America's Real Enemy

The Salafi-Jihadi Movement
A report by Katherine Zimmerman

 

Executive Summary

The Salafi-jihadi movement, not a single group or individual, threatens the United States, the West, and Muslim communities.

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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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Definition:

 

An orthodox Sunni Muslim who believe that Muslims must return to the fundamentals of the religion contained entirely and completely within the Qurían and the hadith.

Definition:

 

The ideological movement that holds that it is a religious obligation for individual Muslims to use armed force to cause the establishment of true Muslim state governed under a Salafi interpretation of shariía.

Further Reading:

 

A New Strategy Against ISIS and al Qaeda

The Jihadi Threat

A global strategy for combating al Qaeda and the Islamic State

Definition:

 

Used here to connote violent acts in the way of Allah.

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An uncertain new era in the Arab world

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The al Qaeda network: A new framework for defining the enemy

Thanks to Obama, the terrorist cancer is growing

Definition:

 

The physical network of people, groups, and organizations who subscribe to Salafi-jihadi ideology and operate in pursuit of shared overall goals.

Definition:

 

Islamic religious law.

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The Islamist State: An Attempt at Depicting the Endgame of Islamism

Definition:

 

The Muslim community or nation.

Definition:

 

A term in Islam to mean the sayings and actions of the Prophet.

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Salafism

Definition:

 

An obligatory act for every individual in Islam.

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An obligatory act for the umma to complete.

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The four immediate successors to the Prophet Mohammed (Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali) under whom the Muslim territory expanded beyond the Arabian Peninsula to include what is now Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and parts of Turkey and Libya.

Further Reading:

 

Understanding Isis and Al-Qaeda

Definition:

 

Islamic polity headed by the leader of the entire Muslim community and the religious successor to the Prophet. The Prophet reportedly prophesied the return of the Caliphate after a period of darkness.

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The state of ignorance of divine guidance from Allah.

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The declaration of faith in Islam (la ilaha illa-illahu muhammadun rasulu-llah, "There is no god but Allah. Mohammed is the messenger of Allah").

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Ayman al Zawahiri

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Understanding Isis and Al-Qaeda: Core, Affiliates, and Adherents

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Understanding Isis and Al-Qaeda: Religio-Political Objectives

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Understanding Isis and Al-Qaeda: The Arab Spring

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Egypt's "moderate" despot

Let Egypt fail

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The crumbling deal on Syriaís chemical weapons

Strategy should be defeat of Islamists, not choosing sectarian sides

If Syria can cheat on chemical weapons, why not Iran on nukes?

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The al Qaeda network: A new framework for defining the enemy

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Ansar al Sharia Libya

Ansar al Sharia Tunisia

AQAP

Nasser al Wahayshi

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Insurgency in Yemen: The New Challenge to American Counter-Terrorism Strategy

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The strategy behind ISIS' brutality

Iran vs. ISIS vs. the USA | IN 60 SECONDS

Definition:

 

Plural of wilayah.

Definition:

 

Province.

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The al Qaeda Network: A New Framework for Defining the Enemy

Al Qaeda and its Affiliates in 2013

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Avoiding al Qaeda's Syria trap: Jabhat al Nusra's rebranding

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Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS: Sources of strength

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Yemen War: How the conflict affects the United States | IN 60 SECONDS

Yemen War: A proxy war for Iran and Saudi Arabia | IN 60 SECONDS

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Warning from the Sahel: Al Qaeda's Resurgent Threat

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Warning Update: al Qaeda's Global Attack Campaign

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Missing the target: Why the US has not defeated al Qaeda

The continued expansion of al Qaeda affiliates and their capabilities

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Understanding Isis and Al-Qaeda: Military Action

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Core al-Qaeda is not defeated

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Competing Jihad: The Islamic State and al Qaeda

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Al Qaeda Renewed: It is Decentralized and Dangerous

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Understanding Isis and Al-Qaeda: Societal Fissures

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The Virtual Caliphate: ISIS's Information Warfare

Not "Lone Wolves" After All: How ISIS Guides World's Terror Plots From Afar

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Understanding Isis and Al-Qaeda: al Qaeda and ISIS as Fighting Organizations

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Warning from the Sahel: Al Qaedaís Resurgent Threat

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Leaders and their Networks

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Targeted Killings Can't be Total Strategy to Defeat al Qaeda

Changing Landscape: Jihad in Mali

Abyani Tribes and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen

Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS: Sources of Strength

Supplemental Information

 

Further Reading: Understanding Isis and Al-Qaeda: Implications

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Al Qaeda and ISIS: Existential threats to the US and Europe

Definition:

 

The ideological movement that holds that it is a religious obligation for individual Muslims to use armed force to cause the establishment of true Muslim state governed under a Salafi interpretation of shariía.