Marc E. Babej
December 15, 2011

File this one under “marketing efforts you hope will fail”: Fox News reports that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been unable to recruit enough foreign fighters of late, and is laying part of the blame on negative associations with the Al Qaeda brand. According to an unnamed Arab diplomat, “after (Usama) bin Laden’s death and the Arab Spring, the name (al Qaeda) seems to have negative connotations and baggage.” Since then, AQAP has increasingly been using the name Ansar al Sharia (Army of Islamic Law).

Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, director of homeland security and counterterrorism at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has also noticed the shift away from the Al Qaeda name, telling Fox News that

“moving away from the larger al Qaeda brand is something I think we’re starting to see more of.” With the death of bin Laden, it makes sense for groups to become more diffused from centralized leadership so they can focus on regional issues rather than brand-building, he said.

Would-be recruits are “finding that the al Qaeda core is no longer beneficial to be associated with … because their main leader is gone,” Nelson said, noting that Usama bin Laden was a charismatic leader who offered a lot of financial backing and Ayman al-Zawahiri “is not an effective replacement.”

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