Jihadists were already finding it hard to operate in North Africa before the Arab Spring of 2011. Since then their problems have become almost insurmountable: they thrive only in countries where Islamists are in prison, not where they are in the ascendant or contesting elections. As for Europe, the last attacks instigated by al-Qaida date back to Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. Jihadism looks less like a rising phenomenon in the north of Mali than a force in retreat. The French intervention may well give them purpose and greater coherence.
Pakistan has emerged as a terrorist sanctuary for some of the world's most violent groups, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and homegrown militants, that threaten the stability of Pakistan as well as the region.
James Dobbins and James J. Shinn, coauthors of Afghan Peace Talks: A Primer, discuss the relationships between al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, as well as the obstacles and possible outcomes of peace negotiations.
Stewart M. Patrick, Director of the Council on Foreign Relations' International Institutions and Global Governance Program, explains why some weak and failing states such as Pakistan are more attractive than others as safe havens for transnational terrorist groups.
Steven Cook, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, expects that bin Laden's death will not have a significant impact on al-Qaeda or organizations like it. Extremist activity targeting countries in the Middle East and the United States is likely to continue, says Cook.
Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, says that bin Laden's death helps the drive for democracy in the Middle East and weakens the influence of al-Qaeda in the Arab world.
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.