Al-Qaida's (AQ) international terrorist network will rebound but shift tactics – seeking more frequent smaller-sized attacks in the coming years, a newly released Canadian intelligence report finds.
"The death of Osama bin Laden, the popular uprisings spreading across the Middle East and North Africa, and the global recessionary pressures that are causing governments to re-evaluate their [counter terror] strategies are amongst the many far-reaching developments that will influence AQ's future prospects," the report said.
The report emanated from the findings of a workshop sponsored by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Academic Outreach program in January. It sought to explore AQ's future in the next decade. It relied solely on open-source information and studied different variables that would influence AQ's evolution in the coming years, including the network's external and internal environments.
Instability in AQ strongholds in the Middle East and Africa, combined with preoccupation of regional and Western governments with local security concerns such as mass violence and regime collapse may help the terrorist group "cultivate popular support; attract new recruits; inspire homegrown Western terrorists; acquire new weapons and funding; secure existing safe havens; and reach into new operating theatres," the report said.
Al-Qaida's future also will be shaped by its ideological goals, leadership, structure, and resources. This would include the internal debate raging in AQ affiliates regarding global v. local jihad as well as the leadership crisis resulting from the killing of senior al-Qaida leaders.
Since AQ "does not accept defeat," the report concludes, it will shift its focus to waging more "small rudimentary attacks." To the extent anti-Western sentiment continues to sell among the local population, AQ's political and other sympathizers will "succeed in embedding the network's extremist views in state institutions." AQ's antipathy towards the West will then be "expressed through both terror attacks and indirect state-to-state tensions."