International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Is al-Qaeda’s Reach Dwindling?

For over a decade, al-Qaeda had cemented its reputation as one of the world’s most violent and notorious terrorist groups. However, as ISIS’s brutal and attention-grabbing tactics have hastened its ascension on the world stage, and other groups, such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Somalia’s al-Shabab have also launched violent attacks, al-Qaeda’s profile has slowly, but noticeably, declined.

Over the past several years, western drone strikes have decimated al-Qaeda’s core leadership; most recently, the group confirmed that CIA drone strikes had killed Ahmad Farooq, a Pakistani who both oversaw relations with the Pakistani Taliban and managed al-Qaeda’s south Asia operations, and Qari Abdullah Mansur, a Pakistani who oversaw suicide bombings against NATO troops in the region. The constant and rapid loss of its leadership had severely limited the group’s effectivity; in contrast to ISIS, al-Shabab, and Boko Haram, all of which are repeatedly demonstrating their international reach, al-Qaeda’s last successful international operation was the bombing of the London subway system, which was about a decade ago. The scope of al-Qaeda’s reach has dwindled drastically, and the group has relegated itself to focusing on attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Although al-Qaeda and its subsidiaries — particularly its branch in Yemen — remain powerful and dangerous players on the international stage, its capacity and notoriety has diminished.


One response to “Is al-Qaeda’s Reach Dwindling?

  1. McLaughry May 1, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    Although al-Qaeda’s reach in the terrorist world may have dwindled, its entrance into a fight for legal legitimacy has emerged. In response to Palestine applying to the ICC for membership, al-Qaeda also submitted an application to the ICC on January 7th, 2015. Their application included a retroactive admission with a date of September 12, 2001. While al-Qaeda would never be admitted to the ICC as they fail to meet basic requirements for membership, their application brings up interesting questions about the timeline of entrances to the ICC. (Source:

    If al-Qaeda were admitted to the ICC, their date of September 12th, 2001 would allow the ICC to investigate all war atrocities committed after that date. Obviously, al-Qaeda would not want the crimes of September 11th to be investigated. However, this would allow the ICC to investigate crimes that took place during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and anywhere explicitly al-Qaeda affiliated. This would present a new set of challenges in regards to forming one investigation in disparate locations and in different countries since September 12th, 2001.

    Regardless, the al-Qaeda application for a retroactive membership demonstrates the political strategies at play of nations applying to the ICC beginning a membership on a specified date. A retroactive membership that begins on a specified date allows a newly admitted country to control the time frame in which investigations are conducted. This brings up problems such as victor’s justice and the question of if the ICC is truly an apolitical institution.

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