Understanding al Qaeda and its Affiliates: A Global Threat or JV Squad?

February 5, 2014
11:00 am -

Event Description

A Conversation with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Bruce Hoffman, Thomas Joscelyn and Jonathan Schanzer

Speaking about organizations claiming allegiance to al Qaeda, President Barack Obama stated that “if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” The president’s remarks have sparked yet another debate about whether al Qaeda is weakened, whether it is resurgent, or whether it was ever weakened in the first place. Has the Arab Spring spawned a surge in jihadism? Are these organizations taking advantage of the new environment in the region, or is the expansion of jihadist groups largely independent of the revolutions? How well is Washington’s current approach to al Qaeda working? If the group is growing despite U.S. efforts, how do we put our policies on the right track?


Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an adjunct assistant professor in Georgetown University’s security studies program. Much of his recent academic work explores the intersection of the Arab Uprisings and U.S. national security. He has been the author or volume editor of twelve books and monographs, including Bin Laden’s Legacy, and has published widely in the popular and academic press, including in The New York Times, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Reader’s Digest, and Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. In addition to his academic work, Daveed consults for clients confronting the challenge of violent non-state actors. This work has included live hostage negotiations in the Middle East, analyzing alternative futures of various violent non-state actors for U.S. government agencies, and border security work in Europe. He is currently working on a mass market book on al-Qaeda and the Arab Spring.

Professor Bruce Hoffman has been studying terrorism and insurgency for more than thirty-five years. Professor Hoffman previously held the Corporate Chair in Counterterrorism and Counterinsurgency at the RAND Corporation and was also Director of RAND’s Washington, D.C. Office.  He was Scholar-in-Residence for Counterterrorism at the CIA between 2004 and 2006; an adviser on counterterrorism to the Office of National Security Affairs, for Iraq’s Coalition Provisional Authority in 2004, and from 2004-2005 an adviser on counterinsurgency to the Strategy, Plans, and Analysis Office at Multi-National Forces-Iraq Headquarters.  November 1994, the Director of Central Intelligence awarded Professor Hoffman the United States Intelligence Community Seal Medallion, the highest level of commendation given to a non-government employee.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and the Senior Editor of The Long War Journal. Most of Thomas’s research and writing focuses on how al Qaeda and its affiliates operate around the world. He is a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard and his work has been published by a variety of other publications.

Dr. Jonathan Schanzer is the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He previously worked as a terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and for several other U.S.-based think tanks. Dr. Schanzer’s Al-Qaeda’s Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2004) was the first book to address the al-Qaeda affiliate challenge.  Dr. Schanzer has testified before Congress and publishes widely in the American and international media.


Al Qaeda Islamic State Jihadism