The Myth of a "Locally Focused" Former Al Qaeda Affiliate in Syria

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The recent “cancellation” of Jabhat al Nusra’s operations along with the formation of a new entity independent from al Qaeda, named Jabhat Fatah al Sham, appears to signal the decline of al Qaeda as a global movement. Instead, however, it is al Qaeda’s latest ploy to buy time to set conditions in its favor before fighting its desired war against the West.

American policymakers consistently underestimate the threat al Qaeda continues to pose because of a pervasive myth that locally focused groups are not as dangerous to U.S. security. Prior to the “cancellation” of Nusra’s operations, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper dismissed Nusra as a “nascent” danger that “doesn’t approach” that of ISIS. He characterized the ongoing policy debate over Nusra as “hype” and said no quick fixes in Syria are possible. And now, with Nusra’s recent “split” from al Qaeda, al Qaeda’s operations in Syria seem increasingly pale compared to those of ISIS.

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