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The Myth of Moderate Jihadists

2 37 7
22.09.2021

What happens to the country and its people after the forever war ends?

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The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has laid bare a dynamic that has quietly developed over the last six to seven years: an uneasy but de facto mutual understanding between Washington and a part of the global jihadist movement. Neither side would dare express it publicly, as it would cause both internal and external outrage. And both are unsure about what it exactly entails and are distrustful of the other side’s true intentions.

Still, given that the Islamic State remains hellbent on attacking the United States and is, conversely, a primary target of it, a slow strategic repositioning has led both Washington and the al Qaeda galaxy to adopt a less belligerent posture toward each other. It is a deal whose manifold and long-term implications Washington seems to have overlooked.

The roots of the unspoken pact can be traced to the second half of 2014, when Washington assembled an international coalition to fight the Islamic State. To jihadist strategists—and most people in the region—the rationale behind U.S. intervention was clear: The Islamic State faced military attacks not when it conquered a territory the size of France between Syria and Iraq and ruled it with medieval barbarity but only when it began beheading Westerners in Hollywood-style video productions and attracting thousands of Western foreign fighters who, from the safety of the caliphate, issued threats against their home countries.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has laid bare a dynamic that has quietly developed over the last six to seven years: an uneasy but de facto mutual understanding between Washington and a part of the global jihadist movement. Neither side would dare express it publicly, as it would cause both internal and external outrage. And both are unsure about what it exactly entails and are distrustful of the other side’s true intentions.

Still, given that the Islamic State remains hellbent on attacking the United States and is, conversely, a primary target of it, a slow strategic repositioning has led both Washington and the al Qaeda galaxy to adopt a less belligerent posture toward each other. It is a deal whose manifold and long-term implications Washington seems to have overlooked.

The roots of the unspoken pact can be traced to the second half of 2014, when Washington assembled an international coalition to fight the Islamic State. To jihadist strategists—and most people in the region—the........

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