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Breeding in Afghanistan, Feeding in Iraq

Iraq had never been a central front in the war on terror before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 made it so. Now, four years later, a critical question weighs heavily on the minds of scholars and practitioners alike: how has the Iraq War affected the global jihadist movement? In order to define and counter Iraq's terrorism legacy, Stephanie Kaplan offers a new framework for understanding the jihad effect, or war's impact on the trajectory of terrorist movements. According to this framework, the Iraq War generates a variety of jihadist assets both on and off the battlefield, and the distribution of these resources will play an important role in shaping al-Qaida's future. Two processes, breeding and feeding, are central to understanding the fate of wartime resources. Kaplan finds that whereas the Soviet-Afghan conflict was a breeding war, Iraq's is a feeding war. As such, the latter conflict has expanded the resource base of the jihadist movement, but al-Qaida's high commanders have relatively little control over how these assets are allocated. Consequently, the global jihad has become a more diffuse, self-sustaining, and organic movement that coexists alongside the remnants of the high command. As a result, she concludes, al-Qaida's post-Iraq trajectory will be considerably more difficult to contain than its preinvasion incarnation. Stephanie Kaplan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the MIT Security Studies Program. Previously, Kaplan served as special assistant to the executive and deputy directors of the 9/11 Commission, where she was also managing editor of the Commission's final report. Next year, Kaplan will be a pre-doctoral fellow with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).
Length: 01:21:52


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