Publications Notes de l'Ifri

Al-Qaeda in a Changing Region Notes de l'Ifri, September 2012

On Tuesday 10 April 2012, Osama bin Laden was finally replaced on the FBI’s most wanted list by a fugitive schoolteacher accused of possessing child pornography. As the United States’ perception of threat has shifted, so too has the broader national security discourse. The prominent al-Qaeda analyst Peter Bergen observed that the terrorist group which launched the 9/11 attacks is now more or less out of business. He argued, too, that it is time to declare al-Qaeda defeated and “move on to focus on the essential challenges now facing America”: fixing the country’s economy, containing a rising China, managing the rogue regime in North Korea, and continuing to delay Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Al-Qaeda in a Changing Region

This change represents more than perspective regained inside the United States; it is also a reflection of the significant reversals suffered by al-Qaeda in the last five years. These wounds were, in many ways, self-inflicted – arising, as they did, from one essential and undeniable fact: most of al-Qaeda’s victims, since 9/11, have been Muslim civilians. The impact of this reality was, in the words of Osama bin Laden taken from a letter written in 2010, “the alienation of most of the [Muslim] nation from the muhajidin”. In that same correspondence, captured by US Special Forces during the raid on his Abbottabad hideout in 2011, bin Laden called for a “new phase of amendment and development” in order to regain the trust of the Muslims masses. Al-Qaeda does indeed find itself at the threshold of a new era, thrust upon it by its strategic crisis as well as by the dramatically changing regional landscape. But do these shifting sands work to al-Qaeda advantage, or will they only guarantee its decline?

Dr Alia Brahimi is a Research Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Senior Research Associate at the University of Oxford. She is the author of Jihad and Just War in the War on Terror (OUP, 2010).


Al-Qaeda in a Changing Region
Al Qaeda Terrorism