Robin Simcox’s new report, Al-Qaeda’s Global Footprint: An assessment of al-Qaeda’s Strength Today, analysises the current standing of the world’s most prominent terrorist organisation.
It follows two previous studies on al-Qaeda, Al-Qaeda in the United States and The European Angle to the U.S Terror Threat. Its publication follows the closure of US and European embassies throughout the Middle East, which brought into sharp relief the continued threat that al-Qaeda poses to the West.
The report finds that while the threat posed by al-Qaeda (AQ) can at times be overstated in the media, current trends mean facets of the organization still have the means and ambition to attack Western enemies, notably through the recruitment of Western jihadists fighting in Syria and the potential for violence when they return home, and the dominance of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
It seeks to assess the extent to which AQ franchises in Afghanistan and Pakistan (AfPak) have diminished as a threat to the West, compared with AQ’s ascendancy in Somalia and Yemen, and the growth of AQ inspired terrorism Nigeria. Prime Minister David Cameron has described this as “the work our generation faces”.
Author Robin Simcox finds that while diktats and strategic guidance from AQ’s core leadership (AQC) remain significant, the leadership has limited capacity to co-ordinate operations centrally, meaning that franchises have become increasingly local and regional in their membership, funding and focus.
AQAP is identified as the franchise most capable of launching a 9/11 style ‘spectacular’ attack in the West, as has been highlighted by the recent terror alerts from Yemen. The study notes that the affiliate organisation The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is a potential future threat to the West, due to its increased capacity and the prospect of fighters returning from Jihad in Syria, while ungoverned lands in southern Libya are also proving to be a breeding ground for extremism.