Assessing the Threat From al Qaeda

June 27, 2014 • Volume 24, Issue 24
Is the militant Islamist group still a danger to the West?
By Barbara Mantel


An anti-government Sunni militant cleans his weapon (Reuters/Ali al-Mashhadani)
An anti-government Sunni militant cleans his weapon during fighting in Ramadi, Iraq, in January between the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, known as ISIS, and government forces. Al Qaeda cut its ties with ISIS in February over its brutal tactics and challenges to al Qaeda authority. Still considered a serious global threat, al Qaeda is now more decentralized and linked to jihadist groups worldwide. (Reuters/Ali al-Mashhadani)

Since carrying out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, al Qaeda has become more decentralized, and some say stronger, with affiliates launching sectarian attacks in the Middle East, Somalia, Algeria and beyond. The ruthless Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) currently sweeping through Iraq, was a part of al Qaeda until February, when it was expelled for excessive brutality. In Yemen, President Obama has launched more than 90 drone strikes against an al Qaeda affiliate there, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered the most serious direct threat to the United States. Meanwhile, al Qaeda's traditional leadership in Pakistan is weaker as a result of U.S. drone strikes that peaked there in 2010 and the killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALS in 2011. Counterterrorism experts are divided over how to define the al Qaeda of today, whether it continues to pose a danger to the West and how the United States should respond.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
May 14, 2021  Domestic Terrorism
Apr. 09, 2021  Targeted Killings
Apr. 01, 2016  Defeating the Islamic State
Jan. 29, 2016  Unrest in Turkey
Jun. 27, 2014  Assessing the Threat From al Qaeda
Sep. 02, 2011  Remembering 9/11
Sep. 03, 2010  Homegrown Jihadists
Mar. 12, 2010  Prosecuting Terrorists Updated
Nov. 2009  Terrorism and the Internet
Feb. 13, 2009  Homeland Security
Apr. 21, 2006  Port Security
Oct. 14, 2005  Global Jihad
Apr. 02, 2004  Nuclear Proliferation and Terrorism
Feb. 22, 2002  Policing the Borders
Oct. 12, 2001  War on Terrorism
Jul. 21, 1995  Combating Terrorism
Aug. 26, 1988  New Approach to Mideast Terrorism
May 30, 1986  Dealing With Terrorism
Oct. 08, 1982  Prospects for Peace in Northern Ireland
Mar. 27, 1981  Anti-Terrorism: New Priority in Foreign Policy
Dec. 02, 1977  International Terrorism
Jan. 26, 1973  Control of Skyjacking
May 13, 1970  Political Terrorism
Jul. 24, 1952  Red Terrorism in Malaya
Middle East Conflicts
Terrorism and Counterterrorism
U.S. at War: Afghanistan
U.S. at War: Iraq
War and Conflict