Thursday, April 11, 2013


i have often wondered how much of an operational difference it makes when an organization "pledges allegiance to al qaeda". in the past decade such pledges have been all the rage for local extremist islamic groups. and so "jama'at al-tawhid wal-jihad" (جماعة التوحيد والجهاد) became "al qaeda in iraq" when its leader pledged allegiance to bin laden's group in 2004. the "salafist group for preaching and combat" (تنظيم القاعدة في بلاد المغرب الإسلامي) became "al qaeda in the islamic maghreb" in 2007. "al-shabaab" in somalia pledged allegiance to al qaeda in 2012 (though the group did not change its name). and now this week, the al-nusra front (جبهة النصرة لأهل الشام) is jumping on the al qaeda bandwagon.

whenever a group makes a pledge like that, it gets a burst of publicity. so is that all this is about? is this just the same group rebranded? or does an announced al qaeda affiliation change its character or capabilities?