September 6, 2008

HARRISONBURG—As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes her historic trip to Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, in his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, examines the recent “surge” in terrorist operations in Algeria by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and whether the recent spate of attacks represents “not just heightened activity, but an altogether new phase in a broader insurgency targeting not just the Algerian government, but also other countries in the region and beyond.”

After reviewing the attacks which have occurred in the last month as well as the countermeasures undertaken by the Algerian government, the article turns to AQIM’s evolution from previous Islamist militant groups, its affiliation with al-Qaeda, and the threat it poses not only to Algeria, but also to Europe and beyond. Suggesting some steps which might be taken in both the short term and over the long haul, Dr. Pham concludes:

[I]t should not be forgotten that, whatever the proximate political and social factors motivating its individual members, AQIM is a group whose corporate identity is now profoundly shaped by its adhesion to al-Qaeda’s Islamist worldview. If the last month has been marked by a surge on the part of the al-Qaeda franchise in Algeria which dramatically increased the level of its terrorist activity, one can only wonder what attacks the group might have planned for Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month, which began at sundown last Sunday—classical Islamic jurisprudence, after all, assigns greater value to meritorious actions (mandub) undertaken during the annual fast and, for the adepts of the jihadist ideology, there are no good deeds like violent ones in furtherance of their cause. In any case, both the rhetoric of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and threat it poses are likely to continue their global expansion.

To read the full text of the article, “Al-Qaeda’s Surge in Algeria,” click here.