Al-Qaeda has been a household name since 9/11. But after years of war against them, the basics of their fight is still not known.

Al-Qaeda and it’s Salafi-Jihadi associates have a plan, and they’ve been fighting their war by whatever means possible for many years. Despite the conspiracy theories, Al-Qaeda was, in part, banking on a likelihood that the U.S. would retreat from the Middle East. It’s what they want – the dialogue we have going now – us out, and them, AQ, in. Then they can focus on a caliphate and envelope their other regional caliphate projects into a greater one. It’s a similar gameplan to ISIS, except ISIS is more like the warriors who were sick of Al-Qaeda scheming and long term plans. They decided to take matters into their hands. Now, they’re competing around the world.

Regardless of which faction, Al-Qaeda has been at this a long time. They have a better chance of winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim community. ISIL, however, has become so extreme that local people’s might bend to will but they do out of fear. Al-Qaeda is supported by black market groups and individuals and aggravated and marginalized segments of society. Those people ultimately will reject ISIL.

Al-Qaeda has origins in a core set of beliefs to be explored in a series of articles to follow. 

Islamism, not Islam. Defined as “an Islamic revival movement often characterized by moral conservatism, literalism, and the attempt “to implement Islamic values in all spheres of life.”

Takfirism. The Jihadis Islamist framework to carry out acts of violence unto other Muslims.

Islamic State fight strengthens Al-Qaeda (Al-Nusra)

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Salafism. Defined as a “transnational religious-political ideology based on a belief in “physical” jihadism and the Salafi movement of returning to what adherents believe to be true Sunni Islam.”

Jihadism. Defined as “a 21st-century neologism found in the Western languages to describe Islamist militant movements perceived as a military movement “rooted in Islam” and “existentially threatening” to the West.”

Endgame: An Islamic state as the final chapter of Islamism.

The Islamic State or ISIL is an immature preview of what their vision might look like in the future should Al-Qaeda become successful. Except, Al-Qaeda is more cunning, professional, nuanced and diligent in their methodology to prepare the landscape for a proper caliphate.

Bottom line: They’re an existential threat. They would welcome our retreat but, in time, would return more powerful, more dangerous and more capable than we left them. Sadly, the American people do not seem convinced of that possibility. Shooting, attacks and the like are beginning to whip fear into our society and after over a decade of conflict, there is little will to fight.

Featured image courtesy of www.counterextremism.com.