Islamic State vs. al-Qaeda

Strategic Dimensions of a Patricidal Conflict

The rise of the Islamic State and its competition with al-Qaeda has fundamentally reshaped the global jihadist movement. Al-Qaeda, the once-dominant force within the movement, which adopted a strategy focused on fighting the United States in a competition between two actors, has faltered as the Islamic State’s strategy designed for war both with the United States and al-Qaeda has demonstrated results. 

Rather than competing with the Islamic State’s loud campaign trumpeting its brutality and military success, al-Qaeda has instead sought to avoid attention and rebrand itself as “moderate.” What is the future of the jihadist movement? Whose strategy will succeed – al Qaeda’s or the Islamic State’s? How should the United States analyze and respond to the new environment? In a new policy paper from New America, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and his coauthors explore these questions.

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Islamic State vs. al-Qaeda

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Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, a Fellow with Google’s Jigsaw, an Associate Fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, and the Chief Executive Officer of Valens Global, a consulting firm focusing on the challenges posed by violent non-state actors (VNSAs).