U.S. intelligence analysts are closely watching al-Qaida’s overtures to the renegade Islamic State to reunite and fight the West, and while a full reconciliation is not on the horizon, there is evidence the two groups have curtailed their feud and are cooperating on the Syrian battlefield.
The al-Qaida global terror network recently has extended olive branches to the rival Islamic State through messages released by its affiliates around the world. The most recent was on Oct. 17 from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based offshoot that denounced the airstrikes and called on rival terrorist groups to stop their infighting and together train their sights on Western targets. Al-Qaida also has sent emissaries to Syria on unsuccessful missions to get the rival groups working together.
Al-Qaida is saying, “Let’s just have a truce in Syria,” said Tom Joscelyn, who tracks terror groups for the Long War Journal. “That is what’s underway now. … What we have seen is that local commanders are entering into local truces. There are definitely areas where the two groups are not fighting.”
Reconciling with al-Qaida senior leadership would let IS benefit from al-Qaida’s broad, international network but would also leave it restrained in carrying out its own attacks. For its side, al-Qaida would get a boost from the Islamic State group’s newfound popularity, which has provided an influx of new recruits and money. The Treasury Department said last week IS has earned about $1 million a day from selling oil on the black market.
So far, the Islamic State, who were kicked out of al-Qaida in May after disobeying its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, have not publicly responded to calls to return to the al-Qaida fold.