The swift march into Mali by a band of Islamist thugs demonstrates an efficient, opportunistic filling of a security vacuum more than an increase in jihadist power or influence, writes Andy Liepman.
Last week's terrorist attack at the In Amenas gas complex in Algeria, along with the recent success of the militant groups fighting government forces in Mali, indicate al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are gaining influence in North Africa. RAND experts weigh in on the latest developments.
As in most war zones and high threat environments, one of the dangers to guard against is complacency...people become accustomed to a certain level of danger and assume that they have everything under control, when in fact they may have not fully thought through the problems posed by an enemy that is continually innovating, writes William Young.
Much like the struggle against the Soviet Union and Communism during the Cold War, it appears increasingly likely that the struggle against radical Islamic groups will last several decades, writes Seth G. Jones.
In the fight against al Qaeda, both President Obama and Governor Romney should place greater emphasis on the expansion of al Qaeda's global network beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Recently declassified correspondence seized in the bin Laden raid shows that the relentless pressure from the drone campaign on al-Qaida in Pakistan led bin Laden to advise al-Qaida operatives to leave Pakistan's Tribal Areas as no longer safe, writes Patrick B. Johnston.
Assuming Assad's regime eventually collapses, a robust al Qaeda presence will undermine transition efforts and pose a major threat to regional stability, writes Seth Jones.
The United States confronts a more diverse terrorist threat in 2012 than it has in the past. Al Qaeda has exploited the turmoil created by the Arab uprisings to make tactical advances and open new fronts. In addition, several incidents in the past year suggest a resurgence of Iranian-sponsored terrorism.
Would-be jihadist warriors are angry, eager for adventure, out to assuage personal humiliation and demonstrate their manhood. Many appear to be motivated by personal crises—terrorism does not attract the well adjusted, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.
Over time, al Qaeda could just fade away. Always resilient, it may morph to survive. Developments on any of several fronts might even enable it to rise again. In a long contest, surprises must be expected, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.
As the administration looks eastward—a strategy that incorporates China's rise—underestimating al Qaeda would be a dangerous mistake, writes Seth G. Jones.
Predictions of al Qaeda's imminent demise are rooted more in wishful thinking and politicians' desire for applause lines than in rigorous analysis, writes Seth G. Jones.
For their part, a younger generation of female jihadists has come to believe that acts of violence can be just as liberating politically and spiritually for women as for men, writes Karla Cunningham.
Based on America's recent experience in irregular warfare and future threats, there are several issues that should be considered: organization, the health of U.S. soldiers and their families, training and education, and inter-agency cooperation.
Iran is in many ways a safer territory from which al Qaeda can operate. The United States has targeted al Qaeda in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries, but it has limited operational reach in Iran, writes Seth G. Jones.
The immediate risks posed by al Qaeda's online campaign do not justify attempting to impose controls that could be costly to enforce and produce unintended consequences. However, the situation warrants continued monitoring for signals of new dangers.
In focusing on the Haqqani network—which enjoys little popular support in Afghanistan—the United States is neglecting the more important (and difficult) task of dealing with the Taliban sanctuary in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province, writes Seth G. Jones.
Though Awlaki will be difficult to replace—since he effectively coupled both propaganda and operations—al-Qaeda will continue to plan attacks overseas against Western targets, writes Seth Jones.
Without the support of U.S. troops, the Afghan government would likely collapse to Taliban forces, backed by neighboring Pakistan, writes Seth G. Jones.
Fear has made al-Qaeda the world's top terrorist nuclear power, yet it possesses not a single nuke. This is a lesson in how terrorism works, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.
We have greatly reduced al Qaeda's capacity for large-scale attacks, but the terrorist
campaign led by al Qaeda may go on for many years. It is fair to call it a war, without implying
that, like America’s past wars, it must have a finite ending.
On June 16, 2011, the RAND Corporation presented "After bin Laden: The United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan" as part of its public outreach series in Santa Monica, California. The program featured senior political scientist Seth Jones, an expert on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and al Qa'ida who has worked abroad in conflict zones over the last several years.
Bin Laden was chairman of the board, not CEO, using his moral authority to urge his tiny army forward, pointing out new ways to kill Americans, encouraging followers to think outside the typical terrorist playbook, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.
Captured financial documents of al-Qa'ida's Iraq affiliate in Anbar Province revealed its internal operations and enabled one of the most comprehensive assessments of an al-Qa'ida linked group, write Benjamin Bahney, Renny McPherson, and Howard J. Shatz.
Given how markets are responding thus far, Osama Bin Laden's death is likely to have a modestly positive and buoyant effect on equity markets, writes Charles Wolf, Jr.
Even after the death of Osama bin Laden, al Qa'ida and allied groups continue to present a grave threat to the United States and its allies by overseeing and encouraging terrorist operations, managing a robust propaganda campaign, conducting training, and facilitating financial assistance.
Wary of communicating with each other and with al Qaeda's field commands, al Qaeda central could become more isolated, more dependent on its affiliates, allied groups, and individual acolytes, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.
Of the plots foiled in the last 10 years on U.S. soil, the would-be terrorists came from many different ethnic groups. We know of no cases where ethnic profiling helped stop a terrorist plot, write John Hollywood and Kevin J. Strom.
It makes little sense to abandon Pakistan and cut off all financial assistance...but America could reduce part of its security assistance, focusing instead on economic and humanitarian aid, writes Seth Jones.
The U.S. military strategy should transition to an Afghan-led counterinsurgency strategy which would involve decreasing the U.S. military footprint and relying on Special Operations Forces to help Afghans conduct counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations.
The unanswered question is just what will endure in the Arab world: comparatively peaceful demonstrations leading to regime change, or brutal tactics by authoritarian regimes to crush dissent and cling to power, writes John Parachini.
A truly monumental attack that could cripple key U.S. computer systems — something akin to the Stuxnet worms attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure, for example — would take many months of planning, significant expertise, and a great deal of money to pull off, writes Isaac Porche.
Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser at the RAND Corporation, spoke with RAND media relations director Jeffrey Hiday about the death of Osama bin Laden and how it might affect al Qaeda, the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan, and more.
In a PBS NewsHour interview, Jeffrey Brown speaks with Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation and Celeste Ward Gventer of the University of Texas at Austin about how Osama bin Laden's death might influence the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces from Afghanistan.
There may be some spontaneous acts by individuals enraged by Bin Laden's death who are inspired to follow him into martyrdom. But these are the spasms of reaction, not planned retaliatory operations, and will not demonstrate that Al Qaeda can survive Bin Laden, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.
If some measure of democracy does result, the elected governments likely will reflect the popular antipathy that the "Arab street" has for both the United States and Israel, writes David Aaron.
What's needed is an international conference of all the regional players that have a greater stake in the outcome of the Afghan/Pakistan conflict than does the U.S., writes David Aaron.
Even before the killing of Osama bin Laden, with the growing instability across the Arab world, some argued that the primary al Qa'ida threat now comes from the Persian Gulf or North Africa. While these regions certainly present a threat to Western security, al Qa'ida's primary command and control structure remains situated in Pakistan.