U.S. Congressman Brad Sherman (California), the top Democrat at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, said
during a hearing on July 18 that the evolved Al-Qaeda remains a viable threat.
"Al-Qaeda has failed to carry out a major attack in the United States since 9/11," Sherman said. "However, the danger posed by Al-Qaeda to the United
States is still significant. Al-Qaeda's structure has become more decentralized, less of an integrated corporation, and closer to a franchise. Its
chief terrorist activities are now being conducted by its local and regional affiliates."
This week, hundreds of militants were back on the streets following coordinated, military-style attacks on prisons that were carried out by Al-Qaeda's
main affiliate in Iraq. The prison breakout was seen as a potential boost to Al-Qaeda's fight in Syria.
Nowhere is Al-Qaeda's evolution more apparent than in Syria, which has become the new battleground for extremist groups. Al-Qaeda's local affiliates
have sided with Sunni rebels fighting against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Alawite Shi'ite sect, which Sunni extremists
regard as heretical.
Shamila Chaudhary, a senior South Asia fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, says the lawlessness in Syria has given Al-Qaeda a new home
and a base from which to carry out its activities. She says it is Al-Qaeda's presence in conflicts such as Syria that still make it a potential threat
to the region and the West.
"The real threat to a lot of countries now is what other pockets of vulnerability exist around the globe that could give Al-Qaeda and its affiliates a
home base. That creates new problems," Chaudhary says. "The Afghanistan-Pakistan environment was very much complicated by the fact that Al-Qaeda was
living there. Now that few of them are there, it becomes a much more regional and domestic conflict. That means [Al-Qaeda] had to go somewhere else and
that internationalizes conflicts because Al-Qaeda threatens the U.K., U.S., and other countries."
In Pakistan, Al-Qaeda has allied with extremist groups such as the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), otherwise known as the Pakistani Taliban. The TTP,
which is fighting to overthrow the Pakistani government and impose Shari'a law, follows the hard-line, anti-Shi'ite Wahhabi brand of Islam advocated by
Groups like the TTP are not only helping extend Al-Qaeda's presence and reach in their home countries, but also appear to be providing fighters for
other theaters in which Al-Qaeda has aligned itself with local affiliates.
TTP commanders recently claimed to have sent around 100 trained foot soldiers to fight alongside anti-Assad forces in Syria, and some TTP commanders
have even claimed to have set up camps there. The Pakistani government, along with other TTP commanders, has rejected the claims.