As a network of affiliate groups, Al Qaeda's more diffuse structure, since the end of 2001, is described as one of its greatest strengths. Certainly, after losing its territorial base in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda as “network” has gained in tactical agility and global reach. This article argues, however, that Osama bin Laden's ceding of command-and-control to autonomous Al Qaeda “franchises” represents an important source of weakness in the battle for hearts and minds in the Muslim world. As Al Qaeda's global jihad is increasingly imported by its affiliates into local and sectarian conflicts, the death toll is largely Muslim and civilian. The targeting of Muslim civilians is exceptionally difficult to justify, morally, theologically, and by bin Laden's own standards of legitimate jihad. This article will show how the killing of Muslim civilians undermines the crucial lynchpins of bin Laden's ideology and alienates the popular support that “Al Qaeda central” see as indispensable to Al Qaeda's success
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.