THE FUTURE OF AL-QAEDA

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THE FUTURE OF AL-QAEDA

THE FUTURE OF AL-QAEDARESULTS OF A FORESIGHT PROJECTWHAT COULD AL-QAEDA LOOK LIKE IN 2018?Challenged for more than a decade by a determined global counter-terrorism(CT) campaign, Al-Qaeda (AQ) is facing an uncertain future. The death ofOsama bin Laden, the popular uprisings spreading across the Middle Eastand North Africa, and the global recessionary pressures that are causinggovernments to re-evaluate their CT strategies are amongst the many far-reachingdevelopments that will influence AQ’s future prospects.How AQ adapts to the challenges and opportunities that will shape its nextdecade is a source of spirited debate amongst government officials, academicexperts, think-tank analysts and private consultants. Insofar as this lack ofconsensus suggests that AQ’s path is not yet set, it creates a need to exploreits alternative futures. To this end, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service(CSIS) launched a foresight project in September 2012 to explore how AQmight evolve along any one of three model paths over the course of the nextfive years: gradual decline; incremental growth; and rapid growth.The project was based exclusively on open-source information so as to combinethe expertise and imagination of participants representing a wide array ofprofessional and personal backgrounds and several countries. To set the context,four papers covering the AQ network’s prominent actors were presented atinformation sessions hosted by the CSIS Academic Outreach program. Writtenby prominent specialists who took part in the entire project, the papers areincluded in this report but the identity of their authors is not disclosed becausethe Chatham House rule was invoked throughout the exercise. The foresightworkshop itself took place on 24-25 January 2013 in Ottawa.Workshop participants recognised that part of the challenge in imaginingAQ’s future lies in the very definition of AQ. At its broadest, the phenomenonincludes a central group of senior leaders commonly referred to as AQ Core,regional affiliates which together with that core make up the AQ network,like-minded groups in the network’s key operating areas (eg, fellow travellers),homegrown Islamist extremists in Western countries, sympathisers across theTHE FUTURE OF AL QAEDA RESULTS OF A FORESIGHT PROJECT /// 5