A new generation of al Qaeda is surging, according to experts testifying before the subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence on Thursday.
While ISIS continues to be the face of Islamic terrorism, al Qaeda has been lurking in the background, waiting for the chance to return to the forefront.
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Katherine Zimmerman, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the committee Western nations have failed to recognize the strategic goals of al Qaeda and its ability to adapt over the years.
Al Qaeda leaders have rebranded the group's image, resulting in more people getting involved and more resources than they had prior to the 9/11 attacks on America. The terrorist organization is filling government positions and giving people food, water, and security in the war-torn areas of the Middle East, which in turn brings loyalty.
The decentralization of al Qaeda is proving useful, but the leaders have plans to reenter Iraq as ISIS weakens. Eventually, al Qaeda will reassert itself, and that could be sooner than people think.
Jennifer Cafarella, an intelligence planner at the Institute for the Study of War, said that America does not fully understand its enemy. The United States made a mistake by focusing so narrowly on dethroning ISIS. Both ISIS and al Qaeda want to destroy the West, and al Qaeda has proven itself an elite military organization.
Al Qaeda is more dangerous than ever before, and the United States has made no meaningful action against its members recently, Cafarella said.
Seth G. Jones, a director at the RAND Corporation, agreed that al Qaeda is expanding. He noted that al Qaeda keeps bouncing back after apparently being halted—such that now, after the failures of the Arab Spring, al Qaeda is in the midst of its fourth comeback.
Jones also said that apparent oppression of Muslims by the West would be used to great effect in propaganda in the Middle East.