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ISIL’s Adaptive, Evolving Tactics: Regional & Global Implications

The triple attacks at a chemical plant in France, a beachside resort in Tunisia and a Shi’ite mosque in Kuwait, happened as Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani as-Shami implored ISIL sympathizers to perform jihad during Ramadan. ISIL fighters also re entered the outskirts of the town of Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) and reportedly massacred over two hundred[…]

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How to Truly Defeat ISIL

In 2011, it was widely assumed that the so-called “Arab Spring” would render groups like al-Qaeda irrelevant, as dissidents would find that they could achieve their goals for reformation through the ballot box rather than needing to rely on violence. I was one of the early and consistent cynics of this thesis. It seemed clear[…]

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The “Islamic State” and the “Bewildered Herd”

Walter Lippmann and Edward Bernays were masters at understanding how images and rhetoric could be manipulated in order to trigger certain psychological responses from the public. They perfected this craft over the course of World War I, while serving as advisers to President Wilson. Bernays served on the Committee for Public Information (Creel Committee), tasked with turning[…]

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Barbarians at the Gate: ISIS, Al-Qaeda and India

On September 3rd, Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda Central (AQC) announced the establishment of a new branch: al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Zawahiri, often described as “long on words and short on charm”  delivered a characteristically ambling and inchoate message. He explained how the new group was the “blessed result”  of[…]

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Sunni Leaders Are Key to Fighting Islamic State: An Optimistic View

While young Muslims from around the world continue to flood into the battlefields Syria, Obama’s two key diplomats in the coming war against the so-called Islamic State are also on the move. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel just flew to Turkey to enlist the country’s military support along its southern border with Syria, and Secretary[…]

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Al-Qaeda Contra the “Caliphate:” A Guide for the Perplexed

The public discourse about transnational jihadist organizations indiscriminately lumps together al-Qaeda, its forerunners (such as the Taliban), affiliates (such as Jahbat al-Nusra), its derivatives (such as Ansar al-Sharia or the Islamic State), and even groups which have no strong connection to al-Qaeda or such as Hamas, Hezbollah, or local tribal militants. It is not just[…]

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Sectarian Jihad: A Confusing New Fashion

On December 10, 2013, Foreign Policy Magazine reported that the number of foreign fighters participating in the fight against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has eclipsed the number of jihadists who fought side-by-side in Afghanistan in the 1980s. “At this rate,” according to Foreign Policy’s Thomas Hegghammer, “the foreign fighter flow into Syria looks set to[…]

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The Syrian Conflict – An Unnatural Resource

Participation in the Syrian Conflict, albeit token, provides the Tehrik-i-Taliban with important symbolic and material resources. Crisis creates opportunity. The chronic instability, governance vacuums, and bitter fighting characterizing large swaths of Syria has provided some Islamist militant groups a highly-public platform to reap the spoils of conflict. The participation of groups like the Islamic State of[…]

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Abu Anas Arrested: But will a too-late victory for America hasten the early demise of Libya?

Image: Libyans burn an American flag in protest of al-Libi’s “kidnapping” On October 5th 2013, in a joint operation between the CIA and U.S. Special Forces, the United States captured and extracted Nazih Abdul-Gamed al-Ruqai, known popularly as Abu Anas al-Libi (not to be confused with the late Abu Yaya al-Libi of AQSL). Abu Anas[…]

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A Holy Alliance in Syria Threatens Wholesale U.S. Support for Opposition Forces

The Enemy of my Enemy is still my Enemy As early as last December 2012, U.S. diplomats active in Syria have prescribed caution in treating Syrian rebels fighting the oppressive regime of Bashar al-Assad as friendly to the United States. While the axiomatic “enemy of my enemy” cliché has been an antiquated notion since the[…]

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Al-Qaeda’s Renaissance: The Arab Spring and the New Mujahadeen

Musa al-Gharbi Following the military coup which removed Hosni Mubarak, it was widely reported that al-Qaeda was rendered obsolete by the Arab Spring. Fareed Zakaria, for instance, pronounced: “The Arab Revolts of 2011 represent a total repudiation of al Qaeda’s founding ideology. For 20 years, al Qaeda has said that the regimes of the Arab[…]