Jihadist movements have claimed that they are merely vehicles for the application of God's word, distancing themselves from politics, which they call dirty and manmade. Yet on closer examination, jihadist movements are immersed in politics, negotiating political relationships not just with the forces surrounding them, but also within their own ranks. Drawing on case studies from North Africa and the Sahel - including Algeria, Libya, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania - this study examines jihadist movements from the inside, uncovering their activities and internal struggles over the past three decades. Highlighting the calculations that jihadist field commanders and clerics make, Alexander Thurston shows how leaders improvise, both politically and religiously, as they adjust to fast-moving conflicts. Featuring critical analysis of Arabic-language jihadist statements, this book offers unique insights into the inner workings of jihadist organisations and sheds new light on the phenomenon of mass-based jihadist movements and proto-states.
Alexander Thurston (University of Cincinnati)
Cambridge University Press
Country of Publication:
29 October 2020
Professional and scholarly
Introduction; 1. Algeria: the GIA from incorporation to tyranny; 2. The GSPC/AQIM: schism, coup, and a broken triangle in the Sahara; 3. Northern Mali: dialectics of local support; 4. Central Mali: the possibilities and the limits of incorporation; 5. The Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso borderlands: incorporation and accommodation at the Peripheries; 6. Libya: fratricide in Derna; 7. Mauritania: post-jihadism?; Conclusion. Northwest Africa and the war on terror.
Alexander Thurston is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Cincinnati. He was an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations between 2013-14, and has also held fellowships with the Wilson Center and the American Council of Learned Societies. He is the author of Salafism in Nigeria: Islam, Preaching and Politics (2016) and Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement (2018) which was named by Foreign Affairs as one of the 'Best of Books 2018' and was a finalist for the African Studies Association's Book Prize in 2019.
Reviews for Jihadists of North Africa and the Sahel: Local Politics and Rebel Groups
'Based on hard-won field research, this outstanding book uncovers the hidden politics of jihadist organizations in North Africa and the Sahel. Thurston's masterful study demonstrates that jihadist commanders are political actors facing complex local pressures to adapt and accommodate. An essential read for security scholars and practitioners alike.' Aisha S. Ahmad, University of Toronto 'The question of how to understand jihadi groups - global or local, as entirely distinctive by virtue of their unique ideology or as political groups that face the same basic challenges and opportunities as other insurgencies - has vexed scholars for decades. Thuston's remarkable contribution is to show us how to take them seriously as ideologues and political actors, as believers and sophisticated political entrepreneurs and coalition-builders. In doing so, he offers us a new way to understand why some thrive and grow, and others fracture or fade.' Brandon Kendhammer, Ohio University