Whilst marred with allegations of corruption. illegitimacy and irresponsibility, the undeniable fact is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did indeed thwart Al-Qaeda’s control and power.
Recently, however, the Arab Spring has given rise to the opportunity to spread geographically, culturally and politically, into regions of Africa and the Middle East. Although, after the death of Osama bin Laden, the group seems leaderless and fragmented, the opportunity is indeed strong to unify power of the Islamic extremist groups such as al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Political uprisings in countries such as Libya, Algeria and Mali have given Al-Qaeda a chance to politicise itself and gain the power it once had in Afghanistan, the only state it claimed was ‘truly’ Islamic. The blood-stained wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were a major blow for the group, leaving them in a fragmented, leaderless and apparently confused assortment of groups, but Al-Qaeda could indeed popularise its Islamist ideology in countries where political upheavals have taken place.
Only time will tell whether this threat will become more tangible. At the current time, the group remains fragmented and opportunist, unable to gain a real foothold in the Arab uprisings. There is a lack of support for the groups and its ideology, and they currently are confined to the remotest areas of the countries with almost no popular support. There is, however, a real opportunity for the group to take advantage of the political instability to further expand its operations in Yemen and across Northern and the Horn of Africa.