Two Major Steps Forward in Studying al-Qaeda

First, Thomas Hegghammer has written a very valuable article on the rise and fall of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia (more properly, “al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula” or QAP).  Thomas’ study is valuable because he draws on a deep well of empirical research to challenge the three major explanatory models of Islamist militancy: ideological (as they believe, so shall they fight), structural (the system is pushing them to fight), or social movement (al-Qaeda is just the violent manifestation of a larger network of like-minded people).  Thomas argues instead that QAP’s material and human resources, organizational needs, and pan-Islamic orientation, coupled with the Saudi security environment in the early 2000s, were more determinative influences on the group’s behavior.  I’m interested to know what he makes of the latest round of militant activity and arrests in the kingdom.

Second, Steve Corman of the COMOPS Monitor has created a blog aggregation service for counterterrorism and public diplomacy.  It will be a one stop shop for CT reporting and analysis.  Membership is free and it has a voting feature (“flag it”), so the cream rises to the top.  This is going to save me a lot of mouse clicks.

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