WSJ: Al-Qaida Affiliates Growing, Spreading Around Middle East

Monday, 09 Sep 2013 10:50 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The United States is facing a new front in the war against terrorism as jihadist organizations across the Middle East become increasingly fractured, requiring a new strategy to combat terror threats.

According to The Wall Street Journal, two new studies have found that while the core structure of al-Qaida has weakened, regional affiliate groups are on the rise. By one estimate, they now occupy twice as many areas as five years ago.

"Even though core al-Qaida may be in decline, 'al-Qaida-ism,' the movement's ideology, continues to resonate and attract new adherents," says a report from the Bipartisan Policy Center's Homeland Security Project, chaired by former Sept. 11 commission chiefs Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton.

The warnings are echoed in a report issued by the Soufan Group, which concluded, "Terrorists and extremists are, in many ways, in a stronger position today than in the past."

The change signifies a new dimension to the terrorist threats facing the U.S., according to the reports, and will require America to do more to specifically fight jihadist ideology, recruitment, and propaganda if it is to deter "lone-wolf" terrorist attacks, such as the Boston Marathon bombings.

The Bipartisan Policy Center's report says one key area of a potential long-term threat is the al-Qaida affiliate currently fighting the Assad regime in Syria.

It warns the civil war "could create an organization with the intention and capability to attack the West itself," and points in particular to the possibility of jihadist groups accessing the regime's chemical weapons.

Violent extremist groups operating in regional conflicts in the Arab Spring countries in Northern Africa also ultimately could become international terror threats, the report warns, according to the Journal.

The report recommends creation of a permanent investigative panel to launch probes after terror attacks and to analyze clues authorities may have missed. It also recommends the Department of Homeland Security create a position focused on countering jihadist ideology and propaganda, the Journal reported.



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