Strategy Page describes Al-Qaeda declining fortunes. AQ is making the same mistake as the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in Algeria. In 1991, the Islamist political party was about to win the general elections. The military government cancelled the elections, so the Islamists rebelled. They initially had popular support – they represented reform, less corruption, and promised better government services.
Then the GIA started to actually fight. As the decade-long civil war dragged on, the GIA waged an ever more brutal campaign. Extremist interpretations of Islam, ultra-strict religious laws, terror attacks and mass murder of civilians turned the population against the Islamists. The Algerian government won the war in 2002 after 200,000 were killed. Today, a handful of Islamist radicals continue to terrorize Algeria under the name of al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda seems hell-bent on repeated the GIA’s “stragery.”
They took what should have been a mass movement and made it a hyper-violent fringe. AQ’s greatest success in winning converts, luckily for us, has been here in the US and Europe.