Why is the West fighting jihadis when jihadis are so successful fighting one another? In Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Egypt, and the Sahel, jihadis have directed their guns and explosives against their former brothers-in-arms simply because of diverging organizational affiliation. In Afghanistan, the Taliban even claim credit for routing their Islamic State rivals from the country’s northern province of Jowzjan and Nangarhar and Kunar in the east. The answer, of course, is that despite the continuous infighting among jihadis, outsiders should not — like with the khawarij — expect it to cause the movement’s downfall.
Studying, understanding, and properly reacting to the consistent state of internal conflict within the jihadi movement is important. Time and again jihadis have engaged in debates and contested one another, resulting in infighting or the imprisoning of rivals. It appears that the primary cause behind this regular escalation in conflict is jihadis’ destructive inability to resolve conflict through mechanisms of de-escalation.