"The Syrian civil war has allowed al-Qaeda to recover from its setbacks up to 2010. Its main affiliate in the region seems to be testing a new strategy of collaboration with other salafist-jihadist groups and a less brutal implementation of Sharia law in areas its controls. In combination, this might allow the Al Nusrah Front to carve out the sort of territorial control of a region (or state) that al-Qaeda has sought ever since its eviction from Afghanistan. On the other hand, Syria has also seen a civil war between two al-Qaeda inspired factions (Al Nusrah and the Iraq-based Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and there are indications of limits to al-Qaeda's ability to cooperate with other anti-Assad factions and gain popular appeal. The extent that the Syrian civil war offers the means for al-Qaeda to recover from its earlier defeats will determine whether the organization has a future, or if it will become simply an ideology and label adopted by various Islamist movements fighting their own separate struggles."
Strategic Studies Institute: http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/