For several months, I have been writing about signs of cooperation—generally on a local level—between al-Qaeda (AQ) groups and others that have sworn fealty to the Islamic State (IS). It might seem counterintuitive that the two, which have accused each other of assassinating leaders, engaged in a very public mutual disowning, and fought each other openly in some areas, would work together at all. But there is growing evidence of localized convergences between the two organizations, especially in Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia. Whether this will turn into something more comprehensive is unclear.
The horrific events at the Bardo Museum in Tunis are a reminder of the growing threat from terrorists and insurgents in the once peaceful country of Tunisia. The Tunisian military is engaged in “open warfare” in certain areas of the country, with serious casualties suffered in complex and sophisticated attacks by insurgents. Many of these are members of the ‘Uqba bin Nafi Brigades – a militant group generally associated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – but there are other terrorist groups more closely linked to the Islamic State (IS).
In regard to the fight against terror, much of the world's attention is currently centered on the Middle Eastern region, and deservedly so. However, the West would be remiss to forget that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its militant Islamic allies, Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) and Ansar Dine, an AQIM-aligned jihadist group, controlled over half of the sovereign territory of Mali prior to French intervention. This two-year mission by France and accompanying nations may provide a promising alternative to anti-terror approaches of recent decades.
On December 3, 2014, SITE Intelligence Group released a video from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), showing a hostage identifying as a British-American citizen named Luke Somers, calmly but sincerely pleading for his life. Before Somers’s plea, AQAP official Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi discusses American foreign policy in Muslim countries, including Yemen, and claims that Somers will suffer an “inevitable fate” if the U.S. does not meet the group’s demands (not specified in the video) in three days.
The decision by President Obama to carry out airstrikes against the Khorasan Group (also called the Khorasan Shura) and al-Qaeda’s (AQ) affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra (or al-Nusra Front), has shifted the conversation over threats to the U.S. from the Islamic State (IS) to AQ.