MOSCOW, September 4 (RIA Novosti), Daria Chernyshova - Al-Qaeda’s is seeking to attract attention to itself, as it is now facing a type of peer competition from the Islamic State (ISIS) militants who seized large parts of Iraq and announced a caliphate, James Forest, Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Security Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell told RIA Novosti Thursday.
“Indeed, this is what I think as well. Al-Qaeda needs to generate some attention for itself, as it is now facing a type of peer competition from ISIS. If ISIS succeeds in drawing more support and recruits away from al-Qaeda, based on its locally-oriented ideology and its battlefield achievements, this is clearly a threat to al-Qaeda's long-term survival,” Forest, who is also the former director of Terrorism Studies at the United States Military Academy said.
Al-Qaeda has established a branch in the Indian subcontinent, hoping to attract local Islamic extremists amid the Islamic State militant group’s rapid advance in the Middle East.
Forest adds that al-Qaeda’s long-term strategy is to maintain its relevance, and in fact the terrorists are in desperate need for relevance.
“Al-Qaeda’s long-term strategy in this case, and in all cases, is surviving by maintaining relevance. One thing that al-Qaeda fears more than drone attacks is becoming irrelevant - for example, when the day comes that al-Zawahiri makes a statement and nobody listens, nobody cares, the statement makes no impact whatsoever, it will be the day in which AQ is irrelevant,” Forest said.
Given this, he stresses that there are high chances of attacks against Western targets in India, such as an embassy or a hotel.
“But clearly the entire region should be on high alert,” James Forest said.
Speaking of strategies, Forest notes that al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have different goals.
“Some of the strategists of al-Qaeda, like Abu Bakr Naji and Abu Musab al-Suri have argued for the necessity of state-building, but this has not been a core focus of al-Qaeda. They have been much more focused on trying to draw the West into a global confrontation with the Muslim World, which [they hope] will unite all Muslims in a common cause, defeat the apostates and infidels, and establish sharia law universally. ISIS has a much more local and regional focus, which includes state-building and controlling territory,” Forest says.
He reminds that the ISIS was originally an Iraqi-based jihadist group which rebranded itself as al-Qaeda in Iraq, and later changed its name to ISIS, and then changed it back to the ISIS.
“There was a period of time when they were aligned with al-Qaeda’s globally-oriented ideology, but there were always tensions about strategic control, loyalty, finances and so forth. Earlier this year, al-Qaeda's central leadership disowned IS, and has been very critical of them in several video and audio statements posted online,” Forest told RIA Novosti.