. Some jihadist groups actively attack Shiite and Sufi Muslims while other groups will cooperate with Shiite, Sufi or even secular militant groups fighting for the same cause. There are also differences between groups regarding how Sharia should be administered in areas conquered by jihadist groups. 

We refer to these regional groups that have sworn loyalty to al Qaeda as "franchise groups" because, while they do use the widely recognized transnational brand name, they are very much locally owned and operated. But even among the declared al Qaeda franchise groups, there can be differences in operational doctrine.

In Syria, we have seen these differences among jihadist franchise groups erupt into contention and even armed conflict. This situation has also resulted in open defiance to directives from the al Qaeda core leadership. One al Qaeda franchise group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has continued attempts to subsume another Syrian al Qaeda franchise group, Jabhat al-Nusra, even after al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri ordered the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to confine its efforts to Iraq and allow Jabhat al-Nusra to maintain responsibility for Syria.

Posted by at February 9, 2014 7:08 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus