It's important to realize the difference between the goals of al Qaeda
and those of the Taliban and other Islamist movements. They may overlap, but
they're not the same. The Taliban wants power in Afghanistan, the Kashmiri
extremists want to control Kashmir, the Iraqi Sunni Arabs want to regain
control of Iraq, and so on. Arguably, these groups can be coaxed into
cooperating, but eventually their nationalist goals will conflict with al
Qaeda's universalist ones. Al Qaeda wants a vague millennial "caliphate" and
isn't going to change.
For the sake of achieving common goals, al Qaeda
and these other Islamic extremist groups have cooperated. But as al Qaeda
continues to fail at achieving anything of substance, there is growing friction
with local groups. In Pakistan, several hundred al Qaeda members were recently
killed when long-standing frictions boiled over. Same deal in Iraq, where al
Qaeda and local Islamic radical groups have been sniping at each other for
Throughout the Islamic world, there has developed a
schism among Islamic extremists. The really hard core types side with al Qaeda.
These days, al Qaeda is more of an ideology than an organization. Those who
choose to be all that they can be, label themselves al Qaeda. But they are a
minority. Most Islamic extremists are inflamed by local issues. In case after
case, the "more-Islamic-than-thou" attitudes of the al Qaeda folks causes hard
feelings. And more and more, the bad feelings are morphing into civil war. The
terrorists are turning on each other, which is not an entirely bad thing.