« APRES AL-QAIDA: Les nouveaux visages du terrorisme »
The rise of Al Qaeda has been that of a uniquely powerful new breed of violent non-state actors, bringing terrorism to an unprecedented level of destruction. But Al Qaeda’s strength has been fading, thanks to the efforts of counter-terrorism but no less because of its strategic limitations.
However, there is no reason to expect terrorist violence from dying down. The advent of massively destructive terrorism is a direct consequence of the empowerment of non-state actors flowing from the ongoing processes of globalization. The means of disruption and destruction will continue to become increasingly available. To discern the face of post-Al Qaeda terrorism, one must not only look at the existing groups of Jihadi terrorists of the sort which committed the “7/7” bombing in London in 2005 or the more recent attacks in Algeria. The future of the terrorist challenge may be found in cases such as the chemical and biological “exploits” of the Aum cult in Japan in the mid-nineties or the perpetrator of the anthrax attacks in the US in the autumn of 2001. A successful counter-terrorism strategy must be based on the twin assumptions of higher levels of potential destruction and of a more varied, more dispersed set of terrorist actors equipped with chemical, biological or radiological weapons.
François Heisbourg is chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London and of the Centre de politique de sécurité in Geneva. He is also consultant at the Fondation pour la recherche stratégique. He is one of the most established experts on issues of geopolitics and terrorism. Amongst other works, he has published La Fin de l’Occident : l’Amérique, l’Europe, le Moyen Orient (Odile Jacob), Hyperterrorisme, la nouvelle guerre (Odile Jacob) and, at Stock, L’épaisseur du Monde (2007, rights sold to The Netherlands) and L’Iran, le choix des armes ? (2007).