Environmental Change: An Overlooked Threat Multiplier in Mali
In the first decade of the 21st century, al-Qaeda faced a deteriorating support base because of its role in the deaths of many innocent Muslims. As a result, Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri (now al-Qaeda’s leader) directed the group’s media arm, As-Sahab, to publish a variety of rationales for previous aggressions. According to al-Zawahiri’s analysis, climate change would “make the world more sympathetic to and understanding of the Muslims’ jihad against the aggressor America.”
Although it is a stretch to presume that the general public would empathize with al-Qaeda due to environmental issues, the terrorist organization’s leadership was correct that climate change strengthens the case for jihad by its North African wing, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Time and time again, academics, policymakers and military strategists have failed to comprehensively address the extent to which environmental change exacerbates immediate extremist threats. This climate-conflict relationship, underscored by the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations Environment Program, and the trajectory of the Darfur conflict, requires shifts in governments’ security practices.