Has Al Queda been effectively sidelined?

Considering all the news about Libya and the Middle East demonstrations in particular, has this been a devastating blow to Al Quedas political message, or are we speaking too soon?

I’m interested in a quote a Muslim Brotherhood associate said:

How does that possibly jive with the multiple stories floating around regarding the collaboration between Al Queda and the Libyan rebel forces.

Yeah, they have been for a while IMHO…their C&C was basically gutted in the early stages of the invasion of Afghanistan, and the splinter groups in Iraq managed to alienate just about everyone there. They are still fighting the good fight in Afghanistan along side the Taliban, but ultimately they will lose there as well…though that doesn’t mean we’ll win. And that has relegated them to the tactical level in any case…they can’t have much, even with outside groups attempting to associate themselves with the brand, so to speak, to be thinking strategic anymore.

I think Iraq was really the death knell though…they used incredibly brutal tactics there, and I think that a lot of folks in the Muslim world saw them for what they are…just brutal, cold blooded terrorists. We didn’t win many friends in Iraq or the ME for our stupid invasion…but I think AQ lost even more there than we did.


Correction ‘20 fighters affiliated with al queda fight with rebel forces’

I believe that as well, on a more political note though, have they lost the argument in the whole region due to the seismic shift in politics of the region of the last 3-4 months?

Al Qaeda was always going to marginalize itself over time: they’re fanatics, don’t believe in compromising, have no platform to govern anyone, and they’ve killed more Muslims than infidels. I think that was already pretty clear, but the fact that some of the autocrats in the Middle East have fallen without AQ, violence or terrorism doesn’t help them.

I understand that, but with some of the autocrats gone, their appeal will maybe be limited due to the opening up of the system to at least some representation.

Exactly. I think that people are seeing that they don’t need people who are going to be as or even more brutal to them than to the infidel enemies in order to affect real change in their nations. Another point is they don’t need us to help them affect that change either…they can do it all on their own (or with a little help at most, in extreme cases like Libya).

I think that it’s been a gradual shift in attitude as the people in the region really saw the actual face of AQ. That said, yeah…I think the last few months have been even more enlightening, as they found out that they didn’t have to put up with corrupt governments and no say. They could effect change on their own, if they really wanted too.


The sentiment expressed in the OP has definitely been mentioned by movers and shakers that I know, and it has definitely caught jihadists off guard. In addition to what xtisme added, AQ has been fighting a losing argument with other Jihadi groups over their targets and tactics since 9/11. Their marginalization is a long work-in progress.

I think it’s too early to count them out. First of all we’ve seen things can change but will it change for the better. If Egypt is no better under the post-Mubarak regime then people will start to again question other methods.

Al-Queda also specializes in symbolism. They’re not interested in committing terror unless it has symbolic meaning. If they wanted to kill people placing 20 suicide bombers in crowded malls would inspire a huge amount of terror. There are tons of ways to kill people

But they want the killings to be big time and to target symbols of their enemies.

As we’ve yet to see what comes out of the changes in Egypt and Tunisia and the violence in Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Syria, it still is too soon to write them off.

Which begs the question, has this Al Queda ‘threat’ been overblown considering the changes in the beginning of this year?

It’s even shown Islamism not to be a real monolithic bloc, especially in Egypt where you had the Muslim brotherhood as the main represenative of the opposition (Besides Wafd) and now Mubarak has gone the tie has snapped and there’s more plurality within the political movements. If traditional Islamic conservatism can reconcile itself with the democratic process then the appeal of radical Islamism is effectively reduced.

At least within the Jihadi community, though, there is a pretty strong split between fighting the local enemy (say, Israel, or US troops in Iraq) and the faraway enemy (going to the US to bomb there). While we may very well see a resurgence in those emphasizing on the former which could lead to a rising tide that makes AQ type terrorists more common as well, I think it’s too soon to tell. Obviously, I hope it doesn’t work out like that.

Sorry, what do you mean by overblown?

You are right, Islamism is definitely not a monolith.

That’s another plus, yes. Or a minus from AQ’s standpoint. Blowing yourself up looks that much more insane if you can vote instead.

It’s waaaaaaaay too soon to say they’ve been sidelined. Al Qaeda thrives by exploiting unstable regimes, and we’ve got some serious instability going on right now. Any of these MENA countries could become pretty darn unstable at any time now.

Plus, they’re pretty much just waiting it out in Pakistan until we finally pack up and leave Afghanistan.

This ain’t over by a long shot.

I agree with John Mace, with the small caveat that what continues to be a threat is more militants with AQ-style tactics and goals rather than necessarily the specific organization with Osama, Zarqawi, and whoever is #3 this month. Which makes marginalization more difficult, but luckily, there are a lot of people working very hard from many countries for that specific goal.

OK, we need to keep in perspective what they are and are not capable of. AQ launches often spectacular terrorist attacks on the global stage, but it’s getting harder to imagine them developing any real political control anywhere.

Do AQ really exist? Once upon a time they may have been a small group around ObL, but generally the idea of an international group with a unified leadership apparatus has just been put about by politicians seeking to monger fear and ObL trying to look big in front of his friends. Right from the start AQ has just been a name any gang of mad fundies can take for themselves when they set up a violent revolutionary group to fight Christians in Sulawesi, or whatever their particular interest is. There’s no such organisation as al-Qaeda.

If you mean have revolutionary Islamist political movements been sidelined, it’s too early to tell.