I have been reading about al Qaeda and how support, even among extremists, for the terrorist group is waning and how they are losing recruits because they are failing to appeal to a younger generation of radicals. Is al Qaeda still a major threat in the middle east or has the organization lost most of the original intimidation and influence it once had?

  • Didn't they even declare "jihad" against the IS and vice versa because they were concurring for the same radicals? I think with the weakening of the IS they maybe gain on power again. But that's just a theory.
    – miep
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 12:15
  • @miep Relevant to that is that IS was started from survivors of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 19:00
  • 2
    Names and umbrella organizations are really not all that important. Some jihadists might have called themselves "al Qaeda" in the first decade of the century, then in the second decade the survivors & new recruits called themselves ISIS or the Quds Force. In the third decade, they will almost certainly call themselves something else, but they will still be driven by the same motives, and probably use much the same tactics.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 0:19
  • 2
    I am pretty sure no al qaeda or ISIS guy will ever call themselves quds force. They have very very fundamentally different ideologies regarding their beliefs, theology etc which are almost irreconcilable. Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 6:28
  • @Nabil Farhan: Perhaps from the inside (I mean from the point of view of someone who understands Islamic theology), that's true. (I wouldn't know - I don't even understand Christian theology, and I was raised by them.) From the outside, there doesn't seem to be much difference: they all seem to think that making "terrorist" attacks on non-western targets (and often their own people who don't adhere to their ideas of what is religiously correct) is a good way to further their cause.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 17:45

2 Answers 2


Al Qaeda remains active, most notably via its franchises. The al Shabaab group controls significant parts of rural Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula controls some of Yemen, local affiliates are active in the Sahara, and Tahrir al Sham (loosely linked with al Qaeda) controls some of Syria. Al Shabaab has become more of a force lately, launching a suicide bombing in Somalia last month that killed at least 85 and a raid on a US base in Kenya this month which killed 3 American personnel.


Bin Laden, Al Qaeda's leader, was killed in 2011, and they seemed to have lost power ever since:

In 2009, President Barack Obama’s so-called AfPak strategy gave top priority to the defeat of the al-Qaeda core in Pakistan. A relentless campaign, primarily using drones and highlighted by the 2011 commando raid that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, gradually wore down the core by 2015.

In September 2014, Zawahiri [one of Bin Laden's lieutenants] planned his last major international terror plot: to hijack the Pakistani Navy frigate Zulfiqar and use it to sink a U.S. Navy ship in the Indian Ocean, provoking war between the United States and Pakistan. The plot was foiled only at the last moment. It was probably al-Qaeda’s most audacious conspiracy ever. It could have changed the world even more than 9/11.

So they have put up a fight even after Bin Laden's death, but 2014 seems to be the last time they have made the news.

Of course, that's not if you're counting a few months ago:

Bin Laden’s son and potential heir, Hamza, was killed mysteriously sometime this year with the assistance of the Trump administration.

So another potential leader was recently killed. Also, Zawahiri doesn't seem to be in good health either:

With the group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in bad health and isolated, most likely somewhere in Pakistan, and Hamza bin Laden, who may have been next in line, recently reported killed, al Qaeda’s most dedicated members seem to understand that its best chance to remain relevant is through its ongoing presence in Syria.

So their leadership seems to be crumbling and they seem to be losing power, but they are still around:

"We see active and deadly al Qaeda affiliates across the globe, including in Somalia, where al Shabab commits regular attacks inside Somalia and also has begun to attack its neighbors as well, particularly Kenya," he said. "We see active AQ plotting and activity elsewhere in Africa."

Some sources seem to think that it is slowly rebuilding itself and trying to become even stronger:

Al Qaeda seemed to be “quietly and patiently rebuilding” itself while deliberately letting the Islamic State bear the brunt of the West’s counterterrorism campaign.

So it could get stronger in the 2020s (Heaven forbid) but so far they haven't seemed to really have done anything major in recent years. ISIS seems to have filled the void Al Qaeda once held:

The heir of the al-Qaeda organization in Iraq—the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria—has lost control of most of the ground it once held in Iraq and Syria but remains a very dangerous terrorist threat, with offshoots in Libya, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. The Islamic State also has cells in Western Europe.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .