September 11, 2014 | Quote

13 Years After Sept. 11, Jihadists Control More Territory

As the U.S. stops to mark the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the country may be safer from another catastrophic terrorist strike, but there is no question that the jihadists are winning , said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“Jihadists groups’ highest goal was never to commit a terrorist act — that’s something they did as a means to an end,” Gartenstein-Ross told Military Times. “Their highest aspiration was not to commit acts of terrorism, it was to control territory. That’s always been true. Bin Laden stated that; [Ayman] al-Zawahri stated that. They spoke about the need to implement Sharia to reestablish the caliphates. If you look at the world today versus 2001, I think it is inarguable — jihadist groups are clearly doing better now than they were then.”

“Look at the world today: The Taliban no longer runs Afghanistan, but they’re primed to make a comeback as soon as we leave,” he said. “Syria has been destroyed as a country and jihadists are a large part of the Syrian rebellion — they’re the toughest groups within the rebellion. Iraq, you obviously have a jihadist state led by ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham]. Al-Shabaab continues to control territory in Somalia — now it’s not as powerful as it was a few years ago, but you have this cycle of instability there and al-Shabaab still controls non-major urban areas of the country.”

Elsewhere, jihadists are making a comeback in Mali, where they were previously evicted by a French-led military effort; and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula continues to hold territory in Yemen after undertaking a “strategic retreat,” Gartenstein-Ross said.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram is much more powerful than jihadist militants were in Nigeria circa 2001.

One major reason for the jihadists’ sweep across Africa and the Middle East is the Arab Spring, a string of revolutions that upended a longstanding Middle East order that kept Islamic groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadists such as al-Qaida and Ansar al-Sharia from coming to power, Gartenstein-Ross said.

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