Al-Qaeda Multiplied: Cycle of Violence, Extremism

By Sami Zaatari

On Tuesday, U.S. White House Spokesperson Jay Carney informed the media that Al-Qaeda’s second in command was killed in a drone strike in North Wazirstan, an area well known to be inhabited by militants linked to Al-Qaeda. The killing of Abu Yahya Al-Libi was yet another significant blow to Al-Qaeda, Libi now joins the list of several high-ranking Al-Qaeda leaders to have been killed in the past year.

On the face of it, it would not be far-fetched to say that Al-Qaeda central, the original small movement founded by Bin Laden, which mainly flourished along the Afghan-Pakistan border has been decimated, as well as logistically defeated. Their main leader and founder, Osama Bin Laden has been killed, several other high ranking commanders have been killed, and the number one man in charge of the group, Ayman Al-Zawahiri is deep in hiding with barely any means of communication to other group members, let alone international affiliates in Yemen and North Africa. Add all of this to the fact that Al-Qaeda central has been unable to carry out any major significant attack in the past few years, including any attacks on the U.S., and one can say that Al-Qaeda central is on the ropes.

But even though Al-Qaeda central has been defeated after 10 years, the violence by Al-Qaeda inspired, and Al-Qaeda linked militants continues to carry on. This can be seen in Yemen, were at this moment Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula continues to grow in members, as well as gaining ground within the country alongside its allies. So while one threat has been largely extinguished, another one is increasing, with the violence getting more deadly on a daily basis.

Then you have Iraq, where Al-Qaeda in Iraq, though nowhere near its strength of 2004-2006, continues to operate, and carry out deadly bombings and attacks within the country, and it now seems to be spreading to Syria. Thirdly, you have Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in North Africa as well as the Sahara desert, and they have been responsible for bombings as well as kidnappings. Fourthly, you have violence taking place in Somalia, with one of the main culprits being the Al-Shabab organization. So while Al-Qaeda central has been defeated after 10 years, you have all of these other Al-Qaeda affiliates in existence, and who are causing violence and conflict. So it’s pretty clear that American policy has been an abysmal failure if it thought that defeating Al-Qaeda central would bring a major end to the violence and threat posed to it by militants. On the contrary, the violence has now spread, the groups inspired by Al-Qaeda are increasing, and in some cases are more extreme than their predecessor.

So the question we should be asking is why? A question policy makers simply don’t want to touch on, or don’t want to meaningfully analyze. Obviously something is very wrong with this picture, and it’s quite obvious to see what the problem is.  The problem is America’s foreign policy, America’s policy in combating the foreign threat, or as they used to call it, the ‘war on terror’, has increased the threat level, increased the violence, and has been the cause of further radicalization. American policy makers have yet to figure out that they cannot solve the political crisis which is at the root cause of most of these conflicts, through a military option, which they have been doing for the past 10 years.

American cannot solve political grievances by actions that are the very root cause of those grievances! All we are going to see is a cycle of violence that repeats itself. More drone strikes will occur, more militant leaders will be killed only to be replaced by other leaders, and only to be replaced by other new militant organizations. One only has to look around to see that for themselves, you originally had Al-Qaeda central in Afghan-Pakistan, yet you now have Al-Qaeda inspired militants in the Arabian Peninsula, the wider Middle East, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.

Yet after 10 years, many policy makers have failed to accept this fact, failed to accept this reality, and continue to carry out policies that simply exacerbate the problem. Not only has America’s foreign policy failed on itself, America’s foreign policy failure has badly affected and destabilized other countries, such as Pakistan, Iraq, and now Yemen.

And so the cycle continues…

– Sami Zaatari is an American of Palestinian-Iranian descent. Zaatari is a writer, and a public speaker who has taken part in public events of inter-faith and inter-community discussions. Zaatari also holds an MSc in the field of Middle East Politics. He contributed this article to

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