This means that Al Qaeda is no longer the terror network we once knew it to be. Today, Al Qaeda can arguably be construed as a label for radical Sunni Islamic factions. As an example, Somalia’s Al Shabaab Islamic terror group is a single terrorist organization yet members have a history serving within the Al Qaeda network. It is a completely separated organization yet often labeled as one falling within the Al Qaeda domain due to some continued ties between the two.
Understanding an elementary example of Al Shabaab, one should ponder then whether it is reasonable to include the non-Sunni factions known to be aligned with Al Qaeda as elements within Al Qaeda itself. As an example, it is known that Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist group, has close ties with Al Qaeda. In fact, today, many CT professionals understand how closely tied Al Qaeda has become with Iran itself.
The Iranian-Hezbollah-al Qaeda relationship is known. Most recently, U.S. courts revealed the 9-11 alliance. Surprisingly, no counterterrorist specialist will ever claim Hezbollah or Iran is part of Al Qaeda.
Why won’t an agreement be made claiming Hezbollah falls under Al Qaeda? The simplest reason often obtained is that “Hezbollah is Shiite and Al Qaeda is Sunni.” Amazingly, professionals will observe one ideology stemming from religious differences but not through any other known ideology—especially, the ideology of power.
So a few key questions must be asked when attempting to understand what Al Qaeda truly is today. First, is Al Qaeda still the terrorist network it was once believed to be? Secondly, has too much emphasis on ideology been placed on today’s different radical Islamic terrorist organizations? Lastly, should counterterrorist professionals even stress about Al Qaeda any longer as one large terror movement or should they simply concentrate on the hundreds of terrorist groups in existence?
The later of these questions is likely the most debatable of those listed needing to be answered. Unfortunately, an entire shift in critical thinking would need to occur throughout an entire global system of those attempting to defeat a possible monster that, well, may no longer exist as we once believed. Shifting cognition within such a mass global system would entail a complete overhaul of social and cultural constructs. As any social psychologist knows, making such a move takes a long time to achieve.
In the end, Al Qaeda is possibly no longer who we once knew it to be. Arguably, Al Qaeda is nothing more than a label placed on Sunni Islamic terrorists groups. We now know that these groups have joined forces with non-Sunni terrorist factions. Who will be the maven to pitch this thought in an attempt to change counterterrorists’ ways of thinking?
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