Al-Qaida, the Tribes and the Government: Lessons and Prospects for Iraq's Unstable Triangle [open pdf - 2MB]
"Dealing with tribal systems has posed a continuing challenge to Al-Qaida as it operates in the Middle East and Africa, where a tribal environment is still an integral part of society in many of the countries. How Al-Qaida views and manages the tribal system within its individual areas of operation, in many cases, can mean the difference between success and failure. The jihadist movement cannot ignore this issue, which has been a major factor affecting its prospects, especially in Iraq. Al-Qaida, in its campaign in post-Saddam Iraq, has had to deal with social realities as part of the human terrain that it has engaged, and the tribal sector represents the bulk of the rural and a sizeable portion even of the urban areas. Given the centrality of the tribes in the country's political and social life, Al-Qaida recognized that Iraq's Sunni tribes would be a critical factor in its overall strategy. However, interacting with the tribes has often proven frustrating and problematical for Al- Qaida and has necessitated adaptation and a rethinking of its basic assumptions and approach to the issue over time. The thesis of this study is that, after painful lessons on the ground, Al-Qaida has sought to learn and to adapt its universalist Islamic ideology to local social and political realities. The organization has progressively adopted a more pragmatic approach toward the tribal factor, although such an approach cannot completely escape its central ideological assumptions and limitations."
Middle East Studies Occasional Papers No. 2
USMC Training And Education Command (TECOM): http://www.tecom.usmc.mil/