THE WORLD FROM AL-QAEDA’S PERSPECTIVE: DECIPHERING ITS GEOSTRATEGY, DETERRENCE STRATEGY, AND EFFORTS TO BUILD THE CALIPHATE
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Since the September 11, 2001 attacks al-Qaeda has been a forefront national security issue for the United States. This thesis is written by looking at how al-Qaeda perceives the international community and how they make their strategy. It attempts to answer the questions of how al-Qaeda creates their geostrategy and how influential jihad strategists are in this process, if al-Qaeda has a deterrence strategy, and finally can al-Qaeda and other Salafi Jihadist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), attain its goal in establishing the Caliphate. To answer these questions, a series of different case studies were conducted. In the first chapter an interpretive case study is used to analyze the impact of different jihad strategists on al-Qaeda’s geostrategy. In the second chapter two case studies were used that focus on strategic deterrence and dissuasion by denial. The final chapter uses al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS as case studies to evaluate the plausibility of the groups’ ability to create the Caliphate. The findings in each of the chapters helps to decipher and evaluate the effectiveness of al-Qaeda’s strategy. The first chapter finds that jihad strategists influence al-Qaeda’s post 9/11 geostrategy. The second chapter finds that al-Qaeda uses CBRN for offensive purposes and not for deterrence. However, in rare cases they have used terrorist attacks to deter their enemy. The third chapter argues that while ISIS and AQAP have been able to attain certain characteristics of a state and have been successful in holding influence in their respective areas of operation, it would be very unlikely that ISIS and AQAP will be able to successfully build their Caliphate.