Members of Jordan's Salafi jihadi shout slogans during a demonstration against prolonged detention of the group's leaders near the prime minister's in Amman, April 9, 2013. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

September 23, 2021

It's a mistake to think some jihadis are only focused on the 'local'

Originally published in The Hill

Joe Biden seems to be hoping that the Taliban will sever ties with al Qaeda and deny the group a chance to again plan attacks on the U.S. Many have challenged this assumption. But there is another false assumption behind the administration’s decision to abandon counterterrorism: that jihadist groups with local ambitions (like ruling Afghanistan) do not also have international goals (like striking America). Relying on this false assumption blinds us to the growing threat in Afghanistan, but also to the danger of the other “Islamic Emirates” proliferating around the world.

As strange as it sounds, Salafi-jihadi groups’ primary goal is to govern — they want to destroy the Muslim world’s existing governments and build their own states that knit together into a global caliphate.

This ideology is inherently antagonistic to the West. But this does not mean that attacking the West is always their top priority.

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