America's Real Enemy

The Salafi-Jihadi Movement
A report by Katherine Zimmerman

 

Introduction

America is losing the war on terror, yet many Americans think the United States is winning.

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Staying the Course for Far Too Long

American counterterrorism strategy has not fundamentally changed since the US attacks against Afghanistan after 9/11.

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Why Now?

Salafi-jihadis believe that participation in armed conflict to create a true Islamic polity is obligatory for all true Muslims.

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Understanding the Salafi-Jihadi Movement

The Salafi-jihadi movement manifests as a physical network of like-minded people‚ groups‚ and organizations operating in pursuit of shared overall goals.

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Ideology Unifies the Base

The envisioned end state that both al Qaeda and ISIS pursue is not uniquely theirs.

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From Ideology to Movement

The Salafi-jihadi movement formed through shared experiences as much as it formed through shared ideology, theory, and doctrine.

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The Movement Today and the 2011 Opportunity

The Salafi-jihadi movement‚ and especially al Qaeda leadership‚ seized the opportunity that change had brought to extend its tendrils into local populations in 2011.

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Al Qaeda’s Reemergence

Al Qaeda has crafted itself as a supporter of the local movements.

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The Islamic State Digression

The dramatic conquests of ISIS caught the world’s attention

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The Quiet Return of Al Qaeda

Al Qaeda’s efforts to win over the population continued even as ISIS claimed attention.

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Leading the Salafi-Jihadi Movement

The ongoing competition between al Qaeda and ISIS to lead the global Salafi-jihadi movement is primarily an ideological battle

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Expansion of the Salafi-Jihadi Base

The number of local Salafi-jihadi groups has increased as has their membership since at least 2013.

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Support for the Salafi-Jihadi Base

The start of widespread popular support for the Salafi-jihadi base is the single most significant change that strengthened the Salafi-jihadi movement.

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Changing the Counterterrorism Approach

The US cannot kill its way out of its war with al Qaeda, ISIS, or even the global Salafi-jihadi movement.

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