What’s sometimes referred to as the global jihadist “movement” is actually extremely fractured, CISAC's terrorism expert Martha Crenshaw writes in this commentary in The Atlantic. It’s united by a general set of shared ideological beliefs, but divided organizationally and sometimes doctrinally. Whether to fight the “near enemy” (local regimes) or the “far enemy” (such as the United States and the West), for example, has been contentious since the 1990s, when Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States.
Crenshaw, who founded the Mapping Militant Organizations project at CISAC, says rivalry among like-minded militant groups is as common as cooperation. Identities and allegiances shift. Groups align and re-align according to changing expectations about the future of the conflicts they’re involved in, as well as a host of other factors, such as competition for resources, leadership transitions, and the defection of adherents to rival groups that appear to be on the ascendant.