Date of Graduation

Spring 2011


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Ilan Berman


Islamic extremism, Islamic extremism in Afghanistan, Salafi jihadism, pan-Islamism, al Qaeda, Afghan Insurgency, al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Taliban, Haqqani network, al Qaeda's evolution

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


Despite the United States' continued military operations in Afghanistan to target, defeat, and eliminate al Qaeda, the Islamic extremist group continues to operate in the region. Al Qaeda's radical brand of Islam continues to attract new recruits and supporters. Additionally, it operates as a force multiplier in the Afghan insurgency against the American-led coalition forces. It also relies on indigenous radical Islamist groups that are based along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. As a result, al Qaeda is able to project influence and maintain forces throughout the region. Many Afghans support these Islamic extremists due to political and socio-economic factors that plague the country. Despite these setbacks in the U.S. government's mission, the U.S. military will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in July 2011. The U.S. government's success in Afghanistan is directly related to its ability to minimize Islamic extremism. The U.S. government will fail unless it immediately reverses the tide on virulent Islamic extremism. The ultimate defeat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan will result from a combination of military operations and U.S. government efforts to minimize and counter Islamic extremism. Thus, it is critical to understand al Qaeda's ideology in order to contain, minimize, and eventually eliminate the threat it poses to international security.


© Catherine Lee Whittington

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