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The al Qaeda Franchise: The Expansion of al-Qaeda and Its Consequences

Barak Mendelsohn

Senior Fellow, FPRI · Associate Professor of Political Science, Haverford College ·

Over the past decade and a half, al-Qaeda has adopted a branching-out strategy, introducing seven franchises spread over the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. Although the introduction of these new branches helped al-Qaeda create a frightening image far beyond its actual capabilities, ultimately this strategy neither increased the al-Qaeda threat, nor enhanced the organization’s political objectives. In fact, this strategy may have undermined one of al-Qaeda’s primary achievements: the creation of a transnational entity based on religious, not national, affiliation. Was al-Qaeda’s branching out strategy a sign of strength or a response to its decline in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks? Why has al-Qaeda formed branches in some arenas but not others? How has the rise of ISIS from an al-Qaeda branch to the dominant actor in the jihadi camp affected the parent organization’s ambitions? Barak MendelsohnBarak Mendelsohn – an FPRI Senior Fellow – is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Haverford College, where he teaches courses on Jihadi movements and on the Middle East. He is author of Combating Jihadism: American Hegemony and International Cooperation in the War on Terrorism (University of Chicago Press, 2009). He served in the Israeli army for five years and received his Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University. Prior to his appointment, he spoke for FPRI on “Al Qaeda’s Palestinian Dilemma” and subsequently published an essay on the subject in the journal Survival (August–September 2009), published by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (London). His “Global Terrorism Resource Database” can be found at 

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The al-Qaeda Franchise: The Expansion of al-Qaeda and Its Consequences