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The Curse of Cain: Why Fratricidal Jihadis Fail to Learn from Their Mistakes


The rapid and comprehensive demise of the Islamic State is the latest reminder that fratricidal jihadis are destined to lose. Over the last three decades, jihadis have consecutively lost their civil wars in Algeria, Iraq, and Syria because of three strategic errors. They portray their political conflicts as religious wars between Islam and impiety, forcing otherwise neutral parties to choose between repressive autocrats or ardent fanatics. Furthermore, they pursue transformational goals that are too ambitious for other rebel groups with limited political objectives, producing violent ruptures between doctrinaire jihadis and pragmatic Islamists. Lastly, their indiscriminate violence flips their supporters into proponents of law and order, allowing vulnerable regimes to extricate themselves from their legitimacy crises. Worst still, despite clarion warnings from seasoned veterans, jihadis appear incapable of internalizing lessons from their past failures. Their puritanical ideology is a major obstacle to learning and adapting in the crucible of civil wars. These inherent weaknesses offer the international community strategic lessons for fighting future iterations of the Islamic State.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Hafez, Mohammed. 2017. "The Curse of Cain: Why Fratricidal Jihadis Fail to Learn from Their Mistakes." CTC Sentinel (November): 1-7. https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-curse-of-cain-why-fratricidal-jihadis-fail-to-learn-from-their-mistakes

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