By Jim Sharp
First things first; and I want to make myself very clear on this point: ISIS and Al Qaeda (as well as all their off-shoots and affiliate groups) are lethal. All have the capability to carry out attacks across the globe, and they will continue to do so as long as they have the means available to them. They will never voluntarily give up on their idea of jihad, and there is no economic, diplomatic or humanitarian leverage that can be exerted to make them do so.
There has been a lot of recent discussion about whether the two groups would ever consolidate their efforts, and what the results of that consolidation might look like for the rest of the world. Might ISIS and Al Qaeda join forces? It’s possible, but not probable. Don’t get me wrong – they already support each other from the perspective of general ideology. If the Al Qaeda leadership weren’t so widely separated physically (to prevent a drone strike or raid from taking out more than one of them at a time), they would be chest-bumping each other every time an ISIS-inspired attack succeeds.
Even with the recent edict from Hamza Bin Laden (one of Usama bin Laden’s sons seen by many counterterrorism authorities as being groomed to be the new global figurehead of Al Qaeda; someone able to rally the troops back to a banner whose leadership continues to be pared down) urging all jihadists to unite, the possibility of the two groups joining forces operationally, aligning their leadership, deciding on common goals and tactics, or agreeing jointly on targets is (again) possible, but not likely.
First, the more people you have in leadership positions, the harder it becomes to reach a decision. In-fighting and internal power struggles would not help either group, and they know that just as well as we do. Second, it’s hard to imagine the leadership of one group voluntarily subordinating itself to the leadership of the other.
Third, and perhaps more importantly, there is an accidental but effective division of labor. ISIS – once infamously characterized by President Obama as the “JV team,” is probably better characterized as short-attention-span terrorism. Their operational model is based around immediacy. If they cared about such things, you could almost imagine the phrase, “do it now,” tacked on the wall of whatever bombed-out building ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is using as a headquarters/hideout.
Read the full article at HSToday.