The Rise and Fall of Terrorist Organizations

Osama bin Laden (L) sits with his adviser and purported successor Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian linked to the al Qaeda network, during an interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir (not pictured) in an image supplied by the respected Dawn newspaper November 10, 2001. Al Qaedas elusive leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a mansion outside the Pakistani capital Islamabad, U.S. President Barack Obama said on May 1, 2011. REUTERS/Hamid Mir/Editor/Ausaf Newspaper for Daily Dawn (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: POLITICS CONFLICT IMAGES OF THE DAY). (Foto: HO/Scanpix 2011)

Osama bin Laden (L) sits with his adviser and purported successor Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian linked to the al Qaeda network, during an interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir (not pictured) in an image supplied by the respected Dawn newspaper November 10, 2001. Al Qaedas elusive leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a mansion outside the Pakistani capital Islamabad, U.S. President Barack Obama said on May 1, 2011. REUTERS/Hamid Mir/Editor/Ausaf Newspaper for Daily Dawn (AFGHANISTAN – Tags: POLITICS CONFLICT IMAGES OF THE DAY). (Foto: HO/Scanpix 2011)

In years past, the terrorist organization al-Qaeda dominated newscasts, striking fear and concern across the world as the foremost focus in the war against terror. While al-Qaeda is still a cause for alarm, the recent rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has shifted terrorism fears away from the group that carried out the September 11th attacks. The Joint Special Operations University has published a report that details the decline of al-Qaeda during ISIL’s climb to influence. In the report, The War Within: A Look Inside al-Qaeda’s Undoing, author Jarret Brachman explores this apparent unraveling of al Qaeda in the years since bin Laden’s death as the group’s global terror relevancy is replaced by ISIL.

To perform this analysis, Brachman, “…analyzes letters, blog posts, and social media comments from various ranks within al-Qaeda that show the discontent, frustration, and confusion the once prominent terrorist organization has faced in recent years.” Specifically, 17 letters discovered in bin Ladin’s Abbottabad hideout form the basis for this analysis of organizational fracturing. The organizational fracturing of al Qaeda is further investigated in regards to senior leadership uncertainty and incapability. In addition to this analysis of al Qaeda’s splintering, Brachman reviews the conflicting relationship between ISIL and al Qaeda as well as ISIL’s apparent ability to utilize social media as a recruitment advantage in a way that al Qaeda has been unable to master.

To learn more about the decline of al Qaeda, please review the following resources:

Additional information about the rise of ISIL can be found within the following reports: