The Evolving Threat of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

By Sage, Andre Le | Strategic Forum, July 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Evolving Threat of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb


Sage, Andre Le, Strategic Forum


The United States faces an important strategic question in northwest Africa: what level of activity by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) would constitute a sufficient threat to U.S. national security interests to warrant a more aggressive political, intelligence, military, and law enforcement response? AQIM already poses the greatest immediate threat of transnational terrorism in the region, and its operational range and sophistication continue to expand. (1) Since 2007, the group has professed its loyalty to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's senior leadership and claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks in the subregion. These attacks have included the use of suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices, kidnapping operations, and assassinations.

AQIM's targets include African civilians, government officials, and security services; United Nations (UN) diplomats and Western embassies; and tourists, aid workers, and private sector contractors. As a result, combating AQIM is the focus of substantial foreign security assistance provided by Western countries, including the United States and France, to their partner nations in the Maghreb and Sahel. In 2005, the United States created the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) to coordinate activities by the Department of State, Department of Defense (DOD), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to combat terrorism in the region. (2) Now including 10 African countries, (3) TSCTP operates with a combined annual interagency budget of approximately $120 million. (4)

However, the extent of the threat posed by AQIM and the appropriate U.S. response remain hotly debated in both academic and policy circles. These debates question the seriousness of the threat posed by a relatively small group of hundreds of militants operating in mountainous and arid areas of Africa, their level of ideological commitment versus their criminal and financial motivations, and even the potential complicity of regional security services in supporting AQIM. (5) The United States needs to understand the nature of the threat that AQIM poses today as well as current trends highlighting the future capabilities and intentions of the group. Only with these assessments in place can U.S. policymakers make appropriate decisions on questions about counterterrorism in northwest Africa that are hotly but inconclusively debated.

Overview of AQIM

Emanating from Algeria's decade-long conflict with Islamists in the 1990s, AQIM is the only significant militia force remaining from that struggle. Led by Abdulmalik Drukdal, it was created when the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) pledged allegiance to al Qaeda's senior leadership in January 2007. (6) While the GSPC was seen as a national insurgency on the verge of collapse because of continued Algerian security operations, AQIM quickly proved that it was not a spent force. In December 2007, the group conducted simultaneous bombings in Algiers of the UN office complex and the Constitutional Court--a symbol of AQIM's new dual agenda of attacking both Algerian national and global jihadi targets.

AQIM aspires to become a transnational movement across the Maghreb and Sahel areas, encompassing the militants and communities that were loyal to earlier generations of Islamist militant groups in the region, including the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, Tunisian Islamic Front (TIF), Mauritanian Group for Preaching and Jihad (GMPJ), and others. These groups were effectively suppressed by North African governments, but the drivers of extremism in the region, including poverty, political marginalization, and social alienation, have never been fully addressed. (7)

Based in the mountains of Boumerdes in Algeria's Tizi Ouzou region, (8) AQIM is a highly structured organization. Despite significant Algerian military pressure, the group coordinates its activities through a centralized shura council, including emirs responsible for matters related to military affairs, religious propagation, finance, and communications/ propaganda. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Evolving Threat of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.