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The Revival of Al Qaeda

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Journal Article - Open Access

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Special Operations Command Africa Stuttgart Germany

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On March 2, 2018, militants conducted near-simultaneous assaults on the French embassy and the military headquarters of Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou, the West African nations capital. By the end of the day, 16 people were dead and more than 80 injured.1 The attack on the military headquarters was likely aimed at targeting a gathering of senior officers, and Burkinabe officials stated the attack could have decapitated their military had the meeting not been moved to a different location at the last minute.2 Al Qaedas West Africaaffiliate Jamaa Nusrat ul-Islam wa al- Muslimin JNIM claimed credit for the attack, stating it was a message to France and its partners in the Sahel that the group was advancing with a resolve unhindered by wounds and pains inflicted by French-led counterterrorism CT pressure in the region. The events served as an ominous reminder of an ascendant al Qaeda that targeted the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania more than 20 years ago. Since its emergence in 2013, the so-called Islamic State IS has been at the forefront of the U.S. CT effort. The brash and often shocking tactics of IS largely overshadowed al Qaeda, which was weakened due to internal fissures, robust CT pressure, the death ofOsama bin Laden, and battlefield losses in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Al Qaeda ceded its prominence in the Salafist jihadist world to a faster, flashier, and more aggressive movement and became a seemingly peripheral actor in the global war on terror. However, while IS was promoting its use of terror as a means to become a state, al Qaeda was quietly laying the foundation for its resurrection. This article argues that al Qaeda is resurgent due in part to its ability to exercise strategic patience. While the high-profile tactics of IS made it easy to understand IS strategy and intent, al Qaeda pursued a more discreet path, making it more difficult to judge its actions.

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  • Unconventional Warfare

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