Why Failing Terrorist Groups Persist: The Case of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb   [open pdf - 1MB]

From the thesis abstract: "Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is less likely to reach its goal of establishing an Islamic state in Algeria than at any time since its earlier history as the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). Yet the group endures. The apparent resilience of AQIM relies less on its actual organization than the environmental factors that have allowed it to persist. By co-opting local anti-government groups, Algerian jihadists have long been allowed to live among and collaborate with Berber and Tuareg separatists. Turning to international notoriety to augment its local jihad the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) became AQIM even though an Al-Qaeda link had long since been established. Effective Algerian security measures have pushed portions of AQIM to ungoverned spaces where regional security pressure is less existent and illicit networks are numerous. Potential ends for AQIM rely heavily on Algeria to bear the weight of the effort, whereas Sahelian initiatives are peripheral to a complete end. U.S. strategy should subordinate the Sahel focus, as a Sahelian solution is not sufficient, while an Algerian solution is both necessary and sufficient to AQIMs demise. AQIM represents a lower priority challenge that, if not dealt with properly, can become a major priority or drag on indefinitely, like the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] in Colombia. The U.S. must strive to meet AQIM with the most appropriate solution with the least force possible to expedite its departure, so that U.S. CT [Counterterrorism] efforts can be engaged elsewhere against remaining Al-Qaeda affiliates."

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