Al-Qaeda was the first international Muslim militant organization which used terror in targeting the West. It emerged from the ruins of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and the civil war ensuing the defeat of the Soviet Union; and from the brutal repression of the masses within the Arab countries. Osama Bin Laden, a charismatic figure and war-hero of the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union, led this movement and spent a considerable fortune of his own in building it up. He declared war on the West for its support of the corrupt and brutal Arab dictators and monarchs and for the support of Israeli occupation of Muslim lands.The dramatic terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon gave America the pretense it needed to invade Afghanistan to destroy Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda, which was on the defensive after the terrorist attack of September 11th, won some of its lost moral ground after America invaded Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. The rise of ISIS, though took away much of the thunder from Al-Qaeda.Al-Qaeda still remains a potent threat to the USA.American intelligence and law enforcement agencies keep a close eye on Al-Qaeda.
Muslim militant organizations are well known because the terrorist acts committed by them, are extensively covered by the media. The Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS) aka Islamic State in Levant (ISIL) seems to have arisen from nowhere and had a meteoric rise and collapse. A vacuum was created in Iraq after the American occupation when Saddam Hussein’s army, which was dominated by the Sunni tribes, was disbanded by the US viceroy. The Shia government started taking revenge on the Sunnis for the atrocities committed during Saddam’s brutal reign. A group of trained army officers who were now jobless and some Al-Qaeda elements. Thus, ISIS was born. This was effectively documented by Frontline in their PBS documentary. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-isis-came-to-be-four-docs-to-watch/ The new Iraqi army and Kurdish militias did not have the will to fight against the dedicated soldiers of this group. ISIS soon overtook northern Iraq and declared a caliphate. ISIS, who started to broadcast their stance of standing up for the oppressed Muslims, invited angry young Muslims from all over the world to come and live in its caliphate. It soon started its reign of terror with beheadings and slavery.In the neighboring state of Syria, Bashar Al Assad who was facing a democratic uprising saw an opportunity. His government was reeling from massive defections from his army after he ordered a crackdown on peaceful protestors and unleashed massive ethnic cleansing with the help of Alawite militia and Hezbollah fighters from the neighboring country, Lebanon. Assad knew that if he let ISIS come in, then he would no longer be seen as the primary adversary by the Western media. Thus, he could deflect the world anger from his use of chemical weapons for ethnic cleansing, mass-scale ethnic cleansing, massacres, mass rapes and violence, towards the brutality by ISIS.He let the leaders of Al-Qaeda out of his prisons and allowed ISIS fighters to pour into Syria. Soon large swaths of Syria were controlled by ISIS and Al-Qaeda after they defeated the Syrian democratic opposition. ISIS then fought Al-Qaeda fronts and emerged victorious. This gave Iran the opportunity to intervene on a massive scale. Iran created militias out of the poor Shias of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and its own population to send them into Syria.ISIS adopted the policy of brutality and terrorism as its version of shock and awe, playing right into the hands of Assad, Iran, and as well as other countries who wished to intervene in the resource rich region. Europe, USA, Russia, Iran, and Assad all used ISIS to justify their agendas.The biggest threat to the West came from the disaffected Muslim youth of Western Europe who went to Syria in large numbers as they saw no future for themselves in Western Europe.Even though ISIS had been defeated militarily, it still poses a potent threat to the West.American intelligence and law enforcement agencies watch ISIS carefully.