From the Editor
On July 21 al-Qa`ida issued arguably its strongest rebuke ever to the Islamic State, warning that a pledge to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi meant being a “partner in every curse upon the Muslims” including “killing thousands of mujahideen.” Our cover story by Clint Watts outlines how despite such rhetoric, competition between the two global jihadist powerhouses and their satellite groups has moved from a “destructive” phase in which they clashed with each other in Syria in the first half of 2014 to an “escalating” phase resulting in a surge in attacks worldwide. He argues that with the Islamic State weakening at its center, escalating competition will be a strong feature of an increasingly fractured and “multi-polar” jihadist landscape in the future and assesses strategies available to get jihadist groups to turn their guns on each other. William McCants explores how the Islamic State’s aggressive campaign to obliterate all jihadist rivals has seen some jihadist groups around the world bandwagon to its cause but has also antagonized powerful local rivals. He argues the Islamic State’s lack of jihadist diplomacy will leave it with few allies if and when the caliphate collapses, potentially accelerating its demise.
This issue also focuses on Germany, which this month has endured two attacks by extremists claiming to act on behalf of the Islamic State. Our interview is with Hazim Fouad and Behnam Said, analysts at the Bremen and Hamburg branches of the Verfassungsschutz, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Florian Flade outlines how recent investigations have revealed that Germany is increasingly in the crosshairs of the Islamic State. As we approach the fifth anniversary of the death of American terrorist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Scott Shane examines his enduring appeal in the Islamic State era. Finally, Metin Gurcan profiles the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a semi-autonomous terrorist “proxy” for the PKK responsible for a string of recent attacks in Turkey’s major cities.
Paul Cruickshank, Editor in Chief