THE FUTURE OF AL-QAEDA RESULTS OF A FORESIGHT PROJECT
WHAT COULD AL-QAEDA LOOK LIKE IN 2018?
Challenged for more than a decade by a determined global counter-terrorism (CT) campaign, Al-Qaeda (AQ) is facing an uncertain future. The death of Osama bin Laden, the popular uprisings spreading across the Middle East and North Africa, and the global recessionary pressures that are causing governments to re-evaluate their CT strategies are amongst the many far-reaching developments that will influence AQ’s future prospects.
How AQ adapts to the challenges and opportunities that will shape its next decade is a source of spirited debate amongst government officials, academic experts, think-tank analysts and private consultants. Insofar as this lack of consensus suggests that AQ’s path is not yet set, it creates a need to explore its alternative futures. To this end, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) launched a foresight project in September 2012 to explore how AQ might evolve along any one of three model paths over the course of the next five years: gradual decline; incremental growth; and rapid growth.
The project was based exclusively on open-source information so as to combine the expertise and imagination of participants representing a wide array of professional and personal backgrounds and several countries. To set the context, four papers covering the AQ network’s prominent actors were presented at information sessions hosted by the CSIS Academic Outreach program. Written by prominent specialists who took part in the entire project, the papers are included in this report but the identity of their authors is not disclosed because the Chatham House rule was invoked throughout the exercise. The foresight workshop itself took place on 24-25 January 2013 in Ottawa.