When Osama Bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed orchestrated the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States homeland on 9/11, it was a watershed moment for the global jihadist movement. The attacks catapulted al-Qaeda to the forefront of the West’s security agenda, monopolizing Western security policy for the better part of the past two decades, with global reverberations. Ever since, al-Qaeda and the jihadist movement have transformed in several important ways, not least in response to the emergence of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). Bin Laden’s original objective was to establish a vanguard movement that would lead the struggle against apostate regimes across the Islamic world and instigate local insurrections and insurgencies.
Yet, since then, the global jihadist movement’s success appears to have exceeded Bin Laden’s greatest ambitions, with the proliferation of affiliate groups in numerous countries and the mobilization of thousands of fighters from around the world, including the West. In particular, the rise of the Islamic State succeeded in transforming the jihadi movement into a popular protest movement, attracting people who would otherwise have little connection with Islamist extremism or militancy. Continuing the efforts of al-Qaeda, the Islamic State essentially turned jihadism into the primary ideology of rebellion.