The article can be found here [as a pdf file: 5 doubled-spaced pages] or reprinted below in full.
Is Global Jihadism disintegrating? This articles argues that it might be, as I argue that Abbottabada Raid that killed Osama bin Laden appeared to have been much more critical than initially received. The Raid, I argue, might have sealed the doom of the greater Islamic revolutionary idea, that is Al-Qaeda. As what we seemed to have at the present appears to be [a] the unrecognized, or rather unaccepted, authority and legitimacy of Al-Zawahiri, the successor to Osama (I would argue the late Al-Libi might have been the most appropriate commanding natural successor, as Al-Zawahiri seemed naturally relegated to ‘spiritual’ advisory authority and not unified leadership), and also [b] we appear to be witnessing, due to lack of Zawahiri’s authority, the internal wars of successions between various major regional affiliated groups, clearly observable within the Al-Nusra [Syrian]-ISI [Iraqi] squabbles. In short, this article leaves the question, did the Navy Seal raid that killed Osama also sealed the doom of Al-Qaeda and the idea of global Jihad?
The Story so far.
Osama Bin Laden is announced dead. The self-appointed successor comes to the fore though without the same symbolic power of unity and command as Osama enjoyed among the Global Jihadists; since Osama was viewed as an actual emir, a political-military leader (the statesman for the Islamic Jihadists; to use the word of Henry Kissinger, the man you would call when seeking an authoritative and unified voice), while the successor has always been seen as nothing more than a Ulema, a spiritual leader or the court wise-man, though a wise-man with dangerously strict and highly distorted, or rather vengeful ideology (for his past experiences and sufferings). In short, these two complementary events, the death of one person and the rise of another can not be denied to have changed the landscape of the global jihad, and perhaps for worse or better. This is the argument of this article, namely the succession saw the disintegration of a unity away from old Al-Qeda to a new Al-Qaeda with each franchises seeking not only to claim regional authority but rather to ascend other competitive groups as symbolically the rightful successor to Osama’s legacy; the succession competition appears to be measured by how many destructive and highly symbolic operations one group can out against the competitors; this is the worse scenario of the changing nature of post-Osama Global Jihad. For a ‘better scenario’, we can say that these groups appears to be at war with each other as a result of such post-leadership death’s ‘succession war’, which means lesser focus on unified western enemies symbolism as well as the ability to be able to easily manage these group as a result of self-placed divided and rule problem.
First to claim the mantle of successor is AQAP.
Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has continued to increasingly display self-independence by re-branding the movement as consciously targeting western-native Muslims in order to inspire these to their seemingly autonomous global jihad art; the claimant architects of the lone wolves strategy. We even find those close-by to this group, for example actors found around the Horn of Africa and even continental inland in places such as Nigeria (and Boko Haram) seemed also to look towards Yemen rather than the faraway (and mostly cut-off/inaccessible and more foreign) countries of Afghanistan or Pakistan. And we all know before Syria, AQAP was the brand in Europe and among small portion of US Muslims. Here we find the first challengers to the symbolic power of representation of global jihad.
Now fast-forward to Mali.
In Mali we, of course, have seen the role of further locally divided factions of previously Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), the most loyal franchise to central Al-Qaeda (in Afghanistan and Pakistan). However even this group can be seen to be undergoing a sort of internal soul-searching for a new identity to redefine themselves post-Osama’s death. Here Al-Zawahiri, Osama’s successor, appear also less popular as in Yemen. To date however, especially with recent combined western states in partnership with African allies operations in Mali, which seemed to have hinder, temporarily, the group’s transformation from a mere regional key player to a major competitor for succession. Only speculation remains on what will happen next. In short, AQIM can still be seen to be highly interested in becoming a successor, a champion, for global jihadists, only time will tell on how this desired goal ends up.
Move way fast-forward to Syria.
The recent announcement by Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia in relations to claims of Al-Nusra, Syrian-Based and operating unit, as part of it’s outfit, needs no analyst to decipher the ambitious behind such a statement, namely that Al-Qaeda in Iraq [ISI] is really seeking to fight for succession, as the rightful inheritors of Osama’s emir-ship on global jihad. Events here will further inform us all in time. However the point to take is that here we have another competitor in open or two (especially viewed from recent inter-conflict between these two close groups. This article was originally written 24th May 2013).
Still remaining in Syria.
The recent statement by Chechen leader, Usmanov, that Chechen fighters should stay at home and not go to Syria, and the amalgamation of foreigner fighters/Mujahidins under a Chechen leadership, and finally the events in Boston (and those anxiously surrounding the winter Olympics security in Russia), all appears to indicate we might have another old guards (the original members of Al-Qaeda), the Chechens, who are seeking the claims as a rightful successors of Osama, after all they have done to support and build the global jihad movement (as trainers, as leaders, as managers, as fund-raisers: in other words, the old royal guards), this group, as the Yemenis and the Arabs of North Africa and Middle East (the other members of the original group under Azzam and Osama leaderships), believe they deserve that position, and not Zawahiri (a mere [old] spiritual leader, with telling perception that he might have never seen much of front-line fighting unlike Osama).
Then finally we have the younger first generation members, of Far East and even close to ‘home’, Afghanistan and in Pakistan, the young ones are already establishing their own autonomy and perhaps in time they too will take their swords in fight against the once old comrade-brothers in arms; a truly house in chaos.