The Islamic State announced several months ago that it was “annexing” territory in Algeria, Libya, Sinai, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, notes Aaron Y. Zelin, the Richard Borow fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. But there is one key difference between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State’s model for expansion, he writes for The Washington Post:
Al-Qaeda wanted to use its new franchises in service of its main priority: attacking Western countries to force them to stop supporting “apostate” Arab regimes, which without the support of Western countries would then be ripe for the taking. This has only truly worked out with its Yemeni branch, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). On the other hand, while the Islamic State does not have an issue with its supporters or grassroots activists attacking Western countries, its main priority is building out its caliphate, which is evident in its famous slogan baqiya wa tatamaddad (remaining and expanding). As a result, it has had a relatively clear agenda and model: fighting locally, instituting limited governance and conducting outreach.
This post is part of the “Islamist Politics in the Shadow of the Islamic State” symposium.