Since the Arab uprisings erupted two and a half years ago, the global jihadi movement has metastasized to a variety of new locales across the Arab world, most recently in Syria, Libya, Sinai and Tunisia. While these upheavals surprised many in the region, al-Qaida had predicted such events unfolding in a 20-year strategic plan (2000-2020) that came to light in 2005. That blueprint has gone according to plan so far, albeit more because of outside and structural forces than the efforts of jihadis themselves. As a result, the movement was well-positioned to take advantage of the new developments.
In his book “Al-Zarqawi: Al-Qaida's Second Generation,” Fouad Hussein details al-Qaida’s 20-year plan, which has seven phases, with 2013 representing the beginning of the fifth. Here is how al-Qaida, which leaked the plan to Hussein, envisioned each of them playing out:
First phase: “The Awakening,” 2000-2003. The aim of the 9/11 attacks was to provoke the U.S. into declaring war on the Muslim world and thereby “awaken” Muslims. Al-Qaida also hoped the attacks would help broadcast its message to a global audience. When doing field research in Tunisia this past February, I heard members of the jihadi group Ansar al-Sharia echo this sentiment. “Many became more educated in this field,” one of them told me, referring to this period. “Even if we lost sympathizers, we gained new supporters.”