In 2013, Jabhat al-Nusra was firmly aligned with al Qaeda, whose flag adorns the jacket of one of its fighters in Syria. But the group has changed its name, a tactic the organization has adopted to give its units more flexibility.
(GUILLAUME BRIQUET/AFP/Getty Images)
The impending loss of Mosul will certainly weaken the Islamic State's core, but it is not the only jihadist group that will be affected by the upset. When the Islamic State seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared the birth of a caliphate, its brash new brand of jihadism stood in stark contrast to al Qaeda's more calculated approach and energized many young jihadists. Though many older Islamist ideologues saw Osama bin Laden's successful efforts to goad the United States into a war as reckless, many of their younger peers came to view al Qaeda as too old, stodgy and timid because of its reluctance to aggressively carve out an Islamic polity. At the height of the Islamic State's success, victory after victory on the battlefield seemed to confirm the group's claims that it held Allah's favor, building its reputation as an inexorable force that planned to...
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