Foreign Policy Blogs

Al-Qaeda being defeated?

According to the latest statements by CIA director Michael Hayden in today's Washington Post, Al-Qaeda's influence and popularity is on the downturn. He says that they do not have the influence that they once had, and that the Iraq invasion providing a platform for increasing their popularity has degraded considerably.

Although this blog focuses solely on Iraq, I can't resist pointing out the sharp contrast between this assessment and the Taliban. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are two separate entities, although it should be noted that they have a lot of similarities. The Taliban is a nationalist movement based on Islam that fights for Pashtuns. Pashtuns are an ethnic group that spill into both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Qaeda is a pan-Islamic movement that embraces the entire Muslim world. According to Beitullah Mehsud in a recent Daily Times article, the Pakistani Taliban is hoping to reach out to a wider audience by uploading more content to YouTube. Since rurals do not have easy access to the internet, this can be seen as an attempt to encourage the growth of the Taliban with young professionals in Pakistan, India, and the wider western world including the UK and the US. They are trying to brand themselves as a more global movement that reaches beyond its current confines of being a nationalist movement for a particular ethnic group. In essence, they want to be the new Al-Qaeda.

My point in bringing the Taliban up in a discussion about Al-Qaeda in Iraq is emphasize that we cannot simply view Al-Qaeda as the only threat. We cannot assume that our enemies are not thinking strategically and attempting to expand. This is a long haul, whether we're still in Iraq and Afghanistan or not. If Al-Qaeda is defeated, we can't assume that the ideology will die with it. We have to focus our efforts on the growth of the ideology in the cracks that we miss.