Pledging Allegiance to the Islamic State?

By Erik Goepner

Jihadist groups from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria and Libya allegedly pledged their allegiance to IS over the past few days. The Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium estimates 60 distinct groups from 30 separate regions now ally themselves with IS.

Some of these groups are long in the tooth, pre-dating the attacks of 9/11. Take, for example, the Abu Sayyaf Group that is fighting for an independent Muslim state in the southern Philippines. Comprised of approximately 400 fighters, they began operations more than 20 years ago. A bit further to the south and west, Jemaah Islamiyah has been conducting operations since 1993. With between 500 and several thousand members, they seek to establish an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia and all or parts of five neighboring countries. Another veteran group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, wants to overthrow the Uzbek government and establish an Islamic state. They had their start in 1991.

Then, there are the notable post-9/11 creations who have allied themselves with IS. These include Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, estimated to be the “most lethal Qaeda franchise” (not to be confused with the AQ affiliate, al-Nusra Front, in Syria, with whom IS potentially forged a very recent peace accord). Additionally, Egypt’s “most active militant group”, Ansar Beit al-Maqd and its estimated 2,000 fighters, have also pledged allegiance to IS.

Finally, in a blur of frenzied change that gives new meaning to creative destruction and bandwagoning, a number of militant groups are simultaneously breaking old alliances, reinventing themselves, and forging new partnerships in the hopes of improving their return on investment. Inadvertent homage to western concepts notwithstanding, examples include Soldiers of the Caliphate in the Land of Egypt, Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria, and Soldiers of the Caliphate (in Libya). Experts estimate the “Soldiers of the Caliphate…” moniker might itself be an attempt to create a franchise, one that speaks to both local and global audiences. Moreover, it is a number of the smaller groups populating the “Soldiers of the Caliphate…” umbrellas that are thought to have splintered off from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other organizations. They seem to think a switch to IS offers better odds.

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