Attached is a copy of RAND Corporation Testimony: Re-Examining the Al Qa’ida Threat to the United States
On July 18th, Seth G. Jones, a RAND Corporation analyst, delivered testimony entitled "Re-Examining the Al Qa’ida Threat to the United States" before the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade. The subcommittee hearing was entitled "Global al Qaeda: Affiliates, Objectives, and Future Challenges"
The testimony is divided into four sections. The first outlines al Qa’ida’s objectives. The second
section examines its organizational structure. The third focuses on the al Qa’ida threat to the
United States today. And the fourth section offers a brief conclusion. This 14-page report will be worthwhile for public and private sector security officers and analysts in New Jersey seeking a concise, unclassified overview of the threat from Al-Qaeda.
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Below is Mr. Jones opening statement and the executive summary of his testimony. The full testimony is attached in .pdf format.
Chairman Poe, Ranking Member Sherman, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for
inviting me to testify at this hearing, “Global al Qa’ida: Affiliates, Objectives, and Future
Challenges.” The growth of al Qa’ida’s affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusrah, and other recent
developments make this hearing timely and important.
In reviewing al Qa’ida’s evolution since 1988, I will make three arguments in this testimony. First,
al Qa’ida has been resilient. There has been a net expansion in the number and geographic
scope of al Qa’ida affiliates and allies over the past decade, indicating that al Qa’ida and its brand
are far from defeated. This growth is likely caused by several factors. One is the Arab uprisings,
which have weakened regimes across North Africa and the Middle East, creating an opportunity
for al Qa’ida affiliates and allies to secure a foothold. In addition, the growing sectarian struggle
across the Middle East between Sunni and Shi’a actors has increased the resources available to
Sunni militant groups, including al Qa’ida. Second, this expansion – along with the weakness of
central al Qa’ida in Pakistan – has created a more diffuse and decentralized movement. Al
Qa’ida’s local affiliates largely run their operations autonomously, though they still communicate
with the core leadership in Pakistan and may seek strategic advice. Third, within this disparate
movement, most al Qa’ida affiliates and allies are not actively plotting attacks against the U.S.
homeland. In the near term, Al Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) likely presents the most
immediate threat to the U.S. homeland, along with inspired networks like the Tsarnaev brothers
that perpetrated the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Other groups, such as Jabhat al-
Nusrah in Syria, do not appear to pose a near-term threat to the U.S. homeland. But Jabhat al- Nusrah’s growing recruitment and funding networks in Europe should be a cause of concern for
Taken together, these arguments suggest that the United States needs to adopt an increasingly
nuanced – but long-term – approach to countering the al Qa’ida movement. In cases where al
Qa’ida poses an immediate threat to the U.S. homeland, either through an affiliated group or an
inspired network, the U.S. government should work with local partners to target al Qa’ida
operatives overseas and at home using a combination of military, law enforcement, economic,
diplomatic, and information tools. In areas where al Qa’ida does not pose a significant threat to
the homeland, the U.S. government should support local countries and allies as they take the
lead – much like the United States did in supporting France’s counterterrorism efforts in Mali in
2013. Perhaps most importantly, U.S. policymakers should view the al Qa’ida threat as a
decades-long struggle like the Cold War.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective
analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world. RAND’s publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.
Kevin C. Wulfhorst
Supervisory Intelligence Analyst
FBI Newark Division